Lockdown in the UK has been a pretty bleak time if your primary focus is portrait photography. Things seem to be moving in a promising direction now though, so fingers crossed for a return to some degree of normality soon.
I thought I’d dust off the camera and lighting gear yesterday and have a go at photographing one of my other favourite subjects…………..fragrances.
I don’t have a macro lens anymore so I shot this with my trusty Sigma 70-200 f2.8
For the black background I used two pieces of foamcore board fashioned into a 90 degree ‘L’ shape. If I remember correctly they cost about £4 each from Hobbycraft (they’re also really useful to flag lights in a small home studio).
Here’s an image with the exposure cranked up intentionally to illustrate the set.
Lighting set up was a gridded 60cm softbox at either side, angled back towards the bottle at 45 degrees. Kind of a standard edge light setup.
As far as editing goes it was mostly a case of tidying up lots of small dust specs visible on the bottle. Some localised darkening using the Radial Filter in Lightroom. Extra contrast added using Nik Pro Contrast and Topaz Clarity via Photoshop.
Hopefully you like the image.
Now a few words on the fragrance itself…………
Ultra male by Jean Paul Gaulthier is one of my absolute favourites. It’s very sweet and has been described as a clubbing fragrance. The original Le Male (see below) was one of
the first fragrances I owned as a young adult. It’s since been reformulated unfortunately, but that original formulation still evokes vivid memories of great nights out from days gone by.
If you wish to hear more about Ultra Male or are just interested in fragrance and fragrance reviews, then there is a great ‘frag’ community on YouTube.
Here are links to some of my favourite channels……………
Also a fantastic weekly podcast………….
Hope you like the links……..and be sure to let me know if you find them useful.
I would give my last Rolo to own my own studio……I mean a fully equipped, state of the art space to create (space being the operative word). Who wouldn’t? The reality though for the majority of us, is that we have to be inventive with the space that we do have.
Well, I for one relish that challenge.
I embrace it, try to learn from it and hopefully become a better photographer every time I complete a new shoot. That’s my objective at least. There are many amazing tutorials on YouTube to help us learn lighting, retouching and posing subjects for example, but the best way to improve is to figure it out for yourself by practical experimentation.
My space is small.
It’s just about wide enough to put up a paper backdrop and roll it out enough to shoot a full length shot of a model. It’s worth mentioning that if I do wish to frame a full length shot then I have to sit in my living room which is across the hall and shoot over and in through the doorway of my studio room! My 70-200mm lens is my best friend when shooting at home.
Here’s what I’m talking about………..
That’s the door frame and the bottom leg of a C stand you can see creeping into the shot from both sides.
Here’s the finished image…………
A little help from Content Aware Fill in Photoshop and Bob’s your Mother’s Brother as they say around here. I’ve also used the Glamour Glow Filter (warmed up) in Nik Color Efex Pro to achieve this look.
I’ll be posting more home studio insights here in upcoming posts, so please do stay tuned and let me know how you overcome any challenges that you might face by shooting from home.
What are the things that I covet the most in making my images? The latest camera bodies? Lenses? 600W lights?
I don’t lust after the latest gear (one thousand apologies to the camera companies).
I was walking around The Photography Show at the NEC last year thinking this place is desperately missing a theatrical prop stand! It would make an absolute killing.
Don’t get me wrong now………there is a certain amount of gear necessary to make the kind of images I create, but I’ll tell you now that I spend infinitely more time researching and tracking down props and styling items to use in my shoots than I do salivating over fast (expensive) glass for example.
Okay let me break it down.
I’ve got some gear. It’s been accrued over a period of about 10 years. You might be surprised to learn though that some of the most useful gear I own comes in the shape of a C stand with a boom arm and even cheap £5 cables that allow me to tether my camera to the computer during shoots. Owning the very best camera body and lenses is not a magic ticket to making better images………..
So what about props?
First and foremost, props feed my creative psyche and really help in establishing my concept and mood for the shoot. Even from an early stage, a prop might give me a title for the set and even ideas on how I’m going to edit the final images. Sometimes before I’ve even sourced a model to help bring it to life!
It really helps me to immerse myself in the theme.
If you don’t already use it then I’d recommend Pinterest as a great free resource for shoot planning and creating moodboards.
This ruff collar I’ve used in a few shoots to date. My mum made it! Just a few pounds to buy the ribbon and I’m sure you’ll agree it looks fantastic. Those gloves, £25 off eBay have been worth their weight in gold.
Would you agree that Eloise (above) looks like she’s fully engaged and in character? Something I noticed from a very early stage in photographing portraits is that a prop can truly help your model to embrace and own the theme. It’s a total no brainer for me.
