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BREAKING THE PLANE- 3D For Photographers

I was recently watching a tutorial on advanced product retouching in Photoshop, during which the instructor spent an astounding amount of time removing imperfections and isolating every element to its own layer. It was eye-opening, but not in the way I expected. During my career I’ve captured a client’s or art director’s vision on a two-dimensional plane with lighting, subject matter, resolution, and camera angle baked-in forever. This had me looking for another way to approach image and motion creation.

Here I’m on location capturing overhead shots of foliage to be used in SpeedTree to re-generate the plants in the 3D realm. I capture a naturally lit overhead shot as well as a back lit shot to tell the 3D program how the texture is to look when back-lit.

During a recent series of trips to New York, I found myself with quite a bit of downtime in the evenings which allowed me to dive headfirst into the world of 3D. 3D is nothing new, but as of late the software and hardware is advancing at lightning speed, and I noticed that it wasn’t being used in generating food imagery nearly as much as it should.

In order to use 3D in production as a food photographer, I needed to become adept at modeling, texture creation, photogrammetry, VFX, compositing, and sculpting. Not an easy task and as many know, but the learning never ends!

This entire scene was modeled, lit, and rendered in around 30 minutes. The scene still has that overly-slick 3D look so blending in grunge maps and other imperfections to the scene works wonders. This scene was lit with what’s known as an HDRI map with is essentially a spherical panorama of a location that is used as the lighting source.

My current software workflow includes Modo for hard surface modeling, Substance Designer and Substance Painter for texture authoring and painting, Zbrush for sculpting 3D meshes, Reality Capture for photogrammetry, SpeedTree for foliage generation, Marvelous Designer for fabric, Houdini for VFX, Redshift for rendering, and of course Photoshop for the final touches!

For organic objects, nothing beats photogrammetry! To create this oyster asset, I shot the oyster on a Lazy Susan from every angle possible and stitched the images together in Reality Capture. The resulting 3D mesh is then cleaned up in Zbrush and the color texture is cleaned up in Photoshop.

My favorite breakthrough in 3D and one that doesn’t get nearly enough focus in 3D software development is VR. I currently use MODO for modeling, and they recently implemented a VR viewport allowing the user to physically enter the 3D space. This is important as I’m used to moving around a physical subject and my hope is eventually to be able to conduct a virtual photo shoot live within this realm.

What I love about 3D is that anything becomes possible and the food on set never goes bad!

The strength of 3D lies in the ability to create any photorealistic environment you want and change anything from lighting to export resolution forever. Learning 3D also makes you a better photographer. Photographers always tout their understanding of light, but it took me all of two minutes learning PBR material authoring to realize I didn’t know squat!

Rendering realistic objects is challenging and render times increase as the light complexity increases. I will often test techniques in isolation such as caustics and light bounce counts.

I use Redshift for nearly all of my rendering needs and I tend to render out EXR files which contain the various “passes” needed for post-production. This process separates depth, luminance, puzzle matte, roughness, albedo, emission, sub-surface scattering, and other passes so that each element can be manipulated separately in Photoshop or After Effects If the export is for motion.

Material authoring is addictive but time-consuming. There are many 3rd party sources that provide a variety of base materials such as these to get your started.

As much flexibility as 3D offers, every still image render ends up in Photoshop where the final creative touches are applied. Having a strong knowledge of Photoshop, lighting, camera operation, etc. gives photographers a strong starting point to learn 3D.

The more I progress in adding 3D to my wheelhouse, the more I realize that this hybrid approach to image creation will soon be a requirement for emerging photographers.

Every material applied to objects is a series of tiles, typically 4-8k square in resolution. To apply a texture to an object, it often needs to be “flattened” by creating a UV map. This bizarre image is a world space normal of a UV flattened Buddah’s Hand Fruit.

There’s an enormous amount of information to take in when learning 3D, but hopefully this will help you know where to begin when adding 3D to your image creation wheelhouse.

MODO VR:

You can see more of Steve’s work at SteveHansenImages.com, and keep up with him on Instagram.

Welcome to another #TravelTuesday here on Scott’s blog. I’m Dave Williams, and I’m here weekly, writing for you.

Light is something you should be seeing as a photographer. If you’re not, just keep practicing and practicing and, eventually, it will just click one day and you’ll see it. Today, I want to explain what a difference it makes to landscapes and how to apply it.

