Thursday, January 27, 2011

Posession Is Nine Tenths

In trying to create images one must constantly consider the balance between lighting, post, and the pose.  You can light an image perfectly, create wonderful work in post production, but if the pose isn't interesting or does not move the viewer, the image will probably cure insomnia.  I see this a lot with images of children where the photographer won't take the time to get at or below the eye-line of the candy-covered kid.  Take a moment and think of what can be done with the pose and then consider how to tell a complete story.

Posing The Model
In the image we will discuss today I had the model (Allie) strike a very unique pose.  We were in the same haunted house as the previous article, but a room decorated with weird bloody artwork and Barbie heads pinned to the walls.  Obviously anyone who actually lived in such a room would be a tad "special", so to play with this idea we work on making the model look as if she is possessed, but in a pretty way.  Sure, we could get truckloads of fake vomit and tell a story, but the models would also like to have something to put in their portfolio too.  However, in this case her Alice In Wonderland costume really played the innocent-little-girl card, so we run with that idea.  The pose is full of energy from the movement in the hair to the outstretched limbs.  The angles of the arms help added tension and help direct the eye to the face for the initial glance.

Lighting the Model
Once we have a pose idea we need to figure out our lighting.  As discussed last article, I am only toting around three Nikon SB-800 speedlights and some modifiers.  My camera gear is in always in my priceless Pelican 1510 (I am so gushingly happy with this case), and because it has wheels I can pile stuff on it and move around from room to room with ease.  I highly recommend this product as I would make this purchase again without hesitation.

Lighting this scene will require a few things be accomplished.  Obviously we need to light the model, but we also need to light enough of this weird room to make it count.  I was trying to work with one strobe with a Softbox III on it and another with a barn-door pointing at the wall you see camera right.  However, in the end I just could not get enough control of the second light so I opted for just the softbox camera right pretty high up and just out of the shot camera left.

Post Production With Photoshop
To finalize the image we need to take and add some additional elements and pump up the contrast. I took some hair from a few other shots and added to her brunette locks to give the image more movement.  In photoshop I used a very large custom splatter brush set to a very dark red and added it liberally over the walls behind the model.  I also added some splatters to the floor, but those were to augment what was there already, just not very obvious.  I then desaturated the image and added a heavy contrast curve on an adjustment layer

Overall not much in the way of post production, but the image really didn't need much as it already had a great pose and light to sculpt the model illuminate the overly eerie space.  My only regret with this image now that I look at it months later is the thumb camera right.  Someday I will go back in blend it into the shadow as it really jumps out at me right now.  Of course I might not, but that is what makes us artists right; complete indecision :-).

Sometimes you need to walk away from an image for a day or so before you publish it so you can see things you might have missed in the past.  I also flip the image horizontally while working on it to give my eyes a chance to see things I might have missed.

A little note on my equipment references.  I have a lot of fun photo toys for sure, but you will see time and again there are a few I have really come to love and use.  I mention them in my articles and I link to them at Amazon in case you are so moved by reading that you need to own them.  I will only do this for the items I really love, not for the equipment I regret purchasing or things I seldom dust-off and drag to a shoot.

Total time in Photoshop ~ 15 minutes.

Again, if you like the article please leave a comment as that motivates me to write another one.


  1. You do realize that if you do 3 posts a week, by the end of the year you will have a book. Soon you will have enough of a following that publishers will seek you out.

    This post was nice as it was less about Photoshop and more about the thought behind it.

  2. Hehe, that would be interesting. I wonder if anyone would bother to buy my random gibberish :-)

  3. Spooky and creative- i love it! Great post as well. :)

  4. Great shot!

    If it helps at all, this blog was one of my inspirations to start playing around with textures.

    Looking forward to more stuff!


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