Just thought I would share some behind the scenes photos from my recent adventure - painting and photography for the new line of Fusion mineral paint.
Meet Gillian! Although Gillian is only 15 years old, I knew she would be the perfect assistant for this project! She is unbelievely smart, motivated and had a strong desire to learn about painting and photography. Gillian also has a wonderful sense of humour (notice the painting tape balanced on her head). Gillian and I worked together like clockwork. She helped me paint the furniture, stage the scenes and was an amazing photography assistant.
Gillian is very knowledgeable about hand tools (thanks to her amazing Mom and Dad!) and on many occasions I said to her "you need to MacGyver this" and she would get 'er done with a drill, a hammer, clamps, duct tape or fishing line. Heck, Gillian was too young to even know that MacGyver was an action-adventure tv hero in the 1980's who solved problems with everyday materials he found at hand. His favourite "tools" were duct tape and a swiss army knife. When things needed to be rigged for a shot, Gillian would simply say "Sue, I'll MacGyver that". She had my back!
I used the same background for all of the shots. The walls were made from two 4' x 8' sheets of plywood. I used painting tape to create a faux brick pattern on the plywood and then used grout (because I scored a whole bunch of cheap grout at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore) and covered the entire wall with grout. I let the grout sit for about an hour and then I pulled off the painting tape and voila - fake brick walls! I primed the whole wall using a white primer and then I used a small paint roller to apply Fusion mineral paint in lamp white to the raised bricks to add some dimension.
The walls were then clamped to a 12' photography background support system (meant to hang paper). Needless to say, the walls were very wobbly, so Gillian and I pulled a MacGyver and put two dressers behind the walls for additional support. We also used several sandbags on the support stands so the walls wouldn't come tumbling down on us!
I used clamps to hang a thin piece of plywood on the wall. We were then able to mount screws on the plywood for hanging picture frames and other items with fishing line. Using the plywood and fishing line saved us from drilling all sorts of holes into the faux brick wall.
For the techies who want to know about my camera and lighting set up:
My camera is not particularly fancy. It is a Nikon D90, but it gets the job done. My camera was set manually to ISO 200, f/16 at 1/125th second for all the shots. I used a Sekonic L-358 flash meter to meter the light. My computer monitor is calibrated with the X-Rite Eye-One Display 2 for consistent and accurate colour.
I kept the lighting simple. I used one Elinchrom BXRi 500 strobe light with an EL-Skyport wireless speed transmitter to trigger the flash. Light was mounted on an Avenger roller stand and I used a Rotalux 53" octa softbox. Although I hummed and hawed about using a second strobe light, due to limited space and the constant moving of furniture, I decided to use a Lastolite 4' x 6' reflector instead of a second light. In some shots I used a second smaller reflector to fill in shadows on pieces of furniture. Light was always on camera right and reflector on camera left.
In every single shot we metered the light and I took a test shot that I zoomed in on to double check things. In this shot the board and the tool with the claws were slightly crooked and needed to be fixed. It is important to pay attention to small details because nothing is more disappointing than seeing your photos on your computer and then noticing crooked things. Can you say re-shoot?
Some collages were smooth like peanut butter. This collage was a simple set up and required minimal tweaking. I set up the vignette, metered the light, adjusted some tools and in one shot it was a done deal. I was pleased with the results.
Other collages were not so smooth, kinda like peanut butter but with nuts this time. One test shot and I knew this was not the look I was going for. Time to re-think it! The door was too dark and I wanted the black paint to pop. I wanted to use something wood in the shot, but the wood needed to be lighter coloured.
I pulled out an antique printer's tray from my stash of random stuff and asked Gillian to MacGyver it so it would hang. Second attempt and I got the shot I was looking for. I decided to pour paint in the printer's tray for the wet paint shot. Bad idea! I got in two quick shots and then the paint leaked everywhere. Good thing Fusion paint is fairly thick!
Other collages were like peanuts straight of the can - not smooth at all. I hated this first shot!
Like changing the positioning of the furniture was going to help. Not!
I tried draping some cheesecloth to look like a curtain. Bad idea period!
Or hanging a vintage dust pan was going to fix it. Not!
Now I liked the direction it was going! We laughed when we saw this photo - Gillian looks like a giant!
I am not sure what I was thinking when I decided to put a picture of wet paint in each collage. Tons of work! First shot - messy paint on the right side. Wash the spoons and try again.
Gillian MacGyvered the frames with fishing line, but I decided I didn't like the fireplace in the shot.
This time the top spoon falls into paint. Grrr. Wash the spoons and try again. Gillian gets out the duct tape and tapes the spoons together and the third shot is successful! Go Gillian! Go Gillian!
Finally, I was pleased with the results. Crisp and clean was the look I was going for. I wanted to ensure that in every collage there was no question as to what colour was being showcased.
Brown has got to be one of most difficult colours to make an interesting photo from. I remembered I had some great vintage photos that I found in the attic when I bought my place. Score! First shot - camera in picture.
Second shot - remove the camera. I decided that the photographs I found in the attic were much older than the year the camera was manufactured. Sad. I liked the camera.
For all the collages I took many shots from different angles.
Until you make up the collage, it is difficult to know which photo will look best.
But if you take enough shots one is going to outshine the others.
First test shot. I think it will work.
Third test shot. Liking the brown lid as a backdrop, but still sorta boring!
Second test shot - with paint this time. I don't like it. Boring!
Fourth shot - insert adorable picture. Done deal. Love this shot!
Originally I thought the brown was going to be my least favourite and most boring collage. By adding a few interesting photographs it became one of my favourites!
I love vintage muffin tins and used them in several wet paint photos. Sometimes the paint poured beautifully and the photos were effortless.
But in most the shots the paint had bubbles! A couple cute bubbles would be okay, but these puppies were not cute! Can you say photoshop? Grrr!
Again, you never know which shot will look better in a collage. Paint in three holes in the first shot and in four holes in the second shot.
As soon as I finished painting the old wood crate, I knew exactly what I wanted to use for a prop. My beloved broken broom! It is so ugly that it is spectacular! I have never seen a broom with this much character before. I love you broom.
Just one more goofy thing to share with you!
Test shot because taking photos with glass can be a nightmare. Do you see the reflections from my teal coloured pajamas. Really?!?! Yes, I sometimes paint or take pictures in my pj's. But admit it, you do too!
Solution: wrap yourself in a white towel and hope that your neighbours don't see you through the window! (Not that the towel could be any worse than my pajamas).
I have to admit I enjoy writing blog posts like this. Perhaps I write them for myself, kinda like keeping a diary of all the fun things I have done. I did up another blog post about how I got involved with painting and photographing the new Fusion mineral paint line that you may want to read about.
If you are interested, I have more behind the scenes photos I can share with you. I am not sure if anyone learns anything from them - but if you do, I will write up a Part Two.
Please "like" this post or leave me a comment if you want to see more!