The Making of a Scary Basement Photo

Here is my attempt at a “scary” basement photo… and double self portrait. In this post I’ll explain how I put it all together.

DSC_9718-Edit-5I’d been wanting to take a photo in my apartment’s basement for a while and was finally awarded some spare time this past week. I decided to do make the image over two nights, the first for setting up the lighting and the second for the final shots. This method gave me the time I needed to work out the lighting logistics without the stress of having to produce a result immediately. Another aspect to this image, one that is rare for me, is that I had the overall scene worked out in my head days before I actually went about doing it. I knew in advance that this would have to be a composite to include two versions of myself.

Not being someone who takes many photos with complicated lighting setups, I am limited in the equipment I have and this presented a few hurdles to overcome. Most importantly, while I own enough flashes (shoe mount and studio), I don’t have sufficient means to trigger them. I’ll get into this later.

Let’s start with the scene without any lighting. The basement is divided into three rooms and is creepy on its own.DSC_9668

To start, I put the D300s on a tripod with the AF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 set to f/8, 1/160s, ISO 400. I marked the leg locations on the floor with tape because I knew I’d have to move the tripod away from the doorway overnight.

I lit the back room in red first using a Nikon SB-700 with a red gel. I added a diffuser cap, zoomed the flash out to 14mm and set it to 1/2 power to fill the room with red. I positioned the flash behind my right shoulder to give some rim light and as a fortunate consequence it projected a nice red spill onto the floor of the main room.

To make ‘evil me’ stand out I added a Nikon SB-900 with a light purple gel. I used a grid spot to keep the light on my face and not spill onto the ceiling or door frame. I kept the power at a low level of 1/16. I positioned the head of the rake within the spill of the gridded light to separate it from the red wash.DSC_9724I took the red room image with white balance set to Flash. For the main room, I wanted to have an overall blue feel to the fill. I pointed an Alien Bees B800 studio strobe into the inside corner of the room and set the camera’s white balance to Tungsten to turn the flash’s white output blue (an alternate approach would have been adding a blue gel to the flash and since making this photo I’ve picked up some gels to fit the Alien Bees’ 7′ reflectors, including a 1/2 CT blue).

I lit ‘scared me’ with a snooted Metz 48 AF-1 at 1/8 power. I added a full CTO (orange) gel that, when combined with the Tungsten white balance on the camera, gave white light. The snoot was aimed to light just my upper body and the brick.DSC_9718In order to get the right coverage from the snooted flash I had to place it right in the middle of the frame. Another image, this time with the snooted flash removed, gave me the a clear view of that area.DSC_9719Here is the lighting diagram of the three images:

lighting-diagram-scary-basement For triggering the flashes, I had to think carefully. Three of these four flashes have optical slaves. Only two of them have connectors for wireless triggers. The Metz 48 AF-1 has neither (although since this shoot I updated the firmware to include optical slave). In the end put a wireless trigger (Cybersync) on a flash in each room and triggered the other two with their optical slaves. This made optical line of sight easy, as the two slaved flashes only had to see their nearby wirelessly triggered flashes.

I brought the three images into photoshop and masked out the unwanted areas. With some heal/clone work to remove unwanted wires and highlights and a final curves adjustment, the image was done!

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One thought on “The Making of a Scary Basement Photo

  1. Pingback: The Making of a Scary Basement Photos – Part 2 (Editing) | Owen Cherry Photography

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