Creating Photographs

StellaArtois I spent a lot of time this weekend shooting, both in the studio and outside.  (By “studio” I mean my home studio that I recently finished.  More on that later.)  I shot quite a few different things, all of which I had ideas running around in my head about.

When I was hanging out with David Hobby in Baltimore back in August, he said something to me that has really stuck in my mind and I refer back to it often.  He told me that as a pro photographer he creates pictures and doesn’t just take snapshots.

In order to create photographs you have to have a vision of what you want your image to look like before you shoot.  Once you can see in your mind what your photo will look like, then you use the tools that you have available (camera, lights, modifiers, background materials, etc.) to create that photo. 

When I shot one of my favorite kinds of beer (see above) I wanted to make the bottle pop but I wanted to minimize the catch lights on the bottle.  Here’s how I did it:

  • I used a white seamless paper background and used a piece of black granite tile to place the bottle on.  This would give me a nice reflection in the foreground of the image.  I cross-lit the bottle with an SB800 on camera right and an SB80DX on camera left.  They were both on lightstands and fired through Westscott 43″ collapsible optical white satin umbrellas.  I really choked up the umbrellas because I didn’t need a large light source.  I placed those two lights perpendicular to my camera or at the 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock positions if you will.  I brought ’em in nice and close so the light would be very soft.  They were about 8″ away from the bottle.  Behind the cardboard box that held my granite I placed another SB80DX on the ground with a 1/2″ homemade grid to light the background.  All the speedlights were set a 1/8 power.  I triggered the lights with my trusty Cactus V2s triggers.  The exposure settings from the camera really make no difference, but it was at f 11, ISO 100, 1/160, 85mm, Flash white balance, and my flash setting was set to Rear Sync (which is where it stays all the time). 

The flash fired at the white background serves two purposes.  First it lights the background (obviously) and second, the light reflected off of the background makes the bottle glow and it enhances the reflection on the granite.  I also sprayed the beer bottle with water before I placed it on the granite.  That was simply for detail.

So the next time you have an idea for a picture, give it some thought and think about how you would “create” it rather than just go for a snapshot.  I promise you that your photography skills will improve greatly, as well as your lighting skills.

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