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!