DPP Home Profiles Stan Musilek - Mixing It Up

Friday, June 15, 2007

Stan Musilek - Mixing It Up

Taking advantage of the latest digital capture and postproduction tools keeps Stan Musilek's work fresh and evocative

“It's funny. When you look at certain things, like the girl with the butterfly on her chest, everybody thinks we did that digitally, but it's actually painted on her. The only thing is that there are different parts of her hair from different shots, and the skin was changed fairly dramatically. We shot 400 or 500 frames, and we still felt that it could be cooler. You gave up earlier before: ‘This is good enough!' I mean who the hell would think that this isn't good enough? With a lot of the stuff, if you don't see what can be done in another shot, people may think that's okay. Once I show you what we did, there's no comparison. Yes, you could have probably shot it on chrome and ended up with something similar, but it would never look this good.”

It's In The Light

Though Musilek is quick to point out the importance of postproduction on his work, he's less emphatic when it comes to crediting his style to what's, in fact, a mastery of photographic lighting. Years as a still-life photographer have given him a deep understanding of light and its interaction with various surfaces, shapes and textures, and he brings that understanding to every project, no matter the subject. Many images in his portfolio are the result of complex preproduction and elaborate lighting schemes, but sometimes he acquiesces that less is more. Although he could easily do it, he's not in the business of lighting just to show off.

“As far as the lighting goes,” Musilek says, “you can change something so dramatically. That's what interests me. Often, when a very simple lighting solution leads to great results, it's because of the approach we take. But I kind of can't help looking at it from two or three different executions. It's possible that the simplest one is the best set. But on the other hand, we're talking about visual communication, and it all depends on what's in the shot. When the subject, the styling, the hair and the environment are complex, maybe the simple lighting is the answer. And when all the elements are kind of simple, the simple lighting can also work.

“Photography has been around for a hundred years,” Musilek concludes. “There's the sidelight or the ring flash as the single light source—we've seen it a thousand times now. When you look at major motion pictures, there are some beautiful traditional things, but things have moved on. But with the many new possibilities, one has to be careful to not fall into the trap of the one who puts the most lights on it has won. It has to be communication. What do you want to communicate; what were you thinking you want to show? You only get out of it how much you put into it from the get-go.”

Musilek's Equipment

Large-format digital camera custom-machined with a traditional Hasselblad V Mount
Capture One Pro
Leaf Capture 10

Apple G5 towers in the studio
MacBook Pro laptops on location

iView MediaPro
Photoshop, Aperture and Adobe Lightroom

To see more of Stan Musilek's photography, visit www.musilek.com.



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