We’ve all seen the type of shots – stunningly creative photographs us mere mortals couldn’t even attempt to take of surreal levitating bodies, wedding shots with the wow-factor and seemingly impossible acts of nature, but are the shots real, have they been heavily retouched in Photoshop, or are there other powers at work here that we’re not privy to?
I’m here to spill the photography beans, let you in on some tips of the trade (facts not all photographers want you to know about), and show you how some incredible shots are really achieved.
Believe me when I say, getting that perfect shot is not simple, quick or just captured off-hand. It usually takes good planning, time, energy, and a lot of patience to get it right. So, let me show you how the pro’s do it – you wouldn’t believe some of the actual set-ups that go on off camera…
An impossibly strong gust of wind snapped on camera – or not, in this case, as it’s really achieved by the help of a simple household item! Who knew the utilitarian step-ladder could be used so creatively!
At the other end of the scale – the budget on this shoot must have been pretty hefty, and had perfect planning from the start! We don’t see any fancy stepladders holding the model up here. By cleverly building the set underwater and feeding the model oxygen in between takes (and notice she’s weighted down too – sooner her than me eek), the end shot is nothing short of stunning.
Just when you thought the model must have had a hard time posing underwater whilst holding his breath (and also managing to look super smouldering, all at the same time), you find out that the image is actually a lie, but a very clever lie at that!
Now, this is thinking on your feet (or your belly), the lowly muddy puddle becomes something unexpectedly magical. We just hope the photographer bought another shirt with him!
Food shots are another area in photography where nothing is what it seems. From substituting milk for glue in breakfast cereal shots (apparently milk quickly makes the cereal too soggy), to using melt-free vegetable fat and frosting instead of ice cream. You wouldn’t want to sink your spoon into these bowls too soon!
Using fake food in photography has been used for years because the fact is, not all food looks good when it’s been cooked or prepared. For instance, cooked fruits and vegetables are cooked for a lot less time, for photography purposes, than if you were cooking them to eat. These types of foods when cooked thoroughly lose a lot of their vibrant colours and would look quite dull in the end shot, so reducing cooking to a minimum to retain their beauty is a well-known trick in the industry.
Roast turkey in photographs is very often undercooked or even raw on the inside! If the skin is golden brown and looks like it’s just been in the oven for the best part of a day, it’s good enough for that all important festive shot. The skin is quite often painted with shoe polish or some other type of dye to get that perfect colour, and possibly even mended with superglue if it tears in the process.
These are the photo shoots where you DON’T want to have a nibble of the end result – Salmonella anyone!?
You would be forgiven for thinking this is a cool, refreshing glass of cola! It probably isn’t! It’s more than likely been sat in the photographer’s studio, under hot lights, for the best part of an hour. The trick to getting a cool-looking frosting on the outside of the glass is usually achieved with spray deodorant of all things (a quick spray gives you the perfect sheen every time), and the ice is most probably fake too, made from acrylic cubes.
As maple syrup is usually too transparent to show up in photo shoots, it’s often substituted for motor oil in pancake shots!! Not so delicious looking now is it!? Not only that, but the pancakes may even have been sprayed with Scotch Guard to stop the oil from soaking in.
You might be wondering what on earth a tampon is doing, lodged behind this jacket potato! Another great photography hack if you want your food to look hot on set. Dunk a tampon into water, microwave and place the steamy bundle behind the food, et voila, hot steaming potato.
Even this cake is a big fat lie – we’d still eat it though – probably!
More often than not, there are a huge amount of shots taken that don’t make the finished article. The photographer could take hundreds of shots to get that all-important perfect image! We understand this far too well…
It’s rare to have photography capabilities in-house at an agency, but at The Wonderland we’re lucky enough to have someone at Wonderland HQ who can work their way around a camera – me! I like to think I can turn my hand to most creative mediums, but photography is my number one creative passion and something I absolutely love doing, in both my work and personal time!
At The Wonderland, we’ve taken thousands upon thousands of images over the years whilst trying to get that perfect shot – and we’ve had a few mishaps (and laughs) along the way too. From cracked camera lenses from getting too close to that perfect flame-grilled steak, to rearranging and taping Speedo trunks to the backs of male models back-sides! There never seems to be a dull moment on our shoots.
We’ve even had a photo shoot where puppies, kittens and toddlers all ran riot together on set for a veterinary vaccination shoot! I won’t mention the state of the carpet at the end of the day, needless to say, we ran out of kitchen roll pretty quickly! The calm, serene shot that went to press of a puppy kitten and toddler all happily cuddled up together couldn’t have been further from the truth of that day! W. C. Fields must have been speaking from experience when he said “never work with children or animals”!
We take a lot of photography for the chocolatier Lily O’Brien’s, which is a joy in itself – I mean, endlesssss boxes of chocolate to sample while snapping away!! Who wouldn’t love that job?
Now this is a shoot where you definitely want to sample the end result – unless you accidentally eat one of the chocolates one of your colleagues has already licked the inside of in order to make it look more glossy – and not told you about it… thanks for that Julie Hayes! I share far more than you might think with my fellow colleagues!
Luckily we don’t have to lie in a puddle of mud, or feed our models oxygen, in order to get the perfect chocolate shot – in the scheme of things, these shots are a lot more simple to set up, thank goodness!
Unlike the following image – you would think to get this shot would take an age to achieve – getting that perfect splash in the shape of a K must have been quite a time-consuming shoot…
Fear not for the photographer’s patience here – this is actually the work of world-renowned 3D artist Tim Cooper. You can see a 3D wireframe below where the splash is modelled and rendered in a 3D programme to get the perfect end result, first time.
There are some areas where photography simply would take far too long to create something this intricate. Even with the best Photoshop retouching, the end result wouldn’t be half as life-like.
Luckily Tim is also my hubby J, so when The Wonderland need an image that photography just can’t handle, I brainstorm with Tim (usually over breakfast in my PJs), to see how we can tackle our latest image conundrum.
Below is an image Tim created for us a few Christmases ago. Creating a chocolate shoe that also needed to resemble a Christmas pudding was the perfect candidate for 3D!!
The image was used on a printed insert for ASOS magazine, so marrying chocolate with fashion was a no brainer.
So, the next time you see an image that looks too good to be true, it probably is, and there are more than likely a lot of people, props, planning, tape, 3D, hard work, blood, sweat (possibly spit) and tears, that has gone on behind the scenes to get that final image perfect and ready for publishing.
Written by Lynsey