 

 

Photography is the art of portraying light, right? Using light to make the subject, the model, the landscape, look its absolute best is the art form we love. In the process of learning to see light, there are many techniques we can employ, but the important thing is to keep the end goal in sight.

Photography is subjective and we want people’s interpretation of our photography to be that it’s beautiful. To do this, we need beautiful light on our subject, whatever our subject may be. Without light, there are no photographs – it’s that important.

Seeing light is the key skill that will come one day through practice. Through reading, through watching tutorials, through shooting in different conditions, and learning what changes each time, it all contributes to us learning to see light. Not to “see,” don’t misunderstand – to “see light.” Ways to practice seeing light often don’t involve photography at all. Noticing subtle differences caused by different temperatures of light cast at different times of day, through different natural filters, and falling from different angles are all the things we need to pay attention to. Watching how it falls on our hand, on the faces of people around us, and how the shadows are cast, too, are all things to pay attention to and consider when we’re learning to see light.

 

 

Relating to landscapes, visit a location time after time in different conditions and at different times, and you’ll see how the light changes the entire scene, changes colours, and even moves the scene somehow. The difference is dramatic and it truly makes such an impactive difference to see a photo with great use of light versus a snapshot with flat, dull light.

There is, in most cases, nothing as good as using natural light effectively in portraiture, as well. The light cast from a well-filtered, softened natural source of light can make a subject really pop and evoke an emotional connection between the subject and the viewer, owing to the causal effect of good use of light and nothing more.

Taking the time as a photographer to really concentrate on light and learn how to really see it will, if you haven’t reached that level, take your experience to a totally different place, and if you can see light just don’t stop practicing!

Much love

Dave

Adventures of Becoming A Dog Photographer: A Behind The Scenes Look with Kaylee Greer
Join Kaylee Greer for an around-the-world adventure in dog photography! In each lesson Kaylee peels back the curtain and takes you behind the scenes to show you what it took to get the shot. Consider this class a backstage pass to some of her most fun and unforgettable photo shoots. It’s never a perfect process, and you’ll quickly find that behind every amazing photo there’s a certain amount of love, madness, whimsy, hard work, trust, patience, and determination needed to bring her vision to the world.

In Case You Missed It
Time to let the dogs out! Join the fabulous Kaylee Greer, a private and commercial pet photographer based in Boston, as she shows you how to capture the best dog photographs you’ve ever taken. In this class Kaylee works with four different dogs in different locations, ranging from the local park to the local animal shelter, and shows you her tips and tricks for engaging with her subjects to bring out their unique personalities and create portraits their owners will love, or that can help a shelter dog find a forever home. The locations and lighting are not always ideal, so Kaylee teaches you how she works with whatever situation she finds herself in to locate those hidden gem spots that provide the perfect backdrop for your dog. You’ll need to be prepared to get down on the ground and make silly noises, but the effort will show in the fantastic photos you can create.

OK, I’m not the first one to come up with the idea for a Safari-themed fashion shoot. I’m probably about number 500, but I wanted to do something different and fun, and this seemed like it would both (and we could do it without breaking the bank).

Here’s how the shoot came about
I was working on a class on how to use the location strobe I’m using now, (the Profoto B1x), and I was going to do the whole thing in the studio because the class was about how to use the light and the wireless remote, but since the strobe is made for location shooting, I thought at the end of the course, I would go on location and actually do a shoot, so the photographers watching the course would see how easy and awesome they are to use in the field.

Kalebra is my art director for production shoots like this, and while she usually comes up with the concept for our shoots, I knew this time I wanted to try this Safari Fashion look and she was happy to help. I did some upfront research (on Pinterest, Google Images, and Instagram), and I compiled a list of what we would need to pull this off.

