Using Photography

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'Carry a camera with you at all times' lias long been the advice to budding photographers by hardened commercial pros, specialists and teaching staff. Nowadays, recording life with a camera has bccomc the norm for practitioners of all art and design disciplines as well as just photographers.

Illustrators have used photography as a reference tool for many years. For those who create drawings on location, the camera has provided an excellent memory-jogger. Many will aim to record as much information as possible on-site and then return to the studio to complete the work from the photographic reference. The final artwork may show no real evidence of the photo, but behind the scenes it has played a part nevertheless. Perhaps a more obvious use of photography for illustrators has been in the recent upsurge in the popularity of vector applications to 'trace' photographs, rather than relying on pure drawing skills. Quite simply, a photographic image, often reduced to either line or high contrast black and white in Adobe Photoshop, is placed on to a fresh layer in an application such as Adobe Illustrator or Macromedia Freehand.

Using drawing tools, normally with a range of different widths and finishes, a drawing is created by tracing over the photo in the original layer on to a new one. Some vector applications now also offer an 'auto-trace' feature that can take some of the work our of the tracing too.

With most mobile phones now also featuring cameras, the advice about taking a camera everywhere might finally sound a little too obvious.

Photographic Impact

A more obvious use of photography within illustration has been in the use of collage and photomontage. Prior to possible digital solutions this would have meant the reproduction and printing of a photographic image that might then be trimmed or cut out and glued into placc within another image. Often collage artists utilise a range of 'found' materials that may also include collected ephemera, as well as photographic images. Artists that work in photomontage may choose to set up models and situations, as a true photographer might, in order to create the desired effect. Elements are then often cut and pasted into new posirions within other images. The availability of digital manipulation has ensured that this entire process is somewhat smoother, even allowing the artist to download photographic images for use in work from on-line image hanks. With most mobile phones now also featuring cameras, the advice about taking a camera everywhere might finally sound a little too obvious.

• Seek the advice and skills of a friendly professional photographer or studio if possible - they know all the tricks of the trade and may even lend you the right kit.

• Use the best digital camera that you can afford or borrow and ensure that it is on the highest setting.

• Use a tripod - these are inexpensive and will ensure that camera shake does not ruin your shots.

• Make sure that you either use natural light, if available, or tungsten bulbs in your lights. Be aware of any shadows being cast - by your own body too!

•Test your shots before you take too many. Take the first few photos to your Mac or PC and check that they are of a high enough resolution and that the lighting is correct.



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