Friday, January 29, 2010

Burlak Interview & introduction

This is a shortish interview / introduction / promo video I made for the band Burlak, I think I mentioned it in an earlier post. It wasn't such a major assignment, one day of prepping and shooting and half day or so of editing and rendering. I don't really know what to write about it so please if you have any questions don't hesitate to post it in the comments.

Trivia stuff:
There are a few seconds of the Obsession video shown in this piece that has newer previously been released to the public. I can't wait for the entire video to be released, it's been on storage for a few months now.... ;-) Read the full post

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Lighting ice or other transparent objects

This is a continuation on the post about freezing action and it's a rather technical post so please, if you prefer other content bare with me I have some interesting posts in my idea book.

Lighting transparent objects (glassware, bear bottles, water etc.) can be kind of tricky and there is plenty of theory to digest if you are so inclined. This post is kind of shortish and I just aim to share some of my thoughts about how I choose to light the ice pieces. Full post including some hand drawn lighting diagrams after the jump, click the link below.

I have plenty of books on how to light stuff, but this time I just took a normal sized piece of ice and placed in front of a table lamp. I tested different angles and positions and realized that I wanted place all the lights behind the ice and shoot against pure black. This way it would really make the ice illuminate as if the ice was the actual light source. I backed up as far as possible so I could use a as long as possible lens, for me that was my 85mm. That way I could reduce the effect of flaring and still have a reasonably large area covered by the camera.

I also tried to shoot with a white background, check the top picture. To get a perfect white background I used my king size soft box (1.2m x 1.8m) and filled it with three of my battery flashes, didn’t take any pictures of the setup though, sorry about that. One thing to remember when shooting a transparent object against white is that it’s not the highlights you want to capture, they’ll disappear against the white, it’s rather the dark areas that will define the shape. So in order to emphasize those dark areas I put up two dark sheets on each side of the ice, for the ice to really pick up some “dark reflections”.

I know it could be kind of tricky to decipher what I’m trying to say, so I took the liberty of making two simple drawings of the setups I tried.

For black BG:

And for white BG:

If you have any further questions please hit me in the comments.

Hopefully I will get a chance soon to use my gallery of smashed ice images, if so I will share some of the Photoshop techniques I use to composite the ice into a fashion or portrait scene.
Read the full post

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Current music video favorite

Here's my favorite video of the week, a music video that totally radiates the spirit of the song. The full list of my favorite videos is here

Fools Gold "Surprise Hotel" from Team G on Vimeo.

Read the full post

Friday, January 22, 2010

Fitness/body building - behind the scenes

From a shoot with Roman a few days ago, he’s the singer of Burlak. Burlak is an independent Turbo-Metal rock band that I’ve been working with for a couple of months now. I’ve been producing their first video, booklet pictures and this shoot was for their poster. If you are identifying yourself as a struggling artist or have friends in that position you should check this post out or tell your friends about it.

Today I can’t show you any more of the Burlak material than what’s already online, but their debut album will be released within a few weeks (unless a major speed bump in the beaurocracy strikes them). When everything is official I will give you all a nice backstage tour on the entire process for all their promotional image material.

Full BTS story with lighting setup of this shoot however after the jump, click the link below or the header.

To explain in words what it’s like to work with a subject such as Roman is to much to ask for. There is however a mini-documentary with Burlak in the Pipeline, it will hopefully come online within a few days. Subscribe to the RSS-feed of this blog if you want to be sure not to miss anything.

This post will be rather technical, but if you are a photo geek like me you will probably enjoy the following reading as I will try and explain the lighting behind these images. These are good examples of how important lighting is because I haven't done anything in the computer to make them stand out, it's all light (and an interesting subject) :

This was a very extensive shoot that forced me to bring out almost my full arsenal of in-house lighting gear. I placed two large soft boxes behind and partly above the talent to create a nice rim light (it would have worked without the soft boxes). I wanted a well-defined rim light for two reasons; it looks good and fits the subject and it makes it easier to extract the subject for later compositing against a different background (if you stick around I will post the complete poster here later).