  1. A Luxury Safari tent. I found ones you could rent for $500 a day (yikes!), but that’s kinda outside our budget but then we found one that looked nearly as good that we could buy for $249 from Walmart — we would just have to cut a slit in the back so you can see through the tent to the field behind it (I wanted to have some depth behind it). As it turned out, I’m so glad we didn’t rent and bought the tent instead because the shoot was canceled three times due to rain. The rental house doesn’t care if you got rained out — you pay for the days you have it.
  2. A rug or two, for the floor of the tent, or for in front of the tent.
  3. Some steamers or luggage as props
  4. Some chairs (I originally wanted something nice Safari-looking chairs, until I saw the prices) so Amazon to the rescue with a director’s chair and HomeGoods came through with the other.
  5. And some side tables and props, many which we literally took on our sets at the office, and people’s desks, and well…we kind of borrowed them for the day

Kalebra went to work on getting the outfits, hair and make-up concepts, finding the right model, and figuring out the props; Christina (our super awesome in-house producer for our online courses) set about to find us an outdoor shooting location that didn’t look “Florida-ish” (it’s supposed to look Africa Safari-like), and a rental jeep (I thought it would be cool to have a jeep out of the focus in the background, but the jeep actually broke down on the way to shoot and never showed up, so scratch the jeep).

The biggest challenge was the cows. This was a cow-pasture in Plant City, Florida (about an hour from the KelbyOne HQ), and from time to time the cows would wander behind the tent and become part of the scene, and nothing says ‘this isn’t Africa’ like some dairy cows roaming behind your model.

Above: Here’s my first test-shot of our model Gabi on the set. The lighting looks pretty bad. The idea of this location shoot was to show how to mix your flash with the available light, and this looks way, way too “flashy” (looks like I used a big utility flashlight from Home Depot), but hey — we just set up the light; aimed it at her, and took a test shot. Hey, ya gotta start somewhere, right? Also, during this “setting the lights” stage I tell the model they don’t need to pose while I’m working on the lighting.

After all the work she had done, I felt bad that Kalebra couldn’t actually be at the live shoot, but she had a scheduling conflict, so we set everything up as best as we could, but we knew it didn’t look right, so we had Kalebra FaceTime in. That way she could see the tent, the props, and the outfits, then she worked directly with our make-up artist (whom we all adore and use every chance we get), the awesome Hendrickje Matthews to get everything right on set, and Christina and Rachel from our crew to get the set looking good, so I could focus on dialing in the lighting.

Above: Hendrickje (L) and Rachel work on tweaking the outfit after Kalebra FaceTimed into the shoot.

Above: The first thing Kalebra did was remove most of the junk (see above) we had piled in and around that tent. It was “over-accessorized.”

Above:  Once we started removing stuff per Kalebra’s guidance, the set was starting to look much better. The light still isn’t there, but at this point, we’re mostly focused on getting the set right, and the outfit, and stuff like that.

Above: Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at the set-up. Just one light (the Profoto B1x 500-watt battery-powered strobe). Special thanks to Kathy Porpukski and Erik Kuna for the behind-the-scenes shots. :)

Above: I take my tethering rig on location every chance I get — it makes that big a difference. Shoutout to the folks from Tethertools.com – they make awesome tethering gear!

Above: It’s every educator’s dream to teach standing in a cow pasture. 😂

Above: The glamour of shooting on location is real. Real smelly.

Above: The awesome Julio Agular assisting me on the shoot. Look how small that strobe is. Sa-weet!

Above: Here’s the overhead view from our drone. A cow pasture in the middle of nowhere is about the only place you can still actually fly a drone.

Above: Here’s what it looks like with the light off, and just the available light.

Above: Here’s what it looks like when your flash is too bright.

Above: Here’s the final image, with the light from the flash balanced with the natural light.

The lighting is supposed to look natural, not too bright, not too flashy. The goal is to make it look like natural light. It shouldn’t be obvious you used a flash. It’s a dance between adjusting the shutter speed (which controls now much natural light you’re letting in – the slower the shutter speed, the more natural light you get), and the power of the flash (which I try to get looking natural by not overdoing the power of the flash). Believe it or not, it just takes a couple of minutes to dial it in and get it looking right. We also feathered the softbox (so it’s not aiming directly at the subject) to create an even softer more flattering light. As much as I already loved the B1x, I feel even deeper in love during the shoots for this class. It’s such a brilliantly designed light — I’m thrilled to finally get to use them.

Also, I wanted to make the grass in the background look more “Safari-like” so in Lightroom I desaturated the greens quite a bit (using the HSL panel). You can also see the addition of the prop binoculars and the hat over her back (both Kalebra’s tweaks via watching the shoot via FaceTime).

Here’s the trailer for the full online course (in case you want to check it out)
I start in the studio and go through how the light works, and how the remote works with it (it’s super simple), and then we head out for the location shoot. I also added a bonus lesson which is a quick-start guide, so if you watched the class, and later want a quick recap when you’re out on a shoot, you’d be able to just watch that one lesson as a refresher.

