Thursday, September 9, 2010

Trapped In My Science Fiction

I like images that tell a story, or at least hint heavily toward the fact that a story exists.  Today I am exploring a bit of my science fiction obsession.  Not that I am much into the books (I like a few), but I like the look of the genre more than anything.  So, the image today is more of a celebration into the covers that adorn many of these geeky treasure troves than the actual void of space soap-opera spun between their pages.

The covers to a lot of these books are painted or drawn, and don't normally seem to include photography.  Now, I have not done a lot of painstaking research on this subject, I am just going from my casual glances around such masterpieces as Stranger In A Strange Land and Dune (my favorite book of all time).

Lighting and Posing
As you can see from the untouched image the original shot is much larger and I choose to crop in quite closely.  My reason here is based pretty much from the fact I like her expression, and from the 3/4 body shot, I don't think that message makes it to the viewer.  So, I decided on this huge crop to work the emotion of her face and make it the primary focus of the image (cause you know the chest is going to pull a few eyeballs away from the point of the shot).  I lit this with 4 lights:
  • 22" Beauty Dish over the models head with a diffusion sock on it.
  • Medium strip light to either side with a 40 degree cloth grid (you can see one in the shot)
  • Background light with a barn-door on it to make things interesting (visible in the shot)
I used a grid on the strip lights to stop them from hitting the background, as the model is probably only 8' or so from the background (I would prefer this be closer to 15' to be ideal).

The posing really involved me letting Cambriea know that she will be showing emotion, getting her hand out in front and making sure she can get her hair airborne.  All of these things are only possible because she knows what she is doing, and lesser models tend to do a lot of tripping on themselves.

Photoshop Retouching
To really give this more of a painterly look I decided to use a brush and destroy a lot of the detail in her hair.  I then basically blended together the strands into larger groups of color.  Eliminating that as well as a lot of the eyelash details tend to lead one to the sketch type of look.  I also have a plug-in I use for some of this stuff, but I tend to knock down the overall effect as I think it is a bit overdone and too strong.

I added a background texture from the FlyPaper Texture Series - Summer Painterly (great investments for $40), and set the blending mode until I like the effect (divide in this case, and only available in Photoshop CS5).  This helped set the "alien sky" feeling that fits our science fiction genera.  I then used a rough brush with scattering enabled and erase parts of the background over the model.  I did a quick job here as the blending mode didn't do much damage to her at all, so it was only a few places that bothered me.

To round out the image I needed to add a bit of a foreground element to help tell the story.  I used a few custom brushes of various geometric shapes and placed them on top of each other until I was happy with the geek factor.  Adding in a bit of an odd directional motion blur made the image complete.  I set the blending mode of these shapes to make them compliment the image, rather than just sit on top of it.

Please view the image at full resolution by clicking on it so you can see the level of detail available.  This image isn't anything special at the smaller size.

Total time: ~30 minutes.