How’d You Do That?!!

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Ever since I posted THIS Song of the Day last week, I’ve been getting e-mails from photo geeks around the World asking me about the shot of Kate Tucker in that field. I’ve had more theories tossed my way than I ever could have imagined, from the type of lighting…did I use an HMI spotlight or studio strobes or small, battery-powered flash units…to whether or not Kate was even in the field…a lot of you actually are convinced she was shot in the studio and stripped into a stock field shot! All of this speculation knocked me out, especially since the truth is that it was a kind of a throwaway that neither Kate or I thought was working, so we bailed on it and moved on to another idea after only five or six frames!

So…for your photo-geeky viewing enjoyment…here’s a breakdown of the shot and the post-processing steps involved in making it look the way it does…

We shot this on the Hasselblad H1 with the Leaf Aptus 75 back which gave us this very normal, if a little flat, RAW file. To keep the lighting dramatic, the only light I used is that Profoto beauty dish (with a grid) you see above her head. It was powered by a Profoto 7B at about half power which nicely darkened the mid-day ambient light down to mimic twilight…

Next, I had to do a bit of cosmetic retouching and obviously the light boom and sandbag had to go, but since I grey-balanced the shot heavy on the blue side, I had to bring back the vivid red of the dress and yellow tone of the guitar. I also lowered the contrast and added a bit of shadow detail using the ‘Shadow/Highlights’ adjustment because I knew that a few steps down the line I would be amping up the levels and contrast a lot…

Now came some color correction. Leaf RAW files are inherently flat and need a lotta help to get the kind of color I like in my final images, and in this case, because of that very blue white-balance I did, I inserted a Color Adjustment Layer and added 20 Red to the shadows and 20 Cyan to the highlights…

…then I added a Selective Color Adjustment Layer and really increased the Blue and Cyan levels…

Next, I pumped up the contrast in the Curves and Levels Adjustment Layers…

…and the contrast went up even more when I duplicated the image layer, converted it to ‘Soft Light’ and applied a healthy dose of the High Pass filter set at a radius of 150 pixels…

With the higher contrast, the High Pass layer added a lot of drama, but I still felt I had to draw more attention to Kate, so in a final step I created a new Overlay Layer (filled with 50% grey) and I ‘burned’ down the horizon line, the grass on either side of her and a bit of the sky, then I dodged the grass directly around her to make more of a spotlight effect…

That’s it…a simple photo in only seven steps!!! And here are all of those steps…side-by-side…one final time…

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