Levitation Break

Overall it hasn’t been a great week, but I’m not going to talk about that right now. I’d rather randomly share this ad I saw in my Facebook feed a few days ago, because it cracked me up:

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Why yes, the first thing one thinks when looking at this photo is WOW, NICE EYES

I actually see this sort of thing quite often around the internet when looking for tips on taking portrait photography or getting the right lighting for studio shots. Many of the tips are written by male photographers, and their example photographs are often scantily clad women. My favorite, and dammit I wish I could find it again, was a video on YouTube that featured a sloppily-dressed, fairly dumpy looking middle-aged guy firing away with his camera at a very young woman in a bikini to show how he set up his portrait lighting. It was kinda gross, but amusing as hell at the same time, in a dude, we all know you’re paying her to wear that bikini in front of you sort of way. Half the time while trying to get tips on studio shoots I end up feeling like a big old creeper because of the half-naked women I have to view over and over just to learn. But moving on.

Here’s a shot I managed to pull off Saturday wherein I, of course, am not scantily clad, but I am in a studio. I ran errands all morning, then felt like trying out this clear plastic stool I bought recently because I thought it might help with levitation shots by being easy to edit out. It was, but the shot was still hard to edit and I spent several hours on it for various reasons. For one, I always forget what process works best for these shots because currently I am doing them so infrequently, so I never remember what I did last time that worked. For another, I forgot about the rule of wearing contrasting colors to the backdrop so I can easier edit myself out of the shot and into the background one, so  the process of selecting the subject was tricky and took a good deal of time. But this picture is proof that even if I have very little time to shoot photos right now, it still can be done. I am in my regular clothes, and have on no stage makeup or fake hair – just me and a backdrop and a plastic chair. I also went along with my new strategy of going in with a plan – I knew exactly the shot I wanted, set up and posed for it, and once I had it, I quit shooting. This set? Was 32 shots – that’s it. As opposed to my usual 350. So it’s good to know I can work this way and pull it off.

Now let’s see the whole thing in action:

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That duster is fabulous and from Free People, of course. I own two because I snagged a huge hole in the first one and went and bought another. The one I’m wearing in this shot is actually the one with the hole, because I figured I’d be tossing it around a bit so might as well wear the damaged one.

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Here I am, layered over a second shot of a blank background and highly filtered and edited in Photoshop. My hair in particular was a bitch here, because I realized halfway through the editing process that I’d clipped out all the little flyaway hairs the first time and it left it looking flat and fake, so I had to go back to the original, select all these little flyaways, and layer them into the composite shot. Took some time and might not have seemed like a big deal to other people, but it made huge difference to me because it gave my hair back the movement it lacked with all the flyaways cropped out. And, I am getting better at adding shadows, I think – the ones you see here were added in Photoshop by me. Final shot:

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I used my Pixlr desktop app for the final finessing, since I can edit TIFF files with it now. I used a “smoke” overlay to add some depth to the background, a barely visible little star overlay, and a couple of very faint borders for added pop. Unfortunately, something I did somewhere along the way with all my editing made my teeth turn kinda gray, but what can you do. It’s always something. In this case, the something is gray teeth. Still a cool shot and not a bad levitation, so I’ll take it.

Sidenote: Because I shoot in vertical or portrait orientation so often, my studio self-portraits are almost always crooked. And by almost always I mean always. I start out with the camera pretty straight, but the more I shoot and chimp my shots the more off-kilter it gets. Then I often forget to straighten it when I edit, so when you look at the floor line in my shots it’s often crooked. Hopefully most people don’t notice it, but if you go back and look at my levitation and jump shots over on Flickr, I guarantee you almost all of them involve a slightly slanted floor. Moving on.

Not much else to report at this time; I wanted to take a few more levitation photos with these cool new Minnetonka moccasin boots I bought, but I got sidetracked by it taking me 45 minutes to lace the stupid things (not even kidding) and then couldn’t get my feet into them, so that ruined my mood. Time to go return the  shoes and get ready for another week. Happy weekend everyone!