Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Zombies Love Brains

I am going to go out on a limb here and say, "almost everyone likes zombies" because I am pretty sure grandma didn't.  Well, and my wife isn't to keen on them either.  Come to think of it, I am guessing only people who are into video games really can appreciate a good zombie.  That is the case with today's image, where the make-up artist (Amber) is really into video games, so her Zombie love factor is pretty high compared to others that come to mind (pun?)

At the photo shoot last Saturday I noticed Amber gleefully applying disturbing make-up to this lovely young model and it caused me to pause and ask what her vision was and where it was going.  We got into quite a vivid discussion of Left 4 Dead (a popular video game), and so I decided I needed to definitely shoot this twisted concept as I am also a pretty big fan of the game as well as zombies in general.

Lighting this was similar to a few others I shot this day as I wanted mega high-contrast.  In fact, breaking the very rule I spoke of in my last post in not abusing the clarity slider in Lightroom became am almost mandatory action in my options for this image.  If it could have gone to eleven like the volume knob on my stereo, I would have tried it.  In all seriousness, this is at 100% clarity to really bring out everything we can.  The 22" beauty dish was mounted on an AlienBee AB1600 studio strobe metered at ƒ16 pretty much over her head.  The rim light set to camera right with a small soft strip and a 40 degree grid.  However, I placed this soft strip and flash combo directly on the floor, tilted upward toward the subject.  I wanted the light lower on this side, and made sure not to accidentally hit her in the eyes with it.  If I would have done that, I would have created a very classic beauty setup called a "clam shell" (that would also involve repositioning the rim to the front under the dish).  As beauty was not our goal here, I kept these 2 light from hitting the same part of her body.

In Photoshop I did do my standard blemish removal on the model even though we are going for a zombie look here, I wanted to be sure she was pleased with how she looked in the shot.  I could have placed more wounds and really added some gore, but what you see here is the talent of the make-up artist, and because they want an image in exchange for their hard work, that alteration would not be fair to them.  However, the background needed some zing, so I found this image out on the interwebs and the position of the lights in the street photo would work well with the highlights on her body.  The next part is getting the coloration of the two images to match and look like their were shot together.  I do this in a rather methodical method, but it always works.
  1. First, copy the layer with the model on it and erase anything that isn't really the color you feel is proper for the image.  In this case there was nothing out-of-place, so I move onto the next step.
  2. Use Blur -> Average the new layer copy of the model to get the average value of the entire image.  Use the eyedropper and copy the HEX value of this color because I am going to need it in a minute.
  3. Delete the layer containing the average blurred image (should look like a big solid color at this point)
  4. Create a Photo Filter adjustment layer and set it to use the color you just copied from the image average.  Be sure to clip this to the background image only, not the model (hold down ALT and click between the two layers).
  5. Torque up the strength of the new adjustment layer until you firmly believe you shot them at the same time.
What you have now is a background image that has been filtered to use the average color adjustment of the model's layer.  Of course you can always tweak this as it is only as adjustment layer.

Hopefully that was understandable and helpful.  Please let me know if you have any questions and if you enjoyed the post.

Click on the image to view it larger.


  1. Cool idea on matching colors between the layers. I always have a hard time doing that.

  2. Same here. The composite fits perfectly.


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