This article is a look at the creation of a simple still life with one light in the studio. See it after the jump.
At this point I want to remind everyone of the incredible opportunity this week. Selina’s amazing Clarion Call is this coming Thursday/Friday, February 10, 11. It is all day both days and the lineup of guests is amazing.
Check out who will be sharing their amazing insights with you all – for FREE!
Heather Morton – Through The Buyers’ Eye
Rob Haggert – Vision and Value
Gail Mooney – Motion? Pictures?
Nick Thomas – Repositioning For Your Best Shot
Louisa Curtis – Show and Sell
Frank Meo – The Secrets of Agents
Kat Dalager – Presenting You
Keith Gentile – Databases That Deliver
Adam Sherwin – Viral and Vital
Eric Kass – Designed To Sell
Don Giannatti – Visionary Web Site
Rosh Sillars – Socialize Your Media
Jack Hollingsworth – The Twitter Tutorial
Allen Murabayashi – Google and You
This will be something that will be talked about, imitated, shared and remembered for a heck of a long time. Be in on the first one. Register here, and be ready to be pumped!
For Selina’s Teleseminar, click on the banner.
PROJECT 52, Assignment 6 Information is at the Project 52 site this week. The assignment… Chocolate. You have been assigned a last minute shoot for a local chain of restaurants for a shot for their menu – and the specialty of February… Chocolate. NOTE: Image bust be a square format image. Square to fit their menu image slot.
Lots more info over on Project 52, so jump on over and get involved. It doesn’t matter if you have not been involved from the beginning… get involved now and get your stuff ready to go pro… or at least shoot like one.
A big shout out to the folks who took my Phoenix and San Diego workshops… thanks folks, we did have a blast. Special thanks to Christine at Arte Bella for helping he San Diego workshop with a ton of behind the scenes efforts and scoring some wonderful models for us. Thanks Christine.
Next up workshop wise is Austin, Texas. March will take us to Sacramento for a workshop, and in April we are back in Omaha and West Palm Beach for back to back workshops. Check the schedule out here. There is an advance workshop being planned for the first weekend in April, but we are waiting for a few things to get nailed down. The April advanced workshop will be focused on studio lighting and still life/product work.
OK – that’s enough shop talk, so let’s get to the still life shoot complete with short video and Photoshop screen shots.
This and all photos in this post copyright Josh Brewster, Austin TX.
(Looking for Project 52? Hit the “52” link in categories for all the linky goodness. Visit Project52.org for ongoing assignment notes.)
Josh took my workshop in Houston a couple of times. His work has really grown. I saw these images and asked for a write up from him. It is this guest post. Welcome Josh Brewster to Lighting Essentials. BTW, Josh will be assisting me at the Austin workshop. A great opportunity to meet him and learn a ton about lighting and photography. Let’s let Josh tell us about the dance images.
My girlfriend manages a dance studio, so occasionally small gigs float my way. A few days ago, I received an email from a parent whose daughter, Kaila, is enrolled at the dance studio. Her daughter was applying to a number of intensive ballet camps this summer; each application required her headshot as well as photographs of a few dance poses. The applications were due in less than two weeks so the images needed to produced and delivered quickly.
Research and Preparation
Dance, especially ballet, is very detailed and very precise. A pose or leap can be ruined by a shoulder that is slightly too high, or an arm slightly too straight. In real-time, an incorrect pose can be covered up by swift motion or forgiven due to the complexity of the dance routine. A photograph, however, freezes that motion and removes the dancer from any form of context. Any mistake, slight or significant, becomes glaringly obvious. So in terms of an application process, she had to look perfect.
With perfection in mind, I made a few executive decisions:
1) Big lights – I like to think I am a good photographer, and I know Kaila is a phenomenal dancer, but I was fully prepared to shoot the same leap over and over again until everything (my shutter finger, her pose) matched up. Wall powered units were a must; battery powered speed lights just would not be able to keep up the pace that was required.
2) Support squad – I invited my girlfriend, Kaila’s dance instructor, and Kaila’s mom to the shoot. Between two trained dancers, a high school musical theater teacher, and myself, we were able work with the subject through every aspect of the shoot. I made sure she was aware of the key light, the dancers scrutinized her movements, and the musical theater teacher (her mom) helped her project her personality.
