Categories
Backdrops for Photoshoots Tutorial

Studio Backdrop: Teal

Color is the place where our brain and the universe meet.

-Paul Klee
Andrea is wearing an olive colored shirt with fringe detail along with a turquoise squash blossom and a silver concho belt. This image was captured with a mix of natural light and a studio strobe.

One of the first things I learned about painting backdrops is that a backdrop isn’t finished until it is photographed. As you can see in the picture below, the backdrop is actually quite lighter in tone than how it appears in the above portrait of Andrea.

The base color of the backdrop is a blue gray color called Dragonfly by Behr. I wanted a turquoise hued backdrop but the name Dragonfly was a deal cincher. The color leans more towards teal than turquoise, if one wants to get into the nitty-gritty detail over it.

With the backdrops that I started painting towards the end of the project, I changed my technique and began mixing paint colors in the tray. It might be difficult to see in the photos (below) but the paints are thinned quite a bit with water. I didn’t have a formula for thinning the primer and paints, but generally I was aiming for a consistency of very thin pancake batter. I wasn’t stingy with adding water. I guesstimate that the ratio was around 40% water to 60% paint.

With some of the backdrops I added texture by using sea sponges to dab on color. At other times I worked in about two foot squares using a large brush that I sacrificed for the job of pounding two or more colors of paint together on the canvas. On the vintage pink canvas I employed a heavy duty spray bottle to apply multiple colors of very thinned paint all over the canvas. On the large charcoal gray canvas I splattered paint invoking the spirit of abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock to create random texture.

The “teal” backdrop is comprised of five colors: dragonfly blue, charcoal gray, light gray, ocher and creamy white. The colors were applied to the canvas using the texture roller featured in the photo in the upper right corner.

I found that there is no wrong or right way to add texture. Just like there is no wrong or right way to take a photograph. At some point experience and instinct come together to create some magic. If you don’t like what you are creating, keep going, try new techniques and don’t stop until you are satisfied with the result.

My drawing 101 and 102 teacher at Saratoga Junior College in Northern California always said to not discard a drawing. She encouraged her students to work through dissatisfaction. Art, like life, is a series of decisions. Adjustments are made continually along the way as you learn and navigate the process. The great thing about painting is that if you don’t like what’s happening on the canvas, you can just let the layer dry and start afresh. Keep painting until you like what you see. Let the backdrop dry overnight and then photograph it the next morning. The camera will “see” the backdrop differently than your eyes do.

This backdrop has five colors, plus whatever colors they make when mixed together. When I thought that I perhaps went too far with too many colors the last thing I would do is create a light wash of the primary color. With a light hand I’d roll the paint (that was thinned a lot with water – perhaps 50%) over the entire canvas using the texture roller. I coined this step a “unifying wash” because that’s what it did. The primary color became a glaze on top of the backdrop and married all the colors.

Towards the end of the project I started adding leftover colors from some of the drops to the new drops I was painting. I felt that perhaps adding a bit of those colors would make a cohesive collection. Even if the effect is subtle I like the idea of complementary colors across the studio’s collection of backdrops.

Interested in learning more about what the studio has to offer? Click on the following links to jump to the studio’s portfolio of images, and download a digital copy of the studio’s Magazine and Style Guide to learn how to prepare for your photoshoot:

Link to the studio’s portfolio.

Link to the studio’s Free Magazine and Style Guide.

Categories
Backdrops for Photoshoots Tutorial

Studio Backdrop: Purple

Be eccentric now. Don’t wait for old age to wear purple.

-Regina Brett
A full-length portrait of Andrea.

There are two types of people in the world. Those who like purple and those who don’t. I’m joking, of course, but it does seem as if the women I meet are rarely on the fence about the color. They either love it and seek it out, or despise it.

A couple of years ago I purchased a purple hand painted canvas backdrop via the internet. The color turned out to be not so much purple but periwinkle. In other words, the color had too much blue in it. I wanted more red in the mix for a darker, richer purple.

