Tag Archives: photography

Round-up, September 2016

The last few months have been some crazy ones (and where did 2016 go, btw?!), but I’ve been getting some positive results and making some good progress, overall. As I try to drill down into photography, propmaking and 3D work (all three? Yes, all three. I know, I’m insane), I’m taking a moment to look back over the last few months and see where things are going!

First up, the last of the BR85 project!

BR85HB-SR Battle Rifle

UNSC finish
UNSC finish

I finally finished up this project and shipped out the last two by about May or so, pushing the entire project to nearly two years!

Continue reading Round-up, September 2016

Creating Abstract, Textured Studio Backdrops

While I love my seamless, sometimes I wish there were another option in the studio than flat colour. Sometimes I feel like a subject, particularly one simply lit, would have a little more depth if the background had some texture to it, something for the light to “catch” on and “anchor” the image in something real.

Usually this is achieved by shooting on location, particularly with a shallow depth of field. It can be achieved by lighting the background through a gobo, throwing patterned light on the background. But none of this quite achieves either the right level of reality, or the right level of texture uniformity and colour/tone control required for the shots I envisage. While they both have their uses, there just isn’t anything like a proper backdrop to blend “real” and “fake” in the right quantities.

So, how to create the right backdrop? Be warned: I go into detail… This is 2800 words of research and experimentation. You might wanna skim from section to section.

Painted Backdrops

Enter the painted backdrop. More specifically, fine-art painted backdrops; those painted according to very specific criteria with some degree of skill for a fairly specific spectrum of purpose. These can include scenery, skies, abstract or even full-blown Hollywood matte paintings. Not those generic printed school-portrait backgrounds!

The real deal. Gorgeous? Yes. Worth the cost? If you can afford it, totally. I now know first hand how much work goes into this.
The real deal. Gorgeous? Yes. Worth the cost? If you can afford it, totally. I now know first hand how much work goes into this.

My inspiration here is, perhaps entirely unsurprisingly to some, Oliphant Backdrops, a small company producing fine art backdrops for high end clients from Hollywood studios to Vogue that are consistently beautiful and inspiring. I Googled the prices on these, and found a couple of forum discussions between previous clients placing custom work in the low four-figure range and rentals in mid-three-figures. Firmly out of my budget levels for the near future.

Naturally, my immediate instinct is to DIY instead. So what’s required to set about that? I spent a month working on that very question, so I could show you…

Getting Started

To clarify, I don’t have a fine art degree or anything along those lines, so I’m not approaching it with any significantly greater degree of skill with a physical paintbrush than anyone else. Given this fact, nothing I produce will likely ever be as good as an Oliphant without years of regular practice. On the other hand, I have a decent idea of how paint works, and I have some muscle memory from digital painting, so it shouldn’t be impossible. I’m aiming for it to be achievable by anyone with a modicum of artistic inclination like me, so my lack of experience is important. Anyone can follow along!

If you saw my blog a little while back, you'll know I just dusted these 2012 paintings off after some time in an old backup archive.
If you saw my blog recently, you’ll know I just dusted these 2012 paintings off after some time in an old backup archive.

First you have to figure out what you’re looking to create. Personally I’m not looking for anything too extravagant, my favourites are the abstract ones which vary between “cloud-like” and “shoddily-painted decaying plaster”. They strike the exact right balance between block-tone uniformity and reality-grounding detail for my aesthetic taste, so that’s the style I’m specifically looking at for this project.

Continue reading Creating Abstract, Textured Studio Backdrops

Update time!

How about a blog at the two month mark instead of the three month mark! Fantastic then.

Last time, I’d just started the music thing with Brad Taylor. I’m still on the hunt for musicians to shoot, hopefully that’ll happen more this summer- though since it’s the gigging season, I’m not holding out too much hope of availabilities lining up. It might be more likely going into the Autumn.

I did a business/corporate shoot with Ryan, nothing too heavy, just looking for a couple pics for his portfolio as part of his push towards lifestyle modelling.

This is actually partially what I bought my iPhone for... Prop use!
This is actually partially what I bought my iPhone for… Prop use!

I quite enjoyed it, looking for the angles to tell the story I was trying to set up.

