Okay, so you’re wondering how I made this still photograph move. This is a new twist on the old .gif animation format that was responsible for all those little goofy animations in the early days of e-mail. Basically it involves creating a layered Photoshop file that contains a still image on the top layer and a video layer underneath it. By masking out the top layer you allow the video layer to show through in certain areas, and so you get this fun combination of still image and moving areas. The resulting file is saved as a .gif format file which can be posted on the web. Here’s a screenshot that shows my layered Photoshop file and the animation timeline window that allows you to play back the video. (The animation timeline window is only available in Photoshop CS5 Extended, so you need to have this version to do these).
These combination still and motion images are called Cinemagraphs, and they’ve become quite popular among fashion photographers. For this shot I used the Canon 5D Mark II to capture both the still image and the video clip so I could be sure that the images would match exactly when I layered them together. This is a really fun technique to play with. If you’d like to experiment on your own, here’s a great video tutorial from Russell Brown that walks you through the complete process.
Our set up for the shot was quite simple, with a small soft box overhead and slightly behind the bowl to bring out all the shapes and textures of the seafood.
One interesting styling issue arose as we prepared the Bouillabaisse. When we filled the bowl with seafood it became too dark and opaque… lifeless. So we solved the problem by using clear plastic “ice cubes” to fill in the bowl and allow us to artfully arrange the seafood.
The ingredients shot was fairly straightforward, with a large octobox as the light source to create a very soft, even lighting. Since the camera had to be quite high, I decided to use the Canon EOS Utility to control the camera. This allowed us to use live view on the computer to see exactly what was in the frame as we were arranging the elements… much easier than trying to peer down through the viewfinder.
The mood that I wanted to convey with this shot is one of simple elegance. I selected a large granite tile for the background, and the plate I actually made by chipping off the edges of a slate tile to create a shape that I wanted. I like the tone on tone textures that this created.
When I think about the lighting for a particular shot, I try to imagine what the ideal setting would be for serving and eating this dish. In this case having would definitely be dark and elegant with strong mood lighting. With this image in my head I opted to go for a single light source, small and directional. A single Alien Bee flash with a 20° grid spot seemed to do the trick best. I placed the light behind them to the right of my subject to cast strong shadows and maximize the texture of both the paper and the food.
Even with a grid spot in place I felt there was too much light in the shot so I used pieces of black foam core to block off light where I didn’t want it. It’s sort of a process of selective subtraction. I then added in one small gold reflector to bounce just a bit of warm light into the shadows.
This series of shots shows the progression from the first test shot to the final image.