Don’t move or the cuddly toy (from my Daughter’s room) get’s it……………….The rather dangerous looking weapon belonged to her Great Grandad. See where I’m going with this? Great props are readily available and with a little imagination you can easily incorporate them into your shoots.
Props help to tell a story……..to sell a concept.
I found that chain in a car park!
Hopefully you all have a new found appreciation for the humble prop……………..
Thanks for reading.
Well since the gyms are all shut here in the UK, flexing some creative muscles instead of the guns might be the way forward for the time being.
Here’s an image I edited today featuring Rue.
I’m going to highlight a few of the actions I’ve taken to achieve the final image.
It’s a fairly straight forward beauty portrait but I have taken steps in Photoshop to push it somewhat. I’ll describe the process for you. But first, here’s the original………….
So there are few subtle yet major differences between the two right?
I’ve mentioned before that I shoot in a small home studio, which doubles as the kid’s playroom and my wife’s office. I have to improvise a lot to counter the restrictions I have in terms of space. It’s a challenge I love to rise to however.
This particular image is shot against two pieces of black foam core (the kind you get from stores like Hobbycraft) that are sellotaped together and stuck to the wall behind the model with Blu-Tack.
The lighting is a large 22″ Beauty Dish boomed directly overhead and in front of the model’s face, angled down at 45 degrees. The Beauty Dish has the sock over it to give a more diffused light, and is placed at the same distance from the model as the diameter of the Dish (so 22 inches away approximately). This is a good rule of thumb. There is also a piece of white foam core held below the chin to bounce some light back into the shadows from beneath. I use the Beauty Dish as it gives my favourite quality of light from any of my modifiers.
Only other thing to mention here is the use of the 17-40 lens (I know…..slap my wrist) which some might not recommend for portraiture, but I love to get right under the Beauty Dish to shoot and this lens allows me to do so. If it’s good enough for Joel Grimes it’s good enough for me!
On to the editing.
First port of call when I open Photoshop is the Liquify filter. I use Liquify to smooth out lumps and bumps in clothing when needed, but one of the main reasons I use it on female portraits is to plump up the hair. It’s such a little thing that makes a massive difference to the finished image (your model will usually thank you for it too). So after plumping the hair and cloning away the loose strands to the left I moved on to the lips. Duplicating the background layer then changing the layer blend mode to Color (so only the colour is affected………I used the brush tool at low flow to paint and fix the colour of the lips. To do this take a sample of the colour/colours you wish to paint with by pressing alt (Mac) or option (PC) and clicking on the specifically coloured area within the image. The brush will change to that colour and you’re good to go. Paint on the image and then play around with the layer opacity to fine tune the results.
The next major thing is obviously the eyes. I honestly just felt like experimenting and having some fun with them and changing the colour is very easy really. First enter Quick Mask mode in Photoshop and then paint at 100 percent flow and opacity over the parts of the eyes which you wish to change the colour of. When this is done exit Quick Mask mode to reveal a selection of the eyes. Open a new Hue/Saturation layer, click Colorize and then adjust the sliders until you have the eye colour you are happy with. One further step here is to repeat the selection process using Quick Mask (with a new duplicate or merged layer (ctrl J or ctrl alt shift and e) and then open a Selective Colour layer. Change the blend mode to Linear Dodge Add. This will make things look a bit overdone at first but lower the opacity right down until you settle on the sweet spot. Have a play around with this and let me know how you get on. It’s a technique I use on the majority of my portraits. Add a new blank layer above and use the Sharpen tool to brush some extra sharpening onto the eye. As Always, play around with the layer opacity to fine tune.
Hopefully this little insight into some of my editing workflow has proved interesting?
Let me know.
Have you been spending your lockdown time creatively?
Well apart from home schooling the kids and doing a few little jobs around the house, I’ve been trying to push myself a little with my editing. I’m very much missing photography at this stage, so I thought I would use this as an opportunity to go back over some older images and rework them.
A technique I described in my previous blog post about using the Color Range selection in Photoshop to change the colour of the backdrop paper is something I’ve been exploring quite a lot.
I also love to use the Tonal Contrast in Nik Color Efex Pro to add tonality and detail. This is well used with layers in Photoshop to give you control of areas where you might brush it on to your image.
As well as Nik, I also love to utilise Topaz Clarity in my editing workflow. Again used alongside layers in Photoshop it gives such a punch to contrast and really helps with dimensional quality. It almost makes the subject pop out of the image. A truly great plugin which I use for literally every image.
I’ve seen a few of these neon shapes floating around online so I thought it would fit the vibe of this image featuring Francheska and I hope you’ll agree that it works quite well.
Anyways, I’ll leave it there.
Hope you enjoyed this showcase of my lockdown editing sessions (so far) and I look forward to connecting with you all on social media.
