It’s been quite a long time since I have a desire to make black and white photos consciously and thoroughly, not accidentally and just hoping for luck. I mean to choose location and times of day before shooting in order to get material for good black and white images. Moreover, I already saw in my mind for several months which exactly these photos should be.
To my opinion, black and white photography is not just images without color. To make really interesting and beautiful photos, you have to process images no less long and serious than colored ones.
And I made my new series just like that. Here it is: Peterhof.
I have to say that my present life – when photography is not only my profession but also my hobby – leaves me not much free time. Huge part of it I still spend doing all kinds of nonsense that, nevertheless, helps me to relax and take a break. But rest of my free time I spend useful – I do my self-education, slowly but true and hard increasing my photography level.
And now, on 14th of March, I finished “Interior Design Photography” online course by famous professional French photographer Serge Ramelli. I learnt this course not for free, therefore, I got the Certificate in the end and I’m very glad about and even proud of it!
So, now, I’m not only professional but also certified interior photographer! Welcome!
By the way, I have already started another course but by different photographer, American one this time. If Ramelli told about interior photography of different hotel rooms, the new course is about architectural and interior photography of houses. That means my training as a photographer continues permanently!
I guess many of you know such a famous platform for designers, builders, photographers and other specialists in home repairs and design as Houzz. A few years ago, Russian branch of Houzz opened. And I am the one of the interior photographers on this web site.
Houzz gives their own award in different nominations every year. I’m pleased to tell that I won “Best of Houzz-2017” award in “Client Service” nomination. Frankly, it was a big surprise for me. I don’t mean that I’m not sure in the quality of my photographs or my services at all. Just the opposite: I am completely confident about it. But I didn’t expect that it will be appreciated on such a high level. As it appears, I wasn’t alone in it.
In connection with this prize awarded, there was one funny and very surprised me case. If you occasionally visit my site you know that I completed very big order for The State Russian Museum last summer. It was an interior and architectural photography. Some of these photos are presented in my portfolio on Houzz. So, it didn’t pass an hour after I have received a mail with congratulations from Houzz and I suddenly got a personal message on Houzz web site from one of the interior photographers. I can’t call him a colleague and you will know why below.
First of all, it should be mentioned that this person is placed on the first page of Saint-Petersburg interior photographers on Houzz. Moreover, he photographed 46 different palaces and mansions in Saint-Petersburg as a professional photographer as he wrote me himself. And if you look over his photos you won’t doubt in his words. Simply put, he’s a very successful, demanded and I guess highly paid interior photographer.
And this successful a Tom Shelby style cap carrier suddenly wrote me a message where he doubts that I could photograph The Russian State Museum interiors and facades because I have such a low photographer level! “Why do you mislead a respected public?” he wrote. Like, ah-ah-ah, not good! And he virtually wagged a finger at me.
I answered quite honestly as I always do that I never mislead anyone at all and even didn’t think about it. Then he like a Napoleon’s army general began to prance in front of me on a virtual horse of his success telling how many palaces he had photographed. I was impressed of course but still didn’t understand what he wanted from me and I respond it. For unknown reasons, he answered that I’m an anxious person and vanished in the air left me think it all over and scratch my nape.
By the way, if you interested in who it was you can find him on Houzz Russia very easy: he’s the only interior photographer in Saint-Petersburg with double surname.
From 11 till 30 November 2016, there was “The Nothern Beauty” photo contest on the National Geographic Russia web site. The same name exhibition was organized according to the results. It included the works got to the final and took place in “The Gallery” mall in the center of Saint-Petersburg from 14 December 2016 till 14 January 2017.
I am very glad to announce that one of the contest finalists and exhibition participants was my photo #6 from my recent “Farewell To The Summer” series. I guess that’s one of two my highest achievements as a creative photographer so far.
I can also add another, much less significant but no less pleasant news for me. There’s international photographers web site called Viewbug that have a very respected jury include such grandees of modern photography as Tray Ratcliff, Scott Kelby, Peter Hurley, Alan Shapiro, Jerry Ghionis and many others. There different photo contests and challenges are regularly running on this web site. My photo #1 from the mentioned series won the “HDR Photography” photo challenge in December. Moreover, this photo also got the “Members Selection Award” in the same month.
As for my professional interior photographer career, I also won quite famous and prestigious award recently, about 10 days ago. I even suddenly met envy from one of the Saint-Petersburg’s successful interior photographers! But I’ll tell about it a bit later, after a few days.
On the edge of twentieth and our centuries, there were not only a rapid development of computers, soft and digital photographic equipment but also one more important process: all mentioned technologies were becoming more and more affordable to a widest range of people. Simply put, hardware were becoming faster, soft – more powerful, digital cameras – more perfect and, at the same time, all this were becoming easier and cheaper for a customer. If in the early nineteens photography was laborious and difficult process for the chosen enthusiasts, now, after a little bit more than twenty years, almost every person has a camera (I can even say “every person” if include cameras in smartphones). Moreover, from the purely technical point of view, our modern cameras can take the higher quality images comparing to the best photos of the film era.
