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Finding your photographic style.


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9 hours ago, MizBrown said:

 

 

 

Nicaragua isn't included in your linked site.  Nobody knows what the real figures are.  My helper told his other old lady that some small community near him has nine new cases.  People are masking up again. 

 

The thing with studio shots is that they have to justify all the gear needed to make them work, or they need to be so well done that their studio-ness isn't apparent.   I love doing formal portraits or semi-formal portraits, but what I've been licensing are fish, plants, and collections of stuff.  Right now, I'm tempted to do more books that look like a reader just left them on a table.  

 

Choosing for the studio can also be the choice for a lifestyle. (Or the other way around.) To me the studio is just a dedicated space where all aspects of photography can be controlled. There still are beautiful daylight studios all over the world. Just google daylight photo studio and eat your heart out. Usually indeed equipped with all sorts of gizmos.

However the studio is just that space where everything can be controlled. So simple tungsten or led light or curtains for daylight; maybe sheer or translucent plastic or paper to control the quality and direction of light, that's all plenty enough. Stands can be as simple as broomsticks. A stack of books or a stool with a bean or rice bag can be a tripod. Actually sometimes a stool with a sack of rice on top is better than a tripod.

 

In our second year at art school one of my teachers had this brilliant studio assignment. It turned out to be a direct descendant from the Bauhaus via the Chicago School of Arts.

But at that moment we all shrugged: just a small cardboard box? We all wanted a real hip big photo studio!

So the box is the studio or the stage. It's 90x60x60cm (36x24x24") or 60x40x40cm (24x16x16"). You recognize the 3:2 ratio of 35mm. The cardboard box must be black on the inside. Black paint or black paper or whatever, but deep matte black. One of the large sides must be completely open and the camera must be aimed at the open front. So usually you will lay the box on it's side. Lamps will be outside of the box. It is possible to do this outside mimicking the daylight studio later. But for now this will be a traditional black box studio. Place an object in the box and light it by cutting out holes in the box and sliding the lamps around.

A small open hole will be a spotlight. A square hole with strips of paper will be blinds. Move the lamps back and forth to see how focusing works and when shadows are sharp or blurred.

A large hole with diffusion (paper; sheer) will be window light if it's in the side or a roof light if you take the top off or cut a hole in the top.

Pieces of white paper or cardboard are reflection panels; small mirrors will get light into difficult corners. Gels will of course color the lights, but pieces of colored plastic bottles or packaging material will do just as well. Also reflecting light from colored material will provide color.

Holes in the back will make a back light. But add the interesting question: within or out of the frame? (The same goes for all lights of course.)

Front light is easy, but not encouraged. Except for maybe spotlights. Which of course are again pieces of black board with a small hole in them and lights sliding closer and further back for focusing.

This whole studio fits on top of a table. The camera can be on a couple of books or on that bean bag or sack of rice. The photographer can comfortably sit on a stool or chair in front of it.

For some people this is the only studio they'll ever need.

 

wim

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10 hours ago, wiskerke said:

This whole studio fits on top of a table. The camera can be on a couple of books or on that bean bag or sack of rice. The photographer can comfortably sit on a stool or chair in front of it.

For some people this is the only studio they'll ever need.

 

I've got lights that do three things -- bounce off a wall of ceiling and can be hand held (Godox AD200 and the Godox flash that can either be on the camera or not), wear a snoot (all of them), or wear a grid and diffuser over a 12 inch beauty disk or go on stands with other modifiers.  I've also got one umbrella, one 48" octobox, and  three pop up reflectors.  And upstairs an SK400 ii with a rectangular softbox that's not collapsible.

 

So, what I used for the book covers were the two AD200s sitting on their bottoms pointed at my white foam board ceiling, camera hand held., book on my kitchen table.

 

That black box exercise limits choices, which can be a good thing.    I try to identify one problem at a time and learn how to fix it, or one software control feature at a time and learn what it does.  The whole of a studio with all the gear or the whole of Photoshop can be overwhelming.   All too easy to learn smatterings of things over a wide range and not to be able to use anything really well.   The temptation of gear heads.

 

I remember borrowing a museum guide's stool for a photograph in the Philadelphia Museum of Fine Art.  Put the camera on it, shot with the museum's light. 

