Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Babe In The Breeze

It is always easier to create a great piece of photographic art if you have a solid image on which to base the work.  This is in fact the case with the image we will be discussing today.  Most people would probably just call the original image "good enough" and move on.  However, I think we can squeak out a few more bits of interest to finish off the photo.  Now, this is of course a matter of personal preference. I can almost always find something I would like to "improve" later, but this is subjective and directly effected by the consumption of good scotch.

Lighting Setup
Today we are working again with my trusty AlienBees.  We have a large softbox to camera left with a powerful AB1600 mounted about 5' away from the model (about 45 degrees in front and to the right).  I have it so the center of the softbox is about shoulder height compared to the model.  It is also angled slightly downward to make the most of the light coming from the highest point on the box.  I have removed the inner baffle to make the light a bit more specular (edgy), cause I like it that way and for no other reason :-)

To camera left we have another AB1600 with no modifier on it other than the default reflector that comes with the light.  I am not a huge fan of this reflector, but it does what it is supposed to do reasonably well.  I have this light up pretty high (3' over the model) and angled down toward her mid-section it is also slight behind her.  Since this rim light is not being controlled by a grid or other means, it will spray light everywhere, but I am cool with that here as I don't care about the background.  I also have a silver reflector camera left to add a bit of fill to keep the contrast in check.

There is no background light, as we will have all we need to illuminate the background enough for me to be satisfied for whatever end processing we care to do later.  I tend to shoot on white rather than green or blue even thought I plan to pull the model out of the photo.  I don't care for the subtle tones left from these chroma-key background, but I do use them from time to time just for variety.  They do make life easier for removal of the model, but there always seems to be a tone left on the photo that bothers me.

Posing the model
I have worked with Cambriea more than any other model to date.  She is easy going and understands that I don't just want a typical beauty shot.  I asked her for dynamic poses that will use a lot of space and really play to the rear light.  Remember my rule from other articles, "don't point the rack towards the key light!".  If the model does this, it will flatten their chest and leave no alluring shadows or highlights that really accent their curves.  On this image you can clearly see we have succeeded in this goal.  I am also using a big fan that is just out-of-frame camera right.

Post Processing with Photoshop
Overall the original image is fine.  The lighting is interesting and the model has nothing that needs to be fixed like pimples, bruises or anything else that one might find distracting.

Most of you that know me have probably noticed I prefer desaturated images.  For the most part this is true, although every so often an image is screaming for something different.  When I start on many of these for post production I have an idea of where I want it to go, but often the image will tell me what works and what doesn't.  Today is one of those rate images where saturation of color is the proper recipe.
  1. Well, I screwed up when I took the image and cut off a bit of her shirt that just caught the fan when the shutter clicked.  As a rule you should always leave yourself room to crop later, but in this case the fan added a bit of an unpredictable snag to my otherwise highly organized and completely predictable life (if you believe that, I have some land for sale).  I simply copied the layer and moved the entire thing to the right a bit and then used the Liquify tool to pull on the end of the shirt.  This was enough to make the thing look believable, so I moved on.  Note I also flatten the image at this point as I have no need to keep these two layers around anymore.
  2. The next I did here was add a Brightness/Contrast layer and add a tweak this a bit as I think most digital camera images are a bit flat to start with.  I will also set this layer to "soft light" to punch the image and bump up the colors.  Note that I could have done this as two separate steps, but this single adjustment layer does both and helps keep the image small.
  3. After we have corrected the brightness and contrast we can really move on to the background, as their isn't much more to do with the model.  However, by the time I am done here she will have one more layer.
  4. The background is blah, but I do like the brightness of the white.  So, I added a large "smear" of light from the left to the right with a large soft brush.  This works with the movement created by the fan but does not create anything distracting in the image.  This is a very subtle addition and this layer was set to "screen".  Note that one layer was not enough to stand out, so this layer was duplicated to double the effect.  Also, I did try other colors rather than white, and they were pretty cool, but I felt ultimately the white was the best for the overall image.
  5. Once I had all this done I decided to take the model a bit further with some insane saturation in her hair and jeans.  I added a Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer and left the settings untouched but I did set the layer to "color dodge" and lowered the opacity quite a bit.  I also added a mask to this layer and then "painted" on this effect for the hair and jeans as well as a few places on her skin, which makes them brighter.  Normally highlights on the ridges of the arms and shoulder are desirable, so I accented them in this case.
Hope you enjoy the image, and if you have any questions, please feel free to post a comment.  Total time to complete ~20 minutes.

If you would like a copy of the Photoshop file for reference, I would ask for a $5 donation to help me fund my mad little hobby.  Use the button below, and if you do donate, please keep the file to yourself. Donations will appear as my model and photography networking site.


  1. Fantastic photo! I'm not the biggest fan of hi key but you did an awesome job with this one. Love how the light hits her. Never thought of using my softbox without the internal screen... Will have to try that next time. I use the large folding box from PB- will shooting w/o the grid also affect the specular highlights?

  2. The grid should have no effect on the highlights as long as 100% of the model is in the view of the softbox. I also use the folding softbox, I just love these things.

    Thanks for the comment as well, so few people bother to leave one.

  3. I really enjoyed this photo! Female models are so interesting and beautiful when photographed.

    Someday! :)

    Thanks for sharing this.

    If I could just get layers and masks figured out and understood I'd have much more fun taking photos. I'm acquainted with a photographer that has photographed some very popular people (woman) and is willing to help me on lighting and post production. I purchased all his lighting equipment for a VERY good price. His health does not allow him to travel to get the photos anymore so he decided to sell all his equipment. I REALLY need to go spend some time with him! :) He lives about 1 1/2 hr. away from me, but he sent me a letter not long ago expressing his interest in taking photos of some of the lady models he has taken in the past. They have been calling him wanting him to photograph them again. He said he thought about setting up a small studio in his garage to do just that. I NEED TO CONTACT HIM!!!!!

    Thanks again!

    Great photo!


  4. Scott, Thanks for the detailed post on each image. I am sure many of the posts take a considerable amount of time to put together. It is a good read for anyone interested in photography.

  5. Randy,

    What equipment did you get? It's always nice getting stuff for a good price. :)

    Layers and masks were daunting to me at first but it's actually pretty easy once you spend some time practicing with them. Tutorial blogs such as this one
    as well as training videos you'll find on YouTube and the stuff are awesome resources for retouching. :)


  6. Like Matt Normann said ^^^, thank you.
    Lovely hard light.

  7. Will have to try that next time!!it's the best!


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