Steinberg, Miró, Haring and friends

Some photographic works are truly difficult to perform in the digital era, and one of them are reproductions of works of art. The color fidelity should be high and reaching them is a task of high precision throughout all phases of the assignment. But let’s first talk about lighting, which is what this blog is about. When photographing a work of art – or anything else – our main concern in terms of lighting is its brightness, color and contrast.
Saul Steinberg 1971  Saúl SteinbergSteinberg, Miro, Haring and friends.pdf

I often take reproductions of works of art for A34 Gallery Barcelona, besides working for other clients on this issue, as when I made reproductions of the work of my dear friend Yamandú Canosa for the Suñol Foundation or when I worked for CCCB photographing Pegaso cars.

Isarrualde Photography Gallery  A34
Many works are framed and glass becomes the main problem. We must avoid seeing the resulting reflections and it is therefore necessary to pause on the concept of “families of angles that produce a direct reflection”.

Isarrualde Photography Direct Reflection

The picture above shows a direct reflection. Here, reflected on the glass, we see the direct reflection produced by the light boxes that I used to take the picture. In this sense it is very important that from the position of the camera we won’t see any direct reflection of the light sources used to take the picture.

Family of Angles

Isarrualde Photography

Any light located outside the family of angles that produces direct reflections of the light source, will be well placed to start the job. It is important to position the camera away from the subject because if we have to place the camera close to the artwork, the family of angles that produces direct reflections will be higher and will force us to put the light in a grazing angle with the artwork and the frame shadows will be bigger.

Isarrualde Photography

Another essential aspect is that the same amount of light should reach the surface of the artwork. In this regard it is important that the light source is located further from the work so that the light is distributed evenly. The law of “inverse square of the distance” reminds us that at further distance there will be less light and we should avoid degraded light on the subject. On the other hand, diffuse reflections become brighter as the light approaches the reflecting surface. We should try to have distances a and b on the following image be as similar as possible. In the excellent book by Hunter, Biver and Faqua you can see this theme developed to a greater extent.

Isarrualde Photography

If we’re working on drawings with no relief, I prefer to work with bigger light boxes so that the shadows casted by the frame would be soft and low contrast. Otherwise if the frame is very deep the shadows will be very notorious and if the light we use is hard, there will be no transition between light and dark areas on the work and it will be more difficult to tweak in post production. An important detail when artworks have a glass is to place in the plane of the camera a black velvet cloth to ensure that all the reflections from the room that could appear on the glass will be absorbed.

Isarrualde Photography

Sometimes we may be lucky and artworks don’t have any frames with glass. If on top of that they were done on matte paper we just need to set the light well. Two symmetric lights, equidistant from the work and at the same angle of incidence, will be enough. In my case, for these works, I normally use Wafer light boxes and Bowens flashes.

Torres-García Joaquín Torres García

I remember a few years ago I did a report on the exhibition of the works of Keith Haring at the Whitney Museum in New York, where I could not illuminate the work and only had one hour for the assignment. The artworks were very well lit but several of them were made on glossy canvas. Sometimes you cannot do what you know you should do and you have to solve the problem with whatever scarce resources you have in hand. In this case I chose to get away from the artworks and look for shooting angles that would avoid direct reflections, although it was not possible for all the artworks.

Whitney-Museum Whitney Museum © Marcelo Isarrualde
Keith-Haring Keith Haring © Marcelo Isarrualde

Color management in the digital age

Color management in the reproduction of artworks is a fundamental issue and in the digital age it is not easy. Firstly, you should know what light sources you will be going to work with and generate a profile for the sensor of the camera and those lights. At the time I was lucky that my friend Hugo Rodriguez prepared it for my equipment when I had to make some very difficult reproductions of the work of Joan Miró. Part of the red and blue tones of his works were outside the reproducible color range in a printing press and we had to know what decisions to make about the color management.

Hugo Rodriguez With Hugo Rodriguez

This type of work involves shooting a “bracketing” of exposures, revealing the raw file with the developed profile and with a linear response curve. In these circumstances we also have to make a white balance and evaluate the best resulting histogram for the development. We should also compare the values of the Gretag Macbeth Color Checker CGI card with the real card photographed bearing in mind that both should be in the same color space. The purpose of the color representation in the development program of the raw files is also very important, as well as choosing the histogram more shifted to the right, as it will ensure solving the noise level in the black textures, a greater tonal separation in highlights and a greater dynamic range. Choosing the right histogram is very well developed in the last book of Hugo, Digital Capture and Raw Revealed.

Isarrualde Photography Gretag Macbeth Card

We should also assess the values in a space of Lab color when the photography is converted from RGB to CMYK, etc, etc. This whole issue goes beyond the aim of this lighting blog. Hugo explains it brilliantly in his various articles on the subject, among which the article on the color chart IT8 he developed for the laboratories EGM in Barcelona, where he also tells how he did the profile of my equipment.

IT8 card  Art work by Joan Miró with IT8

Steinberg, Miro, Haring and friends.pdf

All rights reserved. © Isarrualde Photography
No partial or total reproduction is allowed without the written consent of the author.

Testing my DIY batteries

Last summer I wanted to try the two batteries I had designed for my 32CT3 Metz flashes. They are old flashes, but very good, compact and they have the ideal height to get very close to the optical axis when I want to use them in the Terry Richardson’s style with the CB mini RC strip from Custom Brackets.

Isarrualde off-camera flash

We went to the swimming area of the Barcelona Forum, with the model, makeup artist and my assistant, when we met with an enthusiastic kid who wanted to help. The lighting kit was very basic, the point was to use a single reporter flash through a translucent umbrella and have a second flash as a fill light if necessary.

