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Shoot: Identity Swap

May 5, 2011

Identity Swap

Had a fun concept shoot with couple of my very good friends the other day. Marisa (on the left) is a Public Relations major well on her way for a successful career, having internships in multiple renowned PR firms such as Borshoff and MSL Chicago.

Bridget (on the right) is a Professional Writing major and Assistant Features Editor of the Exponent, Purdue University’s independent newspaper. She’ll soon be interning with C-SPAN come next fall. To say the least, I’ve got some very driven friends. Time for me to work harder!

Apart from their different career paths, they both also have very unique fashion styles. By swapping clothes, accessories, characteristic props, as well as doing each others makeup on each other they managed to completely swap their identities!

Unfortunately, I didn’t sit in on the transformation because I was busy packing up the gear for the road. But the suspense surely added to the surprise when they walked in the door : )

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Portraying The Concept

Now if you knew Marisa and Bridget, you’d easily be able to tell that they have swapped identities, and be able to intuitively know the purpose of this photo series. The problem lies with people who do not know them and their typical attires or career paths.

I would assume, that the unknowing viewer would see the props, identify the subjects as the focus of the image, and be able to suspect that there is some underlining concept/idea… But if they can guess that they have swapped identities from just that…well hats off to them.

Without being Photoshop(tm) extensive, I struggled to find some way to portray the concept. After all, an “image that tells a story” is what I strive for. And after serious deliberation, my solution? …Image title… I know it’s lame, I failed… But the second best way to portray a concept would be to give it a title that people can read and say, “Ohhhh I get it now!”. -10 points for lack of creativity on my part. Better luck next time :p

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Logistical Side of Things

So we were in the middle of the trail at Celery Bog, the local nature preserve. I tried to find the straightest part of the trail to create a nice leading line that would draw attention to the subjects in the middle. Being greedy, I was hoping I’d find some nice overhanging branches with lively greens that would create a “roof” over the trail and make a tunneling effect…but again, I was being greedy and I didn’t find any of that :/

It was for most parts, an overcast shoot. The sun was well behind the clouds which created a nice diffused lighting. Overcast lighting is great because it doesn’t create any harsh dark shadows that cuts across your face from your nose, and create deep shadows under your eyes. But at the same time, overcast can result in very flat photos. You lose depth in the image, and your face looks 2D. So I added in some more directional light from up top to shape the faces with shadows. The top down lighting creates shadows just off your cheeks and under your jaws. That  “carves” out the face for more depth and definition.

Also, by using the added light, I would be able to underexpose the ambient light from the sun, then light the subjects for more focus on the subjects.

The Stand

I used a Manfrotto 420CSU Convertible Boom stand with boom arm. It’s very nifty in that the boom arm is actually retractable into the stand. So it can actually be used as a regular stand in case you don’t need the boom. Downside is, it’s heavy as hell! But I would expect no less for the build quality needed to sustain such heavy weights on the end of it’s arm.

The Light

Alienbees800 monolight was used in conjunction with their large softbox and all balanced out with a 10lb counter weight on the other end. I was able to get it well over their heads as well as numerous cyclist and birdwatchers that came and went (“Low bridge!!”). The monolight was powered by the Vegabond Mini portable Lithium battery unit.

Since it was an overcast day, and using a fairly open aperture of f/4.0, I really didn’t need all that much power. I could have gone with a lighter speedlight (the flash people put on top of their dslrs) with an umbrella, but the benefits of using the monolight over the speedlights is that it had a faster charging recycle time….and also just my pure desire to use it on-location because I only just  went mobile with it recently when I acquired the portable battery unit ; )

The Trigger

The entire setup is triggered via the Cactus v4 Wireless Trigger system (Which is barely visible in the photo). It consists of a “trigger” that goes on top of my camera where an external flash would usually latch onto, and a “receiver” which is attached to the flash via 3.5mm minijack. It’s very simple setup and can only trigger the flash. I can’t change the power settings from my camera, so you saw me a lot of times running back and forth (and jumping up and down since the power setting was 8ft above me). Surprisingly, it was able to trigger the flash well over 30 yards or so. But it’s becoming less and less reliable so hopefully I’ll be able to upgrade to the V5 soon.

The Lens

I was using the Canon 70-200mm f/4.0L USM for all of the shots. I wanted to blur out the background as much as possible, while still being able to tell that the out of focus objects in the background were trees. I had the choice of using the 50mm f/1.8 II for this with it’s wider aperture, but in the end the greater compression from the longer lens won out (you see a narrower patch of background in…well the background). Most of the time I was shooting around 135mm f/4.

The Post Processing

Post Processing was done in Photoshop CS5. I’m relatively still very early on in the learning curve of editing, so I don’t want to limit myself to a certain “look” every time. So for this shoot, I tried a combination of Lumography and Cross Processing which I thought was quite fitting for this shoot. There was a lot of trial and error to figure out the best look.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. elizabeth permalink
    May 17, 2011 2:14 pm

    why are you setting up studio lighting up out doors?

    • May 17, 2011 2:32 pm

      When shooting outdoors, I try to separate my subjects from the background few different ways.

      1. Using thin DOF (blurring out the background)
      2. Incorporating rim light on the subject (for better separation line between the subject and background)
      3. Creating exposure differences between subject and background (Expose the background about one stop below the subjects)

      The studio lighting was used to incorporate # 2 and #3.

      The top down angle of the studio light creates a nice highlight on their hair and shoulders that gives the subjects better separation from the background. It also shapes their faces with shadows that give more dimension and depth (The overcast weather makes everything look “flat”).

      Not to get into too much detail, but the studio lights allow me to properly expose the subjects, while underexposing the background so the subjects “pop” out more and prevents your eye from wandering and go straight for the subject when you first look at the image.

      Hope this explains it! Thank you for the comment : )

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