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Setting Up Studio for Shoot

Lesson 4 from: Using Composite Photography to Create a Fantasy World

Karen Alsop

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Lesson Info

4. Setting Up Studio for Shoot

Lesson Info

Setting Up Studio for Shoot

We are going to have a live rabbit, but first of all, I always, sometimes I have live animals in my studio, and it's always best to figure out if you've got the lighting right before you start with the animal or the child that might be a little bit unpredictable. So we will be photographing first a stand in, we've got a teddy bear to stand in as a rabbit, and what we're doing here is we need to make sure that our lighting is right, the perspective is right, so we need to check that my perspective is right when I photograph the rabbit. So all of this we'll do with our stand in and then we'll bring the live rabbit in and be ready to photograph the live rabbit and whatever happens with that. So if we can bring in a little, does this have a name, this little teddy bear, no? We'll call it teddy. Alright, so we've got a little white cross on the ground here, which is the place that I would like our subject to stand and where I would like our rabbit to be, and this is where the lighting is so...

rt of set for. Now at the moment, I'm not quite sure if the lighting is going to be perfect for the setup, so we need to test it. I'll get Danielle to hold this up, because our bunny rabbit will be held so that we can get the legs down, and we'll probably, yeah, somewhere around there. So my first thing is, let's just check. I'll take the photos, I've got myself tethered up to my computer, and I'm going to see whether the lighting is correct to start with, and then when I know the lighting is correct, I'll take a few shots to make sure the perspective is right, and we'll put that into the scene and see if it all works. So I know that where I'm putting my rabbit is at the front of the scene, so I need a little bit of height, so I need to be above the rabbit just a touch. I already know that from looking at my image. So I'm guessing right now about here. (camera clicks) It doesn't matter whether I shoot portrait or landscape at this point, because I'm cutting it out. The main thing is that I'm not going terribly wide, or that I'm not using a very long lens that would distort the image differently to how my scene is. I'm using a 24-70 lens at the moment, and I'm just zooming in to capture most of the animal, or the teddy here so that I can cut it out later on. (camera clicks) Okay, so at the moment, in terms of exposure, that looks quite good. Our rabbit is all white, so I'm looking more at the whites than the darks in this stand in, and I could probably go a little darker so as to get the detail of the rabbit's fur. So at the moment I'm on 1/25th of a second shutter speed, but the main thing I need to look at is my aperture. If I turn that up to f9 and take another shot. (camera clicks) And that will load in, there's a bit more detail now in the whites. The other thing that you can see there is there's some rim light coming from behind, and that's deliberate. So the setting, or the setup that I've got here with the lighting is that I've got two rim lights that are strip modifiers on these Profoto strobes. Now the big thing with these are that I can point them towards my subject from behind, and they can create that soft rim light around the back. It also helps me to cut out my subject, so by lighting from behind like that, it actually makes it easier to cut out. If I don't light from behind, our subject blends more into the background and it makes it harder to cut out. It also matches with the scene. So my scene is that there's some light coming from behind, it's not very strong, so I haven't got these turned up too high, I've got them balanced out with my fill light. So I've got this big octabox here, which is my fill, and that is filling the front. Overall, my scene is quite softly lit, if I was shooting an image that had a very strong back light, I'd be turning these lights up and turning that one down, so I'd have a very soft fill in the front, and I'd have more light coming from behind. But with this setup, we want it quite balanced out. So that's what I've got here. What I want to do now is just check my angle. So I can very quickly just go into develop mode in Lightroom, and I will crop down to here. Now when I open this in Photoshop, I want to open it as a smart object. I'll be doing this multiple times throughout, so every time I open one of my elements in Photoshop, I open it up as a smart object. This means that I can open them in camera raw and make any adjustments that I want with shadows, exposure, all of the different adjustments. I'm not wanting to do that right now, I just wanna see if it fits. Now I could do a very quick extraction here, this is mainly so that I know if he fits in the scene. Now because there's the darker area in my bear, I need to use this quick select tool, and if I hit Alt, which I've got as a shortcut on my tablet here, but on the keyboard you'd do the same, that will bring back an option on the Mac, that will bring back those areas. So my main purpose here is to do a very, very quick selection, a very rough selection, it doesn't matter if it's not perfect. Mask that by clicking on my mask tool, and it's back to front, so I do need to invert it first, and because I don't have my keyboard here with me, I can't do the shortcut for that, but I can go to select and inverse, okay. So now I've got my bear, I just drag that over into my scene, and resize, and place him where I think the rabbit would be standing, which is towards the front of the scene, somewhere around here. Alice will be over here at the back, behind, chasing the rabbit, the rabbit will have a pocket watch and will be dressed and everything. So the main thing I'm looking at here is my lighting, and my angle. Now looking at the bear's feet, the teddy bear doesn't actually have much of a foot there, so it is not the easiest to see, but we wanna see a drop in the feet. So we want, because he's at the front of the scene there, and the perspective is that that front bit is going downwards, because the horizon is in the middle there where the horizon of the actual scene is. So the feet need to be looking like they're going down like that. So that's why I needed to shoot the bear from an angle that's slightly above. So it's a good clue, by looking at the feet, as to whether they fit into the scene, by understanding the angle, you look at the feet. 'Cause if you shoot, if I shot down low, the feet would look straight, they'd be looking like they were up in the air. So there's things that you can look at to help give you those clues as to whether the perspective's correct. His head is slightly below the horizon as well, so I'm gauging the horizon to be around there, that's the area where I'm shooting, that's the line that my camera is going out and hitting. I shot slightly above because this horizon is slightly above the bear. So when I photograph Alice and she's up a bit higher, I will photograph more on her level. So it's looking at where that horizon is and then matching that with the scene. So I feel like he's pretty close to what he needs to be, at this point in time I feel with the lighting that it's working for me, there's that very soft light around the side of the feet there, but it's matching the soft light around the trees, but he's lit quite well.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials

The Story Art Journey eBook
Planning a Composite Video Tutorial (Large download - 1.2gb)

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Photoshop Brushes
Photoshop Hair Brush

Ratings and Reviews

Judy Mitschelen

I've found many great instructors at CreativeLive and Karen ranks right up there at the top! With her relaxed, thoughtful manner of presenting, I was immediately hooked. Her organization, clear explanations and demonstration, and on target response to questions are superb. This course covers an amazing range of skills and tricks of the trade. Whether you're interested in getting better shots to work with, better workflow at the computer, or better output at the end, Karen covers it all.


Karen is very talented and a great teacher and I enjoyed every minute of the course. But what I found to be the best part was seeing what an amazing person she is. The video of compositing the disabled children to make their dreams come true had me in tears. It has inspired me to use my talents to help others and not learn photo manipulation for self enjoyment. God bless you Karen.

Endigo Rae

This was such an amazing class! Karen is so talented, inspiring, and such an amazing teacher. Very forthcoming and open about all of her techniques. I'm so looking forward to jumping into compositing, I feel like this is definitely something my soul desires to explore and Karen has made it so easy and accesible through her beautiful course! Thanks so much Karen and CreativeLive!

Student Work