Hi there, it’s been some time since I finished my P52 now. I wasn’t entirely inactive in the meanwhile. Besides some personal stuff, I’ve tried to figure out how I want to proceed with my blog and what would be interesting for you. At the end of my P52, I realized, that I had a real time problem for my composites. I almost always had to stop editing a picture before I was entirely satisfied with it, in order to upload it on time. As you may know, I’m an engineer in my day to day job besides photography. As I need to travel a lot, that doesn’t always leave as much time for photography as I would wish. So for now, that basically leaves the weekends for shooting and editing. For this pic, I spent the last 3 weekends with shooting and editing. Ok I admit it, I also had some days of vacation ;-). This time I decided to buy a stock pic for the background, because I really wanted to push my skills to the limits and see what I learned during the last year. But before I start rambling, here’s what I want to do with my blog in the future. I want to show you how my picture come to life, from scratch till the final pic. As there are many great tutorials out there which can show you the “how to” of the stuff I did here, I don’t want to dive into the details too much.
So here is the genesis of my pic “The Mad Scientist”:
The first step for each picture is of course the development of the concept. My first rough idea was this weird scientist guy who kind of “breeds” clone-girls in tanks or barrels. So I did some internet research and started looking for suitable stock pics for the background (In case you’re wondering, no, I don’t have any tanks / barrels lying around in my basement). It is quite important to get your stock pics before you start shooting, so you can adjust the lighting of your subjects to the background. For my picture I needed my scientist, one girl in different poses, and some floating hair.
We start editing by masking our subjects and putting them into the background, to get an idea where everything will be placed in the final picture. We’ll ignore any color or brightness inconsistency for now. When we got the placement right, we’ll start preparing the background first. That includes cleaning, masking the barrels, getting rid of unwanted light sources and so on. At this point we also take a first look at the lighting of the background. If there are any disturbingly bright patches of wall or something like that (like there were in this picture), this is the time to get rid of these, too.
When the background is nice and clean, it’s time to put in the first subjects. In this case the girls in the barrels. For the background of the barrels, we just use a patch of another barrel that already is in the picture, darken it, warp it, and blur it a bit. Then we put in the girls and adjust the coloring to match the background. We can also do a first rough color tweaking of the background at this point, because we need cool down the color temperature of the background significantly. Then we add some floating hair to give the girls a more “underwaterish” look and begin painting in some light reflection for the glass panes. We also add some rust texture and some moss / twines to make the glass look old and dirty (there is nothing clean in the cellar of horror barrels). The last step before we started with the detail work, is to adjust the color and contrast of our mad scientist to match the rest of the picture and then adjust the overall color palette. Usually I go back to this step at the end of editing, to tweak it a little more, but it is very helpful to already see the rough coloring before we start with the detail work.
As first step for the detail work we do some extensive dodging and burning. Right now, d&b is one of my favourite techniques. It is so simple and yet so powerful. I use it to change the lighting of my subjects, to add local contrast, to enhance (or lower) details and even paint in new details (like cracks in the wood or wrinkles in the clothing). This is the part where we need to take our time. I don’t mind if this takes time, because this is the most relaxing part of the whole editing process. Just put in some good music and lose yourself in the picture for a few hours. Don’t worry if you miss something here. As we’re working none destructive of course, we can always jump back to this step and keep dodging and burning. Now it’s time to start adding the “special effects” like light rays, fog, splashes, waterdrops, heat flickering, color glow and so on. Our picture should already look pretty awesome by now. Time for the finishing touches. During this final stage, I usually start playing around a little. You can for example Adjust the highlights & shadows, change the contrast, adjust the coloring / saturation, sharpen the picture, apply background blur and so on. Whatever is necessary to achieve the mood of your initial vision of the picture. In this case, I adjusted the highlights & shadows a little, made some contrast corrections, tweaked the overall coloring again (with gradient map and color balance), did some sharpening and added some noise (grain).
So long – Florian