By Cassandra Balentine
Photographers seek the ideal image. From capture to processing and finally, output, the process is measured and exact to ensure consistent quality.
Joseph Luppino, principal, Pixelnation, knows this well. He feels lucky to be earning a living on his own terms. A professional photographer, he primarily shoots vintage motorcycles out of his studio in Boyertown, PA. The studio is situated within Martin Moto, serving bike enthusiasts with professional shots and prints of their most prized possessions.
Luppino’s career started out in New York City, NY where his technical savvy helped high-fashion and still-life photographers transition from film to digital. It evolved into a capture service, which he expanded by adding a mobile capture solution. For many years, Pixelnation offered a combination of specialties, including shooting personal work, technical consulting, digital capture in the city, and scanning.
Eventually, the trek to the city got tiring, and the transition to digital was in full effect in the commercial photography scene. In 2008, Luppino decided to situate permanently in PA where he focused on shooting his own work and capturing film for clients around the world using an Aztek, Inc. Premier drum scanner, which handles film up to 8×10 inches.
In recent years, the scanning business slowed. Luppino contacted Aztek, who helped him sell the scanner in April of this year. With capture phased out of his business, he is back to straight photography.
In the Studio
Luppino describes his purpose-built studio as a small space, measuring 13.5×16.5 feet. A steel Lazy Susan platform allows him to shoot every angle of a motorcycle. “From a workflow standpoint, it’s all strobe lighting. I use a Macbeth ColorChecker from X-Rite, Incorporated and create a custom white balance from the camera,” he explains.
Each year for the past five years, Luppino has partnered with Martin Moto to capture motorcycles that participate in the Modern Classics motorcycle show. The event showcases a total of 100 bikes from the 60s, 70s, and 80s.
The studio involves five different photo schemes allowing him to shoot each bike with multiple light setups. “Motorcycles are complex mirrors, they see everything, so you end up with hot spots and reflections. If you use only one light setup, it doesn’t work for every bike,” he says. With this complete lighting scheme, the result is a series of files for each bike that are brought into Adobe Systems Incorporated Photoshop as layers. “I take those five files, stack them, and make masks.”
The backgrounds are a separate entity, inspired by fantasy. The idea is to marry photorealism with a little whimsy.
With this concept, Luppino is planning a series of about a dozen images, which he will print up to 24×36 inches using a 24-inch Epson Stylus Pro 7880 and a 17-inch Epson Stylus Pro 3880.
Output quality is essential to Pixelnation’s business. It is important that Luppino achieve the same result between prints.
Luppino admits he operates a simple workflow from a capture standpoint. He ensures the white point is correct and passes files through the camera’s RAW setting. Once images are captured, the goal is to stay true to the original shooting state, with minor processing in Adobe Photoshop.
When it comes to final output, the biggest challenge, says Luppino, is getting the Mac operating system, printer, and Adobe Photoshop to work together seamlessly. To combat this, he maintains two calibrated monitors—a Mac and an Eizo. Calibrations are done regularly. “I need to know that the color I’m looking at is going to be what I get when I print,” he explains.
Since Luppino’s style is to shoot clean, and the color he wants is what he shot, Adobe Photoshop work is done with clean files and processing is kept to a minimum.
If there is a change to the color, Luppino benefits from a closed-loop system. With the help of a color correct view booth and stored archived prints, he is able to revert back to color standards. He refuses to go back to the file, since that is the variable that he knows is correct.
For 24-inch work, created on the Epson Stylus Pro 7880, Canson Infinity Platine Fibre Rag 310 is often run, which feels like an old photographic paper. Whenever Luppino changes the rolls on the printer, he does a color test using the archived prints as a reference point. He follows the same procedure when changing out inks.
For smaller, 17-inch prints, on matte paper, the Epson Stylus Pro 3880 is used with Canson’s Arches Aquarelle Rag. Luppino says it has a strong tooth to it.
Persistent and Consistent
Consistency is essential to a photographer, as each print represents a vision. The ability to control his own output puts Luppino at an advantage.
Aug2015, Digital Output