Phew! What a hectic few weeks it’s been since my last post. There has been a really good reason for being AWOL. I have just finished a really cool commissioned assignment shooting the awesome rock band Crosson. This was my first time shooting a band and after talking through the concept with Crosson frontman Jason I was hook, line and sinker for a style of assignment that made my creative spirit soar. The brief was simple, rock glam band Crosson in preparation for the upcoming release of their third album were in need of images to use in the art work for their album cover and marketing material. This was one of those assignments where the planning in the lead up and then the post production and editing took a lot more time than the shoot itself.
The planning started with the concept/story board. It's a tool that really helped me plan, visualise and draw inspiration on how the entire piece from the shoot through to post needs to be approached and executed from both a technical perspective eg. lighting, choice of lens, perspective, to the creative elements and styling eg. wardrobe, props and composition. The board also made for a great communication tool with the team, providing at times a point of reference during the shoot for a particular look, pose, or lighting. It also functioned as my run sheet of what needed to be achieved keeping me and the team focused, making sure we got what we needed first foremost.
My concept board included everything from pictures of wardrobe, wigs, and props that were used on the day, to images that Crosson sent through of the look and feel they were aiming for. I always ask the people I photograph to send me images of the look or style of they’re aiming for. This helps me understand and visualise what they’re looking for in the shoot. Once I have the client's ideas I then start my own personal research. In this instance I looked at similar genres of musicians and artists and studied lighting, locations, styling elements and post processing techniques.
My concept board also included notes I made on possible lighting setups and technical composition considerations given any number of limitations and constraints eg. using a long lens, therefore having to back up at a low camera vantage point for a compressed, imposing look and feel of a full length shot whilst considering light positioning and possible background limitations.
What made planning even more important on this shoot was that these images were going to be composited a later date using a futuristic/apocalyptic type background. Having never approached a shoot with the single objective of compositing I started researching and learning everything I could about compositing. I had been a huge fan and follower of Joel Grimes’ work for some time but it wasn’t until I started to really look into compositing that I discovered Matt Kloskowski’s compositing work. If you’re interested in learning about compositing I highly recommend Matt’s book Photoshop Compositing Secrets.
Matt’s book cover’s everything from choosing and shooting backgrounds, to lighting your main subject and all the tips and tricks in photoshop and other handy plugin’s to make compositing easier. If you’re like me and were always a little hesitant about getting into full blown compositing because of the photoshop intricacies in making good, credible selections, Matt’s book and photoshop CS5 will remove that problem altogether. No really, you will be surprised at how unbelievably straight forward and easy selecting fly away hair can be, once you understand some key concepts during the photo capture stage and you have CS5 for the extraction. If I can select hair, anyone can.
I also shot non composite based images on the day. These were a series of high key looking images on a white background ie. the shot above. You can see these images under Gallery 5. The white background is a 3x6 lastolite panel held behind frontman Jason, standing outside in late afternoon available light. The length and direction of the shadows a give away. Now these images were not planned nor were they included on the concept board. These shots just happened as we worked through the day and one thing lead to another.
Whilst this project demanded a degree of planning and research, I was conscious of not limiting myself on the day to ‘the’ plan. Sure it was important to shoot what we were looking for but there were some other fun possibilities that cropped up as the shoot progressed. Especially when the whole team started working together. Some great ideas started coming out of the woodwork.
From the word go this assignment was an absolute blast to produce and definitely right up my creative alley. Jason (Crosson frontman) was an absolute pro to work with (the beauty of working with musicians and performers) and made photographing him a cinch. The Crosson girls were equally talented. Whilst I wasn’t required to produce a composite, I’m not one to turn away from a challenge and so I decided to create one image to cement the process of compositing from start to end. The result is the image below which I produced in four varying tones and colour to give Crosson a choice. In case you’re wondering, I also shot the forest background used in this image. Below is the un-retouched, out of camera image of what became my dark and sinister forest..
The one key learning from this assignment and perhaps the most important was the out of comfort zone experience this opportunity provided me. The gamut of compositing concepts learned opened my mind to a whole new dimension of creative possibilities and reinforced the need to embrace new and different opportunities.
Sure, this style of shoot may not be everyone’s cup of tea but it doesn’t hurt to try a new blend of leaf every so often. You would be surprised what you learn in the process regardless.