Discussion in 'Seeking Critique' started by Supriyo, Jul 6, 2019.

  1. In my attempt to photograph household objects, I am starting with this one, a piece of steel wool. I know I should not include two images, but I wanted to create some perspective on the whole subject and did not want to create a separate thread on the second image. So, ideas, alternative ways of shooting, all will be welcome. Thanks!!

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  2. I prefer the color version.

    I don't feel it stands up on its own (even with shadow and light dividing line).

    I get that you want to do a still life. I just don't find it that compelling a subject or setup to carry this kind of photo.

    What about hanging it a bit of distance from a wall (or corner) and letting it spin and capturing the movement and more projected shadows?

    Also maybe look at trying it in a cast iron pan with soap suds. If you were ok with moving away from still life, you could add a hand with scrubbing motion.
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  3. Thanks, Sam. I have my doubts about them too. Your suggestions are great, exactly what I was looking for. Motion and shadow are excellent ideas to try.
  4. Yep, good ideas from Sam. I’d particularly like to see either suspended in air (I’m pre-visualizing a spider on its thread- don’t ask why!).

    Alternatively, how about mixing the steel wool with something mushy/vunerable like fruit.

    (I do like #2 as it stands)
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  5. I connected instantly with these images because they reminded me of something I had a lot of fun with. I was house-bound for a month due to an injury, and was going stir-crazy. To stay challenged, I would pick up some household object and spend a few hours making portraits of it in any way I could think of that would make it interesting or beautiful, or that would use it to establish a mood or provoke a question. So that’s my back-story, and it’s going to heavily influence my perception of your images.

    My reactions, as I sat with the images for awhile:
    1. the color image is pleasing in terms of detail, color, and subject matter. The reason the subject matter is interesting here is that it’s not inherently interesting, bringing up…
    2. …the question of what the photographer’s intent is in giving us this image. My interpretation: you want us to see steel wool in a way we haven’t seen it before.
    3. From that point of view, the two frames head in different directions: the B&W makes me focus on the texture (consistent with the title), the color version on the softly reflected colors. Both of those have a lot of potential as visual hooks, but both are perhaps a bit subtle as currently presented—the danger is that the viewer just sees a photo of steel wool and turns the page.
    4. With the B&W, my eye goes to the bright coils in the center of the frame and pretty much stays there, occasionally exploring the protrusion at the lower right and the intriguing shadows down there. Because of the fairly uniform busy-ness of the rest of the steel wool, I don’t spend much time at all in other parts of the frame. I’m wondering what the effect would be if you crop from the top and left and slightly from the right—that might make the subject more of an enigma, and would strengthen the diagonal as a compositional element and so keep my eye from parking in the center. [The down-side of this approach is that, judging from the title, it’s the chaotic busy-ness that you’re interested in, and a strong diagonal would detract from that.]
    5. I do like the color version—the cool and warm reflected colors work very well for me, and the entire sculpture could pass as an exhibit at MOCA…hmm—what if you placed it on a pedestal?
    6. And at that point, I got lost in 20 minutes of daydreaming about how one could go about making a viewer extremely interested in staring at steel wool. What if we couldn’t immediately recognize it as steel wool because of the cropping? What if we were looking through it at something else? What if there were multiple colors reflected by the silver surfaces? What if we were looking through a tunnel into the center of the wool? How could that be lighted? What does steel wool look like if it’s pulled apart into a thin sheet? What would its shadow look like? What would it look like being batted by a cat’s paw? Or inside of a wine glass? Or surrounded by carrots? Or by sheep's wool? What if it's strongly backlit, with a blown-out background? What if it’s illuminated only by candle-light in a dark room? What if it got shaped into something else? What kind of composition would work to organize a closely cropped B&W texture shot? And so on.
    Anyway, I’m very curious to see where the household items series is leading you.
  6. I’ve just realised #1 looks like pubic hair. maybe work on that theme.
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  7. There was a time when pubic hair was prevalent. Now everyone shaves themself 8 times a day.
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  8. Strong backlight.
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  9. Made me think of one of Magritte's paintings.

    That theme or another that the steel wool might suggest, surrealistic or otherwise.
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  10. Of the two, I prefer the color version too, especially the composition (form), clearer seamless background which add to the 'artistic' setting. But I agree that you could make a whole series of photos of the steel wool in different positions, from different viewpoints and close-up macro/cropping. And suspended or in liquid, as Sam says. You can rub out the threads in PP;).

    The most interesting thing about this subject is it's form, texture and the differences in texture and tones within the wool itself. Perhaps between the wool and something else (background, base) too. Lighting is the main tool in highlighting form, textures and contrasts. From the shadows, looks to me as if top lighting is the man source. There may well be be side-lighting too. You might to experient (a bit more) with different lighting setups on the wool and background. My guess is that it might look very different when candlelit (multiple candles), on a glass plate/table lit from underneath or with different side/back lighting, or set against deep shadow. All DIY, of course! There are interesting websites/videos on 'DIY product photography'.

