Headshot portrait in “chiaroscuro” style

“Chiaroscuro,” light and dark. The light usually comes at some expense (I used one Elinchrom strobe), the dark is very cheap.

For a simple portrait I wanted a simple lighting scheme: one black cloth backdrop, about 1m behind Vincenzo, and one light, at my right, quite close to him, but not too close
The most difficult part, the make-or-break aspect of the portrait, was the exact placement of the light: I wanted Vincenzo’s face lit better and more than his shoulder, so I moved the strobe until I was pleased. I made sure that the strobe was close (in order to enhance the chiaroscuro effect) to his face but not too much to his shoulder, where the light mostly arrived “feathered”, that is from the transtion light/dark.

I took two portraits because I wanted a soft one and a harder one. I used, respectively, a gridded softbox and a gridded beauty-dish.

On my left, there was a white wall, at about 2m, that provided a really minimal fill for the shadows.

Here a used a gridded beauty-dish
Here I used a gridded softbox

Strobes in continuos-light mode for shallow-focus effect

Studio strobes can be used in continuos light mode with their modelling lamp, which obviously give a lower light output than the flashes. Besides videos, this mode can be used in combination of large lens apertures in order to have a shallow focus. Unfortunately, it usually happens (but it depends on the strobe model) that whilst the minimum setting for flash gives too much light (and hence a smaller aperture should be used), the maximum that the modelling lamps can output is not enough for relatively fast shutter speeds, even considering that a portrait ought to be… still in most cases.
I experimented a very soft light, pointing two large softboxes towards a white wall and placing the model (myself in this case) in front of a lightly coloured paper backdrop. The light investing my face was coming from the white wall, uniformly illuminated, windowed somehow by the softboxes themselves. This can be seen in the reflection in my eyes, where at the centre of the white wall the tripod-mounted camera can be seen.

The portrait, lightly edited
The two softboxes pointing at the white wall which in turns illuminates the model
The reflection in my eye

I used a Fujifilm X-T1 with the 35mm at f/1.4 and a shutter speed of 1/6s at ISO 200. Of the two Elinchrom strobes, I only used the modelling lamps at their maximum output, although all diffusing baffles were in place so the light output was greatly reduced. Perhaps the biggest drawback of this scheme is the lack of contrast given by the virtual absence of the black pupil, which gets the reflected light.

Cup stuck inside a mug: how (not) to free it

quite a problem: a coffee cup stuck into a tea mug! They are perfectly matching in shape

I do not want to advocate it is the best solution – I don’t even go as far as saying it is a solution at all. But, when all else failed, this is what I did and it worked.

It worked twice, even, because I was so dumb to let them get stuck twice, in two separate occasions. It worked where hot water and ice, WD-40 and oil did not.

I thought I had lost them so I decided to sacrifice one – the inner one, I decided. I wanted to break it (free). I took a burin and a mallet, I placed the steel tip onto the coffee cup stuck inside the tea mug, and I hit. I expected a crash and a crack but I simply dislodged the cup and after a few manoeuvres I freed it.

So, perhaps there was a reason I liked so much these cups: I could see they were well made and they wonderfully survived a hard hit that would break most cups.

When all else fail, try this.

Making toys for your own pet

Satisfaction and economy are two reasons that come to my mind to justify why I tried and make toys for my Dafne, the English Bulldog. Dogs love ropes (shoe laces as well) and although several toys that you can buy, ready-made, already resemble or incorporate a cord in the design, a real cord gives you the chance of designing the shape you wish and save some money.

You need:

  1. a nice cord
  2. cable ties

You need the cable ties to limit the fraying that your cute pet will cause to the cord ends. As with all pet toys, you should check that there are no bits about to become loose that your ferocious little beast might swallow. You need the cable ties also to shape the cord the way you want.

You may wish to select a different diameter for your cord, to suit the teeth of your little beast.

