3D, or not to be

 images different

US photographer NICK SAGLIMBENI has dedicated himself to the previously derided form of 3D.

Nick Saglimbeni does not need 3D. He is already an award-winning professional photographer working from his LA studio, who can count celebrities, hip hop stars, major magazines and corporations on his client list. He already has a successful tutorial programme that includes oversubscribed workshops and sold out DVDs. And he already has a significant public profile: he regularly pops up on his super-celeb client Kim Kardashian s TV show and Twitter feed-the latter attracting 14.9m followers. He has basically already got everything a professional photographer would want. And yet, he does seem like a man who enjoys thinking in more than one dimension.

The unruly hair and the sleepy eyes are misleading-as is the other-wordly LA tan set against perfect white teeth and the general air of Zen. Nick is actually incredibly dynamic, open and eager, his interest peaking at anything new like a dog on an unfamiliar walk. He is a doer, an explorer, and so despite having everything most photographers would dream of, that w ould never be enough.

But 3D? There were so many arguments against it. For starters, he never really liked 3D. His first experience of the genre was Jaws 3D and he was not impressed, labelling it ”. The opinion stuck. And then there was 3Dreputation. of the 3D imagery in the last 100 years has been woefully unimaginative, and the cameras just got worse, to the point where 3D photography was synonymous with throw -away-camera lens quality.”

Finally, there was the behemoth of his existing business. Nick had built himself an empire from scratch using 2D photography. Back in 2003, he had a studio in a part of town where would pee on the publicists’cars”during shoots and for a long time he subsisted on the proceeds of selling his car, eating tinned tuna and harvesting the goodwill of friends as no clients showed up for the first three months after he opened. A model friend then took pity on him and set up a meeting with the publisher of a small Latino magazine called Open Your Eyes. It led to a commission and right from the off Nick spotted an opportunity.

a magazine like Maxim, these white girls would have amazing hair and make up and great retouching,”he explains.

the urban magazines, you would see girls of different ethnicities without access to that extra assistance. I wanted to level the playing field for those girls.”So he did. He hired a make-up team and a hair team that were both experienced with a range of ethnicities and he gave them each a third of his fee. He then went out and spent the remaining third of his fee on wardrobe for the models.

He also pioneered new retouching techniques for darker skin and curvier figures. I first started shooting, I couldnfind any tutorials on working with women of colour. To this day, I still hear, ridiculous, itthe same to retouch all women’, but thatjust not true. While extremely pale models may worry about things like varicose veins, women of darker complexions are often concerned about ’or dry and discoloured skin, especially around knees and elbows. Models of Asian, Middle Eastern or Indian descent will often request subtle feature contouring because of their respective cultural standards of beauty. Therealso a misconception that curvy models want to be made stick thin, but in reality they want to be appreciated for their uniqueness, as we all do.”Nick was making no money off his new pursuit, but the pictures looked great-they were something the market had not seen before and people started to notice. of a sudden we got very busy, very fast,”he explains, the adrenaline of the memory lighting up his eyes like twin flash bulbs.

just wanted to work, so I said yes to everything.”

Everything originally meant just the urban magazines, but soon he was shooting hip hop artists such as Nas, T.I. and Birdman, and shooting campaigns for Sony and shoe brand Skechers. Then other photographers started requesting one-on-one tutorials to learn his pioneering retouching and the point came when he was teaching more than photographing, so he recorded tutorial DVDs and they sold out. Then the Slickforce studio he had set up was getting requests for more services, so he expanded it to provide everything from retouching work to shooting locations. Opportunity kept presenting itself and Saglimbeni, like a good businessman, grabbed it.

still ponder at how we got so big, so fast,”he says, looking genuinely puzzled. think people were intrigued that we approached the market from a new angle.”

And yet despite having a photography empire to maintain, despite having no real love of 3D, and despite 3D being a largely ignored corner of photography that the establishment were ashamed of, Saglimbeni has spent the last two years dedicating both time and money to, you guessed it, 3D photography.

Itpartly the fault of an old university tutor Nick met up with a few years ago. The tutor was pointing out the advantages of discarded filming techniques and suddenly Nick saw 3D in a whole new light-no longer was it this pointless footnote to photography, it was just like the urban models, misrepresented and in need of a level playing field with a different angle.

had this idea that with 3D I could explore concepts that traditional photography wouldnallow. I could create a spatial awareness that simply doesnexist in traditional photography.”However, though Nick may talk with the fluency of a 3D expert now, when he started out he knew nothing. So he started researching the genre, posting on 3D forums and studying the cinematographers who had brought 3D to mainstream cinema just as he wished to for stills. He found that 3D is basically a trick of the mind-you make the brain see two images as one, and, a little befuddled, the brain makes this into a 3D image. You

can set up this confusion trick in a number of ways but the two most popular arc the traditional anaglyph method and the circular polarisation method used by the big Hollywood films such as Avatar.

