Sunday, May 31, 2009

Portfolio Photography

This weeks Designs For Good adventure finds me doing portfolio shots for a local sculptor. It's true that anyone can take a decent picture these days, but portfolio shots are a category of photography that take a bit more equipment than your typical point-and-shoot with built in flash.
In the case of portfolio shots - a picture is worth a thousand... dollars, more or less. Excellent photography sets the artist apart, and can be the pass key to entering and even winning competitions.

My Circular Obsessions series will get national recognition through Sculpture Pursuit magazine based on photography alone.

A lot of artists simply cannot afford to pay a professional photographer who may charge several hundred dollars just to shoot one sculpture. I belong to the Society of Minnesota Sculptors and I offered my photography expertise for our members. A few have taken me up on my offer. It can take 6-10 hours to do a good job on a work of art.

OK, maybe I'm just slow. But getting to know the work, and playing with the studio lighting takes time as does all the post processing touch ups. Maybe I'm just picky or just like to play.
Early in my artistic life I hired a professional photographer on two occasions. In both cases I got a great exposure, but no feeling. The images were lackluster and lacked atmosphere.

It's not too hard to get a good exposure, but it takes time to build an atmosphere, yielding as sense of drama. You can take it too far though. I was tempted to put blue-green gels on the lights to accent the waves for the first picture above. After all it is bronze with a green patina, and a little blue cast would make the bronze more water-like. That is half of the challenge though. You can' t pull out all the tricks in the bag. You have to stay true to the object if the image is to represent what someone may want to buy, yet you need to make them want to buy it. Just a little tricky.

A few of each shot will go into portfolios and many will be posted on the web, helping to promote the artist's career. Helping the society's members helps me build a portfolio also. Shooting artwork is challenging and fun. Sometimes there is a single best shot that describes the feel of the work. Finding that shot could be the difference between selling a piece and having it passed over by a jury for a show.

These two works were a bit challenging for different reasons. The bottom image is an artist's interpretation of the Indian Goddess Kali. The top shot is of a woman riding out a wave on a beach. It isn't easy getting the angle right so the waves look wave-like, the smile is caught, the background doesn't interfere, and there isn't an inopportune shadow. Just moving this shot one step to the right and it looks like the subject's neck is hanging over a guillotine. Needless to say, not what the artist had in mind.

It is fun to play with the images as in the one to the left, and the artist may even like your playing around, but that is what it is - the photographer playing around and having fun.

This is where portfolio shots start to mutate into graphic design. This image could be used on the artist literature or website as a very graphic element to draw a viewer in, but it is obviously not representational.

Maybe I should start a photographic series of my interpretations of artist's interpretations of something else. Maybe I'll call it Adaptive Interpretations.

Or... maybe for now I'll keep my open invitation to our sculpture society for doing more of their pieces, as long as it remains fun.

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