I needed help. My professional photographer retired and I needed new photos of my work. I've always felt that professional pictures, like a professional resume are needed basics. I also realize that times have changed. Social media doesn't necessarily require pro photos so taking them on my phone works just fine. But they're not the high quality needed for shows or websites. I knew it was time to learn to do this on my own, but I didn't know how or where to start.
Thanks to artist friend, Michelle Gallagher, I learned.
First, I found out how to set up a portable photo studio. You can order these online in several sizes. Michelle's is a 16" cube. I ordered the 24" cube. These come with lights, background inserts and it all folds up into a black bag for storage. Once you get the background and lights set up, it's time to shoot.
Shooting isn't hard.
Having a tripod, digital camera with a timer and zoom is necessary. Michelle has a Nikon. Hers is simple and easy to use. Michelle showed me how important it is to use a timer, something I wouldn't have figured out. Using a timer helps her keep the picture sharp and focused. She can set it all up, hit the timer button and step away, letting the camera do the work. The tripod allows you to change the angle of the shot, tilting and panning as necessary without moving your work around.
Lighting is key.
Having the lights set up to produce the right shadows, keep the hot spots to a minimum and give an accurate picture of your piece is essential. Personally, I think lighting is 95% of the job and the only thing that done poorly results in photography that looks unprofessional. So I was particularly worried about this step in the process.
Again, Michelle had figured out a space and a way to set up her lights in her basement studio that really worked. And it's a simple set up that she can use without too much hassle. She uses an existing fluorescent fixture behind her photo box and has several incandescent lights nearby giving her nice, ambient lighting. The key here is her clip light covered with a theater diffuser that angles down onto the photo set up. This overhead light really does a great job of lighting the pieces and casting the 'right' shadows.
Instead of competition, camaraderie. Or how I got by with a little help from my friend.
We all want to do our best, get into shows, sell and exhibit. But in the rush to succeed, we can, sometimes, let competition get in the way of community and camaraderie. I believe that the best art comes from the heart and to be true to that on all levels can be challenging. Artists begin to look at each other and their work as players on an opposing team instead of a community of like-minded souls.
Spending the morning with Michelle in her studio, learning about photography and sharing our work, showed me not only the art of photography, but the art of friendship as well.