David Olkarny - Photographer/Filmmaker

Imaginary portraits

03/11/2014 imaginaire-smoke-portrait-imaginary

Today we will deal with a subject that I love, which belongs to my own universe.

It is good sometimes to leave the context of classical portraits, venturing to create a whole atmosphere around a portrait.
To begin, we will go through and detail the different stages in the development of a photo shoot outside the studios.


  1. Choose the location / rear original plan, preferably with perspective and relief. A background full of life, and information is often more interesting. Even if you then want to blur it with an ultra short depth of field , a background is more likely to receive various alterations if it has matter.
  2. Choice of model that can offer expressions, create feelings and emotion. Think of it as acting in some films, with expressions of empathy and intensity.
  3. Establish the logistics of shooting according to the seasons, promote the “golden hour” that is to say around sunset or sunrise. Twilight offers a special light. My preference is the sun in the morning because I prefer my bed over my SLR.
  4. Do not hesitate to use accessories that could spice up your shooting: smoke machines, bubbles, colored balloons, feathers, confetti etc. These accessories are not intended to provide a festive touch but a dreamlike dimension, supernatural or fantastic. For example an explosion of silver confetti background, immersed in the bokeh, bring a very valuable artistic touch.
  5. Call to a makeup artist and / or stylist, it will give the shooting a score of professionalism, more choices during shooting and retouching but also a better quality of final images.

    On the spot

      • Inspect natural light, pay attention to the positioning of the model vis-a-vis the sun and light rays. Try different ways to capture the light thus a controlled contre-jour can become an ally and create contrasting effects of adding light to your model’s hair, for example. The rendering is often enchanting and crowd out the static aspect of the photo.
      • If you are equipped with a remote flash, the technique of chiaroscuro on your portrait is interesting to get a “3D look”. Chiaroscuro often makes the subject stand out from its background by a light / shade mix bringing a little more punch to the subject. You will be far from the flat caused by placing a live flash on the shoe of your reflex.
      • In the case of a bright background, the use of smoke may produce a magical and mysterious atmosphere, with original sets of colors. The smoke can by found in any costume/accessory shops.
      • If possible, do not hesitate to play around with the elements from the location you are shooting in. For example, if there is dust everywhere, exploit it, make it twirl in your scene, it will create a magical atmosphere, sometimes with a simple swipe of the foot. This could be done with tree leaves, flowers or huge puddles.
      • The expression of the model is crucial, an expressions which is too neutral and erased brings less character to the image. Feel free to direct your model, explaining your expectations in terms of emotion and feeling to provide empathy and credibility to your images.
      • In my opinion, there is nothing more beautiful than a picture that knows how to tell a story, how to generate questions and to engage our imagination.
      • Suggest your model to move, walk and even dance. It is often the most spontaneous poses and expressions that are more catchy.
      • Of course it’s case by case, if you’re doing high-fashion photoshoot where fashion must be brought forward then a neutral and sober expression may be more appropriate.
      • Do not hesitate to run around during your shoot, do not stand still at the same height of the model, all is worth trying, no matter if the angle is either diving or radically lying on the ground, kicking in low angle. It is easy to bring a new perspective to your photo in slightly varying your position or angle depending on the model.
        Allow yourself a great deal of improvisation, preparing excessively for a shoot sometimes leads to predictable and too “easy” images. The unexpected brings beautiful inspirations based on small details like a flickering light, a sudden expression or a newly discovered place.
        Creative work is a game, the best photos may arise by chance, let your imagination take control during the shooting and dare, then shoot!


    In postproduction

    Sorting photos in your favorite software (lightroom, capture one, aperture, ect) is an important step in postproduction, especially not to be overlooked. It must be done patiently and carefully, sometimes even twice to be sure of selecting photos. I first remove all “dirt” photos technically missed then leave only the ones consisting of image quality. The second stage of my sort, more precise is to find the cream de la cream, the pictures that speak or that have potential. After selecting your favorite photos, the third and final stage addresses the final selection before editing on Photoshop. Ideally, you should find your favorite one. It is useful to compare, look near and far (I happen to fall three meters back to enjoy the image as a whole). It is interesting to come out of the status as a photographer and ponder “Is this photo speaking to me, what does it have in particular? ”

    To hell with the amount, try above all to encourage quality work. A large selection may make you less credible.
    On Photoshop, before rushing on retouching brush strokes, take a few minutes to inspect the picture in its entirety and see what needs to be rectified, improved. The editing is also based on reflection and staging work: What should be highlighted? Why? Where to direct the viewer? What an atmosphere to bring? What a feeling to pass through the image?
    There are a multitude of tools to guide the reading of photography as you want and make it a special atmosphere.
    For starters, it’s good to know what to highlight to bring understanding and consistency. I find it unnecessary to make shots sharpness and clarity to the detriment of the background picture, it’s not nice to lose in an image and do not know where to look, how to interpret.
    Then play with colors is crucial, you can impose your photograph simply a mood with a color rendering or well defined.
    For example, when you set your main colors around the blue, this cool color will generate feelings of longing, melancholy, sadness etc …
    In contrast, playing with warm colors like orange or yellow will give your picture a certain warmth, a note of happiness and gaiety.
    Of course, these two opposites to work is interesting, that kind of contrast is used in the “Drive” director Nicolas Winding film.
    This is true for other colors, such as greenish hues that blend well with magenta.
    Besides the colors, gradients are great for light punch to the photo, please familiarize yourself with this tool eponymous Photoshop. A photo showing high and low lights win in relief and texture.
    Feel free to edit your images in a localized manner, it is essential to treat the colors one by one, it is the same for contrast. For example, it makes more sense to contrast what needs to be focused in the image, where the eyes should arise mainly.
    Take breaks during your flow color treatment, you risk getting stuck in a mechanical rhythm where rigor and creativity disappear. Back on his picture the next day is a good idea to have a new look at his creations sometimes helps prevent abuse treatment.

    End Tips:

    Take pictures that you like, that affect you and not to please the public, you will be more passionate and creative if you stay spontaneous.
    If you have an idea, even far fetched, do not hesitate to rush to put it into practice. Put yourself in the service of your passion. Grains of folly can trigger great pictures, let go and dare.

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