Friday, September 16, 2011

Multiplying Models II

This is a follow up post to the previous Multiplying Models tutorial done over a year back. In a recent E-session, I used this technique to multiply the girl, who is a dancer around the guy, who happens to be a part time bassist in a band. Also we discuss the importance of a tripod and boom stand and toning the image.

If you haven't seen it yet, the entire technique has been explained in detail in the Multiplying Models post before. As you can see there, the technique is pretty straight forward- Use the camera on the tripod with same focal length/settings/lighting on all the frames. Arrange these files on each layer with masks in Photoshop, and unmask the subject you want to reveal in each layer.

Below are some of the out of camera, raw converted frames used to make the above composite.

As you can see from above, the camera frame and focal length are exactly the same. When you zoom in 100% the image, stacked above each other in layers in Photoshop and if you see even a hairline of shake, it might be time to consider a sturdier tripod or improve your technique. These kind of images are perfect test for checking the sturdiness of the tripod, provided it wasn't accidentally kicked or dragged a bit. The heavier the tripod is, the sturdier it is. Some cheap tripods shake even by the mirror slap of the camera. The one that i used and loved was a Manfrotto 058B. It is one of the best studio/location tripod there is. Unfortunately, when you are shooting on the fly, lugging it around becomes an issue, even more so, if you are travelling by air. These days I've settled for a basic 055 tripod, which is a perfect balance of light weight and sturdiness. A sandbag can be attached to it for extra weight in windy situations. Anything lighter than this doesn't cut it for serious photography, and is just good for taking a family group shot with self timer.

Also, in all of the above shots the lighting is very similar, if not exactly the same. They were lit with a Vivitar 285HV through the larger Elinchrom Varistar Umbrella, which is a cheaper and versatile version of an Octabox. The light was placed on a Manfrotto 420B boom stand, which is my favorite lighting stand because of its semi light weight and versatility. It can be used as a normal stand or a boom. It folds in just like a normal stand as is so easy to travel with. Below is how the light was placed approximately for all the shots.

With just one light, it is very critical on how you place it. Without the boom stand, you would be forced to put it on either sides or in center next to you. The boom allows you to place the light exactly above their heads or at any angle you choose. I always try to aim the forehead with one light, with little light falling on the floor, and try to throw the shadows behind the models foot. Without the boom, the shadow is always on their sides or behind. Also, notice that the black cloth of the Varistar prevents any light spill or flare in the camera. I'v tested it with a Octabox, and the shadows are equally soft like an Octabox with single layer of diffuser. The large Octabox has a slightly more spread as it is a bit bigger, but the medium sized Octa has the same light characteristics as the large Varistar.

Okay, now that the lighting part is done, lets take a look at the processing. Below is another version of the above image with slightly different processing.

I hope you can spot the difference in color toning in the title image and the image above. You will see that the shadows in the first one has a brown tint, and the above is bluish green. But that's not all. There seems to be a slight 'painting effect' on these images. Lets take a closer look to what is happening. Below is an image from the same session converted from raw with actual colors.

 Now here is after applying the action 'Muddy Waters' with its Blue Fungi layer turned on.

As you can see from above, the shadows are not only bluish, but also faded. You can control the intensity to of the 'Blue Fungi' layer to fade it less or more. What this action does in High Contrast and Low Key images, is it reduces the contrast so that there is pitch black in the image. Same with the highlights and saturation. THIS is exactly what gives an image a 'painting effect' feel in terms of color and saturation. There are many ways to do this for many different effects. But the 'Muddy Waters' action I created deals with two most important shades....Blue and Brown. Take a look at another image below, out of camera.

First i ran the 'Burn edges' actions(you can do it manually) and then the 'Muddy Waters' action in its default mode ie. with the 'Brown Mud' layer on instead of 'Blue Fungi'.

See how the high contrast tones have muted and the pitch dark shadows have a muddy tone and blend to create a harmony or a painterly feel. This is just one but major factor to achieve that 'painterly effect' look that you see in most of Annie Leibovitz's images. See a whole case study of that look i'm talking about done by Annie, and other famous Photogs here.
Give it a go on your dark images and experiment with colors. You can change the brown color to any shade you like to match your image. Ideally, brown works best for me for majority of images, and if not, then blue....and both are included in the action. You can modify the intensity as well for a more faded look.

Here is another image, treated with one of my favorite 'Cross Faded' action from the PPA-150 set, used at 75% opacity.

This action is more complex and creates nice tones of red and blue simultaneously in the shadows, making it look a bit purplish. I love this look mainly for a model fashion book stuff. And lastly, still playing with the actions, here is my favorite Art BW conversion with the 'Seductive Sepia' action from the PPA-"I DO" set.

Update: The actions mentioned in this post along with the PPA 150set no longer exist, but a new and improved collection is available at StyleMyPic website!

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