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Photo Series ‘Painted Stripes’ Simulate Test Strip Effect

coffee table setting test strip

Initially, these shots by London-based photographer Benedict Morgan look just like any other professionally shot images. You might notice though, some kind of lines where tones somewhat darken or lighten, whether you look up or down the image. The first impression it gives is this must be some kind of test strip for exposure, akin to the darkroom days of photography. Inexplicably, it is, but also isn’t. This series is called Painted Stripes for a reason. The inspiration did come from the processes that used to happen in the dark room.

Sure enough, Morgan wanted to simulate how exposing different sections of test strip would look on photo paper to get the accurate enlarger exposure. What you get is a striped image, each stripe darker than the next just like these images.

bedroom test strip

Morgan however, achieved his effect the hard way; in fact it is not an effect. His production team spent hours painstakingly painting the set to create the gray stripes which were all caught in-camera. The “illusion” of straight gray lines across the finished image is actually how they appear to the naked eye.

Instead of each strip being exposed differently, the organic set was painted with different tones of grey. To pull off a credible “test strip” look, the lines had to be perfectly straight. They were meticulously painted in perspective over the set giving the false impression that they are graduated levels of exposure. But that sounds easier said than done. Getting the painting right was a challenge, with only two photos making the grade for the series. A shot of two single beds, and a table with two empty chairs.

Here’s a behind the scenes look on how this effect was achieved:

behind the scenes bedroom test strip effect

Morgan explained his technique for the odd project,

“The method involved a lot of masking tape and mixing different tones of grey. The way to achieve the straight lines in perspective first involves the camera being in the correct position. By using a large format 5×4 camera, I was able to take off the digital back and stick a piece of acetate with black lines on to the ground glass. Then by shining a 1k light though the camera it projected the lines perfectly over the set giving a guide to work when painting.”

See the unbelievably credible “fakes” of the test strip effect called Painted Stripes created by Morgan here.

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Patricia Ramos the author

I am a freelance photographer who is no stranger to smudged lenses, long hours in front of the computer, heavy camera bags (and the back aches that ensued) and missing lens caps. If you know what I'm talking about, you probably have as much love and passion for photography as I do.

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