I’m happy to finally be finishing up this 2-part series on my Nocturne with Wings photoshoot (part 1, which covers the concept and the photoshoot itself, is here), which gives you a behind the scenes look into the process of making a fine art photograph.
I knew that for several of these images, I wanted to composite in a bird that would be perched, in one way or another, on our model. By a stroke of good fortune, local shop Bazaar in Hampden had a taxidermy specimen that they allowed me to rent. This piece is a “fantasy bird” made by Gotham Taxidermy in NYC.
After picking up the bird, I brought it to my studio and photographed it in every pose I could think of…against both a white background and the green hand painted background we used in the final photoshoot, and with the same light setup used in the final photoshoot. I wanted to have plenty of options to work with so I could play around with the final image.
I ended up choosing 2 final images where I wanted to composite in our fantasy bird.
During the editing process, I spent a lot of time using the dodge + burn technique in Photoshop on both the skin and dress to bring out the texture in the dress, and to guide the eye smoothly through the image. I love dodge + burn because it’s a classic process, it’s essentially the same thing photographers did/do in the dark room, but in Photoshop you can really zoom in and take it to a micro level.
Of course, the most important thing is to get the light right in camera, but I love completing the vision in Photoshop.
The below video is a real time screen recording of how I composite in the bird. There are many ways of compositing – the one I like best is by using layer masks (for non-Photoshoppers, you’re basically hiding parts of the image layer, in this case the bird image, that you don’t want to be visible). I think I like masking because it feels like painting, especially now that I use a Wacom tablet and pen tool instead of a mouse.
You probably don’t want to watch the whole video, it’s not super exciting, but a brief viewing will give you an idea of how it’s done:
Thanks for coming along on this behind the scenes journey! You can go back and view Part 1 if you missed it, and get in touch with me if you have any questions or if you’d like to book your own fine art shoot. Send me an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org