In this past Sunday’s Shot of the Week blog post, I floated the idea of putting together a post or two on the technical elements that go into creating an image along the lines of ‘Searching for Answers‘.
The first step in the process should focus on visualizing the image that you are trying to create.
When I walked into this mansion’s classically adorned library, it was rather brightly lit through the magnificent windows off to the left in this image. After taking a look around there were a couple of items that stood out to me about this scene:
- Red curtains
- Old books
- Classic woodwork
This gave me a couple of mental and visual cues to start the process of putting together a storyline for the image.
A Story for the Image
As this type of image is all about telling a story, it is critical to start with the story. Having a library full of books, the first thing that came to my mind was that the books might contain answers to questions that may have troubled someone in their life. What if they never had access to these books during their lifetime? Could they come to visit the library as an ethereal presence, so that they could search for answers to those questions?
As you can tell, the imagination quickly adds some details to put context together for the shoot. A quick check of the available wardrobe confirmed that we had a flowing red dress available, so that the color red could be used as a thematic cue.
Planning the Shoot
When creating a composite image, the most important thing is to have a plan. Ideally, you shoot all the components for the image at the same time, so that lighting is consistent, which will make the final image much more believable.
At the very least, create a mental checklist that ensures all the bases are covered to put the final image together in post processing, particularly when shooting a square composition. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Make sure that you shoot extra width and height for the image; other than the obvious reason, you may decide later to adjust the exact positioning of your subject
- Make sure that you have a complete base image for the entire scene (you can see the central portion of the base image above)
- Give yourself options by playing with some of the elements in the shot, such as the curtains or books, even when you’re not sure you will need them; you might end up throwing some shots away, or end up using one of them in a way you just didn’t expect.
Although there are many ways that good shots can be achieved, here are a couple of equipment notes that will make the process a little easier:
- Always have your camera on a tripod; if you have a tripod that allows for smooth rotation that is ideal for aligning for additional width to your shot.
- A fixed focal length, prime lens is ideal, but a zoom lens is workable.
- A remote trigger for your camera makes your shoot a lot easier (see ‘Positioning’ image)
- Use manual settings on your camera, including manual focus.
Shooting the Key Element(s)
The most important element of this image is the ethereal presence floating in front of the bookshelves, in search of answers in the many volumes stored there. The next image gives away some of the magic, as you see the model, Steph, standing on a ladder rather than being suspended through unseen forces of levitation.
Keen observers will also note that that is my thumb holding her dress in a more floating position. Even keener observers might see that her head position doesn’t match that of the image at the beginning of this post; you are correct, as I used her upper body from one of the other images.
Next week, we’ll go over the details and the process of editing in your favorite image manipulation program, which is not quite as difficult, as you might think. I’ll leave you with some of the other shots that went into creating the resultant image, as a bit of a behind the scenes view.
I hope you enjoyed this brief introduction.