Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Precious Cargo

I recently had an opportunity to work with my first (and hopefully not last) Playboy Bunny.  We met in the attic of an old factory in Edgerton Wisconsin, which interestingly enough has a front seat view of the edge of the Earth.

I spied this old freight elevator almost as soon as I came in the door.  To my joy, as well as great concern, it was also the mechanism we needed to employ to get to the attic where I planned to shoot.  To many stairs and too much equipment makes for a longer day.

Posing the Model
I wanted to play with the corner of the elevator box and get a lot of vertical lines.  The texture inside was pretty sweet, so I wanted a pose that was tall, yet sexy.  Basically I let her do her thing as I snapped away.  I don't typically work this way, but she knows how to move what she has, so let's just let her do her thing and I shut-up for once. :-)

Lighting the Model

The elevator area is devoid of lighting as far as I was concerned.  The tiny light bulb that was at the top of the cage wasn't worthy or powerful enough for a make-n-bake oven, let alone to use for photography.  To complicate things this elevator isn't very large and the opening is even smaller.  The only way to light it is to "throw" light back into the box.  There are two ways one could do that that pop into my mind: 1) Use a very large 6' soft box nearly covering the entire door, or 2) use a gridded light and direct the beam to specially where I wanted it to go.  To me the choice was easy as I really love higher contrast images, and the large softbox would make the light flat and even.  Secondly I didn't have a huge soft box with me, so you can see how easy of a decision this really was to make.  I used a 22" beauty dish with a 10 degree grid on it.  It was nearly at full power to get the light to the back of the elevator and through that tight grid.

Post Production with Photoshop
I had a few goals with the post processing of the images I shot with her in the attic, and the big ones were enhancement of the textures of this grubby place, and the second was making sure she remained hot as could be.  The second one isn't very difficult, so we work mostly with the dirt.

First thing I did was to work on the color.  Often I will wait until later to do this if I don't really know what I want the final image to resemble, but in this case I saw it the moment it appeared on the back of the camera.  I desaturated the image quite a bit as I tend to prefer that by using a hue adjustment layer.  The elevator really is the gray color you see in the image.  This isn't some sort of selective color thing (which I am generally not a fan of), so I just wanted to point that out in case you were wondering.

Secondly as you can see in the original there are some dumb stickers and warnings on the wall of the elevator that do cause the eye to wonder where to go first in the image.  I decided these had to go and did a quick/sloppy removal using the clone stamp and a brush.

For the final touches I wanted to really pop the grittiness of this space and the best tool for that is.... (drum roll please)... the Burn Tool!  Yes folks, this tool (set to around 11%), will bring out the gritty in anything it hits.  Used in conjunction with the Dodge Tool you can really make things pop.  I created a duplicate of the final image using merge before I went nuts with this as I didn't want to screw up the nearly completed image.  Once I was done, I strategically placed my signature in the shot and called this one done.  I would like to point out that I am a fan of my signature NOT being something that attracts the eye, but is easy to locate if one is looking to find it.  I am often annoyed with photographers that put some awful watermark or super colorful signature in an image in such a way as to confuse the eye.

If you liked this post and want to see more, as always take a moment and add a comment, no matter how trivial it is, it is appreciated.


  1. Just saw your "complete bombs" post and thought I'd let you know your articles aren't all in vein! I do read them but tend not to comment on blog posts generally anyway, which is probably bad form. But I think you've written some great and useful articles. I shall endeavour to comment in future :)

    I'd be interested to read a bit more about the equipment you use - what brands are you using? Who makes your softboxes? What about your lights? Who makes those? Whether this is of interest to anyone else, I'm not sure but I'm curious as someone who wants to start shooting more with strobes etc.! Perhaps you can offer lighting diagrams too? But anyway, your readers lack of silence is nothing to do with the quality of your articles. Keep 'em going, I enjoy reading them and hopefully going to learn from you!

    Also - article request on directing models and how to act/behave etc. with models. It's the one thing that has me nervous.


  2. You made my day!

    Thanks for the comment! I will indeed be more specific in future posts to cover the info you have requested. Thanks again for taking time to stop and comment, you have no idea how much it motivates me to write more.

  3. The composition of how all the lines in the frame interact really makes the model stand out. Very nice stuff. :)

  4. If I can make a post request on how to direct models and that side of shooting with models, that would be fantastic. I'm planning on doing a model shoot fairly soon but feel a little self-conscious about it. How do you instruct models, how do you make them feel comfortable etc.? And what about actual concepts for shoots? How do come up with ideas for those? Where do you find locations?



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