Love love love the lighting in this footbridge.
Love love love the lighting in this footbridge.

I tried a fashion-y thing again with Brittani, I think it went reasonably well. This time, I was shooting a jeans billboard!

Super Twilight.
Super Twilight.

I still haven’t decided if that’s something I particularly want to pursue, though. It may or may not pay the bills- I’m not sure about the market around here- and it doesn’t particularly thrill me. It may just be that I haven’t found my style within the genre, though.

I'm not sure it's possible to get enough gridded beauty dish.
I’m not sure it’s possible to get enough gridded beauty dish.

What does, though, is sports and fitness. Remember that location shoot with Ryan last year? Well, now I got the chance to shoot with an ANBF/OCB figure competitor, Kayleigh Trumpower. This is her first competition season, aiming for her pro card.

Started off with a headshot, since that's what I do and she needed one.
Started off with a quick headshot, since that’s what I do and she needed one.
A shot for Beast Apparel, who make that tank top.
A shot for Beast Apparel, who make that tank top.
A shot for Scivation supplements, which she exclusively uses.
A shot for Scivation supplements, which she exclusively uses.

That’s about it for now in terms of shooting. A little slower than I wanted it, but more deliberate and directional like I had been intending.

I have a couple irons in the fire though, a headshot job booked and a second shoot with Kayleigh planned. Hopefully Brad may be available at some point for the fitness thing, because he’s been getting his shred on too.

I’m loving the gritty drama involved with fitness shooting, it’s as enjoyable as music shooting to do. Less about telling a story though, and more about selling an image and lifestyle. So I get to play with lighting to my heart’s content!

I’m also working on my own projects; right now I have a devious scheme involving propmaking, which is something I love and want to incorporate into my shooting in some way. I have a couple ideas for that, which I want to get to over the next few months- as time and money allow!

My first prop build I’m going to do a daily blog on here after this post. It’s a simple scifi pistol (which you’ll already know if you follow me on Twitter), a bit like the Mass Effect guns, but it’s a small, easy way back into it- it’s been years since I even made anything of any detail, never mind something which has to fit together like that! So hopefully that’s going to go well!

All for now.

~Rob

Time for a Recap

I didn’t exactly get a shoot-by-shoot blog going like I originally intended, it would seem. No worries though, regularity can be worked on. I’m not trying to apply any pressure to blog like I used to, since it seems to be a destructive force when I’m now also writing pretty much full-time.

I'd been looking for a shot like this for some time, so I was very happy with this result.
I’d been looking for a shot like this for some time, so I was very happy with this result.

Instead of recounting the time since the first post sequentially, I’m peppering this post with recent shots I’m quite happy with; at least given the amount of time I’ve been following this new path.

I bought a smoke machine for atmospherics; this was its first (and only, so far) shoot. Performed quite nicely for $30!
I bought a smoke machine for atmospherics; this was its first (and only, so far) shoot. Performed quite nicely for $30!

It’s been three and a half months now, so what have I accomplished in that time? Well, I think my direction has improved, my clarity of vision and communication. I started working with another model with some experience, invaluable to me when I’m trying to pursue more ambitious goals.

This was a candid from the shoot, between poses. I prefer it (and its Nik processing) to the main image from the shoot!
This was a candid from the shoot, between poses. I prefer it (and its Nik processing) to the main image from the shoot!

I’ve started working on clarifying my personal direction, both professionally and artistically, and coming up with ideas about what could be commercially viable in the relatively small city I live in.

Yeah sports! I really do love the aesthetic of commercial sports photography.
Yeah sports! I really do love the aesthetic of commercial sports photography.

Thus far, gyms and clothing boutiques have struck me the most as possibilities; they each strike different parts of my somewhat split-personality aesthetic. We’ll see how that goes once I have material to start approaching them with; the marketing budget may not be there, or perhaps they’ve just been waiting for a photographer like me to come along. Who knows?

Inflicting repetitive pain on the model for this shot yielded the expression I was looking for.
Inflicting repetitive pain on the model for this shot yielded the expression I was looking for.

