Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Succubus Isn't Just For Breakfast

Back during Halloween I had an idea for a female demon called a Succubus.  One of the models (Faith), asked to work on the concept with me after I showed some sketches and design ideas.  She acquired the outfit and my job was to pull off the rest of the trick.  Originally I was going to put some large leathery wings on her, but after working on it for quite a while, I decided it was a bit over-the-top for my liking.  This was shot in the basement of a studio where I am part owner and it used to be an old malted like factory, so it has a lot of wild textures to explore.

So, here are the before and after images.  I will walk you through the setup of the lighting and then onto the post processing.

The lights were setup in a way as to minize specularity, not my typical direction.  Normally I am a big fan of an obvious rim-light on the side of the model.  However, in this case I was looking for something a bit "darker", and really wanted to have a shadow on the wall behind her.

The primary (key) light is a Norman monoblock that was laying around in the studio.  It has a very large strip modifier on it with a cloth 40 degree grid.  I think this is a 40, it might be smaller, I am not really sure as the light is pretty old (or at least looks that way).

To really pop the texture of the wall there is a Nikon SB-800 skimming the wall from the left to the right.  I am not sure this turned out exactly as I wanted, but it did help the texture from the shots I have where the light didn't fire.  I put another SB-800 far to the right of the model with a Lumiquest Softbox III on it and a red gel as I wanted to really warm up the side a bit opposite the key.  This effect is also subtle like the other speedlight, but they help to round out the feeling of the image.  Again, I notice from the other test shots when this puppy didn't keep up with my shooting.  Guess I should change my batteries more often. 

Post processing is comprised of a lot of layers and blending modes.  So, lets start with some of the more obvious ones and work backwards. 

After correcting the complexion and any little distractions on the model I white balance and prepare for the battle.  The first thing I want to do it add some additional grit onto the walls.  Now, rather than add some alien texture, there is plenty to play with on them already.  So, I duplicated the layer and played with the blending modes while looking only at the walls.  I decided on "multiply" and added a mask to block out other areas of the image.  I also lowered the opacity as it was just a bit too dark.  Moreover I added some additional variation with the dodge and burn tools on this layer.  This really worked well on the wall behind the model, and I was careful to not go overboard on the floor, as we have plans for that space yet (insert evil laugh here).

The hair for the model was awesome.  I think she said it took her almost 3 hours to comb out the rats-next the stylist created.  I owed her a brownie for this effort, and I think I got the best part of the deal there for sure.  To really pop her hair in the image, I added another copy and it set to "screen" (I am not sure this was the final mode, but it is probably close).  Adding a mask and playing with the opacity I was able to give it some variation without it being obvious something had been altered.  I also played with other blending modes here, as I tend to do once the mask it solid.  Note that the mask here is NOT very detailed.  You really don't need to go to extremes, just use a soft brush and stay away from the edges and it will look quite natural.  You can also work on just part of the hair, like adding highlights and so on.

The last step was the summoning circle.  This was in the sketch of the concept I showed the model before the shoot and it was a major part of the demon theme.  In fact, without it the photo is a bit weird as far as poses and outfits are concerned.  I drew the circle on a new layer and made it as large as would fit on the screen.  Because we are going to use the perspective warp, we can be as detailed as we want and not worry about it looking natural.  Once I was pleased with the arcane design, I warped it until I felt it looked good with the environment.  For the final steps I masked out the model from the design and changed the blending mode to "hard light".  This really picked up some of the red on the floor, but it wasn't as strong as I wanted.  So, you do what everyone does when you want more, you just duplicate the layer again!  That doubled the effect of the blending mode, and there you have it!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Making The Kitty A Bit Gritty

A few months ago I shot some models that were part of a portfolio building event for local body painters and I want to discuss two images from that shoot.  We have events of this type about every month or so.  If you are able to travel to Milwaukee for a solid day of photography, keep an eye here for upcoming workshops and portfolio building events.

The model I want to talk about today was Alice, and she went with a Cheetah themed paint job adorned with a playful bow and some costume ears to help round-out the outfit.  Both of the images I am showing from this day have been altered with textures, and that is that type of  image treatment I want to discuss in this article.

I add textures to most of my images, often it is subtle and restricted to a specific part of the photo with a masked layer.  I highly recommend the Flypaper Textures series as a great collection of textures you can add to your image.  There is often at least one blending mode involved as a texture is rarely added directly to the image without at least an opacity change.  I also shoot textures whenever I see something that has potential.  So, keep your eyes open!

I took this photo from a very low angle with a wide angle lens, which will distort her hand and perspective.  I really wanted the hand to look large and as threatening as I could, so the use of a wide angle here was key.

Before we get into the Photoshop aspects, lets talk about lighting for a bit. Lighting this is fairly simple as I needed to light the front of the model, but also make sure the back does not fall into shadow.  I wanted to really add some specuality to her rump to help balance the shot with interest.  Obviously the face is a focus area, and the black wig will be a nice contrast for the image.

There are three lights involved here: 
  • SB-800 camera left (behind model) at 1/8 power with 20 degree grid
  • AB-800 with 2' softstrip camera left (in front of model)
  • AB-800 with huge octabank camera right at 1/8 power for fill. 
The octabank is a HUGE light modifier and allows us a nice even fill across the entire image. Also, because it is so large we can back it up a bit so we have some room to move.  Often I find there are so many lights in tight on the subject that it becomes a chore to step over cables and not accidentally catch one of the lights in a shot.

Before I added the texture, I needed to Photoshop out the thong from the model.  It just looked a bit odd with the outfit, and I wanted to remove it.  The patch tool and clone-stamp made this easy and quick work.  Remember you can always use the patch tool to "borrow" spots from other areas of the image.  This keeps the paint looking interesting and realistic over the patched areas.

When looking at an image for texture treatment you need to have a goal.  The goal may not be what you end up with, but you need to know what type of look you desire.  For this photo I wanted a desaturated look and a rough treatment to work with the dynamics of the shot.  I also dislike the brown background tone that was the paper that was handy, so the textures I am going to try must be lighter than this tone if the blending modes I have in mind are going to work.

Often when a texture is applied you will find yourself using a mask so you don't completely obscure important pieces of the image, like the face, eyes, and so on.  However I decided to forgo a mask for this image and just let it be a systemic image treatment.  After the first texture was in place and set to "screen" as the blending mode, I added an additional texture and masked it out of most of the photo except for parts of the background.  This was done to add a little variation to the photo.

The same model approched me later in the day with a slight modification to her costume.  I was in the process of packing up things and she was disappointed when I said I was leaving.  She said, "but I am adorable!".  So, I unpacked things and took this shot.

This outfit was a bit on the creepy side being that it was a "little girl" look but with the body paint.  So, I took her words to heart and added the word "adorable" in blood across the floor in front of her.  The texture treatment is the same as I did above, but this time I masked her out so the texture didn't cross her at all.

As you can see from the untreated photo I also had to extend the background and remove my damn shoe from the picture.  There are probably 50 ways to extend the background ranging from just a copy/paste to the "content aware scale" tool.  I choose the latter in this case because it is quick and was not really going to show up well after the texture application.  My ruddy shoe as removed with the exact same treatment I used to restore the background to the top of the image.

The blood is a simple font and some ink spatter brushes (I used a dark red color for both).  The color of the blood is made more realistic because there is a blending mode on them (multiply) and it is working nicely with the texture treatment.  Since blood is really dark red, this seemed a bit too dark to me initially but after failed attempts to lighten it, I seemed to revert to this color as my favorite.

I hope you enjoyed the article today and have a Happy Easter!  Please leave me a comment or any questions you might have.