Oops…I Dropped the Eggs!!!

Oops! … I Dropped the Eggs!!!

The Behind-the-Scenes of How a Conceptual Image Is Made

The Story of how this Conceptual Photo Art Image was created is told below in 8 photos with explanations.

 
The idea for a “Norman Rockwell” style of image was a fun concept that I had in my head and I wanted to explore whether or not I could pull off. As a boy growing up in Mississippi, I absolutely adored Norman Rockwell and his take on ordinary, everyday life, with his fabulous sense of humor and a very recognizable style.
Rockwell is best known for his creations for the cover of Saturday Evening Post magazine and for his yearly calendars. In the following series of images, I explain the progression of my own CONCEPTUAL IMAGE CREATION, and how we worked through various issues and with a young model (little Miss Melody) to get to a final result that was what I was going for. Conceptual Imagery is pretty much just that… it begins with a “concept” or idea… a vision, if you will, of a photograph, a painting, a sculpture… and then the artist works through all the necessary things to bring that concept into being.

One of Rockwell’s paintings. This depiction of a “Tomboy” is a classic example of his style and sense of humor.

Of course, there can be changes and adaptations along the way, as the artist may “morph” his idea into an even stronger one as he or she goes. Or, in some instances, runs into a roadblock that simply can’t be overcome, so a compromise or workaround has to be made. In any case, this “glimpse” I’m providing is called BTS in the photography industry, which stands for “Behind the Scenes.” I’m providing only a partial glimpse, because a full BTS would include photos of my lighting and camera setup, and even photos of hair, makeup and wardrobe (HMU). But, that would have been virtually impossible because I was backed up against the far kitchen wall to begin with.
As for the HMU and wardrobe, I simply was too busy and didn’t get photos of that, which was being done by Melody’s mom and grandmother in the direction I had provided them. So, I hope this glimpse into image progression from start to finish is interesting for you. Of course I didn’t include everything, but it gives you a good idea in just 8 photographs.

 

Image #1: Beginning to frame up the best camera angle and start to stage the scene. Recognizing issues and problems that need to be addressed.

 
In Image 1 above, I have decided upon a basic camera angle to start out with, and then will tweak as we go. The Phase of Image making that I am in here – in fact this entire process of shooting the images – is called the PRODUCTION PHASE – where the photos are actually taken. This is actually Phase 2 of 3. Phase 1 has already been accomplished, which is PRE-PRODUCTION.
In that earlier phase, I had put out a Talent Call looking for a young, female model and had discovered Melody. I had also found a kitchen that was suitable (I didn’t want a modern kitchen because that wouldn’t have fit with the Rockwell style). I had ordered a bunch of egg props that looked like real eggs and weren’t all shiny, and had glued them together using a glue gun. You will see that cluster of eggs in upcoming photos.
Subsequently, I purchased several dozen real eggs to use in the setting. Working with Melody’s grandmother and mother, we had found some additional props for the background, such as a stack of wooden egg crates, several baskets, and other such things. The 3rd Phase, called POST-PRODUCTION, is where I will take the best image into editing and retouching for final processing. So, we “staged” the scene and removed things from the countertop and arranged things in a preliminary way.
A couple of problematic issues that I identified in this “scene” are: 1) the window is a distraction, as it is letting in far too much light and will draw the viewer’s eyes away from my subject, which of course is Melody, so that will need to be addressed; 2) The color temperature of the lighting is way too bluish, and will need to be warmed up – or made more amber. That is done in camera settings. Nevertheless, this is a very good foundational starting point for what will come.

 

Image #2: Seeing how our model fits into that scene and making improvements.

 
In Image 2, Melody has been in Hair, Makeup and Wardrobe by her Mom and Grandmother. We had talked before this day about the clothing she had available that would fit the concept. I had provided a photo of the hairstyle I wanted, which was a couple of “Mickey-Mouse” hair balls on each side of her head. They did a fantastic job with this.
At first, the two little balls were too far forward, and I had them moved further back on Melody’s head. Fortunately, these fantastic assistants, Lissa and Jennifer, were patient with me and readily fixed that issue. It’s the little things that if paid attention to, can make an image so much better. She didn’t need any makeup. In this test photo, we have moved Melody onto a small stool to raise her up higher.
Without the stool raising her up, she was far too low in the frame of the photo. I didn’t want to lower the camera because that would have completely changed the angle of view. We have also added more real eggs and an additional basket. We wanted a ton of eggs in the shot, because that’s part of the issue in the concept: there are just too many eggs!!! The window brightness and the blue color temperature have not yet been addressed.

 

Image #3: Getting some practice expressions in, and noticing a problem with the hair. However, I’m really liking where this is headed.

 

In Image 3, Melody is starting to practice the expression I want her to have for the image. I wanted a really surprised look that bespoke a shocked “OH-NO!!!”. She had actually been working on this at home with her Mom before Production day. While it’s not quite there yet, I can tell at this point she will be able to nail it when we actually get going. The hair ball on the right is a bit too far back and needs to be brought forward as it’s a bit difficult to see. However, I love the fact that if placed correctly, both hair balls will stand out in contrast to the white background of the cabinets.

