Sunday, January 24, 2010
I was going to name this "Bottleneck" because I realized that I was stunting my own growth as a retoucher by providing myself lesser quality photography.
I paid a little more attention this time around.
I'm going to skip the retouching elements this time and talk more about the photographic elements of the shoot and of the picture (and pictures that will soon follow).
First thing's first. I found a high ceiling. I've been talking about the limitations of the 8'6" ceiling and how it's difficult to achieve certain angles and distances with the lower ceiling. Well, we have a staircase that leads up to the second floor and there's a small section of the hallway that's exposed to the staircase's high ceiling. Add a "wall" and voila, a new set.
The great thing about these walls is that they're portable. With 2 walls the combinations of mixing and matching are endless. The only downside is that they need to be locked down with a heavy duty stand and Super Clamp, otherwise they threaten to fall on Rebekah. Actually about 0.4 seconds was all that separated Rebekah becoming a victim of another white wall massacre. Fortunately I have good reflexes.
I've been "seeing more" when I'm shooting. First of all, I'm shooting slower. More deliberately. Less frames. Better yield. It of course helps to have a world-class model. Rebekah is awesome. Love working with this girl. Fun, upbeat, and spot on with her looks and poses. We need to bring her back for Round 2.
Anyway, where was I? I'm looking for "more" when I look through the viewfinder. Shadows and highlights not only in certain places but also in a certain ratio. I don't use a lightmeter (even though I have one) so I'm not setting my lights up by math. I set them based on feel and this provides me and the model with more dynamic range of motion. While I don't like limiting the model's range of motion, I find that with my current level of experience I will keep her in a certain place so that the light falls on her exactly as I want it to. Another something different that I do now is that I request the model to hold a pose that I like so I can capture a few of the same shots but usually composed differently. This usually means a full length and a close-up. Overall I feel more specific and deliberate in my shooting. I don't shoot nearly as fast either. I've slowed down my rate of capture because I'm spending more time composing which is both good and bad. The good is that I'm getting what I want. The bad is that I'm throwing the model off her rhythm/tempo which is critical. In fact, if it weren't for their level of skill, we'd have a lot less to work with because I'm directing so much.
Actually I don't like directing at all. At least I never used to do this. But with what I'm "looking for" it needs to be a specific angle/look/pose/etc. But I truly believe that shooting deliberately has increased the yield dramatically. I define yield as "useable pictures". What's a useable picture? Hell if I know. Everything I do is arbitrary anyway if you haven't discovered ;) To me a useable picture is one that I would potentially retouch.
I have about 60 from Rebekah's first set. Look.
I wish I could retouch faster. But I'm averaging more hours lately because of the new direction. I call it a new direction because it feels like we've been course correcting (LOL "we"...) for a while now. You'll see it based on the trend of the last few pictures.
And I could every one of the last 4-5 pictures "Culmination" because every picture is a culmination of pretty much everything I know in Ps.
But I promised that I wouldn't go into retouching for this picture because it's important that I address all the photographic elements that are coming together. Mental note. Beauty dish is nice but it's not going to light the whole body at working distance. Which means you're going to need to bust out the softbox or something if you want to light the entire body. Otherwise, live with the light falloff.
Speaking of lighting the entire body. I shot most of Rebekah's frames around half body rather than full body. Sounds like a waste when at 5'8" Rebekah is 5 feet of pure legs. But as I told her, my gut instinct is that everything that's important feels like it can be captured with a half body frame. I hope I'm not off track here... it just feels better and feels right. I can't explain it. It composes much better in the viewfinder/frame too. I'm not crazy.
What incredible range. Props to Rebekah for being one of the 3 best models I've ever worked with.
Oh and about the shadows. I think Ender Nygen said that an easy way to make a picture more interesting is to just not light all of it. :)
Ah hell, how can I not talk retouching... goddamnit. Here it is in notes form:
-No crop. This is how the shot was composed.
-Used 2 curves layers for D&B a la Amy Dresser style via her interview a while back (not the most recent one). One curves pulled up and one curves pulled down. Then mask and brush.
-Didn't kill as much highlights as I could in levels because the highlights were getting too bright. Levels = 2/244
-I burned highlights again in the nose in particular.
-I "auto-tuned" my B&W conversion layer for reds and yellows. I was going to do something close to that anyway, so I figured I'd give "auto" a try. I kept the computer's decision.
-B&W luminosity blended gradient map for contrast. Masked for skin only.
-New-edit-fill-white-overlay-masked. I've talked ad nauseum about this technique. Not going to talk about it here.
-Color blended layer of orange bucket filled layer. Opacity about 25%.
As I said in the last post. Pulling the dynamic range in the skin tones will give you a better image especially when it's a monochromatic image.
Camera: D3/24-70mm @70mm, 1/200th, f/9.0, ISO200
Strobist: AB800 in 40º gridspot beauty dish from camera high right
Model/wardrobe: Rebekah Davis
Makeup: Kelli Zender