In early 2016 I had a pleasure to be come an apprentice of amazing artistic photographer Jingna Zhang. Jingna is an instructor of online art education platform Learn Squared, I co-own together with other great talent - Ash Thorp and Andrew Hawryluk.
The subject of this course was Artistic Portrait Photography, which I found to be challenging and fun. As an concept artist, I'm familiar with how to operate a camera on very amateur level (enough to snap few textures here and there that I can use for conceptual work). However, organizing photoshoot, finding model, getting together a crew and finally delivering images created through the lens was totally different experience..
Much like with illustration and freelance jobs, everything starts with an idea. In Artistic Portrait Photography course designed by Jingna, concept for photoshoot can be anything - which can be a gift an a curse - after all, coming up with ideas is probably the hardest part of production pipeline.
I cycled thru several ideas hitting the wall every single time. Too ambitious. Too simple. Unreasonably expensive to be done as photoshoot. Lame. Those are few phrases that appeared in my vocabulary while thinking what should I do and prepare for this photoshoot.
Then it hit me - why not doing a true homage to something I really love. There are few films in my library that I've watched probably few dozen times, one of them - Blade Runner.
I thought couple of scenes that would be fun and challenging to re-create, however I narrowed down to one of best scenes in whole film, Roy Batty's monologue - Tears in Rain. There were several practical reasons for this.
Model and Location
It's hard to do photoshoot in your bedroom, especially living in apartment building. My room was too small to create good conditions to play with light. I needed bigger space and decided to book one full day at Dystopian Studios in art district of Los Angeles. Not too far. Cheap. Great space.
Next task - one that posed more challenges than I anticipated, was to find model that would work well for this photoshoot. Since I wanted to keep everything lowest budget possible, I decided to ask friends first. Timing had to be right for whole crew and booked location. Luckily I managed to borrow some time of my good friend and ex-coworker, extremely talented John Sweeney.
John is obviously younger than Rutger Hauer, however his facial features I thought would work well as Roy Batty - and John was frankly ok with spraying his hair white :)
Apart from David Charles who I've hired to be makeup/hair artist, rest of the crew I managed to compose from friends and artists I know well and were willing to help for free just because they liked the project. Jonathan Berube was my D.I.T, I should also credit him for amazing amount of input without which this photoshoot would be impossible. Jonathan also was kind enough to grab some of his professional Profoto strobes, which minimized our cost dramatically.
Andrew Hawryluk and his brother Nick were assistants.
Of course this photoshoot would not be any success without figuring out DIY indoor rain. I thought of and tested few ideas before photoshoot day and one setup that ended up working really well was water toy gun and really big umbrella. I found out that firing against open umbrella would create controlled spill that would look really close to real rain.
One thing that I overlooked from the get-go was to document the whole process which would provide great input to digest what could have been done better in future photoshoots. Oh well. Lesson learnt.
I shot over 1300 photos thru the whole shoot. I used Canon 5d Mark II equiped with Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 lens. Jonathan's Profoto ProHeads allowed us to sync 1/250 shutter speed without curtains showing in front of the sensor. From all photos taken, probably about 2/3 were quick, out of focus shots to test model lights around our assistants (Andrew and Nick) before swapping in John to pose for final shots.
I tethered whole shoot. Zeiss lenses are manual focus and with very unique lighting conditions, focusing manually and handheld without ability to see what is being captured on larger screen would be an extremly difficult task.
Last piece of a puzzle was compositing. This part was probably the easiest since all work here was done inside Photoshop.
Workflow was fairly simple.
If you have never done photoshoot before, be prepared to fail on smallest things! I was lucky enough to be mentored by Jingna and get tips and help from Jonathan while on set which allowed me to complete the shoot without major hiccups. We actually ran overtime 15 minutes while at location and were lucky that other crew was actually late! This could have been avoided with just little more planning :)
Finally, here are some few major takeaways I learnt during the whole process:
Andrew Hawryluk, Nick Hawryluk
D.I.T / Lighting
Hair and Makeup