I started an ongoing project with the ever-fantastic model Sarah Dresser sometime last year. We've done all sorts of photos together, but the series we keep adding to is a very dark, gloomy, and fairly morbid series. Usually, with a photo series, the images all get a similar look and the same general post processing. This series however, is a series only in the sense that the model is the same, and the general feel/mood of the pictures are the same.
For our most recent set I decided to go a little nuts. I headed down to Michael's and purchased $6 of fake blood. I wasn't really optimistic about it, but I sprayed some to see how it looked and was instantly very pleased. If you want fake blood, get the stuff at Michael's (about $6, aerosol can to get good splatter/spray).
Anyway, let's take a look at the pictures, and then I'll go over what I did to them and how I took them.
This is the first look that we did. Originally I wanted to only have her (bloody, dripping) wrist in the frame... but even with a big padded blanket underneath her, that pose wasn't comfortable enough or natural-looking enough to work. Instead she came up with this pose, which looks dead enough to me. Before each pose we shot a test image to make sure it would work, and then we sprayed the blood as necessary. I found that getting the blood to drip (as opposed to spray) was both more desirable and much more difficult. The challenge made it even more fun :-)
This is more like what I originally wanted to do... I like the simplicity, but we can't see her face, so we moved to the next idea.
This is a great compromise between my original idea and a pose that the model could (somewhat) comfortably hold.
The final pose was Sarah's idea. She wanted to show a bit more blood and make it seem a little more realistic, so we took away the big comfy blanket from underneath her and sprayed some more blood around each wrist. I toyed with the idea of doing her throat as well, perhaps spraying down the whole shower in blood... but 1) I didn't want to clean the whole shower and 2) she didn't want to get blood all over her neck, as the blood is NOT meant for use on skin and leaves a bright orange/red stain for a few days. (whoops...)
Now some technical how-to stuff.
I knew going into the shoot that I wanted to have as little color as possible, and I wanted fairly uniform light. In order to get that uniform light I needed to turn the ceiling into a light source, so I bounced my SB600 speedlight off the ceiling and opposing wall. Quick easy light. BUT, since we're in my bathroom, the only other light source I have is the tungsten bulb in the ceiling. I didn't want that to conflict with my strobe, so I had to turn the light on, focus the camera, turn the light off, sit on the floor to be out of the way of the strobe, then fire the camera. It got fairly comical.
Once we were done with the shoot, I found the images I wanted to keep, pulled them into Photoshop CS4 and did some fairly basic edits:
1) desaturate so Sarah has less color and appears more dead.
2) bring back in the red of the blood to make it pop a bit (done using a layer mask)
3) play around with Curves to get a good contrast
4) boost exposure to make the whites a bit brighter and more uniform
Overall, I'm very happy with the pictures! The series will probably continue to evolve over the course of this year and when it does, I'll post the images here :-)