New Website

It was about time, but here it is. My new website. So what do you think?

The old website wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t responsive. This means that it doesn’t show well on tablets and smartphones. More and more people are viewing websites on relatively small screens. I thought it was important to update this site, so you can actually see what going on.

I also took this opportunity to have a serious look at my portfolio. I eliminated almost half of my photographs (like the commercial stills and portraits) because they don’t seem to fit well with my latest work and the stuff I’m working on.

There is new material coming, so check out this site on a regular base. Also, I’m not exactly sure when, but this site will also support a web-shop in the near future.

Have a look around and please let me know if there’s something that you think is missing or could be better.

Regards,

Edgar

 

 

The making of a commercial still part 7

Well this is it! The experiment is over……at last  I’ve finished my bottle.

My goal was to make a photorealistic image of a perfume bottle (that I have at home) just using an open source and freely available 3D program called Blender.  Not only should it be photorealistic, it was supposed to look glossy, like the ads you see in magazines.

It was quite a journey…

– First I made the wireframe of the bottle. This means that you have to draw the shape of the bottle.  Next I placed the virtual lights and gave the model its material (glass and plastic).

So far so good, but I wanted to add that ‘something extra’. I decided to add a water splash. This is very common in commercial photography, but alas, the water simulation in Blender was nice, but not realistic enough for my taste. Being reluctant to drop the water theme, I had to think of something different. So I placed the bottle in the middle of the ocean. Although it looked nice (at least that was what I thought), I was getting further away of the glossy magazine look. Also a bottle cannot stand upright in the sea, unless it has divine properties so to speak.

It didn’t make any sense, really. To make it worse,  I have to take a real photograph of the bottle so that I can compare the two images. There was no way I could replicate the photograph in real life (well I could, but I have to a photograph at full sea, at dawn with studio lights and  a platform just below sea level where I can put the bottle on).  Therefore I decided to go back to basic and created a virtual studio environment. I used a reflective surface and let the lighting do the trick. That’s it! You can see the result below. What do you think? Is it photorealistic?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also tried two freely available external render: “yafaray and Luxrender”. On their websites you can see some amazing images. I really I think they are promising render engines that integrate with Blender really well. But it’s not for me (just yet). They are both much slower than the Blender render engine (Cycles) and more difficult to set up. Luxrender was the most problematic.  Sometimes it rendered an image but sometimes it didn’t. A bit hit and mis. Probably it is something I am not doing right, but I still have to figure out what that might be.  I also found Yafaray too ‘techical’ to set up. I just want to hit the ‘render’ button and see the image appear, instead of setting up Photon maps and AA passes and what not. This is terminology a photographer doesn’t understand. Not really user friendly in my opninion. But hey it’s free and the results (when you got your chops down at least) are really terriffic, so I’m not complaining.

So what’s next? Well nothing really, this is it. I’ll make a real photograph in the future to see how it compares to the fake one, but that’s for another blog.

If you want to give it a go yourself, you can download Blender, Luxrender and Yafaray here:

http://www.blender.org/

http://www.yafaray.org/

http://www.luxrender.net

 

See you next time…

The making of a commercial still part 6

Welcome to part 6 already of “How to make a commercial still”.

I’d like to think that I’m almost there, but I’m not sure.

Last week, my splash experiment was a bit of a dissapointment. It was impossible to make a realistic water splash with the build-in fluid simulator in Blender. Of course, I could sculpt the water splash so that it looked like the real deal. But to be honest I’m not that good in sculpting and I haven’t got the patience for it. So it was time to go another route completely.

