I’m sorry to disappoint you but unfortunately there won’t be any circus trained raccoons, nor will you see any raccoons being juggled. What you get, however, is me, wearing my daughter’s raccoon hat while juggling.
Today’s photo shoot was very much inspired by the work of John Keatley, whom I’ve recently started following more closely. This shoot was also, in many regards, done as a proof of concept for a whole new series of portraits I want to do. What I have in mind is an ongoing series of humorous, and rather stylized, portraits. I already have a couple of specific ideas that I want to implement and I’m sure more will come to me as I develop this further. Enough about that, hopefully I can show you what I mean in the near (or not too distant) future instead of talking about it.
So, with a very specific visual style in mind, I had two areas to tackle: lighting and post processing. Let’s talk about the light first. What’s that? You’re more interested to know why I’m wearing a raccoon hat? Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time…don’t judge me. I just wanted something silly to try my ideas on to prove that the concept would work before using it on other shoots. Besides, it’s a very stylish hat. Another thing of note: I’m actually juggling for real, I used to juggle quite a lot so doing so while staring at a teddy bear isn’t a very difficult feat.
Where were we? Right, light. What I wanted was crisp light with selective highlights to bring out the main interests in the frame and make them pop. My first idea for the key light was a gridded light in umbrella, with the hopes that it would keep it both fairly soft and restricted. Unfortunately it wasn’t restricted enough, I was getting a lot of spill light on the background and other areas in the scene. After a few test shots I had to scrap the idea and switched to just a gridded YN560 with 1/4 cto gel from camera right. Not as soft but I don’t think that’s a problem in this case, though a gridded softbox would have been awesome, somthing to put on the wish list. The next step was to bring in the fill light and that was accomplished with a LP160 in umbrella from just behind the camera and slightly to the left. I had already set my base exposure to a level that left the scene completely black without flash so all I had to do was bring up the fill light until I got the desired level of detail in the shadows. The fill light also makes the gridded key light appear softer than it actually is since it lets me decide how much contrast there is in the scene.
Next up was a rim light to further separate the main subject (yours truly) from the background and give things that extra bit of pop. The light here was a LP160 with some ctb gel (1/4 or 1/2) in softbox from camera left, held by my lovely wife. I think this could have been angled a bit more toward the camera to avoid some of the shadows you see on the wall behind the animals. I’m pretty sure the shadows to the right of them are from this light, something to remember for next time. For the final light I was running out of light stands, human or otherwise, and as a result the angle of the light isn’t what I would have wished for. I’m talking about a gridded YN560 aimed at the bear’s head from a table to camera right. What I would have wanted for this light would have been for it to come from above to give a splash of light on both the bear and a bit around it on the sofa. That would also have taken care of some of the shadows on the wall. It seems like it might be time to invest in another light stand.
All in all I’m fairly pleased with the way the light turned out, minus some shadows and logistic limitations. However, that was only part of the job done, I knew I would have to do some creative editing to get the final look I was after. I’m still not very proficient when it comes to editing my photos, I’ve gotten a lot better but I’m still keeping it simple. I use lightroom so no fancy photoshop layers or anything like that. That being said, I’m actually very happy with how this turned out, it’s definitely a lot closer to my vision than I thought I would be able to get. I felt that this would be the biggest hurdle in proving to myself that this would be a concept worth pursuing further and I certainly did that. Now I feel confident to experiment more with this style and I have a solid base to start my editing from. As I’ve mentioned before, if anyone is interested in more details about the editing, send me an email and I’ll send you a preset with the settings I used.
I’m looking forward to more shoots like this but it might take a while until the next one, the reason being that it requires some time, both for setting up and to get my girls to cooperate. I might even remember to take a setup shot at that time, though I’m not going to promise anything. Those of you who’ve been following me for a while might have noticed something else that’s new about these shots and exactly what it is will be revealed in the next post. See what I did there? I left you with a cliffhanger to make sure you’ll be back…smooth.