The difference between violet and purple is that violet appears in the visible light spectrum, or rainbow, whereas purple is simply a mix of red and blue. Violet has the highest vibration in the visible spectrum. While violet is not quite as intense as purple, its essence is similar. Generally the names are interchangeable and the meaning of the colors is similar.

Empowered by Color

The “easy” fix was to paint with a textured roller over the periwinkle backdrop with a variety of purple colors. I did not completely obliterate the original color, I just added more purple hues to the canvas until I was happy with the result. Purchasing paint samples from Home Depot came in handy. Not needing to buy a quart of paint for each desired color enabled me to be liberal with adding a variety of light, medium and dark purples to the canvas.

While painting I’d leave finished backdrops nearby, such as the rolled up vibrant green, so I could make sure that all the colors complimented each other. Sometimes I’d add bits of color from one backdrop to another. The apricot backdrop is in process on the floor. The backdrops need to be photographed in between coats because they look different on the floor versus in a photograph.

Purple combines the calm stability of blue and the fierce energy of red. Because the color purple is created with a strong warm and a strong cool color, the color retains both warm and cool properties.

-Jennifer Bourn, Bourn Creative
Selfie time. I was in the process of painting the chalk paint blue-gray backdrop when I noticed my purple t-shirt blended with the purple backdrop.

Interested in learning more about what the studio has to offer? Click on the following links to jump to the studio’s portfolio of images, and download a digital copy of the studio’s Magazine and Style Guide to learn how to prepare for your photoshoot:

Link to the studio’s portfolio.

Link to the studio’s Free Magazine and Style Guide.

Categories
Backdrops for Photoshoots Tutorial

Studio Backdrop: Vibrant Olive

Green is the prime color of the world, and that from which its loveliness arises.

-Pedro Calderon de la Barca
A three-quarter length portrait of Andrea. I particularly like how the dress matches her skin. The green backdrop has a touch of peachy orange tint to it.

A couple of years ago I purchased an olive green backdrop. I really liked how it photographed but didn’t use it often because it is small measuring about 4′ x 6′. It’s fine for photographing one person, but even then, most of the time I had to expand the backdrop when retouching the image in Photoshop.

The less time I need to spend in Photoshop the better. People seem to think there is a magic wand in Photoshop (which ironically there is a tool in Photoshop called magic wand but it’s powers are limited to making selections and masking… in other words, not a Harry Potter-style magic wand). All that sitting during retouching is slowly killing me – not joking – so the more I can get the image right in camera, the better.

Laura, a Wise Women: The 50 Over 50 Project participant, included her daughters, Valerie and Andrea, in two sets during her photoshoot. They were the first to be photographed on this hand painted backdrop.

This is a long way of communicating to you that the goal was to create a larger olive green backdrop that replicated the color of the small backdrop so I could photograph more than one person against it. As I described in the Old Masters Brown blog post, I brought the olive backdrop outside along with paint samples from Home Depot to assist with selecting the closest colors for the new backdrop.

For this backdrop I used a big brush to pound the wet colors together on the canvas to roughly blend and add texture. I’d refine areas using a sea sponge to blend.

The end result, interestingly enough, produced a more vibrant green than I anticipated. The smaller olive green backdrop is subdued and delivers almost an Old Masters oil painting tone for a background. The olive backdrop that I painted delivers a bigger punch of color that I did not expect, but quite like. It’s not what I was aiming for, but I’m happy nonetheless. Because this:

Interested in learning more about what the studio has to offer? Click on the following links to jump to the studio’s portfolio of images, and download a digital copy of the studio’s Magazine and Style Guide to learn how to prepare for your photoshoot:

Link to the studio’s portfolio.

Link to the studio’s Free Magazine and Style Guide.

Categories
Backdrops for Photoshoots Tutorial

Studio Backdrop: Apricot

Colours are the smiles of nature.

-James Henry Leigh Hunt
When in doubt, go monochrome. Andrea did just that for this image featuring hues of peach and apricot.

