Photography project – backgrounds

posted in: Photography | 23

The first term of photography is over. Next term, we move to our “major project”.

My major project is to produce 50 images for Making Life more Beautiful (my book). Last week we had to produce our proposal. The tutor had one word to describe my plans – “ambitious”.

We talked through how to approach the pictures I want to illustrate the book.

I want to take full length and facial portraits. Many of the students are doing pictures of people and some of them are using a studio with professional lighting.  I have seen lots of versions of this type of photo (this one from Tilly and the Buttons) – brand coloured background and clothes, lighting, flash, perfect hair, makeup and subtle tattoo. I was thinking I would need a backdrop, lights and a flash gun, reflectors and various other expensive extras.

However this is not the look I want, even though it is pretty and appropriate for the market (young beginners).

Amber in Tilly top

I don’t want to be too pretentious but my inspiration is @DamianFoxe who is a truly amazing  stylist and photographer. Here is my inspiration wall at the moment, packed full of work by Damien. The clothes are great but I am currently focused on the backgrounds.

For my own project I want real backgrounds, backgrounds that reflect my environment: London, the Cotswolds, building sites. I want backgrounds which complement my models and their natural beauty and colouring, rather than my “brand” colours.

Photography Inspiration board
Inspiration board

My tutor suggested I research the backgrounds first, photographing them and being prepared for the model. This turned out to be brilliant advice.

Over the weekend, I went round the Cotswold estate where we live, which is still being built, and I took several backgrounds. I tried natural ones, fences, brickwork, stone work. These all had a nice neutral look and I thought if I could get mastery of the depth of field I might be able to get a muzzy background.

I also tried painted, distressed surfaces which I found more appealing, a bit more edgy, and of course more colourful.

This was a fascinating experiment and really meant I was well prepared when Bella, my teenage model and next door neighbour, arrived. I knew where to go and what setting to use. I was confident I could get a good picture and I was able to “direct” her.

Bella with blue backgound
BlueBella
Bella with white background
WhiteBella

I have five more models to find and photograph, and I have a deadline of early June. I am hoping to rope in a few friends from work, and possibly a couple of family members. Bella enjoys being photographed and it shows, I think. Most people I know hate it. That’s a problem I have yet to overcome.

Bella with wood
CedarBella

23 Responses

  1. Jenny

    Brilliant start Kate, love the change in backgrounds, sounds like you have wise guidance, and I enjoy learning vicariously! Good luck for the big merger date too.

  2. Jenny - the lilac cat

    I’m not a fan of those over stylised bland backgrounds which verge on being samey and anodyne. And certainly no one could describe you as that!!! I suppose for product photography where you only want to focus on the product then it may have its place but with the aims of your book those gorgeous atmospheric backgrounds look great. Bella is a natural. Good luck with finding your other models….

    • fabrickated

      Thank you for your warm support Jenny. I have lots to learn but I felt pleased with this attempt. Bella was a great help. She was patient, willing to try anything, patient and seemed impervious to the cold. I hadn’t understood photographers saying someone is a great model before – I thought they meant beautiful or photogenic. I now realise a great model is someone who knows how to work with a photographer, to “pose” without posing and to be willing, reliable and flexible.

  3. The Demented Fairy

    Very nice indeed…when I went to a steampunk photo shoot last year, it was very interesting to be directed by the ‘togs’ to stand in places that I would never have looked at. An ‘ugly’ background can make for some very intense pics. Of the blogs that I follow, I think that Oonaballoona and Blogless Anna make great use of interesting urban backdrops.

    • fabrickated

      Good point Fairy! Thanks for the links and I suppose for steam punk you are looking at industrial and historic backdrops in a new way.

  4. Belinda

    If they’re like me, people who hate being photographed don’t recognize themselves in the photos, as in, don’t see themselves the way the photo shows them.

    • fabrickated

      I think this is very true. In our photography class the tutor asked who was happy being photographed (none of us) and then who wanted to take pictures of people (all of us). He got us into twos to take each others portrait and it became more of a two way street. As I was having problems with motivating people I wanted to photograph (mainly family) I have tried a new tack by advertising for models, which seems to be working out so far.

  5. ceci

    No wonder Bella enjoys being photographed, she’s lovely. And how clever to start with the backgrounds!

    ceci

    • fabrickated

      She is a very nice young woman and we are fond of the whole family. I wouldn’t have thought about the planning out the backgrounds but I am so glad I did.

    • fabrickated

      Lisa – thank you! I am also loving doing them as it is such an interesting new skill for me. I wouldn’t have even looked carefully at fashion photography before, but now I realise there is so much to photographing clothes that I need to learn.

  6. Jay

    You have a super model! I do like your idea of finding natural, textured backgrounds. This will be more interesting for the viewer, allow you to use natural light for the most part, and fit really well with the kind of work you do. Although fashion photos are inevitably removed from real life, the natural surroundings lend a grounded feeling, and help to inspire the thought that the look is achievable. So, excellent choice.

    • fabrickated

      Thanks for your feedback Jay – you have expressed exactly what I was feeling. I am not ready for lighting and flash. I took these pictures on a cold grey day which was probably easier than attempting this with bright sunshine.

  7. Michele

    I really like the second 2 photographs; the different colours of the rainbow top to the splash of green on the background in white Bell is is nice and the colour of her hair against the timber cladding cedarbella is very lovely too. Unfortunately for me as much as I like the battered blue and green metal and the greenery peaking around it, I feel that the top of her head is being sliced in BlueBella.

    • fabrickated

      I guess you are right on the sliced head shot! Bella is over 6′ tall so she towered above some of my backgrounds!

    • fabrickated

      Thank you Bunny. That is very kind of you to say that. I do want a slightly edgy look and it has worked so far. I have advertised for models at work so I shall see how I get on next week.

  8. Vicki

    Bella likes being photographed because she is young….and beautiful. The photos with her are great. Stunning even. I need to think a bit more about my backgrounds!

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