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 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beyond Photography

A change is gonna come!

Photography is easy. No really…..I actually think that taking photographs is one of the most easy things to do. You point your camera (or phone) at a person/ object and push the button. That’s it! And you have an instant piece of reality frozen in time, at your disposal. Upload it to your social media of choice and you even have an audience of potentially millions of people. Peace of cake! My grandmother could do it, without any training. Well if she still would be alive that is. Actually billions of people do this on a daily base.

Hhhmmmmm…there must be a catch right?

Well what if you want to take pictures of ‘things’ that don’t exist. That only float around as a rudimentary vision in your brain? Where do you point your camera at? When are you going to press the button? When is the elusive decisive moment?

There is still some mystery left in this world and if you look carefully there is also some amazement to be experienced. But you have to look beyond the photograph as a document. Now that’s hard! To unveil a piece of (un)reality that you cannot take for granted. But still, there are some photographers who actually do just this.

This is where the book “Beyond Photography” comes in.

This book is a summary of 42 photographers in the Netherlands and Belgium who embrace imaginative photography for the last thirty years. It counts 280 pages and the book also contains four essays that discuss the theme “beyond photography”.  The limits of photography are being examined and stretched. The result are images that reach beyond the pure photographical. It’s a must read!

To me this book is rather special, because there are a whole lot of books that discuss documentary photography, but almost none that deal with imaginative photography. I think it’s time for something new.

Wait…can you hear that? Listen carefully…. a change is gonna come.

 

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..