Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Often models use a pseudonym when they are working with people.  I suspect this is because some of the folks that come to these paparazzi photo events are kinda creepy.  We call them "guys with cameras", but indeed they might not all be males and perhaps are unidentifiable members of either group.  Anyway I digress... the model I shot on this occasion was Safawarda, and I assume this is her modeling nickname to avoid stalkers and zealous creepy photographers that just want to see random boobies.

Safa is always awesome to work with because she is a posing machine.  She will move from pose to pose in seconds and each is unique and often pretty bizarre (chalk her up some points for limberness).   As you know most of the time I have an image in mind, but on this occasion I was at a group event and she was next on the list for me to shoot.  So, she did what she does for everyone else and performs her posing magic while I light her and take pics.  I do this while scores of people watch and sneak underexposed shots of my work (cause they don't have my trigger frequency).  I hate group events for this reason and tend to camp out away from everyone else and then go kidnap a model for a while.

Because she does this posing thing for everyone, I wanted to be sure the image I created was unique compared to the others at the event.  I despise group shoots where everyone gets the same image, so I wanted to depart from that with the finished product that is really different and work this more into a poster type of image.

Lighting the Model
I was using one large softbox for this shot and it was placed camera left and it up pretty high, and you can see it in the original shot (I did that on purpose, just for you... no really).  This is one of my trusty Alien Bees with their large softbox on it.  I wuv muh beez!

Post Production
Ok, so here is where we depart from the reality others will produce and really artsy up the image.  First we do our retouching and fix anything the model will hate (not always what I will hate).  For example, she has a bruise on her leg I will remove, but I know she will think her leg looks fat because the thigh of the back leg is pressing on the front one in this pose.  So, we will use liquify to remedy that.  No one wants to show off a photo that they think makes them look fat.

We will also handle the armpit and other areas of the human body that just never photograph well.  I used the patch tools as well as dodge and burn here to make the tone even, not so much remove the texture.  Dodge and Burn are your primary go-to tools for skin work, get used to them as they don't remove texture and can give the skin the even tone you want.

Digital Photo Manipulation
Okay, now onto the fun part.  I want to make this photo appear to be much more painterly and "poster-like" and obviously not photo realistic.  Much like my previous image I am shooting for a drawn look to the image, nothing realistic as I stated before.  So, first thing we need to do is eliminate some of her texture.  Yes, that hurts, but if we leave it in there she will appear out-of-place with the other things we have planned.  So, I use some blurring to remove her skin texture.  Please note that I did save this as another file before I moved to this destructive phase.  I may want to use the retouched version with skin texture later in life, so don't destroy that which is usable.  After I get the texture toned down I apply a pretty strong curve and set that adjustment layer to soft light, which will increase the brightness of her skin as well as the contrast.  This is already looking pretty artistic, but we not need to add some background and foreground interest.

Adding Background Textures
The first thing I moved into place was a sky.  Of course this is applied with a blending mode and is going to be very subtle.  I also used a custom brush that makes little circles and stars and made some swirls around her.  This is one of those little touches I enjoy in images, so you will see it more often in the future as I post more of this type of work.

Working With Angles
Her arms and legs form a very dramatic pose as well as create some opportunity for playing with these angles.  I added some strips of white to the image that work parallel and perpendicular to the angles of her arms and leg.  I set the blending modes on these to various settings until I liked what they did to the cloud layer as well as to each other.

Final Touches
For the final touch we need to terminate this image on the bottom somehow, and a walk in the grass on such a bright day seems to be the ticket.  I create a custom brush of a large "grass blade" and then adjusted the scattering, color, and angle jitter until I was pleased with the swath of greenery that was created.  I choose to make the grass a color that worked better with the tonal palette I had in the rest of the image as green would have looked like ass.  Make sure to place growies some behind the model as well as in front to make the grass look convincing in depth.  Remember that objects in the distance are always desaturated and less contrasty then those in the front.  I added her name across this image so she could use it as an avatar, and I think it completed the "poster" look I was after.

That about wraps up this image.  Please let me know what you think.

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.

Waiting For Morpheus

final image This image was shot on location in Edgerton, Wisconsin, which I mentioned before is very close to the edge of the Earth (pu...