I usually don’t shoot composite images, but for this particular shoot I had to light 7 subjects on a bright sunny day and composite was my only choice. My first instinct is to look for power around the area and unfortunately I couldn’t find any so I had to use my Vagabond battery pack. I thought about powering multiple Alienbees with the Vagabond, but the refresh time would be WAY too long and I couldn’t use them at full power. So I decided to shoot a composite and move 1 AB-800 to light each person individually.
I setup my camera on a tripod (very important…you’ll understand if you try a composite hand-held) and fired it with a remote trigger. I set the AB-800 at almost full power into a beauty dish. I went with full power so I could overpower the bright sun behind the zombies. Before I turned on the flash, I dialed in my exposure with the ambient light at f14, 1/250th second, ISO 200 to get a nice back-light from the sun on my subjects. I wanted that back-light and I also wanted a nice color to the sky…I didn’t want it to be blown out.
Also, I would recommend bringing an assistant, for a lot of the frames I used a zombie to move my light (they move slow and complain a lot) or I moved it myself.
Here I will take you through 9 frames of the composite. (fast forward to 3:23 into the video)
-The first is the image by itself, straight out of camera. I highly recommend shooting a base shot. It helps to be able to line up all the other frames.
-The second image is the base shot with some minor color corrections.
-The third image is me lighting the front part of the jeep to get some nice highlights on the grill..this was shot for a magazine, so at this point I removed the license plate.
-The fourth image I lit Dan of the Zombie Response Team..my AB-800 was high and to the left. The only good thing about a sun blaring down about an hour before sundown is it provides a very nice warm backlight.
-The fifth image I lit Josh and Morgan of the Zombie Response Team…They were close enough together for me to light them at the same time.
-The sixth image I lit Eric, he is the owner of the Jeep. One thing I forgot to take into account was the weight of the 4 team members would be standing/leaning on the jeep. It lowered the jeep by about 4-5 inches. To compensate and line up the image I would drop each person’s frame onto my base image in Photoshop and lower the opacity to about 30%. Once it was lowered I could use the move tool and slowly move it into place by lining up important parts of the Jeep.
-The seventh image I lit Robyn, our female zombie. This is where it started to get a little more complex. If you notice there are some nice long shadows coming from the sun on the zombies walking. I loved how the shadows looked, and had to carefully erase around them to keep the shadows in. Mixing the sunlit concrete with the concrete that was lit by the flash was another fun task.
-The eight image I lit Matt, our british zombie. His shadow was long and perfect…I loved the way his shadow drew your eye to him, but then back to the main part of the image with the jeep. The sun was really helping me out this day. The backlight on Matt from the sun is my favorite of all the subjects in this photo.
-The ninth and final image is Keylan. I loved the way he looked jumping over the shopping cart..so I had to mask around the shopping cart to get it tipped over in his shot.
Here’s a fun Behind the Scenes video that was shot by Miranda Studios. We filmed this for the F Stoppers Behind the Scenes contest they ran a year ago.