Event photography

Over the last year I had three event photography commissions. The first event was ThinkNation, held in a theatre at the University of Kent. This was a good challenge for me as there wasn’t any natural light and I was unable to use a flash. I had brought my 3 lenses (kit lens, zoom and prime lens) and during my test shots I established my view points and which lens would be best from them. Another factor to consider was the ever changing stage lighting.

The prime lens offered me a higher quality image and a wider aperture, which was good in the low light conditions. I knew I could crop the images in post production. However due to the fixed vocal length, it could only be used from the edge of the stage.

The zoom allowed me to get close up shots without getting onto the stage. However the aperture was narrower so at times I had to rely on the change of brighter lighting on the stage. When the lighting was darker I dincreased the ISO

By using slower shutter speeds, my camera was sensitive to movement which was not always ideal, so I had to compromise between the speeds and a higher ISO. As these images were for websites and press packs, I wanted to limit the amount of noise so I tried to keep my ISO as low as possible.

 

My following event was a girls 13th birthday party! Unfortunately it was raining that day so the party had to be held indoors. Thankfully they were prepared and created a backdrop of balloons and banners on a wall facing a window.

This was a good experience as I was dealing with a group of excitable, yet camera shy, teenagers. By encouraging them to move into the room with the props, they began to relax and this made it so much easier to get these images.

I used my prime lens for this event as I was never far from my subjects and I needed the widest aperture. I used a speedlight to help me capture images with a faster shutter speed.

In post production, I enhanced the colours and contrast so the images stood out.

 

The last event was spread over two days as part of Engie Innovation Week. The first day was at the University of Sussex, in two locations; in a meeting room with bright fluorescent lighting and a lecture theatre with poor lighting. As the meeting room was small I was mindful of not getting in the way or disrupting their discussions. I primarily used my prime lens on this day.

I also got the opportunity to walk around the Student Union and take photos….

The second day was at The Department of Business & Innovation in Westminster. This was challenging event as it was held on the lower ground floor so I was relying on artificial light and was unable to use the speedlight during presentations due to the beeping noise each time it flashed!

 

Events are a great way to develop my photography skills as you are faced with many unexpected issues. Planning and preparation is key; I tried to get as much information as possible from the clients so that I brought the right equipment and met their expectations. I have received some really positive feedback and have been invited back for future events.

 

 

Subject to Anxiety – Project 3

Following my original idea for the project, I experienced a period of anxiety which was increased in my quest to master the PhotoShop techniques required on my damaged laptop! I decided to abort this subject and look into new ideas.

During my research I had contemplated the use of slow shutter speeds with a torch to create the appearance of fairies in the woods. I wanted to explore alternative ideas using similar techniques, which included movement.

I had previously seen the photos of Picasso drawing his images with a torch, so I did some research and came to discover that Gjon Mili was the photographer. A previous assistant to Edward Weston, he was famed for his multiple exposure images featured in Life magazine in the 1950s. The dynamic images capture the movement of dancers. Mili is considered a pioneer of strobe photography and stop-action techniques. He used multiple electronic flash units which could flash up to 120 times a second. This technique offers the viewer a sense of the sequence of movement captured in one image. (1)

Here are some examples of his work.

The use of visual language in the Picasso image is achieved by the scale of his light drawing, which almost fills the frame and towers above Picasso. The use of a slow shutter speed captures the movement of Picasso within the frame. Black and White is ideal for the light drawing as it creates a strong contrast between the light and dark background. The angle of view draws the eye to the patterned floor and the perspective creates the illusion of the character standing in the room. (1)

The perspective of the second image is dominated by the form of the ballerinas body, especially her legs which are used to create a pattern of lines. Her white costume helps the subject to stand out against the black backdrop. The small space to the right of the subject gives you a sense of the direction of movement. (1)

In the following class I discussed my research and potential ideas with the class. I had brought in my torch and talked about my research so far. My classmates were enthusiastic and helped me to develop my final subject. I decided to do portraits, however I was still looking to add my own individuality. For me to just do a regular portrait, felt too safe. During our break, I went to the props room to look for inspiration but being overwhelmed by the piles of clothes just added to my anxiety! (1)

Several test shots were taken with my 28mm prime lens attached to a D3100 which gave me a focal length of 42mm, ideal for the portraits. I experimented with settings and the composition and perspective. On the overexposed images, you can see the blueness of the LED light. By moving the camera and light away from the subject, the images evoked a darker mood and this perspective captured the full length of the subjects’ body which was mostly in focus. (2,3)

