Friday, May 3, 2013

Keeping It Simple

Final Image - Keeping it simple
I forgot how long it had been since I had written new articles (aside from my recent spurt), wow, it has been a while, and WOW my old images suck!

Staring at the blog and trying to think of which images to cover next made me realize my style/taste has changed a TON in just a year.  Many of my older images (and those covered by earlier articles), are just awful to me now.  Sure, I learned some valuable lessons from those that hopefully I have passed along, but many of them I no longer have a fondness for.  Be that as it may, I will leave them up as the lessons are still worthy, even if I now hate the resulting composition.

In any event, as I look at my library, there are a few time-worn images that offer-up a worthy lesson (and also don't suck as much).  This one is a solid example from 2011 with less suck, and less... everything.

Today is a lesson in simplicity.  Keeping images simple yet interesting is a balance I often try and achieve when shooting certain styles, and in this case, a focus on fashion.  Now, I have shot fashion on location and some awesome places add a lot to the image, but when you want the focus on the dress, it often works out better in a more generic environment than in a busy one.  If you are constructing art, then the opposite may be true, but it all depends on your style as well as what the picky ass client might want (right or wrong). In this case we are striving for simple yet artistic, and I want to find that fine line between the two.  A blank wall is unacceptable as well as not a differentiator (more on that later), so we want to find the middle ground between interesting art and a blank wall.

Posing The Model

I prefer poses for fashion where the model isn't looking at the camera.  You also want to find the aspects of the outfit that are the "star of the show", and feature those.  In this case, I like the shoulder details as well as the bun-hugging abilities offered by this fabric.  It was then a simple matter of finding a pose featuring those aspects as well as her not looking at the camera.  Now, those are not rules, just my preference.  I have shot fashion where the model is engaged with the viewer, but it isn't often my preference.  Keep in mind when you do shoots to have the model look at the camera as well as away from it, so you have options later.  I used to regret not getting a specific shot, but learning the hard way sucked and now I get a variety.  Look at me, look down your body-line (especially when shooting lingerie), look at that light stand, look at the floor, etc.  Keep it in a rotation so you get some of each from the unique poses.  When you do this, also keep an eye on the catchlights (pun intended) so the eyes get some sparkle if they will be seen in the final image.

Lighting The Scene

Thrilling Lighting Diagram
In this thrilling lighting diagram we see we have three total lights with which to fiddle.  In reality, this is a simplistic way to light most scenes and is a great default when you are in doubt and in a panic state in front of a client.  In a spectacular fail in labeling my lights here, I would like to start with C, our Key Light.  It is the workhorse for the majority of the photons we are throwing at the model and is gridded for no particular reason.  I think I had it on there from a previous session, and there was no reason to remove it.  Normally we would have a grid on here to prevent the background from getting hit, but because of the angle here, the light would hit it regardless of the grid.

Both A and B play the same role, but from different sides of the scene.  Their goal is to "sculpt" the model with light and help all of the 2 dimensional mediums (print, screen, whatever) appear to be more 3D.  Without these lights, the scene is pretty flat and boring, boring, boring.  Adding rim lights is a great way to add some zing.  If you don't have rim lights consider using a reflector to bounce some light back in, or use the sun!  I rarely use the sun as a key light, as it makes some wickedly sharp shadow unless you diffuse it with something.  But as a rim light, it is ready to go, but you might need to increase your shutter speed to get it to a reasonable level of brightness.

Post Production In Photoshop

There is very little in the way of post production here, which I guess is the point of the article.  However, what we do add takes it to a different level of image.  

As a photographer, it is what makes your work unique that helps you get noticed and hopefully hired.  Had I left her on the gray background, I think I would be in the same ballpark with hundreds of other people who have a white wall.  But, by making a mask and adding in this hand-painted texture, as well as a minor tone adjustment, I have taken this image to another level.  The question is, how many other photographers would have even bothered?

When tackling some of these images in post production, think of what you can do to make your work stand-out from the crowd, and not take the lazy road.  However, also keep in mind you also have to make yourself equal before you make yourself unique.  If your lighting is awful, no amount of Photoshop will save you.