Monday, January 18, 2010

Brandy: Grace

Here are the runners up for the title of this post:

"1 crunch"
"Why I'm an idiot"
"I should have been a sculpter"
"7 hours of Photoshop"
"The culmination of everything I know"

I went back to basics on this picture. Back to the beauty dish gridded against my off-white wall as a background. This was our first set and I wanted something that I knew would "just work".

A few things about Brandy. At 5'5" she's proportionally perfect. In fact, with my lighting angles Brandy could stand to GAIN a little weight ;) When asked if she worked out she mentioned that she did 100 crunches the night before... to which I replied, "Maybe instead of 100 crunches, you could do 1 crunch instead?"

Anyway, I picked this image from several great captures for the body positioning, the angles, the subtle left hand gesture, the face downturned yet still picking up fill light from the wall... it simply captured my attention.

But it was going to be a challenge from the get-go because I wasn't sure what to do with the mid-section. She's well, too "ripped". But who's fault is that? Certainly not Brandy's fault for being genetically gifted. The problem is that I always light for the face and never figure in the body. Body lighting to me is passive, it's a by-product of lighting the face. And therein lies the another problem. With a ceiling height of 8'6" (I have 2 surfboards longer than that), I can't get the working distances I need at the high angles to alleviate hot spots and exposure differences between the head and the feet. The light fall off at 4 feet is pretty substantial at those power levels used on the AB800.

Hence my alternative title, "Why I'm an idiot"

My solution for the exposure difference was easy. I selected those areas and dropped the exposure just a tad in photoshop (as you see in the screenshot).

My solution for the abs definition was obvious but not soo easy. Basically I needed to dodge and burn the shadows and highlights away so that there was less definition. This is easy when you understand the contours of the body. This isn't so easy, when you don't know where things are "supposed to be" on the body. Nevertheless after chiseling away those hard edges on Brandy's body, we worked out a reasonably believable end product. Hence my other title, "I should have been a sculptor".

With the hard part out of the way, I then sought to tackle the face. The key here was to make those highlights even more obvious. I knew already that my end outcome would be some derivative of a monochromatic (or in this case a two-toned) treatment. Early on, I laid out a B&W conversion and then added the tinted gradient map that gave me this effect. Throughout the retouch, I took a look at what would have been the final outcome had I decided to stop editing then and there. This provided me with a good "checkpoints" to ensure that I wasn't straying from the proposed path/direction.

So here's the final product. I skipped most of the nitty-gritty stuff that wasn't really worth mentioning. Besides, I've elected to provide you screenshots of the layers used in the edit. I had fun with this retouch but it was frustrating as hell because it took 7 hours. I would say at least 2.5 hours on the body, 2 hours on the face, and 1 hour for miscellaneous stuff and 1.5 hours of breaks in between everything because I wanted to keep myself from pulling my hair out. It's been a while since I've spent this much time on an edit. I hope it's worth it! :)

The feedback will tell me whether it was worth it or not...

Camera: D3/24-70mm f/2.8G @56mm, 1/200th, f/9.0, ISO200

Strobist: AB800 in 22" beauty dish with 40ยบ grid from upper camera right

Model/makeup/wardrobe: Brandy Grace


  1. Thanks for sharing the post processing. It is very cool to see the before/after