Building a Post Apocalyptic Fantasy World Image

Building a Post Apocalyptic Fantasy World Image

I don’t get to work on a lot of personal or particularly creative work while race season is in full swing but this past weekend was an off weekend for the Maritime Pro Stock Tour and the planets all aligned to put me in the studio with some of the best creatives in the city for a *very* cool fantasy concept.

Catherine Richardson, our model for the project, came to me a few weeks ago to discuss creating a post-apocalyptic image and shared some ideas of what she had in mind for a look. Hair-stylist Holly Fredericks, who has won many prestigious hair competitions and has been published internationally in fashion magazines around the world, was on board from the beginning and after our initial discussions about the look, it was only natural that I invite Bryana Doyscher, my usual make-up artist and one of the best in the city, but who usually only gets to do basic “glamour” make-up for me. Needless to say she was thrilled to be able to let loose creatively and help with this project too. And our team was set. 🙂

Since I posted the edited image on Facebook on Wednesday, I’ve been asked several times for some insight into how the image was created, so I thought I would create a blog post that shows a little more detail. Not quite a tutorial, but a more detailed description of the process. I hope you enjoy reading a little about my workflow, I’ll try to keep it light. 😉

To start with, the creative team met over coffee a few days before the scheduled shoot to discuss details of the look we were going for and plan the wardrobe choices, props, overall feel and hammering out some of the finer details. After our discussion, we were all pretty excited about the shoot.

Sunday evening, we all met at the studio and Bryana and Holly dove straight into make-up and hair while I started setting up the strobes and background.

Blue Screen
Raw blue screen image (SOOC no model)

The set itself was a simple blue paper backdrop. I set up a couple of apple boxes and wrapped them with some blue paper as well so they would all be easier to mask out later in Photoshop. Then on to setting up the lights…

The model images were lit using 5 studio strobes. I positioned two 1-4 strip lights near the vertical part of the background pointed back toward the model for rim or back lighting and added two more bare bulb strobes with 7″ reflectors to wash the backdrop and give me a more even mask later in Photoshop. Here is the final “blue screen” image of Caroline.

A rough look at the lighting setup for the blue screen images
A rough look at the lighting setup for the blue screen images

Finally, I used one of my favorite lighting mods, a 48″ deep octa for the key light positioned close enough to soften the edges a touch while far enough to cover the full length shots I had in mind for some of the final images. My wonderful wife stepped in for some of the preliminary lighting tests while the creative team started piecing together the wardrobe and adding fake blood and creating the final make up touches. Perfect.

Catherine is a fantastic model. Utterly professional and on point from the word go. We shot about half a dozen poses with final images in mind and then switched focus to creating a few portfolio images for the creative team. I don’t know why I *never* think to take BTS photos until afterwards, but I’m going to work harder on that in the future. The photo shoot itself took less than 40 minutes. Wow!

Anyway, on to creating the final image… 🙂

The background images came from a family vacation to Las Vegas. The original image is fairly flat but had some potential, so I added some contrast and painted in some color in the foreground and sky to give more of a “something is wrong with this world” feel. Here’s a before and after of the background.

Original (SOOC) Background Image
Original (SOOC) Background Image
Background image after editing in Lightroom
Background image after editing in Lightroom
Blue Screen
Public domain image from Rameshng (wikipedia team)

Next I found a great public domain image of a column of smoke from Rameshng called Fire_and_carbon_smoke.jpg from the Wikipedia project that fit perfectly into the village in the background of my Red Rocks image. I added the image, masked the smoke and added the flames using the new “Fire” filter in Photoshop CC 2015.

Blue Screen - Catherine
Original blue screen image (SOOC)

Next, I brought in the blue screen image of Caroline and began creating the mask to remove the blue background. For the most part, this is fairly straight forward. I start with the “Color Range” selection and then move on to the “Refine Edge” tool to add back any “blue” that the Color Range may have accidentally removed. Finally, I edit the mask itself using the Dodge and Burn tools to remove any unwanted transparencies and sharpen the mask.

A snapshot of the Photoshop layers involved in this setup
A snapshot of the Photoshop layers involved in this setup

Next, I add a drop shadow layer as a separate layer derived from the masked layer of Caroline and manually transform it to give a more natural shadow and help make the overlay appear more natural. Then, I add a blank layer on top and do a little manual dodge and burn on top of the subject layer to further blend the images together.

Once the image is saved and brought back into Lightroom, I add a few final adjustments to the overall color and tone, burn the edges a little and Voila! Post apocalyptic Caroline. 🙂

Thanks for the interest in my creative work. I’m happy to answer your questions and hope to add some specific Photoshop tutorials over the coming winter.Final Image (Watermarked)