Ordinarily, my clients don’t let me mess with reality, but I had a shoot last weekend for the Arthritis Foundation‘s annual report cover that was clearly considered to be a “photo illustration,” and as such, I had more than the normal leeway.
The AD wanted a shot of a remarkable guy named David who cycled across country to raise money for the foundation, despite the fact that he’s pretty heavily laden with arthritis. And the concept was to get him moving along on his bike—trying to keep him sharp but getting a sense of movement to the rest of the shot.
So we popped open the trunk of my car and I got in, rigged up an SB800 on the lid, put my trusty 20-year-old KenLab KS 6 gyro stabilizer under the D300s and 24-70mmf/2.8, and had David trail the car (which was piloted by my good buddy, photographer Jerry Millevoi) at upwards of 20 miles an hour down a country road near New Hope. I tried a variety of shutter speeds, some resulting in very dramatic blurs, but for the cover purposes, just the hint of movement seemed to do the trick.
The 1/30th of second shutter speed picked up a nice bit of blur, the flash froze David (an excellent and fearless cyclist who tracked the car without breaking a sweat!), and the shot worked nicely. But the trees and the road behind him didn’t fall off a lot because we were down at f/11 or thereabouts. So if you wanted to run a cover headline and cutlines, the foliage would be pretty defined and distracting. But how to soften that background after the fact?
Cue the software cavalry…
Aaand bingo! A program called Bokeh, from Alien Skin, comes riding to the rescue. Hit the jump to find out how.
With this program, you make a selection around the areas you want to remain sharp, and then you can apply the necessary amount of bokeh (unsharpness) to the rest in a variety of ways. I won’t go into too much detail here, since the Alien Skin website is full of great examples and tutorials, but you can emulate a natural focus falloff, a radial LensBaby look and anything in between.
I bought the program about a year ago, and hadn’t used it much (it took me a while to learn how to use the Quick Selection tool in Photoshop…I’m such a klutz). But for this gig, it came into its own.
I’ve also been having fun using it with some of my food shots (forget the LensBaby on your last restaurant shoot? Not a problem getting that sexy selective focus look after the fact with a little of that Bokeh black magic). Do watch the excellent tutorial videos, as they give you a lot of inside info on making the effect look natural.
Truthfully, I’d use it a lot more if I weren’t bound by editorial constraints of “no messing with reality” on many of my assignments. But for a corporate, commercial, or stock shoot, this kind of thing is fair game, and it really is a great option to have. Here’s another before and after example of an owl I shot in Kazakhstan during a falconer’s demonstration a couple of months ago.
It’s a pretty cool program and it’s earned its keep in my Plugin folder, that’s for sure!
Now, if they could just make an onboard version for DX shooters that would allow us to get a “24mm f/1.4 wide open on a D700” look with a 16-85mm on a D90 while we shoot, all my Bokeh dreams will have come true!