Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Artist focus!


Had a nice wee job to shoot a portrait of an artist for our regular artist feature today.  The weather was lovely but I didn’t have too much time so we opted for a quick picture at the piano backlit by the window.  I had a shoot through brolly camera right for this one.  Then we headed down to the studio which presented a bit of a challenge as it was a smaller room.  Still, I like the ‘lived-in’ look so I shot a wide angle shot…


For this shot I had a shoot through camera left at the side of the easel and another flash with a Honl grid on it pointed at the subject’s face.  The shoot through gave me a general feathered light on the paints on the table.  The shot didn’t work out exactly as I’d hoped for but I like it because it shows the environment quite well.  We only needed one shot so I think the editor will probably choose either the first one posted above or the one below


Once we get our new website up at work I’ll start linking to stories there when I blog about them, so I’ll be a bit light on details here for now.  Had a good shoot though and the subject was such a nice guy. 

It’s encouraging to meet so many successful people who are also really nice people.


Sunday, 21 June 2009

Father’s day… ok Beer & nuts!


Was playing around with a friend’s light tent and I thought I should post this in honour of Father’s day!  I’ve never really tried product photography before (apart from some food photog but that’s more from an editorial perspective) so I thought I’d try this bottle of beer before I downed it (it was lovely btw!).

The tent is one of those daft ones with the blue backing that curves down.  I mean I THINK it’s blue to make the background easy to select in PS so you can take it out because I can’t think of any other reason for a blue bg *shrug*.

Anyway, I had it sitting on top of the cooker with an SB600 to the left and an SB 26 to the right and, since I wasn’t using it the right way up because I didn’t want a stupid blue bg, some silver foil across the top to bounce a little light back in.  For the shot above I also had some silver foil behind the white at the back which bounced enough light back into the bottle to give it that nice light.  Without the foil in the back the liquid in the bottle looked alot darker.  It adds a nice glow to it.

There’s tons of probs with this image, like the clear plastic on the bottom doesn’t go anywhere near the edges of the image and the strip of light on the right is perhaps a bit bright and the background isn’t totally white but for a quick attempt I’m quite chuffed!

Here’s a couple more pics I took with just the pistachios…



Anyway, it’s a bit late now but hope any dads who read this had a nice father’s day!


Saturday, 20 June 2009

My spirit guide.


Had a few people asking me about the Sigma 10-20 recently.  I’ve always loved this lens since I bought it a couple of years ago and I use it for most room shots I do.  However, I think there’s a bit of a learning curve with any extreme wide angle (WA) lens.  All the reviews I read about WA lenses rated their distortions and the Sigma seemed to come out on top most of the time and that’s one of the reasons I went for it.

However, when I first got it I couldn’t believe the amount of distortion I was seeing.  Now this is clearly user error as I was totally new to WAs and I actually had some fun with the WA ‘look’, but when I used it for house shoots I was spending quite a while ‘fixing’ things like converging verticals.  Then I read up on it a bit more and realised I needed to make sure the camera was as level as possible to minimise distortions.  Hence the above pic. 

Anyone who is buying a WA lens MUST have some form of spirit level.  This little thing is THE BEST piece of kit I have.  It cost me less than a tenner and yet it’s saved me bloody hundreds of hours at the comp.  Sure it’s not perfect but the files that still show a bit of distortion only need minor corrections now.  I look back at the ‘corrected’ images when I first started out and I cringe because they’re still a bit crooked one way or another! I’m sure most people know this already but there could be a few people out there as clueless as me so I thought I’d stick this up.

Sometimes though I do need to resort to heavy distortion fixing in photoshop even though I’ve used my spirit guide!  The picture below was taken recently for one of my clients who wanted some street pictures of one of their developments.  I managed to capture some from a different angle but I really wanted one showing this row but I had to point the 10-20 upwards to get the whole place in and when using such a WA this leaning back effect is what you get…


So once in photoshop I used the ‘Lens correction’ option which is in ‘Filter | Distort’ to move the image horizontally and vertically until I got close to the picture below…


It’s not as perfect as a Tilt-Shift lens would get it but then a decent TS is around £1k.  It’s on my shopping list at #2, although I might have to relegate the 85 f1.4 in favour of bumping a TS up to #1, have to wait and see how much I get for a kidney on ebay.

Incidentally, I was also up on the top of the scaffolding at the top right there to get a few scenic shots.  It was bloody windy though so we only had 5 mins before that section was shut down.  Fun fun fun!  Here’s the view…





Luckily, I made it down in one piece!  Had to go through the whole health & safety thing before being let up there even for five minutes but the guys were cool and watched my back in case I fell off.

Thinking of starting a wee project for myself soon, perhaps a weekly one and maybe even a theme.  Thinking of something like ‘natural pairs’ kinda like the sigma 10-20 and a spirit level :)  Have a few ideas so far!


Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Couldn’t resist it!


Had to take a snap of the cake I made with my mum and my son for his 4th birthday today!  Came out really well with mum’s improvised butter icing for the filling :)

Had too much direct reflection from the window behind and left of the cake but I still like this.  Couple more below.  Really going to try making some things soon specifically for practicing food shots at home.


And this last one has far too much direct reflection on the glossy icing.  It’s that glossy because it hasn’t set yet.  If this was in a studio or a commercial shoot I’d want some direct reflection to show the glossy quality of the icing but not as much as this.  Perhaps have a small strip softbox right behind the cake.


Also, I wouldn’t have used such an old wire tray :)
Larger versions here if anyone’s interested.


Tuesday, 2 June 2009

A two and a one flash environmental portraits!


I had the pleasure of taking the pics for our ‘designer profile’ pages again and this time it was of a very talented design student.  I’ll post the layout once the magazine is in print with more details but we had quite a few cool locations to play around with.  The above picture was taken with some of Thom’s work and I used two flashes.  One was obviously camera right with a honl grid on to give me the harder light I was after, and another was slightly behind Thom on the right with a honl snoot.

The reason for this second flash was to give me a highlight on the picture which shows Thom’s cool light in a shop window, and also to give me some separation between Thom and the background.  Looking at it now I wish I’d raised it a tad higher but as a highlight I think it works ok.

Just outside the room above we had a really cool wee corridor.  It was actually the toilets but I couldn’t resist trying a shot because of the cool colours (I had to clone out a ‘gents’ sign on the door beside him though!).


I love the pools of light on the floor and the green light above.  I think I should have tried for a darker shot by using a faster shutter speed.  Since the corridor was so narrow this was a one light portrait, the flash had the honl grid on it again and was handheld camera right pointed at Thom’s face.

I really enjoy working on portraits like this.  So much so that I think I’m gonna have to save up for an 85 f1.4, the ultimate portrait lens imo :)