Studio Work

As you might know, I photograph much more outside than inside. I usually like to go “out in the field”, witness, and record the subtleties of the world through my camera. Sometimes, though, the subtleties can’t be captured as they are because conditions of the field make it hard to take compelling photos. Conditions like wind can shake flowers that require a long exposure or tie a woman’s hair into knots. In the cases that field conditions would lessen photo quality, I’ve used studio environments.

Studio work can be defined as any type of photography that is done in a controlled setting. It can literally mean taking pictures in a studio, where you have lighting and backdrops amongst other equipment, or can mean your kitchen counter, where you have a tripod and plenty of available light.

This post is a taste of some of the shots I’ve taken in a studio environment.

First up is a series of shots I took of some beautiful orchids from my good friend’s wedding in May. She had these flowers placed at every table in the wedding reception. After the reception was over, her mom gave me a pot of these flowers to give to my mom. But… I got lazy and that never happened. I did get a chance to set up my camera and get some really close macro shots, though :).

Now the first thing you might ask when seeing these pictures is if these flowers’ colors are real. They were dyed teal and purple — a fantastic combo if you ask me. The color is not the only thing that made these flowers cool: to me its texturous petals and shiny stamens were really beautiful.

This first one focuses on the stamen, leaving the rest of the flower blurred out. To get really close for these shots, I used a 100mm macro lens with Kenko extension tubes. I used a tripod and long exposures (generally about 2 seconds) for each of these shots. I also stopped down quite a bit (from f/5.6 to f/18) because depth of field is really short on a macro lens.

Macro Orchid
Orchid with stamen in focus (click for larger version or purchase)
This next one, I placed the tripod a bit further back to get a little more of the surrounding petals. I also placed a pink flower in the background to get a nice contrast of teal, purple, and pink.

Macro Orchid
Orchid with stamen in focus (click for larger version or purchase)
In the next shot, I focused on the texture of the petal, leaving the stamen blurred out.

Macro Orchid
Orchid with petal in focus (click for larger version or purchase)
Here’s a different view, with a red flower as the backdrop:

Macro Orchid
Orchid from another angle (click for larger version or purchase)
Here’s another view, with mostly a mostly teal look:

Macro Orchid
Orchid from yet another angle (click for larger version or purchase)
In this last shot, I stopped down to f/18 to get as much of the flower in focus as possible. I also used a solid color background so I could delete it in Photoshop:

Macro Orchid
Fully focused orchid with a white background (click for larger version or purchase)
I find the stamen to be quite a really interesting subject to photograph. Its shiny texture isn’t really evident until you get up really close and personal… nevermind that it’s a sexual organ!!! Here’s another shot of a cool stamen from one of my mom’s flowers. I blurred out the carpels to make the stamen really stand out. I took this one using available light in my parents’ breakfast room and a tripod:

Macro Orchid
Stamen with carpels blurred out (click for larger version or purchase)
Back in April, as a gift from my good friend, I took a studio lighting course. During that course, we photographed several objects using available light, studio light, mirrors, and other props. The coolest thing I learned during the session is how to “paint with light”. The concept was embarrassingly simple and I was surprised I’d never thought of it!

Cameras use long exposures to gradually pull light into its iris, building the photo slowly as the image is bounced back. The concept of “painting with light” involves directing light (like from a flashlight) onto a subject as the camera’s shutter remains opened. You control the light like a paintbrush, selectively highlighting areas you think will be interesting. When the camera’s shutter closes, it records the light you shined in the path you shined it. To do this, the camera’s aperature should stay relatively open so that it remains sensitive to the light you shine on the subject.

Using this concept, I “painted” light using a flashlight onto this statue’s eyes. leaving dark the rest of its face:

Macro Orchid
Painting with light (click for larger version or purchase)
It was definitely a fun learning experience. I would encourage anyone with an interest in photography to try it.

Now I don’t want to leave you with the impression that I only shoot inanimate objects in the studio!!

During the studio lighting course, I also had a chance to photograph a model in the DC area.  Also, last year I visited the DC Carriage House studio and a took a few of another DC model, Joy Hodges. Here is a couple from those shoots:

Joy Hodges
Joy Hodges
Joy Hodges
It was definitely fun to shoot glamour shots with both of these models. I think glamour photography leaves a lot of room for creativity and emotion, so it’s something I want to get more into. Look for collaboration soon with Pallavi Sharma.

There are all sorts of different types of studio photography, some of which I’ve talked about here. It’s a different genre than most of my work, but a compelling one to me nonetheless. It’s in a studio where you can really “create” your own shot instead of “recording” what you see. It takes much more discipline and skill to master as well. I hope to do more studio work in the future, as my love affair with photography continues…

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