The Power of Simplicity

April 08, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Simplicity. In the age of digital cameras and photo editing software it is easier than ever to create high quality images. One of the advantages of this digital arsenal is the ability to modify the original image. This is indeed a powerful tool and I use it often when correcting a defect in a product I am photographing. The sample I am supplied by the client may have a nick in it from manufacturing. Many times I need to clean up dust or dirt on the set or remove fingerprints from over handling. Years ago, I would need to retouch a negative by hand with a brush and dye to correct these problems. Today editing software, such as Adobe Photoshop, makes this clean up as simple as a few mouse clicks.

As powerful as these tools are, you can start down a slippery slope when you start to lean a little to heavy on them. It is very easy to get lulled into "Fix it in Post" syndrome. The term is used in the film/video industry and is thrown around like a Frisbee on a college campus during production when the crew cannot get the exact shot they are looking for. It could be problems with the lighting, audio issues, or failure of talent to deliver lines properly. After a half dozen takes someone eventually looks at a clock, the producer rolls their eyes, and those four little words are spoken. "Fix it in post!" The problem with this solution is that over time it can lead to sloppiness in technique. Tight schedules, budgets, and fatigue can cause corners to be cut putting pressure on editors to correct these defects. It's true that you may be able to fix many problems when editing images, but it takes time, and time is money. A firm grasp of photographic skills and thoughtful process when in production can save hours of work during editing.

 

The photo below is a very good example of simplicity in the production of an image that produced excellent results right out of the camera with very little processing.

This task at hand was to photograph a computer video card and produce an eye catching image under a tight timeline. This image looks as if it was layered on top of a background image, but it is actually set and shot in one frame. I simply took one of the honeycomb light modifiers sandwiched a blue filter in it and placed it on a flash. I then placed the video card on top of the flash. A directional key light illuminates the board from the left of frame. exposure was calculated and photos taken. Because the image was created in the camera the image could be turned around to the client in a matter of minutes. Some of my commercial work is shot, edited and delivered on location by end of day.

 

The goal was to capture an image of a video card with a background that felt bold and high tech. One way a photographer could go about accomplishing this is using software and post processing a foreground and background image to create a final image. In this particular situation, I wanted to quickly capture and deliver this photo. My solution was to go old school and do what I call "building the image in the box." This refers to creating the finished image in the camera, no post processing gymnastics. To do this, I grabbed an 8-inch honeycomb lighting grid and a blue filter that I had in my camera bag and placed it on top of a studio flash. I placed the flash flat on a table and stacked some business cards on top to get separation and then laid the video card on top of the cards. A large soft box was used as a key light coming from the left of frame and a small reflector on the right just slightly opened up the shadows. This captured the image needed . I then added applied some sharpening and color balance.

Creativity. Sometimes it's the simple things that count.


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