Rigging & Special Effects Gear
So any questions right now regarding gear before I get into the set?
There's a question that has come in from Kristen who said, "Does it make a difference what type of tripod that you use in this type of photography?"
No, and I really like, I started, I started using Fobas at the last studio I was at. Which are those real expensive big camera stands, that can really get, I like those for, if you really need to get over something and not be in the way of your set. But with my tilt shift lenses I can actually get the tripod like we saw in the, in the intro to food photography class where I was able to get to the right of the, I just, I recommend getting a carbon fiber tripod that goes really really high. If you can do that, you're actually gonna be more stable than a Foba stand. Foba stands are notorious, especially when I'm shooting natural light, they shake quite a bit. So it's not, they're really sturdy. And if you have a medium format camera on there, you don't wanna, you wanna F...
oba stand. But I tend, when you're shooting flash it almost doesn't matter what you're on because the flash duration is so short you could probably handhold it. The only, but you're gonna be compositing most of the time so you need to be locked down. You need to make a commitment. That's why you see a lot of my splash images are just from the side. You know, it's the most drama. You could even be a little bit low, and look up at it, which is a really cool angle. Really dramatic. But you're gonna get the most bang for your buck if you're shooting from, directly from the side or a little bit lower if that makes sense. But I recommend, the tripod I have is, is, will go like almost to the ceiling. I just had lunch with, his names Geoff Binns-Calvey. And he's out of Chicago. And I had lunch with him a couple weeks ago. Just toured his studio. And he's got some really crazy stuff. So this, when you get into really high end advertising stuff you'll need somebody like this to execute scenes that are really complex. So this at least gives you an idea of what's possible. You, I wouldn't necessarily hire him if you're just starting out and bring, I have yet to work with him, but I need to know what he's capable of in case a job comes up where something is out my reach as far as problem solving. But this is an image where he was actually able to create a wine bottle, he broke the bottom off, and actually created a system where he could pour wine all day. So the wine would actually come out of the glass. He cut a hole in the glass and has a tube coming out of the glass circulating back into the front. So he just did this and it just runs all day. So you can shoot it incessantly, especially if you're in an environment where there's a lot of talent, and you don't have a lot of time, you have to shoot for a long time, you don't wanna be refilling this glass all the time. It's a nightmare. So those, this is really the way to go. And there's a system, actually, the name is escaping me, but there's a system of a, kind of like little mini stands, mini c stands, but they click together. And it's on the gear site. But he has a system of these so he can rig anything up with ease. This is a grill that has maybe 10 different flame burners that he can manipulate individually. So if you're doing a grill shot for Applebee's or for a photo shoot, especially for motion, he can actually control the flame exactly how he wants. So if you want this flame to be lower or that flame to be higher he has complete control over it and he handles it for you. This is really funny. This is an acrylic, I think it's an acrylic splash that he created himself with chili peppers and stuff going on. Especially in the film days, you don't have the ability to capture splashes very, it, so you had to create fake splashes a lot. And Turngrove Studios actually has fake splashes. I'm not sure if they even sell them anymore. I think I tried to buy some and they weren't even selling them. I'm not sure if they're renting them anymore either. But this is a huge splash. On the right is just a random shot of one of the Doritos guys, a human Doritos chip. So he creates, and when I was, you know, right before I got to have lunch with him and saw his studio, he had these massive purses that he created. So he creates models. He creates rigs. He creates, he's just an amazing problem solver. Which you need on some of these shoots because you can't say, I can't do that, if you're specializing in splashes or conceptual stuff. So he really comes in handy. As far as, as far as rigging and special effects, so I'm gonna kind of show you the set up here. We have an acrylic glass to kind of protect the students. But, I have, I tend to put down really think painters tape. It's the really, I don't know how many millimeters. But, it's the really heavy duty stuff. 'Cause if you walk on the thinner stuff, you're gonna break it. And if you get even a little chip or a little hole in your tarp, it's no longer of any use to you. It's gonna leak all day. And you won't even know, you'll just see something coming out. And you're like, ah, get the mop. So you do need to maintain. What I did here. I'll start from bottom to top. I got six two by fours, and just used a screw driver and electric drill to just screw them all together. So I have a, I essentially have a 16 foot by eight foot space that I work in. And if you're in a home, it tends to be that an eight foot by eight foot space works really well. So you just get rid of one of the sections. You just do a square. But this is really crucial in any situation. So you have four, four or eight, or six two by fours screwed together, the thick painters tape, and then you just get a staple gun and, or just open up a stapler and just, you staple gun the painters tarp to the two by fours to protect yourself. That way your bases are covered. You, you can't do this over