Friday, 26 November 2010

Main Assignment: Test Shots

Serendipity can be a cruel and fickle mistress! One moment she'll hold you in her soft embrace, gently caressing your face as she whispers sweet words of reassurance and inspiration. The next, she'll cast you aside, pausing only briefly to deliver a swift kick to the unmentionables, before running off in to the night giggling like a school girl! Would you care to hazard a guess which of these happened to me this week? That's right, the unmentionables.

Having made special arrangements with Marie to use the studio, and for Chris to come in and model, I then proceeded to be late (there were extenuating circumstances, but that's no excuse, so sorry again!) Having had a monster of a week, and arriving at college flustered. Any brilliant ideas I might have had, swiftly evaporated. And it was made worse when I realised not only would Marie and Chris be there, but so would Steve and Vinnie!  Now, having gotten to know Marie a bit, I can be fairly sure she's not going to laugh at my bumbling attempts to take a photo, but Steve and Vinnie were unknown quantities. As it turned out Steve would quickly disappear to carry out some tours, and Vinnie's knowledge of the studio was incredibly useful, so in the end I could relax a little.

We were finally able to start setting up the studio ready for the shoot. I looked through my selection of fabrics for the backdrops and I decided to use the 140cm x 3metre length of purple cloth. Knowing I needed to drape these backdrops for my photo's, Marie had arranged for a rail to be placed at the back of the studio space. But which way to orientate it? At first, we taped it so that the long edge ran along the top, but Steve suggested it might be better to have it upright, so that if I wanted to do some full length shots, we wouldn't have to rearrange the whole set-up. This made sense (he is a photographer after all), so Marie broke out the gaffer tape and secured the cloth to the rail. Problem! Not having looked at the cloth since I bought it, I didn't realise just how wrinkled it was. Unfortunately, I don't tend to carry an iron around with me (foolish I know, but that's just not the way I roll!) Knowing I was surrounded by people who actually knew what they were doing, inspired a somewhat devil may care attitude, so, we threw caution to the wind and carried on regardless. Plus I could probably get rid of the worst of the wrinkles in photoshop.

The next decision that had to be made was the lighting. When we arrived, the studio had been set-up with just the beauty dish (Vinnie said it's always better to start with the minimum, then work your way up from there.) We then took a couple of test shots:

 Shutter Speed 1/60, F/8, ISO:100

As you can see it's not too bad, but I'm trying to go for a more high key, clean shot, so the shadows were a bit too strong. I've also used the photoshop spot healing tool to remove the worst of the wrinkles, but as this is just a test shot it's not that neat.

For the next shot, we added a softbox on the left hand side, to try and even out the lighting:

Shutter Speed: 1/60, F/8, ISO: 100

Rather than getting rid of the shadow this has actually moved it further away and made it more obvious! Plan C? I've also stopped photoshopping out the wrinkles and other blemishes. These are test shots after all. so should probably illustrate the problems as well as the solutions.

At this point Vinnie said I should take a minute and try and think about exactly what I wanted to achieve with the lighting. Not being able to articulate it properly, I decided to show him the Rankin picture of the girl with pigment all over her face on my blog. Whilst I'm not trying to copy that picture, it's similar to the kind of clean look I'm hoping to achieve, if with coloured, not white backgrounds. Looking at the picture, he said to achieve such an even light, Rankin probably used a ringflash. Not having one of those handy, he suggested removing the beauty dish and replacing it with a second softbox. We could then position them both right in front of Chris to simulate the effect as closely as possible. So that's what we did. Chris also moved closer to the background to try and minimise the level of shadow:

Shutter Speed: 1/60, F/8, ISO: 100

Whilst there's still a long way to go before this is a good photograph, this is much closer to what I was trying to achieve. With the shadows and lighting evenly spread across the whole picture, it looks a lot better.

I've been thinking of some other ways to get the shot I'm after, so I'll talk to Marie, and on Wednesday I'm going to give it another go, both with Chris and hopefully Lucy.

Through one thing or another I'm falling really behind with my posting. You've probably noticed a distinct decline in the quality of the posts I've been writing (not that they were great to begin with, but you know what I mean!) At the minute, I'm just trying to get as many done as possible, so that I've got something for Marie to look at, and I'll worry about polishing them up later.

Marie told me in class that once you've achieved the appropriate grade, you are then at that level, so I've included the distinction labels, but I'm not sure I really deserve them for this post.

Thanks to everybody who helped on Wednesday. I'll try to make the next studio session a bit more productive:)

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