Studio Photography - Why Am I Not Outside In The Sunshine?

I love to work in the Studio.  It is immensely satisfying having complete control of the photographic process, from pre-planning to post processing.

Styling the scene to my own taste, by positioning the product or Still Life item exactly where I want and utilising the plethora of props that I have at my disposal, using Compositional rules such as The Rule of Thirds and Leading Lines, in order to create an organic composition, gives me full control of my studio photography.

Thinking about how I will light the product or scene, how I will make the mundane, everyday object, look stylish and beautiful, is like revisiting Art classes at school (without punitive teachers and irritating classmates).  I can let my creative imagination run wild.  

When it finally comes to actually lighting the Still Life, positioning the lights, choosing the correct power output, picking the right diffusion for the job, I feel like I am a music composer, picking the necessary instruments, creating the perfect harmonies and finally giving birth to a beautiful musical composition.

I use Lightroom and Photoshop to create the final mood and feeling.  The ultimate vision, that initially, lay in the right portion of my brain, is brought to fruition with the power of post processing, adding the final tone and sheen.

If the lighting and photographic process gives the Still Life the beauty, it’s the post processing that adds the emotion.  

The awesomeness of working in Studio Photography is that I can make snap second reflections on my shooting process and choose a different prop, a Grid Spot instead of a Strip Box, a Gradient instead of a coloured background. I can spent time making a perfect composition, completely of my own creation.

I can patiently make changes whilst viewing the shot on the Monitor with Live View; the modelling lights on the strobes give me an idea of where the light will fall and where the shadows come into play. I can work with the set in real time.  

Each shot taken will be reviewed and analysed.  The set and Exposure can be readjusted if needed, and then re-shot until I get the final result.

It is having that complete control of the photographic environment, being the Master Puppeteer of the artistic vision, that I or somebody brings to me, is what makes Studio Photography so worthwhile.

As a Still Life & Product Photographer, I can be my own complete film crew, set designer, cameraman, director and editor and it is the Product that is the star.


And I get to listen to my own music ;)

Context & Flair in Product Photography

Pick up your mobile phone and look at it.  What do you see?  If you have one of the latest, ‘trendy’ models, it’s probably made out of aluminium, polycarbonate or plastic, with a glass frontage.  Most mobiles today have a sleek design and are generally aesthetically     pleasing.  

A Product Photographer would take this attractive looking product and make it look beautiful, sexy and dazzling.  They will light the mobile phone (or any other product for that matter), to show off it’s elegant design, the curves and the screen.  It can be shot at a low angle, pointing slightly upward, to give the product it’s ‘hero’ appeal, making it look big or bold. Or depending on the product and advertisement, they may blend the product into the scene, such as an advertisement of a woman applying make-up, etc.

A wine bottle can be lit to enhance the bottle's curves, revealing it's elegance, or beer bottles can have a light shining behind it to make the drink look golden, with the beer head frothed up making it more inviting.

The lighting and post processing methods at the photographer’s disposal can transform the product which can wow the viewer, stir up memories, make them feel a whole array of emotions, or simply reinforce the branding in the mind of the prospective purchaser. A Product photograph can remind them to buy the particular product for a loved one, or just keep the brand registered in the back of their mind.

The excitement and satisfaction in making the ordinary look extraordinary, or just making the ordinary ‘pop’, is what drives me as a photographer. I like to tell a story through my work and hopefully stir a few emotions along the way. I can also just make the ordinary look ordinary, if necessary.

My recent project involved two very beautiful crafted bike models.  

The first, a carved wooden motorbike, to me, started off with the wow factor. It was lighting it with the grid spot and the post work in Lightroom & Photoshop that gave it the extra punch.  I used three different lighting set-ups with a 12 degree, 18cm Honeycomb grid spot and three different post processing methods to get the looks that you can see. I could have also left the bike alone and it still would have been beautiful and that would have been fine.  But the final three images were my vision, to give that bike the enhanced wow factor that I felt it deserved.

Below are the final three photos, plus the bike untouched.

The second bike was described to me as ‘Hell on Wheels’, (fab name), when I picked it up from the antique shop.  Apparently it was part of a series, (I would love to find the others). This bike came with what I can only describe as ‘ some serious oomph’.  It’s distorted, enlarged design, caught my eye and I felt that it had to be photographed.

The lighting was similar to that of the wooden bike, there was only a change in the grid spot angles.  However the post processing differed considerably from the previous bike.  As you can see the bike has a slightly different colour in one photo from the next.  In the ‘Wheel Appeal’ photo, I chose to darken the greens to offset and enhance the red & yellow on the bike and the tone and detail of the wooden foreground, which I wanted to stand out. In the other photo I added some graffiti effects to the background.

For these photos I added certain detail in and lit them in such a way to bring the viewers attention to certain aspects of the bike or to the whole scene.  In the former, I revealed the wooden bikes beauty under different lighting conditions with different styles.  The latter, it was the fun, grungy aspect..

It is the vision of the Product photographer or the client as to what they want to reveal to the viewer.  The story behind the scene, the enticing food or the must have beautiful product.  

The stunning colours in the landscape, the moody portrait and elegant still life photograph. These are the choices the photographer can make, or not, to portray a certain theme or style that will hopefully affect the viewer to feel, to purchase, share, or to think.

Every creative decision, every artistic choice, camera angle and lighting set-up, serves to give context and flair to the ordinary everyday item, or to the stylish and beautiful too.

Still Life Photography - An Organic Process

 

First things first, I just want to say Hi and welcome you to Red Town Photography.  I’m Redski

This is my very first blog and I am slightly nervous, but also very excited.  You are more than welcome to make comments below.

I want to talk about the process I used to create this latest image of mine.  

Tribal Wasteland

Tribal Wasteland

For me, with creative still life projects, it’s never a simple process of knowing exactly what I want from the composition and lighting beforehand.  

For Product photography, it is best to pre-plan the image, from a storyboard, a lighting diagram, to the final set-up. Forrest Tanaka takes you through an excellent tutorial from planning to execution of a great Product photography shot of a Pen on a dark reflective table in his Youtube video.  

Product Photography: Planning, Setup, Shoot, Post Processing, to Publishing - Forrest Tanaka

However for some of my creative work, I like to improvise and see what arises organically. I change the composition and the lighting as I view the shot with the camera in Live View, tethered to the PC. After many shots, everything comes together and I get a shot that I am satisfied with.  I can apply this to many of the unusual Still Life photographs I shoot.

When I am thinking of my next project, I might stumble on something that grabs my eye, such as the Tribal Medicine Man, (which I bought from a Charity store). I take him home and I think for few minutes to what might look good and after a while a theme registers in my mind:

Fire - burning behind the guy, perhaps….I doubt I could use a fire as a backdrop and not burn down the studio, but nevertheless something rough and dangerous looking.

Darkness - Well he’s a pretty formidable looking character so a dark backdrop maybe?  

Camera Perspective - I want to shoot from low down because I want to have the viewer looking up at the imposing figure.

I then buy and rummage at home for additional props before the shoot, like the skulls, rocks, stones and the brown fibre paper background.      

Generally the props work together; however sometimes when I am crafting a scene, I’ll throw a prop out.  It’s got to be right.

 

With the ‘Tribal Wasteland’ shot, there is much rearranging of props as I look at the screen.  I love using the Rule of Thirds and Leading Lines in creating a good composition.  Everything has to look like it has a purpose.  If a skull is pointed in the wrong way, in the wrong place, then it’s going to stand out.

If the camera is moved slightly further back than a previous shot, giving me to much background in the foreground then the Medicine Man is not going to have the correct impact. If the Grid Spot spills onto the other side of his face, then he wont look scary enough.

Everything has to look like it WASN’T put there. If objects to look out of place or accidental, then they will stand out and then the image is not going to be aesthetically pleasing to me, or the viewer. If objects stand out in creative and beautiful still life photography, then I think about what the Photographer is trying to do and I am not immersed in the image.

The image has to flow.

 

So after many shots, basking and sweating under the warm glow of my lighting equipment, the image has grown away from the concept that originally formulated in my mind.  My impulsive purchasing, (I always am) at a local gift shop with the skulls, also saw to that, as did selecting a background from my stash and using the rocks in different angles and positions that were not in my photo at the start of the process.  The only aspects that made its way from thought to website was the Man looking imposing. The shadows in the lighting.  The fire & darkness was fortunately realised with post processing.  The amazing wonders of Lightroom & Photoshop.

I am not saying I don’t think planning a Product or Still Life Photography shot is a bad idea.  I think that knowing exactly what you are going to shoot and planning it is essential.  Especially if you are working with clients.  However I think it is challenging and exciting to allow the shot to evolve, and as a photographer, trust in your skills in composition and lighting to take you on a creative journey.