Photo of the Week 29 October 2013
Congratulations to Wes Battoclette from Cincinnati, Ohio for this spooktacular image entitled “Family Portrait.” When we received this submission we knew it would be perfect not only for some Halloween fun but some advice on great post production editing techniques. We had the chance to chat with Wes and find out what sparked his interest in creating Halloween-themed family portraits, and how he planned for the shot.
What type of camera, gear and equipment did you use to capture the shot? Do you have a title for this image?
The title for the photo is “Family Portrait” I used a Nikon D700 and a 50mm lens to capture the photo. I also had four Alien Bee B800 flashes to light the image and used them with varying light modifiers.
Where was the image taken? How did you plan for the shot? Who are the individuals in the portrait?
The photo was taken in my studio. A lot of planning went in to making this image come to life. I don’t like to leave anything to chance and everything that you see is there for a reason. There was a lot of shopping for the right clothing, wigs, lamp and makeup. The lighting set-up was something that also needed planning since there would be a light source in the photo and I would be adding a lot into the photo in post. The subjects are my wife Stacey, our dog Dexter and me. We also had our good friend Liz Sickler assisting with makeup and styling.
I saw you had some other images on your portfolio of the setup of the shot. Can you walk us through the gear you selected, and how much time you spent in post-production?
Going into this project, I knew that post-production was going to be a very important part of bringing the photo to life. I shot it on a gray background which helped when it came time to mask it out and blend everything together. The most challenging part was getting the right angle for the floor and recreating our shadows. In total I spent about 5-6 hours in post. To capture the shot, I used a Nikon D700 with a 50mm lens and was shooting at f/8 and 1/80 second at ISO 100 in order to capture some of the light off the lamp. I went with the 50mm because I wanted the shot to feel more intimate, like we were actually in a room. I used five light sources to light the shot: four Alien Bee B800 flashes and four 150-watt daylight-balanced bulbs in the lamp on the table. I also used a wide array of light modifiers to help shape the light in a way that fit with the vision I had for the photo. The key light had a 64” silver parabolic umbrella with no diffuser. This provided me with a lot of output with a sharper light falloff. The fill light had an 86” silver parabolic umbrella with a diffuser. I had one backlight on the lamp side of the photo to help heighten the effect of the lamp, and used a softbox to help diffuse the light. The second backlight or hair-light was placed above the backdrop with an octabox to help highlight our hair and give the photo more depth.
You mentioned this image is a part of a traditional photo invite that you send to friends for a Halloween party you throw annually. How did you get started with this tradition, what has been your favorite Halloween themed image from over the years?
My wife and I started doing this because we couldn’t find any Halloween images or graphics that we were thrilled with so we decided to take matters into our own hands and create a unique invitation that would get our friends talking and excited about the party. I would have to say that last year’s invite is my favorite (besides this year’s of course). There was a lot of time and energy involved in making both photos, however, it was a great opportunity to break out of the ordinary and try something a little more creative.
Who are some photographers that inspire you?
Sandy Skoglund really inspired me in my early years as a photographer. Her use of color, composition and material to construct these dreamlike scenes blew me away and really left an impression on me during my college years. Gregory Crewdson is also very high up on the list of photographers that inspire me. His work instilled this idea that photography is not limited to what is simply there, and that so much can be told in just one frame. I was also inspired by the way he approaches post-production. He makes no attempt to hide the fact that he merges many photos to get the final. Yet what you are presented with is unmistakably genuine.
The last photographer I am inspired by and whom I credit to saving my photography career is John Keatly. I had been going through a time a couple years ago when photo work was very slow and my design work was really taking off. I was on the brink of finding a job at a design firm when I happened upon John’s work online. I was immediately hooked and was inspired to get back into photography full time. What I love about John’s work is the expressions he is able to pull out of people. There is an offbeat quirkiness to a lot of his photos, and I really love that. I am also inspired by his control and quality of light, and the way he uses it to heighten the story he is telling.
What type of photography do you enjoy most for personal and professional projects?
For personal projects, I love the studio and doing creative photos similar to “Family Portrait” I have worked hard to try and create a style that is mine, and my personal projects are crucial to developing that style and taking it to the next level. Professionally, I really enjoy food photography. Working with creative chefs, and bringing their vision to life in a photo inspires me. I also enjoy architectural photography, specifically modern homes. I love the clean lines, simplicity and bright crisp light often founds in these types of homes.
Feeling inspired to share your own personal or professional photos with our Photo of the Week Contest?
Email us your best photo at email@example.com, with your name, title of the photo, the city where you live, portfolio website and what gear you used to get the shot. Files should be saved at 72 dpi JPEG at least 1000 pixels on its longest edge. Please do not include a watermark, if chosen we will add one to your photo.
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