Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Somebody Call A Nurse?

One of the last shots from my Halloween adventure I wish to share with you is this happy-go-lucky nurse in a lovely new hospital portrait.  I am not really very happy with this image for several reasons but I am sharing it because it does demonstrate how flexible an image really is and why you should save EVERYTHING.  I never (and never is a long time) delete images in the field based on the camera preview, even the blurry ones.  There are often times when an image might be used in an unconventional way, like the bridge image in my last post, so just keep it all as hard drive space and CD/DVD media is cheap.

As mentioned in several other articles I was in Green Bay, WI and shooting at a haunted house.  The models were all dressed up and scary/pretty for the event and this one (Angela) was no different.  I was working with her in some other shots (which I will post below) but when I first saw her I was outside on a break sitting next to some big blue metal buildings.  I loved her make-up and lovely look and asked her to pose in a way that breaks about every rule they tell you in photography (straight shoulders, straight-on look, chin down to canoe the eyes, etc) and I didn't even care about the distracting background.  I snapped this single image and made arrangements to work with her later in the day.

Lighting the Model
I used a single light source with no modifier.  The light was positioned 149,597,887.5km from the model.  It was also warming the planet and providing gravity, but those are secondary to shooting of course.  The shadow was provided by this huge blue building that also gifted us with a lovely blue cast to her right side.

Posing the Model
Like I mentioned before.  This photo is pretty much a list of things NOT to do when shooting people, but for creepy factory, it works pretty damn well.

Post Processing in Photoshop
Alrighty, so there was a *tiny* bit of Photoshop involved here.  First thing we need to tackle was what in the world to do with this image.  I had the hallway creep into my mind and proceeded to locate a suitable image from those available under a creative commons license on the Internets.  I found several I liked, but this one was ideal for the image I ultimately wanted.  Note that I had the other choices on other levels I toggled on and off as I worked just in case I wanted to change my mind.

First thing I did was to remove her from the background using all the tricks I know.  It wasn't too hard but a few problems remained, like the blue cast from the building on the right as well as the lighting was not a match for the background (or any background for that matter).  I should mention that when extracting I don't rely on any after market plug-ins, and the Photoshop extract tool is as annoying as country music.   I tend to use a lot of the pen tool as well as the background eraser for most of the things I extract.  Remember you are not sending someone to the moon here, so you don't have to be perfect about it unless it is for a client and even then if you can't tell it isn't perfect then who will know (I promise I won't tell).

I am tossing in another image I did the Angela to the right here because it was from the same day and probably not worth you reading my rambling in a separate article.  It was lit by two SB800 Nikon speedlights and I applied an effect to make it look like it was an image on an old black and white television.  OK, back to the show...

To remove the blue cast we just use a hue adjustment layer or curve and remove the blue from the image until we are happy with it.  If we feel we need blue in other areas you can use the mask that is created with the layer to lessen or eliminate the adjustment.  Remember the mask isn't just black and white, you can partially remove an adjustment as well with a brush set to a partial opacity.

Obviously our biggest challenge is the fact this image isn't lit at all like our creepy hallway background.  So I placed the model over the top of the background and pondered which of the 782 method for re-lighting the image I would choose this time.  The winner was what I call the "Overlay dodge and burn" method of punishment.

Note that this method was the weapon of choice until CS3 when the dodge and burn tools became useful.  Before CS3 they were very annoying and were so bad they were probably banned from use on prisoners in some countries.

Basically you need to understand what the overlay blending mode is and how it works to grasp how this messed up method can be used.  The Overlay blending mode does nothing when applied to a 50% gray color.  If it encounters a color lighter than gray it will brighten and you can already guess what is does if the color is darker than 50%.  So, to use this method we create a new layer and fill it with 50% gray (that is an option under the layer fill menu or shift-backspace for you keyboard short-cut freaks, of which I count myself a proud memeber).  Once we have the new shiny 50% gray layer, we put it over the model layer and set it to overlay blend mode.  BOOM!  Nothing will look any different, but now we can begin the magical process of re-lighting the image.  I started with a black brush at 10% opacity and started to darken the right side of the image by painting onto the 50% gray layer.  I work from the the outside-in fucusing in sculpting the model as if this was a shadow cast by a real light source on the right.  Pay attention to anatomy, and if you don't know anatomy then get your spouse, mate, plaything, playboy, whatever and use it as a reference.  Just keep going over the image with the brush and watch the darkness come into the image.

This process took a good 30 minutes just to re-light her and once it was done I decided to drop her opacity and give it a ghostly appearance.  After looking at this image that I worked on months ago while writing this, I feel I should have done the opacity treatment differently and used "Render Clouds" on the mask to give her a less uniform apparation, but overall it works just fine as it is.  I always say that I will go back and revist it later, but I know I am just fooling myself :-)