I ran a contest a month ago on my Munchkin Photos Facebook page for a free two-hour photoshoot. The winner was a great cosplayer, Nerdenheim Jen, who decided to do Chun Li from Street Fighter. I did the photo shoot a few weeks ago, which was a combination of studio and outdoor photos. Also during this shoot, I addressed two of the 52-week photo challenges.
For this shoot, I used a Cannon 70D with an 18-200 mm lens, 430EX II speed lights (two inside, one outside), light stands, shoot through umbrellas, a white backdrop (inside), floordrop (inside), Yongnu radio triggers, and a Pixel Stick (outside). For the shoots inside the flashes were mounted on light stands with the shoot through umbrellas and placed about 45 degrees off from center adjusted for Chun Li’s height. During the shoot, the light placement was adjusted for the pose and mood. For the indoor shoot, I was trying for high-key photos. For the outdoor photos, the flash was mounted on a stick with a shoot through umbrella, which my husband (who makes a very good assistant and voice activated light stand) held at varying angles and heights for the photos.
I’m going to discuss five specific photos from the shoot that address: my 2 favorite photo, high key, movement, and pixel stick work. You can see all the final images from the shoot here (Chun Li From Street Fighter).
My two favorite photos come from outside. The first one is of Nerdenheim Jen in a cherry tree, I absolutely loved this location and how well she posed using the tree. I got so many great shots it was hard to pick a favorite. However, I like this one for its subtle beauty, and the power and self-confidence it exudes. For this photo, the flash was placed up high and to the right and slightly angled down through the tree branches. I used a 100 ISO with a 1/125s shutter speed at an F6.3 aperture at 18mm. The image straight out of the camera was a dark and had the light in it which could have put in the nope pile; however I saw potential in the image. I started by cropping the image to remove the light stand, then adjusted the white balance to flash, then used auto exposure to brighten the image. From there I adjusted everything, I dialed down the exposure, which usually is too bright from auto, increased clarity and vibrancy, used a strong contrast, adjusted the sharpness and luminance of the photo, and corrected for lens distortion. After I finished my edits in Lightroom, I pulled the image over to Photoshop to further refine the image. In Photoshop, I removed some of the background pin lights, removed the tag on the tree, and added moonbeams, thus arriving at the final image.
The second image was taken within sculpture. I like this image because it is innocent yet sexy at the same time. For this photo, the flash was placed up high and to the right. I using a 100 ISO with a 1/15s shutter speed at an F5 aperture at 20mm. As you can see the image straight from the camera is dark but has a nice ambiance. Therefore, to improve the image I cropped the extremely dark areas out using the rule of thirds. I then adjusted the white balance to flash and used auto exposure to brighten the image. From there I adjusted everything, I dialed down the exposure, increased clarity and vibrancy, used a strong contrast, adjusted the sharpness and luminance of the photo, and corrected for lens distortion. I only used Lightroom to create this image.
This final image, before we move onto discussion of the challenge images, I used something called a pixel stick. We did not do many of these types of shots because this was near the very end of the shoot and the light misting drizzle was starting to pick up. The pixel stick is stick with several LED lights on it that change color and make a pattern, which can be seen in a long exposure photo. I don’t get to use the stick much because it is six foot and needs to be photographed using a long exposure which can only be done in dark settings. I’m slightly mad at myself because I forgot my tripod, which is basically a requirement for these types of images, so to stabilize myself laid on the ground and held my camera so my arms formed a triangle. My husband moved the pixel stick behind Nerdenheim Jen, while her husband (who I recruited) held the flash up and to the left of her. I used a 100 ISO with a 2-second shutter speed at an F5 aperture at 18mm; also, I used a rear shutter flash sync to ensure my husband was not captured in the shot as he moved the pixel stick. As you can see this is a bright and slightly soft image straight out of camera. To finalize this image I cropped it remove distracting elements. Then I adjusted the white balance, and then darkened the image, which remove some of the blur around the subject. From there I adjusted the clarity and vibrancy, used a strong contrast, adjusted the sharpness and luminance of the photo, and corrected for lens distortion. I only used Lightroom to create this image. I do like how this image came out. I would like to work with the pixel stick more, because there are some great possibilities for it. Now on to the two photo challenge photos.
52-Week Photo Challenge - Week 13: Portrait - High-KeyFor those that don’t know the definition of high-key is as follows: a style of lighting for film, television, or photography that aims to reduce the lighting ratio present in the scene. This was originally done for technological reasons, since early film and television did not deal well with high contrast ratios, but now is used to suggest an upbeat mood. To simplify a high key photo is bright white photo with few if any shadows and usually characterized by a white background. I will admit I’m not very good at taking high-key photos since my photos usually lean towards the darker side or more of low-key image.
This image was taken in a studio setting with a white backdrop and two flashes fired through umbrellas. For this image, I was using a 100 ISO with a 1/125s shutter speed at an F6.3 aperture at 60mm. The original image came out dark, and not at all high-key but I fixed this in post processing. I first cropped the image, then adjusted the white balance on her hair ribbons, and then used auto exposure to bring up the image brightness. From there I further tweaked the image by adjusting clarity, the contrast to high, increased sharpness, adjusted the luminance of the image, and finally corrected for lens distortion. I then pulled the photo into Photoshop to blur the background using lens blur to get rid of the wrinkles in the backdrop. I also did a black and white version of the image, which I personally like, and I think works better as a high key image then the color image.
52-Week Photo Challenge - Week 16: Portrait - Movement
When working with cosplayers who are doing action characters or have costumes that move, doing movement shots is fun. I enjoy doing action shots while moving because it brings more life to the photo then a static pose. In this session, we did several action shots. During the action shots, I had to be aware of the movement of her skirt since it was very light weight thus would fly up, and I was not doing fan service shots. The photo here is of simple movement of the hair ribbons, as she settles into a stance from a jump. This used the same set up as the previous shot including the same camera settings except for the focal length, which was 20mm. Again, the photo came out slightly dark. Thus, I followed the same editing process within Lightroom and Photoshop as in the previous photo. However, I noticed the backdrop and floordrop did not make a nice seam along the bottom, which is due to no pulling both taut and placing the floordrop on carpet. Most photographers to remedy this problem would use molding over that area, I don’t have one. Thus, I created a modeling in Photoshop to cover the seam, creating a better transition between the floor and the wall. Overall, I like how the final image turned out.
Overall, I’m very happy with this photo shoot. However, if I were to do it again I would use a black background for the studio shots, because I think that would fit the characters mood better and make them grittier. I choose the white backdrop based on example images of the character on line, which happened to be very bright images. I also would change the ISO on my camera from 100 to about 400. The lighting I believe was fine and turning out how I wanted, except for the overall brightness of the image, which was easily correctable. I honestly prefer to shoot a little dark then over expose. However, what matters was the client was happy with the images, which she was.