The main light is a large diameter beauty dish mounted with a tight grid. This light was placed at a rather steep angle camera left and high above the talent, the main purpose of this light was to cast strong shadows defining the contours of the muscles and abs of the talent.

To finalize I set up a tightly gridded light camera right directed to only illuminate the face of the talent. This last light destroyed any weird unwanted shadows around the eyes for example.

Again I share these lighting recipes because I know that if you are photo geeks like me you love reading about this stuff, but please remember; I’m not trying to tell you how you are supposed to light a certain subject. I always start with an idea and shape the light according to that, not the other way around, and it’s the idea that’s valuable, technique and equipment etc is just extras.

Update: Here's a lighting diagram I created using the website It doesn't show a correct 3D perspective of the setup but I figured it's worth to add anyway.

Read the full post

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Message to all you struggling artists

I love working with un-signed or semi-established independent artists and performers, partly for the satisfaction of being part of some sort of the constantly evolving independent art scene. Most of you struggling artists don’t have the capital to afford a professional photographer so here’s a deal.

If you can provide me with compelling arguments that:
a) you are struggling in some sort of independent manner with your art
b) you have totally high quality material
c) and you have a great idea for how professional images would help you

If you provide me with those arguments (contact details are here) you will have a chance to receive SUPER SPECIAL TREATMENT, i.e. I will provide you with the images you need free of charge, moving images or stills doesn’t matter as long as we can do it all within one day. More details after the jump, click the link below or in the header.

This is more of a semi-official project than a standard marketing campaign/competition, and who or how or when I choose will be totally up to me. I will probably pick a group of finalists from which I will randomly select a winner. Of course I will not let my personal preferences rule supreme but there has to be some serious potential in you are to have a chance.

Most artists who fulfill any two of the three requirements above usually receives special treatment by me but as I need to pay my rent, put food on the table and run a business I will usually need to charge some money on top of the possible pile of signed CDs and T-shirts and or concert/show tickets that I might accept as partial payment.

I will also accept applications from artists anywhere as long as you can come to Stockholm for the shoot or if you live in a warmer country and you can pay for the air fair :-). And just to clarify, I’m not discriminating against any art form, music is naturally the biggest player but I love dance and theater etc.

It will probably take a couple weeks before the winner gets picked but I will post updates and announce the winner via this blog so it might be a good idea to subscribe to the RSS-feed. I also strongly suggest becoming a fan of my Facebook page and to become a friend of mine over at Myspace as well.
Read the full post

My favorite music videos online

I really appreciate the democratization of video that sites like Youtube and Vimeo mean. An un-established artist can reach audiences of thousands (if the material is good enough) and I can sit in Sweden and find that artist with just a click of my mouse. I usually browse those sites, especially Vimeo, a couple of times a week and to me it’s a great way of finding inspiration or just refueling with creative energy.

In this blog I will post my favorite videos that I find online, it will mainly music videos but sometimes other videos as well. It will always be videos that I find impressing, what’s impressing to me could be the overall impression, the production quality, the post-production, the storytelling and the acting or just the music and or sound.

First up are two music videos and I really encourage you to support the artists involved if you like what you see. And if you can spare the bandwidth you should check the videos out at the actual Vimeo site so you can enjoy the HD quality option.

I will try not talk too much about why I like the videos and hence give you a chance to form your own opinion. I always look for videos that speak to me in different ways, and often rather unobvious ways. At least that’s what I like to think.

Múm "Sing Along" from Team G on Vimeo.

"Whale Song" for Modest Mouse from Bent Image Lab on Vimeo.

Read the full post

Monday, January 18, 2010

Smashing ice or Freezing action

I felt the urge to destroy something beautiful and taking it out on a model is always a bad idea so I had an assistant smash up some ice formations with a hammer while I took photos. Haha, no seriously I’m quite ok, the smashing of ice is all a planned activity. Warmer winds arrived so I had to do it now (actually yesterday) rather than later, even though the actual shoot where I was planning to use the ice have seen some complications and might not happen.

