Wednesday
May
2012
16

It’s Guest Blog Wednesday featuring Alex Koloskov!

by Brad Moore  |  20 Comments

Hello there, my name is Alex Koloskov, I am a studio product and advertisement photographer.

When started to work as a commercial photographer many years ago, I was trying everything: from portraiture to architecture, but very soon I realized that I can be successful and “the best” only where is my passion, doing things where I can use my full potential.

It appears that such place is a quiet studio, a place where I feel extremely comfortable working with still life and motion subjects.

I love to perform technically challenging shots, where I have to engineer the lighting and light modifiers, creating custom solutions for each shot.

Today I’ll show you how I work with one of my favorite type of shots: a combination of liquid and product subjects in one composition. “Sculpting” unpredictable shape of moving liquid and adding still subject to the composition is very interesting and challenging task, and outcome is unusual and eye-catching.

The idea was this: get a white iPhone and wrap it with white milk-like liquid splash, all around, like it would happen if stream of milk would hit a phone from behind. iPhone from a few smartphones available in white, and showing with the milky splash will look really cool :-)

Here is what I mean… the shot we did:

Looks quite unusual, doesn’t it? Almost like 3D rendering, which is a great accomplishment for a photographer: it is hard to get a real shot to look as clean as it could be done in 3D.

Let me show how we did it, step by step.

First step: The Phone Shot

Usually, shots like this are a composite. Meaning we do separate shots for each piece and then assemble everything in Photoshop.

So, the first shots was a phone alone.

This supposed to be a straight catalog-like product shot, with phone screen on. Because of the shape of the iPhone, this is quite simple task, with one little trick. Because I shoot with strobes, camera is usually set to X-sync speed (1/200sec for Canon 5d mkII) and I do not care about ambient (in-studio) lighting.

With strobes, effective exposure (I mean amount of light which will hit camera’s sensor) determined by power output of the strobe and lens aperture. Shutter speed does not affect the exposure as long as it longer than a flash duration and short enough to prevent in-studio ambient light to affect the shot.

The only issue with such approach is that we can’t capture weak continues lights, such as modeling lights or.. a smartphone’s screen.

Below is the phone with screen “ON” and 1/200sec shutter speed @ F16:

Despite the brightness of the iPhone screen, it appears completely black, as given exposure time was too short to let camera to capture it.

So, how to get it right? You probably already know what should be done to get the screen exposed correctly: lower the shutter speed. Which means that any other lights should be turned off: studio light, modeling light and even the monitors (I always shoot tethered in studio). There should be no other lights affecting exposure now, only strobe impulse and phone’s screen light.

This time we had shutter set to 1/5sec @ F16:

I often call such shot is “in-studio HDR” because in one shot we are getting like a double exposure: one from the strobe at effective “shutter speed” of about 1/2000 sec (determined by a flash duration measured t.1) and a second one from the phone’s display at effective duration of 1/5 sec, determined by a camera actual shutter speed. In one shot we have captured a huge dynamic range: strobe light and thousand times less brighter phone’s display light.

The lighting setup for the shot is quite simple:
One stripbox from the left, about 45 degree from the phone, and another stripbox on the right, slightly behind the phone. Because the phone face surface is completely flat and sides are non- glossy brushed metal, there was no issues to deal with unwanted reflections often found on glossy spherical subjects.

I used a Matthews Minigrip clamp mounted to a lighting stand and iPhone cable with connector to attach the phone to it.

After we were done with phone, it was time to do some mess:

Step Two: Splash Creation

The plan was to use iPhone more than just for this shot, so we did a trick: glued iPhone case to a rod and mounted it exactly the same way as the phone was.


Clear backpanel iPhone case mounted on the rod to replicate the phone position.

We also covered with plastic the whole shooting area. We were going to use latex paint and it was necessary to protect equipment and studio from it. All the lighting was covered as well. Here is how studio looked like after such waterproofing:

Camera view: plastic screen was fixed around lens hood

Back view

I have also adjusted the lighting accordingly to a new requirements: because latex paint is not transparent, there was no reason to have stripbox on the right behind the subject, so I moved it to be front-right. More frontal light is needed for white liquid to keep it white. To smooth the shadows even more, I’ve replaced narrow stripbox with square softbox.

One more softbox was added on the left, far from behind, just to create a slight edge on the splashes from that side. Oh yes, the background lights were added as well. We did not care about background when shooting the phone, as phone will be clipped out anyway.

For the splash part, we needed the real background. We got yellow seamless roll of paper hung about 5 feet behind the “splash area,” it was lit by 2 strobes with standard PCB reflectors.

