Whats in an image?
Local tourism behind the scenes
Recently we were commissioned by the local tourism for an advertising image. The concept was to show the variety of different people using the hotels pool, each section would represent a specific group (ie Business, Dance, Sports etc).
The overall feel was to be a lifestyle approach, with the models being engaged in their activity at the pool, this meant they’d all be focused on specific tasks, that would require individual directing of each group. Because of the complexity we decided to shoot the entire thing locked off, that way we’d composite in everyone. This meant each section would require a similar lighting structure, as we’d need a consistency despite the winters sun coming in through the windows.
The client has a real talent of organizing a fun group, and soon our talent list was filled out and props and wardrobe set. Since we’d be there all day, we could store the props right on set and distribute as we needed.
The problem with the lighting
We usually scout ahead of time, making sure we are familiar with the environment and it’s lighting concerns. When we shoot outside we like to mimic sunlight as much as possible, or at least complement it. Inside you’re not as controlled by the elements usually… Turns out this pool has a gorgeous bank of windows that let the sun come through all day long. As beautiful as this was, it did lead to some design choices. Since we’d be shooting over a 7 hour time frame we’d see the sun shift dramatically. We’d need to time our subjects arrival times with this, so we didn’t have to deal with stark light from the sun interrupting the shots. Plus as the day went on the angle of the sun would cut into the frame making for some interesting lighting on the water and sides of anyone close to the window.
The solution of dealing with direct sunlight
The solution was to evenly light each group, we did this using a large deep para, this light source is by far my favourite, it’s softness and contrast make for some awesome portraits, in this case we’d position it far enough away that the fall-off of the light wouldn’t be affected significantly. To give the scene some depth we positioned a gelled strobe in the back, this would create “rim light” on the models, a subtle light that would feel like the light from the hallway. All of this lighting would be managed by my trusty assistant Phil. His knowledge of the light and his ability to solve problems quickly made him indispensable to this shoot. Later he’d also be responsible for the rough in of the talent into the final image.
The power of grey-skull!
We assembled crew, gear and props and started doing the initial blank plate. A blank plate is a solid shot of the background with no distractions or talent on set. We had Phil light each element separately, it’s really important to mimic the existing light, Phil free-handed the light and soft-box combo and meticulously lit each segment. We wanted a good separation of talent and background, so the blank plate was crucial to making this shot work.
Each sector was directed and captured, we did variants of shots, using the locked off camera we were able to really focus on getting specific with each segment. We wanted a viewer to have to dive into the shot, see the details and to do this we had to make sure everyone was interesting. Lights, batteries and water don’t mix well, so Phil’s job was to light the same with varying distances. Using a c-stand and a boom arm, and some experimentation with overall centre of gravity of the entire setup with him included we were able to create a consistent look throughout.
Building the image in post production
At this point we usually have a bunch of images, and we begin the selection process. Since this was a specific sector we wanted to get the clients input throughout the project. They had designed this overall feel so we worked at building the image in photoshop using the layers that the client had pre-approved. This process can take a fair amount of time, and often in situ the image may not work for what we wanted. Since each element was to be represented in their “zone” we had some wiggle room in regards to placement. Phil was in charge of the main edit, so his job (after getting that background plate ready) was to place each piece into play, every sector was it’s own image so lots of isolation of subjects and making sure any overlaps are looking solid. Over the next few iterations we’ll focus on cleaning up any rough edges and building up the image overall. When this pass of editing is done, we’ll then apply some colour and make sure the contrasts and tones are aligned with overall idea and brand visual identity.
Each step of the way we make sure to keep the image aligned with the clients vision. Crafting an image like this allows us to focus on the clients brand and really define a specific image.
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