After acquiring all of the gear he would need for his upcoming backpacking journey across the U.S. my brother asked if I would shoot a portrait of him in his Hungarian military jacket he had found at an army surplus store. After setting up the lights and making some frames we were happy with with just him and his coat we decided to load him down with all his gear and take somewhat of a "cover shot" for his upcoming trip.
I wanted something simple and clean, with all the focus on Taylor and his gear. The wool coat had such a great texture so I opened my gridded Paul Buff 47" octa and pulled it in close and to Taylor's right side then tilted it at a roughly 45 degree angle and pushed it as high as my 8' ceilings would let me go. I basically wanted his face to be nicely lit with a gradual falloff of light to his unimportant pants. I knew my key light would give me a little light on the background and also light Taylor enough to separate him from the background at the same time. To bring the backpack into the shot I put a gridded Buff strip light at a 90 to his left and turned it almost all the way down so it just barely brought the pack out of the shadows. I didn't want the rim lighting to be obvious unless you saw a version where it wasn't there at all. Finally, behind my camera I had a silver Buff parabolic reflector set super low to give me some detail in my shadows to play with in post and help round Taylor's figure off a bit. When I do shots like this I usually have a piece of tape on the floor as a marker for the subject to stand on. I also shoot on a tripod so I can zoom in and focus with live view at 10x to make sure everything is sharp and shooting at f8 gives the subject some wiggle room in the DOF. When I use my 17-40 I tend to keep it chest height to my subject. With my big parabolic reflector behind the camera a have to stand as far away as my arm will let me be from my shutter button so I'm not blocking any light.
Big Fixes Small fixes:
After some very basic white balance and clarity adjustments in Lightroom were off to Photoshop. I use to be so into nondestructive editing that I would forgo the content aware tools that required information on the layer you're working on. Luckily I've gotten over that and my life has been much easier. Now my first step is to duplicate the background layer and do any major fixes as well as any initial spot removal on that layer. I take my time removing any stray hairs, fuzzies on clothing, blemishes or whatever else needs removing at this stage.
Structure and Sharpness:
I love bringing out texture in cool clothing and I have been using my own variant of a technique I learned from watching a post processing video from Eric Doggett. It basically involves using Nik Silver Effects Pro's structure sliders to create a black and white image full of wonderful detail and structure that you set to "luminosity" blend mode and mask it in where you want it. I use this a lot and it can really pull out a lot of beautiful texture without looking over sharpened. For skin, eyes and hair i generally use high-pass sharpening to taste, sometimes in conduction with the structure boost from the Nik filter. Ill then start to do some dodging and burning to the image. When it comes to clothes I go for specific contrast boosts in the folds or to bring out smaller details if they are there to begin with. When I start on the skin I dodge and burn for shape. I try and follow the natural lines on the face and use these tools to enhance my lighting and maybe compensate for light that could have been an inch or so in one direction or another, it all really just depends on the image I'm working on at the moment
Color, the emotional connection:
In my work I love to play with color. There is a lot to be said for getting "accurate color" in a shot. There are countless digital workflows that will help you recreate the exact colors that were in the scene. For me and my work I prefer working with color to create what I want the scene to be in an emotional space rather than the reality of what was there. It has been my experience that people tend to remember moments, people and places much more spectacularly than they actually were and I try to translate that to my work via color. I don't have any actions or presets. Every image is at least a little different tho I do tend to start out with the same basic steps then play with things until i like what I see. For the feel of this image I also decided to play with Photoshops new "Field Blur" tool and was happy with the look it gave the image.
Curves For Color: In most of my images I will initially start by bringing out the blues ever so slightly in the shadows and the same with yellows in the highlights. Then, depending on the image ill will push and pull other colors in my curves until I'm close to where i want to be. sometimes I will stack curves upon curves mucking with color in different ways just to get what I want
Unify Colors: I use a gradient map to unify the color scheme of an image. It is usually set to "normal" or "color" blending mode depending on how much i want it to affect the shadows. Then its usually lowered to 15-40% depending on the image.
Boost Those Sweet New Colors: While the gradient map unifies colors it tends to give a bit of a desaturated look so I use a Vibrance adjustment layer to boost the saturation and vibrance back to where i feel they should be for the image
Finish It Up:
I don't know why, but as i was finishing up this image I really felt some textures would work well with the overall look. Its not something I normally do but I feel it works well in this image. They are very subtle and I masked out anything that would have fallen over Taylors face and a few other spots where it looked like too much. Subtlety was key here. I decided to add one more gradient map to this image that I made by analyzing old sepia mugshot photos from the 1920's. This put a bit of brown in the shadows and yellowed the other colors just a bit.
All in all I am very happy with how this image came out and I feel it does well in showcasing a reserved excitement for the adventure that is coming.