Photography has a way of adding new meaning to things. Behind every image is the potential for a stories and memories about how it came to fruition. At the best of times, it’s a veritable adventure of getting one’s hands dirty, trying new things and ultimately being rewarded for the trouble. Sadly, the story behind this shot of Max Factory’s Tharja will be remembered for a substantially less pleasant reason: an awkward and painful physical injury.

It all began when I decided to take photos of Tharja again. I was never too pleased with the shots I took for her review, so I wanted to give it another go. With that said, I didn’t really have an idea for her, so I just put her in front of the camera with my usual setup, hoping to find out what clicks along the way.


This was the first iteration, which used a key light on front-right side of the subject with a rim light coming from the back left side. It’s very similar to the some of the photos from the review, except the rim light here does not have the red colour from the colour gel. I felt the rim light was distracting and failed to add anything desirable to the shot. In fact, I liked the way the figure melded into the black background in the bottom of the shot a lot more than the separation from the black background that the rim light achieves.


The subsequent attempt did away with the rim light and more or less achieved the effect I was going for, but something still bugged me. Upon closer inspection, I noticed her eyes were no longer directed towards the camera. Now, it might not look like it, but I have been pacing and squatting around the dinner table for quite a while between these two shots, and the more I stared at this figure through the viewfinder, the more convinced I was that having her look at the camera was absolutely essential.


So by this point I was getting pretty impatient. I couldn’t believe how long it has taken to squeeze this one shot through the pipes, and as consequence of my impatience, it was at this point when the fateful injury happened: when I squatted down to adjust the tripod on top of which the flash was mounted on. I slammed my tail bone corner of a nearby side table, which sent me writhing on the couch for a good five minutes and a bunch more with a bag of ice. Since I’ve never broken a bone in my body, my measure of physical pain may be limited, but it is hard to overstate the pain of this experience. I would go on to spend the majority of the next 2 weeks sitting on a rubber inflatable doughnut, but at the time I was too stubborn to leave the shot hanging. I went back to the table to get the shot I was had aimed for.


Yet I was still unhappy about the shot. The original goal was to have a smooth transition into the black background, but there wasn’t much empty black space left in the frame, so I took one last shot with a basic rule of thirds composition. Now there’s more room to appreciate the transition to black, the job is done… or so I thought.

Right after I uploaded the shot to Google+, it occurred to me that the black and white treatment would make a lot of sense if I wanted to focus on the transition to black. And sure enough, the shot works without colour, so I quickly took the original post down and replaced it.


There wasn’t much in the way of post-processing for this shot beyond basic tone curve adjustment to increase contrast, lens correction and sharpening, but one change of note is the brightness of the left eye. I decreased the contrast and increased of the exposure of the pupil with Lightroom’s adjustment brush tool to make it a bit more visible.


And that’s the story of how this shot came together. Today I am happy to report that there does not seem to be any permanent damage to the derrière. It has been a lesson on the importance of spacial awareness, but also on the importance of critical thinking in the creative process. Rather than blasting the figure with two lights simply because I have them, sometimes one is all that’s needed to achieve a specific effect more appropriate for the subject. It has gotten me to think harder about how to better use the black backgrounds in my shots; I’m not so great making props from scratch, nor do I collect much in the way of figure-friendly props, so if I am to stick with this hobby, then it would be very important to make most of the tools available to me.