Circular polarisation is where a video projector switches between left and right eye frames 144 times per second-bamboozling but effective. Anaglyph is a little simpler: the 3D photograph contains two images of different colours (generally one red, one cyan), so when seen through the familiar red/green filtering glasses creates the 3D effect. Artistically, anaylgyph made no sense, but with his business hat on, Nick saw it was the best option.

was never keen on anaglyph,”he says, and his face suggests his opinion has not changed that much. love to use colour, so it was pretty horrifying to restrict that. But full-colour 3D technology is not readily accessible to the masses and I wanted anyone to be able to view the images I would be making, in any part of the world, for next to no cost. And that meant anaglyph.”

Anaglyph 3D is cheap to roll out as the glasses cost very little to make and it can work in print as well as on digital devices. If Nick was going to make a splash, he needed to be in the pool where the majority of people could afford to swim. And if he was going to reach all these people, he needed the images to be something that they had never seen before, so much so that they forgot any outdated stereotypes they held about the genre. The problem was, there wasna 3D camera on the market in his view that could achieve that. So he built one. Or rather, he designed one and his friend German Pinchevsky built it.

Pushed for details of this creation, he looks uncomfortable for the first time. He fears people ripping off the design so restricts information to the following: he has two cameras, a large one for studio work and a lightweight model for travel work. Pictures taken on the smaller model, he says, wonlook any different from those on the larger model to most people, but he can tell a small difference in sharpness between the two.

And thatit on the camera. However, he is more willing to open up about how making 3D images is different to 2D. images, perspectives, subject matters and focal lengths are much easier on the eyes-and brain-than others in 3D,”he says. example, when objects get too close or are too far away from the camera, it just does not work. Also, in terms of composition, you can find specific poses or set ups that make the subject of the photo pop off the page.”

There are also focus issues when shooting in 3D. In real life, the brain sees everything in focus, and in 3D it expects the same experience, so the depth-of-field techniques in 2D have traditionally not been used in 3D as it can be jarring. So keeping everything in focus is a good idea.

To begin with, Nick dutifully kept to all these rules, shooting at f/16, guarding against motion blur by shooting with high ISO”and making sure everything was at the right perspective. Yet in the set of photos he eagerly show s off that quite a few of these rules are broken. He grins.

went back to taking artistic liberties and saying, this is how I want you to see my image,”he says. wasnabout technology, which was what most of the other 3D photographers were focusing on, it was about the aesthetic.”

He was only afforded this freedom to experiment, he reveals, because his post-production supervisor at the Slickforce studio, Joyce Park, had dedicated herself to mastering the creation and retouching of 3D images.

To create a 3D image you have to align two images exactly-and everything in that image has to be aligned in the same way. It is a tough job. Then you have to optimise the colours for the anaglyph process to work-also not easy. If you have any patience left after that, you have to work out how to retouch those images. Joyce managed to do all of this to an exceptionally high level of accomplishment. meant we could suddenly do in stereo what we had always done in 2D-and more. That was a massive leap forward for the genre,”says Nick.

Understandably, Nick wished to show off this achievement. He could have just stuck the images on a blog for free, but that is not the work of a businessman. So instead, he joint-funded with another investor the worldfirst fully 3D magazine, WorldMost Beautiful (WBM), full of a schizophrenic blend of his self-shot glamour, travel and high-class advertising, all in 3D. He released it in print, for Apple and Android last September, and he stuck the most written about and curviest celebrity in the world, Kim Kardashian, on the cover. It hit international headlines.

Since then there has been a second issue and there is another edition in the offing. Nick describes the audience as ”, but is happy to admit it has not got a mainstream audience. He never really expected it to. He modestly, and without any resentment, explains that 3D photographyjourney to the mainstream depends on someone more high profile than himself to push it on.

donthink yougoing to see a big rush to shoot 3D until one of the major players like Apple or Canon begins promoting 3D products or workflow ,”he explains. now the cost and complexity barriers are too high for the market to take it seriously. As for consumer desire for 3D, that depends on the ability to create glasses-free, or at least colour 3D for the mass market. Currently that does not exist.”

It almost seems deflating that a man who has put so much of his personal time and money into 3D cannot push it through into the mainstream alone-this was the guy who went from tinned tuna to Kim Kardashian after all. But Nick is happy with his role. He is the first stepping stone across a broad river and it has not gone unnoticed-in April the Sony World Photography Awards offered a prize for 3D photography for the first time and Nick brought home the victory.

And you should not feel too sorry for him. He is a businessman and he did not go into this blindfolded. 3D will eventually hit mainstream photography and, as he says: a 3D iPad comes out, italready going to be too late. Yoube dealing with the same overcrowded marketplace that you currently have with DSLR photography and the app market.”Nick would not be foolish enough to make that mistake, now, would he?

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