Monday, 28 December 2009

Behind a bead photo

When I wrote a (not so) short article on the history of pearl fishing in Sweden for my bead blog, I was in need of a good photo or two to go with it. At that point I hadn't found the two illustrations I ended up using together with my own photo so I felt I needed to do something myself.

Normally I try to stick to KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) when I photograph my beads. Not least since dropping my camera twice or trice has made it a tad... unreliable. And grainy -- thank the gods for NeatImage. I can't take great shots with it so when keeping it simple I can at least try to focus on getting a sharp image and a decent white background.

This time I was going to take photos on white pearls so a white background wasn't ideal. Blue is not my favourite colour, but it was the right colour to symbolize water, the rivers where the freshwater pearl mussels are found. My preferred background, when not using white, is a sheet selected from my collection of decorative papers, originally used in scrapbooking. I found two useful papers in the right colours: a small turquoise paper with a worn painted look and a more dramatic, darker paper with writings and woman on it.

At first, I felt the paper with writings was a better choice as it had a background, which felt more like flowing water. The faux paint on the small piece of paper felt too "dry". But when I placed my tiny Chinese freshwater pearls on it, the text drew attention away from the pearls. It was too noisy, using such a background with small beads. I just had to settle with the paint.

My first shots was taken from above, which was a good way to show off all the pearls, but at the same time made the photo flat and boring. So I did what I always do if the bird's eye view fails: get down to the same level as the items in front om me. Of cause, this means I will have to use a second paper as background or there will be a line between the paper on the table and the side of my "light tent". Don't ask how I learnt that... The turquoise paper wasn't big enough to cover all of the space my camera would capture. So I took my only other blue/turquoise paper and stuck it under and behind the tiny scrap I put my pearls on.

And thanks to the macro setting, the motifs on that paper was blurred in a very effectful way. The writing no longer drew attention from the focal point, the pearls, but added an atmosphere. With a bit of fantasy, the background looks like a landscape painting, a stormy sky. Turquoise and blue meets tones of umber, ochre, sienna, and sepia. Just like in nature.

So in the end, I was pretty pleased with using the papers eventhough they didn't feel or look right when I first held them in my hands. The rest of the process leading up to the finished photo is the usual: taken about a dozen photos in different angles, editing colours, testing different ways of cropping it for the best proportions.

Since then I've only tried a similar thing once, but not with the same result. This was mainly because of a bigger contrast between a paper without any motifs, texture or colour varition and a paper with large flower motifs. I did not get the same abstract background this time and the two papers did not blend at a "horizon". And the flowers on the beads face the wrong directions as well. And the red paper isn't flat, causing the line between the papers to curve. But at least I got a very warm photo with strong, vibrant colours.

I need to experiment much more before I can be sure to succeed with this mixing of papers every photo session... Perhaps a good excuse to go shopping? I need more papers that I can combine.

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