'Exploded' Pictures

In the digital age, 'exploded' photographs are a lot easier to make than they used to be -- but there are still a couple of things worth knowing.

1    Do as much at the shooting stage as possible

We have a rule of thumb that 1 minute in the studio saves 5 to 10 minutes in Adobe Photoshop.

2    Use a 'scaffold'

This is the real professional trick of the trade. Yes, you can improvise with bamboos and string, but a professional studio scaffold makes everything a lot easier. We use Climpex, no longer in production, but there are other makes. Don't try laying the components on the ground; except in a few limited cases, the shadows will be a swine to get rid of, and it's much harder to get the right spatial relationships.

dev tank exploded 2

3    Light the background brightly

It will be much easier to drop it to pure white that way.

4    Don't use brightly coloured supports

The red crosspieces in the picture on the right are a lot harder to 'lose', especially around the white developing reel, than they should be. They can also reflect off shiny surfaces. For the same reason, don't wear brightly coloured clothes.


5    Always work on a duplicate copy of the digital file

Otherwise you'll have to re-scan or re-shoot if you make a mess of it.

dev tank exploded 1

6    Work on as large a file as possible

This makes it much easier to clean things up at a pixel level, and means that any errors or irregularities are reduced when you drop down to final repro size. It's the old graphic arts trick of working 'two up' or more.


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© 2010 Roger W. Hicks