Edited by MizBrown
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2 hours ago, MizBrown said:

 

I've got lights that do three things -- bounce off a wall of ceiling and can be hand held (Godox AD200 and the Godox flash that can either be on the camera or not), wear a snoot (all of them), or wear a grid and diffuser over a 12 inch beauty disk or go on stands with other modifiers.  I've also got one umbrella, one 48" octobox, and  three pop up reflectors.  And upstairs an SK400 ii with a rectangular softbox that's not collapsible.

 

So, what I used for the book covers were the two AD200s sitting on their bottoms pointed at my white foam board ceiling, camera hand held., book on my kitchen table.

 

That black box exercise limits choices, which can be a good thing.    I try to identify one problem at a time and learn how to fix it, or one software control feature at a time and learn what it does.  The whole of a studio with all the gear or the whole of Photoshop can be overwhelming.   All too each to learn smatterings of things over a wide range and not to be able to use anything really well.   The temptation of gear heads.

 

I remember borrowing a museum guide's stool for a photograph in the Philadelphia Museum of Fine Art.  Put the camera on it, shot with the museum's light. 

 

I dislike fiddling with lights, so I use natural light for photographing book covers -- I  just put the books next to the window or glass door in my office. This usually works fine. Best done on a cloudy day. Lots of those in Vancouver at this time of year. My favourite "studio" has always been the great outdoors. 🙃

Edited by John Mitchell
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If you are shooting for assignments, either portraits and weddings, or commercial/advertising work, then I think finding your distinctive style is very important. Clients assign photographers to assignments because the client wants their particular style.

 

When I was a photo editor at a book publisher we assigned photojournalists to shoot interesting places of worship for an illustrated book on religion. We did not hire architectural photographers because we wanted images of the buildings being used by people. We did an illustrated book on early Canadian furniture. The author said he was going to make the furniture sexy. We did not assign furniture specialists because we did not want the book to look like a furniture auction catalogue. We hired a photographer who, from his style, we thought could make the furniture sexy, even though he had never photographed furniture before.

 

I have also shot weddings, on a photographer overload basis, for two different wedding studios. Each studio had its own particular style, and I would adjust my shooting style to the style of the particular studio that I was shooting for at the time.

 

As a stock photographer it is important to be able to shoot in the many styles dictated by a multiplicity of subject matter. In the age of local travel you can return to stock shoot the same place many times, just vary the style each time.

 

Here is a shot done in a normal clean style.

 

padlock-on-locked-metal-box-at-railroad-

 

Here is the same subject at a different time done in grungy heavy industry style
 

grungy-padlock-on-locked-strong-metal-bo

 

Here is a shot processed in a style that is unusual for landscapes. It is a lot like John Mitchell's example. The raw file has lots of detail in the shaded, but now processed black foreground trees. I thought black trees captured the mood better, than friendly only shadowed grey trees. So I gave the shadow slider a -100 setting to render the grey trees black.

 

I also used the tools in Adobe Camera Raw to render the area below the trees black. The background I processed to look normal. I like the black tree shot because emotionally I was frustrated pushing through heavy obstructing no trail bush trying to get to the open pond beyond the obstructing trees.

 

The difference in lighting between foreground and background also gives the image more depth.

 

deadfall-fallen-tangled-mass-of-trees-in

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5 hours ago, John Mitchell said:

I dislike fiddling with lights, so I use natural light for photographing book covers -- I  just put the books next to the window or glass door in my office. This usually works fine. Best done on a cloudy day. Lots of those in Vancouver at this time of year. My favourite "studio" has always been the great outdoors. 🙃

Edited 5 hours ago by John Mitchell

 

This room has indirect light through clerestory windows to a passageway with a double skylight of frosted glass.  Front room has one window with pebbled translucent glass.  Upstairs over the kitchen or the kitchen has the best natural light if the door is open, but the ground floor back windows are shaded by the exterior stair cases.   I've kinda always liked playing with lights -- used to have an old Norman power pack with some heads and a Softlighter, which was cheaper than a octabox at that time.  A friend's mom paid me to go out to St. Louis and take more pictures of him and his then wife and dogs after she saw a view camera shot I'd taken of him and one of their dogs when they lived in NJ near Philly.  Dragged the Power pack, heads, Hasselblad and D300, out to St. Louis, got paid $200.  Have a couple of the photos up, never licensed. 

