Creating the Photograph: Nick Fancher’s “Black Light Portraits”

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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

Nick Fancher is a photographer that specializes in commercial, wedding and product photography. But when browsing through 500px, we found something of his that displays his more personal work. As artists, we often need to not just do the stuff that we do for pay, but we need to try to experiment and develop new ideas and skills. And when we read about how Nick achieved the photo above, we were quite interested.

Here’s Nick’s story.

The Concept

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This shoot was actually the idea of the models, who are sisters. Dani, the girl on the right, is a professional model, while Sarah, her sister, does it for fun on the side. They saw some black light photography on a blog and loved it. They approached me with the idea and I thought it sounded like fun as it was something I had never tried before.

The Gear

– Canon 5D Mk II

– Canon 35mm f1.4 L

– Four feet of black light tubing

The Shoot

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I noticed that in the black light photography I had seen, the body paint had been applied rather chaotically and that we should try and implement more of a pattern. That was all the direction I gave. Dani conceptualized the pattern and the girls took turns painting each other. They did a rather marvelous job, in my opinion.

Since this body paint is black light activated, traditional lights/strobes didn’t work. All I had was a four feet black tube light, which I clamped just above their heads to a c-stand. And even though the light was no more than 18 inches away from the subjects, the output was so low that I was at ISO 800, f/1.6 and 1/30th of a second. This low of a shutter speed caused a decent amount of the photos to be soft. Also, the shallow depth of field caused one subject to be sharp, in some shots, while the other subject was soft, unless I kept them in the same field of focus, like in this shot.

I also experimented with adding a gridded, red-gelled strobe to some of the shots, in order to illuminate more of the models’ bodies, since the black light only illuminated the paint. See more shots from the shoot on my blog. Though I really liked what we came up with in the shoot, I feel like the look is so specific that I can’t see doing many more black shoots, in fear that they all would look the same.

Post Production

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My Lightroom workflow was quite simple. As you can see in the screen cap. I shifted the WB warmer to bring out the orange in the paint and increased the vibrance. I brought up the black areas to open up some of the shadows.

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I also added a soft blue cast to the blacks by adjusting the blue channel in curves.

Check out my lighting ebook for other simple lighting scenarios.

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Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.