Monday, March 15, 2010

Pugmire Family Portrait

I posted some time back that I was working on a composite of a large family in photoshop. In total I photographed 35 members of one extended family. Some were shot as individuals while others were put into groups. Each photo was done on a white background with the following lighting set up. Shots were taken over a series of days to accommodate the schedules of the different families.
Because of the timing issues I marked the studio floor with duct tape so I could remember the spots where the lights needed to go. I also took careful notes about the power of each light, it's height and my camera settings. Here's how I did it:
  1. I set the background lights at full power with key light -1 stop from full power. 
  2. Exposure is F9 @ 1/250 a second. This had to stay the same for all shots.
  3. Camera has 16-85 mm lens ( I should have used the 50mm to avoid distortion- something I simply forgot to do!) Most of the shots were done at 40mm and a few were at 24mm. This was a huge mistake that cost me a lot of time in post production. (Don't you hate it when you make a dumb mistake like that!) I shot each person individually and in groups so I could have a reference point as to their height and proportion to one another. It was also very important to get shadows on the ground in the photos so no one looked like they were floating in space.
  4. I took over 200 shots (about 10 images per grouping/individual) in different poses. Some on the ground, others standing, then sitting, so I had a wide range of options. I knew the basic outline of what I wanted as a final product and I used the diagrams I drew out prior to shooting to guide how I posed everyone.
  5. Once I had shot all the images it was photoshop time. Each photo had to have the background masked out but the shadows on the floor needed to stay. The white background helped out a lot.
  6. Once the images were all within the same file I placed each photo where I thought it looked best and then adjusted the masks I had already made to fit. 
  7. The last step was to dodge and burn in shadows that matched the studio lighting. If I skipped this step the people would have looked like cardboard cut outs where their body parts overlapped. 
I am willing to do this again and next time I'll save myself a lot of extra editing by using the right lens. ( I hate correcting for distortion in photoshop, it never quite looks right to me...) I will also try to book all the sessions within the same day so I don't have to reset the lights every time I have another session. Now I just need another large family, any volenteers?

1 comment:

  1. This is amazing thank for sharing your setup. I saw the same type of photography setup in PP Magazine May 2010 issue
    Great idea for large families. I would like to know some more details on the photoshop end thou, any way or sharing?