Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Making The Mundane Interesting

If someone were to ask you to shoot a shot of a blanket, how would you make it interesting?  The red in today's image is "just a blanket", thrown on a chair.  It's even a solid color, so there's not a lot of detail to focus (bad pun) in on.  To give it a little life it was shot through a large Mylar backdrop.  The backdrop was hung across a backdrop stand and the end touching the floor allowed to bob and weave in whatever manner it fell.  That gave the reflective surface a lot of undulations and made the blanket sort of breathe with a sensual feeling.  The chair is actually purple, but the colors started adding up and it was changed very simply in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3.  We'll get into that after the "read more".  The setup for the shot was a light, aimed at the chair and blanket as though it was to be a straight shot.  A white board was use to fill in the shadows rather than allowing them to get too dark.  The whole intent was to make a plain old blanket interesting.  The end use the client had in mind was cover art and room had to be left near the top and bottom for descriptive text.  The upright of the arm of the chair serves as a divider between two sets of texts.  So, three areas needed to be formed and the arm of the chair accomplished the purpose.  Not every shot can be a beautiful landscape or model.  A "piece of art" can help get a photographer's name out in higher circles maybe a little quicker than putting things in to your local county fair, but it seldom pays the rent.  A, now retired pro once told me he takes pictures of invisible things.  I told him it must be pretty easy to convince the art buyer that you gave him/her a good image.  He said I was missing the point.  Most of what he shot on a day to day basis was everyday items.  A hinge, the screws for the hinge, a piece of metal he had no idea what it was for, and maybe a lockset.  Most of what he did was catalog work.  Not the runway models at a fashion show, but the things that show up in a workman's hands to find the right piece for a job.  It's not even thought of as a photograph, it's a pictorial description of what he/she is going to buy.  No glamour, no jostling for a better angle for a shot, just very methodical shooting, trying to make something abstract interesting.  How the chair's color was changed after the "read more".

The change in color on the arm rest would be an easy Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer in Adobe Photoshop. It's just about as easy in Lightroom. Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 doesn't have Layers, but everything done in LR3 is nondestructive. You can think of LR3 making a spreadsheet of every step you make on an image. It would look something like:

What do ya wanna do?
Change a color?
How much? 50% toward green

Lightroom just keeps track of what you do to the image. If you were to follow the steps you might find a sequence like: crop the image, scratch that, crop differently, nope - scratch that too, make it a vertical, make it a pano, change the aspect ratio and on and on. Going back a step is counted as making a step. If you were to spend an hour working an image you'd end up with a sheet with hundreds, if not thousands of steps.

At the end, you can step back, survey what you've done, say "nope, I don't like it", hit the reset button and be back exactly where you started. That's the beauty of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.