Here’s a link to the class.

I hope you found this behind-the-scenes stuff helpful. In just a few weeks I’ll be recording a Part 2 of this class, where the entire class is all location shoots (based on feedback from the class – folks wanted more of the live shoots, so I’m happy to add another three shoots to the mix).

Here’s to a great week. Hope you’re staying warm (wherever you are) and see ya here tomorrow for Travel Tuesday’s with Dave. :)

Thanks,

-Scott

Now, this is a cool giveaway! Some lucky person (maybe you?) will be picked at random (for those that enter) to get flown to either Vegas or Orlando (we’re doing both this year, so your choice); we’ll put you up at the official conference hotel, get your airport transfers, we’ll even get your meals while you’re there, plus you get a VIP full conference pass and a party ticket to the greatest Photoshop, Lightroom and Photography conference on the planet. Awwww, yeah!

If you win and choose to go to Orlando Photoshop World, the dates are May 30th-June 1st, 2019, and if you choose Las Vegas instead, it’s August 21st-23rd, 2019 (remember, you pick which one you want to go to, on us).

The contest is open to everyone — so go enter right now (and tell your friends. Actually, maybe not a great idea in case they win. Your call). Rules, the entry form, and some nice graphics are right here.

Good luck everybody — hope you win the big trip! :)

Thanks,

-Scott

From Paris to Hollywood

Ever since I was a teenager I dreamed of being an artist, an actor, a director or just being involved in making movies.

As a teenager I remember seeing Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, and this totally changed my life. Not so much by the quality of movie, which I loved (I went to see it three times in the theater the first week of its release), but by the impact it created around me. Everyone at school was only talking about the movie, and I realized that a movie could have a huge impact on culture and society at large.

This dream kind of faded away as I grew up. I became a father early in life, and I got a job coding. But sitting at a desk was not a life for me, although I loved computers. I then got into sales for the travel industry, first selling sightseeing tours in Paris and later on working for my brother’s company selling websites to hotels.

In 2004 at the age 34 years old, I had four kids to take care of and lots of financial responsibilities. I was doing ok, but I started being obsessed again about working in movies. I decided to go back to acting class and to create some short movies to tackle the world of entertainment. Back then there was no DSLR that could shoot movies. To get anything decent you had to rent very expensive cameras that did not even have nice bokeh or depth of field and did not look like cinema at all.

All my efforts came out to nothing; my shorts were horrible and not finished, and the acting classes were not doing well. I felt like I would never make it.

As I was about to give up, I went on vacation with a whole bunch of friends in Guadeloupe. I had a small Sony point and shoot camera and started for the first time in my life to shoot digital photos. They were just snapshots of our holiday.

One night we were a little bored, nothing good on tv. One of my friends present, Kelvin Pimont asked me if I wanted to see what Photoshop could do. I had heard about the software but never saw it in action. Kelvin was a young designer who was a master Jedi at the software.

He starts showing how to select the sky and make it super dramatic, how to erase all the tourist around a portrait we had taken together and I couldn’t believe how powerful and how ‘easy’ the software seemed to be.

My first Photoshop experience before and after

That day I had a major epiphany that would change my life forever.

Until I could figure out how to make movies, I could at least create art with photography and make my photo sublime with the help of this magical Photoshop software!

When we came back home, I went into the biggest technical library in Paris (Eyrolles) and looked for all the books I could find on Photography and Photoshop. After buying a large number of really hard to understand books, I found a Photoshop book by Scott Kelby. Finally something I could understand.

I then started a project that went on for 5 years, taking dramatic photos of Paris after work in the most dramatic light possible. I would then watch tutorials on post processing and using Photoshop, and then later on Lightroom, I was able to make the photos even more dramatic!

This was a blast and my life made sense again. When I became 38 in 2008, I started doing interior design photography as I did a photo shoot in a hotel in Paris (in HDR) with the Seven Hotel. The hotel belonged to a hotel celebrity by the name of Philippe Vaurs.

Philippe was blown away by the photos. At the time there was very little retouching in interior design photography and most photographer were shooting on film. I added some subtle light effects in Lightroom that seemed to hit home ☺

He started promoting my work to many hotel managers/owners and I started getting lots of job inquiries. So much that a few months later, I resigned from my VP of Sales duty to being a full time photographer.  (more…)

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