Back in the late 90s, my family and I lived in San Jose, California. My husband and I purchased our first home during a pro-seller market. Houses were selling quickly after being listed and often there were bidding wars. It was a dream come true to successfully navigate those nerve-wracking real estate market conditions and to finally own a home, a home that I could decorate the way I wanted. A home that had a large backyard with green grass and an enormous mulberry tree, a large cherry tree and two mature apricot trees that produced the most amazing fruit.

It was during that time that Pottery Barn introduced faux painted walls to the masses. I loved turning the pages of their dreamy catalog and seeing the beautifully colored and textured walls with admiring eyes. After living in rentals with white walls, I wanted to live with color. My sister, Linda, bless her heart, visited for an extended period of time and taught me how to faux paint after she had mastered the technique after experimenting with painting the walls in her home.

The completed purple backdrop in the background with the apricot backdrop drying in the foreground. Towards the end of the backdrop project I started mixing the paint colors in the tray and lightly picking them up with the textured roller.

Together Linda and I faux painted the living room apricot with accents of terracotta. The colors in the backdrop are similar except that the walls in my California home were darker. After the painting was complete, I purchased velvet curtains from Pottery Barn for the big window. My living room looked like it had been photographed for a magazine. I was in interior designer heaven.

Continuing on we faux painted the family room and master bedroom a subtle yellow, the color of a Bee’s wax candle. The kitchen’s accent wall was painted a reddish terracotta and carried through to the entry way and down the bedroom wing’s hall. The dining room and guest bedroom featured seafoam green walls. My daughter’s room was purple. The au pair’s room a light blue. It sounds awful, like a big color mishmash, but it worked.

During the month of July 2020, during the extended Covid-19 quarantine, I embarked upon what I coined, The Backdrop Project. I spent weeks painting photography backdrops in similar hues to the colors I chose for the walls of my California ranch home. (What goes around, comes around.) Linda and I only used brushes on the walls in California to blend and mix the paint. A textured roller from Home Depot was infinitely easier to work with to add texture to many of the backdrops, including the apricot hued canvas featured in this post.

Interested in learning more about what the studio has to offer? Click on the following links to jump to the studio’s portfolio of images, and download a digital copy of the studio’s Magazine and Style Guide to learn how to prepare for your photoshoot:

Link to the studio’s portfolio.

Link to the studio’s Free Magazine and Style Guide.

Categories
Backdrops for Photoshoots Tutorial

Studio Backdrop: Charcoal Gray

What I like about photographs is that they capture a moment that’s gone forever, impossible to reproduce.”

-Karl Lagerfeld
Andrea looks luminous in a grayscale palette.

For the studio’s backdrop project I created four gray backdrops in shades from light to dark. The light gray and charcoal gray are roughly the same dimension, perfect for individuals, couples and smaller groups. The two smaller gray drops are ideal for individuals, or for layering with larger backdrops.

My general rule for backdrops is to photograph lighter colors on lighter backdrops and darker colors on darker backdrops. When selecting a backdrop the main goal is to complement the model’s wardrobe. On an interesting note, gray isn’t a color at all because it does not exist on the color wheel.

According to Wikipedia: “Gray is produced either by using black and white, or by combining equal amounts of cyan, magenta, and yellow. Most grays have a cool or warm cast to them, as the human eye can detect even a minute amount of color saturation. Yellow, orange and red create a “warm gray”. Green, blue, and violet create a “cool gray”.”

This color wheel is an indispensable tool that helps me choose complementary colors for photographs.

The charcoal gray backdrop is a neutral color and looks just as good with a pop of color as it does with a monochrome palette (as an example see Andrea’s cover image above). The texture in the charcoal backdrop was created by incorporating other neutral tones including light gray, black and white.

This backdrop was one of the last that I painted, so I was “unintentionally intentional” with the random painting technique opting to unleash my inner Jackson Pollock on to the canvas. I dipped a paint brush about a quarter inch into the can and then made slapping gestures with downward force to splatter the paint randomly across the surface. I had to continually remind myself to be careful with my gestures to avoid inadvertently spraying paint on the living room walls or the surrounding furniture (that had been pushed to the perimeter of the room).