Instead of trying to create a ‘studio look’, I’m now taking it outdoors,  into nature, so to speak.  Not being able to let go of the ‘water theme’, I’ve placed the bottle on in the middle of the ocean, while you are staring into the sunset. And yes it doesn’t make any sense, but it’s not supposed to…;-)

The ocean is made with the so called ocean simulator. As for the sky, well I’ve cheated (again)…It’s actually a holiday photograph that I took, while I was standing in the Namib dessert in Africa. I don’t think there’s an easy way to create photorealistic skies in Blender (like I did with the ocean), so I took a photograph out of my own library and set this up to act as a gigantic lightsource in Blender. Doing so, the background gives these nice reflections on the water and  into the glass of the bottle. A nice purple orange kind of glow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think I like the image as it is. But I’m not sure what to make of the “Devine” floating property of the bottle? I tried to place the bottle on top of a rock, but that looked silly. Shall I leave the image as it is, or shall I try to make it look like the image obeys the laws of nature?

Apart from that, there are still some things to do, that can change the look of the image considerably. Change the color of the sky for example:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Small changes, big differences. So

This is it for now, I’ll experiment a bit more and next blog l hope I will finish it.

 

 

 

The making of a commercial still part 5

Hello and welcome to part five of “the making of a commercial still”.

Last time I was really excited because I discovered a feature in Blender called “the fluid simulator”. I had seen a couple of demos and it looked really promising. I  envisioned the perfume bottle surrounded by all sorts of water splashes, giving it that really slick look.

So last week I fiddled with the settings and generated dozens of splashes. Big ones, small ones, a lot of drops, few drops etc. I’ve dropped all sorts of objects in virtual water, just to see what kind of effect it had. Actually what you do is, you make a small little animation (about one second) of an object hitting the water. The program calculates each frame, one by one. At the end you can select which frame you are going to use for the image still. This is a really time consuming process. To generate a high resolution splash, you have to let the computer render overnight.

And the results were…..to be really honest…..a little disappointing!

Although it generates all sorts of splashes, it doesn’t look realistic enough, to my taste.

I’ve included two photo’s so you can see for yourselves:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have set the fluid to act like water (oil is a possibility too), but it doesn’t look like water to me. It has a plastic, or glue-ish kinda feel to it. I don’t know what it is? Not only that, but it generates all sorts of weird artefacts. You can see in the upper picture that the small droplets have these black ‘things’ around them. Like there is some bug in the program.

Anyway, I don’t consider this to usable for realistic and commercial use.

So it’s back to the drawing board. First I have to think about how pimp this image in another way.

Next time you will see the results.

The making of a commercial still part 4

Welcome, this is part 4 in my so called experiment: “how to take a photograph without using a camera”.

I’m trying to find out if I am able to create a photorealistic commercial lifestyle still, only using an open source computer program called “Blender” that is freely available on the internet.

Last time I created the bottle and backdrop, placed the lights and did a test render. The results were so-so. I noticed that I had to recreate the model of the bottle, because it wasn’t accurate enough. I took a picture of the front and side of the bottle and loaded it into Blender as a backdrop. This way you can draw over the picture, almost like tracing paper, but in 3D, instead on a flat surface. So now I have the correct dimensions of the bottle, including the curvature and stuf. I know what you are thinking, “but you used a camera…”. Yeah but not take a picture. It was  more as an aid to help me ‘draw’ the bottle, almost like a modern Camera Obscura. Right? Okay okay, so I cheated a little. Don’t tell anyone;-)

You can see the results of the new model in the following wireframe:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And here’s the low-res image:

 

As you can see, I’ve placed the bottle on a wavy reflective surface. It gives more of that ‘sheen’ you see a lot of in commercial photography. Furthermore, the backdrop consist of a blue-ish diffuse reflective material. I think this will give a nice contrast with the pink/ orange letters on the bottle (that I haven’t placed  there yet). But we’ll have to see if this works out, once I’ve put the fonts in place.

I‘ve also set up the lights so that it outlines the black ‘fluid’ inside of the bottle and it gives the whole a sort of a glow. I have to tweak the lights a bit so that the ‘glow’ is nice and uniform accros the image. The cap on the bottle is a bit of a challenge for me, though, because it’s just a black cube. There’s nothing in it. It’s got no depth. There are no  curves and it is pure black, so you get uninteresting…uh..well blackness. Even if you reflect a softbox in it, you’d still get a grey dull rectangular thing. I have to figure out how to make it somewhat more interesting. If you have any suggestions, please let me know.

