Shadow Dancer: Behind the Scenes (Photography & Retouching)

Written by: Glyn Dewis

Published: November 28, 2012

Category: General

Hey Everyone,

How’s it going?

Today I thought I’d give you a bit of a Behind the Scenes look at what went into my recent Shadow Dancer picture.

The final picture is a composite that was originally shot in a studio and I guess the retouching side of things took maybe 1 hour or thereabouts.

Before / After
These two pictures show the Before (Out of Camera) image and then the After (Retouched) image.

Extra shadows have been added in such as the window frame on the wall behind our model Nadine, and shooting against a grey background meant that the original shadows were able to be used too.

The brick wall and floor were two separate pictures that I had on my hard drive. I’ve mentioned before about why, when I’m out on a shoot or just happen to have my camera with me, I’ll take photos of things around me such as walls, floors, textures, the sky and so on. The reason I do this is to constantly build up my own collection of stock images. I’ve got folders on my hard drive full of all kinds of things and some that I many never use but hey, the beauty of digital means they didn’t cost me a penny to collect.

So many times in the past I paid for stock images only to find that they didn’t actually work all that well in the picture I’d intended them for; Result = Wasted £££.

Sure there are always going to be things I won’t be able to photograph and use in my pictures so then I will have to resort to stock, but for the majority of the time I’ll use my own pictures.

Lighting Set Up
Couldn’t have been much simpler…

One strip box to the rear left and what ended up being a large Octabox to the front.

When it comes to lighting for my composites I’ll always set it up with my final picture in mind. For example if I knew that in my final picture the main subject was going to be facing camera and with a bright light source behind them such as light from the sun then I’d use a 3 light set up i.e. 2 rim lights and some fill to the front to mimic or replicate the highlights that would naturally appear. If on the other hand I knew in my final picture that I was going to have my main subject and there was going to be a wall light or street light in the scene then I’d consider using just two lights i.e. a rim or spotlight to replicate the street light and then a little bit of fill…does that make sense?

Basically what I’m saying here is that by planning my shoot and having a pretty good idea of what I want to end up with, it really helps with the whole process from what the model looks like, what they wear, how they pose, the lighting and then as a result of all this…how to retouch the final picture.

However as I mentioned in an earlier post, with this picture things were done a little different as it was made during a workshop and our model Nadine had complete creative control, so I was unaware what she’d be wearing on the day; hence why it’s taken a while to get a feel for how I wanted to edit this particular picture. I did know though that I waned to make it look as though there was a street light…hence using one strip box.

Retouching Stages
The grid of pictures below gives you an idea of the retouching stages to take the out of camera photo through to the final retouched picture.

Here’s a rough list of what kind of retouching steps were gone through in Photoshop:

  • Lightroom Adjustments
  • Body Shaping
  • Remove/Reduce Tan Lines
  • Add in Brick Wall Background
  • Add in Floor
  • Match Color between Scene and Model
  • Dodging & Burning
  • Add in Light Sources
  • Add in Shadows (Window Frame)
  • Colour Effects
  • Final Look

Ok that’s all from me for today…I hope it was helpful/useful.

As always if you have any questions/comments then feel free to make use of the comments section below.

In the mean time though have a great Wednesday and I’ll catch you back here tomorrow,

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1 Comment

  1. Bob Bell

    Top tips as usual Glyn. Made me think about lights different, too. The more pictures I took understood the importance of light but don’t suppose I’ve seen the potential in having them ‘mimic’ real life lights, until now. So cheers! 😉



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