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Picture Play

November hasn’t been the greatest month – first there was the disastrous election, then I broke a tooth eating dinner (still wearing my temporary crown), and then Carol Brady died. Bring on December, I say.

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Enjoy a few more pics of my friend

Honestly after the election, I was so depressed (and still am) that I thought I’d stop taking self-portraits altogether. I couldn’t imagine doing something so frivolous as putting on makeup and wigs and posing for the camera while our president-elect was nominating white supremacists to his cabinet and continuing to behave like a twelve-year-old on Twitter – it feels like there is so much real work to do to prepare for the clusterf*ck that’s coming politically, and there certainly is, that doing anything just for fun felt like cheating or slacking off. But I found myself with an entire day off the Friday after Thanksgiving, so in spite of my fairly glum mood I went ahead and gussied up for photos.

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I actually went full drag on the makeup, something I haven’t done since discovering PortraitPro (which can add a full face of makeup in Photoshop), and I had a closet full of new costumes to try out thanks to a quick trip I made to Goodwill right before Halloween. I think the combination of those two things made for a productive session, even though I didn’t feel much in the mood to do it at first, because I managed to shoot over 500 photos. I can’t remember the last time I did that! But I have gotten lax about photoshoots, putting on less makeup than I used to and scrounging around for something to wear since I’ve seriously slacked off on buying picture clothes and costume wigs.

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This was an experiment – I don’t think it worked out so well

I’ve noticed my interest in taking movement and levitation shots has waned, but it’s due to necessity and not boredom. Currently I don’t have a backdrop hung on my photo wall, which I definitely need to do the movement shots; they’re a bitch to hang up and I had to take the one that was up there down right after we got Violet because when she was a kitten she decided the folds of the cloth, where the backdrop puddled on the floor, was a great place to relieve herself instead of using the litter box. By the time I figured out what she was doing, there were several lovely stains and wet spots on my gray muslin; it came out in the wash but I’ve been hesitant to hang it back up lest Violet get tempted to use it again. So, every time I take pictures right now I stick to portraits, but I do have a few dresses I’d like to shoot so at some point soon I’m going to try to hang one of my backdrops up again; I’ll just have to keep an eye on Violet to be sure she’s been broken of the habit of using it as a potty spot. Moving on.

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Two things I’d like to mention based on the photo above: first, I cannot believe that I took over 500 photos and totally forgot to use the Hairdo  Midnight Berry wig I reviewed last week. I was actually trying to find the right wig to wear with this one dress I got at Goodwill and couldn’t think of one, so I ended up using a Vanessa wig I’ve used in lots of shots already. It wasn’t until two days later that I realized I should have used the Midnight Berry; I just totally forgot that it existed, even when I went digging through my wig cabinet looking for something colorful to try, my eye just passed right over the damn thing. And I know it will take fabulous photos too. Boo. I’ll have to put it on the list for next time.

The other thing I want to say about this photo is that it marks the last time I was able to use my new Topaz Glow software. it was always dodgy to use; I had to download an older version because my OpenGL is old and can’t be updated anymore. But, Sunday morning I decided to go through the Downloads file on my computer and delete a bunch of stuff since my computer was running slow, and something I deleted killed Glow and I can’t use it anymore. Fortunately, although I enjoyed playing around with the program, it wasn’t essential, and I’d already pretty much gotten everything out of it I was going to get. It was always sketchy and would crash a lot while using it (I really push my old laptop to the max with all my photo editing) but now it crashes as soon as I open it up. Oh well. Live and learn. Moving on.

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I usually use my 50mm for portraits, but this time I decided to mix it up and shoot with the 85mm, which may have been a mistake. The focus on the 85 is tricky – even trickier when working off a remote – and as a result of that, a lot of my shots came out softer than I would have liked. At first, I was also doing WAY too much over-editing (this was before Topaz Glow had died), and so my first few processed shots aren’t that great; I ended up adding tons of filters, overlays, and textures just to disguise how meh they were (as in the shot above – still not crazy about it).

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This shot was pretty out of focus, so in the end I decided to make it even more so. Yeah, I don’t like it much either. But I do like the outfit – the dress is another one from Goodwill, and the beanie is a Kate Spade I got at Nordstrom. Technically the bow goes in the back, but I never wear it that way.

