Sunday, 26 July 2009

The angels in the detail!


Had a really good house shoot in Glasgow last week for Home Plus Scotland magazine.  The owners are setting up their own interior design and painter & decorators company (Re-decorate) and they certainly have tons of past experience to draw on.  Their home was beautiful with quite a few quirky interesting things to photograph and they made me very welcome too.

The shot above was the main living room and I popped a flash up on a stand just out of the frame camera left to even out the exposure a bit.  I felt that a more flat, even lighting worked best for this room since it was quite ‘deep’ in the sense that the window light fell off a fair bit before it hit the back wall.  A tripod and longer exposure coupled with the flash evened it out nicely.

Another shot I really liked the lighting on…


This one was just natural light.  I did try a touch of flash off to camera right bouncing off the ceiling but it just didn’t need it and I really liked the soft shadows that big window was giving.

This room really was a huge space which I hope comes through on the images.  The piano was quite substantial but even that looked right at home.  I can see why Karlyn & Rob say this is a great party room!


Yet again I left a house being jealous of the kitchen :) 


I have a few more pics than normal to post because I took quite a few detail shots.  I always start a shoot with wide angle shots of the rooms and while it still requires alot of thought about composition and whether to light or not, it’s still the detail shots that give you a flavour of what a house, or indeed it’s owners, are really like.

For most of the time I use the 50mm f1.8 lens for the details since it gives me the ability to get really good quality shots at f2.8 and so allows you to be a bit more creative.  I occasionally use my beloved 150mm macro lens but that’s often a bit overkill for what I want.

Here’s a few detail shots that I thought were cool…


The next two shots below are a perfect example of detail shots that give you a flavour of the place and it’s owners.  Karlyn & Rob are creative types and these details of their office space show that I think…



This next shot also shows that they are slightly mental.  It’s an old family heirloom I think and yes, it’s real.  It just seems to work in that room though!


This next shot shows a nice cross section of the colours in the diningroom/kitchen…


Another quirky shot which I love.  This was a hole where an old plug socket used to be so they’ve added a wee door with a ‘home sweet home’ sign on it for the mice…of course!


Another thing I like about the detail shots is the ability to compose a shot that’s a ‘slice’ of a room.  This last shot was one I saw while doing the wide shots but it really needed a closer perspective to get a nice shot out of it.  I’m really happy with it because of the colours, the composition and the lovely natural light.


Not too much lighting info in this post since the house was nice and light with not too much contrast to worry about but I got to talk about how important I think detail shots are so it’s all good.  Perhaps I’ll get a lot of my previous detail shots together and do a single post about them.  That’s for another night :)

Ian :)

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Background check…


I decided to experiment a bit with backdrops last night.  I really believe that the background of a picture is every bit as important as the foreground, so I wanted to take a few test shots to test out some ideas I had.  The shot above is a test shot I’ve been meaning to try for a while.  I don’t have a light-tent but I wanted to mimic a seamless backdrop, so I taped together three pieces of A3 white paper and taped them up over my monitor (setup shot below).


You can see in the setup shot that I had the softbox really close to the subject.  This effectively made the softbox as large a light as I could which made the shadows as soft as possible (since the light is hitting the subject from many different angles).  On the milk shot at the top of the post I also had another flash off to camera left with a snoot on it to direct the light in a tight beam.  I didn’t want a pure white backdrop in that shot and so aimed the snooted flash off to the side for a gradient of white to grey.  

In order to get this gradient it meant I also had to position the softbox very close to the subject and pointing directly at it from the right.  I also pointed it slightly away from the background as I didn’t want the softbox to just nuke all the paper to white.  It’s very tricky to get enough separation between subject and backdrop in such a confined area but I managed it.  I possibly could have used a smaller softbox or just shot the flash through some white paper, but I wanted to get as soft a shadow as I could.

Here’s a couple more shots of the chocolate brownies…




The next background I wanted to try was to create a nice bokeh effect with some nice highlights.  Since my son and I found the Pixar Cars short films (Mater’s Tall Tales) the other day and he thinks Mater is great I thought he’d like a few pics of him.  I now have this next shot as my desktop…


Here’s a kind of setup shot which shows how I made the background much more eloquently than I could explain it…


Yes the glasses where all fingermarks but I had just been using them to pour milk into :)

This was just a flash with a green gel and a grid.  I only used the grid to control any spill of light onto the wall but when I saw how out of focus the background was I realised the grid probably didn’t matter that much.  I’d ideally like to have taken the flash further away to reduce the large highlights but as I had to climb over two chairs to get to it (and one of those having the cars on it) I decided it was fine as it was :)

I had to use my 150mm macro lens not because of the macro function but because of the perspective.  Obviously when you use a longer focal length your perspective is narrower, and so I only needed the three glasses.  I tried the 50mm first but I think I would have needed about 15 glasses to fill the background :)

Here’s a couple more I liked…



I have another couple of ideas I’d like to try out on a black seamless so I’ll try that soon and post up.


Saturday, 11 July 2009

Truffle trouble!


I only just managed to get my entry into the latest Strobist bootcamp competition tonight.  Deadline was midnight and I uploaded it with a whole three minutes to spare!!

