» Emily Marilyn & Emma Alexa shoot

Emily Marilyn & Emma Alexa shoot

Emily Marilyn & Emma Alexa shoot

This latest series (now in the Gallery!) was quite an epic.  Emily Marilyn was one of the very first fetish models I became aware of when I first found the scene, so when she contacted me a few weeks ago asking if I would like to shoot her while she was in the UK, I naturally said yes.  Emily was also keen to shoot with Emma, so we spent some fun evenings thinking through what kind of a scene would do the occasion justice.

We both settled on the idea that a sci-fi theme would be really different, and allow us to create some very dramatic images.  I had also wanted for ages to show someone ‘emerging from a TV screen into the real world, so the idea for the series was born.  Emma also decided to make special latex outfits for the shoot, and spent countless hours planning and making what turned out to be really amazing costumes.

At the same time I was running around trying to find swords or laser rifles, a studio, and a makeup artist.  In the end the katana were loaned by the lovely Kezia Argue, and our MUA was the very talented Soo-Jung Park, with whom I’ve worked before.

The shoot went very well indeed – Emily was completely lovely to work with, and indeed to hang out with afterwards!  Aside from a fire alarm that had everyone standing outside in the cold in their latex, and the studio being a bit cramped and disorganised (I won’t be going back there!), it was a smooth day.

I shot using my Profoto kit.  A ProHead on a Pro-8a is shooting into a 6×4 gridded softbox camera left and in front of the models. A second ProHead is shooting into the 4×3 gridded softbox camera right and slightly behind the models.  There’s a Profoto D1 into an Octabox on a boom above, to provide a little top lighting, but in the end I didn’t need this much.  A fan on the floor was used to move hair and clothes to give that sense of dynamic action.

The Pro-8a is a ridiculously expensive piece of kit, but it really comes into its own in shoots and frees me up from waiting for the flash to recharge.  I can shoot up to 15 frames a second, with bang-on accuracy, so the first image here was shot as part of a sequence of the girls actually walking towards the camera.  For me, that gives a different look to a posed shot.

The real work for me, of course, was the post-production.  I’ve had a lot of requests for information about how the shots are put together, so this time I thought I would give you even more of a “behind the scenes” look at the Photoshop work.  Hope it’s helpful!

This is the shot as it comes out of Nikon's Capure NX2 software, which I use for basic RAW processing, colour correction and any skin retouching (not that these two needed much!). As you can see, the lighting is pretty much there in-camera. I do however like to use selective dodging and burning to create my distinctive, slightly painted look, with more contrast than you would normally see (I take the contrast out quite a bit, then put it back in, the way I like it :).

In this second image, you can see the highlights and shadows have been enhanced to give a more 3-D feeling. (See Emily's legs, for example).

The next challenge is that for the crop I wanted, the swords were out of shot, so I cut out the arms and sword, from the elbow down, rotated them to be in the right position, and then blended the results back in. You can still see the original arms here (on a separate 'layer' in Photoshop).

Next up is "cutting out" the models from the studio background (leaving transparent areas around them that the new background will show through), and this is where the fun really begins. Hair is very hard to do well, and I really wished at this stage that I had shot against a grey background as that would have been closer to the final image. As it was I often had to paint out by hand the tiny white halo around each strand of hair. Fun!

In this image, you can see the models on the stock image (bought from BigStockPhoto if I remember correctly) that I chose to use as the basis of the background.

Here I have changed the colour of the stock image, and masked out large sections of it, just to use the bits I want. I have also cut out the window panes (made them fully transparent), and then painted back in a tiny bit of the original image to give the sense of reflections off the glass.

It's worth saying that I had experimented for several hours with rough versions of the models on a range of completely different backgrounds before I came up with this idea! That experimentation is time consuming but if you're trying to come up with something like this, don't skip that step! Now you can see things start to come together. Here I add in a lovely photo of Seattle as the background (I went back and blurred this more after feedback on deviantArt).

The sky goes in next, with dodging and burning (painting on light and dark, basically), to create an even more dramatic look.

In this step I correct the colours of the models to match the background using a yellow filter... this is such an important step but it's one that many composites miss out.

This last image is the final shot. The main difference here is that I have now added in the shadows, and it makes the whole piece far more believable. At first I tried to create the shadows by hand, but struggled to get them looking realistic. In the end I came up with a technique for using the actual shadows from the first image and overlaying them onto the new background. This only works if you can neutralise the effect of the white floor in the process... tricky but well worth it!



I hope very much that you’ve found this interesting.  It’s not really a tutorial as such, but I hope it gives you more of an insight into how this kind of image is created!  My thanks again to the lovely models and to Soo-Jung for the make-up and hair.  Enjoy the series!

Richard Knightly Photography Up