I set up a black backdrop and positioned a wooden stool in front of the camera on a tripod. The same setting (f/9, 5 seconds, ISO 100) and angle of view was used for all the images which were captured within 45mins.  An assistant directed light from the torch onto the subjects faces. To create movement within the image, I asked my subjects to sit on the stool and move their heads whilst keeping their bodies as still as possible. I didn’t want to give my subjects time to overthink, I wanted to capture their first instinctive pose. By keeping the stool and camera in the same position, the viewer is given the same angle of view for all of the images, allowing them to sense the size of each the subject. (2,3)

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The set up is depicted above. There were limited H&S concerns whilst shooting; the backdrop was taped down to the floor to prevent any trips, the camera was secured to a tripod at the back of the set so there were no people passing through.(5)

My contact sheet which demonstrates the development of ideas using slow shutter speeds and the torch. (3)

Whilst analysing the images, one classmate likened the composition to some of David Hockneys portraits and another said it reminded her of Nadav Kanders Placebo portraits. (4)

Following the class I looked into Nadav Kanders work. In the following video interview by the National Portrait Gallery he talks about how he communicates with his subjects for a portrait. (3)

Like Gjon Mili, Nader is also influenced by Edward Weston, he enjoys creating work that demonstrates an uncomfortable feeling. He does not like to “airbrush the dark side away”.

To create this tension, he avoids introducing himself to his subject until they are sat/stood in front of the camera. He keeps verbal communication to a minimum and trusts in the moment. Although on the flip side, he says he prefers to settle his subjects to get a richer emotion. (3)

The lighting is set up in advance but Kanders admits that he often gets it wrong and allows his instincts to guide him in a different direction. He believes that by not overthinking his work, he creates an edgier image. I identified with his methods for this project.(3)

After uploading my images to the computer and reflecting on the work, I realised my subconscious had guided me there. My dreams had become a reality, it was life imitating art! The visual language depicts how I had been feeling. Up until the shoot I had been overthinking and by trusting my instincts in that final moment, I had produced a series of images that I was happy with and most importantly could relate to. (5)

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To create the mood, I turned the images into black and white. I made further basic adjustments in Lightroom to strengthen the contrast, increase highlights and shadows, deepen the blacks and light up the whites. To intensify the image I increased the clarity up to max. Using PhotoShop, I removed some patchy areas on the backdrop which came from the torch light. (3)

I printed two of the darkest images first, to test out the appearance in print and compare printing papers. I selected Lustre and Art Watercolour samples from DS Colour Labs. I expected Lustre would be better than Gloss for the B&W images as it has less reflection/glare and would give me greater depth of colour , however I was intrigued as to how the portraits would look in the Art Watercolour paper 250gsm as it is textured and has painterly characteristics. (4)

The watercolour paper sample was interesting, it definately gave my images the painterly look and absorbed the colour well. Cost aside, I still would have selected Lustre as the final printing material as it offers a slight sheen and would look good under a glass frame. The final images had blacker than black backgrounds which added to their mood. (4,5)

I hope these images evoke emotions in the viewers, whether they identify with the mood or make them question their meaning. Perhaps they will be perceived in different ways. (5)

Through my research, I have been inspired by Gjon Milis images. His use of composition adds to the sense of movement. I would like to experiment with strobe photography.

I identified with Nadav Kanders theory of not overthinking and trusting your instincts. It was reassuring that even the best photographers can have a plan, only to abort it and go with a new one.

Sources: Wikipedia, NPG, Artsy.net, nadavkander.com, lightpaintingphotography.com

 

 

Away with the fairies

In the last class we focused on overlaying images in Photoshop. I selected one of my many photos of mushrooms to use as a backdrop and discussed the idea of adding an image of a fairy with Jason.

He told me about the Cottingley Fairies hoax in the 1920s; a set of 5 photographs taken by Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths, two young cousins from Cottingley, featuring cardboard cutouts of fairies which were copied from a children’s book. They caught the attention of writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who was a spiritualist, and he used them in an article about fairies in The Strand Magazine. The issue was a sell out and people were divided as to whether the images were genuine. It wasn’t until the 1980s until the women revealed that they were indeed fake!

 

With my creative juices starting to flow, I found an image of a fairy on the internet which fitted the backdrop image. By reducing the opacity of the fairy, it blends into the scene.

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After class I continued my research and looked at different ideas for inspiration. The following images are taken from the internet and have helped me to think about how I might approach this idea.

To recreate the first image, I could possibly use a low shutter speed at dusk and use a torch to create the fairy lights or find a way to digitally manipulate the image in Photoshop.

Alternatively I make like the Cottingey cousins and use fairy figurines in a staged miniature landscape.