The reason I was so late was a failed batch of dark chocolatte truffles last night.  I wasted a fair amount of good quality dark choc too which aint cheap.  So for this batch I opted for a cheaper milk chocolate.  I was in a rush though and after the wee one went to bed I was frantically waiting for this batch to cool enough so I could shape them and coat them in cocoa powder.  While I waited I shot a wee time-lapse video of Ben’s Wall-e toy being chased around by a big tractor :)

Michelle helped me quite a bit getting them ready while I fiddled with the lights.  They were still a tad soft so they were pretty messy.  Still, they taste lovely and I’m quite happy with the final pic, even if it’s not what I was originally aiming for.

My first idea was for quite a low key ‘luxury’ look, with some silky red background, but as milk choc is lighter I had to re-evaluate.  I had wanted to use a nice light brown towel I’d bought specifically for food shots but I couldn’t find it (DOH!) so I used a piece of carpet/rug thing that Michelle bought a wee while back. and I think it works pretty well.  As usual with food shots it’s the styling that can make the difference.  The shades of brown in this picture really work with the white line of the dish I think.

The lighting for this shot was a shoot through brolly high and camera right and another flash handheld camera left but kept low and quite close to the rug so as not to cast a shadow onto the truffles.  That also had an orange gel on it to warm up the background a bit.  Without this second flash there was a bit too much shadow on the rug from the dish.

Anyway, glad that’s in, here’s the only other contender of my truffle shots…


I thought this one might have been a better choice because it shows more of the consistency of the truffle, but I feel the specular highlight on the chocolate kind of takes away from the muted tones of the other shot which I liked so much.  Anyway, can’t change it now :)

Last pic I’d like to post is of my backup plan.  When my truffles went wonky last night I snapped a quick shot so that I’d have at least something to post.  It’s a bit of a cheesy sweet shot (not a cheese sweet, that’d be gross!) but needs must :)


This was shot in a light tent with a spotty tea-towel hanging over the back.  I had a flash on either side of the tent.

Must log off and get some sleep now.  I’ll be dreaming of truffles, well nightmares!


Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Title has to be…..’A Bog post’


Had I used flash in these shots then the obvious title would have been ‘Flash in the pan’ *badumtish*!!

Had a very interesting shoot the other day for a client who is a very talented designer and now has her own company called
‘Four dots design’.    This was to document an earlier job that Kate had done at Tebay Service station south of Carlisle, which is more of a ‘hotel’ than a service station.

We had an early start (left the house at 5.30) to try and avoid the busy times since they didn’t really want to close the toilets off for us, which is fair enough.  Kate thought she was getting some funny looks standing outside the gents toilets, but you should have seen the looks I was getting loitering around inside with a camera and tripod :)

I had to set up the shot then wait for a space in the ‘traffic’!  Even though I was being careful I’ve had to clone out one or two poor guys whose reflections I had missed when taking the shots lol.

Anyway, the place was lovely (It’s not often I recommend toilets to people but if you’re passing!!) and I think we’ve got some really good portfolio shots.  Few more below.



For the shot above I had originally wanted the black top to be all dry but it was so busy there were always people washing their hands (thankfully) so there were spots of water everywhere.  So I had a cloth and kept running up and down manically in between hand washers trying to get it looking all glossy.  Unfortunately it’s still a tad streaky but it doesn’t show up in the pics unless you look quite closely.   I still like the reflections of the lights in it.


I’m still kicking myself for not using at least one flash somewhere so I could use the title ‘Flash in the pan’….next time :)


Friday, 3 July 2009

Industrial Photography


Had a job on last week that’s a little different to my usual assignment.  It was to shoot some pics for one of our business magazines to accompany an article about a fabricators in Renfrew.  As I’m looking to expand into industrial photography I jumped at the chance :)

Unfortunately, the bosses didn’t want their pics taken (which was a shame as there’s tons of really great backgrounds for portraits there) but there were still plenty of pics to take.  They basically fabricate huge metal structures and so the working spaces are huge.  To get a decent pic of it I even donned a harness and got up in a ‘cherry picker’.  I used the 10-20 for the shot below but if I’d have been on the ground then I’d have far too much boring ground in the frame so the extra height worked really well.


One thing I found problematic was the lack of light.  Despite all those skylights it was actually pretty dark so I had to boost the ISO when up on the crane because the cage was vibrating too much to use the tripod effectively.  With my old D200 this would have caused a PP nightmare but the D300 handles noise much better.  I don’t usually worry about this as I rarely go above ISO 200 for interiors or portraits but it’s nice to know the high ISO performance is there when/if you need it!

I REALLY wanted to take some pics of the plasma cutter machine but the operator wasn’t available :/  Bummer.  So, here’s a few more pics that I quite liked…


Is the pic above too dark?  Looked ok on my photoshop but now looks a tad dark.  My calibrated screen is playing silly buggers atm.



Not sure why I like the hook pic, I just do :)

Supposed to be shooting some more pics at their Leith base sometime soon so I’ll blog up about that too if I get anything worthy! I’m definitely looking forward to doing some more of this stuff, hopefully with some portraits included too.  David Tejada look out….NOT!


Thursday, 2 July 2009

Kitchen Style!


Shot a really nice kitchen the other day in a beautiful big house.  The job was to only shoot the kitchen which was a shame as I’d love to have had a chance to take pics of the whole place.

As usual I didn’t have too long and I was also keeping the family from their breakfast :)  So I grabbed some wide shots with the Sigma 10-20 then some close-ups with the old 35-70 f2.8 and the 50mm.  This kitchen was particularly nice to shoot because it looked ‘lived-in’.  Quite often when people know a photographer is coming they clear away anything that makes the place look like a home, which is a shame and why styling makes such a difference.  This kitchen didn’t need a stylist though as it all looked great already :)




Ian :)