Monday, January 31, 2011

Need Not Be Present To Win

When I am inspired by something it often isn't in the ideal environment.  A great example is my complete lack of a full-sized starship and futuristic laser weaponry.  I just can't find a battle cruiser at a reasonable price, so one often has to improvise.

On this day I was inspired by this vinyl dress that Kristen brought to the shoot, as it seemed almost futuristic in many ways, but again I was fresh out of amazing places to shoot it.  However, we do have Photoshop, and often you can use common things to get an unexpected outcome.

Posing the Model
I was looking for something elegant and stern.  I think she hit it just fine.  That is all.

Lighting the Portrait
I was using three lights for this shot.  A typical large softbox (gridded) and a strip softbox (also gridded) and off to camera left.  I gridded them so they would not spill light onto the background as I had devious plans for said white roll of seamless paper.  I put up an additional light, but rather than trying to light the entire background evenly I used a barn-door modifier and was looking for a kind of beam "woosh!" type of light.  You might remember this type of background lighting idea from a science fiction post I wrote last year using a similar modifier (you can see it in the camera shot near the bottom of that article).  The idea here is that whatever we plan to do with the background, it will probably look pretty sweet with a little variation.  The original photo out of the camera is pretty decent, but not quite where I want it.

Post Production in Photoshop
The first thing I normally fix is anything wrong with the skin of the model.  Luckily there wasn't anything major, so this was a quick step. Next I wanted to put the model into a futuristic setting, but I also didn't want anything obvious.  So, a bit of "implied detail" is going to work well here.  Sometimes attempting to create a photo realistic setting just isn't going to look good, so we can go with something abstract and let the viewer decide where this shot was taken.

I created some burst patterns with the pen tool and added white fill to them as well as distorted, stretched, duplicated, and otherwise abused  them.  This transformation extravaganza combined with blending modes created a pretty abstract lens-flare type of effect while completely avoiding the use of the oft overused filter of the same name.

However, the background still wasn't what is could be because the background was still this gray paper with a bit of interesting light; it needed something else.  So, I searched around for some stock photography and found a shot of a bridge.  I cropped just the structure under it which was composed of beams and other metal thingies.  By placing this under the new light patterns I had created, we now had something interesting!  The bridge layer was desaturated and tinted a light blue to add some color hints.  I also rotated it to the point it was almost upside-down, but I liked the ways the lines were working and moved around the light layers I had drawn until they both worked together.  I sharpened the dress to help make it a bit more glossy and called it done.  Total time to complete is around 20 minutes.