Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Amazing Grace

Adding a bit of texture to an image is a simple process and I feel it can make a good picture great.  Today we will look at a simple example of texture application and how it can finish an image.

What we have here is a simple enough of an image that just needs to be "finished". As it was out-of-the-camera, it would probably have made everyone else happy, but to me it needed closure.

Posing The Model
In this situation we have Grace here with some large black wings.  Sure, I wish they were white to complete the "Angel" theme, but we work with what we are given, don't we? Sure, I could have changed them to white, but that is quite a bit of work that I don't feel really would add that much to the image overall.

I cropped in a bit (by moving my body) and shot this portrait oriented image to highlight her good looks and body.  She is a mother of three by-the-way, which just goes to show being a mom isn't the end of a modeling career.

Sure, I could have made this a full body shot, but I don't think anyone really cares about what shoes she is wearing.  I do have some full-body shots, but those are profile or using more interesting poses for Photoshop projects I have planned for rainy days.  In fact, I think you need a mix of shots when you are shooting.  I use a six shot method, where I take two shots at full body (different poses or angles), two a medium (like this image or a bit closer), and two nose-hair extreme counting close-ups or head-shots.  I then change my position, rotate the camera and wash, rinse, repeat.  I find that in using this method I never encounter a situation later where I missed shooting some amazing make-up or awesome leggy bits.

Lighting The Model

There are two lights in this shot: A large softbox camera left (gridded to prevent to much splash on the background), and a strip box camera right (slightly behind the model).  In retrospect I should have moved this rim light forward as the wing is blocking the intended lighting on her side.  I did fix it in later shots, but I really like this pose and look from the day of shooting, so we just deal with it and learn a lesson about big black wings wrecking your perfect shot.

This image was shot with my Nikon 70-200 ƒ2.8 (my favorite lens), on my Nikon D300.  It was exposed at ƒ5.6 at 250th ISO 200.  Aside from the aperture, these settings are typical for me as I shoot indoors most of the time using my Einstein strobes.  Oh, I did put up an equipment page for those interested in what I have in my bag(s).

Post Production In Photoshop
Basically we follow my standard workflow in this image.  The first thing I do is duplicate the entire image in case I screw up and trash some part of her.  It should be noted that I am working on this as a smart object until I begin the actual editing process.  I do this so I have the same controls one has a Lightroom without going all the way back to Lightroom to make some minor adjustment.

Once I am sure I like the coloration and exposure, I will rasterize the smart object and begin removing any  scratches, pimples, whip marks, hand-cuff lines and so on that *might* be present.  I will also take this time to liquify any areas of the model that they might feel sensitive about (tummy, arms, armpits, freakishly huge earlobes, etc).  No need in this case, but this is when I would typically perform that correction.

With all of the skin retouching done I begin adding adjustment layers for different elements of the image I want to highlight.  For example, there is a curve just for the wings.  I wanted to pop the contrast and show more of the details here, so I applied a curve adjustment (slight S shape) and masked the layer so it only affected the wings.  I did the same with the hair, as I really like the addition of contrast in the hair on most of my models.

Lastly I add in the texture for the background.  In this case it is a sky image combined with textures from the venerated and often referenced Fly Paper Texture collection.  Using blending modes I mess with the combination of the textures until I like what I see.  I am not going to give you the *exact* recipe here as I feel you should experiment with your own combinations rather than making something that looks the same as my example.

I will be posting another shot of Grace soon (full body//profile) once I get that work completed.  Total time to complete this image was around 15 minutes or so.  Most of that time was me messing with textures until I was happy.  In retrospect I feel I should have increased the exposure of the halo on her head, but perhaps someday I will re-open the image and take the needed 30 seconds to make it perfect.

Thanks for reading and if you want to feed the monster, please leave a comment to motivate me to write more often :-)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Sheer Elegance

I love it when you can plan something and it works out better than you could have imagined.  That is the case with this specific shot.  I was pondering the pose and lighting and later the post production lead me down some interesting turns.

Posing The Model
I wanted a sexy, elegant and yet demure pose with a topless model wearing only fish-net stockings.  This was initially for a contest on greenmartini.com, and I needed a subject.

So, putting a pose together that is provocative yet still keeping the naughty-bits hidden was a challenge.  We worked through several variations, and I will post some of those to the bottom of this article for those interested.

Some people have commented on the model and her form.  I think she has a perfect body, and her back is strong, yet the pose causes a bit of rounding.  I actually think this makes her human and if I were to have her sit up more, or fix it in post, the entire image loses so much.  Therefore, I decided on this final image and am pleased with the result.

Lighting the Scene
There are two lights in this scene, the key (gridded softbox over the head of the model) and a background light.  I have the key gridded so it does not splash against the wall that is only 3' away.  In this case the key is an Alien Bee Einstein exposed at ƒ5.6.  The background is a Nikon SB-900 set to round ƒ4 or so.  I did not have the room on the ground for another AlienBee, so the SB will work in this confined space just fine.

I will always light in layers like this when possible, as having the background and model at the same level of exposure really makes for a flat image.  Because I control the exposure of each, I can do anything I desire with the scene.

Post Production In Photoshop
First, this model has some complexion issues that she is working though, so we need to eliminate those for the time being.  Using the spot healing brush as well as the clone stamp, we are able to fix what flaws she might have pretty quickly.  Note that I don't have to do any liquification on her body at all.  Ah, the joys of youth.

Once I have any marks resolved I find I am not happy with the background.  I had put a blue gel on it, but after looking at it, I find the contrast a bit to much.  So, I create an adjustment layer and lighten the background (masking the model), and then add a hue-saturation adjustment layer clipped to that one and remove some of the blue.

There was one major issue in that one of the strings in her stockings was broken (you can see if just above the heal of her left foot on her butt).  I used the clone stamp to resolve this so the eye didn't tend to wander around looking for a break in the pattern.  Breaking patterns is a great way to control the eye of the viewer, and in this case that would have been a bad thing.

I tend to flip the image over and over as I work so my eyes are fresh.  As I work on this shot I decide the background is really quite boring.  I search for a pattern that might be interesting, and see one right on her legs that would work!  I create a pattern from a swatch on her thigh and then invert it and create a new layer using that as the background.  Of course I have to mask out the model, but since I already have that from the exposure and saturation adjustments, this is a quick trip.

To finalize the image I add another texture set at a low opacity to bring out some of the darker part of the shot and add a richness to the image.  As always, I am addicted to the Fly Paper Texture series for these types of finishing items as I feel strongly they add so much to an image.

Total time to complete the image is around 20 minutes.

Bonus Image

The image to the left here is another from the same shoot.  Again the same process was used in almost the same order.  I did have a bit of work to do in the "nether regions" to keep the image from being adult in nature, but a quick bit of additional shadows from an overlay layer fixed that up right away.  A texture was added as a finishing touch as in the image above.

Total time for the image on the left was closer to 10 minutes as I didn't have a lot of work to do on her back.

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...