Anyway I thought this could be a good opportunity to actually make a technical post where I could explain some necessary theory for freezing action using strobe lights. Full post after the jump, click the link below.

First a few words about synch speed. If you have a standard DSLR it wan’t help if your fastest synch speed is 1/250 rather than 1/160 it will not give any difference as long as your shooting location leaks very strong continuous light, for example sun light. Why fancy HSS (High Speed Sync ) features won’t help is explained here .

What’s important when it comes to freezing action is the flash duration. My big studio lights are much slower than my small battery strobes so I put the big guns away this time. I dare say that all small battery strobes are built on the same principle and hence follow the same rule that flash duration is directly proportional to output power. The lower the power the faster the flash duration.

As I wanted a big depth of field to get as crisp and sharp picture as possible I set the aperture to 13 and cranked up the ISO to 3200. By upping the ISO I could still set the power of the flashes to the absolute minimum and thereby minimize the motion blur. I can easily use ISO3200 when color is not very important, and as ice is pretty much just white it was ok (I figured I could always ad some nice blue shades in Photoshop afterwards).

After everything was set up, I asked my lovely assistant to smash the ice pieces in different ways, all I had to focus on was to make sure I hit the button at the exactly right moment. Here are some more examples, and I have a post under construction where I will explain some of my thoughts behind how I set the lighting for this gig and how to light transparent stuff.

Please don’t take any settings I use as hard rules for what you are supposed to dial in on your camera. This post is an attempt to explain some technical theory necessary to achieve a certain look, it’s not an attempt to say that this particular look is to prefer. Play around!

Read the full post

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

No need for photographers in the future

No, this is not a doomsday post about how many layoffs of staff photogs it's been the last years, or how the crisis of economy is undermining the commercial photography business. This post is about how amazing the CGI quality is today. Check this video out, it's made by CGI-artist Alex Roman.

The Third & The Seventh from Alex Roman on Vimeo.

Full post after the jump, hit the link below

This video was not made by a huge production company, it's made by one guy, the comment below is from Alex himself, (copy-pasted from the comment discusion on Vimeo) :

"-I think i must make it clear. There are a few non-CG elements in the shortfilm: photographer (shot on greenscreen), pigeons, timelapsed growing flowers, flying airplane and sky backgrounds.

-It was ALL rendered on an i7 920 and a QX6850 -very low budget :( -"

To contradict the title of this post, No I don't think CGI will bring the end to photography (still or moving) but CGI will be part of the future. Actually when I think about it we already live in that future, most of the high class car advertisement campaigns I've seen lately have been based on computer generated images of the actual car composited with photography. I think CGI it's going to affect how most commercial image material is created, both moving and still images. It's going to look great ;=)

Read the full post

Monday, January 11, 2010

Harvesting ice

Went out today to gather some ice, one of very few benefits of living in Sweden during the winter period. It’s for a project I’m hoping to pull of next week and if I do you can rest assured that I will share it here. (Unless it totally blows).

There’s not a day that goes by during this very dark and cold period that I don’t envy all shooters in the warmer countries. But hey! To be creative does not depend so much on what actual conditions you live under but rather the possibilities you can identify and how you act on them.

Some more pictures after the jump, click the link below.

Another positive side of Swedish winter is that my balcony transforms into a huge freezer. And perhaps it seams like I'm being all negative and complaining about Sweden, but for the record, I wouldn’t trade the Swedish summer for anything.
Read the full post

Are you using internet explorer?

I found out that Microsofts (M$) web browser Internet Explorer messes up the layout of this blog. I tried to fix it, but the rendering engine of IE is apparently not following the same standards in the same way as all other major web browsers.

I'm a photographer not an experienced web programer and I'm certainly not a big fan of M$ or their products so my current final solution is to strongly recommend that you use any of the major free web browsers out there. Firefox and Googles Chrome are just awesome.

If you are Internet savvy and can spare some hints or tips, please contact me or drop a comment, I would really appreciate it.

