Every once in a while, as a way to save money, I like to go back and reshoot toys that I've had for awhile and used when I was really trying to discover where I wanted to go as a photographer. This has two distinct benefits beyond obviously helping my wallet (it's the Blue Demon one); 1) I have a way to measure how far I've come and 2) It keeps April from killing me due to the large number of toys floating around the apartment.
Let's take a look at the original.
The first things that stick out to me is that the figures are in stark contrast to their backdrops. In the most recent, the pagodas are extremely bokeh'd, while Pei Mei himself is in sharp focus. That does not a good toy picture make. I'm wondering if next time I should move the figure closer to the backdrop or if next time use a background that is more defined?
But that brings me to the problem I have with the second photo; both the character and background are crystal clear (not to mention the background is from a video game. My bad). So much so that you can tell they are two distinct things. I suppose a slight Gaussian blur in Photoshop would take care of that, but it's still hard to shake the fact that both are in equal focus. The viewer has no sense of perspective relative to Pei Mei or the temple, and I'm not convinced that a little blur would completely fix it.
I'm left with the notion that, despite my reluctance, I'm going to have to start building sets. If I want Pei Mei to stand in front of a temple surrounded by trees, I'm going to have to create that world. Doing so gives me a lot of freedom in how I set up my shot and lets me flex some different creative muscles that have been sadly wasting away these past few years. I used to be fairly good at it, though.
So what has all this taught me?
I need more practice.
Background provided by Steve Webel through a Creative Commons license