After everything was set, the very first shot I did was a shot of the color checker card:

This is a very important part of each shot to have a correct color profile. Especially when shooting on such colorful background: without a color profile it won’t be possible to get a right white balance and correct colors for the subject and background.

Even if we are going to tweak colors during a post-production, I always have to have a way to revert to correct colors when needed.

When everything was ready, we started to throw the liquid. As mentioned before, we used latex white paint, and mixed it with water to 1:1 ratio. It gave us the thickness we were looking for.

The Lighting:
I use Paul C Buff Einstein strobes, as they have great stopping power in action mode. Typical power range I use is 100-150Ws, and flash duration is 1/6000 -1/4000 of a second. Such short light impulse is what freezes the action, not a fast shutter speed.

Back to the shot:

We got as many shots as we felt that would be needed to get a set of cool looking splashes to be combined into that flower-like splash around the phone.

Here is a short “behind the splash” video, it will show you how it was happening in realtime:

The Final Composition

Hope it was interesting. If you want to learn more about stuff I do check out Photigy.com, this is a place where I share everything what happens in our studio: behind the scenes videos, tutorials, tips & tricks and much more.

Every Wednesday at 10 PM EST I run Studio Photography Insights, a Google+ hangout: we discuss and critique submissions for the weekly assignments, talk about lighting, gear and secrets of studio product photography shared by amazing photographers like Dave Nitsche and Bill Cahill. Join us if you love working at studio, it will be fun!

You can see more of Alex’s work at Koloskov.com, find him on Google+ and Twitter, and come see him live at the Google+ Photographer’s Conference!

Tuesday
May
2012
15

A Few of My Favorite Shots of Cathedrals in Paris

by Scott Kelby  |  36 Comments

The shot above was taken inside the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris. I had never been, and was really taken with the fact that it’s all stained glass (and tells a story, reading from left to right, bottom to top in each pane of the stained glass). While it’s looks really large here, I’ll bet it’s not 100 feet deep from end to end (but the ceilings are really high). NOTE: make sure you click on these to see a much larger version.

Above: Here’s the view if you turned 180° around from where I took the other shot. Again, the same amazing stained glass, and shot hand-held (it wasn’t as bright as it looks here — I had to brighten it up a bit in post). 

Above: Here’s a different church — this one is the St-Germain-des-Prés in Paris, and we filmed a small part of my travel photography glass there. The view here is off the right side of the alter, which is why the chairs all are facing to the left.

Above: here’s a pano of the back of that same church — you can tell from this photo, but that pipe organ is pretty darn huge!

Above: This is the chapel out at the Palace of Versailles, about 30 miles outside of Paris. Again, handheld since tripods were forbidden big time — they literally had flashing signs outside “No Tripods!”

Jay Maisel wanted to take us to Sainte-Chapelle (none of us had ever been), and Jay told me, “You’re going to walk up a small, dark spiral staircase, and when you come out and see the stained glass surrounding you on all sides, and the incredible light in that room, I promise you won’t be able to wipe the smile off your face.” He was absolutely right. It was truly spectacular.

Of course, we shot a lot more than churches during our week in Paris, but I thought it would be fun to share at least a few of my favorites here (also —- while we did see the outside of Notre Dame, we didn’t have a chance to get inside. We had a busy shooting schedule).

More on Friday. Au revoir!

 

Tuesday
May
2012
15

I’m Off To Speak At The ISAP Aviation Photographer’s Conference

by Scott Kelby  |  1 Comments

Because of my own tour schedule, and our events like Photoshop World and the Google+ Conference for Photographers, I don’t often get a chance to speak at other conferences, but when I was asked to speak again at the International Society of Aviation Photography (ISAP) Conference on behalf of Nikon, I jumped at the chance.

This will be the third time I’ve presented at the ISAP Conference, and I have to say of all the conferences out there, this is without a doubt one of the best-run, most-fun, and incredibly value-packed conferences I’ve ever been a part of. The incredible training, and unbelievable shooting access they’re able to arrange for their attendees still amazes me to this day.

I’m speaking on Thursday, but I’m sticking around for their class location shoot on Friday (and catching a night flight home), but if you’re going to be at the conference, make sure you come up and say “hi”!

Here’s a link to their site with more details on the conference. Hope to see you in Norfolk, Virginia this week!

Tuesday
May
2012
15

Oh, Hallelujah “Light It Magazine’s” Subscription and Download Thingy is Finally Fixed!

by Scott Kelby  |  9 Comments

Gees oh Pete that was a bear to get fixed, but finally the folks who have had a tough time getting Light It magazine’s subscription thingy to work now have a new free update that fixes the problem (I’ve been hearing from happy people all day who can now download their previously purchased issues, and the current issue as well). In a word: “Yay!!!!”

