Creating the Photograph: Jenna Martin’s “Purple Cabbage Dress”

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Creating the Photograph is an original series where we interview photographers about a photo that they shot and how it was achieved. The results are some knowledge passed on to you. Want to be featured? Email chrisgampat[at]thephoblographer[dot]com

Jenna Martin is photographer that hails from Montana. She began shooting conceptual photography back in 2012 and has since built a portfolio of work that is conceived in her imagination and brought to life by props and her camera. This type of photography is usually amongst some of the most elaborate as it requires a creative and imaginative idea to begin with but also sometimes needs the perfect lighting and the perfect post-production. When we saw her photograph of a cabbage dress, we were extremely interested to see how it was done.

Be sure to also check out Jenna on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Here’s Jenna’s story.

The Concept

I started this project as an addition to my newest series, “Surreal Fashion”. I have created outfits out of flowers, needles and gold bands and was looking for something a little more rich in color. I came across this in the produce section of my local grocery store and was incredibly inspired by the deep purple color. That was it – I decided I was going to make an entire dress and hat out of purple cabbage leaves.

The Gear

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– Canon 5D Mark II

– Canon 50mm f1.4

– Opteka Shutter Release

– Tripod

– Mola Euro with a 25 degree grid

The Shoot

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I cast Kate Lea as the model for this shoot. She has a very elegant, dramatic look that I wanted, and she seemed oddly excited about the idea of being in a photo with a hat made of cabbage.

I knew I wanted the background to be solid black, but didn’t have immediate access to a black backdrop. So instead, I placed the model far away from the nearest wall, ensuring my light wouldn’t reach far enough to light up anything significant in the background. The small amount of background that did show up was going to be taken out of covered up anyone, so it didn’t matter.

Since I knew I was going to build the waist down portion of the dress in photoshop, I had the model sit on a stool so I could photograph from the waist up as close as possible. Once we had the pose we wanted, I kept her in a similar position while I held various cabbage leaves on or around her. After the posed photos, I also took a lot of photographs of the leaves at different angles to be used as filler pieces later.

Post Production

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The editing process was very slow and meticulous work. I began by creating a new layer for each piece of cabbage I was going to use. I then used layer mask and my brush tool with a fairly hard edge to outline each piece of cabbage and then place it on her where I wanted it to be.

In the beginning, I had a general idea of the shape of the dress and hat that I was going for, but as you can see in the video, I changed my mind about the sleeves during the editing process. Instead of giving the dress two sleeves as originally planned, I decided to leave the front shoulder bare. When it was covered, I thought it interfered with the line from her arm to her neck. Left exposed, the photo had a much more elegant look to it.

After I applied each layer where I wanted it to be, I began making smaller adjustments. I added shadows between layers and on her skin where the cabbage would’ve made a shadow in real life. I added shadows under her arms as well to make it appear that she was actually resting her arms on the cabbage dress. I finished my retouching of her skin and nail polish, and then added shadows to the entire dress as a whole to make it blend with the direction of light on the face and arms. The entire editing process took about 50 hours to complete and can all be seen in the video below.

Before/After

Before

Before

After

After

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