[ superman ] – An Adventure with Owen
Posted on 05 November 2011
Normally I don’t go too far into the background of a photo shoot, but this one warrants a full story. Actually I’ve been thinking that I need to do a lot more in-depth writing, so stay tuned.
A couple of weeks ago I saw my friend Cristina Martinez Byvik and her son Owen at Pannikin Coffee here in Encinitas (one of my favorite haunts). We chatted a bit and I mentioned that I wanted her to bring Owen into the studio one day, just for fun. She immediately said she had a very cute Clark Kent Superman costume for Halloween, and she wanted some pictures of that. Could we? Uh…OMG! YES! Absolutely!
I knew instantly that I had to go beyond a studio shoot this time. I really wanted to end up with a gritty, dark-story look, set in the downtown urban environment, with some intensity and drama.
Not having the actual street photos yet (I would shoot them later), I set up the studio for a dark, street-lit feel, with a little flexibility. Having a two year old as a subject meant that there was no such thing as posing, just setting him up on the spot and working with reactions.
Ultimately we got about fifty raw shots, which were easily trimmed down to a dozen select images, and then filtered again to the best half-dozen.
Because I would be shooting wide angle for the backgrounds, I had to shoot wide angle for the portraits, and wide means WIDE. That’s nine feet of paper you see behind him. There was no practical way to shoot it clean, just go for it and try to keep him close to the mark on the floor. Also, I set up the lighting specifically to mimic a streetlight overhead, with cross lighting from other streetlights. I didn’t color my lights because I couldn’t realistically plan for the different colors I would have in the street scenes. So, I would have to adjust it later in Photoshop anyway.
With my pint-sized model photos in the bag, it was a matter of getting downtown for an evening and walking around. I actually got quite a bit of material in a short hour or two and a few miles of walking.
After that, it’s mostly a matter of Photoshop. I spent the better part of a full day selecting backgrounds and editing them for some drama, matching the studio shots and background shots, masking Owen (by far the most intricate part of the process), adding adjustment layers to correct for lighting, and blending the studio shadows into the street scene. Finally, I ran each image through a custom filter to give it a little grit.
I love what happens with a little creative thinking, ingenuity, and willingness to run with an idea. I could have very easily shot a bunch of cute photos in the studio, as per my original plan, and everyone would have been quite happy. Instead, the whole thing was hugely rewarding, and it looks like this may even become a series. A few of my best clients are about to get a phone call!