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…

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!

Galleries and Exhibitions

In today’s digital age and the constant go, go, go lifestyle that has dominated urban living all around the world, it’s easy to forget to stop for a minute and take time for yourself.

As a photographer and an artist, a gallery or exhibition can easily become your amusement park, your wilderness, your library, your school all rolled into one.

As computer screens become bigger with higher resolution, it can very easily become your window to the world. For me as well. A few years I started to really start to study some of photography’s legends. I’d read blog posts about them, I’d watch old documentaries on YouTube about them. I’d look at their photographs all without leaving the comforts of my home office.

Something happened.

But before we get into that I should preface this with:

I love art galleries. I enjoy going to a gallery to see some of the master painters: Matisse, VanGogh, Dali, Manet, Monet, Renoir, and Delacroix just to name a few. I had, at the recommendation of my art history professor, to avoid going to the Louvre, and go to the Musée d’Orsay instead. I loved it. I was also there at a time that wasn’t over run with people. So when a Musée d’Orsay exhibition came to Seoul, it didn’t take much convincing to go.

Photography museums and exhibitions were not as accessible. So when I found that there would be an exhibition of Henri Cartier-Bresson, (the photographer I look up to the most) in Seoul, I knew I had to go, and the 3.5 hour drive to get to Seoul wasn’t going to be a factor at all.

FRANCE. Paris. Place de l’Europe. Saint Lazare station. 1932

This is where it happened… At the Dongdaemun Design Plaza… An epiphany of sorts. I had always respected and at times been in awe of the paintings that hung in a museum.

Edouard ManetLe déjeuner sur l’herbeen 1863huile sur toile H. 207,0 ; L. 265,0 cm.
@ avec cadre H. 243,5 ; L. 305 cm
musée d’Orsay, Paris, France
©photo musée d’Orsay / rmn

I still remember my jaw literally dropping when I saw  Édouard Manet’s – “Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe” hanging at Musée d’Orsay. We had studied it in class only weeks before I visited, so it was still fresh in my mind. I saw it in class both on the projection screen and in the textbook. Nothing prepared me for its sheer size of 5.4912 square metres.

The ability to just stand there with the photograph in front of me, no links or web browser tabs, just me and the photograph. It was a calming effect, but it also brought with it a desire to soak up the entire photograph. Not just look at it and walk to the next one. Or scroll down as would be the case in Instagram. The photos were no larger than the full screen that I could produce in my office on my desktop, in fact many of them were smaller. There was just a completely different feeling involved with a physical photograph.

It inspired me like nothing else. I left the exhibition a few hours later with my camera in tow and changed the in camera settings to shoot only in black and white. Before that exhibition, I wasn’t a fan of black and white photos at all. I needed colour. I’d almost go so far as to say I hated black and white photos, and I don’t hate much in this world. Strongly dislike, yes, but hate, no. It single handedly showed me the path to appreciating and enjoying black and white photography.

Exhibitions don’t have to be entirely a visit only excursion. I’ve also been fortunate enough to have my photographs included in a number of fabulous exhibitions all over South Korea as well as Japan.

Which will lead us to our next issue. Thanks for reading.