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Advanced Studio Photography Techniques - Forged in Fire

This is an interesting photo studio concept requiring a little preparation with dynamic results. This can be easy to adapt to your own camera image concepts. My preparations began with finding some black lava rock. The only source within a cheap budget was Home Depot and all they had was red lava rock, easy to fix with a can of flat black spray paint.

Next step was preparing the knife to stand upright. I chose to use plywood squares, one six inch, the next three inch and the top was 1.5 inch square. I screwed these together stacking them into a single component. I sprayed this black to make sure nothing would shine through the lava rocks. With this prop I hammered the knife into the wood just enough to secure it.

The studio table top was now setup with the block of wood and knife set in the center of the table on a six inch raised platform. I also placed the painted lava rock stacking it for effects. The raised platform allows me to place a metal pan behind and lower then the subject. Crumpled newspaper will be placed in the metal pan to be burned during the photo session.

Lighting is pretty simple, three lights are used, one is a red gel with spot grid, another is blue gel with spot grid and the last is placed to light a reflector illuminating the knife’s blade (see lighting diagram). The final exposure is set at ISO 200, f-stop 10 with a shutter speed of ½ second. I use an inferred remote to trigger the camera and ignite the newspaper from behind the studio table.

Photograph and Fire

Having gone through so much preparation and hard to predict just how the newspaper burns it’s advisable to shoot several sessions. If shooting indoors prepare for the worst, make sure you have a fire extinguisher nearby just in case something goes unexpected. It also requires some sort of ventilation. Burning just one sheet of newspaper does emit a lot of smoke.

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