Just hit the App store and get the just-released free update, and you’re home free. Thanks to everyone who was so patient as our developer played the detective game to find out exactly what was causing the problem (it drives you crazy when only a few people are having the problem, and you can’t replicate it on any of your iPads. Uggh! But hey, it’s working now and I for one am thrilled).

Monday
May
2012
14

Back From a Week in Paris (and a new photo series emerges)

by Scott Kelby  |  71 Comments

Wow, what a week!
We shot three online classes (including “A Week in Paris with Jay Maisel” plus my on-location class on shooting travel photography, and a class on Lightroom/Photoshop for Travel Photography). We taped starting at 9:00 am each day and went non-stop until after midnight every day. We literally fell into bed each night, but we still had loads of fun (it’s hard not to have fun in Paris, even when you’re working).

Easier HDR
My new Nikon D4 actually makes shooting HDRs a lot easier, because not only can I finally just take three bracketed shots (one two shots under, one two shots over, and the regular exposure), but I can set my Self Timer to take all three shots for me (I know Canon’s have been able to do this for some time, but this is the first Nikon I’ve had that will do it. Not even the new D800 will do it — just the D4). So, I shot more bracketed exposures by far than I normally would.

The “Third Frame” technique
When I was going through my images, I saw that sometimes the third frame (the one over-exposed by two stops) would make part of the sky solid white, and when I saw the 3rd frame of my bracketed shot the Eiffel tower, it reminded me of the London Eye shot I had done with the solid white background, so I took it into Lightroom and pushed the Highlights and Whites until the sky went solid white, then I brought in lots of Clarity and Blacks to make the blacks pop, and it looks pretty cool. Then, I went back and started over from scratch by first doing the full HDR treatment (using Photoshop CS6′s updated HDR feature, and the built-in “Scott5″ preset) and then I mixed in the sky technique from Lightroom, and it just came together.

If you look closely, I leave just a little bit of color in all the shots, so they’re not fully black and white. When I showed a few to Jay Maisel on my phone, he really liked them, and said “They kind of look like metal etchings” and I kind of agree. So, after the Eiffel Tower shot, I set out to shoot a few more iconic Parisian places, like Notre Dame, the Arc de Triomphe and The Louvre (below) and did the same thing.

Expanding the idea
Once I showed these to my wife Kalebra (who was along with me on the trip, and really made the trip a blast for me), she said, “Don’t you have other iconic places you could use this technique on?” I realized I had a lot of bracketed shots from previous trips, so I dug up a few and I’m sharing some of those below.

The reality is….
The reality is…. even if you have the properly bracketed shot, not all iconic monuments or buildings work with this look. I like ones where I shot it really wide with my 14mm or so, but even at that, some of them just didn’t look right, but I’m posted the ones I’m OK with so far (but I have more to try out from my archives).

Not for everybody
I know, like HDR in general, this look won’t appeal to everyone, because the only look that appeals to nearly everybody is no “look” at all, so I just think these are for me. In fact, I like it enough that I’m thinking of places I’d like to head back to, and go into them with shooting for this style in mind (which is what I did with the bottom two shots from Venice — taken after I processed the one from the Eiffel Tower).

One for the road…
I figured I’d bring it back around with a final shot from Paris below — this one a side-angle view of the Eiffel Tower with the 14mm (I only took two lenses — my 28-300mm, which was my main lens, and then the 14mm which I used in churches for a super-wide angle look or for this series).

Tomorrow, the Paris back story
I have a lot more to share about Paris, and our experiences there (both good and bad), but I wanted to share these first, so tomorrow I hope you’ll stop in as the story continues. Have a great Monday everybody. :)

Friday
May
2012
11

Adobe’s Creative Cloud is Now Available

by Scott Kelby  |  22 Comments

Mesdames et messieurs bonjour!

Even though I’m still in Paris wrapping up our shoots here, I did see where starting today the Adobe Creative Cloud is now available, which ushers in a new era for Adobe, and a new opportunity for creative people all over the world (can’t you just hear that ELO song in your head right now? “All over the world-er-er-erld.”)

If you’re not up-to-date on the Creative Cloud, I did a post here a few weeks back with a quick Q&A about it and you can read it right here. Also, Adobe is offering a pretty incredible deal for existing Creative Suite customers to get on board — just $29.99 a month for the first year. Here’s the link to Adobe’s site for more details.

Congratulations for Adobe on the big launch, and Viva le Creative Cloud! :)

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