Friday, October 22, 2010

Day 70 of 365 - Feels Like A Perfect Day... To Make A Change...

(Photo by Andrew Kufahl)

The purpose of today's image is to blur the lines between a fairly common [acceptable] task, and one that is a bit more uncommon [unacceptable].

I am constantly amazed by how the slightest physical gestures can change the shape of an image. Oftentimes, the "accidental gestures" (ones that happened by chance through the course of doing a session) end up driving the premise of my photos into a different direction than I originally intended. In this particular photo, it is the position of the hand by the neck which I feel causes one to question "what exactly is this person going to do?" Shave, or slice? I can honestly tell you that this photo started out being about a dude shaving in a dingy basement... but that all changed as I was mixing-up the poses and I came across one that looked a little more "questionable", solely because of the hand position.

This was a long shoot for me.  Simple as the environment and props may seem, I probably spent almost an hour selecting a spot in my basement, hanging the mirror, and getting the camera-angle figured out.  Lighting was pretty straight-forward, but still spent probably 30 to 45 minutes on that.  After all that was set, I probably photographed for at least 1.5 to 2 hours.  Not all of that is a single pose though... I actually do at least 3 different poses when I do self-portraits.  For this one I did some with my shirt on, shirt off, lathered with shaving cream, etc...  In the end, the entire shoot had taken almost 4 hours, which kind of includes some of the post-processing time.

Originally I started with a small softbox up high and to the left, but it was too large of a light-source so I switched it to a grid.  The first test shot that I did was actually pretty killer, but I have a big problem with letting my shadows being completely black (more on that later), so I used a large softbox to add some fill-light.  Eventually I stuck a third light into the mix... a gridded, CTB gelled, flash that was placed on the floor to illuminate my furnace (which could be seen in the reflection of the mirror).  Granted, that third flash can't be seen in the final image because of how I processed the photo... but it is there.

Really quickly I'm going to talk about why I try not to let my shadows be completely black.  In two words, "no lattitude".  What if I get to post-processing and I decide that I'd like to see some detail in the shadows?  If I let them go to black, too bad... not gonna happen.  That's why I normally shoot with my shadows at least 2 stops down from my key-light... sometimes I will do 3 stops, but normally it is 2.  Reason being, in post-processing a 2 stop difference can easily be pulled down much darker if I want deep shadows... or left right where it is if I want the detail.  Whereas, if I shoot it with a 4 or more stop difference, getting detail back in the shadows is nearly impossible without noise/distortion issues.  So, that 2 to 3 stop difference gives me some really generous lattitude to process my photos a number of ways without destroying the image quality.  In the image above, I probably shot it with a 2.5 to 3 stop difference, cause I knew the final photo would be "edgier".

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