On the whole the image is getting where I want it to be. You can see where it is going, but still, there is something missing…… Perhaps the image needs a little bit more of a spectacle, but what? Oh by the way…did I tell you that Blender has got a fluid simulator? Yes a fluid simulator! Usually these things have to be purchased seperetaly for thousands of dollars, but not in Blender. You can create Tsunamis with these simulators, just like in Hollywood disaster movies

You see where I’m going with this? Next time, I’ll try give the fluid simulator a bit of a workout and see if I can use this in my image.

 

See you next time

The making of a commercial still part 3

This is the third part in my series “The making of a commercial still”.

Last week I created the model of the perfume bottle and this week I’m going to provide the model with materials and set up some basic lighting to see if it makes any sense.

In order to test the materials and lighting I have to render the scene. Now Blender uses two sort of rendering engines. The classic “Blender Internal” engine and the new and more sexy “Cycles”. The latter is supposed to give photo realistic results, because it emulates the way lights travels through different mediums, like glass, air, water etc. It also emulates how light reflects of off surfaces and does cool stuff like color bleeding. That’s something we photographers take for granted in real life ;-). So I choose the more sexy ‘Cycles’.

For testing purpose, I have set up a white curved backdrop and placed three virtual softboxes more or less randomly, just to provide the scene with some basic lighting.

For the materials, I used the standard Blender stuff. Nothing fancy.  So for the glass bottle I used “Glass BSDF”, for the plastic cap I used “Glossy BSDF”. And for the black ‘liquid’ I also used “Glossy BSDF”.  You can do all sorts of fancy stuff with these materials, but for now I use the “plain right out of the box” options, without tweaking any parameters.

And here is the first test result:

It’s sort of okay-ish. It looks like a photo, but to me it still isn’t realistic enough. It still has that ‘CGI sheen’. You don’t know what it is, but you can tell that something’s wrong.

I’ve also noticed that I didn’t properly modelled the bottle. The corners are too round and the glass is still to ‘perfect’, so I have to dirty it up a little. I have to start tweaking the parameters now and pay a lot more attention to lighting the bottle. And last but not least, I will try out some different rendering engines (outside of Blender) to see if they come up with different or better results.

Stay tuned for the next instalment of this experiment….

The making of a commercial still part 2

Welcome to part 2 of my experiment. Or how to create a ‘ photograph’ , without actually making a photograph of a perfume bottle. The aim is to make a luxurious looking image, that could be printed in a lifestyle magazine or perhaps shown on a billboard or something.

Last week we saw that the process of making a 3D image consist roughly out of four steps:

1. ‘Drawing’ the perfume bottle also know as creating a wireframe;

2. Placing the virtual lights  in 3D space;

3. Create the materials that the objects are made of;

4. Bringing it all together and make a final ‘photograph’ or so called  ‘rendering’.

 

Today I’m going to show the results of step 1. And here it is:

wireframe and clay model of the perfume bottle

Can you imagine that this is (hopefully) going to look like a real photograph? Although the shape of the bottle is ‘ squarish’ , I had a difficult time to make it look like the original bottle. You see, a computer program is really good at creating perfect squares, or primitive objects like circles, globes, pyramids etc. But in real life nothing is really perfectly shaped like that. If you look closer, you can see that the top of the bottle has rounded edges but the bottom is sharp. There has to be a transition from a round shape to sharp edges. I had a difficult time achieving this.  And then there’s the glass the bottle is made of. The real bottle has dents and uneven spots. So if I want to make it realistic, I have to apply these dents as well.

Stay tuned…..next time I’m am going to light this bottle with fake studio lights and create a backdrop.