3) Shoot tethered – Shooting tethered into Lightroom 3 allowed the aforementioned support squad to have quick visual feedback for Kaila. More importantly, we were able to decide as a group exactly when the winning shot was captured so we did not tire Kaila out through excessive repetitions of the same dance step.
4) Shoot low – For the poses, I knew that I would want to get my camera lower to the ground, perhaps just below Kaila’s hip level. This lower perspective would make her leaps look higher and her legs longer.
Artistically, I wanted to create images that really showcased Kaila and only Kaila. Something inside me screamed “gray seamless,” so I went with it, knowing that it was versatile enough for both the head shots and the poses.
Day of the Shoot
Since the dance shots would require Kaila to be leaping around and eventually putting her hair into a bun, we decided to start the shoot with her headshots while her hair was looking nice. I wanted to deliver two different looks: one that was open and one that was slightly more dramatic.
For the first look, I set up a large 6x6ft diffusion panel to the left of where Kaila would be sitting. Then I set up a strobe with a socked beauty dish to fire through the diffusion panel. I could have forgone the beauty dish and used a standard reflector, but I wanted to diffuse the light as much as possible before it hit the subject. I was also planning on using the socked beauty for the rest of the lighting setups, so it saved time when transitioning to the next setup. To the right of the subject, I placed a large white reflector for fill and positioned a smaller silver reflector to be in her lap to bounce some light up from below. A final low-powered, gridded softbox from behind and to the right brightened up her hair and added a highlight to one side.
The second look was a classic butterfly setup. I moved the socked beauty dish directly overhead and tilted it down towards her face for the key light. The silver reflector in her lap stayed in place and the power on the hair light softbox was increased significantly. A gridded strobe was aimed to hit the background right below frame, creating a nice gradient on the background.
After getting the head shots, Kaila went off to change into her first costume; I got to work modifying the lighting setup. There were a number of considerations that I took when I chose my modifiers and placed my lights. I knew I wanted my key light to be the beauty dish and I wanted it to project Kaila’s shadow on the background. I set it up camera right.
To prevent the shadow-side of Kaila from going dark, I setup a large softbox directly to Kaila’s side. This served a double feature of filling in the shadows and creating a kicker highlight to outline her figure. To keep the light from spilling onto the background, I added a grid to the softbox. The final light was a gridded strobe high and back to camera right, once again helping outline Kaila from the background.
This lighting setup was pretty loose, meaning that there was a wide area in which Kaila would be acceptably illuminated. We shot the Kaila in her blue lyrical costume for an array of freeform poses and leaps, and then shot her in her ballet leotard for her more technical arabesque and second position en pointe poses (apparently it is really hard to hold this position on her toes… I tried and failed spectacularly).
The entire shoot went quite smoothly, with plenty of energy and laughter. Aside from being impressed with her athleticism, I was continually impressed with Kaila’s desire for perfection and great enthusiasm throughout the shoot.
After the Shoot
That night after the shoot, I sent off a proofing gallery where they could look at all the images and choose which would receive the final edits. Before I shut down my computer for the night, I did a quick check on Facebook, where I discovered that she had already posted eleven of the photos to an album and given me proper photographer credit and a link to my website. Nice. Part of me writhed, knowing that those images had not yet received the royal editing treatment. However, her friends were commenting up a storm despite my loose crops and slightly crooked horizons, so I did my best to cope.
The next day, I received a list of the photos they had selected. I edited them and sent them off. I got an email back asking if I could create a black and white version that they could hang on the wall; I obliged.
So far feedback has been pretty positive: “These are amazing. We are so happy with how they turned out! Thank you SOOOOO much. Everyone is flipping out over the pictures.”
As much as I liked hearing this, I will not be fully satisfied until I hear the news that Kaila was selected to attend the summer camp. My bet is that she will breeze on in. Until that time, however, I’ll just occupy myself by taking more photos.
Thanks Josh. Nice work and explanations as well.
Hope you all enjoyed this piece by Josh. Make sure you visit his website, and send a comment his way if you enjoyed it.
Well, my Volleyball client needed a new ad. That’s great. We needed it to be concepted, shot, and produced in one day. A day that had me doing other things as well. Stressful? A little, but I have been at this game long enough to know that it will get done. It always does.
