Really, that’s all I wanted! Turns out a simple photo of some new business cards was a lot more challenging than I thought it would be….
[Ed: Apologies up front for geeking out on the tech aspect of this. Hopefully somebody will find it useful 🙂 )
I recently created a new wedding photography portfolio website, following the popular advice around the interweb that if you’re a commercial/editorial/architectural/food/travel/<insert your specialty here> photographer and you also shoot weddings/families/seniors/newborns/maternity/<insert your other specialty here>, you should separate the portfolios. Supposedly, it’s a good business practice so as not to confuse your existing and potential dream clients about what it is you actually shoot. Makes sense to me. Because the fact is, especially when you’re starting out, it’s hard to make a full-time income off any single specialty, but you want to avoid the jack-of-all-trade approach because people do prefer specialists. So photographers like myself turn to, say, weddings to help pay the bills. (And please don’t misunderstand, I really like shooting weddings. It’s not just for the money. I know a lot of my peers speak loathsomely about them, but I’ve found they’re pretty enjoyable. Perhaps I haven’t come across the right bride-zilla or groom-osaur(?) to dissuade me, but until then I’m going to keep pursuing them as a means for additional income…and fun.)
So a new website meant new business cards. I worked with the fine folks over at Rock Design to come up with a pretty nice card that I feel speaks to the wedding clients I want to reach. After a couple weeks of anticipation, and a bust run of new cards for my other website which I’ll talk about in a future post, I finally got to hold them in my hands for the first time yesterday. Ooh, and they feel nice!
Of course I wanted to share, so I thought I’d take a quick shot. This is what I got just using a dark wood tabletop and a couple speed lights…
That blind deboss on the back of the card looks nice, right? And how bout those die-cut corners, eh? Well, the photo itself isn’t horrible…lighting’s a little uneven. More importantly, you can’t appreciate another little splurge I incorporated into the design- a silver foil stamp on the front. The monogram pretty much looks black like the rest of the offset printing. I knew I’d have to get a better angle on the front to show the foil. Or break out some continuous lighting and stands which I wasn’t prepared to do for just a “quick” shot. This was my next setup…
Better angle, but still no foil. It struck me like a brick that the light had to hit it exactly on a reflection to the camera itself for it to show. In other words, any purely side-lit setup would create a dark shadow, so the key was a touch of light directly from the front to get the pop off the silver, but not so much that you wash out the texture that the flash on camera right is bringing out.
I gridded and handheld my second flash so I could maneuver it around to catch the foil reflection. I wanted to keep a shallow depth of field, too, so I had to drop the power output on both flashes all the way down to 1/128th. It was still too much power from the handheld, even gridded. And I couldn’t keep holding it farther back (i.e., inverse square law) because the camera itself started creating a shadow on the card.
To keep the flash on axis as close to the camera lens as possible, I slapped a 1-stop neutral density gel on it to cut down some of its output. Still wasn’t enough. (At this point I could’ve dropped my ISO down. I still had a couple stops to spare but that would’ve been waaaay too easy…<ahem>…ok,Ididn’tthinkofit.) Unfortunately, I couldn’t find my large sheet of ND gel to add another layer so I had to get creative. Could’ve probably taped some white paper on (didn’tthinkofthateither), but I ended up using a bag made of black fabric netting that I keep spare batteries in. Aha! I knew one day it’d come in handy for exactly this purpose. I still had to fold it up to cut down the light even more, and of course made it as difficult and unwieldy as possible by just holding it over the flash head (as opposed to securely fastening it with just about anything else laying around) while holding the whole flash itself, while trying to find the sweet spot on the foil. It eventually started working…
After a tweak of the composition and a few more frames to find the sweet spot again, I ended up stopping (the masochism) with the photo at the top of this post and called it a day.
Overall, I’m really happy with the cards. It’s one thing to try to show how nice they are in a photo, but it’s another to actually hold one in your hand. Like my friend said, “Ooh, American Psycho fancy”. Haha.