Just Floating

A long while back now a friend approached me about shooting something a little different. He had seen a shoot that he wanted to replicate and asked if I would be up for using the studio where there was space and, more importantly, a few lights knocking around to use. I can't really say much about the actual subject but wanted to share, the setup, the before and the after images from the shoot. So here we go!

To start with we needed a lot of c-stands and and light stands to hold things in place and mount lights on. The premise of the shoot was to make the piece of apparatus look like it was being worn by an invisible person so, in addition to hanging it in place, we needed to pull straps and and tubes in place. This was only ever going to be achieved using thin nylon string which would need editing out afterwards along with the various stands. The canister also needed to be secure and not just dangling for safety reasons!

After several hours setup we had reached the stage shown below.

Next we started to set up the lights. In the original idea my friend had seen the background was not black and, lighting that as well as the apparatus, the photographer has used in total 11 lights. We were not quite so extravagant and sneaked in using just 5. I should point out this shoot was intended to be a trial with a plan in the future to improve on the set-up. The diagram below shows the light arrangement but the powers indicated are not a true reflection of the actual settings used.

The main light was from a gridded octagonal soft box directly above but on its own would not bring out enough detail in things like the straps especially on the underside of the shoulder straps.

An additional rectangular, gridded, soft box was place to the left of the camera and aimed slightly down to avoid reflections in the mask. This lifted shadow detail on the left but still left some dark areas down the right side of the shot. For that we used a gridded strip soft box giving a full length light thrown to the bottom of the hanging straps, also angled slightly down.

The back of the canister fell off into shadow quite quickly so for that we added a second gridded strip soft box camera left and slightly behind the apparatus.

Finally the grill just below the face mask and surrounding area had little detail so we used a snoot to fill a small light pool into that area.

For the actual shot I ended up pulling the camera around to the left so as not to be shooting straight on.

I could not quite get the strip soft box illuminating the canister to not cause a highlight strip down the side as we had not left enough room behind the setup to play with the angles. In the ended I took 2 shots one with the light off and one with it on to blend in the final edit. You can see how much definition in the canister was lost down the left as you look at it compared to the shot above.

And so to the final image. Essentially after doing basic tonal adjustments in Lightroom, I pulled the final shot into Photoshop and set about using the clone tool to edit out the stands and nylon. This did involve zooming in a lot to maintain fine details. Having a black background also made the job a lot easier than if we had tried to light a background. I then cut the canister out of the second image without the strip light and blended it over the top of the main image to remove the highlight.

I also had to copy part of the left shoulder strap, transform it slightly and pasted it over the right strap where the stand crossbar poked through. It was not possible to clone out the bar and 'make up' the hidden bit of the strap.

People have asked 'Why?' The answer, in short, is because it was something different and a bit of a challenge. The next time I think we will try using some chroma green paper over the table to make masking that out easier and add a background. We could improve on the way the straps are pulled out as well. There are certainly one or two areas that might benefit from a light with a snoot as well. The face mask looks a little messy but it is actually the rubber fittings and their reflections behind it that are seen. For now though I am very pleased with the final image we achieved.