*ooof*: [Cos Every Girl’s Crazy] ‘Bout a Sharp Dressed Man

Today’s image has been sitting in my “to be ooofed”-folder (really, that’s what it is called) on my PC for a while. It is a bit of a departure from the polished portraits and press shots of Mr A that we have seen since last autumn, and you may be shaking your head that Guylty is going to talk about that particular image today. Somehow, I went *ooof* when I encountered it. Despite all its explainable and excusable short-comings. But bear with me.

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Poised for the Shoot: Richard Armitage in a Behind-the-Scenes shot for Leslie Hassler, 2013

There it is. Do you remember when this came out? It was mid-November 2013, I think, and we snaffled it up, mainly for the fashion that was being shown on that delightfully attractive clothes horse man in the picture, and in anticipation of what we were going to get when the shoot was published. So what do we see? This is a candid shot of RA sitting for Leslie Hassler, literally and figuratively speaking: In the shot we see the subject sitting on a stool, looking off-camera. His pose is relaxed with the hands placed on the subjects thighs, the legs slightly indecently spread. RA is dressed in shirt and plaid tie, a winter coat, jeans-style trousers, the evidence of boots just about visible at the bottom of the frame. While his body is turned (almost) towards the camera, his head is turned further to his left, at a three-quarter angle. Behind the sitter we can spot the set-up: a backdrop, a flag, and in the gap between them a wall and a window.

A flag? The Union Jack, to celebrate our English boy? Where? No different scenario.  This is a different type of flag that has nothing whatsoever to do with symbolising a country. I am talking about the dark board that is visible to the left of RA (his perspective). This is a device that is called “flag” in photo speak. It derives its name from the purpose it serves: It is meant to block the impact of light, whether it is from an artificial light source or ambient light, and to reduce lens flare by shielding the camera from an otherwise used light source. (The term becomes clearer when you think of synonyms of the verb “to flag”, i.e. to weaken, to reduce, to lessen.) Flags can consist of small rectangular pieces of black material or card that are attached to a light stand – or they can be good old boards that rest on the floor. You can see how they work in this picture I took at a portraiture shoot – the sitter stands between two flags which are facing the photographer to shield the camera from the light spill of the two soft boxes behind and which illuminate the background. (Off topic: The round light in my photo that is trained onto the sitter, btw, is a beauty dish, which creates the soft, lovely light that works so well in portraiture and beauty photography.) The flag creates what is called “negative fill”, i.e. it blocks the ambient light from the window.

Images like this one are interesting because they give you an insight into the set-up of a photo shoot. Here we can also see that RA is being photographed in front of a grey backdrop. It’s hard to tell, but these backdrops usually are long rolls of paper in any colour you want. Mostly photographers use white, grey and black backdrops, btw, because you can create colour on the backdrop by illuminating it separately with a studio light to which you attach a “gel”, a see-through piece of plastic in the desired colour. (See here for a tiny pic of me playing with an entirely unsuitable psychedelia effect on a kiddie shoot – the colour is created by a red and a blue gel respectively.) So white, grey and black is really all you need as backdrop colours in your studio. You may wonder why photographers don’t simply paint three walls in their studio in those three shades but fiddle around with unwieldy rolls of thick paper. The reason is that a backdrop needs to be covering the floor as well (when you are shooting full-lengths) in order to create continuity (no harsh line where the wall meets the floor behind the sitters ankle) or when you intend to have a continuously monochrome background colour which also facilitates replacing with another background in Photoshop. (Some photographers have proper “infinity walls” built into their studios where the transition between wall and floor is not a right angle but a concave curve.) The rolls are placed on a rig from which you simply roll a new stretch of backdrop once the already used stretch has become dirty or folded or damaged. It’s a bit like an out-sized loo roll. With (amateur) sitters usually coming too close to the backdrop, and walking with their shoes over it, it pretty much gets ruined after just one shoot. I don’t think Hassler produced any full lengths in-studio. They are half-length max. So strictly speaking she did not need a backdrop that covered the floor. But it is good photographic practice to have the set-up in place – just in case…

I remember heated discussions back at the time the above image appeared on the net about the colour of the coat and the shirt. The styling was seriously drawn into question. Mr Manly Male dressed in a powder pink shirt and a baby blue coat? What the??? I knew back then that the shirt wasn’t pink and the coat wasn’t baby blue but that the camera caused colour aberrations. This photo was (most definitely) shot with a camera phone – it is blurry, it has an overexposed window in the background and it has unrealistic hues in it. You can tell from the lack of composition and disregard of the background that it was merely meant as a quick snap for social media purposes – hence the use of the camera phone for quick upload. And that pretty much explains the weird colours of the garments. The relatively simple camera of the smartphone cannot balance out the light interference in the room: ambient daylight from the window, studio lighting (probably the tungsten light that lights a studio from the strobe when it is *not* flashing). Compare the camera phone image with the finished article:

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Richard Armitage – sharp. In a shot by Leslie Hassler, 2013

The shirt is white and the coat is grey.

The aberrations you see in the camera phone image are the reason why photographers take care to set the correct white balance in their camera. However, they also adjust tint and colour temperature in post-production, something you can easily do even in basic editing programs such as Picasa or MS Picture Gallery’s editing tool. You can play with the little levers and see the image change. For the fun of it, here’s an edited version that is a bit closer to the truth but still not great.

