The Growing Studio: Part 1

When I first started out on my photographic path, it was pretty much always outdoors. The period in my life that really ignited the spark was my time at Université Canadienne en France. I’ll save you the long version of the story, but if you’re interested you can find the nuts and bolts of it in the feature I was lucky enough to have in PIK MAGAZINE (January 2014).

99% of my photographic journey in Korea before I moved to Yangju, north of Seoul, has been landscapes. After I moved here, I tried to moving to more of a documentary urban feel. I needed to get more people into my shots. Photographing people was always a big challenge for me. I was starting to get more comfortable in getting architecture into my landscapes.

But This…

If you had told me even 6 months, no, 3 months ago that I would be doing product photography in my office in my apartment I may have spit out or choked on my coffee in disbelief and laughter.

I Never Expected This

I had just ended my contract at my school, and I was looking to finally jump into photography feet first. I set up accounts at freelancing sites Fiverr and UpWork. I quickly found that between these 2 sites, that the majority of the services and income in photography seemed to be based on editing (see: Photoshop skills) and product photography. Two things that were quite aways out of my comfort zone, with a 3rd in tow …

Lighting

The thing I feared more than photographing people was lighting. To be more specific, artificial lighting, flashes, strobes, you name it, if the light was powered by some form of electricity I avoided it as much as I could. But I figured if I was going to make a career out of this, I’d better learn how to use artificial lighting.

Staying at home, and not having to go to a 9 to 5 job, afforded me the time to actually sit down and try to learn and figure this thing out. I remembered one video in particular that I watched many years ago in amazement as Joe McNally showed the set up he had for this one particular shoot and the results from it. The way he was able to manipulate the light, (OUTSIDE! nonetheless) blew me away, and pining for the ability to be able to do something like that.

Fast forward to about a month ago, I was trying to find that video again. I was unsuccessful, but not for the reasons one might think. I couldn’t find it because for whatever reason in my head I had gotten McNally confused with Scott Kelby. I was searching and searching all over Kelby’s materials online and I couldn’t find it. So I gave up.

What it did though, was lead me to a video from 2 years ago by a man I had never seen before… Martin Botvidsson. His YouTube style is almost as far away from the Peter McKinnons, Chris Haus, and Casey Neistats of the world as you can get. And that’s a good thing.

It did take a little while for me to get accustomed to his style. It didn’t have the feel of what I had become used to from watching Peter and Chris. When I first started watching his videos, it felt like he really had not much of a direction, just a turn on the video camera and see what comes out. With that being said, I really did enjoy his sense of humour.

After a watching a few videos, I realized that it wasn’t that he didn’t have a specific shot in mind when he starts a video, it was that he is taking you through his artistic mindset and evolution of the photoshoot. His videos are both refreshing and educational, not to mention confidence building. The step by step process and the trial and error that he shows is a tremendous help for those of us just starting out.

I have learnt so much from his videos that I encourage anyone who is interested in small studio, product photography to give his channel a watch. Not everyone is going to have the amount of equipment that he has invested, but he also knows this and gears his tutorials to everyone with any camera and at least 1 off camera flash. He even has one video where he uses only his phone and an LED light panel.

Now he does have over 22,000 subscribers, so I suppose he is hardly a secret in the product photo world, but I felt I needed to introduce him to those of you, who like myself, are new to the area and view him as being a huge contributor to where I’m headed with my in apartment studio…

To be continued…

Homemade Studio Lighting V2.0

2 weeks ago, I made a post about the do-it-yourself (diy) studio lighting that I did to keep me busy, but also to help me learn more about how to use artificial lighting in a home studio setting.

I posted some results from those shots on the subsequent post as well as on Instagram and Facebook. For the better part of those 2 weeks, the fact that the straws were multi-coloured seemed to have very little if any effect to the final versions of the shots…

Until …

I did one shot perpendicular with a glass that I had big expectations for. It looked fairly good on the camera. It was the one shot I was expecting the most from and was going to be the centrepiece to that day’s shoot. Until I saw it on the computer screen. The colours of the straws were reflecting off of the glass and were – with my editing skillset – an impossibility to eliminate with my photo editing software.

