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Photograph Atmosphere

Lesson 7 from: Creative Composites Using Your Own Photo Stock

Karen Alsop

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Lesson Info

7. Photograph Atmosphere

Capture your own stock that you will use time and time again. Elements like water droplets, falling rain, water spray, smoke, mist and steam can be used in composites to create a cinematic visual and to create a sense of distance. In this lesson you will learn the principles of photographing these elements, ready to take them into Photoshop to create overlays and brushes.

Lesson Info

Photograph Atmosphere

something I really love to add to my photographic composites is atmosphere. Atmosphere is such a powerful addition to create depth in your work and to add another element and it's actually really easy to photograph atmospheric elements and to add them into your composite, I'm going to show you that later in Photoshop. But now I'm going to show you how I photograph the atmosphere the next time you watch a movie, I want you to watch the light and the atmosphere that surrounds the light. Very, very often in movie making, they will use a haze machine or a smoke machine. And the foggy haze that envelopes the light that they control really adds to the atmosphere of the movie. And it's something that if you can bring that into your photography, you can add that extra layer in that element. Now you can as you know, photograph that in the camera and you could go to great lengths to add light. But sometimes it's very difficult to add atmospheric lights because you might be faced with a very wind...

y situation where the atmosphere is just going to blow away. What if you could photograph the atmosphere in your studio and then you can use that time and time again, keep it in your library and add it to every composite that you create. Now I'm gonna show you some tricks today. I've got atmosphere aerosol, This is a little atmosphere and it can you can get lots of different brands of this and I am going to spray this and see what happens with the light. Mhm So you can see as soon as I spray it, you can see that white come out and then it just starts to sit in the air and if I have particular directional lights on, so I can control where that light and that atmosphere sits. So I'm going to show you photographing this shine, different lighting techniques and then we're going to photograph some steam coming out of a kettle. Now you can use this technique with all sorts of things and it's amazing what I've done in this studio with atmosphere. I've had dirt thrown up in the air. Um I often start little fires. It's very controlled but you can do anything to create atmosphere and all of the different little particles will create a different look. We're going to do it today with the atmosphere spray. You could use hairspray as well and copy this technique. The first thing you want to keep your mind is that a black backdrop is what you need. So I pulled my black backdrop down and it is a velvet backdrop. If you have a shiny paper backdrop, it doesn't work quite as well. Great thing about the velvet is that it sucks the light in so you won't see dirt and dust on the velvet but you'll see what's in front of it. Now. The other thing that you can see in my studio here is currently I have the four lights on the lights behind me which are Botox lights, the continuous lights, I use them for photography as well as video and they are set up with a strip modifier, which is really good at controlling the light so it doesn't spill into the camera and it creates a good backlight or room light, but it also works well for this. Now. I also have big soft boxes in front of me and what I'm going to do for this exercise is to turn them down a little bit. Now you can play with where the light comes from and it will create a different look. But the more like that you have coming from in front hitting the backdrop, the less you'll be able to take that out. So take any light that's on the back drop out later. So it actually does help to have more backlight then frontline when you're doing this. All right, let's get started. Alright, the first thing that we need to do to set up for photographing atmosphere is to work out our camera settings and our focal point. The next thing I'm going to do is I'm going to use my shutter release cable. I'm going to come around the front and I'm going to position myself where I want to spray the atmosphere and I am going to pre focus, take a shot and then look this down on menu. So now when I photographed my atmosphere, I will shoot the atmosphere in that same spot and the atmosphere will be in focus. I don't want the background to be in focus. It's too far back. All right now, in terms of my settings, what I'm looking at is making sure that my shutter speed is where I want it because that will affect how the atmosphere looks. So I am set on 100th of a second. Now, the faster my shutter speed, the more frozen those elements in the atmosphere is so I can adjust that as I need to Uh it all depends on the atmosphere and what sort of effect that you're wanting. Now, the aperture really should be F5 or even narrower so that you can make sure that the atmosphere that's closer And the atmosphere that is further away, both are in focus. So I've got it on F5 because I'm using continuous lights. Now, if you're using strobes, you can actually push that further. The same technique with the strobes as it is with the continuous lights I'm demonstrating with continuous lights because it's much more visually understandable. But you could set up your strobes to capture capture atmosphere as well with the same principle in place. Now I want the black background, that velvet background that sucks in the light. I don't want to see it. Any of the grays in it. So if I change my eyes so up you can see all of the detail and the dirt on that backdrop when it's at S. 0. 5000, I will die All this back until my black backdrop is black and the green around which I know is something that I would like to expose for is correct. So I know that any atmosphere that I spray in front of this black backdrop will show up but the black itself will stay black. All right now, I've pulled these lights down a little bit so they're not as bright because we're gonna use the light that is behind to really like that atmosphere. So the next thing that I'm going to do is photograph the atmosphere and I'm going to use the shutter release cable. So I have flexibility event on where I stand. I am going to get my atmosphere air assault and okay, I am going to spray this where I had my head so I'm sprang into that area. Let a little bit sit. Yeah, yeah, here we go. Yes. Now, if I review these images you can see, I've got a lot of different looks in different atmosphere that I can use. If I zoom up on this atmosphere, can see all of the detail, The haziness. It's a little bit blurred because of the shutter speed. So if you wanted to have CRISPR areas, you could go faster shutter speed. Okay, so that is atmosphere in a can what about a kettle And what about some steam? Every type of atmosphere creates a different look. So let's try steam and rashida in exactly the same way. So the kettle is simply filled with water and is about to boil and as that steam comes up, that's going to create really interesting effect with steam coming up and spreading. You can see it's traveling quite fast. So I'm going to change my settings to capture that steam a little more frozen than what I did. The atmosphere spray that didn't travel as fast. So let's change our shadow speed too. 400th of a second. I'll change my eyes. So up to compensate, put this on boil again and see what the difference is in capturing this with a little bit of a faster shutter speed. All right. So we'll review the images and zoom up. Now I didn't do another test shot and getting this depth of field exactly as I needed. So first of all, we want to focus on the kettle and then we can know that as that steam is rising up that are steam is what's in focus. So I'll just pull down focus on the cattle switch to manual and bring my framing up a little bit. Now, it doesn't matter that I've got green and lights and everything at the edges of my shot because I'm simply going to crop those out. And it does help me to have a reference of what I was photographing. So let's turn this cattle on. We are going to now photograph this at 400th of a second. Take quite a few shots. So we've got a variety of steam as it tones down. It's a little more subtle and then we review now. It might not look really bright on the show, but we can pull that up in Photoshop and in camera or later. The most important thing is that we can see the clear white and the clear black because we are going to use blending modes to then use these and add them to our composite.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Story Art Education Offer
Actions and Brushes
Camera Files

Ratings and Reviews

Charlene Mitchell

WOW! I'm not familiar with Karen's work so this was a wonderful surprise! Loved the detail she included in her instruction and her passion shows through in every topic! So many tips and tricks to help 'sell' the finished piece as believable - details I wouldn't have thought of. Going to check out her other class on CL and also her website!

Melissa Helland

Can’t tell you how much I appreciate all I’ve learned from this teacher. Wonderful classes here on Creative Live and her site has even more learning opportunities. Worth every penny of my Creative Live membership just for this class alone!

Cristina Menor

Karen is an excellent teacher. Her lessons are always very well explained and very easy to understand and to follow. You will learn lots of valuable tips. I absolutely recommend this class if you want to learn how to create incredible compositions very near to reality.

Student Work