What you can take from this is that there is no replacement of conventional digital cameras by camera phones, however many pixels they may already have. The final image by Hassler is a million times better, has higher contrast, correct tint and colour temperature, perfect exposure, proper composition and is sharper. Well, the sharpness of the man translates into the image, I suppose…

May I confess something in this intimate circle of friends at the end of my *ooof*? Despite the “Return of the Mojo” *cue Star Wars theme tune*  I am lately far more excited about the whole “shrining business” than about *ooof*ing. Is Guylty turning her back on photography? Far from it. I still shoot every day, but I find that a lot of my creativity is currently focussed on my crafting project (RAPS)- and what certainly suffer are the *ooof*lets. I suppose there is only so much creative energy at my disposal, and much of that is going into the design of the little drooling aids. My own photography is not really suffering, though, because in lieu of holding on to the shrines, I take photos of them for my own archive. And I have found that I am re-engaging with still life photography, something I hadn’t done for a while. I mostly shoot portraiture these days, with the occasional product shoot thrown in. (And the usual holiday snapping, i.e. street photography and landscapes for fun.) So I have to forgo the *ooof*let once again. There are only so many scenarios you can fictionalise when you look at an image of a photo shoot. Let’s hope that the Urban crew spoils us with another shot from the set, soon. That one really got my imagination going.

Happy Easter, Pessach, Spring celebration to you, m’dears.

~ by Guylty on April 15, 2014.

13 Responses to “*ooof*: [Cos Every Girl’s Crazy] ‘Bout a Sharp Dressed Man”

  1. Mhmmm, I liked that shot oh so very much! Although I was taken aback when first coming across the teaser pic – I really thought they had put him into powderpink and babyblue. And that is definitely not what I want my man to be seen in. But the final pics that surfaced were very very much to my liking. And I loved the hair. Fabulous style – and I hope to see it like that again on stage this summer. I think it would suit a guy from the 17th century. A girl can hope….
    Btw I love your posts about the RAPS. Hilarious and heart warming. Looking forward to seeing much more of them. 🙂

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    • Hey i.f. – glad you confirm that initial confusion about the colours of the clothes. The end product really was great in terms of RA. I am not a huge fan of the chunky coat, and the tie (although the tight shirt was good 😀 for all the wrong reasons) but that’s just me. The hair – yes. Really liked that length.
      Thanks for the RAPS love 🙂 Making those things makes me so happy. Weirdo.

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  2. It hadn’t occurred to me that this was taken with a phone. Of course now that you explain the details it makes total sense. Does this photo have a slight “bobble head” quality to it as well? I didn’t like it because it made RA’s lower body look small and we all know cough it’s not. Thanks once again for the delightful and informative ooof. I like learning about the deatails of lighting and realize when I get a good picture it’s pretty much dumb luck. I love the RAPS too!

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    • Very good point, Tree – I think there is nasty distortion rearing its bobble head again :-D. He looks quite dwarfy in this image, body too short in relation to the head. I tend to overlook that effect (unless it is really strong) and somehow correct the visuals in my mind.
      I am totally demystifying the magic of photography here. Photographers will burn me at the stake 😀

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      • I think instead of demystifying you make me realize just how much goes into an excellent photograph. I don’t think there is any immediate danger of burning at the stake. Unless of course you are hopeful of it being on the Old Vic stage 😉

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  3. Just another very interesting and informative read. Thanks Guytly!!
    No problem with the missing ficlet!! (There are still loads of fanfics on my pile that wait to be devoured!! LOL) We devoted well-wishers (haha!) can only try to be proper giggly cheergirls and hopefully whoop you to further peak performances in creating new shrines of our beloved man in all his different guises…. Schluck!!
    First of all, isn’t it reassuring, that there is still a visual difference between a shot with camera phones and a professional shot??
    ….und dann konnte ich es nicht lassen….I just checked the release date of this pic, as I initially thought I must have seen it earlier. My downloaded twitpic dates back to Oct 4 and when I reviewed that at RaNet I remembered that this was the first pic that was withdrawn shortly after it was published: The beginning of the „commotion“ with the legality of posting photographs on blogs, tumblr and so on. Well, we all remember! Subsequently loads of pictures dissappeared. The first couple of pictures from this Hassler shot appeared mid November, when they published the online edition of „NYMoves“. It’s strange, it’s really not that long ago, still it seems longer ..…

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    • Ooooh, John Proctor for a shrine??? It just occurred to me.
      Wow, so this little preview appeared a month before the shoot? Interesting. I had forgotten about the hullabaloo. Thank Cod for the Army archives 😉

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  4. A lovely oof! I was skeptical about this outfit but I loved the hair, then when the real photos came out I really enjoyed them. I’m glad you are having so much creative fun with your ‘shrining business’ but I miss the ficlet! Ah well, I’ll find a way to survive…wanders off into own brain…

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    • Says the woman who writes elaborate stories, herself 😉
      Yeah, no to the outfit, yes to the hair. But man, some people can carry anything off… Dayum!

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  5. ….That was just….fascinating, and a great lesson in photography!! I went back, reading out-loud and scrolling up and down stopping on this one, back to that one , oh, yeah, I see, back and forth up and d-,etc,etc,etc…. What a terrific lesson! THX!!…and Happy, and Blessed, Easter..back at ya’!!

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  6. Loved all the information about the background.

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    • Hehe, all a bit technical, but yeah, I am beginning to run out of topics. It feels a bit like the search for a doctoral thesis topic, sometimes 😉

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