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Behind the Scenes: A Giant Ego

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Feb 06

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Shooting Background Plates

When shooting a composite, it’s always important to start out with your background. This gives you the framework of what your image will look like and how your subject will interact with their surroundings. We decided to shoot at a restaurant here in Chicago to capture the mood we wanted and shot many different angles of the room to make sure we’d have one that looked perfect.

A Giant Ego Background

Building a Miniature

What’s a good way to make sure your subject really fits in with their background? Recreate their surroundings! In this case building a miniature version of the room was our best option. The best part about this was since we were making our model much bigger and wanted her to look cramped into a small space, we didn’t need to build something huge.

Every measurement of our plywood room was congruent to the room in the restaurant. Think of maps, and how they use inches to represent miles. It’s the exact same concept! We were able to use the measurements we took at our location and bring them into a 3D modeling program, letting us know what scale would yield proper results.

A Giant Ego
A Giant Ego


Post Production

When shooting for composites, It’s always best to do as much as you can in camera rather than relying on photoshop. This will make your final image look much more real, even though it’s not! Because we spent a great deal of time calculating our lighting, room measurements, and camera angle, our post production consisted of cutting out our model and bringing the two different images together seamlessly. Watch for the Phlearn PRO Tutorial on how to do this on Friday!

Final Image

A Giant Ego

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1161657585 Ryan Cooper

    I really like this one but almost feel like the other image of the model would have worked better. The first one where she is looking right into the camera. Since the theme is a giant ego that confident engagement with the camera works really well. In the photo you used she is kind of looking down which is something people with giant egos tend not to do.

  • http://www.facebook.com/keegane Keegan Evans

    This is insanely cool. Aaron you are a huge inspiration! Phlearn is the best thing since sliced bread brothah!

  • http://phlearn.com Aaron Nace

    She is too good to look at the camera :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=514425779 David J. Crewe

    Awesome concept!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ciprian-Marius-Lupu/100000714751618 Ciprian Marius Lupu

    Aaron, very nice final image and amazing concept
    I was wondering if you use diferent lens in order to match the perspective?

  • Chris Fore

    So it looks like the first room was shot relatively wide (I’m gonna throw out 35mm but of course I don’t really know). Did you then shoot the model with the same focal length while shooting her from a distance relative to the ratio that you shrunk the room? Or did you do different calculations to use a longer focal length on her?

    Thanks for the inspiring video!

  • http://phlearn.com Aaron Nace

    Good question, we used the same lens at the same focal length. If the room was sized correctly, all you have to do it get closer.

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  • Brandi

    wow, very cool!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/jfinite Justin Bonaparte

    Great, great episode, possibly the best yet!

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  • http://www.facebook.com/plfotografia Paulo Lima

    i think the background inside her arm stills the wood box.

Episode Transcript

Welcome behind the scenes as we take you through a journey to take a normal sized person and make them look huge. Today we’re taking a look behind the scenes as we take a normal size person and give them the illusion of looking huge. Now when you guys are designing a photo shoot like this there are a couple of things you want to keep in mind. One of the big things is, how are you actually going to pull off an illusion like this and second is, what do you want to say through the photograph. We are going to take you behind the process, talk about the lighting, the posing and building a little bit of the set and how we came about with actually figuring out how we were going to pull the photo off.

The original concept for the shoot was to create a metaphor for someone having a giant ego. Someone who enters the room and they’re the biggest personality and they want everyone to look at them. We went about creating a person who is actually going to completely fill a room with themselves and that is going to be a metaphor for the ego. In kind of figuring out how to do that, obviously we have, not a giant person. We couldn’t find one on Craig’s List, so we had to get a normal size person and figure out how to make them huge.

There were a couple of things to do. First is, you want to make sure you have your background picked out. To do this we scouted all around Chicago and found some really nice locations and finally picked one that was going to really work very well for creating a giant person. You want to make sure that you photograph or get your background plate in first. With these kinds of composites if you are going to do a composite, what you want to do is figure out the thing that you can’t move first. In other words, that thing that … the background I can’t really change that a whole lot, but we can change the subject quite a bit to match the background. We start off with the background and then figure out okay, let’s try to figure out how we’re going to now match the subject to that background and that’s where building everything and the rest of the shoot comes into play.