After that, I’m not sure yet. I’m also still working on the headshots, just a couple so far but they’re relatively easy to knock out so I’m not too concerned. I’ve found that it’s fairly easy to be silly and get past the guard of a person when you’re posing them in the ways required for headshot work- it doesn’t lend itself to a serious tone of interaction.

A Brittani headshot.
A Brittani headshot.

I did a product shoot recently, the results of which are certainly a vast improvement over my previous attempts at products. This could be something worth pursuing, I’m going to try a few more different types of product- different sizes, shapes, materials, etc. and see if that’s a direction I could also go. I’ve found that shooting a static object isn’t significantly different to shooting a person, except you have to “pose” it manually. The attention to detail, the lighting and set design, all that stuff… Pretty much the same.

And one for Ryan.
And one for Ryan.

So, more immediate future plans? I’m just looking at working with more models to help fill up my portfolio, for the time being. The behind the scenes on many of those shoots will be on Phototuts as usual. Once I have enough content to show for myself, then I can start putting myself out there. That’s going to be hard for me, being British (:P), but gotta hustle, right?

Lifestyle-clothing-catalogue-something. I like it though.
Lifestyle-clothing-catalogue-something. I like it though.

I’m currently thinking if nothing else, this blog should serve as a warning to aspiring pros the sheer amount of time and effort that has to be expended on working towards your dreams.

~Rob

Here we go… Again

So my blog is up and running again, for about the 5th time in the last eight years. This time, however, it has a purpose.

Those of you who know me probably know that I’m in the middle of a year-long transition out of nature photography into, in theory, commercial advertising and headshots. I don’t have the main site up and running yet, and probably won’t for a couple months while I get some images together, but I wanted to start the blog at the very beginning.

Well, there are many beginnings. I could have started it once I realised I had to change career paths, or once I started building some skill with artificial lighting, or even when I first started learning to light. I could have started it even further back, at the beginning of putting together a studio, into which my wife put a good amount of time and money before I took over once I arrived on this side of the Atlantic.

The process I want to document, however, is that of an artist who’s only just created his first showable work. Out of the education stage- there are many sites where that can be gotten, I work for one for a start- and into the process of putting it all together into a body of experience.

While I’ll always be showing and teaching here, I can never seem to put that down, the point is that I’m learning as I go along just as much as anyone else, so some of these learning experiences I’ll have to share will be on everyone’s part. Should be exciting!

I had my first “real” shoot last weekend, so now I have something to show for myself, and now this record of growth begins.

First up is Brittani, a first-time model with aspirations. That’s not a course of action I’d recommend unless you’re a nerdy obsessive sponge of a learner like me- if neither of you are entirely sure what you’re doing, the shoot’s going to be awkward, unproductive and discouraging. I knew what I wanted ahead of time though, so I shot that while tossing out direction and titbits of Modelling 101. This is a major improvement over my last headshot shoot a couple years ago, where I was very quiet the whole time, and naturally didn’t really get the best images.

It went well! I didn’t clam up, quite the opposite in fact (a shocker for those who know my quiet tendencies), and Brittani took direction well. I didn’t panic when the lighting wasn’t going to plan, just figured it out and kept talking and joking and generally not showing my doubts. Which to be fair were minimal, I wasn’t really put under any pressure at all by the minor tweaks required, but this level of sociability-on-cue is a milestone for me. Long may it continue!

The image itself is less than perfect, but for a first-time-ever shoot with a first-time-ever model, I’m quite content for the time being:

I love me some high-key.
I love me some high-key.

The setup was pretty straightforward, I just put her in a cage of V-flats blasted by horizontal clamshell:

"Back into the cage!" Hilarious, not terrifying, right?!
“Back into the cage!” Hilarious, not terrifying, right?!

Next up was Lane. While he had a very hard time taking hand direction, his head direction was excellent, and the planets aligned for a split second right here:

Badass commercial-music-style is what I was after, and I think I succeeded?
Badass commercial-music-style is what I was after, and I think I succeeded?

Again, simple setup, a staple of most commercial studios as I recall:

Blow out the background, and I got the beauty dish look with a speedlight zoomed into a shoot-through umbrella.
Blow out the background, and I got the beauty-dish-type-look with a speedlight zoomed into a shoot-through umbrella.

That’s all for now!

~Rob