Clearstory Studios art photography sample photographs


Technical Notes:   The centrally featured large agate in this necklace pendant by David Baird presents some of the problems encountered with photographing translucent materials that we discussed regarding Henri Begou's glass perfume bottle. However, here - because the stone is a relatively flat surface in one plane - we have more control over unwanted highlights. As this piece needed to be photographed with three different light sources in order to capture the many varied aspects and qualities of the artwork, a background of pure black velvet was chosen.

Black velvet has the wonderful magic of both absorbing all light without reflection and allowing no shadows to appear on its surface. If any other background were used, without extensive manipulation, the varying shadows from the three different lights would likely appear unnatural to the eye as well as distracting to the piece itself. Black velvet as a background also makes a very bold statement - the artwork "jumps out" at you, is clearly defined and colorful objects tend to appear much more saturated in hue.

For photography, the object was placed several feet in front of the velvet background in order for a honeycomb spot-type light to be placed behind it to illumine the agate from behind, yet at an angle so as to not cause flare in the lens of the camera. The intensity of this light was proportioned to illuminate the interior colors and markings of the stone and to give it a luminous appearance without too much of a "glow" for this subtle piece.

Because of the detailed etching in the silver on the front of the piece, as well as the interesting application and juxtaposition of the different metals and the joining of their layers, a bright specular (from a small source, creating a harsh light, rather than from a large source, creating a diffuse light) spotlight was cast at a steep angle across the front to emphasize the texture and depth of the etching. It also created very bright but narrow highlights on the edges the metal, such as the brass bezel, the area where the silver meets the copper, and along the wire of the stand.

These kind of highlights and shadows can produce dramatic effects in lightly sculptured pieces, bas-reliefs and even detailed fabric pieces. In this case, it certainly made the "metallic" character of the piece noticable. A third light from behind the camera acted as a diffuse "fill" light, to capture all the surfaces of the form, to soften the harshness of the shadows to a moderate degree, and to give enough overall even illumination to portray the embellished colors of the different materials. The slight underexposure of the whole piece provided added contrast between its different materials and a rich saturation of color, which is often hard to achieve with brass and copper.

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