As always, if you think I can help with anything photography/editing related then please do feel free to ask any questions.
I’ve been going over some older images as a way of staying creative during the lockdown period here in the UK. Trying to learn a few new things can’t hurt can it?
Today I’m going to describe a way in which you can easily change the colour of your background in Photoshop. This is a technique which I’m applying to my studio shots which are originally photographed against a grey paper roll.
Here’s the final image featuring Meg.
Hopefully you like the punchy background as opposed to the flat grey in the original?
See the finished image compared to the original below.
So for a quick background colour change, open the image in Photoshop. Copy the background layer and go to >Select>Color Range. Using the eye dropper click and select areas to add the grey background to the overall colour range selection. Don’t worry if some of the selection spills onto your model (we can take care of this later) adjusting the fuzziness slider will also yield a more refined colour selection. Once we have a rough selection of the grey areas click okay and then open a hue saturation adjustment layer in Photoshop. Here’s where the real fun begins. Click Colorize and then start to change the colour with the hue and then adjust the saturation and lightness to taste. If any of the new colouring has spilled onto the model’s skin or clothing it can easily be removed now by brushing away with the black brush on the hue/saturation layer mask.
I’m very much looking forward to experimenting with this technique as I shoot against grey quite a lot here at home.
One more quick tip whilst I’m on the subject of paper backgrounds is cleaning them up. I’m sure you will all have come across creases and wrinkles, dirty marks on your backdrop? A quick and easy fix in Photoshop is to use the Median filter to smooth the backdrop out. On a duplicate layer go to Filter>Noise>Median and adjust the slider until the image is smooth (it will be a different value for every image) and then simply add a layer mask and paint neatly with the brush tool to reveal your subject, whilst leaving the backdrop looking as smooth as a baby’s bum!
Quick, easy and effective.
I hope you found these little tips useful.
Delighted to report a new publication in this month’s Femme Rebelle Magazine, from our Star Wars themed set featuring Tegan.
Now as a youngster I was massively obsessed with Star Wars. Not giving my age away or anything but I saw Return Of The Jedi at the cinema (twice!).
I was seriously into the three original movies and everything connected with them. As a matter of fact it wasn’t so long ago that I sold my collection of original Star Wars figures and vehicles to a collector who himself was writing a book based on a single Star Wars figure! True story and a very interesting guy indeed.
Anyways back to our shoot which was shot against the grey paper with my trusty smoke machine to add a little extra atmosphere.
For the lighting we used a Godox AD360 in a large octabox to camera left. A speed light in a gridded reflector boomed behind and high above Tegan for a hair light (gelled blue). Finally a speed light in a 60 x 60 gridded soft box behind Tegan to camera right (angled back toward her at 45 degrees and also gelled blue).
Did I mention that I was a massive fan of the original Star wars trilogy? Well that being said I know absolutely nothing (literally nothing) about of all the recent movies in the series. Tegan however is seriously into Star Wars and absolutely smashed the styling, including the makeup and those awesome contact lenses.
It really came together for us and I’m so pleased with how the set turned out. It is also going to feature in a second publication which is also forthcoming.
Hopefully you like the images.
Wrapping up 2019 with a fantastic conceptual shoot featuring Tegan.
We shot this set in two different ways and I’m hard pushed to decide which I like the best. First against the painterly backdrop from Kate Backdrop (another previously taken image of Tegan features in their cover banner on the Kate website) and then secondly using the grey paper in combination with gels, smoke and the fantastic Lee Filters Soft Set
Hope you like the images.
Delighted to report a six page spread in the December issue of the fantastic Femme Rebelle Magazine.
Bubblegum Beatdown featuring Fonic (aka Francheska)
The original inspiration for this set came from this super cool image by the fantastic German photographer and photoshop expert Calvin Hollywood.
This was shot from my small home studio so to give it some narrative we added smoke, coloured gel on the backlights, a Lee Filters diffusion filter on the camera and a ton of attitude from Francheska and well the rest is history…………….
Femme Rebelle is out now.
Simple set up for this shot which yields some pretty hard hitting results (I like it when it’s simple). Bending the rules again a little here (I like bending rules) with a beauty dish positioned hard to camera right. Beauty dishes are definitely best used directly in front and overhead the subject to give a wonderful quality of light (absolutely my favourite light modifier) but in this instance I fitted it with the grid and it made for some hard light and wicked shadows to suit the mood. We shot this against a painted white wall at my house with a little texture added using the overlay blend mode in Photoshop. There’s a fantastic article on how to do this quickly and easily here
John did all the real hard work (including ripping his shirt to bits) and hopefully you like the end result.
Please do get in touch if you wish to commission a stylised muscle/fitness shoot.
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