Archive for February 2010

What’s Black and White and Red all over?

February 25, 2010

Well, the old joke (about a newspaper) is supposed to say “What’s black and white, and read all over?”, but you get the picture.  In this case I’m talking about the background colour in your photographs.  It ought to be simple, and not make much difference, but in creative portrait photography the colour of the background can make a huge difference to the effectiveness of an image.  

Here are some example images where I have used simple studio lighting techniques to light the main subject.  In most of them I’ve then controlled the background colour using another light on the background. 

"Dark background portrait" by Gale Photography

"Dark background portrait" by Gale Photography

 

In this image the light falling on the background is what’s called “spill” from the main light on the right hand side.  It’s lit the background just enough to stop it being completely black, which would have lost the subject’s dark top, but has kept the mood of the image. 

Putting a large softbox behind the subject makes the background go white, which gives a much brighter feel to the image. 

"White background portrait" by Gale Photography

"White background portrait" by Gale Photography

 

This brighter mood is helped by turning the subject so he is looking straight out at the camera.  The very, very bright background causes a bit of lens flare around the edges of the subject, which lifts the colour up a bit. 

"Red background portrait" by Gale Photography

"Red background portrait" by Gale Photography

 

With this studio portrait I’ve used a red filter on the background light.  It contrasts well with the cooler blue tones of her clothing, and keeps the mood of the image up, even though the subject isn’t smiling.   The light was carefully placed to give a gradation of colour density from left to right, and to make the bottom of the background quite dark.  This made the image more interesting than if it was all the same colour density and lightness. 

So that’s the black, the white and the red.  This final image is almost the reverse of the one before, in that the background is blue, and the main subject clothes are red. 

"Blue background portrait" by Gale Photography

"Blue background portrait" by Gale Photography

 

The blue background has an excellent contrast with the subject’s skin tones, and the pattern of the background helps to add extra elements to the simple composition.  In each case the lights have been carefully arranged to give a brighter centre and darker edges.  This means that the blue background is brightest close to where there is the most light on the main subject. 

So, that’s a black background, a white background, a red background, and an extra bonus of a blue background. 

If these images have inspired you to have your own creative portrait shoot, why not check out our website at www.galephotography.co.uk then give us a call on 01793 783859 to book. 

Cheers, 

Derek.

It’s all around you

February 18, 2010

Modern digital cameras are fabulous things.  They have a level of performance and sophistication that we could only have dreamed of 10 years ago.   To me, the most important feature of a digital camera is the instant review of the images.   You can see straight away what you have taken, and this gives you the freedom to experiment and be creative with your photography.  This opens up a wealth of possibilities.  You can search your environment looking for images, and it’s fantastic what you can find there.  

Creative photography by Gale Photography

"Bubbles in shampoo" by Gale Photography

As an example, this image is of bubbles in a bottle of clear shampoo.  I used off-camera flash to make the lighting directional, and to give a black background.  The image was taken in my photographic studio near Swindon, but could just as well be done in a darkened room on a table top.   It was easy to try again with a new bubble pattern just by shaking the bottle.  Because shampoo is nice and thick, the bubbles rise very slowly, which gives you more time to get them just right.  

Creative close-up photography by Gale Photography

"Paperweight abstract" - by Gale Photography

The abstract image above was taken with a Panasonic Lumix compact digital camera set on close-up/macro.  It’s of a glass paperweight (so the bubbles rise very slowly indeed!), which was on a shelf lit by natural daylight.  I rested the camera on the shelf to get the right angle, and to reduce camera shake.  Result: an instant abstract image.   

This final image was of another paperweight, which had a lovely metallic sparkle to it.  

Creative photography by Gale Photography

"Paperweight abstract 2" by Gale Photography

My initial images showed more of the paperweight, but I kept taking images, reviewing them, and eventually reduced the image to just the shapes and colours shown here.  It shows that sometimes less is indeed more.  Again it’s taken with natural lighting; the image was there waiting, and just needed to be found.  

These images show that there are great photographic subjects everywhere.  They are often quite easy to take, but much harder to see.  If you would like to learn how to see, and take, images like this, why not come on my “The Creative Eye” photographic training course, or on a fun Photo Trek?  

Happy photography!  

Derek.

Now you see me. Now you don’t.

