The following is the fourth image in a series titled “Altered States”, which is something I am working on right now. The series is a cheeky challenge to the absurd perception we have of the dualism that sees altered consciousness and mental disorder opposed to the reassuring accepted set of notions we identify with normality. This image in the specific started as an easy project, but for a while it made me go bonkers.
You can’t win them all, as the saying goes. I had a rough sketch in mind for the image, but I didn’t have the time to complete it for a whole week. I only had the time to snap a couple of rushed shots at first, but on closer inspection they were unusable. The light was all wrong, with blown highlights and boring illumination overall. I spent hours on a forgettable combo of pictures attempting to save it in post without much success.
After struggling for a few days with the first version of the image, I finally recognized there wasn’t much I could do to make it look “right”. The amount of processing I had applied ruined in part the feel I wanted for the image on the whole. In spite of the ridiculous amount of processing applied, the quality of the light was still noticeably horrible. Even with the most sophisticated software you can’t fix boring lighting. The first version was simply a poor rendition of my original idea and I had to discard it.
I had to start over from scratch. This time, I took the time to assess the light situation with great care. I had to take several shots, changing exposure according to the amount of light coming from the windows (it was a cloudy day and the light was changing fast), making sure there were no important details lost and overexposed areas on the skin. I used Camera+ for shooting, with timer set to 30 seconds and EV correction of -1.3. I also used a regular Manfrotto tripod with Joby GripTight mount attached.
This is a simple composite made of three separate shots. As I explained above, the hardest part was getting the light right; putting the images together was very easy after that. There was a great deal of cloning involved in the preliminary stage of my editing, in order to get rid of environmental clutter. I used Handy Photo’s Retouch and Clone tools for the initial massive clean-up of the base photo. I moved the result into Leonardo, where I combined the three shots by masking out areas from the upper images. I also used Leonardo for a little perspective correction, for dodging and burning on blank grey layers set to Soft Light, and for completing the cloning process started in Handy Photo. I applied additional effects in Rays to draw some of the attention to the light coming from the small skylight overhead. For adjusting local contrast, I opened the image in Simply HDR, where I used one of the Smooth presets and made slight adjustments to it. I then transferred the photo into Mextures, and applied one of my custom formulas for adding dust and fade the overall colors. I was unsure if I wanted to bring out a painterly style in this image by overlaying a copy of the edited picture over the result I had so far after processing it in an app like Glaze; in the end, I decided that a more realistic, detailed look was what I wanted, so I finally opened the image in Vsco Cam, and applied the LV 2 preset.