Isarrualde off-camera flash  Isarrualde off-camera flash

The ambient light was low but very nice because the sun had already set and the sky had become a large diffuser. When we used the flash the nature of the light became quite evident so I decided to change the direction of the light and its intensity. I used a 1/4 CTO gel to give a mild warm dominance so that later when I neutralized the skin during the development of the raw file, I would get a bluer tone in the water and sky.

Isarrualde off-camera flash  Isarrualde off-camera flash Model Patricia Fregine

In the above examples the use of flash brought a loss of volume in the figure, and some candidness. What to do then? During the post production I could overexpose the image shot without flash and thus “washing” the skin tones, or keep the character given by the use of the reporter flash. As we saw in a previous post, when Terry Richardson made the Pirelli 2010 calendar, he preferred the flash hit, which is already part of his style. The important thing is to know what will happen in any decision we make. I could overexpose the shot with natural light or shoot the flash with a ratio +1. In this case, I chose to use the flash.

Isarrualde off-camera flash

In fashion or beauty sessions, the makeup and styling are essential. A good makeup and styling can be 50% of a session. And without an assistant, the sessions would not be what they can be.

Isarrualde off-camera flash   Make Up Poise and Beauty

Isarrualde off-camera flash

The DIY batteries

The DIY batteries worked fine, but the flashes got a bit overheated. The Metz 32 CT3 flashes are excellent flashes but in the days there were not designed for use with external batteries nor to have them at full load at all times, or to expect an extremely quick recharge. If the session allows the flashes to “rest” every so often, its effectiveness is surprising.

The battery circuit was very simple as shown in my first post, but by having the batteries tested I was worried about the flashes overheating. Luckily I then got the advice of Vicente Rosset, an expert in flashes and the invaluable help of Cristóbal Martínez from Bach Import who enthusiastically helped me improve the battery performance by adding a diode to the circuit which allowed to reduce the voltage of the batteries.

Isarrualde off-camera flash

Isarrualde off-camera flash

The Pocket Wizard were essential in the session as outdoor infrared sympathy cells are not effective. Another handy accessory was the WizardBrackets strip, ideal for holding the radio receivers.

Isarrualde off-camera flash

Lighting diagram  Lighting diagram

Testing my DIY batteries.pdf

All rights reserved. © Isarrualde Photography

Any partial or total reproduction is forbidden without the written consent of the author.

Strobist kit 5

By its name, the idea of this blog is to explain how to light a scene when we remove the flash shoe of the camera. But sometimes it is desirable that the flash is – if not in the shoe – at least close to the camera. The use of arms to separate the flash of the camera to give some volume to photographed reason comes from afar, like the use of cables to separate further.

Strobonar  Futuramic Strobonar

But what should we do when we want the lighting to be very flat and direct, and we don’t have a ring flash? In these cases the idea is to get the flash as close as possible to the optical axis to minimize the projected shadow. Terry Richardson took many photographs at the beginning of his career with a small film camera Yashica T4 and he used it to photograph countless celebrities and models that he would position standing by a white wall. This camera has the built-in flash slightly away from the optical axis, but when shooting from a distance and the body of the model is perpendicular to the optical axis, the shadows effect on the wall is minimized.

Yashica-T4  Yashica T4

He eventually went on to shoot with a DSLR digital camera and there the problem arose. How to position the flash off the optical axis? Then, came the solution with the strip CB mini RC Custom Brackets!

Custom-Bracket--Mini-RC  Custom Brackets


As shown in the above image with this strip the flash torch stays very close to the lens and shadows are minimized.

Terry-Richardson-Fashion-Week-Berlin  Terry Richardson Fashion Week Berlin

The pictures Richardson took of Lady Gaga for the Supreme brand in 2010 are proof of this, as we see on the cover of the excellent French magazine Photo.

Photo-magazine-Lady-Gaga-Terry-Richardson-Supreme   Lady Gaga by Terry Richardson

Lady-Gaga-Terry-Richardson  Behind the scenes

Regarding those made for the famous Pirelli calendar 2010, these pictures reveal how this technique works outdoors. As can be seen, he set the exposure to the available light at the location while the front is filled up with the flash. This gives a great shine to the body of the model and eliminates shadows caused by sunlight.

Terry-Richardson-Pirelli  Pirelli calendar

There are other systems that allow speedlights to move from the hot shoe of the camera with great flexibility. One of these arms combined with a strip is the Manfrotto 233B which in this example is positioned to a shooting of macrophotography combining two Nikon R1 macro flashes with one of the standard SB series.

Manfrotto-233B  Manfrotto 233B

Also the option of the Olympus bracket FL BKM03 is very interesting, like the Ray Flash Rotator model.
Olympus-FL-BKMo3-bracket  Olympus FL BKM03

RayFlash-Rotator  Ray Flash Rotator

The option of Pro Media Gear with the Boomerang model is very robust. Boomerang de Pro Media Gear

Pro-Media-Gear-BB-Grip  Boomerang de Pro Media Gear

Finally it is worth highlighting the catalog from Really Right Stuff with a huge variety of photographic accessories including the WPF-QR strip bracket specially relevant for this post.

RRS-WPFQR-02  Really Right Stuff WPF-QR

This bracket keeps the speedlight aligned with the optical axis but with a noticeable parallax. I have used it, with a flash standing in front of a light box OctoDome mini Photoflex and has worked nice on a project I’m doing of circus portraits .

Octodome-mini Photoflex  WPF-QR with softbox Octodome mini


Strobist kit 5.pdf

Any partial or full reproduction is prohibited without the written consent of the author. All rights reserved. © Marcelo Isarrualde