Read the full post

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Beauty makeup shoot with Elin F. and Christina C.

Mårten Keijser fashion photographer

Model: Elin F. at stockholmsgruppen, makeup Christina C.

This was a rather straight forward project, aiming to fill our portfolios with classical beauty makeup pictures. I usually follow the same procedure at this type of shoot where I devote the first frames to getting something that’s safe and we know will work. After that we go a bit crazier as the shoot goes on. Here we finished of with me pouring flour all over Elins face. I’m glad I did because it gave my absolute favorite pic of the day.

Some behind the scenes pictures, two more final pictures and a little BTS story after the jump, click the link below.


Mårten Keijser fashion photographer

Mårten Keijser fashion photographer

Mårten Keijser fashion photographer

Elin is truly a great model, I’ll let the pictures do the talking regarding her looks, but I feel obliged to mention that it was her idea to use extremely shallow depth of field in the last pictures. It was one of those moments when you know there is a very simple detail missing but you can’t put your finger on it. How great isn’t it when you feel like that and the model, who happens to be rather interested in photography, just nails the missing detail. I mean sure I’m an artist and as such I should annoyed when someone hint’s to me how I should do my job, but this time it was a salvation.

I went for rather different styles or tones in the retouching and I don’t think that they benefit from being displayed next to each other but I guess I have to succumb to this medium. Here are the other two final pictures:

Mårten Keijser fashion photographer

Mårten Keijser fashion photographer

Please use the comments to let me know if there is anything more you’d like me talk more about.

Read the full post

The future content of this blog

Here’s what I’m planning/hoping/betting will show up in this blog.

Behind the scenes material, it’s a given subject and I know video is always more fun so I will do my best to keep the images flowing ;-). Most transparency will of course be given for my personal portfolio projects, where no clients will have opinions on what to share. (complete list after the jump, click the link below)

Fashion, makeup, music and art. In the BTS material I will try and persuade people I’m working with on the different projects I do to share part of their thoughts, knowledge and experience through this blog. I will also try and bring these subjects up in a more spontaneous and general sense without the pretext of me talking about my projects.

Insights and ideas shared by industry people and other visual artists and professionals. I’m no journalist and I don’t have hundreds of important friends (yet) but I think this is a possibly great item to have in the blog.

Inspiration. My thoughts on inspiration and the different aspects of working with creatively demanding projects.

Photography, Photoshop and lighting techniques. There are very many very good sources for lighting and Photoshop recipes on the web, so I will not even try and compete there, instead I will focus on the technical aspects of the creative decisions one have to make all the time, mainly using my pictures as examples.

What did I miss?
Everything and nothing, probably. This blog will of course be dynamic and follow my photography career and the experiences I make. I’m sure I will find plenty of other subjects to talk about as well as ditch some of the ideas mentioned above. At least now I have some sort of goal, and that’s important for any project.

If you have some suggestions yourself, please leave a comment.
Read the full post

Friday, January 8, 2010

Mårten Keijser, a presentation

Hi and welcome! This is the very first official post and here I will try and describe who I am today (jan 2010) and why I chose to create this blog.

My name is Mårten Keijser I live in Stockholm Sweden and the picture above is a self portrait. I’m a visually creative person, I capture and edit still and moving images from scenes that already exist or that I create. The driving force for me is the energy I get from the creative process but my overall goal is to make a reasonable living in the world of still and moving pictures.

In the spirit of transparency I will here declare my current status as a photographer. I am a freelancer running my own business. I’ve taken pictures for a long time but started my business in 2007 while studying at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm (KTH) pursuing a Msc. degree in aerospace engineering.

I have a collection of reasonable camera gear and I have my own studio, which literally seconds as my home. I’ve built/bought everything with the help of student grants and part time jobs like bartending etc. As of now only a small part of my income comes from an occasional photo gig.

I am convinced that in some way or another this blog, or rather the community (that it hopefully will generate) can help me in my endeavors.

P.S. In time this presentation will probably be very dated but I guess that's something I will have to live with ;-)
Read the full post