Before the rush

Before the rush
by evan-pak

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I have been asked to do some photography around an aerospace engineering company, they make parts for planes basically. Having looked at their previous imagery stash, taken i think 2003 ish, the photographer used a lot of strong coloured lights (red, blue, green) to light the scenes.

To me they feel rather "old" looking, and i dont want to replicate the look.

Is this still common practice? or is it considered Passée or deprecated?

(I do realise this is quite subjective)

ETA: like this: (not my photo)enter image description here

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Would you be able to link a few of these photos? – Jakub Jun 12 '12 at 14:31
done :-) - just got back in... – Digital Lightcraft Jun 12 '12 at 14:44
Thanks. hurts my eyes... Very much a 90s look in my opinion. Personally, i would do a clean still of the finished products and pure white background - the sort of apple look (clean lines, straight down reflection, something other then people for scale reference, leaf, fruit, wrench...) You could add in a few insets with closeups of the finishing or surface textures in post. – Jakub Jun 12 '12 at 15:30
yes it does sting a bit doesn't it!! Yes my intention was to shoot the pieces on a sheet of brushed stainless, with a white backdrop + sides, and 2x fluorescent tubes above for reflective interest (although that may look too harsh, we'll see!). – Digital Lightcraft Jun 12 '12 at 16:15
up vote 2 down vote accepted

I don't think the problem is colored lighting itself. I think the problem is the choice of colors used by the previous 2003 photographer. I think this shot could look great...if the colors chosen were a bit different. Something better suited to industry. There are a few ways that could be done.

The "red" is absolutely horrid, and the blue is too soft. They have an almost pastel look, a creamy soft effect that just doesn't really fit the scene being photographed. I think a better contrast, such as a cooler, harsher blue and an actual orange that has a clearly warm balance would make for a better shot, and probably enhance the skin tones. As it stands, the reddish light absolutely ruins the skin tones on the worker's hand.

An alternative would be to go with a single color balance entirely. Cool lighting (bluer/whiter) is often well suited to industrial scenes that involve machining and part construction. Alternatively, of what you are photographing has to do more with the smelting process, the working of metals, coking, etc. a warmer balance might be better.

Additionally, keeping your photos very sharp might help enhance the stark, clean, industrial feel. High sharpness would probably go better with a cool balance than a warm balance, but sparks showered from smelting and metal working processes look great when they are very sharp.

Colored lighting in photography is not necessarily a bad thing...its just that the choice of colors and the way they were blended in the sample photograph you posted is rather poor (to use the kindest word.)

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The problem is that absolutely everything in that industry (only a minor exaggeration) is "dove grey" and matte. There are a few polished metal bits, and the odd hint of yellow zinc chromate or cadmium, but it's a flat, light-grey world for the most part. It's hard to get interesting modelling without using cangiante or tone-forcing. You could light the part dramatically without the technician, but with the tech it would have a sort of Workers of the World Unite! kind of feel. I'd experiment off-site first; you can get commercial spray paint that's almost identical in colour and texture. – user2719 Jun 12 '12 at 21:42
Actually there are 2 colours, gloss grey, and light matte green. still not inspiring! the most interesting images come from un-painted milled parts where you can see the cnc machining lines. – Digital Lightcraft Jun 13 '12 at 7:19
@StanRogers: When I was referring to "colors", I was referring to the colors of the lighting...not the colors of the things being photographed. I think the choice of lighting colors was just BAD, and a better choice of lighting could have improved things. The choice of specific red lighting used in particular just burns out any detail and eliminates any contrast in the worker's alternative choice of lighting color could help improve that. As for the color of the parts...I understand its a pretty drab world otherwise, mostly gray and sometimes raw metal colors. – jrista Jun 13 '12 at 17:40

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