Tale of Two Perfumes, Part 1

The assignment was to photograph perfume for a 3 image spring theme magazine spread.

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I have been stretched a whole lot in the last two weeks.  Through frustration, re-done image shots and balancing colors, I believe that I’m growing.   All of this bluster is due to my Project 52 Commercial Photography course.  The assignment was to photograph perfume for a 3 image spring theme magazine spread.  Images needed included a vertical, a horizontal and a square.  All images must present the client’s perfume using the Fragrances of Spring theme.

GloriaMcDonald_Assignment 22

I was due for new perfume so I headed to Ulta to find a nice new scent that would make me happy and that provide me with a full bottle to photograph for my assignment.  The surprise part of this was that only the bottle was in the store to see.  I didn’t have any idea what the cap looked like until I opened the cellophane wrapped box when I got home. What I found was a lid added to the bottle looked like a Marc Jacob’s purse complete with a shiny chain handle.  I bought that scent after squirting some on my wrist.  The scent seemed nice so I got it.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending upon how you look at it, that perfume choice was the wrong one for me on two counts.  First, I didn’t like the dark bottle for a spring layout but as a commercial photographer, one must work with what the client has provided so I used it anyway.  Second, the perfume proved to be far too strong and something in it caused me to feel icky.   I worked for an entire week shooting, re-shooting, using different props and re-arranging lighting before I finally finished the assignment.  I had no idea how hard it is to shoot an image of a bottle of liquid.  Anything shiny must show as shiny but the reflections aren’t good if they show the photographer reflected like in a mirror. The lighting needs to carefully show the edges of the bottles which many times are faceted.  Most important, the letters on the bottle must be very readable and in sharp focus.  So, a week later, I ended up with this image.

I turned this in for my assignment but was far from happy.  It just didn’t feel right and there were two things that stood out that my instructor analyzed during the class.  The bottle on the upper right shows the lettering very clearly.  However, the letters look black instead of the gold that show on the other two images.  It was the way the light and the reflectors hit the bottle but I should have corrected that in post production.   I was so frustrated that I didn’t even notice the gold missing.  The second issue, I knew was there but could not figure out how to fix it.   In the lower right image, there is a reflection that is very white on the outside edge of the bottle.  It looks like a white vertical stripe on the end of the bottle.  That is caused from the reflection from the backlight to the reflector and on to the bottle.  I now know how to fix when I am shooting.  Fixing it in post I found impossible.  All in all I learned a lot but I didn’t feel good about my final image.  Even though technically it was OK other than those two issues, I just didn’t like it.

My assignment was a free shoot.  This means that we can shoot something that we want to shoot, make up any assignments missed or re-shoot something we want to improve.  I chose #3.  Next week, you will see the perfume assignment with an entirely new interpretation, a new bottle and an image that makes me far happier.  I hope you, too, find it more pleasing for a spring layout.  Hope to see you next week.

 

52 Weeks of Commercial Creativity Week 3

Still Life

This was a very difficult assignment for me.  I have never created a still life image in my life.  We had to have a minimum of 5 objects in the image and one of them had to be a flower.  I found a still life isn’t lit like a portrait, and setting it up is different than a portrait.  I wound up switching props over and over, changing lighting, shoot, reshooting, adding more props and reshooting again.  The entire day was gone before I knew it and I still wasn’t happy.

gloriamcdonald_assignment3-final

I finally ended up with the image you see although I recropped it tighter than the one I submitted.  I wasn’t the only one in class who struggled with this assignment. Those of us who are used to photographing people were all in the same boat.   Some of our classmates love shooting food and other still life subjects.  They excel at it, in fact.  For me, getting the composition just right didn’t happen.  I am anxious to have another assignment so that I can improve on it.  I have to be prepared to shoot many different things in the commercial world rather than people only.  I have to be able to meet a commercial clients needs and create their vision.  I have to be able to fit their mold rather than mine.  I love the challenge even though it drove me crazy trying to get that still life right.  Maybe next time I will follow my vision better and make my still life to show drama, elegance and sophistication.  Then I will be headed to the place I belong and my images will make me happy.

Next week, photographing an entrepreneur.  See you than!

 

52 Weeks of Commercial Creativity, Week 2

Week 2 searches for my style and vision.

My Vision StatementDrama, Elegance and Sophistication

Week 2 was a very interesting exercise for me.  I have always been told that when you have created thousands of images, you will develop a style.  I knew what I liked and knew what my clients wanted but I have never had to actually define my style until now.  We were asked to choose the five favorite images we had taken over the years.  Armed with a set of questions to complete, we were to write our vision statement.  As I went through this process and looked at my favorite five, I was shocked to see the similarities among them. Each image was a different female subject, all backgrounds were different, poses were different and some were in color while others were black and white.  The style was definitely the same.  It was just amazing.  It is said that you develop your style by looking back not looking forward at your work.  Now I understand that statement.  I am supposed to keep my vision statement (on the image above) in my mind as I create images.  My vision statement is really just for me, not my clients.  It is what inspires me, what makes my heart sing and what should be visible in each of my images.  As I incorporate my vision, I hope that one day my pictures will be recognizable as mine and stand out in some way so people say, “Gloria McDonald created this image.”

Thanks for reading this.  See you for Week 3, Still Life.

 

52 Weeks of Commercial Creativity

Week 1 of my 52 week journey into commercial photography begins now.

It has been almost a year since I added anything to my blog.  My last post was so deeply moving for me that I just haven’t had the heart to write something new.   I wanted that final tribute to my friend to be what everyone saw.