 

The making of a commercial still part 1

This is part one of an experiment I am going to do over the next month(s) or so. I am going to take a commercial slick looking photograph of a perfume bottle, without actually taking a real slick looking photograph! I’m entirely going to use CGI to create the bottle and backdrop.

This will be my first photograph that is 100% CGI.

The aim is to make a convincing photograph, such that it is (hardly) noticeable that it’s fake, using available open source software. My weapon of choice is Blender. This 3D software has changed a lot the last couple of years, with a lot of added features and a large user base. Also it’s for free, and being Dutch I couldn’t resist this opportunity;-)

So how far can I take this project with free software? To answer this question I will not only make a CGI version of the perfume bottle, I will also take a real picture and compare the two. See what the differences are, not only in results but also in ‘feel’ and process etc.

Now this is what I’m going to make a photograph of. L’ eau de toilette called “Narciso Rodriguez for her”:

Somehow ‘Narciso’ and the blackness of it all  inspires me, like a Greek tragedy of some sorts. And yes I will try to make a somewhat more exciting picture than the one you are currently seeing.

To make a 3D image you have to go through several process steps:

1. ‘Drawing’ the objects, also known as modeling, or creating a wireframe of the bottle;

2. Lighting the objects in 3D space;

3. Create the materials that the objects are made of;

4. Bringing it all together and make a final ‘photograph’ of the objects in 3D space. This is called ‘rendering’

Next time, I will show you the wireframe of the perfume bottle and the other objects. Haven’t made the image yet it’s very exciting to see what I will come up with and if this will be any good? So stay tuned and you will find out.

By the way if you have any suggestions or nice ideas for the so called commercial shoot, you can post your comments below. And I will try to incorporate them!

True Feelings

I’ve added three more pictures to my portfolio. You’ve probably seen one of these already in another picture. If you look closely on the “Commodification”  series, you can see two billboards (in the tunnel) with two photographs of Barbie dolls. You can consider them as pictures in pictures.

I thought it was nice to give those photographs a platform of their own. So you can see them more up and close.

To me Barbie en Ken symbolise the beauty ideal in western society. They represent the image of how a perfect woman or man should look and how they should feel, in a state of eternal happiness. And we are taught this lesson at a very young age.

There are actually people who want to look like Barbie. In Holland we even have a reality tv show, about a dutch woman, who calls herself Barbie and looks like…..well a Barbie. She is famous because she wants to be a real life copy of a doll!

Well this is an exception you say? Most people are ‘normal’ right? Well even if this is the case and this ideal is not realistic, somehow in our subconscious we believe that we should strive to achieve this ideal. We are surrounded by magazines, billboards, tv commercials, screaming at us what this ideal should be. There is no escaping. The women on the cover of glossy’s have all been photoshopped and manipulated to show something that isn’t there in real life. Sometimes they almost take away that what makes a person human. They resemble almost something of a doll. We all know that. Rationally we know this. But it leaves us with some sort of strange paradox.

We have some deep internalized notions about beauty, about perfection but when you look into a mirror, you see that you cannot live up to that expectation. But some people do feel some sort of let down, when they look into that mirror.  To me that is crazy!

So this is where my idea came from, about making Barbie a less unrealistic creature. To use photoshop to make the super model of all super models a little less perfect instead of achieving perfection. To do the opposite of what people use photoshop for. I made her a bit more flawed, gave her some ‘real emotions’. That way the ideal, becomes perhaps less ideal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Camera secrets: how to photograph a reflective surface?

Suppose you want to photograph an object that is a mirror of some sorts?  Especially metallic objects that are curved, like a chrome vase, are hard to photograph. See the next example:

fig.1 picture of a chrome vase

This is a picture of vase that I took,  that actually reflects the complete surroundings of the studio, but you don’t see it. So what’s the trick?

 

The trick:

There are two ways you can do this:

  1. 1. Use photoshop
  2. 2. Use a technical camera

No photoshopping this time!

