It’s time for a new installment in my more humorous series and I’m also giving new life to the previous shots in this ongoing project. I’ve found a way to get a lot closer to my original vision for them.
Intrigued? The answer is in the software, the Topaz adjust plugin for Photoshop, to be precise. I recently installed the trial version and I have to say that I’m quite liking it. Let’s cover this before moving on to the shoot itself. Topaz has several different plugins and the one I’ve tried basically lets you achieve an HDR effect from a single shot. You could of course get the same result if you happen to be a Photoshop wizard with lots of time on your hands but, with this plugin, it’s as simple as choosing a preset and adjusting a few sliders. If you look at the shot to the left (link to full size version at the end of the post) you’ll see this effect in action.
This is much closer to the look and feel I envisioned from the beginning for this series of shots, very in your face, almost cartoonish. However, I’ll be the first to admit that this isn’t a look that works for everything. There are so many shots that just look over worked with that HDR glow about them, landscapes in particular. Personally I don’t see much use for it in my own work outside of this series. I’ve been moving more and more towards a natural look for my portraits and that’s the direction I want to go in for that. That being said, if you look at the thumbnails at the end of the post, the last one will show you an example of this plugin being used in a much more subtle way (there’s a link from that shot to the original so you can compare as well). So even if you don’t go all out (which I’m actually far from doing, even in the other shots), then this plugin still has great potential as yet another tool to help you enhance your photos.
Anyways, I’m definitely happy to finally being able to bring these scenes to life in a way that’s much closer to what I originally intended. Time to have a look at the latest addition, a troublesome baby being returned to sender. Below is a setup shot, have look at that first.
As usual for this series I’m pulling out all the lights to really light the different parts of the scene separately. Let’s start with the fill, since I’m not sure that really worked the way I had planned. I’m using a YN560 with umbrella and, as you can see in the setup shot, I’m goboing the light with a board. My reasoning for this was that I wanted the right side of the final image to be brighter, putting more focus on the star of the show. That side would of course be brighter anyway, because of the additional lights I use, but I thought it would be nice the have the overall ambient level fall off towards the left side of the frame as well. To that end I do think my gobo manages to contribute a bit but the trouble is that it leaves the face of my wife a bit dark. The editing done in Topaz actually fixes that a bit though so no real harm done. Below you can see what I mean more clearly and you can also see the difference that Topaz does.
Next up is the LP160 in softbox to the left. This light has some CTB gel on it to cool it down and separate it more from the key light in the scene. I think it works ok, I like the feel of it. Had I had a second boom I would probably have tried flying it over and to the right a bit more, to avoid having the faces too dark. Or I could have added an additional light (if I had one), something like a tight grid, to lift the shadows from the faces.
We top things off with two lights on the star subject: a LP160 with small softbox as main and a gridded YN560 for rim. Both of these lights has CTO gel on them, the rim a bit more than the main. You can also see my new boom in action. This shot has actually been in my mind for a long time, in fact it was one of the first shots that came to me when I started thinking about this series. However, I had to wait until now to shoot it since I didn’t feel I could do the idea justice without a boom to let me place the light where it needed to be.
I had high hopes going into this shoot that our little muppet would be more cooperative than usual. The reason? A box; she loves boxes, usually she likes them even more than the stuff inside the boxes. So naturally I thought she would be happy to sit in a box full of paper and bubble wrap while I focused on shooting everything. Was I wrong or was I wrong? I was wrong. As evident by the second shot above, she was not happy at all over being placed in a box. The two shots you see here are the only useable ones I got and I think I shot a total of five or six frames before giving up. Luckily the shot at the top works pretty well but I would have liked more time for me and my wife to get into an acting mood. The idea was for us to look generally distressed; maybe my wife could have hid her face in her hands, crying, while I tried to comfort her and glared angrily at the menace at the other end of the sofa. I would have loved something like that but it just wasn’t going to happen.
This would probably have been the perfect time to learn how to stitch shots together. That way I could have used the shot that worked of the troublesome model and then just shot us separately and gotten our acting act together. Of course I didn’t think of that until afterwards though but maybe I’ll keep it in mind until next time. After everything was packed away the box of course became much more interesting again…sigh.
That was today’s story, now have a look below at the previous shots in this series and their new look. Also check out the last one to see how Topaz adjust can be used to enhance without going over the top.