As a Charlotte portrait photographer, I thought it would be fun to show the entire process (start to finish) of the “money shot”. Most of the people who read my blog are not Charlotte NC Photographers. I thought it would be interesting to show the life cycle of a portfolio shot! Specifically, I wanted to show that “money shot”. You know……the one shot that photographers try to grasp in a shoot……..
Well, this Charlotte photographer must say that it is tougher than you think! I wanted to describe the process from planning, shooting, all the way down to editing the last detail. I wanted to give some insight into a photographer’s eye and what goes into a photograph! So, here goes……
For reference, I am speaking of my most recent Uptown Charlotte shoot. In planning for the shoot, I knew I wanted to do a close-up shot first. I saw a similar photo of a model framing her face by holding her head in her hands (hands cupped at the chin to frame the face). I knew I wanted to use a variation of this pose! I figured this might be the “money shot”. Let me take a step backwards and describe the process before the shoot. Beforehand, I “scouted” the location. In other words, I went to a parking deck in Uptown Charlotte and looked around. I found this particular parking deck with a beautiful background on the fifth floor (see below).
Now, it might not look like much! But to this Charlotte portrait photographer, this was the perfect setting for a high-fashion photo. The next step is to think about basic camera settings. With this scene, I knew I wanted to have a sharp focus on the model and create a “bokeh” effect with the background (basically means I want to focus on the subject and make the background blurry). In photography speak, that means I use a low aperture which creates a shallow depth of field.
Now that I have my basic camera setting down, I focus next on lighting my subject. Before I talk about lighting my subject, I knew I wanted to underexpose my background (make it a little darker) about a half of a stop (that’s Charlotte portrait photography lingo). That way, the subject is the brightest thing in my photograph and the background is a little darker (in relation to the subject). I knew I wanted to use a beauty setup. So, I used a “clam shell” approach with a beauty dish up above the subject (about 45 degrees) and another light source underneath (I used a silver reflector). This setup creates a “fashion” look and I was comfortable utilizing it. Next, I dialed in the exact amount of power I needed from my flash units.
With the basic camera settings and lighting in place, I can now focus on composition. Now, I start shooting with a purpose of nailing the composition. This is no easy task! It usually involves a process of moving a few inches here and there on each frame until you get the best composition. As seen below, I took at least 25 photos of slight variations (of the same composition).
In the end, I chose a particular photo SOOC (Straight Out of Camera) that fit my vision as a Charlotte portrait photographer. Even SOOC, this photo is stunning!
Now, most Charlotte portrait photographers (or Portrait Photographers Charlotte NC) would not show you an image SOOC. I only did it as the subject of this blog post. The idea is to make this already beautiful image better in Photoshop. I will not bore you with the details, but the main (initial) edits in Photoshop involved fixing white balance, cleaning up the skin “dodging” a little in the model’s right eye socket, removing stray hair at model’s right eye, sharpening the eyes, toning down the highlights of the entire image, darkening the background a little, etc. Whew!…….That entire process takes me approximately 30 minutes to an hour in Photoshop (for one photo).
In the end, I am pleased with the final photo!
I must say that it is one of my best photos as a Charlotte portrait photographer.
My main focus has involved continuing my evolution with lighting and improving my overall composition and editing in Photoshop. Out of all my photos, I think this result represents my continuing philosophy in Photoshop of improving photos, but not overdoing it. In photo editing, the key is to improve the photo without the audience knowing about it! My resulting “money shot” is decent if I must say so myself……
And there you have it! That’s the entire process and evolution of a photograph from my point of view! It’s a lot of work! There’s a lot of work behind the scene that goes unnoticed by the naked eye! But, it makes all the difference in the world! If anything, this blog post reinforces the idea that I have a long way to go to improve my craft! It’s a journey and the trick is to enjoy the improvement journey!
If you liked the images in this blog post, please take a look at my portfolio as a Charlotte portrait photographer!