For this picture I’ve used a technical camera. This is a special camera that allows you to change the plane of focus or perspective. You can move the front and back side of the camera independent from each other. It’s called rise, fall and shift. You can also change the angle of the front and back sides of the camera. This is called, tilt and swing. What is does is that

fig2: a technical camera

First you need a totally dark studio. So that the vase is only reflecting darkness, or (almost) pure black. When you place the lights and the reflection screens, it will only reflect these and of course the camera and photographer. Next thing you do is wear black clothes, so you’ll blend in with the dark surroundings. I didn’t go so far to out to put on a black forage cap. But if you’re really into it, you can do that 😉

So now the vase is reflecting a white screen on the left side. On the right side of the vase there is no light. The further you go to the right, the light gradually reduces strength and it  turns to black. From behind I placed a rim light to accentuate the shape of the vase.

If I would use a ‘normal’ dslr camera, than I would see myself and my camera exactly in the middle of the vase. No matter from what angle I will take the picture, I will always see myself reflected in the middle of it, because the vase has a sphere like shape at the base. Here’s where the ethnical camera comes in. It has a neat little trick.

 

You can shift the front side of the camera, so that the perspective changes:

 

In doing so, I can shift the reflection of myself and the camera to the right, in the dark parts of the vase. Because I’m wearing black clothes you won’t see me reflected!

 

 

Please give me your comments..

 

 

 

Graduation at the Photo Academy

Finally! I have graduated, after four years of study, at the Photo Academy in The Netherlands!

When I started out,  I didn’t exactly know what to expect? Not only what to expect from the Photo Academy, but also what to expect from myself. Looking back at these four years, I can say that what I’ve learned the most is, who I am. Especially when you are creating images that in fact don’t exist in reality, but start out as an idea in your head, questioning eventually where these ideas come from. What is the source of imagination? What is it that drives you? Why do you need to create images? What is important enough to convey to the audience? And why should they care about what you have to say (or don’t say for that matter). To answer those questions you really have to look inside.

I think that was the hardest part during the education. Slowly trying to reveal parts of yourself through photography in the hope that people will like and understand it. In a certain way, you are exposed to the opinions and critique of others. You are showing your heart and yes sometimes it hurts when people don’t like it. But it is the only way to grow. You have to make your heart strong and expose more of yourself. So although I have finished my education, I don’t think I have finished learning and exploring.

On this site I will continue sharing my images with you. I hope that you will like it. So feel free to to share your thoughts and comments with me on this site.

 

 

Light

It would seem appropriate to start this blog with a post where I’m showing my first ‘serious’ picture. It was also my first assignment in my first year at the Photo Academy.

Until then I took pictures for fun like sunsets, landscapes, my family and of course my pet cat! Actually I’m still taking photos of my cat, but that’s another story for another post. But now I had to photograph something that had a so called ‘theme’. And the theme of the assignment was ‘light’. I had to take pictures of light?

Well if you think about it, it’s rather ridiculous! How can you take pictures of something you can not actually see? Sure, if you turn on the light in a dark room for example, you can actually see the objects that are in the room, but light itself? You can see a chair because light bounces off it and reflects into your eye. But how can you catch something on film (or more likely a sensor) that has no visible property by itself?

I had to resort to something more symbolic. I came up with a more spiritual solution: “The light of God”. I would take a photo of a crucifix that was enlightened by the power of the divine.

If you look at the picture you can see a floating crucifix above a ‘bible’. In fact it’s not a bible at all, because I did’t own one at the time. Instead I took an encyclopedia, and placed it beneath the crucifix which I had stuck with velcro tape on the wall.

Most people think this picture is photoshopped, but it was not (sure I tweaked it a little, with some levels adjustments), instead I used a flashlight to light the scene and everything was done in one take. It took me about 20 attempts to ‘paint’ the scene correctly. And here’s the result.