In my last portrait post I featured some images of Martha McCarthy, co founder of the Social Lights Digital Marketing Agency. Today’s post features her business partner, Emily Pritchard. I’m presenting a start to finish description of my workflow in this post, but suffice it to say that this was one of the more technical shoots I’ve attempted – and boy did I learn a few things. I hope you find the description useful. Additionally, you can watch a fun little behind – the – scene video from the shoot.
Workflow – Start to Finish
1. Selecting concept – Many of my portrait shoots starts with a strong concept. In this case we’re working with the idea of Alter Ego, but that wasn’t enough information. What personalities are going to be portrayed? How will they relate to contemporary communication behavior? This is, after all, a Social Media marketing company. I received from Emily a loose description of what she wanted, but it needed work. I created a set of characters that aided in a better understanding of the shoot for everyone involved:
Snooky (Jersey Shore) – the quintessential party socialite, relying heavily on text and Facebook to communicate. Lord knows she can’t use the spoken word very well;
Suzy Orman – Power business woman multi-tasking machine. Speaking, phone, iPad simultaneously;
Bartender – Some of the best communicators in society, they still do it with spoken word and body language;
Angelina and Brad – Angelia just caught Brad getting naughty texts from Snooky across the bar. Hehehehehehe
2. Selecting Location – This shot was much more complicated for a variety of reasons, including shooting on location. In this case we wanted a bar setting to best capture “social,” but finding the right bar was very difficult. We wanted modern and stylish and we were restricted to working on a Saturday. Most bar/restaurants open for lunch and we just couldn’t squeeze it in around their schedules. Some just don’t want to mess around with it. You also should have insurance for this kind of activity (which I do). Furthermore, shooting this kind of project on location is very different than a studio. In the studio I’m lighting everything. On location this just isn’t feasible for me. The production of it is much too big and expensive. This can create a wide range of post production issues. Joel Grimes, and well known portrait guy, shoots his subjects on a white background in the studio and pastes them into a scene. This requires great insight and skill to pull off well and solves a bunch of lighting issues. It becomes a great exercise in Photoshop. So does my approach, only complicated by the differences in where light falls and when- and getting a clean paste.
3. The Shoot: Staging - once on location I needed to use all three assistants and Emily to seat at the bar, just so I could establish a camera position and anticipate possible issues. The biggest staging issues was to anticipate hand and body gestures and the physical space in which they occur. I didn’t want a hand gesture from one character interfering with the face of another and in some cases, creating insurmountable post production problems. Also, once the shoot starts things need to stay put. Not just the camera/tripod, but the chairs, props, etc.
4. The Shoot: Lights – I used two strobe lights. My key light was a beauty dish and my accent light was a medium rectangular soft box. You can get a sense of the setup from the video.
5. Post Production: Creating the Master File – The first thing I had to do was play with the process. I started layering images, anticipating issues, layer in a different order, etc. There is some intuitiveness to this, in so much as starting from Angelina forward to Snooky, because of how body parts might overlap. But I also shot several frames with no one in them to capture light everywhere in the scene and bring that in as needed. So, its a little complicated. And messy. And time consuming (hence only 2 finished versions so far). The hard work is in masking. I get right down to the pixel level and mask along necessary edges and merges to create as clean and realistic feel as my patience will allow. I save this file with layers as a master file. If there is a mistake or something is missed, I definitely want to come back to this point. This file, with layers, is over 730 mb. Yep, that’s right. A biggie. You better have a lot of RAM if you’re going to try this.
6. Post Production: The Secret Sauce – well, I can’t give everything away, now can I? Suffice it to say I like contrast and edginess, but I don’t use commercial filters to do this. I have my own very small set of easy to use tools, all of which I discovered just playing around. One hint though: “blending modes and opacity.”