A music festival on an island in a resort. Little can be said to describe what this festival really means to the people who've attended. I decided this year to take time out from working as I usually do at festivals and instead only take images when the mood strikes. I've gathered the best to show you, I encourage you to experience it for yourself next year.
I posted a few weeks ago about a project I had worked on shooting liquor bottles for a local company. I really enjoyed the shoot and I really like the images that came out of it. I'm not one to follow trends necessarily, but I am definitely a photographer that loves to learn, improve, and always try something new and/or different. I had investigated the "best way" to shoot bottles before I even began the 2bar bottle project, but none of them had the feel I was going for. I wanted a white background, sharp, bright label, beautiful color on the bourbon bottle ( no concern about color with the vodka and moonshine), and a nice soft light defining the edges of the glass to give it dimensionality. I know there are other ways to go about it than what I did, but there's not a lot out there of a white background for bottles.
What I did find a lot was the sexy look, a lot of it. A black background, dark surroundings, and light reflected through and around the bottle. I totally get it, alcohol and sex (or at least "sexiness") go hand in hand about 80% of the time (the rest is stylized like a wine bottle at a picnic... which I wouldn't mind taking on in the future!). So, I thought I'd give it a whirl. I don't have the biggest lighting set up, and a lot of what I do right now is DIY, but that's sort of the fun of it. Don't get me wrong, if I could go out today and get a two strobe mobile kit from Bronocolor I would, but that's just not an option for most of us. Instead I have a few continuous light sources (bulbs that are on all the time instead of a strobe light that flashes when I shoot), a lot of random stuff in my house, a reflector, one Alien Bee strobe and Speedlight. I hacked my way into a lighting scenario that would glow through my bottle of bourbon whiskey, add a defining line down either side of the bottle, and throw some light on the label to give it some extra umph. When I was done, there was some post processing needed like the label could use a bit more defining light, I didn't have enough light sources to add the light line down both sides so I borrowed from the light I did create, I got rid of all the noise and extraneous color around the bottle and in the neck and brightened the color a little. Photoshop isn't involved in my every day work so it took a little doing, but accomplished what I was looking for...
In case you're curious what wonky setup I used to create this image, I took a quick shot of the environment. To start off, it was night... which made it easier to create that dark sexy look. I also used a small black glass table to set it on to get that nice reflection. You can also use black plexiglas, but I already had the table... so why not. Then I used a continuous clip light with a piece of paper taped over it as a diffuser shining through the back of the bottle to make it glow with that gorgeous amber color. To give the side of the bottle some dimensionality and definition in the dark I added a glow to the right side with another clip light (also diffused with a piece of paper). For a key light I had my Alien Bee strobe (not pictured) behind my left shoulder and a Speedlight on my camera bouncing off my porch roof for fill light. To remove some weird light reflection on the left side of the bottle I added a piece of folded paper to the right. In hindsight I would have preferred a black piece of foam core in the back but instead I used a dark sheet hanging on my reflector clipped to a light stand. I wanted to have something for the back light to bounce off of to add an extra element of dimension. I ended up just scrapping that idea and blacking out the background.
I really love what I ended up with. Bottles are one of the most difficult things to light and shoot well, so this was definitely a great challenge. I can't wait to hack my way through the next lighting adventure.
One of the best pieces of advice I've gotten (from many photographers I know and respect) is "find your niche". When you find your style or the type of photography that really brings you joy, one day you just say "yes, this is IT" and you'll be well on your way to a solid career in photography. I say that with a little tongue in cheek of course, because a lot of things contribute to a successful business, but all other things being equal, it's an important part of satisfaction and success.
If you're now asking "Ok, now how do I figure that out?"... you're not alone. It might come down to asking yourself two questions: "What do I love?" and "What do I do really well?". If there is one or two types that overlap in your responses, that's where you should lean. It doesn't mean you have to *only* do that type of photography. As a matter of fact, if you're just starting out take every opportunity offered to you. The amazing Seattle-based portrait photographer John Keatley confirmed for me at a recent workshop that you need to focus your energies to what you love most. If your personal work reflects what you love, clients will start hiring you to do that work. Then, work won't feel so much like... work, but more like a fun personal project you get paid for. Now that's the dream.
It took me a while to realize where I wanted to go... I thought everyone telling me to fixate on one or two categories was crazy. Why would I limit the jobs that I'll take or work I do? Doesn't that seem counter-intuitive? In a general sense, it might seem that way but when you start to focus, you'll build a beautiful portfolio and expertise in that style so when someone asks "Who is a great _______ photographer?" then your name will come up without hesitation. It takes time, no two ways about it; we're talking at least a year or two if not more to build up that reputation, but it's worth it. We got in this business because we love it. Art is not necessarily a money-making business, but it can be. You can be successful and happy, no really it's true. It just takes drive and a desire to share with the world and capture the beauty in what's around you whether it's people, hidden mysteries, or the most amazing plate of gnocchi you've ever seen. It sounds so very cheesy, but find your happiness and success will find you. Have patience and tenacity; it will find you.
John Keatley is an amazing speaker and started a 3-day workshop that is more than worth splurging on. He's also a great human, I recommend getting to know him and his work.