If there is one thing that Dani Roche is known for is, it is her amazing creative direction that she's done with her creative agency Kastor and Pollux. Dani imagines it, goes on to create it, and has perfected her aesthetic that she's done for herself and other brands down to science that she's decided to share with us at Makeful. If you're looking to learn the tips and tricks from the master, stay tuned to read all the best from Kastor and Pollux's very own director and Editor-in-Chief.
The first time I picked up a camera was on a vacation to Walt Disney World. My parents had just gotten (what I can only imagine as) a 2 megapixel point-and-shoot, and I was stoked at the prospect of a digital preview, a “delete” option, and a 16 mb memory card. Even though it was completely barebones, this camera was indicative of the changing tech space – and ultimately, it played a huge part in sparking my interest in digital mediums.
Shortly after this perspective-altering trip to Walt Disney World (lol), I learned about the Internet – a computer-generated world that lived beyond cereal box PC games. I spent the latter half of elementary school teaching myself how to create layouts for my various endeavours on Neopets.com; cutting out images of celebrities and fashion models with the magnetic lasso tool on Photoshop, and superimposing them on top of downloadable brush sets. These tactics were learned through research and investigation, as information wasn’t as accessible in the early 2000s. Nonetheless, these early experiences with Photoshop shaped my appreciation for the strange nuances I discovered through my explorations.
Similarly, even though I’ve been around cameras for years, I know little about the “art” of photography. I’ve never studied it, I don’t know its history, and I don’t know the ins-and-outs of composition. My shooting techniques are structured around intuition and basic rule of thirds; my lighting knowledge is minimal and reliant on trial and error. Taking photos is – in a lot of ways – based off necessity and not skill. Thus, my familiarity with the Adobe Suite has played a big part in my image-making techniques.
My practice is structured on demonstrating the intersection between 2D and 3D spaces, though the majority of my output has always been digital. I’m lucky enough to have a photo studio and endless bins of craft supplies at my disposal, so constantly crafting and creating seems second-nature. I prioritize fostering an environment that calls for thoughtful and detail-oriented content creation, in a sea of generic sameness in the digital space.
I believe that there’s been a shift in distinguishing a seasoned photographer or graphic designer from an image-maker. In an digital landscape prioritizing rapid content creation over anything else, access to tools and information have shaped younger generations of creatives and the way in which they see their work and their practice. There’s something to be said from both sides of the spectrum, but for change and growth in creative industries, I think the most important thing to prioritize is just providing access to information and keeping an open mind when it comes to learning new things.
To create these images, Dani Reynolds – one of my partners-in-crime on the Kastor & Pollux team – cut out pieces of coloured paper to create a dynamic composition for the series “Things We Like”. TWF is a monthly editorial story that allows us to stretch our creative muscles and experiment with prop building. As fun as this series is, unfortunately, even with the most thoughtful compositions, our RAW images always need a bit of work. Thus, I’ve used this photo series to run through 5 tips to solve imperfect studio lighting, and to demonstrate the intersection between photography and design in my work.
**Disclaimer: I recognize many of my techniques will seem a bit backwards: however, I’ve found that with practice, my photo-editing processes can work for anyone no matter your skill level.
- For Kastor & Pollux
- Styling by Dani Reynolds
- Editing by Dani Roche
I’ve found that when shooting product, it’s difficult to create even lighting with constant LEDs. When you only have two source lights and no fill lights, shadows often cast in awkward ways.
Luckily, when shooting on a solid coloured backdrop, altering or modifying your image is fairly simple. Use the eyedropper tool to select the median background colour to alter the crop of your image, or select parts of your image with the rectangular marquee tool (both found in the tool bar).
To create the surrealist “fake” looking backgrounds often found in Kastor & Pollux’s work, I create a new layer in my layers palette and go in with the brush tool to colour in spots of an image that appear uneven. I then use the eraser tool to clean up my lines and ensure none of my background colouring invades items in the foreground.
To avoid doing this in post production, it might be worth investing in a fill light or some kind of reflector to soften the harsh shadows created by less-than-ideal studio lighting.
If your studio lighting is dull or too dark, you can use “Brightness/Contrast” [Image > Adjustments > Brightness/Contrast] to create an all-over colour adjustment. I find that I don’t always have time to go in and do intense image retouching or colour editing. Brightness/Contrast gets the job done if you’re in a rush.
There are a few different ways you can alter the colouring of your photos – I like to use a mixture of “Curves” [Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Curves] and “Selective Color” [Image > Adjustments > Selective Color].
If your images are a bit dark, “Curves” allows you to play with the levels and tones to create a more vibrant image. On the contrary, “Selective Color” allows you to adjust the hue of certain color tones to create more contrast or dimension. In this photo set, I felt like the red tones could POP a lot more. By using “Selective Color” I was able to bring the tones out further.
When your photo set up isn’t at 100%, you can always count on the clone stamp tool to even everything out – whether you’re removing dust or retouching product imperfections.
To access the clone stamp tool, click the stamp icon in your toolbar (side), position the cursor over the area you want to clone and then option-click to define the clone source. Then, position the cursor over the area that needs retouching, and start painting.
One of the tricks of the trade is to use clear fishing line to suspend products in thin air. By clone stamping the fishing line out of the final image, you are able to make things appear like they are surreally floating.
While I never condone being sloppy in the studio, knowing that I can rely on post-production techniques is always comforting. Creating professional images can take a lot of time and effort, but editing photos is one of the most therapeutic parts of my day.