Photography and The Plain White Background
March 15, 2018
For the first photo shoot of the Black Plastic Gyre Necklace, I used plain white paper background. This is possibly the most conservative approach to documenting the artwork. It also gave photographer Philip Cohen practice with lighting and exposure for the challenging black-on-black textures.
Out of the 75+ images Cohen took in three hours, the goal now is to select just a few of the best. I pay for each image that I decide to keep, therefore I need to choose wisely. Experience has taught me that I end up using the best images over and over, but at this initial selection stage, my brain is often overwhelmed with decision fatigue.
And because I am still vibrating with concerns with the intricate details of fabricating the artwork, it is difficult to view the work objectively at arm's length to see what is the best image.
So, of the five photos in this post which ones would you buy?
Photo image #2
Which photos capture the Black Plastic Gyre Necklace most effectively? Tell me what you think.
Photo image #3
Here is how I went through my selection criteria:
A minimum requirement is a full view and a detail close-up -- but which ones?
Also, I'd like to have a vertical and a horizontal. One never knows which situation may call for a particular format. Reframing an image in Photoshop is an option, but the result isn't always the best quality photo. Optimal focus and lighting is always in the original image from the photographer.
Social networking sites add to the quandary on vertical or horizontal. The constant use of computers for viewing images has made the horizontal format very popular. Horizontal images work well for Facebook and social network banners. Vertical images work better on Pinterest. Instagram leans toward square. There is no way to use one image for everything anymore.
The full view below is great, but it presents a major weakness -- there is no way to know that the Black Plastic Gyre Necklace is 26 feet long.
Photo image #4
With a plain white background, there is no indication of scale. This image provides no clue for a viewer to tell how big this necklace is at all, yet for my purposes, a plain white background is essential to emphasize the stark black and white contrast. Typical alternative backgrounds such as wood texture, sand, rocks, or a room-like context may work for an editorial shot, but would likely distract excessively from this particular artwork and my expectations for using the photo.
How can a photo of a large object reveal detail, materials, scale and the artist's intent all at the same time?
Photo image #5
Lacking any reference for scale, this close-up section could be 2 inches or 2 feet. This can be a serious issue when a curator or juried situation is looking for something bigger or smaller if they don't fully comprehend the description.
Out of the five photos in this post, which ones would you select? Each choice adds expense.
Would you change your choices by knowing that I have additional shots on a mannequin and a model? These will be shown in the upcoming posts.
Background information about hiring a photographer (below.)
Here are a couple of very practical issues when you hire a professional photographer.
Professional photography is an expense that some artists and makers may consider optional, but there is no doubt that professional quality images will elevate your work when seen by exhibition sponsors, curators, and potential buyers. Professional quality images can open doors and provide opportunities. Lacking professional quality images may incur an opportunity cost that an artist may not even realize.
Once you've chosen to have professional photographs of your art or craft, ask photographers about their fee structure. Philip Cohen charges by the hour for the photography session, and then I pay an additional amount for each final image that I choose. But money is not the only issue. You need quality photographs and a photographer that is familiar with your medium. A working relationship with a photographer that understands your intent is paramount.
Posts in this series about photographing the Black Plastic Gyre Necklace:
Drowning, Strangled, Suffocating in Plastic -- and Experimenting with Images
Photography -- Model Challenges & Working Out the Details
Photography -- Mannequin Needed! Rent, Buy, or Borrow? Basic or Stylized?
Photography and The Plain White Background
Photography - More than Documentation?