carpet. It really needs to be a wood floor if you're doing this in a home. Or the garage is best. The best thing to do is just to, if you're garage isn't full of stuff, to actually just go use that because you already have kind of a concrete floor. But if it's not sealed, and you get milk inside that concrete floor, it's bad news. Milk stinks, even when we were doing that shoot, the next day we cleaned up really well and it just smelled terrible. And that was a big space. So cleanliness is really important. So what we have here are four, they're called auto poles. And these are, if you have, one of the reasons I like the fact that these ceilings aren't incredibly high is the fact that I can use auto poles a lot. And what they do is they offer you basically what a c stand offers you, except you're not kicking them over. You're not, there aren't legs coming out. They just adhere, you just crank it, you actually slide them up to the ceiling and then pull down the tightener. And it'll stay put. They stay put pretty well. And so what I've done here is I, I'll actually use four of these auto poles to wrap plastic, I actually use for the protective stuff vertically, I use shower curtains 'cause they're clear, you can see through 'em, you can see what's going on. Especially for this, you know, class. It's easy to see what's going on. But I'll actually wrap it around the whole set so that, so we're kind of living dangerously right now 'cause a lot of these angles aren't protected. But we're being very directional with our liquid throws. So it's not really a big issue. So I have two. I have four in the studio. I have two more back there, which have super clamps that have kind of a hook on them. Which are used for seamless rolls I believe. I actually use them to hold up, hold up backgrounds. They're really good for that. So if you have a wood background, you have these two loops, you can just set the background in the auto poles anywhere you go. And you don't have two c stands with arms going anywhere. C stands can really get in the way of your studio in a hurry. You can have a really complex set, and it's easier to kick things over. This keeps it a lot cleaner. So we've got two sawhorses. We've got the acrylic table ready to go to catch our stuff. I've got two of the Westcott 12 by 50 inch strip boxes, which are my favorite thing to use. But there is no, there is no hard and fast rule about this. I like the strip boxes 'cause it, it provides a lot of control. And I also have the egg crates that go in here, which allow even more focus. You can actually have, this could actually be a black background in this instance if you really focused the light. On occasion what I'll do to get more drama and more edginess in the light is I'll remove the baffle in the front. 'Cause there's an inner baffle in these that kind of softens the light already. And that gives you more bang for your buck as far as light goes 'cause you're not soft, you're not stopping so much light getting through. But you're also creating more edginess, and more drama, and more of the shape. So I'll probably actually end up removing that before we're all done. So we have our background set up. We've got everything ready to go. I think I've covered everything. As far as safety goes, I just have all of my electrical sockets way off to the side. Anything that's on set I'll tend to cover, especially sandbags. I like to cover those with plastic. 'Cause if you get milk on a sandbag, gross. They're pretty well protected in this instance. So, I think we're all set and kind of ready to go with this shoot. Are there any questions from the web?
A question from Victoria Flowers Steve is, if you have a home studio and a small budget, what kind of lighting do you recommend? I know you talked about the ability to use speed lights for this, certain types of images here. Is that where you would start? Or I know you also mentioned that you can rent.
I've actually to be honest, I've never used a speed light. I know that you can use them. But I've never done it. I used speed lights when I was first starting out. I know when I was first learning, how to shoot with speed lights was a huge, it's, it wasn't a fad, it's a good way to, you know, really economical way to shoot. But if you purchase one or two of those speed lights, that's a lot of money 'cause they're expensive. Renting, renting a broncolor pack was cheaper for me. 'Cause I knew if I had a weekend, if you pick it up, I don't know that there's, there's a dealer in Portland who's amazing. He's got tons of broncolor stuff. And they'll ship it up to you. I think I might have purchased one of the last packs. I purchased this from Glasers for a good discount. And I don't know that there's anyone in Seattle. But any major market will have access to broncolor. Seattle, I think you have to rent them from photographers who own them. I don't tend to rent mine out. But I know that maybe there's some that do. So you just have to ask around. Renting them is really the way to go because you're gonna be able to do a lot more with these. With a speed light, you can do it. But you're gonna be stuck doing, this example right here, this would be a good image to capture if you were doing a speed light shot. This you could do with a white card at the bottom, a black background, and a speed light coming from above. That's a perfect example of what you could do. So you can do some cool stuff. As long as you're not intent on doing really high key, really well lit, unless you're being really resourceful about where the light from the speed light is going. You could do some double duty. You can actually have the speed light kind of off to one side, hitting the background a little bit so you'll create a little vignette. But you'll sort of have that on camera flash look. It won't be as dramatic. So this, this would be a good example of what you could achieve with the speed light. But.
