Recently, I joined a group on Flickr called Team Healing Brush.They are a group of photographers here in Korea who wanted to create a Flickr group based around the premise of sharing post processing techniques. To this end, they run a weekly processing contest in which a member submits a RAW file and the other users edit this file during the week, finally submitting it to a thread in the group for judging by the photographer/model. Although the same people tend to win, and the style of processing that they like is very rigid and fixed, it is a good place to learn a few things about post processing.
One of the founders, Jon Pak, recently made a thread promising a copy of their team’s Photoshop post processing book to the winner of a competition. The basic idea behind the competition was to create a five frame story, beginning from someone lounging around and preparing for bed, and ending in a dream. There were a few stipulations, but in the end, the content was entirely up to the photographer. The idea was to learn to develop a story, and hopefully make some progress in both photography and post processing.
I decided to create a sad story for my project, and plotted and planned my story on post it notes on my wardrobe (the place where all good ideas reside). One thing that I discovered before, after, and during this project was that it is really difficult to make a story with some kind of continuation over several frames.
First you must decide your story, this is the simple part. You decide what message you want to give the viewer. I decided on a sad story about a girl who dreams she is waiting for someone, and the someone never comes.
The next step is to decide the parts (in this case, five parts) of the story you wish to show to the viewer. This was tricky, because there are so many different ways to tell the same story. Luckily, we had our first two frames mapped out for us, as you can see in Jon’s thread. I pushed hundreds of ideas through my head every night before I slept, and eventually settled on telling the story with the visual aid of flowers.
Third was thinking of how to construct each part of the story as a still frame. Because we were limited to still frames, and five at that, we needed to consider what would be in each frame. I decided that I wanted all my frames to be very simple, and very focussed. I decided that each frame should tell a story on its own, and come together as one whole. One of m other goals in this shoot was to use at least one high-key frame. So, all of the brainstorming done, I put my best ideas onto post-it notes and put them on my wardrobe.
Next was planning the shoot. I’m a huge fan of soft, shaded light, and I really love to have my subject isolated in the frame. My preferred choice for isolating elements in a frame is Depth of Field, so I decided that my 85mm f1.4/D was going to be my weapon of choice for this mission. I also knew that I would need flowers, and of course lunch for my model.
The shooting day turned out to be a glorious sunny day, and unfortunately for me this meant lots of hard light. The location we chose was a park, and luckily spring is beginning, so the leaves were starting to cover the trees again. This was lucky for me in a couple of ways; first, I got my beloved soft light, and second it meant that my high key image was going to be easy to shoot. The shade would be a double edged sword for me, as it provided the soft light I wanted, it would also be 2-3 stops darker than the brighter background, meaning that I could easily create a high key image. The result of the following setup is the middle image of the composition at the end of this post.
The next image we shot was the final image in the composition. This image was probably the hardest to compose, but only required two or three frames of shooting to get the final image. Again, it was taken in the shade, shooting at ground level. I decided to have the flowers in focus for this image as I wanted to convey the feeling of being left behind.
Next was the tear. This was again shot in simple shade, and thanks to my amazing model, muse, and partner, was very easy to create. She has an ability to cry at will, incredible. For this shot, I framed, focussed, waited, and then just clicked frames as the first tear rolled down, hoping to get one that I liked.
Then we headed home, ready to take a couple of shots indoors. The final two were very simple. The sleeping shot was done using available window light, and a couple of boxes from around the room to block the direct light. The shower shot was taken by backlighting with a strobe.
By far, the hardest part of this, though, was putting these images together into a story. After bringing them all up on the screen that night, I realised my fatal mistake; I had tried to expose each of the shots perfectly for what I wanted the individual shot to look like, but unfortunately, they had to go together in sequence. I learned very quickly that rapid changes in exposure do not work very well together when you’re telling a story such as this one. Controlled light would have been the key to a more successful collection of images. Also, more attention paid to the forms and shapes in each image, so that not only the story, but the visual shapes developed as the story unfolded would have made for a much better collection. All these things learned, I will try to apply them next time I shoot a story.
Here’s the final image: