Studio Workflow for Splashes & Crashes
You see how crazy this was? There's stuff that you don't expect to happen, happening a lot. Like the plate not breaking and the surface in fact breaking. So, there's stuff that happens, you have to be ready for it and you have to be ready to overcome it. So the Workflow, the conceptualization stage is key and I was asked earlier, how do I come up with this stuff. The peanut butter and jelly image that was created was part of a series, so it's good to do stuff. I will recommend that we do test work that's done in a series of images 'cause those are always stronger than a non series. An ad agency or somebody that you work with will look to see if you can not only just capture one image, which could be luck, 'cause like the peanut butter and jelly image, a lot of you can do that. That's easily done at home. That's not to say it's not quality, I mean that's a shot that I still show, but they wanna see it side-by-side, whereas the other images in that series were much weaker, so I eliminate...
d them and because of that, that image suffered a little bit, as far as the strength because it's not in a series of images. So that was the one, that and the coffee and donuts, were the two that feed off each other really well, but I tend to not actually show them next to each other in the portfolio. They're just a little bit different. The peanut butter image, the jelly image, of the collision is very kinda crusty looking and very clarity ridden and really interesting in its own right. The donut image is really high key and fun and festive. So they were just a little bit too different to show side-by-side. This image right here, this was hard. This is the Puppet Work tool taken to the extreme, but I did wanna show you how we got here. So the Workflow we use as far as this goes, the concept is already set in stone, so we just had to make this happen. This is a matter of taking Splashes that we hinged. So wherever it bent is where we hinged two different splashes together because you're never gonna get spiral splash. You think you can do it and it just doesn't work because you're never gonna get a perfectly... This is more like a hose at high power, and you're never gonna get that wrap unless you do it yourself in Photoshop. Those are the limitations without using the Puppet Work tool or the Liquefy tool. I use the liquefy to, sort of, push stuff in really gently where I think it needs to be pushed in, as far as the shape is concerned. I use that really judiciously. Then the Puppet Work tool is where I highlight something, cut it out and then save, I think it's edit Puppet Work. Is that the file?
Whatever is highlighted, whatever is edged out, sometimes I'll even just draw a circle with the select tool, around something, if it's on black, and just say "Puppet Work." In this case we can do that. The background is all the same, it's homogeneous. You can not do that in this image. You have to grab the liquid, and do Puppet Work, and then bend it yourself, and then replace the background image with the actual texture that was originally there. That's getting really technical, and this was a very technical image. I just wanna let you know what's possible, and how to get there. So when you do get there in your create, at least know that that's a... So we conceptualize the image. We create a list of images that we're gonna need to capture to make this happen. So when we capture the milk, it's rare that you'll get a clear glass with milk and coffee going together that's not CGI'd or done in Photoshop. So we'll fill a glass full of milk, we'll fill a glass full of coffee, and then we'll actually create, using liquefy, the illusion that these two are going together because the second you pour, no matter how much pressure you have, the second you pour cream into coffee, the cream just turns brown. It's surrounded by brown. So the second it goes in there it swirls. And there's tricks you can do it in real life, if you really push it against the front, or if you have shallow panels of acrylic, and you're doing a macro shot. It won't have the time to kind of mix with the coffee. But if you have a deep glass like that it will swirl around and sort of blend with each other too fast. So yeah, one thing you'll notice about this image is that I created... So these were shot separately and there's little collision splashes that you see, that I created in post to give you the illusion that they were actually touching, and there's some abrasion going on between the two liquids. That wasn't there in the original. I actually took that from a separate Splash image. So I really took the care to kinda show, and even on the lower cross there's a little bit of mixing of the two. So there's a little bit of brown hues going on there. So we build the set, we test the lighting. And we test using, We'll put a tub underneath and we'll test how the liquids react with that lighting. I already know this is gonna work, but not everybody wants just this kind of lighting. Typically when they're having me shoot a Splash image, it's because they already like my style, and they just go with it. There's occasions where they want a certain background. We capture the base image then we get the additional frames, which we just did. We want to have options but not too many options. Too many options will bury you. When I first started out, I wanna cover all my bases, so I just threw, when I was done, and I had a good base plate, I threw tons of vegetables, tons of liquids, and I just had dozens of these things to choose from, and you just get buried in all the options, and you can't make a good decision. So at some point you just have to say no. It's like mixing music. There's certain tracks that just don't fit and you just cut 'em. You say, "there is no need for this here "it doesn't add to it." so I'd love to take some questions. After all that, there's gotta be a few. How do you actually break a plate properly? (laughing)
Well let's start with the folks at home, and grab a mic in the studio if you have one. So let's talk about the syrup. (laughs)
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
So somebody asked, and this will kind of, potentially lead us into the next segment, but, "How will you make syrup work coming off the pancake "if there's no syrup on the pancake in that original?"
Oh we make syrup on the pancake, yeah, yeah. There's no question. You can drip it if you know that's what you wanna do, but it tends to be, we're just gonna have a little pool that comes up on it. So we'll cut it out, we can edge it up onto the pancake. That's something you can pre conceptualize. That's one of the things that, we want to allow that to be dripping off the bottom of the bacon, and we're gonna hide it behind the pancake. So it's more, it will be like little strands. So it's almost like you poured it on the egg and the butter, and then everything immediately drops. So mostly the egg and that stuff. But covering an egg in syrup, it's a lot of work. So, we'll make it happen, yeah.
I just wondered if maybe you pre cracked the plate somehow then when you dropped it, it would bust up?
Oh, pre cracked the plate?
Yeah, I don't know.
You could probably score it. The base apparently was so weak and worthless that I don't know that it would matter, but you can score it with an exacto knife. If it's a thin enough plate, I just thought dangerously, and I just want this, I wanted a thicker plate because I didn't think it would shatter into so many pieces. I don't think it did. It shattered into just a few large chunks. So you're kinda playing with it, it depends. If you have a rock hard. We just needed to have... It was actually the hollowness of the apple boxes that caused a little bit of give, and enough give probably to cause that crack. As far as the plate goes, you can score it, but just get slightly thinner plates, and have a much harder surface than we did. I feel like that was enough, it just wasn't. But we got the shot.
Question from online. The question is, "Why doesn't Steve use "transparent material, glass plates, "to hold the pancakes and eggs?" so just kinda could you reinforce the importance of whether it's the items in motion, that actually will give you the effect you're looking for in the end.
In Splash photography, everybody comes at it from a different... It's not like there's the school of Splash photography, where we're teaching a lot of what I know, and what the basics are to be able to continue on this. But everybody has their own little set of tools. Transparent stuff doesn't have any benefit to us because we're already hiding. As long as you hide whatever you're holding it with. If you have things that are stacked perfectly horizontally, then you might start to look at using acrylic or some choice. What I'm pre conceptualizing is, how am I going to get rid of this with Photoshop? If it's super easy, like a piece of Armature wire, then we can just do that. It's easy to just have a piece of Armature wire in your hand and just create different loops and turn and turn. There will be times where that just doesn't work, it's either too delicate or falls off. You can't put an egg on that, it's not gonna work. So having acrylic, you still have to cut out the acrylic. There's no getting around that. Acrylic, or any kind of clear thing, if it's to big and you end up seeing part of it, it just makes a huge job. I'd rather just have one wire coming out, or even a finger is just as good, if it's small. Something, it doesn't take a lot of extra work to get rid of any of that in post. So we're gonna continue. We continually refine our technique because we haven't done this for 30 years, but we've done it for a while and enough to know how to, at least, accomplish anything. We do rely on post production quite a bit. So whatever gets us there is fine with us.
If you had a customer who specifically wanted a set up like this, with the flat surface not a cracked surface, and you only have the one tile, would you put a halt to the photo shoot to go grab another one? Or would you completely Photoshop that?
Oh no, I would grab, I would have a lot of tiles. This is a whole different scenario. I don't want you guys, or anyone watching, because this is sort of an intro to Splash photography. We're not going full-bore or even now. It might look like it, but we're trying to at least translate it that it's easy. So you don't feel overwhelmed. You're just capturing stuff in motion. It's not truly difficult, or too frightening. You just have to have enough tarp to cover and protect yourself. I would have a lot of, we would have 10 times the amount of this and we would be working on heroes all morning, nonstop. We'd have trays and trays of 'em. I want you guys to feel comfortable knowing that you can, in fact, do it with minimal post processing, especially. And also minimal food costs 'cause that can rack up pretty quickly. You don't wanna be spending hundreds of dollars on food just for these one shoots. So it's important to practice to get your timing down, and just to understand the theory behind this 'cause once you get it, it's like riding a bike. I just set this up and I go, and we're done. I can change it around and create different lighting styles, and the actually styling and rigging is something I'm continually getting better at. 'Cause I'll hire people for major shoots that do that professionally. So I'm not expected to do all the rigging all the time on really complex shoots, but I'll do it whenever I can. The shoot for the milk company was very specific 'cause that was at the higher end of my expertise as far as rigging and making sure... It took a lot of rigging but it wasn't anything near what you see in some shoots, and I usually bring people in for that. and it's beyond what you'd want to do at home anyways. So, yeah.