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 ;)
This latest photograph, ‘Pure’, a flower photography Still Life, reminds me of the classic and brilliant film ‘The Night of the Hunter’. Directed in 1955 by Charles Laughton and starring Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters and Lillian Gish, ‘The Night of the Hunter’ is about a Serial Killer, named Reverend Harry Powell, who marries a widow, Willa Hunter, who has two children. Without giving too much away, it is set in West Virginia; in prison Powell learns about $10,000 that has been stashed away by the children’s Father, (who is executed). He then marries the widow and he pursues and intimidates the children in order to find the hidden cash.
The cinematography by Stanley Cortez, is both beautiful and startling in its Black and White, film noir, distinctive style. Influenced by German Expressionism, there are many shots where there are sharp contrasts, where interiors look like theatrical sets with strong angles in the structures, surrounded by darkness. The rural exterior shots have a dreamy, fairytale like quality, yet this is juxtaposed by the dark foreboding and menacing appearance and personality of the Preacher.
The performances of the entire cast are excellent and Mitchum’s performance is second to none as the powerful and horrific Preacher.
The flower photograph, to me stands out as beautifully shaped and textured, yet the stigma (centre) is slightly darker than the rest, with a rough, (for want of a better description) nutty look to it. The edges of the flower are very dark, with shadows, as well as having dark specks on the petals. After many considered alterations, I chose to keep the stem a darker tone too. The dark gradient surrounding the flower is in direct contrast to the highlights on the flower.
Initially I wanted to work this Still Life as a colour image, but when I created the B&W conversion and adjusted the Split Toning to a near Sepia in Lightroom, I knew that this was the perfect fit.
The photo was taken with a full power Elinchrom D-Lite RX One, with a 12 degree, 18cm Grid spot to the left, another RX One with vertical Strip Box behind the flower on the right, at a quarter power and a white bounce card front right to bounce back excess shadows.
The most difficult part was centring the 12 degree Grid Spot on the translum background, behind, as the light had to be exactly centred behind the flower in it’s position. The first photo that I took, and spent ages manipulating, was with the centring slightly off, which was not rectifiable. (FYI Translum is a plastic material which is akin to frosted plastic and creates a soft, diffused glow when a flash is shone through it).
For extra effect, I added a few droplets to the flower, with a mixture of Glycerin and water, with a teat pipette. I did sharpening and increased the Clarity on the flower in Lightroom with the Adjustment Brush as I did not want to sharpen the gradient.
This image brings to mind ‘The Night of the Hunter’, because of its stark contrast and slightly unreal quality of the flower (the flower is fake) and the image as a whole. If you view the beauty of the flowers petals together with the highlights and the light spot behind it and compare that to the darker textures and and the darkness of the gradient, you may find that there is something rather surreal and skewed about this Still Life photograph. This is what Charles Laughton and Production designer Hilyard Brown created in the set design in the film.
Here is an excellent review of ‘The Night of the Hunter’ on Deep Focus Review. Beware there are some spoilers.