 

Image #4: While the hair issue is fixed, I set the proper color temperature for this style of image and fix the bright window issue.

 
With Image 4, we are now half-way through the process! While Melody is getting the hair issue tweaked to perfection, we address the window brightness by bringing in a blind to cover the window. I also have addressed the color temperature issue, and know that this will not be a problem. You can see how much better this will look as a “warmer” image and fits the Rockwell style a bit better. You will also notice that the background props on the countertop have been changed as well.
Every single thing within the frame of the image is considered and evaluated. Why is this here?… Should that be left in or taken out? These are questions I constantly have to ask in such images. I’ve have been taught that every single thing within my frame should be evaluated. As to camera and lighting: my camera is on a tripod simply for convenience and so that there’s no chance of changing any angles. I have a huge soft-box for diffused light next to me on my left and is raised up as high as the ceiling will allow. Thus, I am using a single strobe, and working with some natural light that is filtering throughout the house and is bouncing off all of the white and off-white walls and ceilings. The overhead light in the kitchen has been turned off.

 

Image #5: Learning to hold the egg prop in a way that’s realistic (at least in theory)…

 
In Image 5, Melody is back on the stool, and is handed the cluster of eggs that have been glued together. I give her direction on how to hold them and we move her arms and hands into the proper location. Yes, the egg props are whiter and bluer than the real eggs, so that will have to be “fixed” in post-production retouching. She’s like, “Whoah, this is a hoot!” So, we are getting closer to shooting for real and moving beyond these test shots! For a young child, Melody was a trooper and was very easy to work with.

 

Image 6: Placing the last props (smashed eggs) and entering into taking the final shots – the time has come!

 
In Image 6 above, we are nearing the point where we go for final images so the last props are brought in, which are broken and smashed real eggs. Do you also notice how I have rotated the camera very slightly to the left to move just a bit away from that window, and to bring in more of the stacked egg crates in the background? In other words, final tweaks are being applied in an effort to make the image the best it can possibly be.
I learned attention to detail while in the U.S. Army as a Tank Commander. That same important principle applies aptly in conceptual image making, and really in all of photography and videography.

 

Image #7: Production is done – she nailed the expression I wanted and falling eggs are introduced into the image. Post-Production is in full swing.

 
In Image 7, she has nailed the expression after about a dozen or so “takes.” It really didn’t take that long for her to get it. In the image provided above, I have taken the photo into Post-Production and have cropped in a little tighter, and added some falling eggs with some blur and shadow on them to depict that they are in motion.

 

Image 8 (Final): The resulting image after weeks of planning and execution. You never knew it took this much did you?

 
In the Final Image, I have added some graininess (is that a word?) to the image to make it look more like the Rockwell vintage style, as well as warming up the cluster of eggs to more closely match the real eggs. Bringing in textures and grain over the entire image tends to “unify” the image and bring everything together. So, that’s the completed Conceptual Image Art that I was able to create with the help of some wonderful people and my awesome little model, Melody.
It’s just intended to bring a smile to your face, and sure was a lot of fun to envision and bring to reality! I hope you enjoyed this behind-the-scenes adventure. If you have, please give us a Like and a Follow on Facebook or leave a comment below. It’ll help me out. Thanks!

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Musician & Artist Brandon McCranie

 

Creative Portrait – Brandon McCranie

Welcome to Brandon McCranie’s zany, creative, and talented world!

In my Characters of Natchez photo series, I wanted to photograph a limited number of local people. My goal was to portray or reveal something in the photograph that would be uniquely them. To do so, I used a photographic style, lighting technique, camera angle, and setting that fit them. What I try to avoid is using a “one size fits all” approach. I didn’t want to force them into a single box, rather the box changed with what best represented each. This presented a challenge, but was much more rewarding because it stretched me artistically and creatively. This is known as “subject-centric” photography. This was the way I went into Creative Portrait – Brandon McCranie, a session with this well-known Natchez talent.

 

Scouting & Vision

Brandon is a very talented person who literally and figuratively wears many hats. When I conducted my research of Brandon, I learned that in addition to his energy and gregarious nature was his amazing variety of hats and caps! He is lead vocalist and guitarist in his band Mojo-Mudd. He’s also an amazing bottle-cap artist, and a popular radio personality at a local station. However, these three outlets of how he expresses his creative nature is not all that I wanted to capture in his portrait. When you meet Brandon and experience his friendly and zany personality, you become an instant friend. An extravert, he has a way of expressing himself that is truly unique. I wanted to bring that out in the portrait as well. Creative Portrait – Brandon McCranie

With Environmental Portraiture the idea is to capture the person in their own environment. Contrasty, in Studio Portraiture, you photograph your subject in a studio with a backdrop. This can be very effective because it isolates the subject in the photograph and focuses only on them. Both have their own impact visually. For Brandon I chose to go on location and shoot him in his bottle-cap workshop or in his home environment. Of course, the down side to this approach are the logistics of lugging lighting and camera gear! At this time of year in Mississippi (early August) when the session is outside (as this one was), the heat, humidity and mosquitos make it a challenge.

