Turning The Barron’s Roundtable Into ‘The Minority Report’

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

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In the last episode of ‘Damn Ugly Photography’, we took a look at the first week of the 2016 Barron’s Roundtable Shoot…but now I’m gonna show you how I convinced our nine financial professionals to act as stand-ins for Tom Cruise in his movie, ‘The Minority Report’. You remember…this one…

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Adrian Delucca and I had been tossing ideas around for months on how to make this work. I had to generate the floating graphs and other graphics that would be ‘moved around’, and we also had to come up with the perfect background images to position the people against…

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…but probably the hardest thing would be how we could quickly get each Roundtable member to understand exactly what the final image would be and how to get them into position. Remember…I have less than ten minutes with each person and I had to shoot two other setups besides this one! I figured the smartest way around this would be to show them a pretty detailed mockup of our cover ideas with one of my assistants standing in, so on our setup day, I had Robert work his magic…

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The lighting was super-simple…just a single Profoto 3′ RFI Octa bank way up high on a boom…and a couple of medium strip skim lights with blue gels to mimic the lighting from the background…

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And the night before the shoot, I quickly Photoshopped this together…

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Showing each person the print before we got started proved to be the exact thing they needed to illustrate what we wanted them to do…

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Now we just had to get them to do their best impression of Marcel Marceau without feeling too self conscious…

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Point up at the graph…uhhhh….hand…..

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Here are a few of the raw images…

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And now comes the fun part…editing through the 1000 images I took to find the few I can use that will actually look like everyone was in the same place at the same time. Then, floating all the graphs in place while remembering I had to save lotsa room for cover headlines. Here’s how the Week Two cover came together…

First, the background image…made a bit fuzzier for perspective…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

Now, add the people…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

Then, the basic graphs…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

Now I had to add in some shadows, haloes and color shifts to the graphs so they looked like the were actually floating in space…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

Next I pasted in a few techie-looking graphics and charts…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

I decided to tone down the blue of the background cuz it as taking away from the overall dark mood I was aiming for…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

And finally I increased the contrast, desaturated the skin tones and added a glow around the fingertips…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

Our final cover…

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Using the same steps, I worked up another image for the opener…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

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The Week Three images came together pretty much the same…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

For the final steps, I messed with the focus on the background cuz it was drawing attention away from the foreground and shifted the overall blue cast more towards cyan/green…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

Here’s the Week Three cover…

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…and the opener…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

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Now if all that Photoshop geek talk hasn’t put you to sleep and you’re hankerin’ for more, you can watch the layers progressions on both cover images in these two YouTube videos…and then I promise, no more Roundtable talk for a while…..

Week Two Cover Layers:

Week Three Cover Layers:

The 2016 Barron’s Roundtable Extravaganza – Part One

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

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As anyone who has visited Damn Ugly Photography on a regular basis knows, the first week of January is when we decamp for the warm embrace of the Harvard Club to shoot the annual Barron’s Roundtable. This year was no different, and apart from there being a few familiar Roundtable members missing and replaced with a couple of new guys, the formula remains the same. We have two hours to shoot each of the nine Roundtable members…separately since they all arrive at staggered times…with the objective being that we need enough varied poses to fabricate four individual covers (three in January and one more for the mid-year report in June) as well as four feature photos to open the story with each week. We start at around 8:00AM and have to be totally done by the time the meeting begins at 10:00. If the thought of shooting nine people for four covers and four openers in two hours isn’t daunting enough, we also have to get each Roundtable member to wrap their head our concepts for the covers immediately…and remember…these aren’t models. They’re financial professionals. Trying to get them to understand the varied poses I need so that I can manufacture a cover where they all look like they’re relating to each other is harder than any of the technical tricks we work on!

So here is how the shoot for the first week’s cover went…

Our Week One cover and opener revolved around this image of a World Map…

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Using some old images of the Roundtable members from a previous shoot, I put together this comp…

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…so when people arrived, I could quickly show them a visual representation of what we were going to do…

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As usual, we have to set up multiple lighting sets for our different poses in a very small room…this time we had three individual sets…

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…everything is in the same place…hair & makeup, three sets and a very small area where people can hang out until we get them on set…

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For the cover, we wanted everyone to react to the people around them…people who weren’t there when we did the shoot…so Robert got to carry on imaginary conversations to get each persons attention aimed in the right direction…

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We did luck out once when Bill Priest and Brian Rogers overlapped, so we shot them together…

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…but for the most part, they had to wave their hands around like a weatherman in front of a green screen…

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So my raw materials from this part looked like this…

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Now I just had to pick the appropriate images where everyone looked like they were all together at the same time. Here’s how the cover got pieced together…

First, the base background image…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

Next, the base image is flipped to make the floor, and I also de-focussed it so it looked more like a real reflection…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

Now I could mess with the color & contrast for the combined background…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

…and add a few people…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

…and the rest follow…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

…and finally, I added shadows and more color & contrast tweaks…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

…which gave us our cover for Week One…

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Now I could move on to the inside feature image. I stated with the same base image layer, but I destaurated the blue cast a bit and lightened the upper area so that we could overlay type onto it easier…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

The inside poses needed to be a bit more serious, due to the recent instability of the markets…

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The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

The ‘assembled’ group…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

…the final image with shadows & color alterations…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

…and our opening feature image…

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So that was Week One. Tune in again next week to see how Adrian Delucca, Pam Budz and I put together Week Two & Week Three!

