Friday, February 18, 2011

Eldritch Light

Since I am on an apparent binge of showing some of my re-lighting images, I thought I would take this opportunity to show you another one.

For this shoot I spied this unusual ensemble one of the models had brought with her.  I was also keenly aware I needed a prop to go with it and happened to have this handy lantern hanging around.  I am sure all of you have tons of weird things you never imagine using in your images, and this is a good example of something we had on a shelf that worked well with the plan I had in my tiny brain.

Lighting The Model
In this situation I already had a black background setup from another shot I was just doing, so I had to think fast as to how to shoot this very dark outfit on black and still have it be visible.  The key here is to side light it from both sides as well as to key light her from the front.  So, three lights in a Y pattern were enough to pull from out from the black background and yet also to sculpt her form.

Posing The Model
Because we now have this interesting prop, we want a pose that works with it.  I tried several unique ideas and this is the one I like the most.  Several of the others also look great, but I think I will make one into a graveyard image at some point in the future but this one was solid enough to work with just an obscure idea and not something photo-realistic.

Photoshop & Post Production
From the untouched image you can see we are properly exposed but again we face the reality that black on black that will be... well, black.  So, I need to push her "forward" by making a significant difference between the model and the background.  Normally I would not have shot this on black, but sometimes you don't get options so we deal with what we have.  Luckily we knew this before hand and lit her well enough to make extraction easy enough for what we need to do here.

So, the first thing I did was to isolate her and add a texture to the background but not to the model.  This was done using a mask on the texture layer where the model should be untouched by the texture.  Next thing we need to do is increase the brightness of the image, and I did this the easy way by making a curve adjustment layer set to screen and clip it to the model layer.  You can do with by holding down the ALT key and dragging a layer between two layers in the layer list.  In the end this screen layer will act just like a copy of the entire image set to the screen blending mode, but takes a lot less memory.  That brightened things up plenty and in some areas I used a soft brush on the mask to slightly darken some of the areas that were looking blown-out.

Finally we need to fix the obvious in that the lantern isn't putting out any light.  Now, I could have put something in the lantern, like a speedlight, but they are too large, but I probably could have scrounged around and located something if given enough time.  Besides, I really felt the "fake" type of lighting I was imagining didn't really require a photo realistic look.

This lighting effect was a building up of many layers all set to various blending modes from hard-light to screen.  Each one was a slightly larger "glow" added to the layers already in place with a large soft brush using a whitish color.  As you can see the final glow is quite large, but because the opacity of each layer is low, and the blending modes really mute the effect, we end up with something pretty cool looking.

After playing with a few more layers of various lighting we apply to the model using blending modes a few layers to light the face, arms, legs and other things that might receive light from the lantern and much more interesting that a real light might have looked (or at least that is my story, and I am sticking to it).

As a final step I added a layer or two with some bokeh (those round blurry circles).  These bokeh circles actually come from another photo I had that was out of focus from a trip somewhere, so again I am using all kinds of things I had laying around.

Oh, as a bit of a bonus, I have another image of this same model in another outfit.  This was shot in the freight elevator we have in the studio.  Unfortunately the lights in the elevator don't work, so I had to add it in post.  I used the same techniques for the most part.

Again, the key to this method is using a lot of subtle layers that all work together.  Trying to do all of this on a single layer would probably result in something craptacular, so just take your time and stack up the effects.

As always your comments are appreciated and motivate me to write more articles.  So if you found this at all interesting take a moment to add a comment or click the "Like" button up top to get this onto Facebook.

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 :-)

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...