Parmigiano come premietto per l’addestramento del mio bulldog

This three-months old female bulldog is enjoying the sunshine

“Del maiale non si butta via niente”… nemmeno del parmigiano reggiano! Non che sia l’unico modo per utilizzare la crosta, ma sicuramente è quello che preferisco io: farne piccoli premi per addestramento della mia piccola bulldog!

A crust…
…first sliced…
…then chopped!

All the photos were shot with an iPhone SE and edited in Snapseed.

Trousers’ pockets, or how bad design can propagate

There is an almost universal consensus about the QWERTY keyboard: the reasons behind its choice and evolution would not be today’s most logical ones. Nobody would design a computer keyboard like this. It is an example of design evolution where not necessarily the fittest element propagates forward in time.

The QWERTY is just one example of poor choice in terms of design of everyday’s objects; I would like to vent about another one: trousers pockets. Since I am a photographer, I will try and shut up and let the images speak.

Sitting on a chair with the rear trousers pocket uncomfortably full, bulging out of the body shape. Why not using trousers with pockets alongside the legs?
Sitting on a chair with the rear trousers pocket uncomfortably full, bulging out of the body shape. Why not using trousers with pockets alongside the legs?
Multi-pockets trousers can be worn comfortably even with lots of content, because bulging pockets do not interfere with a correct seat on the chair
Multi-pockets trousers can be worn comfortably even with lots of content, because bulging pockets do not interfere with a correct seat on the chair

Horrible, isn’t it? Why on earth would anybody put something behind their butt when a much more comfortable position is possible and obvious? If the QWERTY keyboard was designed to slow down typists and avoid key jamming, I would almost suggest that rear pockets were designed to keep people stand.

Algebra applicata ai cani

Detto A l’insieme finito dei giocattoli per cani.
Detto B l’insieme infinito delle cose non adatte ai cani con le quali tuttavia ai cani piace giocare.
Allora l’insieme C definito come l’intersezione degli insiemi A e B è nullo.

Dafne, my English Bulldog, photographed with a Zenzanon PS 110 mm macro lens at f/4.0 adapted onto a Fujifilm X-T1

When a stock photographer becomes a stock videographer…

When a stock photographer becomes a stock videographer… some changes are in order. One relates to the way files are sent to agencies. Larger files usually command the use of ftp and this changes the workflow.

A quick note to highlight a piece of software that becomes extremely useful in its simplicity: Yummy FTP Alias. In fact, whereas the ftp can be relatively complex and allow you to do fairly complex tasks, sending files to agencies is just a matter of uploading files to one assigned directory (at least, as long as releases are not required). Yummy FTP Alias does just that in great simplicity and allows you to simply drag the files you need to send and drop them on the icon corresponding to the agency.

Two icons set-up on my desktop, corresponding to Poind5 and Shutterstock
Two icons set-up on my desktop, corresponding to Pond5 and Shutterstock

Attaching a smartphone to a bicycle

This is how I attached my iPhone to the handlebar of my bike, using equipment normally found in photographic studios (not specifically designed for bicycles).

with my iPhone 5
with my iPhone 5

without smartphone
without smartphone

The… contraption is made of three elements:

  • one Manfrotto Superclamp
  • one Manfrotto spigot
  • one smartphone clamp (Shoulderpod S1, without the handle), with a 1/4″ threaded attachment for tripods

I managed to ride my bike and shoot some footage that then I sped up and inserted into my first ever video (note to self: next time, use a microphone for the interview)!


The “inverse square law” has nothing to do with photography

Why has the «inverse square law» has nothing to do with photography?

Actually, it has everything to do indeed, but it is often (always?) misquoted.

The inverse square law is a law of physics that tells, basically, that the intensity of light decreases in proportion of the distance, squared, between a point-like light source and the subject being illuminated.

In photography, this law is often misquoted: you will find this explanation in tutorials involving light modifiers (widely used in studio photography: softboxes, beauty dishes, reflectors…) or flash photography more in general, always with the following intended meaning: the light gets dimmer if the distance increases. Of course, this statement would be perfectly true! Howeverread