How come the left side is not protected? There's no, there's no shower curtain on the left side.
So, so, the question is why is the, (laughing) the left side not protected. Like, okay, I have, I have two kids, and I like one more than the other. (audience laughing) And, that's not true. But I have, I have two, so I don't mind getting these dirty. I wash them. But if I, I know that the shoots that we're doing are going to be from left to right. So anytime you, anytime you have a splash image it's, there will be splashes of images where two are colliding. And then I put two sides up. But I know that the image that we're doing later today is very directional. We're going one direction with it. So, to answer your question, I'm gonna be coming in, we have a strip box on both sides, this one's fully protected. And what happens is, we will have, we will have like two apple boxes, half apple boxes in here supporting the surface. But there will be room for it to drain off the side. So we've almost created this little semi-tank for the extra to drip off. And then, but a majority of the bulk of it is gonna be going from left to right. And it's gonna be moving this way, hitting this curtain, and dropping right down into this kind of one foot deep bucket that we have. So nothing's, there will be very minimal splashing going on. There will be stuff that invariably comes here. But it's all protected. And at the end of the day, you kind of roll it up. And you have to kind of get rid of it. It's not, that's why I always recommend because this is a little bit more on the wasteful side, you want to get a lot of bang for your buck. And, especially if you're gonna be renting equipment and going through the process of building the set, you wanna go for a weekend, invite friends over, invite a food stylist over, invite someone to just assist you who's like an amateur photographer and just wants to try this out, if you tell people you're doing a splash shot at home, they're gonna come hang out with you. There's no question. So you'll have plenty of help. You'll have people throwing stuff. You'll have people doing food styling who just wanna have, add that to their portfolio. And so, they will, there's no question they will come and help you. So you'll have the hands to do it. You build a set. You rent it over the weekend. So they charge you for one day. And, 'cause they know you're not necessarily a pro if you're working all weekends or, you know, so you get a really good bang for your buck. And you can just nail 10, 20 shots in a single and then worry about the post-production later. You just go crazy shooting. And practice. And practice. And practice. And then rent it again the next weekend if you can. And you'll still be way under what you'd spend for a speed light, although I would recommend having one of those in your bag because it's just good to have. But that's the reason, that's the long drawn out answer to that (laughing). But the auto poles are really handy. Especially in a home, because your ceilings are gonna be lower. You can really use them. Whereas in my old studio, it's really, really good in regards to space, it has these really high ceilings. So I didn't have the opportunity to use these. So the set just had feet everywhere. All over the place. And they dig into the, they dig into the tarp. Sometimes if you kick them it can tear the, you know, so I really like the setup that we have here doing this. 'Cause I know, I can wash these ceilings no problem. So, yeah, please.
So, how do you deal with slipping on set? I mean, it's liquid on plastic. Is it just being careful or do you wipe up every now and then?
Yeah, we have, we're again living dangerously today 'cause I have one towel. We don't normally (laughing), we, and then, we don't normally, so, I usually, I have a in the, actually they're in the storage unit, but I have a bunch of towels that I actually lay down on areas around, so if you have this set, you're gonna be walking on the set and then walking back on the, you're gonna be going back and forth. So just like a doormat at home, I usually have a couple of towels laid out where I'm gonna be stepping off and I just wipe my feet off. And so by the time I actually get to the concrete floor wherever it is they'll be kind of dry. And that, that is really important because you don't want stuff getting onto the floor, 'cause it's sticky. It'll really become sticky. You've gotta mop everything up. It can, especially in a home. So you wanna have this protected. In a home I would get four auto poles, wrap it completely, do this in a four, you know, an eight foot by eight foot square, and you will not get stuff anywhere. You really won't. You'll be totally fine. And then you need to make sure that, this tank, you know, getting a fish tank and maybe putting it on the ground, a really wide fish tank like we have in the corner, or building one of these for yourself, will actually help get a bulk of the liquids from ever actually achieving this. So what you'll end up with is kind of this slurry that's not just, an inch deep of liquid. But it's just sort of stuff that's dripped on it. So that you can sort of roll that up carefully, and then dispose of it. Put it in a bag and get rid of it. So, yeah, that answers your question right? I covered it? Yes.