I think it’s time to update my blog and turn the page.  I have been a working professional photographer since 2004.   During this time, I have continued my photographic education. One of the things I love about photography is that you never get to the end and can always seek a higher level of expertise.  I took a black and white class in the spring and in September I began a 52 week Commercial Photography class called Project 52 (P52).  I hope that you decide to come along for the ride.  This course is going to stretch me as I learn the ins and outs of commercial photography to add to my portraiture work.

Our first assignment was to approach a stranger and photograph them.  There are varied backgrounds and varied levels of photographers in P52 so approaching a stranger was more difficult for some than for others.   This was a fun way to start the year since I’m used to approaching strangers for photography.   I made the image pretending that it was a commercial assignment.  Since I am a portrait photographer, I decided on using her as a model selling cosmetics.  I found my stranger at Ulta so, of course, cosmetics was the perfect fit.  Here is the image that I submitted for assignment #1.

gloriamcdonald_assignment-1

I’ll continue to share my assignments as I have them finished.  The next submission requires me to create my Vision Statement with a picture to illustrate it.  Definitely a challenge!

IT’S A BOY!!!

Ellie has explored every single part of her new son.
Ellie has explored every single part of her new son.

After a long “baby watch”, Ellie finally had her foal sometime yesterday afternoon during a rain storm. Doesn’t that just figure?! I have had the monitor on in the house watching her off and on for 6 weeks and many times got up to check her in the middle of the night. True to the animal world, she had him in her own time and with nobody watching. He is healthy, full of energy and loaded of personality already. I suspect he is going to give his mom some trouble along the way. He was so curious this morning that he left her in his dust and ran full speed over to me this morning. Ellie was none too pleased but decided it was OK as long as I was under her watchful eye.

Ready to take on the world!

It was quite a surprise last night to see four extra legs in Ellie’s paddock as we headed down to feed. At least we didn’t have to worry things wouldn’t go well. It was all over, he was up and running around and she was calmly grazing. It always amazes me how quickly a mom and foal recover from a birth. It does look like it may take Miss Ellis a little while to get back her girlish figure, however.

Ellie is such a good mom. I went down this evening and sat on a bucket in the paddock and just watched as she taught her little one the ropes. She guided him with her nose, nuzzled him when he came close, and pushed him when she didn’t like what he did. He spent all of his time mimicking her. She was grazing so with no teeth he managed to pull up some grass and “chew” it. I actually worried he would choke but he managed. He appears to have a good appetite. I felt sorry for Ellie as he rooted around with absolutely no finesse until he got the milk he wanted.

Mother and Son

Enough for this evening. I will keep you filled in as we watch “junior” grow. Stay tuned. I am going to take a poll for name suggestions.

Ellie’s Previous Foal and “Baby Watch” is closer to the end!

Meet Blackjack!  He was born in April, 2012.
Meet Blackjack! He was born in April, 2012.

Well, I finally have something new to report on our ongoing “baby watch”. For weeks now, Ellie has had an enlarging bag. Over this last week-end it looked larger than it has but still no milk to be expressed. This morning when I checked her, she had a tiny amount of clear fluid that I expressed from each of her two teats. Now that is progress! Since she is apparently the slowest donkey on earth when it comes to actually foaling, I have no illusions about it coming tonight. However, I do believe that this change indicates we won’t be waiting for another month. At least I certainly hope not.

I promised you some more general donkey information in the last post. The following details I found on Wikipedia regarding donkey characteristics: Donkeys have quite a range of size. It depends upon the particular breed as well as their management. They range from 31″ (7.3 hands) at the withers to as much as 63″(15.3 hands) at the withers. Their weight ranges from 180 lbs. to 1,060 lbs. Their life expectancy depends upon their care and their access to quality foods. In very poor countries, they generally live from 12 to 15 years. In more prosperous countries, they have a lifespan of 30 to 50 years. Since our 5 range in age from 2 years to 6 years, our children may inherit them some day. I am guessing this won’t be very exciting news to either of them since both of our sons are city dwellers!

Well, that’s the day’s information. I hope to be writing soon with a photograph of Ellie’s new foal rather than this image of her last one. Thanks for hanging in here with me!

Donkeys, donkeys everywhere!

Dude, soon to be a Daddy!
Dude, soon to be a Daddy!

Did you know that there were about 41 million donkeys reported worldwide clear back in 2006? Back then, China had the most with 11 million followed by Pakistan, Ethiopia and Mexico. By now, I am quite sure that number has gone up. Gosh, the two babies we purchased last year and the one we have due along with the other two Jennies expecting (we think), we are doing our part!

Since we STILL do not have our new foal born yet, I thought a little donkey history might be in order. Much to my amazement and horror………according to Wikipedia, the gestation period can be as much as 14 months although usually about 12. What a range….from 11 to 14 months. If human mom’s had that kind of range, we would all go crazy waiting!

Believe it or not, the Domestic Animal Diversity Information System listed 189 breeds of ass in June, 2011. Ah yes, the other common name for donkey is ass since the wild ancestor of today’s donkey is the African wild ass, E africanus. Donkeys have been used as working animals for at least 5,000 years. They were first domesticated around 3,000 BC, probably in Egypt or Mesopotamia and have spread world wide since then. As time passed, donkey has gradually replaced ass as the choice of terms. From the 18th century on, this happened due to a tendency to avoid pejorative terms in speech.

All of the above information has come from Wikipedia.org. As we all await the arrival of Ellie’s foal, I thought that I might add donkey info for a while. I have plenty to learn about them. I am particularly interested in the commonality with the horse as well as the differences. Watch for more information in the days to come.

Enjoy the rest of your week-end!