Photo Shoot & Technique: Spriggan Mist

Written by: Glyn Dewis

Published: March 21, 2011

Category: General

Ok so as promised, here’s some images and a walk through from the recent promo photo shoot with band, Spriggan Mist

Now the first and most important thing we had to sort out was the location for the shoot. Spriggan Mist are a Folk Rock Band with a Pagan influence so from the start we knew we’d be shooting out on location, but we needed somewhere ‘mystical’ so the question was…where?

We eventually settled for a location that was a little off the beaten track but perfect for the whole feel of what we wanted; Ankerwycke Yew Tree…an ancient Yew tree close to the ruins of St Mary’s Priory, the site of a Benedictine Nunnery built in the 12th Century and said to be the location where King Henry VIII met Anne Boleyn in the 1530’s … Perfect 🙂

On the day of the shoot things didn’t start off too promising with an early downpour of rain but thankfully by the time we’d all arranged to meet, the rain had turned to bright sunshine. In the photographs below you can see by the one on the left despite being under the canopy of the Yew Tree how bright the day turned out to be…

On the day of the shoot my good friend Noel Hannan came along to help out; and what a great help he was too. You can just about make him out in the screen grab below where he’s working through his repertoire of ‘catalogue poses’ when we were testing the light positions 🙂

Lighting Set Up:
Now, rather than subject you to another one of my ‘artistic’ lighting diagrams, here’s a BTS (Behind The Scenes) photograph taken by Noel showing exactly what lights were used and where.

For the two Nikon SB800 Speedlights indicated in the centre of the photograph, one was positioned on the branch to give the burst of light you can see in some of the images and another was placed on the ground inside the tree itself to give a little kick of light rather than leaving a ‘black hole’.

Below is a ‘portait’ orientated version of the group shot where you can see the burst of light from the Nikon Speedlight on the branch. I actually did a variety of shots of the same scene; some with the burst of light and some without so as to give the band a little more choice when it comes to using the images in their promotional material.
I quite like the feel of the Black & White versions of the group shots, so again to give the band that much more choice they were provided with both. Incidentally, all the Black & White’s were done using Nik Silver Efex Pro which is my only ‘go to’ place for conversions…absolutely love it! I’ve yet to upgrade to the latest version but judging by some of the feedback I’ve read online, it’s a must!

I wanted to make use of smoke in some of the shots so as to give the impression of low lying mist but not having hired a generator and smoke machine I opted for a cheaper ‘smoke in a can’ product. Now I’ll be honest and say I thought that having no breeze around would have meant the smoke in a can would have worked sufficiently well but this was definitely a case of ‘you get what you pay for’.

No matter how long a burst we gave the cannister, the smoke disappeared almost immediately giving no time at all to include it in a shot let alone ‘fan it’ to get the desired coverage.

So long story short, the cannister was put where it belonged (back in the kit bag) and I carried on shooting knowing that I would be adding in the mist during the editing stage. So, that being said…here’s a really simple and quick technique for adding some mist / smoke into your images…

Step 1: Photograph some Clouds
Find yourself, or better still, take a photograph of a cloudy sky and then desaturate it. In the example below I’ve done this using Camera Raw; no special reason for this other than my shot needed a little more contrast adding and seeing as it was there, a little clarity too…

Step 2: Position your Sky/Cloud Layer in Photoshop
Now that you’ve got your desaturated sky/cloud image the next thing to do is to bring it into Photoshop and put it on the layer ‘above’ the photograph that you want to add the smoke/mist to.

Once in Photoshop simply drag and resize the sky/cloud layer to the area where you want the final smoke/mist to be. In my example I only wanted the mist to be on the ground so I just dragged the layer to the bottom part of the photograph…

Step 3: Screen Blend Mode and Layer Mask
For the final part of the technique simply change the blend mode of your sky/cloud layer to ‘Screen’ and add a white layer mask by clicking on the Layer Mask icon at the bottom of the layers panel.

