SMOKE & MIRRORS | ADVERTISING PHOTOGRAPHY DIRTY SECRETS
Having begun my career within the film industry, the term smoke and mirrors was very common to me. Filmmakers aim to have audiences suspend their disbelief and become engrossed within the plot and, these days, visual effects of a production. They don’t concern themselves with how this is accomplished, only that it is. Does it matter that millions of pounds go into the production of astounding visual effects to assist them in “selling” their narrative? No. All that matters is that the audience can accept what they see and become engrossed in the world of the film. I apply the same principle to my advertising photography.
Within this article I’m going to cover a few things. Firstly, is there anything wrong with utilising post-production to produce your final image? Secondly, I consider myself to be a Digital Artist, not a Photographer, what does that mean? Finally, I’ll be briefly touching upon the creation of one of my latest images which encapsulates both of these concepts. Pay close attention here, this still life photography tip is invaluable.
INTRODUCING A PHOTOGRAPHERS SMOKE AND MIRRORS, AKA PHOTOSHOP
I often see photographers looking down on any image which has been heavily manipulated. I think for most professionals this is a given but amateurs are more likely to think differently. Perhaps it’s rooted in the misunderstanding that in the days of film very little manipulation occurred. As such, photography was purer. On the one hand I can understand this argument, however, a huge amount of manipulation was regularly performed in the dark room. The only difference today is that those manipulations have become easier and more possibilities have been added.
As an Advertising photographer all I want to do is create the best possible image. I don’t care how I get there; CGI, Photoshop, in-camera-trickery, whatever. If you’re aim is to become a world-class advertising photographer then you may also have to adopt this mentality.
I challenge you to look over the portfolios of leading advertising photographers and show me any image which has not been manipulated. It didn’t happen in the days of film and it doesn’t happen now. I see myself as having a few aims; represent the product accurately, display the product at its best, and amaze the viewer. Accomplishing all of those is often not possible without post production.
WHAT IS A DIGITAL ARTIST? YOU MIGHT BE ONE TOO
In my eyes, (bear in mind this is how I see it, you may be different) I am not a “typical” photographer. In all honesty, I’m not precisely sure what the term means anymore. By definition, I create images with the use of a camera, but does that make me a photographer? Some days, yes. Some days, I create images in which, while the camera is the linchpin to the project, the majority of the final image is created in Photoshop. In those instances, I no longer see myself as a photographer, I see myself as a Digital Artist. You know what though, who cares? Undoubtedly some out there do and that’s fine. For me, all I concern myself with is creating imagery which astounds. That makes people say “wow! How did you do that?”. Call me a Photographer, call me a Digital Artist, it doesn’t matter.
The real issue I see is when still life photographers limit themselves due to a misguided notion that they are not being true to the photograph. Without question, that concept is applicable in many areas of photography; journalism for example. I cannot, however, apply the same logic to my art. If the ultimate aim is to amaze the viewer and sell the product then I will utilize every tool at my disposal to get the job done. If a photographer in days past found a particular film stock which came to define their style, would they concern themselves that this piece of technology “made” their style? No, so long as they had the tools to create their art why would they care. Art is not about being constrained.
STILL LIFE PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS | THE CREATION OF DIGITAL ART
The Bombay Sapphire image you have seen throughout this article encapsulates this concept perfectly. I would not have been able to create it without the assistance of digital editing tools, such as Photoshop. Should I have limited myself as an artist and not created the image? Or should I have learnt the necessary skills and produced the image I had in my mind? It may be controversial to say but much of the negativity I see online seems to stem from jealousy. I get that. You try VERY hard to produce an image you’re proud of and then you see another photo, which gets more attention, and become enraged as you cannot produce that with the skills you have. The solution? Learn those skills.
The final Bombay Sapphire image was created using a series of photographs for the bottle, I often use this technique and have actually made a video on it, find it here. There were then six main images used to craft the splashes and many others used to insert droplets. All of this was photographed separately and then comped together (combined) inside Photoshop to produce the final photo. A crucial tip to take note of when producing this sort of advertising photography is to understand shadows and colour. It’s these which will sell an image and allow your audience to suspend their disbelief.
There is no denying that this sort of photography (or digital art) is complicated to accomplish. Trust me, just because Photoshop is used does not make this easy. If you’d like to learn more about compositing be sure to watch this video, click here.
I did not intend this article to be a photography rant but it does seem to have become one. In my opinion, and this is only my opinion, an artist can use whatever tools are available to them, it’s up to them to decide whether they should. For me, the final image is what matters and I don’t care how I get there. Others may think the opposite, I don’t understand them but each to their own.
If this type of photography interests you then be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel. The channel is aimed toward assisting still life photographers to produce the best images possible. The concepts covered will not be basic but they will transform your photography. You can subscribe by clicking here.