Creating the Photograph: Danny Alexander’s “Week 27”

After

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.

Photographer Danny Alexander is a photographer based in Louisville, Kentucky shooting primarily portraits but will never pass up the opportunity to capture something that catches his eye. He recently finished up a personal project shooting a portrait of a different subject every week for a year and greatly enjoys creating portraits that exhibit some unique or interesting aspect of the individual he’s working with.

“I tend to gravitate towards environmental portraiture for this reason,” he said.

So when pitching his portfolio to us, we took a look and saw that Danny indeed followed through on his idea for a special and totally new portrait each week. As you browse through, you can see his progression and changing ideas. So we asked him to talk to us a bit about one specific photo.

Here’s Danny’s story.

The Concept

This photo is a part of my 52 Portrait Project which aimed to capture something unique or personal to the subject.

With that in mind, I wanted to create a portrait of a friend of mine that was slightly sexy but very nerdy. The subject, I knew, not only loved video games and generally all things geek, but also worked at a video game store. I also wanted to do something a bit more challenging and different than what I had been creating.

During this time I felt I had hit a bit of a rut and was doing mostly low-key three quarter length portraits. I decided for this shot that I wanted to go in the opposite direction and do a full length portrait with high-key lighting. Because the subject worked at a video game store we had access to a large number of video game boxes to create a bed, so to speak, for her to lay on. A few additional elements like a larger male t-shirt, a game controller, and comic book character themed socks rounded out the sexy/nerdy elements for the shot.

The Gear

The Shoot

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I wanted an even spread of light for the full length of her body so a speedlite with an umbrella was placed above her left shoulder angled at her feet and another placed at her feet angled towards her head. I quickly learned that even several large boxes full of video game cartons wasn’t going to be enough to cover the area for a full body shot.

There were two options available for dealing with this, I could either shoot multiple shoots with the cartons covering different parts of the floor or I could do the work in post. Ultimately I decided on the latter out of consideration for the subjects time and that there would have been post work regardless. Once the video game boxes were laid out around the subject the shot itself came together quite quickly. A stepladder was used for a better vantage point and the wide angle lens made getting the whole subject in frame a breeze.

Post-Production

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Post, although tedious and time consuming, was fairly straight forward.

  1. Local adjustments to the shadow and highlight hues were made in Lightroom.
  2. Few touches with the healing brush for blemishes in Lightroom.
  3. Groups of the video game covers were duplicated and placed into new layers to cover exposed areas of the floor.
  4. There were approximately 15 layers of duplicated video game covers to cover the whole area.
  5. Each layer required some slight masking as to remove covers that might not have been whole and to as to avoid obvious
  6. repetition of groups of video game boxes.
  7. Clone stamp and healing brush used to remove heavy wrinkles from the shirt.
  8. Frequency separation was used to smooth skin.
  9. A curves adjustment layer was used to add greater contrast.
  10. Finished post work with a high pass filter for sharpening.

Before/After

Before

Before

After

Final