Seneca Spotlight: Aleksandra Shornikova

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The Seneca @ York Independent Digital Photography Program is a two-year diploma course that prepares students for a freelance career and provides them with the necessary skill set to work in a multidisciplinary studio. Photo Life is proud to partner with Seneca students to document their journey through the school curriculum. Follow them each week!

Class: Photography II
Assignment: Liquid Pour
Student: Aleksandra Shornikova
Professor: Michael Visser (Photography), Greg Danbrooke (Compositing)
Assignment guidelines: Create a “perfect” image, composed digitally from at least three separately shot elements.

© Aleksandra Shornikova

“You never know.” Let me be honest. I hated it. I could not do anything about it; I knew it was for my own good, but still, I hated it. In the second semester, I had a studio class that made me wonder if photography really was my thing. You see, when I got into Seneca College, I had no idea I would be shooting in the studio. I never saw actual strobes in my life, and I could not imagine using all this insane artificial lighting gear. I struggled each class trying to understand what was asked of me, trying to get the lights right. I hated our studio class until the very moment I realized that I had learned something and could now see how light relates to the subject.

By that time, half of the semester was behind us, and we were shooting more complex things and not just geometrical figures. The “Liquid Pour” was probably the first assignment I really enjoyed doing. Our goal was to create a “perfect” image, composed digitally from at least three separately shot elements, like glass, liquid and the actual pour.

Now, would you believe that this image is a result of compositing nine photographs together? Well, I wouldn’t, except I did it myself. During my session, I took 132 images in total, out of which I later made a selection of nine photographs, each one capturing a “perfect” element. I liked the idea of shooting the “right-looking” bubbles, foam and reflections, then getting them together in Photoshop. To make something like this in one shot you really need to be a maestro. The truth is that this kind of work gets messy, and by the time you get that perfect shot, you have probably driven yourself and your assistants crazy. Maybe creating an image like this is trickery, but when you look at the result, you simply stop caring, because you enjoy the work you have done. I have shown this image to a few friends and asked them to share their impressions. “This pic makes me want to run to the closest store to buy some coke” was the answer I got from a person who has not had Coke in years. I could not ask for more.

Saying it was easy would be a lie. It was time-consuming, messy and stressful, and, of course, I spent quite some time on post-production too. But when you know the steps, it’s easy to proceed. The hardest thing about it is not to get lazy in the process, so that afterwards you can reward yourself with an image you are not ashamed to put in your portfolio. Now I see that our studio class was a “how-to”: we were learning not only the basics of studio lighting, but also how to become problem solvers.

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