 

Creative Portrait – Brandon McCranie

After scouting around, I found an awesome location that matched my vision for the portrait. It took me four hours to gather gear, set up, do test shots, and shoot the session. Even though I was going for one special shot, my session with Brandon consisted of just over three hundred photographs. Each one of the exposures were taken for a reason, and was a deliberate attempt at some nuance of angle, shift in pose, lighting or wardrobe change. Brandon and I worked hard at continually tweaked every little thing, including arranging the individual bottle caps on his table. In addition, Brandon’s wardrobe, hat, gesture, posture, my angle of view, framing, lighting, lens and so forth were all carefully chosen to bring out the goal of the image: to truly represent him authentically. That is shooting deliberately. While it is often a challenge, I love the adventure of exploring and working a shot creatively.

At this point, a total of seven lights were employed, including studio strobes, a 53″ octabank (a large softbox), and various other high-tech lighting gear. We even plugged-in a $10 work light for some of the background lighting, so low-tech works perfectly well sometimes. The magic happened in this session when, following a hunch, I tried a very unorthodox lens for taking a portrait photo. A 16mm fisheye lens is normally used in special effects landscape kinds of shots. In fact, I knew if I kept him in the center of the frame the distortion on him would be minimized, but the rest of the scene around him would seem surreal. No doubt it was a risk creatively, by it was worth a try. Having him to lean in a bit made the shot work even more effectively.

 

The Unintended Other Portrait

After using a couple of lenses, I asked Brandon if he had time for me to play around with a new lens. I had just received a Lens Baby Composer Pro. This lens, an Edge 80 optic, allows me to have “slice” of focus area in my shot. Additionally, I can also widen or narrow that slice of focus, and move it around in my composition. 

 

 

Creative Portrait - Brandon McCranie

Portrait taken using the Lensbaby Edge 80 Optic.

The image I captured of Brandon using the Lens Baby is shown at left. In my opinion it captured another very important aspect of Brandon. The main shot (above) captured Brandon’s public persona. He is energetic, full of life, creativity, and talent. All of which are contributors to his wild world of color, music, art, and fun that make him larger than life. I chose a 16mm fisheye lens in the above photo, because it “warps” (in a good way) what we experience when we encounter Brandon. We enter his world when we view that photo (at least I hope it conveys that). But, in this second photo, a very different Brandon is seen … a quiet, reflective, thoughtful man who has hopes, goals, and a faith of his own. 

I can say that because I got to talk with Brandon awhile during this long shoot about his life and the direction he finds himself on. As a matter of fact, we spoke candidly about our lives and aspirations, both as “creatives” but also simply as men who want to be better human beings tomorrow than we are today. 

 

Summary

In conclusion, Brandon is a complex person, as most of us are. He is a deep thinker, a thoughtful, reflective, philosophical man. Like many of us, he has chosen to make a better life for himself and lift others around him in the process. No doubt that while the first shot best portrayed what I originally set out to do, the second shot portrayed another authentic aspect of Brandon. This is what is amazing about photography: how photos can tell very different stories, even if they are of the same subject just minutes apart.

So, welcome to Brandon’s world … both of them!

– Michael Chapman 

Creative Portrait – Brandon McCranie

Creative Portrait – Brandon McCranie

I hope you enjoyed the images and the peek behind the process of what I do, and how I got these shots. If you would like a “once-in-a-lifetime” portrait that captures some aspect of who you really are, then CONTACT ME to discuss your portrait. And remember, there’s always more going on around you – and inside of people – than what meets the eye.

 
 
 
 
Shoot Details and Camera MetaData:

Shot 1 (Top): Nikon D810; 16mm f/2.8 Fisheye Lens; ISO 64; f/2.8; 1/250s; tripod.

Shot 2 (Bottom): Nikon D810; Lens Baby Composer Pro with Edge 80 Optic (80mm); ISO 400; f/11; 1/5s; tripod.

Lighting: Elinchrom mono strobes (x3) with 53″ Octabox as key light (all others accents and kickers); gridded 8.5″ reflector; and one with a snoot to light anvil & front work table; Paul C. Buff Einstein mono strobe (x1) with shoot through umbrella; Nikon SB910 speedlites (3) with magmod modifiers; a $10 shop light with silver reflector to help light the background. The lights were triggered with Pocket Wizard radio controllers (x6) – Flex TT5’s, TT1 Mini, and AC3 Zone Controller. Flags were used to block unwanted light sources from nearby lights.

Post-Processing: Adobe Lightroom CC 2015 & Adobe Photoshop CC 2015.

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