Concept was easy. The software they design for Volleyball coaches currently runs on Palms and handheld devices. A lot of coaches are wanting it to run on a laptop as they are starting to carry laptops to the games for other things and it would be nice to only have one device courtside. Announcing the availability of a PC based software for laptops is the overall message of the ad. It wasn’t meant to overshadow the total message of the two available software packages, but to let those who are currently using the older software that a new tool was now ready.
We always strive to be a little different. Most of the ads that are in the trades are either big time products like Adidas and Nike or small, mom and pop solutions for a niche of court volleyball. I want my ads to look as good as they can and also stand out. Shots of volleyball players taken under less than ideal lighting abounds. We have been going for the still life approach since we started working together in 2002. The ads stand out. They get noticed and the client gets inquiries and sales. Score!
This ad will be running in several trades, but the first deadline was “Volleyball Magazine” for the August edition, I believe. Court Volleyball closely follows the school schedules. The printing is pretty good in that magazine so I can push the gamma a little.
Before we dissect the shot, I want to remind you all of the Missoula, El Paso and Memphis workshops. We still have a few openings and it would be nice to have you there. We are doing a special 1 day intensive workshop on the NIKON CLS system with John Groseclose in August. It will involve studio and location work with single and multiple Nikon strobes. Both manual and iTTL will be covered. Look for more information soon.
Here are a few related articles you may enjoy after reading this post:
Adding some Texture to an image.
Another shot with post production for the same client.
Finding the right mix for blending ambient and strobe.
Shooting Food on Location
Thanks for visiting and tell your friends about the site. And now for the soup-to-nuts shoot of this ad.
This post looks at creating an ad from a very simple layout. The client, Dimensional Software in Palo Alto, CA, needed to have an ad produced in nearly no time. An opening in a magazine came up last minute and a fax was sent to me with a sketch of the ad that we had talked about.
We will take a look at how the shot was done, and how making the layout a part of the planning and thinking process.
A reminder to check out the recent posts below for links to some great interviews, lighting information and ideas to give you a lot to do with your photography. The tag cloud on the right, below the banners, also is a great way to find out what is on the site. You can spend all day here, LOL.
Also, you may have noticed the banner on the right side. Midwest Photo Exchange has teamed up with Lighting Essentials to provide a page of hand-picked (by me) lighting gear. From pack/head kits and mono lights, to stands, booms and reflectors, this is a page with some best-of-breed equipment chosen for durability and value. And my readers save 10%. Just click the link to see what is offered.
So, let’s get on with it and see how the ad was created in a very short time.
Recently I had the pleasure of working with Coni of Glacier Design and her client, Alicia on a big catalog project. It was to be a couple of dozen shots. Most are what I would call a “drop and pop,” or simple product shot. Well, of course nothing is as simple as one thinks it will be. And that challenge is met so much easier when there is some planning and preparation in effect. And that Alicia and Coni had in spades.
We knew it would be a hectic couple of days and we were pushing against a printing deadline. Alicia came with an SUV full of boxes and bag and props. We set up a few tables in on area of the studio and then placed the items in a shoot order. Coni had set a shot list so nothing would be misses so we organized the product in a fashion that would allow us to get and stage the products in some sort of order.
The product is potpourri, scent bottles, gift boxes and reeds. Most of this is pretty simple, but some of the boxes had a cellophane type material over them and that created a bit of a heartburn when trying to kill the reflection, or at least smooth it out a bit, while still maintaining light to the front of the box.
Before we take a look at this shoot, I want to welcome a new sponsor to the LE Site and the Workshops. SmugMug Pro is now a sponsor of the workshops and every attendee will get a one year membership in the SmugMug Pro account. This allows hi res images, hi def video and includes a shopping cart for selling the images you shoot. I am so pleased with their support and even more excited about seeing all the attendees getting a well designed web page with a shopping cart. And we also want to shout out to my other sponsors, BorrowLenses. com and Mighty Imaging. Thanks guys.
Also to remind everyone that the Kansas City workshop is full as is the Dallas and Washington DC workshops. I am hoping to see some of you in Mexico. At this point we only have three openings for Mexico. And don’t worry about the news, we are heading to Rocky Point and it is pretty calm there. Missoula Montana will be a lot of fun and we are thinking about adding a day to that for those who want to miss a day of work and shoot environmental portraits with me.
Let’s get on to the catalog shoot.