Before I start to explain the process used to create the above photograph, I wanted to thank Krista (an actress from Toronto whom I met during a Lighting Essentials workshop, visit her website here) for being such a good sport having endured the cold temperature of Montreal at the end of November with such grace. She is a fun and dynamic person fun to work with.
This specific photo was taken at the end of the shooting and as we were about to walk back to the coffee shop for a well deserved rest and a hot coffee, I was struck by the beauty of the stairs and the different textures of the side of this building located in the Ghetto McGill in Montreal.
I had bring my tripod and after taking a few photos, I decided to setup my Nikon D200 with a Tamron 17-50mm F/2.8. Before putting Krista into the frame, I took a few photos to make sure I was underexposed from 1.5 stops then I asked Krista to sit at the bottom at the stairs and act a little worried as if she was looking at someone upstairs, I then positionned my SB-900 with Speedlight Pro Kit diffuser and took this shot.
then, I asked her to go up the stairs and look down as if she was spying on a person downstairs and I adjusted the flash so it would lighten her a dialed it up a little in power.
For the last part, I wanted her to act as if she was intrigued by the whole scene. This time I had to move the flash.
I had to use a fourth image to cover the location where the flash was in Photoshop.
Then when all was packed and that everybody was warm at home, I started by putting each photo on a different layer and started masking so that the flash and lightstand would disappear. The lighting looks a bit surreal, but that was what I was aiming for.
Once it was done, I started adjusting contrast, tones and colours using adjustment layers (curves and black and white) and blending modes (color dodge for the door). I then went on adding some tonal contrast using high pass sharpening with a high radius. I added a few more effects after web resizing.
Here is a video showing the different steps involved:
David Giral is a published Montreal/Toronto based editorial and commercial professional photographer specialized in architecture, interiors, portrait and travel photography.
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