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Behind The Scenes At The 2011 Barron’s Roundtable PART THREE

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The year is half over and that means The Mid-Year Roundtable issue of Barron’s has hit the stands. I’ve already spilled the beans on some of some of what went down at the Harvard Club that cold day in January in PART ONE and PART TWO, and now comes the final story of how we shot the ten members of the Roundtable separately and put ’em all together into a cover, an inside opener and individual portraits that would accompany each of their stock picks.

Adrian DeLucca and I figured we would hammer home the Global theme we started in the January issue by shooting each person against a section of a World map and I thought it would be a perfect opportunity for me to squeeze a few Artificial Portraits in at the same time. I photographed a giant map I picked up from IKEA and then printed it out in ten 40″ x 50″ sections that would serve as a backdrop for each individual portrait…..

Since we had precious little time to waste the day of the shoot, I decided to ‘map out’ who would be in front of which section ahead of time…..

I kept the lighting pretty simple…just a gridded 20″ Profoto beauty dish way up high on a boom and an on-camera ringlight…..

Because we were jumping between the two sets, I gave myself a few cheaters to remind me what my settings should be…..

Oh yeah…just about forgot…I added an over the shoulder fill in the form of an open-face Octalite…..

…all of which gave us ten images that I had to re-assemble into a map of the World…..

…which looked like this on the cover…..

…with a variation for the inside opener…..

But while I was shooting the images for the cover, I also had to come away with some individual portraits that were a bit different and that’s where the Artificial Portraits came in…..

…and these shots were peppered throughout the article…..

And another year of the Roundtable was in the can! So until next January, Photo Editor Adrian DeLucca, Art Director Pam Budz and yours truly wish you well!

Behind The Scenes At The 2011 Barron’s Roundtable PART TWO

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I could have subtitled this post “How To Make 10 People Appear Out Of Thin Air” cuz that’s kinda what we had to do with the inside shots for this years Barron’s Roundtable issue. It took a little arm-twisting, but I convinced Adrian that after all these years of assembling individual portraits of the Roundtable members into our fanciful group shots, this would be a perfect time to pull away the curtain…up to a point…and show a bit of the behind-the-scenes magic and Photoshoppery that is involved in making ten people look like they were actually in the same room at the same time. My idea was to do a pulled-back view of the cover image showing the lights, assistants and set dressing, as well as having some fun with the MacBeth color-checker while we were at it, much like what I do in the Light Test galleries on my website. But the truth was that we would still be tricking the viewer into thinking they were seeing a real look at the set, when in fact the entire shot was created in Photoshop!

You’ll remember from Part One that we shot everybody separately on the black velvet set…..

…but those shots weren’t wide enough for me to insert all ten people, so we cleared the set, widened the black velvet and shot a blank canvas for me to assemble the group shot with…

Unfortunately, even that area wasn’t wide enough, so I had to stretch it even further in Photoshop into this…

You’ll notice that besides making the velvet area wider, I also corrected the lens distortion by straightening the verticals and I also added a few A-Clamps to the crossbar holding the velvet. Now I could get to work filling in the lighting. I added a second hairlight boom, and three beauty dishes on the bottom of the frame…

…and then cloned in the posing table and some sandbags, four times…..

…which got us to the point where I could start adding bodies!

…and then get the whole gang together…

Now by this time, I had worked up a pretty complex file with more than 30 layers…

There were more than 25 image layers alone, with things like hands, shadows, tabletops, light booms, and various body parts overlapping and blending into one another…trust me, it’s a lot to keep track of!

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But after all the cloning and cropping and positioning and blending and color-correcting, this was the final image…..

…and here is how it looked in Barron’s…

Now I figure after all that, y’all should have the basics down for how to fake a big group, so I won’t bore you with another step-by-step breakdown of the two additional shots I put together for the following two shots, but here’s what we did for week two and week three of the Roundtable Reports…

Week Two:

Week Three:

So there you have it…for now! Remember, I still have the two situations we did for the Mid-Year cover to talk about, but not until June when it gets published!

OK…OK…there is this…….

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…