As you may know, I had the amazing invite to join the Fstoppers team as a official staff writer. With that comes a lot of writing and potentially less personal posts. However, I plan to do my absolute best to save some of the more creative, unique content for this space. I’ve received a lot of amazing comments and feedback on some of my more recent work “Let Them Eat Wedding Cake” a feature editorial for February’s issue of NFocus Louisville Magazine. Much of that feedback was about the lighting and the entire aesthetic of the shoot. The entire concept was a play off “Marie Antoinette” and the whimsical vintage world of that age. It required a lot of planning, but was well worth the pre-production.
But, it was the post-production that truley played a integral piece to the entire puzzle. Getting everything right in camera is an important part of photography, but processing and grading is what can really breathe a totally new life into an image.
On the first set, I was tasked with shooting all 3 models in a dark corner, there was some ambient light flowing in through windows camera right, but I realized that my lighting just wasn’t right. I made an executive decision to composite everything. Just like that, my mind set had totally changed for the shoot. The rest of the day was comprised of shooting all for the compsoite. Gaining the proper background images and making sure I had everything I needed to tackle some pretty detailed post-processing.
Compositing; It’s a pretty simple process. Lighting and capturing each individual model, then snagging a couple of background images all on a tripod, all the same frame. Then, taking those images, combining them all in Adobe Photoshop and blending everything together. Perhaps easier said then done, but once you do if a few times, it turns into a pretty seamless workflow. I dive a little bit more into the technique in this video here. With strong deadlines, I usually have to farm out the initial masking and layering to my friend Chris Miske, who can usually knock them out in a day or two. Then I’ll take on the re-touching and color grading.
Our last frame consisted of a beautiful tile wall that screamed “Antoinette”. We wanted the background, but unfortunately there was a giant mirror attached to the wall with massive bolts. It was throwing light everywhere, so to keep things clean and easier and post, I hung my Westcott Scrim Jim over the mirror and made sure to get a shot of a clean tile wall which was adjacent to the mirror.
"I enjoy the challenge of creating a single image from a series of photos. With this image the lighting from each image was blended to create a stark contrast of the foreground and background composing a faint silhouette around the subjects. On every project a challenge with this image the most difficult element of the photograph was replacing the decorative plaster moldings. It took several attempts with many different types of techniques finally ending upon the one seen in the photograph." - Chris Miske
It’s never easy to look at the RAW images and gain a vision of the final image, many think “behind the scenes” but the RAW image is very much the birth of something greater. That final photograph is always in my head and when compositing it’s post processing that makes everything come to life. When the light just isn’t working and you’re up for the challenge, give it a shot. It’s well worth the process.