Getting Your Drive to Photograph Back – Fighting the Quarantine Blues

In times like this it can be hard to find your artistic inspiration

It’s the late Spring of 2020 – Covid-19 is still gripping the world and everyone is trying to cope with a new reality where maintaining healthy business and personal relationships amid all of the distancing can be challenging. 

No two people are alike, and while some might find themselves thriving in strange times like these, others may be having a hard time even getting out of bed in the morning. For me personally, I was strangely invigorated at the start of the pandemic; it’s a weird feeling to live in a moment that you know will earn a very large place in modern history. However, as the days turned to weeks turned to months, the novelty wore off and I found myself emotionally stepping away from the activities that used to stimulate me. Instead, I played a lot of video games, watched a lot of YouTube, and quite honestly spent a lot of time bummed out by that fact that I couldn’t get inspired. 

Inspiration Is A Funny Thing

Inspiration can sneak up on you, it can abandon you, it doesn’t always answer the door when you knock, sometimes you can access it on demand, but other times it’s no where to be seen. For me, personally, as an artist, being inspired is the difference between being energized and excited versus being bored and defeated — and that’s how I was feeling, defeated, robbed of my artistic excitement. I had to really take a few days and ponder what it might take to snap me out of the funk and decided that often, when I was working with a client, the challenges of their projects would often give me the fuel I needed to find inspiration.  I love design challenges and while it’s not always a 100% chance that any given project is going to inspire me, I realized I needed to give it a shot. Only this time, I was going to give myself the project in an attempt to get my artistic motivation back on track.

I resolved to give myself a project that I would be normally excited for: A tech-based product shoot. I looked around my office at the multitude of gadgets surrounding me and quickly found some old hard-drives that had been wiped cleaned. I’ve never opened a hard drive before, and since I am a curious-type person, I quickly got excited at the idea of lifting the lid off of one of these old drives and then photographing the exposed bits.

After removing 5 screws and uncovering the disks or, “Platters”, as they are known, I then spent the next few hours crafting the composition and lighting until I finally had a picture I was genuinely excited with. I mean, I know it may sound silly, but just having a picture I was proud of really awakened my creativity and gave me a strong incentive to keep going. A few days later I was on a job that spanned 3 days of portraits in over 8 different locations, still carrying the enthusiast with me that I had found with that one hard drive photo back in my studio.  As I finish this blog post I am preparing to go back out and scout 3 locations for another portrait project, excited to have reconnected with my have my creativity.

Benjamin Lehman is a Commercial Photographer in the Cleveland, Akron, Canton and North East Ohio Area. 

Fun With Macro

Fun With Macro

A macro lens is any lens that allows you get in close to your subject and pick up fine details that might have otherwise be hard to see. Macro lenses are great for photographing things such as a flowers, insects, or other small objects. The world of macro is unique because of that up-close perspective it gives the viewer. It’s been stated that a great photo will let someone see something they’ve never seen before, and macros are purpose built for that very function. Even though a macro lens’ main goal may be close ups, they often make great portrait lenses as well since they usually come in focal lengths popular with portrait photographers, such 50, 85 and 100mm. 

The pictures below are from a recent online course (you can watch for free at twitch.tv/warriorbeatorg) where we explored some of the more common uses of macro lenses. We also got into some intermediate flash lighting. 

Don’t hesitate to begin exploring macro photography! You can buy cameras and macro capable lenses for fairly cheap, and while any hobby can get expensive fast, you can actually start taking macro photos for relatively cheap!

Watch us Live on Twitch.Tv/Warriorbeatorg

Watch Benjamin Lehman Photography on Twitch!

We’ve teamed up with Warrior Beat, a non-profit that works with veterans suffering from PTSD, Anxiety, Stress, Depression, and other mental and physical ailments, to add photography and #ArtTherapy to their already impressive streaming line up that consists of drumming therapy and meditation. Benjamin Lehman Photography streams on the channel 3 to 4 times a week and usually can be found around 3pm EST.

Do Warrior Beat a favor and sign up for twitch and give them a follow – it’s free!

Exposure Triangle

While recently hosting a new online photography art therapy class (which you can watch at twitch.tv/warriorbeatorg!) we ran across this amazing Exposure Value Simulator via dima.fi.

It really helps explains the relation between shutter speed, aperture and ISO. I suggest you give it a try!

Stacked and Layered Photos – How to Composite Multiple Photos Together To Make One Image

Stacked and Layered Photos - How to Composite Multiple Photos Together To Make One Image

I’ve wanted to write this post for some time now. This is a very straight forward technique that only requires a little thought and pre-planning to pull off, but the results could save you a lot of time on location as well as money that would otherwise be spent on gear.

A composite is a picture that is crafted from elements from multiple sources, usually other photographs. The pros of compositing is that you can use small amount of gear to achieve a final product that looks like it involved a much larger production. For instance, you can take one light and position it in 5 different locations, taking a photograph each time you move the light and then use tricky compositing techniques to craft a final image that appears to have 5 separate lights in it. Make sense?

Let’s use some examples from a recent job I did for B-Tek – a high impact, heavy load scale manufacturer. They had a massive scale that weighed several thousand pounds at least that they needed photos for. After doing a quick location scout I realized their warehouse would make a great backdrop for our photo. The trick was how to make the product stand out from the busy warehouse, but also craft the background into something that was pleasing and helped tell the industrial-strength nature of their product. It would take 20 lights, at least, to pull this off. That investment in lights would be many thousands of dollars and is just not feasible for me. So, instead of relying on 20 different lights we just take 20 different pictures, moving the light between each picture,  and edit them together in a manner that recreates the use of multiple light sources. 

The photos below illustrate a few examples of how I move the light between each take. 

The process here is pretty straight forward – Light the subject and location as you would if you had 20 or so lights, only do it one photo at a time. Take care to note what you’re lighting and make sure you’ve got everything covered by the time you’re done. In some cases you can fake it back in Photoshop if you missed one light position, but it’s better to get right during the shoot rather than try to recreate something you’ve missed.

The next step is to open all of your images as a stack in Photoshop. “Stack”, is a term used by Photoshop in its File menu, but what you are actually doing here is opening all of these images and putting them on separate layers inside of one document. The next part of this technique is to use the mask tool on the various layers so you are only keeping the parts you want visible. The idea is to keep all of the good parts and, as a whole, create a single, coherent photo. This step can be hard to pull off on the first try and we’re not going to get into the nuts-n-bolts of Photoshop masks since there are great tutorials out there (like this one from Phlearn) but the concept is to only keep the parts of each layer that you’ve purposely lit with your flash and discard the rest. Here is a very simplified animation I created to show you the key process of stacking. 

Yes, this animation glosses over all of the masking needed to pull off the final image, but I think it’s important to see the idea of multiple layers in action since it will be those individual layers that will allow you to make your final composite. Once you’ve finished masking you’re almost all set. What’s left are the final tweaks, such as color correction, spot removal, product beautifying, and over all clean-up.  In our case, here’s the final image we created.

In the end, this technique worked great for the shoot and the client was thrilled – and that is always the best part!

 

Benjamin Lehman is a commercial photographer in the Cleveland, Akron, Canton and North East Ohio area.