Back to the Drawing Board

I had thought at first, “Well, let’s not do that type of shot again.” As a person trying to improve to the point of landing product photography clients, this type of thinking will not cut it. Having to sacrifice quality because I didn’t want to make a new one is a horrible idea.

Out to the stores. Store after store, coloured straws, coloured straws. No one even sold all white straws. But as luck would have it, a last ditch “Hey let’s take a look here, it can’t hurt to try,” unveiled a jackpot. Not only did they have packages of straws that were of one colour, that colour was black!

It also provided the chance to select different sized bowls for the reflection dishes.

Knowledge is Power

My wife was more than generous in helping with not only the cutting of the straws, which took the most amount of time the first go of it. She also strung them on the tape to make the honeycombs for the bowls.

I had bought many more packages of straws this time because I also wanted to make one for my makeshift strip box. Knowing what I could do with the strip box and the parchment paper as a diffuser, I wanted even more control over that light.

My wife had finished the one for the bowl. I had thought that if I was to attach another bowl and cut a small circle at the bottom and join them top to top, I could make a type of snoot. So she made a smaller honeycomb for the (UFO) snoot.

Another change I made to this version was the back of the bowls. On version 1, my mindset was to try to use items that were in my recycling bin as much as I could. This included a thick grey plastic bag that had been used as a postal envelope to cover the back of the white plastic bowls to eliminate light leaks. I thought that the double layer was a bit of an over-kill so I used only one layer. But on the bowl that would be the front of the snoot, I used the black electrical tape that I used to put the straws together into a honeycomb. After shooting, I realized that the black tape blocked out the light, like I wanted, but it was also doing a MUCH better job than the reflecting dish on the back end. So I took off the plastic and taped it, too.

The Test

After testing out the 3 new lighting choices that my wife and I had made, I can say that 1) version 1 helped out a lot in my understanding of what I need, and 2) version 2 is working better than I could have imagined.

The next step is to start finding different things to photograph. The plants, water, and smoke are great starting points. I think they make for great practice. I think they are also great as exercises from which to build a solid base of fundamentals to expand into more complicated stagings. Stay tuned.

How To…

If you’d like to see how these were done head over to the original issue for the steps to do it yourself. The strip box ended up being a little different. If you’re interested in the steps to the strip box honeycomb, leave a note in the comment section and we’ll post an update!

Stay safe and have fun!

Catching the Splash

In my continued efforts to learn and practise how to use artificial lighting for the purposes of product photography, I decided to try to catch some bouncing water drops.

I tried and shot just over 100 frames before real life called and I had to leave the house.

Image from the camera.

It isn’t just about learning how to use artificial lighting and how to set things up for a product shoot, it’s about learning how and practising to use editing software.

For those of you who have followed my path to this point know that I have done very little when it comes to editing photos using software on the computer. To be honest, the complicated ones, like Photoshop just scared me. But I also knew that if I was to advance anywhere in photography outside of my personal Facebook page, I would have to learn how to use it properly. Now I don’t use Photoshop, I use the program Affinity Photo. I absolutely love it. There are a lot of similarities to Photoshop in both layout and features. It doesn’t have the power that Photoshop has (yet), there is a reason why Photoshop has become a verb. (I’ll have to do a review at a later date.)

Back to the task at hand. I posted some of my results on Instagram stories. One friend had sent a message that she was trying to do the same but without the same results. So I decided that I would make a quick behind the scenes video showing my set up and a brief explanation on how to get the shot.

I have stung this video together. I know the quality both video and editing need a lot of work. Baby steps, baby steps. One thing at a time. It’s still a huge improvement from what I’ve done in the past. As I continue to do these at home shoots, doing more of these type of behind the scenes may surface.

If you have any questions about what I did in this video, or any other questions feel free to ask away in the comment section here, on my Facebook page, or on the YouTube video comment section.

Have a great day and good luck!