This backdrop has lots of interesting texture thanks to my splattering paint haphazardly across the canvas.
When I felt as if a backdrop might be finished, I had to hang it and photograph it. Backdrops can look very different in a photograph than what the canvas looks like laying on the floor. Compare this image to the cover photo. I tested the backdrops using a mermaid crown from the studio’s collection.

Link to the studio’s portfolio.

Link to the studio’s Free Magazine and Style Guide.

Categories
Backdrops for Photoshoots Tutorial

Studio Backdrop: Old Masters Brown

There is a vast difference between taking a picture and making a photograph.

-Robert Heinecken
Andrea captured in a chiaroscuro-style photograph featuring the studio’s new textured brown backdrop.

Old Masters refers to a group of renowned European painters that spanned the time period of roughly 1300 to 1800, from the early Renaissance through the Romantic movement. Some instantly recognizable names of Old Masters are Rembrandt van Rijn, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Caravaggio, to name only a few.

When perusing through a collection of Old Masters’ paintings, frequently the backgrounds are deep brown and textured giving an overall warmth to the scene. Brown and helps colors such as white, ivory, orange red and gold to pop on the canvas. Brown does not have a spot on the color spectrum. The color is made by mixing red (or orange), yellow and black (or blue).

The color brown is reportedly the least favorite color of the general public and yet a section of the Old Masters’ portraitists found that earthy brown enabled brighter colors to pop on a canvas. As for me, brown is the color of a few of my favorite things: chocolate, coffee, oak barrels (especially when aging red wine), yummy carbolicious russet potatoes, the beautiful Sonoran desert and raptors, in particular owls.

Top Row Left to Right: Rembrandt (1606-1669), Van Dyke (1599-1641) , Rembrandt Bottom Row left to Right: Bagilone (1566-1643), Rembrandt, Velázquez (1599-1660)

Rembrandt, Caravaggio and van Dyck, among others, employed a style of painting called chiaroscuro. This effect has a monochrome look where the subject’s wardrobe matches the background so that the subject’s features illuminate out of the darkness. The most popular color for creating this effect is brown.

The most difficult part of painting for me is selecting the colors for the project. Without a plan in place the paint sample display at a retail store will look like a big confusing grid of color. To hone in on the best colors for your project it is really helpful to have a color reference in hand to either make a match to the free color samples, or have the paint retailer run a color match.

When I initially thought I was painting one double-sided backdrop I agonized over the colors. The painterly style photographs I make generate the biggest buzz. Many of those images were photographed on textured gold and red backdrops. I wanted a darker option that was not too black and not too brown, but just right.

Black V-flats are featured as a backdrop in nearly every photoshoot. It’s a versatile background that has a gradient look to it with tones of white and gray where the light is prominent. Model: Chrisie Ballard.

I like photographing clients against a black V-Flat, which is a polystyrene board. In a photograph it looks like more of a charcoal gray gradient than solid black. My sister, Juliette advised that the best way to compare colors is to take the reference material into the sun and compare it to the paint sample cards to identify the best match. So that’s what we did. After viewing the polystyrene board in the sun, the paint we selected had a blue cast to the black, which I did not anticipate. The color brown that we chose is a Behr flat interior paint called espresso bean. It is definitely a rich brown that has a black undertone to it.

Performing the sun test with the black polystyrene board and various paint samples.

My big mistake right from the get go is that I inadvertently purchased an oil based primer. I didn’t know that oil-based primers were still available to purchase. I was a little confused when I tried to thin the primer with water and the primer wouldn’t mix with the water. This was a bit of a head scratcher for me. And I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t figure it out until after I completed painting both sides of the backdrop using a whopping two gallons of primer on the 12×15 canvas. This also means that the primer alone on the canvas weighs in at a little less than 20 pounds.

I woke up one morning and the first thing that popped into my brain was that I had somehow purchased an oil-based primer instead of latex. And that’s why the oil and water weren’t mixing together into a smooth emulsion. Plus the oil primer has a strong aroma, much more so than latex paint. Doh! Sure enough, when I checked the empty can it clearly read oil based primer on the label.

