Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Strawberry Locks

Today we deal with a fun and high-contrast image of Kristen as opposed to the damn scary image we discussed yesterday.  She bought this wig off of eBay and was all excited to don it for a shoot.  I was in the mood for something high-contrast and this outfit and wig work well to create a nightclub kind of feel to the image (in my opinion anyway).

Lighting was created by 2 unique sources, a 22" beauty dish and a small strip box.  The beauty dish was about 2' on front of her and about the same distance above and mounted on an AlienBee AB1600.  The goal here is to create a "butterfly" or Paramount lighting on her face.  This lighting type is identifiable by the little butterfly like shadow under the nose.  I personally prefer the term Paramount, as I don't see an obvious butterfly, so the term is kinda silly to me.  This dish is white on the inside and makes a bit softer quality of light than a silver one would.

The rim light is camera right and is an AlienBee AB800 outfitted with strip softbox and a 40 degree cloth grid to control the spill.  This was shot in the middle of a large room, and another photographer and model are working directly behind Kristen.  Rather than deal with having to remove this motley crew from the image later, we can just brighten up the strobes enough that the ƒ-stop required to correctly expose  the image (ƒ11 in this case) will kill any light from beyond her position.  The grids on the lights are used to keep the light from spilling on other things that I don't want in the photo.  Remember from previous posts that as a Nikon shooter my shutter is always at 250th of a second, and I am not going to change it unless I want to mix some of the yucky yellow ambient light.

In post processing I had two goals with this image, one was to boost up the contrast as far as her skin would allow, and the other was to make sure nothing was lurking around in the background of the image.  I added my typical curve to fix the flatness I see in most digital images and made sure my white balance was where I wanted it.  After that I do my complexion corrections and remove anything else I find distracting (most of this is with the healing brush or the clone stamp tool).  I also did a quick check around in the background and didn't find much there that needed hiding, so my ƒ11 paid off as expected.  The rest of the processing was in lightroom prior to publishing the image.

I find the "clarity" tool in Lightroom to be a nice, yet often WAY-TO-OFTEN abused tool.  It can do some wonderful things to images where you want higher contrast, but the effect on skin can be devastating.  I have seen hundreds of great images ruined by zelous use of this simple slider.  It will cause dark lines, blotches, and dark halos around everything if used in the extreme.  It might look interesting at first, but one must really walk away from the image and view it with fresh eyes later before you decide on a very high setting.

There are a few cases where you can get away with a super high clarity, and most of those are with darker skinned folks.  They can really take a higher than average setting and I think it does wonderful things for their eyes.  I will be posting an example image of this in the coming days so you can see what I mean.

Thanks for taking time to read this, and if you like it please leave a comment.  I am writing this blog for the benefit of others that want to know how I make some of my image, but unless I get feedback I don't know if anyone even cares :-)