Check out these photographers who build their own landscapes –

http://www.carlwarner.com/foodscapes/ – all of Carl Warner’s landscapes are made entirely from food and frequently used in advertising campaigns.

http://twistedsifter.com/2010/02/how-to-make-small-scale-super-realistic-model-landscapes/ – Matthew Albanese uses a camera technique known as forced perspective.

To further my research I took a camera to Black Park and wandered off track, into the woods to look for ideas and take photos!

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This is an ongoing process, who knows where I will end up….

The Studio project

Having done my research for ideas on my lipstick project, I wanted to achieve a close up image of the model wearing lipstick and a creative still life of the product.

In the first studio session I focused on the still life image. I brought in a vintage compact mirror as a prop and a red lipstick. I used a white backdrop in the set up to contrast against the black packaging of the lipstick. My transmitter was faulty during this session, several times the lights did not go off when I pressed down the shutter button, which was a little frustrating!

I played around with different compositions and perspectives, including the various reflections in the mirror. The red heeled shoe added a dynamic aspect to the image and the use of the heel to frame the subject was likened to a Saul Leiter image. See the lighting set up below which includes the different camera angles.

 

 

I selected the above image due to the composition, with the lip imprint in the reflection of the mirror. Using the spot removal tool in lightroom I removed some creasing in the backdrop paper, adjusted the white balance, increased the exposure, clarity and vibrance.

Instead of cropping the image, I added the round vignette and adjusted the level of feathering to soften the edges. This created the James Bond-esque look. I added the caption “License to pout” in Photoshop using the “rise” text format and played around with the positioning of the text.

Overall I am happy with the result, however there are shadows to the left of the subject which in hindsight I could have improved this by adjusting the position and strength of the lighting to the left hand side of the camera.

 

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This set up was in a corner of the studio with the back drop placed over a table. Due several people being present in the confined area, we had to ensure that we did not bump into each other or trip over any cables and potentially cause damage to the equipment or ourselves.

When dismantling the equipment at the end of the shoot, we had to remain vigilant of trip hazards and potential burns from the heat of the lights. All the equipment had to be stored away safely and correctly.

In the following studio session, I experimented with coloured gels attached to barn doors. The orange gel gave the models hair a pinkish shade and due to the direction of the light, the colour effected the skin tone and whites of the eyes. The purple gel gave a nice hue and a different mood to the image. I felt it had an 80s look and a disco feel (Debbie Harry?).

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The following images were captured solely with a soft box and a reflector. This style of Rembrandt lighting created a lovely soft light from the box at one side and a little shading on the right side of the models face for a more dramatic look. A large soft box was positioned up close and directed downwards from above the model.

 

Following these shots, the light on the right side was turned back on with barn doors attached to control the span of light from the it.

My final image was selected due to the models relaxed pose and the close up composition. The lighting created a heavy contrast of light and dark, I had to slightly increase the exposure in Lightroom as the light from the soft box was not strong enough in the shot. The white balance was adjusted and I reduced the clarity to soften the skin. Using the spot removal tool, I removed a small lipstick mark on the teeth.

Of the two images above, I selected the one on the right for print. The level of clarity was enough to keep the look natural, whereas the one on the left was too soft.

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This set up was in a larger area of the studio, however there was another set up directly behind me whilst I was shooting. As before, vigilance was vital to avoid damage to the equipment and any potential trip hazards were identified prior to the shoot, for example taping down the backdrop and running the cables from the lighting into a safe position.

From this project, I learned how important it is to get everything right on the shoot as tiny imperfections, such as stray hair or lipstick on teeth, take up time in post production!

I have a lot more to learn in the studio and I wish to develop a greater understanding of the positioning of lighting so that I can improve my skills.

Lighting determines the brightness and darkness and it can also be manipulated to create a certain tone or mood. For example, black and white photography relies heavily on the correct positioning of light. As demonstrated in class, the distance of the lighting to the subject effects the depth of shadows; the further away it is the stronger the shadow.

In addition to improving my lighting skills, I would like to do a Photoshop masterclass to improve my confidence when using the software.

 

The Studio – Lipstick

Following my session in the studio last week I have been editing the images with Lightroom. Below is the before and after image of one of the close ups that I particularly like due to the models relaxed, natural and happy expression. As this is an image for advertising lipstick, with the model looking downwards the focus is on her lips.

By using the white balance tool, the skin has a warmer tone. To increase the vibrancy of the red lipstick, I went to +100 on the Red slider in Saturation however this made the skin a little orange! To soften the skin  I used the adjustment brush.

I would like to master the adjustment brush and spot removal tool, as I am using online tutorials for guidance.

A useful article I found which helped me to soften the skin….

http://www.digitalcameraworld.com/2014/03/12/lightroom-tips-6-quick-tricks-for-giving-your-portraits-a-professional-finish/