    One more tip: in PP, there's still a slight bit of room to optimize the levels. This bumps up the highlights. Boosting the range between the mid-tones and highlights (curves) brightens the photo up a bit and adds a bit more contrast. But you might want to try low-key and hi-key too.

    You may be ready to to move on to something else but I think the great ideas in this thread are applicable to other 'object' photos too.

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  11. Soak in gasoline and ignite in a dark room.
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  12. To quibble, it's technically not steel "wool", NTIM
    It does need something, but I'm darned if I can figure out what. Maybe a tighter crop, but it didn't do much for me.
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  13. I really like the original color image a lot. I like the extra space around the subject and two-color background. I love the lighting as is. I think that the B&W interpretation loses much of the subtlety. I think that JDMvW's interpretation further reduces that subtlety, so that's moving away from where I would explore.

    I studied the image before I read what it was. At first, I thought that it might be balled up tailing from a metal lathe. I didn't think of this course steel wool.

    If I were working this subject, I'd like to see how it reacts to different color gels on the light, or two light sources with different colors. The reflective nature of the metal, combined with the way that light hits it at all angles, might yield interesting variations.

    What draws me to this image is the details that I don't notice when I just pick up a piece of steel wool. It's similar to looking at a wildlife or bird closeup and marveling at the intricate feather or fur detail. We study small details with fascination, thanks to photography, that go unnoticed in daily life.
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  14. Wow! A lot of very creative suggestions. First order of business ... this one is for Ludmilla.


    I do have a vision from the time I started experimenting with this object. The futuristic , sci-fi centric shape immediately drew my attention. I realized, this does not deserve to be in the kitchen. Its like a self replicating machine, a robotic counterpart of a slimy alien. At the same time, I also loved its pure texture and form, without any added dramatization. Since I do not have much experience with artificial lighting or photographing small objects like this, I started with relatively conventional themes, hoping to be more adventurous with time. The suggestions offered in this thread are absolutely amazing, and I am going to try at least a few of them, and post them here as an exercise.
  15. For now, here is another one that I made using some custom lighting.

  16. absolutely!

    This is a very accurate description and nails at the core of the challenges faced with photographing objects like this.

    Such great, well thought ideas! I can visualize the scene of the steel wool through a tunnel (perhaps with a reflective inner surface, and/or added lens distortion to the periphery). I will surely work on some of these ideas.

    Great idea, Gordon. I have tried to work on this in the preliminary attempt above, but will try more for sure. One idea is to place the wool over an array of red LEDs, such that it seems to have multiple glowing eyes.

    Couldn't agree more, Mike.

    You are right, the main light source is an overhead desk lamp whose brightness and color temperature can be adjusted. Then there was some mild ambient light coming through a slightly open window. By setting the lamp to a very warm color temperature and aligning the camera color balance somewhat in the middle of the two, I tried to emulate blue and orange light in the same setup. I am going to play with different lighting and shadow options. Just have to get one of those home studio photography and lighting kits.

    Thanks. I think this subject is suitable for both low key and high key compositions. Will keep that in mind.

    I agree, this is coarser than regular steel wool. I like your attempt at the re-edit. I understand you tried to create a high key image, but of course you had only a jpeg to work with. I have plans to make a few high key images of this subject and we will see how that comes along.

    I agree. The complex shape offers countless variations when combined with multiple light sources.

    Thats the reason I find macro photography both documentary and representative at the same time. Documentary because it presents the characteristics of the subject that are impossible to appreciate from the conventional viewpoint, while composing in creative ways can also provide for a story, narrative and food for imagination, which is the representative aspect.
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  17. Think of all the statues of classical antiquity. They took pride in their hair base.
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  18. Nice stones...
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  19. That 1st shot, in B&W has a real industrial look to it, like curly drill press shavings out of a machine shop. I like it for that reason. The 2nd image is a bit more surreal with its colors- it almost seems to float.

    I might not have made the leap to pubic hair (I went straight to metal shop), but the "set-up" photo with the vegetables and fruit is er... creative and fun.
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  20. So, I'm at least a day late and a couple of dollars short. Sorry. I really like the possibilities that come with macro images of common objects. They can become fascinating, abstract images that beg the viewer to try and figure out what they're seeing from the few clues offered. I think Supriyo's steel scrubber fits this bill nicely, but would require a fairly deep macro, best combined with some creative lighting. Perhaps, an image that combines the steel wool with a typical kitchen object it might be found cleaning, but with a very tight crop and macro treatment. Giving the steel some kind of visual foil could really take this places. I like where this is going and wait anxiously to see what Supriyo does with it.
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