All right, so more questions coming in from the folks at home. Snacky Gourmet had said, can you tell us again do you ever use just natural light for these types of shoots? Is that possible?
It's not. Actually that's not, I lied (laughing). That's not 100%. So when you shoot your camera outdoors if you're in a really sunny situation, and you have the sunlight maybe at late afternoon mid-afternoon, and it's really lighting up your scene, and you see in your camera that you can achieve 1/8000 of a second, then you're there. 'Cause you just achieved, you don't need strobe. But you need tons of light. You can't shoot natural, you can shoot soft natural light and do splashes. You have to have direct sunlight hitting it. You can do it. And in fact, that's the thing we're gonna explore next is we're gonna be doing outdoor scenes, like picnic tables in a vineyard, where someone's gonna be pulling off a tablecloth but it's gonna be turning, it's a red tablecloth that will turn into red wine. So it's like a half splash. But because we're outdoors, we don't necessarily need to supplement. But you can't do, after, you can't do late, late, late evening. You need direct sunlight on and, if you, once you get to 1/8000 of a second then mess around with your f stop to see where that exposure is going to lie because you might be, you'll probably end up being about F or something like that. But maybe more like F 11. So you gotta be careful about where splashes, if they're coming right at the camera it's not gonna work. They, you have to be vertical. I've seen some fine art shots where somebody does, they're out in the desert, they're out in the salt flats I think, and they just fling stuff into the air in the middle of the day and it looks really cool. But I like the, I like the conceptual meaning, like, having meaning. So doing something like a tablecloth that's composite is really fun. But yes, in a short, if you can achieve 1/ of a second, I feel like that's the magic number. That's where things start to get sharp around the edges in the splashes. So, yeah.
Well that my friends is worth the price of admission. 1/8000 of a second in whatever type of light you're using for the light. And then, that verticalness based upon, your, the F stop that you have and the aperture, making sure that you're getting all that in focus, that's really huge. It's all coming together. Couple more gear questions before we move on. Question from Joe M, just kind of as a whole if you're getting started and wanting to do this type of work, like what kind of minimum megapixel camera do you think that you would need? Is there, does that matter?
It does. It matters a little bit. And not for the reasons you might think. So when I shoot, this is 36 megapixels. Which I feel is a really, I mean, they, whoever designed this sensor deserves an award. It's fantastic. Now the reason I would shoot medium format is because, or this, the higher megapixel count cameras is because it allows you to, one of the things I learned really quickly is that if you come in too close and you frame it as if you're trying to frame an image properly, you've already gone in too close. So if you get too close, not only does your, does your depth of field reduce for, you know, as you get closer for the same F stop, it also doesn't allow you any wiggle room whatsoever. So what I do, is I'll back it off until the scene, you can actually see the edges of, you can see behind the set when I shoot here. And we're gonna crop in. And not only does that allow the front to back depth of field to be larger and gives you more wiggle room, it also allows you just the flexibility to crop in later and not lose so much resolution. So you'll end up with a, with an image that will appear incredibly well on the web. But if we're gonna be going to larger prints we do have to go medium format, even though it's a slower trigger and just put up with it because we do need that crop room when you're doing so, if I could tell you one thing it's to not get too close. To back off a little bit. And even if you're gonna be posting to social media just for fun to try out stuff, you can have a 12 megapixel camera cropped down to six if you need to, and you're still gonna be okay on this. But I just like, I do appreciate the flexibility that this offers for sure. But there's no, there's no right, it depends what your end use is. If you're going for Instagram, you, yeah (laughing). In fact, with an iPhone I would challenge somebody if they wanna send something in to shoot outdoors with an iPhone and get a splash. 'Cause maybe then the shutter, you know, count will be so low that they could do it. But it's hard to do strobes. There's no pocket wizard for an iPhone as far as I know. But yeah, so that's the long answer to that.