Painting the base color of Espresso Bean by Behr with an inexpensive roller. Thinning the paint with water and then applying it randomly creates texture.

The problem is that over the long haul latex paint may not adhere to an oil-based primer. I couldn’t get a clear answer from multiple sources on whether the paint will indeed peel over time. Unfortunately, the part of the backdrop that flows onto the floor is peeling a bit already from normal wear and tear of furniture movement during photoshoots. So while the oil primer was a mistake, perhaps even a regrettable one over the long haul, I do think the oil primer lent a richness to the finish that is clearly different from the acrylic over acrylic backdrops that I painted.

Despite my whopper of a mistake, I am really happy with how this backdrop turned out. The rich brown is a neutral color, which means all warm colors look great against it as do most of the cool colors, especially the lighter hues.

A little air in the hair is one of my favorite things for longer tresses.

Link to the studio’s portfolio.

Link to the studio’s Free Magazine and Style Guide.

Categories
Tutorial

Mermaid Crowns

Mermaids have more fun. Just ask Isabel.

I’m a California girl born and raised. The Pacific ocean was a quick twenty minute drive from my childhood home on the central coast. The first coffee table book I purchased was a tome on the lore of mermaids. Nearly everyday I wear a hand carved mermaid that hangs from a cord around my neck. She is my taliswoman. So it is of little wonder that when I began planning a creative photography project during my first year in business that I set my sights on capturing mermaids.

My sister, Juliette made this crown with a shell pendant and strands of beads purchased during an annual excursion to the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show. She also incorporated sea shells, natural pearls, metal seahorse ornaments and artificial sea branches. Due to its flexible construction this crown can be worn by a child or an adult. The mermaid themed necklace was found in a thrift store by my keen-eyed niece Avalon, who learned successful thrifting from the master, her mother, Juliette.

Recently I have been surprised to hear more than one person say that they think the mermaid crowns are added to the images in Photoshop. Nope, not true. Folks are also surprised to discover that the mermaids are actually lounging in shallow water. Yup, true story. These conversations have compelled me to give a “behind the scenes” glimpse into how the crowns are made and how the images were captured in my backyard. I am a proponent of capturing images “in camera” and doing as little work in Photoshop as possible. The less time I sit in front of my computer the better.

Style 1: The base of the crown is formed by twisting and shaping 12-gauge floral wire by hand. Rough spots and cuts are covered with gaffer tape. The floral wire is wrapped with decorative pipe cleaners.

I found very little information on the internet to help me design the crowns. As Marie Forleo says, “Everything is figureoutable”, so I proceeded with figuring it out. Inspiration came from how some fascinators are made. I determined a strong base was necessary and that it should fit over the head—from ear to ear—for stability. I also needed a material that could withstand hot glue to hold the various decorative elements securely. The gluing conundrum was solved by wrapping the floral wire with bushy, metallic pipe cleaners. As a bonus the pipe cleaners are available in a variety of colors.

Style 2: The base of the crown is formed with 12-gauge floral wire with rough spots and cut ends wrapped in gaffer tape. An inexpensive metal tiara is attached to the base by wrapping the ends on to the wire frame. For a uniform look and easy gluing of decorations all parts of the base and attached tiara are wrapped with pipe cleaners.
Get your glue gun ready. Both styles of crowns are now ready for decorative embellishment. This is the fun part of the project for my fellow crafters.

My sister, Juliette is an accomplished artist and I enlisted her help with decorating the crowns and assisting with the first photoshoot with Lindsey and Campbell. Juliette was dismayed to discover that I had not purchased high heat glue sticks (for its strong bonding capabilities and durableness in all weather conditions, including exposure to water). Well, that would have been nice to know. Unfortunately, it was too late to buy more, the stores were closed, so we used what was on hand. Ignorance is not always bliss. I also discovered that these types of projects use a lot of glue and that it is smart to buy extra long glue sticks. #lessonlearned

Upper right image: Our mom watches the decision making process as Juliette deliberates over what materials to use to decorate a crown. To add a floral accent to the “pink” crown, I selected artificial succulent flowers and then applied glitter to add a lovely shimmer. The crowns are decorated on all sides so I could photograph the mermaids from any angle. Juliette’s favorite glue for glitter is Mod Podge. When applying the glitter, do so over a paper plate so you can easily save leftover glitter and pour it back into the container. It pays to be a thrifty crafter.

