“Trends change, things like focus issues reverse. It is now okay to throw things out of focus. Plexiglas is coming back. What is old is new again.”
Part of his personal evolution is the decision to go digital. “I was a little bit slow getting into the digital age,” he says. “Years ago, none of my clients were willing to go digital, but as the technology began to upgrade, they were ready to commit.” Now that he has made the transition, he has become a man obsessed. His studio houses nine Mac computers.
Sitting in what was once his darkroom is a Mac G5. Becker and his assistants were pondering whether or not to change the sign on the door from “darkroom” to “retouch room.” Even the darkroom sinks have become shelters for wires, cords, and some props gone astray.
“I really think digital has helped a lot. With the Leaf backs bringing such high-quality capture of huge files, I can do multiple imagery. I can change the lighting in the photograph, I can refocus areas, I can create an overall better shot for the client.”
Digital has been especially helpful with his crystal shots. “Crystal can be tough because of its highlights and cuts. Shooting digitally, I can literally capture a shot and then move a light almost behind it and blend the two together, so the image can show more detail and have better separation.”
Retouching sessions range from two to eight hours, depending on whether the image is a cover shot or a high-priority product. “The question used to be, ‘why would you shoot a wet plate when you could do Kodachrome?’ Now it’s ‘why use film when you can go digital?’”
Becker has a strong preference for capturing the image naturally, rather than creating it in post-production. “The more I can do on set, the better. I just find it a little bit more pure to achieve the light natively, instead of just lighting it up after the fact.” For Becker, “It is all about the light,” as he puts it. He has done a lot of speaking on the subject, in numerous NYC photo shows and in road shows sponsored by Calumet.
Texture also plays an essential role in product imagery. “Clients want to see the softness of the bedding, the shine of the table top accessory, or the fall of a dress,” he explains.
“Positioning is also major in drawing attention to the consistency of the product. I’ll use a sidelight to outline the texture, a front-light to flatten things out, and a skim light to make the product pop from the background.”
Constructing a set and seeing it come to life, both through shooting and retouching, is part of Becker’s magic.
“Showing people the catalog they often remark, ‘You did this in the studio? It looks like you went to somebody’s house.’ It is all smoke and mirrors; a façade. That is what makes it fun; creating the set and making it look real.”
What is very real, however, is Becker’s longevity in a business that is constantly changing and re-forming itself. As Crosby Street moves from dirty to clean, as technology changes from film to digital, Rick Becker remains in Becker Studios, dancing with the times and capturing each era in all its texture and beauty.
For more Becker images, visit www.RickBeckerStudios.com