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 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!

From the vault: Impossible figures

I thought it might be nice to show some experiments and other stuff ‘from the vault’ that actually I didn’t intend to show. But on the other hand….what the heck?

This one is an oldie! I’ve always been impressed by Escher. So one day I decided to try to base one my photo’s on his impossible figures. And here’s the result:

 

You can see on the wall the original Escher painting I was trying to emulate.

Perhaps I will incorporate some Escher impossible figures into my photography one day, but I’m a bit hesitant, because his style is so well known it will perhaps overshadow the things I’m trying to say. What do you think?

 

 

Michael Freeman’s: The Photographer’s Eye

Michael Freeman is a british photographer who specializes in Asian culture, architecture and archeology. He has worked for major international book publishers and magazines. He has also worked for the Smithsonian Magazine for more than three decades and published more than 40 assignment stories.

Not only is he a well known photographer but he is also a writer and journalist. His books contain photographs of himself, but he also writes on the subject of photography. One of these books is “The Photographer’s Eye” that I will discuss in this blog.

Very often you’ll find books that describe the technical aspects of the camera. Sort of ‘how to use’ books. Things like:

  • What kind of lens should you use
  • The effects of aperture and shutter speed
  • Color balance
  • The use of of camera flash light
  • etc.

 

This is all very useful stuff, but you rarely ever see books that focus on the less technical aspects of photography like for example, composition. It takes more than sharp focus and correct lighting to turn ordinary photographs into something special. So what does it take to take a good photograph? Although this is a question that cannot be answered so easily, if it can be answered at all, Michael Freeman does a good job in describing the basic principles of good composition. He gives insights into:

  • How to frame the image
  • Design principles like balance and tension in the framing
  • Viewing lines
  • Rhythm in the image
  • Color in composition
  • Perspective and depth
  • Intention of a photograph

The book tells you how to take better photographs. A framework of composition ideas if you will, that you can use to your own liking. These aren’t hard rules or anything, but it will make your understanding of what makes a picture work, larger. There’s also a chapter dedicated to the process in taking pictures, with cases studies.

 

I think this book fills a gap on the market and is a very good step into taking good photographs.

The only thing I was missing was how compositional rules contribute to the ideas that you want to communicate. A technically correct picture is a beginning, a good composition makes the photograph more powerful. But a photograph that conveys a specific idea or concept takes photography to another level. Perhaps I will save this subject for another blog, but in the meantime, I would like to know what you think that makes a good photograph?

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..