Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Photographing Costumes for Reference

Last week I mentioned I was going to go see the Rogue One costumes at Star Wars Celebration. Several weeks ago on Craft Hackers, I mentioned what you should be looking for in terms of references. Today, I’m going to talk about how to shoot photos of costumes that are ideal for references. For your enjoyment, I’m going to be using the Rogue One costumes to illustrate my points.

Meet Director Orson Krennic from Rogue One
The modern world has started to give us costume people more and more information. These days, you can buy books on favourite tv shows and movies that often have pages devoted to high quality photos of the costumes and, if you’re lucky, interviews or tips from the costuming department. If you’re really lucky, they may release sets of the design photos with notes to help along the way. However, nothing really beats being able to see it with your own eyes.

 If you have the opportunity to see a costume in person, then it is worth your while thinking about what and how you need to photograph it. First off comes general photography skills.

Make sure your photos are in focus

You want sharp pictures. Slightly blurry photos will end up with you furrowing your brow, trying to decide if its just a fold or an actual pocket for hours later on.
Second one is still not perfect, but you can see the details much better.
I actually tend to delete anything that isn’t 100% sharp simply to avoid this. This does mean you may need to check your photos as you take them so that if you only have one shot of the back and its out of focus, you can take another.

Try to represent the colour truthfully

Colour can change depending on a lot of factors, including some that are out of your control like the lighting that is on the costume. However, the biggest changer of colours is flash photography. If you can get non-flash photos, you will have a truer representation of the colour. Of course, this can be compared to images on screen, but remember that those may also have been colour washed or filtered by the video department and may not be accurate either.


Get top to bottom shots

Most people already do this, sort of. Most images you see are of about 3/4 of the costume.
Another photographer demonstrating the photo most people take in front of what you need to take.
But you need full length. There’s nothing worse than realising that you’ve photographed everything in detail, but now you’re home and realise you have no idea what those shoes looked like.

Get close up detailed shots

I actually go ahead and use my zoom lens. Yes, it is designed for making that person who is an auditorium away a lot closer, but you know what? It makes those details really pop.

First one is what people usually take for detail shots. In this case, at that distance, it almost looked like a USB port on the bottom of the gun, but with closer detailed shots, you can see that is not the case. 
This is your best chance to really find out the details of a costume, so take it. Is there stitching? Take photos of it. Is there a funny looking panel? Take photos of it. Is there what appear to be cape slits? You know the drill.

Get shots from different angles

The simple fact is you can’t see everything from just one angle. If you only take photos from one angle, you will miss details.This is especially true if you’re trying to figure out how something works.


This is a series of shots I took just to figure out how the slit in the back of cape worked. You can’t even really see the slit from the first picture, but by the last its pretty obvious. Is it crazy to take 8 photos of the same thing? Not if at the end of them you have a good idea how it all gets put together and works.

Take as many photos you can, in as high a resolution as you can.

There really is no such thing as too many reference photos. Sometimes the camera focus will change slightly from one to the other and you’ll notice something. Higher resolution photos mean that you can zoom in later on to answer questions.


And if they are nice enough to give you a blurb about the costume, photograph it. Trust me, you won't remember the exact combinations without some kind of reminder, and a photograph is faster than writing it down.

The best way of thinking about this is as a puzzle. How is this costume put together? How does it all come together? What are the proportions like? The more photos you have, the easier you can put it all together later. Hopefully, by the time you’re done taking photos, all your questions will be answered. 

If you’re interested in more photos of Director Krennic, you can see them on Facebook or for super high quality photos on my Flickr. Other costumes from Rogue One will be uploaded later this week.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Celebration!

This post was originally posted on CraftHackers.com:

It is Star Wars Celebration this weekend!! Well, for those of us in Europe and those who care to make the trip to London, that is. This is normally a crafty blog, but today its going to be a trip through nostalgia lane.

If you don't know Star Wars Celebration, it began on a slightly rainy weekend at the end of April in 1999. I remember, because I was there. I was in college in Nebraska at the time, and myself and a group of fellow Star Wars fanatics drove the 6 hours to Denver, camped on a friend’s parent’s floor, ate too much fried food, and ruined one of my favourite pairs of shoes in the mud. It was one of my favorite weekends.
Because, yes, I am a big kid on a bouncy castle excited about this

Because, yes, I am a big kid-on-a-bouncy-castle excited about this
Celebration was made for the fans, and as a fan I could not have asked for anything better. It was at the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum in Denver, Colorado which reminded me of nothing more than a large high school gymnasium, probably because I barely got in past the panels going on in the marquees outside.

Back then it was small. Panels were maybe 100 people in a room, and even then it wasn’t always full. I watched Anthony Daniels become C3PO without the costume, Ray Parks do some phenomenal stunt work, and then drooled over every last one of Padme’s costumes. Skipped out on Aerosmith tickets to watch it all some more.

At this point, we had no idea what would be in the movie, but I loved every minute of it. In ways I miss the allure of not having everything mentioned, everything spoiled before we get to release. I haven’t quite gotten the bug to hear creators speak about everything in as vague ways as possible, nor do I need 5 trailers to keep me interested.

This weekend though, I’m definitely looking forward to seeing the Rogue One costumes. It was what I loved most about Celebration in 1999, and I’m looking forward to it again. These kinds of exhibitions are gold mines for those of us who love to create costumes, and I am so happy that more and more exhibitions of this kind are happening. You just can’t really get a good sense of some of the delicacies of these costumes with what gets seen on screen.

The detailing done in costume shops across the globe produces some amazing pieces of absolute art. Museums are starting to cop on to this and there are some that specifically have been bringing costume exhibitions in, but fabrics can be difficult to preserve for posterity and there is always that worry that something will damage it. So if you ever have a chance to see one of these exhibitions, I highly recommend it.

The modern con scene has grown somewhat since 1999. This year’s Celebration is going to be nothing like what I experienced in Denver except for two things. Firstly, everyone there will love Star Wars. There is something about being surrounded by people who adore the same fandom you do. It infects the air, and becomes a sea of in-jokes, fun, and the occasional squabble over canon. But generally, single fandom groups tend to have an excitement about them that can’t be matched by big everything-under-the-sun cons. Secondly, it is going to be a weekend full of fun. Lightsabers everywhere, Stormtroopers ahoy. I’m looking forward to it already.

If you’re going to Celebration with me, have a wonderful time. If you’re not, tickets are out for next year’s already!
~ eliste