Once we decided this was going to be a composite image, in other words, we were going to have a photo of a background and a photo of a girl and we were going to put those together. We needed to figure out how we were going to do this and what are some of the important things in creating a composite. Now the most important thing when you’re creating a composite is matching the lighting. You want to make sure the lighting in the photograph of the girl matches the lighting of the photograph in the room. To get that, you have to make sure you first photograph the room. We went out and took the pictures of the room and figured out exactly the look and the feel and even did a little bit of post-processing on the background, so we knew exactly what the background was going to look like. Now once we did that, we could figure out okay, now how are we going to replicate that have an actual girl match the lighting of this giant room.

To fully create the illusion that this girl was in fact in a giant room, we decided to build in minature a smaller version of this room. Now you don’t have to get incredibly detailed when you do build these miniatures, the reason is, the most important things are your shadows, your highlights and how the light plays with your subject and the background. You can take the subjects shadows and you can take their highlights and bring those from the image and cut the rest of the environment you choose to build out of there and that will help when compositing the two images together.

So how do you actually build a miniature? Well, it’s basically like a box. The thing we built looks a lot like a miniature torture chamber or like a dog ghetto, it is not fancy at all. It’s just structure with a couple 2x4s and some plywood. Now what we did do is make sure to take measurements of the original location, so we could get everything to scale. We had to measure out the width and height and the distance from the camera, ceiling height and all those sorts of things. With those measurements we then went into 3D modeling. Now this isn’t a completely necessary step, but it helps us to visualize.

In the 3D model we were able to re-model the room and then fit a girl in there that was going to be the height of our girl, which was close to six foot. We rebuilt the model of the room inside of a 3D modeling program. We put a six foot model in there and then we bent her around to fit the space. That is how we got the scale for our final room. Without anyone in there and it was just a test like, I do not know how big we should make this thing. You can make it one to one scale, one to two scale or one to three scale. You can make any scale you want. Doing everything in CAD allowed us to figure out the scale that we wanted to make, what was doing to be a cramped six foot girl in this room and then we took those plans and then built the physical model from them.

We have a lot of calculations going on. We took the big size room and we put that into CAD and we took the CAD drawings and then we took that out to build an actual size room. You do not really have to get this sort of thing perfect, but the most important things are the light sources. We played very special attention to match the light sources of the small room with the light sources of the large room. You’ll notice that along the top of the image we have these little chandeliers that are hanging and those are what basically what’s lighting the entire scene. We also have little lamps on the right side of the image, we have lamp that is actually lighting up part of the image. Now if you’re going to put a person in that environment, it would make sense that those would be the lights that would actually light the person. We went through great lengths of measuring and figuring out our camera angle and everything before the actual shoot and then we drilled the holes and put our own lighting into the small box that we created. We used basically just light bulbs. We used 200 watt light bulbs and nothing incredibly fancy there is something that, I think we built the entire box with the light bulbs and everything for less than $100. Not a huge deal in actually building the box, but having it built meant that we could basically put our model in there, snap a couple of shots as long as we had our angel and everything match for perspective, which is going to make our job in post-production quite a bit easier.

Often times when you’re doing a composite shot, you have to give your model a lot of direction, because they’re not actually in the scene that they’re in. Let’s say you’re photographing someone in the studio, you’re going to make them look like they’re in the middle of the artic. You have to say, act like you’re cold. What would you be doing? In this case we didn’t have to do any of that at all, because we actually built a small room for this person to go in, so it wasn’t like act like you’re in a small room, because they actually were in a small room. We didn’t have to say avoid the lights that are supposedly hanging there, because they were in fact avoiding those lights. Building this room in miniature meant that, it lended the whole image to be more real as far as what the model was actually going to be posing and to make sure that she actually did look like she was in a small room, because we didn’t we have to fake that part of it.

Often times building a miniature or building a small set like this will really help add a little bit of legitimacy not only to the overall composite, but to the pose itself. Everything we’ve done up until now with photographing the large room, putting it in CAD, making sure we built a scale model and putting the model into place matching our camera angles and perspective, all of that basically sets us up for having a little bit of an easier time when we’re working in post-production. For the majority, what we had to do is cut our subject out from the background and create some really nice selections and then tweak our lighting a little bit and then play with the feel of the overall image. Photoshop is hard enough trust me.

What you want to do is make sure you can take all of these little steps before you get into Photoshop, so when you are in Photoshop you don’t have to do the unnecessary things like trying to create a light source that would be behind her head, because we actually really did that. That’s not the thing you want to focus on in Photoshop. You want to focus on fine tuning and completing an effect. All these little steps are going to make the post-production much, much easier for you. Thanks for joining us in this journey on how to take an ego and inflate to size and fill an entire room. Look for a Photoshop tutorial coming soon. Thanks so much for watching guys and I’ll PHLEARN you later. Bye everyone.

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