February 11, 2010

I always aim to look beyond the obvious and try out new creative photography ideas.   

This image was taken on a location portrait shoot.  I saw the cobweb hanging down, and thought it would make a good frame for the subject.  It did, but then I realised it would be better if I used a shallow depth of field to throw the person out of focus.  I opened up the lens aperture,  reduced the flash power, and focused tightly on the cobweb.
"Cobweb portrait" -by Gale Photography

"Cobweb portrait" -by Gale Photography

It turned the image into something a bit more mysterious and abstract.  You can see that there is a person there, you can see that they are looking at you, but you can’t see any detail.

With creative portrait photography, sometimes you don’t even need to show the person directly at all.  You can tell a story in an image, or provoke the viewer into imagining their own story.

"Shadow portrait" by Gale Photography

"Shadow portrait" by Gale Photography

With this location portrait shoot image I used an off-camera flash to throw a big shadow on the wall of the room.  We look at the architecture and the pose, ask ourselves questions, and start making up a story to fit it.  Is the person relaxed or cross?  What is the room they are in?

Sometimes it’s just worth trying an old idea too.  Here’s a creative use of the common photographic mistake where you have an object growing out of the subject’s head.   Here the person is behind a sculpture, and just their hand is visible growing out of what seems to be a cut off tree trunk.

"The hand in the quarry" by Gale Photography

"The hand in the quarry" by Gale Photography

Actually it raises questions about what is real and what is unreal.  The sculpture, part of the Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail, is a mould of the quarry face behind it.  It’s an exact copy but made of fibreglass instead of rock.  The hand is wearing a flesh-coloured glove, so is it really a person or another replica?  If it is a person, then because the glove covers up the person’s hand, in one sense we are seeing the replica rather the person.

We discuss the meaning of images at my photographic training courses, so enough of this philosophising! 

You can also experience a creative portrait shoot with me. Why not book yourself a session?

Cheers,

Derek.

What can you do with a marshmallow?

February 4, 2010

Digital photography is wonderful!  It allows you to experiment with your images when you take them, and experiment with them after you’ve taken them.  You can be as creative as you want, and there don’t seem to be limits to what you can do.  It’s really all down to your imagination. 

Take this marshmallow for example… 

"Marshmallow volcano" by Gale Photography

"Marshmallow volcano" by Gale Photography

I was trying some creative lighting techniques in the studio, and came up with the idea of illuminating the marshmallow from the inside.  It wasn’t the easiest thing to do, but it worked really well.  I reckon it made the marshmallow look like a  mini “volcano”.  Just a bit of contrast enhancement in Photoshop, and it was done. 

You don’t need to go to extent of using a studio to get creative images.  Here I’ve photographed a car rear light cluster using a cheap optical toy – an insect eye kaleidoscope – on a digital compact camera.  It’s made a really interesting abstract image. 

"Insect eye lamp" by Gale Photography

"Insect eye lamp" by Gale Photography

Again there’s not much post-processing done in Photoshop, just a bit of contrast enhancement, resizing and sharpening.  I used my Panasonic Lumix FX-500 compact camera for this image, as the lens fitted nicely inside the toy.  It’s a good example of the fact that you don’t always need, (or as in this case, can’t use!!), a complex DSLR to get great images. 

The last image is a bit more complex as it’s actually three images combined.  The basic images are of smoke, which has been backlit in the studio with a remote flash.  You need to be very delicate with your movements and breathing when you’re taking smoke images because if you charge around, the air currents can completely spoil the smoke patterns.  The fun, and colour, in this image comes from Photoshop. 

"Colourful smoke" by Gale Photography

"Colourful smoke" by Gale Photography

I can’t put the whole process into this blog post, but basically I’ve taken one colour channel (Red or Green or Blue) from each of the three images, and recombined them into one new image.  It’s great fun to do, and you can get a completely different set of colours by taking a different combination of images/colour channels.  

My photography training workshop, “The Creative Eye”, is designed to help you to free your photographic imagination, so you can start experimenting with your own creative photography.  At the time of writing this post (4th Feb 2010), there are still places on the February 20th 2010 course at Stanton House Hotel near Swindon. 

So, what can you do with a marshmallow? 

Cheers, 

Derek 

www.galephotography.co.uk