If folks were asked to consider the daily work of a professional photographer, no doubt the first image to come to mind would be families dressed nice smiling for the camera. True, this is a large part of the job, however, I bet I could add one you would never guess. One that was unexpected, very creative and unique…and I had a blast!
A few months ago, I had a longtime friend approach me with creative challenge. She and her boyfriend wanted to know if it would be possible for me to take portraits of them and then create romance novel covers featuring them. They are both avid readers and he is an author himself!
Of course I jumped at the opportunity to be part of this. If I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: In photography, you never know what kind of fun requests will come your way. And this sounded like something I would have a great deal of fun with…and I was right!
Obviously, my first photographer instinct was to decide where I could take them to capture some backdrops essential to the subject matter. Between examples provided by my friend and several google searches, it quickly became evident, while I had several suitable backdrops immediately available to me here and near Murray, there were some fantasy scenarios that would not be available anywhere near here. Not to mention, for what was available, would push us well beyond our energy limits.
This is also about the time my photographer instinct had me really examining the particulars of a romance novel cover. These are the types of things most wouldn’t even need to notice, but they are, in fact, the essence of what makes their iconic appearance work.
First, I noticed the lighting does not have to make sense in the real world. For instance, the enraptured couple could be set within a dark night with the moon’s solitary light well behind them. Yet unexplained light sources seemingly always enhance their curves and clothes from behind the camera and/or from the side.
Second, there was the windblown, breezy appearance on many covers whether it be his jacket, her dress, or either’s long hair. Now, as any outdoor photographer knows, when you want still, you get nonstop wind. However, when you want wind, guess what. So, that was a gamble I was not too interested in taking.
Third, romance novel covers are very forgiving to the creative artist. Aside from the intrusive text and painted appearance, there are many out there which blend multiple unremarkable elements to create a visually stunning scene. This easily serves a greater purpose especially when not all the elements are necessarily perfect in and of themselves.
All of this had me thinking something more practical and less exhausting could be done to make this experience a lot smoother for both my friends and us. That is when I realized it might be a lot more practical to enlist the help of a green screen and our studio. Using controlled lighting and holding a fan on the clients’ hair was a lot easier than dragging them all over our property and, possibly, all over Murray, in costume, and with a lot of light modification setups in tow. Plus, this way, I could also be very liberal as to the types of backgrounds and scenarios into which I might place them later.
Of course, the problem with a lack of fantastical and/or geographically specific backgrounds was still present with or without on-location clients. But, like I said before, many romance novels use a blend of multiple elements. So that is what I needed: Elements! I began taking distant and up close shots of anything and everything I could find. I headed to LBL and surrounding areas to grab shots of flowers, sunsets, fields, trees, lakes, rocks, and lighthouses. Then, as it just so happened, I was traveling to Boston and New York City around that time, where I found some very useful shots of historic buildings and cityscapes. Lastly, for some of the more fantasy elements, I found some free-use, downloadable art.
After the clients’ shoot was over and edited, and all elements collected, I went to work in Photoshop creating. Now, typically, my wife is the one doing the graphic design projects of this magnitude. However, with her day job and multiple other projects, that was going to be out of the question on this one. So it was my baby. Good thing I had enough Photoshop skills to get me where I needed to go and, like I said before, I jumped at this opportunity for a reason.
Looking back, I have to say, when it comes to Photoshop, I learned and discovered a lot during this process. It was easily more time consuming than those standard smiling family portraits and, at times, I had the computer grinding to a snail’s pace as I manipulated huge files with between 10 and 25 layers stacked within them.
But it was fun! In fact, there were times Liz had to practically tear me away from the laptop at 9 o’clock at night because I just couldn’t bring myself to put it away for the evening. This perfectly illustrates the adage “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” However, I’m beginning to think there might be a downside to that adage. I mean, seriously? 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. with visions of tomorrow’s work dancing merrily through my thoughts well beyond 9 p.m.?! But that is the subject for a future blog!
Now, of course I would not write a blog about all this fun and not share a bit of it with you, but, first, I want to thank my friends for allowing me to share a few of these with you. You may head to either our “You” by Abanathy Photography, LLC Facebook Page, or our traditional Abanathy Photography, LLC boudoir Facebook Page this week to see more! Now, without further ado…