Alex Jansen Photography | "Suit Up" - A Behind the Scenes

"Suit Up" - A Behind the Scenes

January 10, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Would I make Barney Stinson proud? I think so

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Last year around Christmas I had a sizable bit of vacation time to burn and as such, I grew out my beard, a small detail which played perfectly into my "Soldier by Day, Photographer by Night" self-portrait:

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My first attempt at such a composite, you can read the full behind the scenes on how it was made here. But this year I wanted to attempt something similar while upping the ante. Originally, the plan was for a poker game involving several of me at the same table, however that will have to wait because I couldn't find the proper location to do it. But I have an amazing concept for it filed away, so stay tuned because it's gonna be legenwait-for-itdary! (Sorry - couldn't resist )

Anyway, a new concept had to be derived and it started with cleaning the bathroom (we moved, hence why it's different from the above image) and then setting up the tripod and testing which lens was best. I have grown quite fond of my 10-17mm fisheye zoom lens, however I didn't want the walls bowing from the exaggerated distortion, so I went with my next widest lens - the Sigma 8-16mm. The difference is that the Sigma is rectilinear, which is nothing more than a fancy technical term meaning the lens projects straight lines as straight (although at the extremes, there's still some distortion) as opposed to the well-known and overly "fishy" look of a fisheye lens.

The first shot I took after experimenting with different placements of myself as well as dialing the off-camera lighting was the far reflection, courtesy of the camera's 12-second timer so I could trip the shutter and then get into position.

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Next, I changed shirts and got closer to the camera to fill in all the empty space on the left:

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Not sure if you initially caught it, however after running it by a few friends before publishing the final image, it was brought to my attention that my head (namely the back of it) in this shot was being distorted, so I corrected that in Photoshop as well. If you scroll up to the first image on this page, you'll see the difference immediately now that it's brought to your attention

Next was my favorite shot of the composite, but also one of the most tricky - lining my face up in Jenny's parabolic mirror:

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The way that I added this layer to the master/final image was simply cutting a hole out of the mirror in another image and then placing this image behind it to fill said hole. Again, if you scroll up to the final image you'll notice that my face in the mirror is a bit larger than in the original take - I enlarged it to exaggerate the parabolic-ness of the mirror.

A small gear-talk side note - you can see my phone in my left hand, which is how I fired the shutter. If you're been a loyal reader and made it through a few of my BTS posts, then this will surely sound a bit like a broken record because I bring it up every time, however having a camera with built-in WIFI that can project what it sees through the lens onto your phone (or other device) and then remotely manipulate the camera's settings, confirm focus, and fire the shutter from said device is a revolutionary addition to creative photography. Many of the latest cameras feature this capability, and if you have it, experiment with it! Something as simple as putting the camera in the back of the oven or refrigerator and a picture of you reaching in and grabbing whatever - it's not hard! OK, I'll get off my soapbox now haha

And then the last shot before running out to the barber was the shower shot, which Jenny helped trigger the shutter while holding my phone:

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After coming back with a fresh medium-high fade tapered to the skin, I put on the nicest suit I own (purchased several years ago when I was in Egypt!). The next 20 minutes can be summed up as 40-50 takes and belittling and laughing for being awkward and not knowing how to pose effective and encouraging coaching by my sweet, sweet wife. We finally settled on the following pose at the end of the night:

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Once the shots were done and global adjustments were uniformly made to exposure, it was off to Photoshop to merge the layers. Then, the composited image was brought back into Adobe Lightroom and I applied the final touches, including cropping and some distortion correction to get to the final image:

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So what was my lighting setup? Three lights (all the same Cactus RF-60 speedlight):

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In shooting this project, I learned/reinforced a few things. First, when it comes to using umbrellas, bigger is not always better. Playing Tetris in that small doorway with the large 5-foot modifier made me instantly regret not keeping a smaller umbrella handy. Before getting to point number two, the stripbox was simply to add fill light to lift the shadows that weren't being lit by the light pointed high into the ceiling.

But yes, secondly, I have come to LOVE the Cactus flash system more and more every time I use it, and this set-up proves exactly why. Because of the wall concealing the toilet and also the wall where the towel hook is (separating the bathtub from the shower), the umbrella was simply not illuminating the other half of the room (the side nearest the sinks) like it was the shower. As such, it would have been impossible to add another umbrella, especially considering my other one (I only have two) is even larger. It occurred to me that if I bounced the flash off the corner of the wall, that would act as a giant softbox or umbrella. And that was made possible by simply clamping the flash right to the top of the bathroom door thanks to the tripod socket Cactus brilliantly installed in the side of the flash:

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The mini ballhead on the clamp (I ordered two clamps off of eBay for about $10) makes that combination all the more versatile, especially since it's strong enough to hold the flash and a pretty heavy modifier without budging.

Getting back to the image itself, I just wanted to close with two versions of a 6th "me" that didn't make the cut:

See the Behind the Scenes! See the Behind the Scenes!

The relaxing pose was the first idea, followed by the one inspecting/clipping my toe nails (lol). Neither of them were usable, though, thanks to the pose that was chosen for the suited-up me, which blocked the tub:

See the Behind the Scenes!



Equipment Used

- Pentax K-3 on Tripod
- Sigma 8-16mm F4-5.6 (at f/8.0)
- Cactus V6 Transceiver on Camera

- 3x Cactus RF-60 Flash
        Camera Right: 1/2 power through umbrella
        Above Camera: 1/1 pointed into ceiling corner
        Beside Camera: 1/8 power through stripbox

Software Used

- Adobe Lightroom 4.4
- Adobe Photoshop Elements 11

- Topaz Clarity



Thanks for reading, and if you want to make sure you don't miss another post like this, I encourage you to visit and like my Facebook page as I will post all my blog updates there: Alex Jansen Photography on Facebook.



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