Friday, November 6, 2009

Bring Out The Bling


Bling doesn't have to mean gold. I think of it as bright colors or objects, like the billiard balls in today's image. It's a simple shot, right? Not quite. One, I don't have a pool table. Two, I had to go out and buy a set of billiard balls. The "felt" is a red blanket. That nice "catch light", looking like it comes from an umbrella or maybe a softbox, is about the only highlight that wasn't there. I actually needed five speedlites using Nikon's CLS (Creative Lighting System) to get enough light on all the balls at the aperture small enough (F 22) to be able to hold focus from front to back. The focus point was the number five on the center ball. I needed to take the hyperfocal focusing distance into consideration when deciding where to focus. A "rule of thumb" for focus is that "acceptably sharp focus" happens one third in front of the focus point and two thirds behind. That meant that the front of the five ball, at a very small aperture was about the right spot. I tried several variations on the shot. A couple with very short "selective focus, some with the long focus, a few from the top and side, and using glass rather than the felt. That takes care of the photography. If you'd like to know more about the post processing, hit the "read more".

The "catch light" from the "umbrella" was fairly easy. Just a small, slightly off white, soft dot with the Brush Tool to make the point of light and then a Gaussian Blur to further soften the light. Cleaning up the actual specular highlights from the five speedlites is a different story. Each ball had several points of light, depending on where the light was in relationship to the surface of the individual balls. It's more that it was tedious work rather than hard work that made if painful. I'm not sure how I could have lit the highly reflective balls without some specularity. Guess I'll have to figure out how McNally would do it if I ever need to shoot something like it. I thought the front ball needed a counter highlight, so I just left the one that was already there.

To give the look of sitting on an actually pool table the red "felt" was extended up to the top of the image. The upper portion was selected and filled with the same color as the "real" cloth. The color was sampled and the selection filled with the foreground color. A little "noise" (Filter/Noise/Add Noise) was added to match the "fuzziness" of the foreground. When I say "a little noise" I mean just a little. About .5 points of noise.

The vignette is pretty ham handed, but I think it works in this case. Most of the time I go for a much more subtle touch with it. I do think the colors came out pretty close to what they should be. Sometimes you just need to work through whatever steps you're presented with to get to the end results you're looking for.

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