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This one is OK, but as someone pointed out on Flickr my mouth came out looking weird. I didn’t actually use PortraitPro on them too much, but I did over-emphasize them with my makeup, lining them pretty far outside my normal lip line to make them look fuller. Mostly though, in this shot I had my tongue up on the roof of my mouth for some reason, and I think that’s what makes this look so strange; there really should be some teeth showing there and, well, they’re missing. Not only that but in the original, the lighting was very dark, and all you could see between my lips was this pitch black void, and it looked even weirder. I used the dodge tool to lighten things up there, and it helped, but it still looks strange. And the ringlight reflection in my eyes is fake – PortraitPro has a feature to add different catchlight to the eyes.

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After screwing around too much and feeling dissatisfied with my first few photos, I decided to dial back the editing and maintain more clarity. I think I pulled that off fairly well here, but in case you can’t tell I did do a bit of plastic surgery; shortened the nose and widened the eyes, mostly, as well as add an upturn to my mouth (my mouth has a natural downturn that gets more pronounced as I age; not a big deal IRL but in photos, a downturned mouth makes the subject look angry). Somehow I ended up looking more like Debbie Harry than myself, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it just isn’t true. As if I care about that. One thing that was tricky about this shoot: my face doesn’t match my neck and shoulders, so I’m having to navigate that a bit. I always use DermaBlend on my neck and shoulders for photos, because it covers up the sun damage and freckles completely; but it doesn’t work on my face at all because it’s too dry. And the foundation I used this time just didn’t match the DermaBlend well, so there’s that. Oh, and I got that hat at Nordstrom too. I don’t normally wear hats, but I love to buy them for some reason, and this one made me think of Westworld (which is a pretty cool show if you haven’t checked it out. Not sure it really makes sense and it has plot holes a mile wide, but it is filmed gorgeously and the acting is top-notch, so it still works).

Oh and that’s my real hair in that shot, by the way. I just used PortraitPro to make it a lot darker.

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Now see – this is where I should have worn the Hairdo wig, instead of this one I’ve used a dozen times already in photos. Although – this one moves really well, creates interesting shapes when flung about, and takes great photos. I have a ton from this section of the photo session I’d love to edit, but so far I’ve just done these two (the very first photo from the set is this same wig). My lipstick was not anywhere near this color; it was brown (thanks PortraitPro!) and the choker necklace is black and gold (I love love LOVE chokers, and they seem to be having a resurgence right now; Free People has a ton for sale, and that’s where I got this one). The top is another great dress I got for about $4.50 at Goodwill.

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I just now realized that I look insane in this shot. Oh well.

Something else I did in this shoot that I don’t do too much (at least not anymore) is use the softbox attachment I have for my Speedlite external flash. When I first got it I used it all the time, but eventually phased it out when I realized I preferred the softer look I get when I just bounce light off the ceiling. It’s a very different look, and in the past year or so every time I used it I end up dissatisfied with the results; it creates a flat appearance and makes color more difficult to work with. For some reason, I’ve noticed that the softbox flash works best when  bounced off a gray background, and since I used a gray backdrop for some of these shots I went ahead and took a bunch with the  softbox just for something different. It’s tricky, and harder for me to edit these shots because it requires a different process, but I think it works in some of the shots, at least, like this one. Oh, and that wig is one from Freetress that has an interesting feature – it has no ear tabs, and is intended to be worn from any direction you might put it on your head. Meaning, you could put it on and leave the tag in the back, or twist the wig around and wear it with the tag in the front of it. It’s a strange concept that only partially works; this wig definitely looks best when worn with the tag in the back, in spite of the fact that you can change it. And also, the lack of ear tabs means the sideburns are incredibly short and almost non-existent. The biggest problem with this wig, though, is that it is ridiculously small. I do NOT have a big head, and this thing is way too tight for my head. It’s a shame too, because it’s a cute style, the color is great, and the hair fiber is incredibly soft. I would totally wear this out of the house if it were manageable, but it’s so small that it’s just not possible. Oh, and the top here is a another dress from Goodwill; the lace-up part is supposed to be in the back, but for the photos I am wearing it backwards (I do that a lot in photos).

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Another one I’m not sure I like; it feels too soft to me, but I liked the way the light was framing the hair. I added the rainbow colors using a star filters program from Topaz, and added a little lens flair from my Retrographer plug-in. I played around with making the background peach as well, but it didn’t work – I liked the idea of everything in the photo being monochromatic, but it was not to be.

That’s all I’ve edited for now, but I am sure more will be on the way. I’ve got a busy week ahead, so I don’t know when I’ll get around to sharing more, but it will happen eventually. Happy Cyber Monday, everyone (yeah, I’ve already been shopping. Damn that Free People and their sales)!

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