I'm often asked how I inject impact and presence in my work. Here's a brief description of my process.
For my example, I'm using a frame I shot during a recent workshop with noted Fashion photographerLou Freeman. In any artistic endeavor there's always more to learn and I especially like to take advantage of seeing how masters like Ms. Freeman create their brilliance. Even more so, when it's outside of my specialty of low light live performance photography. In this case, Ms. Freeman is at the top of the game for fashion and glamour. Her world class skills with lighting control, creative concept and posing (just to name a few!) are all things I want to develop further in my own work.
The frame to the right was shot with my Nikon D810. Certainly one of the top DSLRs available on the market today. The lighting and concept were Ms. Freeman's work... not mine. As you can see, it's a lovely composition with interest and character. The lighting design is top notch using 5 Bowen heads with various treatments including a fresnel lighting the face of the seated model. Also, these ladies were treated to the fabulous artistry of top makeup artist Rosangela McCann (how lucky!)
Especially when doing something where there's a great deal of creative license, I view capturing the image as only the first step. An important one to be sure. A well exposed and conceptually interesting image is a necessary foundation for building something special. But, today, the work done after the image is first shot can be just as important as how well the image is initially captured.
I like this image because the seated model's face told a story of being somewhat emotionally detached while still focused on the camera whereas the standing model was more intimately engaged. (I had just asked her to think about her favorite food, fettuccine alfredo.) The distinct difference in emotion between the two became a critical part of the story for me.
So, the image I had to start with was great. But... what could I do to make it even more interesting using my post production knowledge in tools like Lightroom, Photoshop, etc..
The image on the left is after my first post processing step. In this image I've corrected for lens distortion, cropped the image and adjusted exposure, contrast, etc to my liking. Especially since my vision for this image is to create a sense of abstract mystery I also selectively increase clarity in the frame to further define the costumes and background. This will be important to the final image.
My objective with this step is to create a more vibrant image from which to work as I move forward.
Okay... this is a bit subtle so you may have to zoom in a bit. This frame is after work on the model's faces. We're going for fantasy here not realism (unlike actors head shots) so it's permitted in my book to bend reality a bit. You have to look closely to see the differences but they are there. The geometry, highlighted cheekbones, skin tone, smoothness of the faces have been altered somewhat All to augment character and make the faces pop and more distinctive within the frame.
We're already past the point where you'd be likely to pass by either of these lovely ladies on the street and immediately recognize them. The makeup, costumes and my initial adjustments have transported them into another time. My next step is to transport them into another dimension.
The final part in the post processing chain is to use shading and color to create the mood you are looking for. In this case, I used a combination of some cross processing and tint tools for the bulk of the image. The faces were masked somewhat to allow more of their natural coloration to emerge. Finally, I created a torn edge effect on the image to enhance the sense of time in the piece.
I think this has the mystery I wanted. Who are the ladies looking at and what are they thinking?