Then, with a soft edged, black brush simply paint away the top part of the sky/cloud layer so that the hard line disappears and the layer blends in seamlessly. As the smoke/mist is on it’s own layer, you can then lower it’s opacity until you get the look you’re after. In my example I found an opacity of 70% worked quite well…

Editing in Photoshop
Below you can see an example of a ‘Before‘ (Out of Camera) image and an ‘After‘ (Final edited) image, where apart from reducing the hard shadow on the floor and on the woman in red, the editing consisted mainly of working on the colour/tone, enhancing details, adding contrast to skin, darkening the edges and of course adding in the smoke/mist…

Lastly, during the editing phase I also added in an extra light source onto the tree using a ‘spotlight’ technique so as to bring out a little more detail and prevent it from appearing too dark; something which didn’t look necessary during the shoot but did once able to see the images on the big screen.

As always if you have any questions / comments then please feel free to make use of the comments section below but in the mean time,
Enjoy 🙂

And Finally…
Congratulations to Terry Donnelly who has won the signed copy of RC Concepcion’s best selling book ‘Get Your Photography on the Web‘ for his breakdown of the lighting set up for the group shot posted in last weeks competition…
Keep up with Glyn ‘Day to Day’ on Twitter
Get more ‘Behind the Scenes’ by becoming a ‘Fan on Facebook’

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  1. Scot Baston

    Sounds like it was not the easiest shoot to pull off but I’m loving the results.

    Good to see the lighting BTS shot, I’m interested finding out more about working with both speedlights and studio lights

    • Glyn

      @Scot…There definitely were a few ‘challenges’ but then that’s always the case with location shoots as I’m sure you know well enough. Having Noel along was a massive help so we just took our time and worked through whilst band tucked into a picnic behind us 🙂


  2. Melissia Griffith

    As usual, a very interesting and helpful tutorial. Thanks so much!

    • Glyn

      @Melissia…Thanks so much for that; great to hear it’s helpful.

      Regards, Glyn

  3. Noel

    Great shots Glyn, I really like the treatment you did to them afterwards; it makes then jump out. And another great walk through…

    • Glyn

      @Noel…Cheers for that mate; couldn’t have done it without you 🙂

  4. DaveT

    Hi Glyn,

    The BTS pullback shot showing the lighting setup is excellent and it really helps in developing my understanding of how you rig the lights. And, after my stab at trying to work out how you set them up (last post), I clearly need to do more on that front ;-).

    I love the B&W version of the shot- it’s got lovely deep rich blacks and locks impactive. It’s also got me wondering about Silver Effex Pro 2 – so I am going to look at that.

    BTW when I was at Focus I picked up some information from Ilford Lab Direct who do digital printing of B&W images onto photographic paper. The samples I saw really looked good.

    Thanks for another informative post

    • Glyn

      @DaveT…Yeah I think these BTS shots like Noel has taken work alot better than subjecting everyone to my drawings…lol 🙂

      Thanks for your comments re the photos mate and yeah Nik Silver Efex Pro is definitely worth looking at. BIG advantage is that in the conversions you see hardly any ‘banding’ if at all, whereas some methods it can really show up.

      Cheers, Glyn

      ps> Thanks for the ‘heads up’ re the printing; I’ll have to look more into that.

  5. Steve

    Thanks for the insight Glyn, the BTS shots are really helpful and a great technique for the mist. Cheers Steve

    Nik SEP 2 is well worth the upgrade!

    • Glyn

      @Steve…You’re welcome mate and thanks for the recommendation re upgrading to SEP 2; I guess it was only a matter of time until ‘Buy Now’ was pressed 🙂


  6. Terry Donnelly

    Superb Glyn, not many people go to the trouble you do to show the BTS, people really appreciate the effort you make.

    And btw so excited over the book, it looks amazing! Thanks!

    • Glyn

      @Terry…Thanks for that mate, I really appreciate it.


      ps> Book will be with you early next week 🙂

  7. David Kelly

    Great BTS posting Glyn – really big thanks for taking the time on this one.

    • Glyn

      @David…You’re welcome mate; thanks for looking in 🙂


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