L to R – My Mom’s marbles, Lisa’s chalks, Lisa’s buttons
Back in September last year, I was approached by a product manager at work who was looking for some very specific type of photos to support the new Picture Password feature in BlackBerry 10.2.1. The feature allows you to unlock your phone (or “device”, as we say) with an overlay of randomized digits on top of a photo. You line up a pre-selected digit with a pre-selected area of the photo and, bam, device unlocks. So cool and resistant to shoulder-surfing. This fellow, J. Caloy, on YouTube has *the* best explanation.
The photos needed to: (a) be portrait orientation, (b) have numerous and evenly distributed points of interest, and (c) be somewhat interesting visually. Skimming through thousands of my photos, I discovered I had very few that (at least) met the first two criteria. I mostly shoot landscape and I often try to steer the viewer’s attention with very deliberate composition and DOF. All of which was incompatible with this gig. The TL;DR is I ended up getting four of my photos into BB10.2.1 software: the marbles, chalks, buttons, and shells. The photos above are not the photos that went in the product (all lawyers please re-read that last part), they’re just generally similar. They’re also intentionally low-res so don’t snag them for your phone because they’ll look sub-optimal.
Click through for more of the story and see some of the rejected photos…
Centre: Lisa’s shells, L and R: Agnes’ IKEA laundry hamper DIY lightbox rig
Having considered a number of approaches including walkabout recording local scenes or repurposing captures from my Looking Down series, I decided I would get the most efficient and consistent results on an indoor shoot using a lightbox. Lots of control! Fortunately, my pal Agnes Niewiadomski of Agnes Makes loaned me her DIY lightbox made from two IKEA laundry hampers, some cardboard, foil, and daylight-balanced compact fluorescent bulbs.
I did all the shoots with my D3 and the 105mm f/2.8 macro lens. Mostly around f/8 for reasonable DOF. Y’all know me and know that I shoot almost exclusively with natural light, so I was delightfully surprised to experience how much *easier* it can be to shoot with lights. You can work any time day or night. Awesome.
L to R: Arden’s hairbands, Calder’s coins, Arden’s bracelets
Constructing each setup, I tried to meet the aforementioned criteria. I decided I wasn’t going for some shutterstock notion of perfect. Straight things didn’t necessarily have to be aligned. Scratched things were scratched. Worn things look worn. And there are gaps! Yeah, I’m alright with there being voids where stuff isn’t. Creative choices.
L to R: My Dad’s matchbooks, Dave’s tubes, Calder’s army men
I took 10-15 shots of each composition with various exposure times. I shot tethered to a laptop for quick review in Lightroom. I learned (again) on this job that it is *so* much easier to get it right in the camera than to try to fix it up in post-processing. Prior to starting this job, I timeboxed it so it would not eat my well-balanced schedule.
Here’s one of my personal favourites, I think because I have such a connection to the subject. These cars were well-loved across generations and they travelled far and wide to entertain many, including a much younger me.
This job was a really interesting stretch and I will definitely do more of these type of setups. I’ll also search out opportunities to stretch on other types of shoots.
Toy cars from my Dad, my brother, and my son Calder