It was extremely helpful to have separate folding table set up that contained all the decorative elements: shells, abalone, sequins, glitter, artificial flowers, faux seaweed, strands of beads, buttons, pearls, rhinestones, costume jewelry, blingy broaches, charms, filigree connectors, broken jewelry, thrift store jewelry, hat pins, assorted chains, and a mish mash of miscellaneous decorative items. As you can see in the image below, everything got pretty messy, but there was, thankfully, some semblance of a system in place.

We covered our work areas with heavy duty aluminum foil, which is especially helpful to protect the table from leaking hot glue guns. Juliette is detail oriented and applied glitter to the crevices of the sea shells by thinly “painting” Mod Podge with a toothpick.
The brooch was an inexpensive purchase from a craft store.

The styrofoam heads are really helpful with decorating and displaying the crowns. Because the frame is floral wire, the crowns can be adjusted a little by delicately pushing inward on the sides to fit a child’s head, or gently pulling outward to fit an adult’s head. The wire at the base of the neck helps the crown stay in place.

Refrain from gluing until you are satisfied with how the more prominent decorative elements are fitting together. Once you have the larger “anchoring pieces” selected and glued in place, then it is much easier to find smaller items to accentuate the design and fill in gaps. Use Popsicle sticks, toothpicks and tweezers to help press items into the hot glue. These tools will also help to protect your fingers. Regardless of how careful you are, the odds are against you experiencing at least one hot glue burn. Ouch! With that being said, to quote The Hunger Games, may the odds be ever in your favor.
The mermaid project was a family affair. While Juliette and I decorated crowns, my husband set-up the seasonal pool in the backyard. I lined the pool with netting decorated with sequins. We sisters were like parakeets with this project. Everything shiny and sparkly thrilled us. Juliette brought sea shells from her personal collection to add to the water and place around the happy mother and daughter mermaids, Lindsey and Campbell.
The studio has a plethora of costume jewelry to complement the showy crowns. At one point in my life, before I opened the photography studio, I was wondering why in the world I was keeping all this jewelry that I didn’t wear. Now I know the answer. My mermaids have so much fun draping themselves in “jewels”. It doesn’t matter your age; playing dress-up never gets old.
Lauren asked if she could decorate her own crown and I was happy to comply with her request, so we scheduled an art day, which was a blast. Art, music, snacks, conversation… what could be better? I made the base of the crown ahead of time and Lauren embellished it with pieces of jewelry, faux fauna and shells. After the photoshoot, Lauren generously donated the crown to the studio’s collection so you have the opportunity to wear it, too, if you like. Yay!

Just in case you are wondering, the bubbles in Lauren’s mermaid portrait are not added in Photoshop. My daughter was wielding the battery-powered bubble machine during the photoshoot. It was pretty funny seeing Maddie run around trying to master the best way to surround Lauren with oodles of bubbles. Lauren kept cracking up and a good time was had by all.

I am dreaming of using these necklaces made of Roman glass in a mermaid photoshoot. The beads are artifacts that are made from salvaged glass that is ~2,000 years old. Will you be the one to wear these beautiful antiquities?

I have plans for more mermaid photoshoots during the hot weather months, as well as creating other creative fine art images utilizing the shallow pool, think maternity and boudoir.

Would you like to explore your options? Contact me for more information: (833)277-8721 or artifactps@gmail.com.

Please leave a comment if you have any questions, or please let me know if you have suggestions to improve my crown making process.

Link to the studio’s portfolio.

Link to the studio’s Free Magazine and Style Guide.

“Always be yourself unless you can be a mermaid then always be a mermaid.”