After keeping these photos in wraps for SO many months, I’m thrilled to finally be able to share them! This photo series is one of my favorite series so far because it marks a major turning point in the way I approach my personal photographic projects and the way I retouch my images.
At that time, I was plagued by deep dissatisfaction with the photos I created thus far. To me, they are visually-pleasing, but emotionally sterile and forgettable. I spent countless hours mulling over what I should do differently next time . . . and decided to start by creating the mood I want to convey through the images – in real life – during the shoot. Instead of asking the model to act a certain way or pretend to feel a certain emotion, I tried to use music, lighting, and thermostat setting to induce the feeling. It was my very first attempt; so, the result was not so stellar. But, I was getting there . . .
However, apparently, that solution was not enough. I went ahead and retouched the photos the way I usually did; but, in the end, I came up with another set of pretty but bland images. Retouching the skin to perfection seems to remove all the rawness and emotion I want to convey through the photos. I still think we need to remove all of the components that would distract people from appreciating on the things we want to show through the photos (e.g: electric sockets, stray cables you can’t hide or tuck away during the shoot, stains, etc ). But we – or at least, I – need to do remove distractions and imperfections in ways that don’t take away “the spirit of the photos’. A tiny crease between a person’s eyebrows and hollowness under a person’s eyes can show the worry or gloom the person feels. The moment we remove those things from the photos, we remove the emotion from those photos as well.
We see under-eye bags, red veins on the white of the eyes, as well as creases around the mouth and neck on contemporary artworks all the time. And yet, we still find the drawings or paintings beautiful. Moreover, we admire the artists for being able to infuse emotions into their works by drawing or painting in those details.
I still want to create stories and dreams through my personal projects . . . so, I will not stop retouching my images . . . just not in ways that take away “the spirit” of the photos.
After numerous trials trials and errors, I decided to use VSCO Film 07 on Adobe Lightroom to emphasize the mood. Then, I removed clutters (such as electric sockets, using clone stamp, and removed unnecessary/distracting details by doing some light dodging and burning on Photoshop. When I was done, I printed the image, and fine-tuned the exposure, highlight, and shadow on Lightroom.
I used several other methods as well including frequency separation and the usage of several other Photoshop plug-ins. But the combination of Lightroom, VSCO, as well as clone stamp plus dodging-and-burning on Photoshop works best for this photo series.
These are just some of the images from the series. I will share the rest of the images next month, along with all of the edits I dislike. That way, you can compare them and – perhaps – let me know which editing style you like better.
If you are wondering what photographic gear I used to shoot these images, you can find the complete list on the bottom of this post.
- Canon EOS 5DS Digital SLR
- Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM Standard Zoom Lens
- SanDisk Extreme PRO 128GB CompactFlash Memory Card UDMA 7 Speed Up To 160MB/s
- Hoya HMC Multi Coated Ultraviolet Glass Filter
- Profoto 41 In. Deep Medium Umbrella (Translucent)
- Profoto Umbrella Diffuser (Medium)
- Avenger A2033FKIT Steel 40-Inch C-Stand with Grip Kit (Chrome)
- Profoto B1 500 AirTTL
- Profoto Air Remote TTL-C
- Profoto Li-Ion Battery for B1 (I usually brought 2 -3 additional batteries per monolight because the batteries tend to run out of power pretty quick, and – even if you use the fast battery charger instead of the standard one that comes with the monolight – you will need to wait for an hour before the battery is fully charged again)
- Profoto Battery Charger 4.5A for B1 (the fast charger I mentioned above)