By Roger (29 March 2015)
Photography can often require some problem solving. We all enjoy the times when the light is beautiful; the subject is captivating; and you have the correct gear to capture it. Everything is going just like you heard it was supposed to. Those are the days, huh?
Then, there are the other days. Someone has asked you to make a photograph under less than ideal circumstances. They just know what they want and hope that you can do the work. But don't back away from challenges in your photography. They present you with a chance to learn, even if you'd rather not.
I just, recently, got one of those challenges. I thought I'd use it as an example, since we haven't done a photo walk-through in six months.
Last weekend, I was in Florida for a business meeting, and I was asked to take a photo of a promotional item from a Nordhavn (a yacht company) rally. It was a large sail, hanging on a wall, in a dark, back room. It couldn't be taken outside because it was raining. Luckily, I had a flash to provide some light on the flag. I did not have my wide angle lens or tripod because I flew to Florida on a small jet, with very little overhead storage. I didn't know I was going to be asked to create, so I was traveling light.
The sail was too large and the room it was in too small for me to get it all into one frame. Did I mention the sail was eight feet wide and surrounded by junk? This meant I was going to have to take two photos and put them together in post-processing. Here is a photo to give you an idea of the background and the “fill-the-frame” photo, zoomed out to my widest.
I did a panorama of the two rough photos, combining them into one photo that includes the entire sail. Now that I had everything in one file, I needed to mask all the distractions behind the flag. This was pretty straight forward work. It was made a whole lot easier with the nice edges of the sail. I, also, ran one of my Photoshop actions to enhance the details within the flag. Once all this work was completed, I had the flag on a nice transparent background.
Just in case you haven't done this kind of thing before, the checkerboard pattern you see is how Photoshop tells you the background is transparent. When you save the image and send it back into Lightroom, you will see a pure white background. The transparency is still there, as long as you don't flatten the image and save it in that format.
I had what they wanted – the sail isolated, with transparent background. It is now possible to rotate it, so the sponsors could be put upright. All that is required is a suitable background color, pattern, or photo to set off the sail a little more. I sent several background examples. The one at the top is the one that looked best to me. I'm sending some additional examples.
I wouldn't call this a masterpiece by any stretch, but I gave them what they wanted, within the constraints I was given. Believe it or not, this sail is actually worth some money to the company. The owner wants to sell it back to Nordhavn, since only a couple of these sails still exist.
Yes, I've already recommended a better setting and a re-shoot, with proper lighting. For me, it was a chance to practice solving a problem and demonstrating what can be done on short notice. It was a fun experiment and gave the seller ideas for enhancing the presentation.