Brian Dukes Photography

The image begins long before and ends long after the shutter is pressed.
© Brian Dukes

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"Breaking Bad" Habits

It's been a while since I last blogged, in truth it's been a while since I last did anything creative - this week I broke that habit, and completed my first 'Personal Project'.

So a few months ago I decided to try to focus more on my photography by taking the advice of my good friend Glyn Dewis and working on personal projects. I sat down and browsed a Movie Poster website for some inspiration,  and mapped out a few projects that I wanted to work on.

So for the first couple of projects I had in mind, I set about recruiting 'models' (i.e. friends from my facebook) who'd be willing to help out.    The very first project was an image of Walter White (character) from the TV series Breaking Bad.

My friend Steve Forster very kindly met the fundamental criteria (no hair, glasses and most importantly a goatee) and offered to sit for me - which was absolutely phenomenal, as I hadn't seen Steve and his (now expanded) family in almost 18yrs - so gave me an a great excuse to catch up and also try to get the shot I took.

It took me a few weeks, if not longer before I could actually arrange to see Steve, but it really was great to catch up with him again after all this time.

The setup for the shot was quite difficult due to confined space - it's a family home, full of family things ... so once I'd positioned the big Elinchrom Rotalux Octa 135cm softbox and stand in place (used for a white background),  and setup the Elinchrom Rotalux 70cm square softbox and stand - into both of these softboxes were inserted Elinchrom D-Lite RX One heads - sufficient lighting for this setup. 

Steve is younger than Walter, and (fortunately for Steve) doesn't have jowls nor is his forehead quite so wrinkled.  I tried to get Steve to suck in his cheeks a little, to look through the top of his glasses and try to emulate Walter's look.   This was easier said than done, Steve did the best he could .. and after alot of indecision on my part, the final image I settled on to process was this

So my challenge was to turn Steve into Walter.  But first, I needed to break another habit 'stop editing my images destructively' - not something I intentionally set out to do, but LightRoom makes it easy to just quickly apply a filter with Nik Collection - but it does this by creating a copy, and saving back to a new file.  In addition to this, i'd dropped out of the habit of editing in PhotoShop - so one habit to break, one habit to acquire. 

Glyn Dewis to the rescue again, Glyn published a video on his YouTube channel PHOTOSHOP TUTORIAL: Destructive and Non-Destructive Retouching - where Glyn shows a different way of using filters like the Nik Collection, without having to create a 'merged layer'; and thus giving the ability to go back and make changes to earlier layers!  

So now i'm on a roll, I know what I need to do;  I make some basic edits in LightRoom (predominately because i'm very familiar with it), the bulk of these changes were 'spot removals' around they eyes,  Steve's eye-lashes and eyebrows were obscuring his eyes,  and also in hindsight I should of asked Steve to clean his glasses.  Once these basic edits were made, I took the image into PhotoShop.

So here is roughly my work flow in PS.

  • Copy the image to a new layer
  • Extend the background
  • Create a Dodge&Burn layer to ease some shadows and start to work on some of the wrinkles
  • Add a further layer to create the Jowls;  there may have been easier ways, but essentially I hand drew them in by dodging & burning 
  • Then I grouped all this together to create a Smart Object (to allow me to edit in an external plugin, none destructively)
  • I then edited in Nik SilverEfex Pro 2, to create a B&W version, adding control points to help control the light where I needed it.
  • I then added a colour adjustment, to give me the yellow background
  • After that another Dodge&Burn layer - this time to work on darkening the beard, finessing the jowls and wrinkles,  adding a bit more light to the side of Steve's head and ear.
  •  Next a layer to perform some more spot-healing on, removing a few stray hairs from Steve's beard and just generally tidying up the image
  • Next the text, so this was done in stages, and then grouped together.
  • And lastly, add a light source to the top left corner - if you watched Glyn's earlier video that i've linked to above, you'll see how I did this - as Glyn showed me in his video!

After this, I left the image for a day, and because I'd been working non-destructively,  I could go back into various layers (especially the earlier SilverEfex Pro plugin) add a bit more grain, work a little bit more on some of the dodge & burn areas until I was finally happy.

The result:

 So immense thanks to Steve for allowing me 'age' him add more wrinkles, and plaster his mugshot all over the internet.  Thanks to Glyn Dewis for 'personal projects', for copious PS tutorials;  and finally, thanks to AMC for creating the awesome series *Breaking Bad* 

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