Preimagined Re:Image

This is a follow-up to Brett’s post a few days ago, it stayed with me longer than usual. It was really good. The post got me thinking about another, rather similar aspect of photography: the curse of the test photograph.

It goes like this: you get an idea of a photograph, but before you build a setup, rig the lights and all that, you take a snapshot of a quick set up of the idea to see if it works to begin with. It’s a big time saver too.

The problem is that sometimes the test photograph turns out more interesting than what you can come up with with all the fancy lighting rigs and environment builds.

There is magic in framing an image for the first time. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is something a street toy photographer recognises as the thing that keeps it interesting. I make photographs on a tabletop, my moment of discovery is often in the first test, the rest is just work. This isn’t always the whole truth, there is also joy in creating the complicated lighting and/or environmental effects for the final. But the tricky part is that the dynamics that come with the first framing of the subject at hand can be tough to replicate for the actual image.

Two examples; first the ”Droids’ Night Out”. It was a simple idea and I thought it would only require a good positioning of the minifigures. I put the set on a sofa table in the livingroom, killed the lights and shot a few frames with different angles. The lighting is a single led lamp moved around during the exposure, a light painting, if you will.

The groovy test photograph.

The overall atmosphere was nice and I proceeded to crate the final image. I moved the setup to another table and never got the framing as dynamic as it was in the quick test. The lighting worked but I am not entirely sure what happened. I still like the first composition better.

The Droids’ Night Out. Final photograph.

Second is ”The Reader”. Again, a simple idea, I checked the angles to see what works and found this to be the best.

The file says “The Searcher”, that was the original title of this one.

Unfortunately this wasn’t the last version I tried, I moved everything around several times, and when I tried to get back to this after deciding it was the best approach, I just never found the same dynamics again. The final image also suffered from the snow obscuring the snow speeder. I didn’t take that into account when planning.

The Reader. Final photograph.

Anyway, what I am trying to say is that I really feel what Brett went through with the Rancor image. The same mechanism works also if you test your images with sketch photos before proceeding to the final image. Sometimes it sucks.

4 Replies to “Preimagined Re:Image”

  1. I love the concept of “the test snapshot” yet I fear it would place me in the same predicament as you write about. I sometimes sketch concepts with pencil and paper; rough, quick sketches. They’re handy to document the ideas bouncing around in my head, plus they always pale in comparison to the end shots, thus avoiding any deadlock over decisions!

    1. Yes, pencil sketches. I do that, I could do a post on those as well. But their problem is sometimes that they do not tell how an idea works with, say 16 mm focal lengh, a sketch marks down an idea but it’s not a study of the finished photograph. Sometimes it’s better, sometimes it’s not enough.

      But HB pencils and paper are awesome nevertheless. It’s the ultimate UI.

  2. This post made think twice. I am about to redoo a photo I took some time ago, try to make it better. But I agree, sometimes the testshot turns out better then the final photo..don’t know why. Perhaps I am overthinking the photo.
    Good post!

    1. Thanks! There is something special in the first peek through the camera on a subject. Not thinking too much, just testing, going with the flow. How to capture that in a studio photo is a mystery and a challenge. :)

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