Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Leaping Dancers and Stock Photo Collaborations

Alien abduction or Spiritual Ascension?

Love, Joy...and Valentine's Day!

Dancers, Photoshop and Collaboration
Recently a friend and fellow stock photographer, Tanya Constantine, asked me if I would like to collaborate on some work together. Tanya had completed a series of photos of dancers and thought that perhaps, with my Photoshop experience, I could create some good stock images by compositing the dancers into new backgrounds. She sent me some jpegs that were indeed pretty cool photos.

Egos, Gang Shoots, And Fond Memories
I do occasionally collaborate with other photographers in various ways. I have participated in quite a few “gang” shoots with two to as many as a dozen other photographers. In a few cases, as in this suggestion by Tanya, I have used the work of other photographers in composite images. I have to admit that this sort of work is not necessarily easy for me to jump into…primarily for ego reasons. I like to be totally responsible for the images I create, from the photography to the digital work. It is always a challenge for me to put my ego aside and work with other photographers to create “joint” images. Gang shoots are easier for me because each photographer still ends up with separate credit for his or her work and there is a shared enthusiasm and energy that comes with the territory. I have some truly fond memories of shared shoots, particularly ones that I have done in places like Bangkok, Mexico, India and Argentina.

Logistics And Decisions
In cases where I am just manipulating and compositing with the photography of others, I don’t get the fun of the shared shoots, and I don’t get to claim the results as my own.  Too, with collaboration there is always the need to work out the logistics of collection and distributing the royalties, and dealing with the difficulties of making various choices (such as who will distribute the images and in what model) involving more than one person. Here, with Tanya’s beautiful images of dancers, it would be foolish for me to let those potential problems get in the way of producing some beautiful and financially rewarding work.

Raw Files, Motion Blur, And White Backgrounds
I chose a few of the dancer photos and had Tanya send me the raw files via my ftp site (when technology works don’t you just love it!).  The difficulty with these images is that the dancers were photographed in motion against a white background. Their clothing and hair had motion blur making it impossible to strip the images entirely out. The only way to succeed, at least as far as I know (important disclaimer!), is to incorporate the dancers into a background that was at least very close to white…but what the heck could such a background be? When shooting images it can be advantageous to think ahead about possible compositing options, and where possible, shoot at least some images with backgrounds that make the post shoot work much less arduous!

A Metaphor For Freedom…and Love
I started with the dancer in a red shift. She could be stripped out, except for her hair, with a simple clipping path converted to a selection. My first thought was that putting her in a sky could create a metaphor for freedom, vitality and energy. As I pondered the problems with her hair it popped into my mind that if I had her head against a cloud that had a similar white tone to the background she was photographed on, I could simply fade her hair into the cloud with a layer mask and it would work perfectly. As I looked through my cloud files I came across this image of a heart-shaped cloud and I knew I had the right combination.

A Royalty Free Image and Valentine’s Day
I used the pen tool to create a clipping path, leaving a wide swath around her hair, but a tight path around her limbs and dress. A one-pixel feather was used in converting the path to a selection. I copied and pasted her into the sky image and used “Free Transform” to position and size her. As I mentioned above, I created a layer mask and with a soft brush, and "painted" with black to fade her hair into the cloud image. This final image represents not only energy, vitality, and freedom, but also love, joy and…Valentine’s Day! This image will sell a lot, and for a lot of uses. It seems perfect as a Royalty Free image and is headed for the Blend Images RF collection.

Spirituality and Alien Abductions
In the next image, a woman dancer in a green dress, was in a pose that suggested to me that she was being lifted by some invisible force…as if, perhaps, by some “tractor beam” from a flying saucer. This stock photo could be used for concepts ranging from alien abduction and science fiction to spirituality and philosophical uses. I could even see it as an image indicating being “carried away”, something that could actually be used to advertise or promote a number of different products or services. Of course, I always reserve the right to be wrong!

Art Directors, Designers and Rights Managed Collections
I found an image I had shot of New York and used “Hue and Saturation” in an adjustment layer, to create a shaft of light for the beam. I again used the pen tool to create a clipping path around the model, but leaving a wide area around her hair. After copying and pasting the dancer into the beam area I re-adjusted the lightness of the “beam”, with that adjustment layer, until her hair almost blended into the background. Then with a layer mask and a soft brush I finished “fading” the hair into the background. This is a stock image that will probably be a lot harder for Art Directors and Designers to utilize… and has a high production value look…so I submitted it to Getty who is placing it into their “Stone” collection…a high-end Rights Managed collection.

Giving Up Ego And Reaping Rewards
By collaborating, Tanya and I have each had to give up a little bit of our investment in ego, but we will both (hopefully) reap greater rewards from the resulting stock photos than we otherwise would have. I am not really a fan of the phrase “Win-win”, but this is as good a case of that as any!

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