So why the world is not filled with photographic masterpieces? Why photos we bring from the most picturesque places visited during vacation do not arouse our friends the same overflowing enthusiasm as we do?
The answer is very simple and I can put it in just five words: Because photography, brain and eye. I am sure you didn’t understand what it means. But this is only because I deliberately turned my answer in Suprematism in order to intrigue you. And now, when you are really interested in, I will make myself clear with pleasure.
1. Reality and photography
What photography is? You say: the portraying of three-dimensional world on a plane. Absolutely right. And what the beautiful landscape photography is? Certainly, most will converge on that it is a harmonious combination of elements of a captivating place. I agree again. And what is this captivating place in reality? Perhaps all that can be captured in a photo. But not only. When you are in some beautiful place, say, on the seashore at sunset, you’re not only seeing a sea, a beach, rocks, sky and almost red Sun. You’re also hearing gulls and sound of the surf. You’re feeling a light breeze and warm sunshine by your skin. Finally, you’re feeling the sea and plants odors and may be even the coming from the nearby cafe smell of freshly prepared fish, baked on coals of fruit trees. And how can you portray all these things on a photo? That’s right: you can’t.
And when back home you show your photos on the screen to your friends you unconsciously remember all the gamut of emotions which you experienced at the moment. The gamut caused by a view, sounds, aromas and tactile sensations. And if there were also your loved one, you should add the romantic notes. But you can’t transfer all this to your friends. The maximum you can is to emotionally comment every image. But you see “it is better to see once than hear a hundred times”.
And that’s why your friends will see just not very colorful yellow-pink sky with clouds even beautiful form but too dark beach and almost black rocks.
2. Reality and how our brain perceives it
The twentieth century was characterized by not only the rapid technological progress. Various science researches improved no less rapidly. The same trend continued in our century. Among others, we are very advanced in the study and understanding of the human brain – how it works and why.
According to recent research, for example, it became known that we, humans, live not in the real world but in some kind of virtual reality created by our brain. Reality close enough to the real world so as not to bump into objects or confuse a sandwich with a notepad. But still, “this reality is made up, for the most part, of some sort of video clips simulated by our brain”. (1) Much of what we see “around” is created “inside”. “Only a small part of what goes into our brain comes directly from the outside world; the rest comes from a memory and structures involved in semantic processing of the perceived information”. (2)
So, even if we could cut off the effect of smells, sounds and tactile sensations on our senses (in fact, we can’t do it but let us imagine), the picture we can see by our eyes (more precisely would say “perceive by our brain”) is still quite far from the real world. A digital camera, on the other hand, is just transmits the image as close as possible to it.
And here appears the question: what is more important – the reality as it is or our impressions, emotions and feelings caused by it? I would say this: if you are doing reportage or documentary photography, the reality is more important and any editing will be the distortion. But if you seek to convey your feelings from what you saw, the only way to lose as little as possible in the course of transmission from you to a viewer is to make your photo beautiful.
3. A human eye and a digital camera
It’s not a secret that the human eye is still more perfect than any other tool of receiving visual information that we have. (Of course, we rather talk about a system “eye – brain” because our eyes are useless without a tool of perceiving and processing the information). For instance, when we look over a very contrast scene (say, we stand almost on the edge of the forest at sunny midday and we see not only a brightly lit outskirt but also the dark trees around us) we do not even notice how quickly our eyes adapt to the different brightness. All the details of this scene are clearly visible for us: dark grass at the foot of the trees, bright flowers in the meadow and very light sky with white clouds at the top. But try to photograph such a landscape and you will get a clearly visible forest, bright meadow and completely white sky or vice versa – a bright sky, clearly visible glade and almost black forest. Photographers call it “low dynamic range”.
Roughly the same thing with the focus. If we look at the tree standing under it close to the lowest branches then, however, all its branches until the uppermost are seen in focus for us. But if you photograph the same scene, you’ll get the image with focus only at one branch. The rest ones will be out of focus. In fact, in this case, the eye works approximately the same as the camera lens. The difference in that the eye is changing its focus much faster than the camera and the brain, meanwhile, is building a coherent picture of the individual pieces. So, it seems to us that all the tree branches we see clearly.
And if the depth of field photographers have long been used as an artistic device, as for the image details with different brightness – chasing the eye continues and still very far from completion.
The result is that we have to process digital photographs to maximum accurately convey our emotions from the imaged scene. And if photographing with the compact camera in JPG format you get a bit embellished picture of reality (however, it’s still far from what you perceive), shooting with the DSLR in RAW format initially involves the post processing.
And here appears another, much more complex question: how to understand how you need to embellish the photo processing it on the computer and at which point you need to stop? The answer is simpler than it was in previous case – feeling of limits. And that’s why the world is not filled with photographic masterpieces although it’s elementary to take a photo.
