One photo surface, five different looks


When you prop-style your own photos, one of the ongoing struggles is having enough photo backgrounds to pick from in your collection. Different clients and gigs require different looks and moods. What's a photographer to do?

The thing is, you can get a lot of mileage out of one background. Don't believe me? Let me show you.

The surface used below is our Ruby background. With a change in props, lighting, and adjustments in your post production, you can create dramatically different looks from one shot to the next.

With this first image, I wanted to create a monochromatic palette. The Ruby surface has warm reddish-brown marbling throughout, so choosing produce within the red & purple family seemed like an obvious choice. I also used props with warm undertones, like the wood boards and pink and brown-hued dishes. 

I went in a totally different direction here, with the goal of creating a bright, happy shot. Instead of using diffused natural light, as in the last image, I used bare-bulb strobes, to create hard, directional light with distinct shadows. I felt this made sense, since the subject matter made me think of a morning breakfast scene. Because there were vibrant primary colors in the composition (red and yellow), I wanted them to really pop.

For this image, my goal was to create a calm, quiet scene. I used very diffused strobe to light the shot and chose a muted, soft color palette for my props. 

Joe and I have degrees in fine art so I've spent a lot of time thinking and talking about color. If you've ever taken an art class, you've probably heard about complementary colors-- colors that are opposite one another on the color wheel. Complementary colors include red/green, blue/orange and purple/yellow. The idea is that a color's opposite makes it stand out more strongly in a compostion. For example, when I am shooting a subject with a lot of warm orange tones, (citrus, for example), I often choose a background and/or props with blue tones because that will make my subject stand out. So, in this image, my subject was a salad comprised of reds and greens and I chose to stick with that palette of complementary colors. Because the colors are so rich, the surface fades into the background and becomes a good foundation to help the subject shine.

With this last shot, I was going for a more dark and dramatic vibe. Sometimes people assume you need to keep your entire palette dark to create a moody image, but that's simply not true. Most of it comes down to lighting. In this image, I used a diffused strobe, aimed at the top of the composition. I also used different black boards to block or modify the light in select areas: on the right side and bottom of the frame. I wanted the light to really highlight the design on top of the cake. 

Have a question? Ask below! And stay tuned for more photography tips and tricks!

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