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HOW I MADE THIS: X-FILES - PRODUCT/ADVERTISING PHOTO

When it snowed in August, or as I took an advertising photo for a children's footwear manufacturer.

 

INTRO

As it used to be in advertising business, spring and summer ads are executed in the winter months and vice versa. Ads for autumn / winter products or services are photographed or filmed in the summer. It was no different in this case. I received an order from a client to take an advertising photo of their new product. It was a new model of children's shoes for winter. I got a free hand, what more can a creative photographer want :-)
But there was one condition. The client wanted him to "fall on his butt" from the photo - which is great, but at the same time also a big responsibility for me to succeed.

PLANNING

The assignment was clear, just to invent it and realize it. A helpful clue was that the shoe model is called MOON. They were made in silver color and are designed for winter. I started to plan the photo and ideas started to flicker in my head.

Winter - snow - frost - moon / moon - space - forest - aliens – x files - night.

Anyway, I stopped by the idea that what if these shoes were teleported to Earth by the inhabitants of another planet to keep little feet warm and comfortable. I have probably seen many sci-fi movies.

PROPS

Since at the time I was taking the picture was about 30 degrees outside in the shade, I had to imagine what I would need to materialize my vision. First of all, it was snow. After a bit of googling, I already had 2 types of artificial snow in my shopping cart. I did not work with him before, so I decided to buy a spray variant and loose packed snow. Later it turned out to be a great idea to have both. The photo was supposed to take place in the forest, so I needed some natural elements. I went for a walk in the woods and "bought" other props to help me evoke the atmosphere.

Dusan Holovej - product and advertising photography

LIGHTING

As they say "piece of cake". The shoes were supposed to be teleported to our planet. It logically came to me that one light must be above the shoes aiming down. On the stand I placed a strobe light with a reflector on which I also used a honeycomb grid. The task of the honeycomb was to soften the light and to create the effect of a light beam coming from above. To emphasize that this is a sci-fi idea and at the same time the whole story takes place in the winter - I used a light blue filter. I placed another light behind the product about 45 degrees to the right of the camera. I also used a honeycomb reflector - this light was supposed to separate the boot from the background, give them a third dimension and create nice outline reflections on them. I used the last third light in combination with a large softbox that was supposed to be a fill light /lighten the dark spots on the shoes/.

Dusan Holovej - product and advertising photography

As I mentioned in the previous blog, most of my product or advertising photos are taken at my home. In the picture above you can see how the living room has turned into a studio :-).

Dusan Holovej - product and advertising photography

In this picture you can see how I put my shoes on. On the far right, only the light from above with a blue filter and the backlight are used. On the left is the same as the right + complemented by a third fill light with a softbox. In the middle is a combination of right and left + I used a white foam core board to bounce light back on the shoes to lighten the shadows on the velcro.

 

PHOTO SESSION

Before shooting I set the scene. I put props from the forest - stones and some wood on the table. Then was part for the artificial snow. As I mentioned in the Props section, buying snow in a spray and a loose variant proved to be a great idea. At first I sprayed everything with a spray - it didn't look very realistic, but when I sprinkled the stones and the branch with loose snow, it began to look like a winter landscape. As a background I used a black foam core.

Dusan Holovej - product and advertising photography

I prefer to shoot more assets, so I have more options later in compositing.

Dusan Holovej - product and advertising photography

Except of the product photos of shoes and winter landscape, I also needed some special effects. Falling snow and smoke. I didn't want to use the stock photos or some paintbrushes, so I took a photos my self. I snowed with a spoon and took pictures on a black background. Such flakes are very easy to get rid of the background.

Dusan Holovej - product and advertising photography

As for the smoke, it was also no science. How to make the smoke last on the scene longer I observed from the instructions how to take pictures of food.
Tip for you: if you are photographing food and want the effect that the food is hot and smoke is rising up. Just dip a piece of cotton wool in boiling water. Cotton wool absorbs the water and keeps it warm longer. Then just put the cotton wool behind the photographed object / food. It is also important that the light is placed behind the photographed smoke, so that its structure is better reflected.

Dusan Holovej - product and advertising photography

POSTPROCESSING

All the elements are captured, now it’s a masking time - removing the background. Shoes came first. I used the pen tool. Such masked shoes I placed in a new document.

Dusan Holovej - product and advertising photography

In the next step I needed to mask out the snowy stones. They were photographed on a black background. The fact that I snowed them and, of course, thanks to the light created, there was a nice contrast between the stones and the background. Ideal for quick masking. Here I used a quick selection tool that did a great job. I put masked stones in a document with shoes.

Dusan Holovej - product and advertising photography

Smoke was next piece of puzzle. Masking it from the black background was also no problem. I used channel masking for this task. I chose the channel with the greatest background and smoke contrast, and duplicated it. With Levels adjustments, I increased the contrast, and by simply pressing ctrl + clicking on the edited channel thumbnail I made a selection. I put the masked smoke into the working document and also changed the blending mode to the screen, which automatically removed the black color that could remain in the layer after masking.

Dusan Holovej - product and advertising photography

I used the same method to mask out the falling snow. This kind of masking usually take me a few seconds, 1 minute max.

Dusan Holovej - product and advertising photography

In the next step I put a photo of the starry sky to the background / fig. left /. A few adjustments layers like a curves, levels and hue and saturation helped the sky blend better with the existing scene / fig. on the right/. I also increased the overall contrast of the entire composite.

Dusan Holovej - product and advertising photography

In the next step I drew a beam of light coming from the top and a few smaller beams. It was supposed to highlight the lighting from the above and thus the teleporting of the shoes themselves to the Earth.

Dusan Holovej - product and advertising photography

I added a cold lensflare on the right and left side , which took care of unifying the whole background.

Dusan Holovej - product and advertising photography

Now we come to the hardest part of the whole assembly. In essence, this is not difficult, but I must admit that in this step I completely failed. During the shooting I photographed all parts of the puzzle on a black background. It was the turn of the shooting of snow-covered branch. There I was immediately aware that when masking the black background would be a bad choice, because there would be a weak contrast between the branch and the background. Instead of black foam core board I used white. I took the branch with the good feeling that the light and the perspective fit with the other parts. I realized my failure only when masking the branch. I forgot one important thing - to light the background! The white foam core board was supposed to provide me with sufficient contrast, but since it was not directly lit. White became a dark gray-blue plate.

Dusan Holovej - product and advertising photography

I've tried all the techniques I know to unmask the branch, but since there was no contrast, nothing worked 100%. I have only one option left, which I kept for the end. I tell you what, masking a branch with a pen tool is really hard core. The mask is 100%, but I felt like a cinderella. It was a looooong job.

Dusan Holovej - product and advertising photography

There was only a cherry on the cake in front of me. All parts of the photo composite were where I wanted them. Finally, I added one lens flare to the middle of the top. I darkened the bottom part of the picture a little to avoid unnecessary attention and I also expected that the client will want to have his logo somewhere down in the middle. Finally, I sharpened the photo a little bit and exported a preview for the client.

Dusan Holovej - product and advertising photography

The client was very happy with the result and it was a Win-Win situation.


Finally, I would like to thank Mrs Alexandra Račková, the executive of RAK – GUGENIO company, with whom I have been communicating all the time. I have to say that cooperation with this brand was one of the best I have experienced so far, communication has always been friendly, full of optimism and positive energy. Once again, thank you for the opportunity and I look forward to some other projects in the future.

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