1 – Hanson R., Mendius R., 2011 – “The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom”. p.62
2 – Raichle M., 2006 – “The Brain’s Dark Energy”. Science 314: p.1249-1250.
Text (except signed quotes) and photos by Denis Churin, © 2016
It’s been a long time without any news here! But there is a lot of it. Of course, not all of them are really interesting, but they took a lot of time. Take moving to another city, for instance. It‘s such a sap for any spectator. But it takes so many time, effort and money from the participant!
Nevertheless, I think more interesting fact is that I started my full-time work as a photographer in the “1000 and one slipper” company about a month ago. Moreover, it doesn’t mean I stop take orders for interior or any other photography. I became pickier – that’s true, but I still take interesting orders. Say, earlier, I would think about the order “20 quality edited interior photos took with the mobile studio light, the price for all work is $30”. But now, the only wish I have concerning to such an order is to laughing out very loud and to write a couple of articles about how much and why the really professional interior photography does cost.
Unfortunately, I have no time for art photography now. I have materials and ideas both worth to spend time and effort, but I haven’t time so far. Yet, I think that’s normal in the time of life change. Besides, I remember what was written on the King Solomon’s ring: “This too shall pass”.
But, to my mind, the most important from the latest news is my decision to change a bit the type of content. I will no more make the separate albums for any completed order. There will be just one general album with the best images from all of the orders. I think it’ll let the potential client to estimate my professional level and, at the same time, not to get tired of scrolling tens of images.
And here, in the blog, instead of the endless reports about what I shot and for whom (honestly, I doubt that’s really interesting for any person but me) I will write different interesting notes and articles (about why you should edit your digital photos, for example). So, as they say on TV: “Stay tuned!”
A couple of weeks ago, I was contacted by the YouPiter mini hotel owner (quite a symbolic name, isn’t it? ). He ordered my interior photography. The task was to show the textures of shabby wood in furniture, natural plastering of walls and suede curtains and sachet on the beds. I was very surprised while watching photographs available at that time on the hotel web site because I didn’t see anything mentioned. Frankly speaking, I had a deja vu. It was like I see the photos of one seedy hotel in Novy Urengoy where I had to spend a few nights about a ten years ago.
One of the problems voiced by the owner, sounded like the rooms on the photos looks really worse than they are. So, we have agreed to ten photographs. But I always shoot more than it needs in order to get plenty to choose. Therefore, I have sent him 18 completed images. As a result, he liked my work so much that he bought all of them! Moreover, by this moment, I have finished the shooting and editing of his second hotel photographs (but I’ll show them here a bit later) and he wants me to shoot the third one!
I’d like to add that in addition to the task, I have also tried, as usual, to make the photographs cozy. And I managed it brilliantly! Well, of course it’s very nice when your work is not only evaluated by the dignity but also get admired! You can see the rest YouPiter hotel photographs in the appropriate album at the Interiors page.
About a week ago, I finally finished a whole saga – my last photographs of The State Russian museum interiors has been edited and sent to the customer. It should be noticed that The Museum’s representative not only was pleased with my work but also wrote a laudatory review on the Russian branch of Houzz web site (I will add it here a bit later).
To my mind, the important point is that I shot not only The Russian museum’s interiors but also facades of its buildings. All these photographs will appear in the special album “Architecture” I plan to create some time after.
I can add that it was a very useful and important experience for me. I have tried something new for me on practice (because the shooting of huge museum’s halls is not the same as apartments and hotel rooms). Besides, I was seeking and finding answers for encountering issues during this work. I mean that I was learning something new in the interior photography theory as well as in editing of photographs.
In one word, it was interesting, useful and… it was a challenge, some kind of intermediate top that I have conquered successfully! And here’s the last Russian museum’s interiors album: The Marble Palace.
Back in September, I was shooting the interiors of the new mini-hotel New Day rooms. I can say that in addition to my great pleasure shooting and subsequent editing of the photos I got gorgeous result! Sometimes it happens that shooting is not smooth or editing is difficult and despite of the fact that result is excellent, I unwittingly wipe my forehead and take a deep breath at the end. As for this shooting, everything was ease. I even got some regret about finishing such a nice work. Moreover, one of my friend said about this photo that it looks like it was taken from some glossy magazine about interiors.
But time goes fast! By this day, I have already finished two interiors and one product photography orders. But I’ll tell about it a bit later. So now, you can see New Day hotel photographs: Interiors.
Recently, my friend, a designer decorator Polina Kudelkina who is also an artist and an art crafter in her free time, she finished her new work – felted home slippers called “Memory about a small fish”. I guess, that name was given to the slippers because of its decoration: small white prints of fish on the surface of slippers and metal figures of fish on the lace.
I very like that slippers! Therefore, I took Polina’s order for this product photography with the great pleasure. As a result, we both me and Polina are completely satisfied with the photos.
The rest photos you can see here: Artcraft product photography.