Monday, July 25, 2011

Telling stories through images

What are you selling?

Mmmmmm. More food. When I make an image, I always shoot multiple looks and takes on the same subject. Why? Sometimes the type of image needed isn't what is requested by the client. Uggg. That's a hard conversation to have when you've shown everything and nothing works in the ad layout, mood, styling, etc. Often, that ends up as a redo shoot which costs both my company and my client company money. Not good for anyone. Check out a few images from a shoot I did recently and see how they are different.

It's just a sandwich right? Right. The attention is clearly where it needs to be. Nothing else gets in the way. Everything surrounding the subject is only there for decoration.

Now check out the following image. This is a lifestyle type shot. The model is more prominent in the shot. The viewers eyes will naturally scan the image usually starting with the model's eyes. The red also is a strong color, so next may be the glass filled with refreshment. Then on to the sandwich. Lifestyle with a person enjoying a product is often portrayed in many styles of advertisements. We like to see people and often project ourselves into their situations. If they enjoy something, we should too.

Different take on a lifestyle shot. Our model is clearly enjoying the sandwich. Definitely, the sandwich is more front and center. The models eyes are down toward the sandwich, not closed, but averted from the camera. This type of a shot more directly focuses on the sandwich. Also, note that the sandwich is in sharp focus while the model is slightly soft. This also helps focus attention on the sandwich.

I'm glad to capture many different types of shots, so I don't have to either not meet my client's vision or redo the shoot. All are nice shots with each having a different purpose. I'd love to hear which shot you prefer?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Great image or mistake?

Photography is often very subjective. Is it better to take a technically perfect image or to introduce “flaws” into a photo? And... What is a “flaw” anyway?

Check the image below. It has quite a bit of lens flare. The orange and green circles flying across the image are tell-tale signs. Also, lens flare as seen in this image causes a washed out look. Was this a mistake? No. I purposely removed my lens hood which increased the amount of light coming in from the sides of the lens. I positioned my model so I was shooting back into the sun. I checked the amount of lens flare through my viewfinder. I subtly lit from the front so she would not be a silhouette. The result is this slightly washed out image. To me, this is not a mistake as it was my vision of the image that I executed upon. You can simulate this look with photoshop although it is more fun to do and looks more natural if it is done in camera.

Check out various fashion magazines and this look is everywhere right now.

Check out the next image. Beautiful model, beautiful scene. It was approaching mid morning and the light was getting very harsh. My vision... a more sophisticated nighttime version in the middle of the day. I shoot digital, so I adjusted my white balance to something a little more blue and purple. I gelled a strobe orange to warm up my subject a bit and captured the image. I like the image and it does match my vision even though it is not true to what was in the scene at the time.

Next is a nice image. In the harsh light, the bricks are washed out and honestly, shadows would not be kind to my model. My vision is a warmer colored shot with flash off camera to get some directional light. I gelled orange again to warm the scene while underexposing the ambient light to get the look you see. I shot with one light camera left as you can see with the shadows from the model and trash can. The shadows to me add to the image instead of typical harsh shadows which are nearly black from many flash images. Again... This matches my vision, so I like it. It is not true to the color and brightness of the scene though.

Are any of these mistakes? It was my intent to record light as you see in each of the images, so they are “made” images and not mistakes. I don’t want it to sound like I don’t  make mistakes. I have my share of whoppers on images that could not be salvaged which are now in the electronic recycle bin. I have also often made “happy accidents” that have turn into some of my favorite images. These mistakes, leaning from those, and then crafting new images true to my vision using the learned techniques in my "accidents" is why I love my craft.

Also, special thanks to Ashley, my model for these shots. She was wonderful to work with and a natural at her craft.

Until next time...

Friday, July 1, 2011

Happy July 4th Weekend

To all my readers in the U.S., happy July 4th weekend. I hope you take time to enjoy the holiday with family and friends. While you're at it, eat well.

More food today... I had another opportunity to work with Chef Trusan of Trusan Cuisines ( to make this wonderful fruit themed gazpacho. This is a fun summer themed dish to enjoy.

There are a few tips and techniques for shooting food in either a studio or location setting I often start out with. These are really guidelines and not hard and fast rules. Camera and lens also play key roles... mostly the lens. I shot with a Canon 5D mark ii and a 100mm 2.8L prime macro lens. No zoom on this shoot to get the best image quality possible. Back to guidelines...

Number 1: Backlighting will often get you in the ballpark immediately. All shots had 1 strobe behind and camera left to put dimension on the dish and especially the blueberries. I did at a bit of front fill with another strobe to knock out a few shadows. Most food can be shot with only one light though. 

Number 2: Get close. Zoom in to show detail of your subject. I usually shoot both wide and close to decide what is best later. You never know what type of an image will fit into the art directors vision and layout, so I shoot both.

This shot shows the light and dimensions especially on the blueberries. Next time you look at a food magazine, look for clues to the lighting setup, direction of light, intensity, and light modifiers. You'll be amazed at how much you can learn.  

That's all for today. More to come next week. I hope everyone has a great holiday weekend. Happy July 4th.