Photographing furniture. And getting it just....right.

This is an image from the early days of digital imaging. Back when four megapixels was pretty stout and brag worthy. My art director and I were doing a bunch of images for a high end furniture retailer called, Scott and Cooner. Art director, Lane, had the idea to use a beautiful musician named, Chrysta Bell for some of the shots. He thought she would enhance the appeal of the furniture.

Now, I've learned more recently that it's impossible to do any sort of work like this without at least 36 megapixels under the hood but we didn't know that back then. We were unhampered by our own ignorance.

I was transitioning from film to digital and my clients had already gotten a taste for the speed and the lower production costs of digital and they asked for it. We dragged our usual collection of Profoto electronic flash units and soft boxes along and had light stands strewn about all over the place.

But here's the weird deal: We were shooting all of the images with my favorite camera of the moment, the Olympus E-10. Look it up. It was pretty wild. A fast, permanently mounted zoom lens (ala the Sony RX10), an optical finder and a usable screen on the back. It shot 4 megapixel files on CF cards and it had an itty-bitty buffer. Why the e-10? It was actually the first true 4 megapixel camera on the market (leaving aside the nose bleed territory of the Kodak cameras of the time....).

The lens was a 35-140mm f2-2.4 equivalent with a 2/3 inch sensor. You had a choice of ISO 80, 160 or 320 but only a madman would have ventured past 160 and I'll conjecture that we never moved it past the 80 setting because we didn't want to see primitive digital noise.

The camera had the usual studio PC sync port as well as a standard hot shoe so we were good with all kinds of flash.

We shot about 48 set ups in a long day and I still have them archived and sitting around.

While I'm sure the photos would be much more interesting if taken with today's cameras (sarcasm alert) I am still somewhat surprised at how much we were able to get done with such primitive equipment.

We shot 130 jobs with that camera the first year we got it and the average project budget was somewhere around $2500. Not a bad return for a $1995 investment in the tools of the future. Here's the DPReview review: http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/olympuse10


Anonymous said...

Hey Kirk - Is there furniture in the image? Pardon my "primitive" remark. My first digital was also 4mpx and I was amazed. Still have some of the (up-sized) images in 13X19" in print form. They look great. Thanks.

Craig Yuill said...

I recently had a chance to look at some 10-year-old digital files taken of my wife and me with a 4MP camera, and more recent ones taken of us with a new 12MP premium compact camera (which cost $100 or so less than the old one). I am amazed at how sharp the 4MP shots look, and am even more impressed with the colour. Little wonder I moved away from film and went all digital. As you've mentioned many times in the past, the old digital equipment was very capable of taking top-notch photos. Here is another example of that.

Jerry said...

Chrysta is still going strong:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6JDUEZMxdbk#t=100

Gato said...

I remember the E-10. Got a lot of good photos out of mine before it locked up during a lingerie shoot one Valentine's Day.

It was followed by a Sony 828, another 2/3 chip camera with very fine quality fast fixed zoom. At the time I thought that would be the future of photography -- and looking at the Sony RX-10, maybe I was close.

Greg Crombie said...

FURNITURE ? Never come across that one before. Gals, birds, shielas, yes. But furniture is new to me. P.S. Thats a really nice chair that little bit of furniture is sitting on !

Anonymous said...

"Now, I've learned more recently that it's impossible to do any sort of work like this without at least 36 megapixels under the hood but we didn't know that back then."

Ah, to be young and clueless again.... sigh. :)

And yes, embellishing the product shot like that does make the furniture look purrfectly compelling, in four or forty megapixels. Rrr-rrr. :)

Dave Jenkins said...

Outstanding young lady! I remember an earlier post with a more complete set of pictures. I commented at the time that she is the most beautiful of all your models I've ever seen, and I still think so.

Anonymous said...

This is amazing work from such a primitive camera and sensor. Nicely done.

Anonymous said...

Interesting choice of apparel for a "furniture shot." Goods are being offered but my first guess wasn't a chair! 4MP, imagine! And now we would be led to believe that isn't enough for even a camera phone.