 

I've bought "Light: Science and Magic" twice.

 

Don't seem to have any up from the Hasselblad and that trip, but did get one of two Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs, female on top:

 

PY2TE8.jpg

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5 minutes ago, MizBrown said:

I've bought "Light: Science and Magic" twice.

 

Brilliant book! Highly recommended!

I have later editions only as digital books and I may not have the most recent one though.

 

wim

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1 minute ago, wiskerke said:

 

Brilliant book! Highly recommended!

I have later editions only as digital books and I may not have the most recent one though.

 

wim

 

These days I have a digital edition on an iPad.  Some books made the trip south and I've bought some in paper since, but packing books to move got real tedious.  I could carry as many books as I used to own on a handful of thumb drives or a SSD.  I've got a paper copy of a posing book that had good reviews.   I can open a book and sit the iPad up to use as reference.

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3 hours ago, MizBrown said:

 

This room has indirect light through clerestory windows to a passageway with a double skylight of frosted glass.  Front room has one window with pebbled translucent glass.  Upstairs over the kitchen or the kitchen has the best natural light if the door is open, but the ground floor back windows are shaded by the exterior stair cases.   I've kinda always liked playing with lights -- used to have an old Norman power pack with some heads and a Softlighter, which was cheaper than a octabox at that time.  A friend's mom paid me to go out to St. Louis and take more pictures of him and his then wife and dogs after she saw a view camera shot I'd taken of him and one of their dogs when they lived in NJ near Philly.  Dragged the Power pack, heads, Hasselblad and D300, out to St. Louis, got paid $200.  Have a couple of the photos up, never licensed. 

 

I've bought "Light: Science and Magic" twice.

 

Don't seem to have any up from the Hasselblad and that trip, but did get one of two Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs, female on top:

 

PY2TE8.jpg

“I Ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog”...oops, had a mind trip there for a second. 😁

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Interesting read. I like to think I have my own style and it's very similar to how I paint. Basic, clean and neat. I rarely use photoshop, don't own lightroom so I suppose i'm old fashioned.
I have however had to adapt my shooting, not style, in recent times. My preference was always landscape work, anything up to and including 5x4 cameras stood in the countryside for hours waiting for the light to change. Once I moved over to digital the travel bug caught me and I found more interest in cultures unknown but of course the world virus has kicked that in to touch. I moved to China in early 2019 and so photography has had to change yet again. I suppose I am more a street and life photographer, finding myself in a new situation that I am trying to make the most of. I see my images more as stock and record rather than arty but that in itself I suppose is my style. 

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On 31/01/2021 at 05:38, Bill Brooks said:

As a stock photographer it is important to be able to shoot in the many styles dictated by a multiplicity of subject matter. In the age of local travel you can return to stock shoot the same place many times, just vary the style each time.

 

I really like this thought Bill and it is encouraging in this time where many of us are in the same places over and over, trying to think of new ways of capturing familiar scenes. I like the examples you give too. In the examples of trees I like the way you have conveyed the emotion you felt at the time through post processing. I remember reading an article once by someone who does composites saying that post processing and creating composites allows her to recreate not just what she saw but what she felt at the time.

 

Several years ago I went on a photographic trip with a professional landscape photographer. He has a distinctive style of maximising contrast in post processing, more than most people usually do. It certainly gives his images a distinctive look and I've been able to pick some of them as his before I knew he was the photographer. From him I learned to use contrast more on many of my images, even though I'm not inclined to max out the contrast as much in general, except where the histogram is bunched up in the middle and it really helps the image to stretch it out with maximum contrast - good for landscape shots in even light such as an overcast dusk scene. In this photo of a tug boat wreck I did push the contrast a lot with plenty of room to push out the histogram. It is the kind of scene that can vary greatly based on lighting conditions, weather etc. I would like to go back and do some different interpretations/styles of the same scene.

 

remains-of-the-306-grt-steam-tug-boat-ss-wyola-at-dusk-at-cy-oconnor-beach-in-the-southern-perth-suburb-of-north-coogee-western-australia-2BP1A1X.jpg

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