Contest Winner September 2015

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In August of 2015, Format and ONA Bags hosted a creative contest to ask all creative individuals to show off what they keep on hand to stay creative. 

Format announcement:

From August 25th to September 10th, join the Format and ONA communities on Instagram by sharing a photo of your toolkit for a chance to win a prize pack valued at $6,000.


  • Lay out your creative toolkit and snap a photo from above.Include anything that helps you achieve your creative vision: gear, cameras, art supplies, notebooks, film—whatever inspires and motivates you.
  • Post your photo on Instagram with tags @useformat@onabags and #myOnHand in the caption.
  • The photo content must be original and new (do not simply tag an older photo).
  • Contestants can enter as many new, original photos as they want until the contest submission deadline on September 10th.
  • All eligible photos received during the entry period will be judged by representatives of the sponsor and partner.


When time allows, I like to remind myself never to jump instantly into projects but rather soak in the information for a couple of days and subconsciously think about it while I am going about my normal everyday activities. During that period is when a lot of brainstorming happens, and innovative ideas develop. Any visual ideas that strike during that time I write down in my Field Notes notebook and simmer further on ideas and how I will execute the project. 


After a few days of thinking and elaborating on what would be the most interesting and executable idea, I decided to capture an illusion by photographing all my gear as though it were levitating. I began the project by focusing on two important factors to make this image appealing to the eye. One, capturing the overall “Scale” of the image, adding myself to stand next to the gear. Two would be to photograph the project “practically,” meaning, to provide the illusion that the image was taken all at once, and there would be no visible trace of Photoshop. 


To make levitation believable and yet feel practical was not an easy task. The most important element of this project was to cast realistic shadows on the wall from the gear. This would provide a sense of illusion, of floating objects, and provide a sense of the depth of environment they are in. The challenging part was to figure out a way to suspend the gear without seeing the shadows that were cast on the wall from suspending the gear. To accomplish this, I used fishing lines and c-stands to suspend the products. With careful use of Photoshop, I would clone out the shadows of the rigging devices, leaving only the organic looking shadow from the gear, creating the look of levitation. 

Another important factor is to photograph each product at eye level, meaning it can’t all be photographed on one plane otherwise it would look fake, and it would be obvious that it was composed in Photoshop. Each product has to be photographed in a certain position, where it belongs. If the object is sitting on a higher plane of the image, then it needs to be literary suspended somehow on top of the frame in the camera. 


Since the entire idea was to focus only on gear and its levitating form, I decided to make the environment very basic and only lit with one light source. The entire background had to be photographed in front of a blue colored wall; this would match the accent of the Broncolor Equipment. I decided to go with color blue for the following reasons, it's easy on the eyes, it creates a subtle contrast with the darker objects, and it connects with the brand since the majority of my gear is by Broncolor. 


The first part of the composition was figuring out the frame on the wall. I placed myself in the frame standing next to the wall to get a sense of scale and how much room I would have to showcase all my gear. Next I began to tape off the wall behind me matching the edge of the frame in the camera. The taped off rectangular shape on the wall was indicating my canvas, providing the space necessary to photograph in. The last part was trying to hide the tape; so  I painted the entire designated area with blue paint. 

When I began to photograph my gear, I began working from the bottom up. Starting with the gear that makes the most sense to be on the floor, like the power pack, Pelican cases, etc. Those objects were the placeholders for the rest of the products that were to be suspended above them. As I would photograph the next floating object, I would instantaneously composite that object in photoshop to see if it fits in its designated area or if it would have to be re-shot in a different space of the frame. The process took several days before the final composition was pieced together. 



Once I had the composition set in place, the next step was to clean up, the retouching began. To do this, I started by getting rid of all the suspended gear and preserving the shadows that were surrounding each object. Also, I had to do some major clean up of each item of gear, due to over use. To visually enhance the image, I added a bit of a digital light technique to the objects like the iPad and Wacom tablet. The overall retouching process was very time-consuming and the hardest part I would say was blending in the shadows on top of multiple composited images.


Taking the time to develop your idea can save you time and money. Most importantly, it will make the project that much more enjoyable to execute. Even when working with clients who demand a fast turn around, I try to ask politely and explain the reasons why it's necessary to buy some time when developing an idea. In most cases when working with clients you need the time to figure out how it will be executed efficiently, so you don’t blow through your entire budget.


This is the video that was submitted along with my image on Instagram. You can see the process of how I was hand holding each individual object in its appropriate place to make sure the perspective of the product was true to the eye. 

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