13 Feb To Infinity and Beyond.
Do you remember the things you used to fantasize about when you were a child? Those fun conversations you used to have with your friends or sibling about the adventures you would want to have? I remember mine clearly. I had a great childhood filled with adventures and fun. I grew up in a big family, and my cousins and I were always playing outdoors and having way too much fun. We had a big house on a tree, we jumped down roofs with umbrellas pretending we were Mary Poppins, we used to spend lots of time on a creek throwing rocks, our family had a big construction company and my cousins, and I use to go around driving bulldozers, we had so much freedom! There’s even a story about “some kids” spraying bug repellent in their mouth because somehow they believed that way, they would become superheroes. That story ended up with those kids in the hospital, and no, they didn’t become superheroes, but thankfully, everybody was fine after a couple of days…
Most of my work is inspired by the magic of childhood. That sense of freedom, fun, and adventure that most of us lose when we grow up. I am lucky to get back in touch with my inner child through my photography and with the help of my two wonderful kids.
I was recently visiting my friends from Spectacular themes, a prop house in Orlando, FL, and as I was walking around doing a few Insta Stories and I spotted these huge firecracker props, and right there, at that very second, I could imagine all the things my cousins and I would have done with a thing like that when we were kids. I came up with the idea of doing a photo shoot with my kids playing with it hoping to fly to the sky Buzzlightyear style. I knew with their personalities my son would be asking my daughter to light it up and she would do it in a heartbeat just to see him flying away!
I went home and told my kids all about the props and my idea, and they were all about it. A few days after I went back to the prop warehouse with my kids and my camera gear to take a few pictures. As soon as my kids saw the huge firecracker prop, their eyes lighted up of excitement.
I went and grabbed a huge Matches Box I spotted in one of the showrooms, and we were set for the photoshoot.
Usually, when I come up with ideas, I spend a lot of time looking for the perfect stock image to build up a composite. This warehouse is UNREAL; they have every prop you can imagine of every theme you can think of. I have thought about packing my bags a few times and move into that place and spend the rest of my life building up sets and taking pictures.
Having those props available to me make my Photoshop load work a lot lighter. The owners of the place were so nice and made a little room in the warehouse for me to take pictures of their props and do my fun photoshoots.
Here’s the Image I started with.
This was shot with my handy Canon 5D Mark II (yes, you read it right, I still shoot with that camera) with a 24-105 f/4 lens at 32mm, 1/100 sec at f/9. I had my camera stable on my trusty 3 Legged Thing Leo.
I used two lights. My main light was an Elinchrom BXri 500 with an Octabank on my camera left and another Elinchrome BXri500 behind my daughter as fill.
I wanted the background to look like a backyard. That’s where usually this kind of adventures happen when you’re a kid. I started with a wooden fence and some grass and added a shrub and a flowers bed to it. It reminded me of my grandma’s backyard where most of the adventures I mentioned above happened.
I went ahead and added my kids and the matches box to the image, and painted their shadows. When you are in doubt on where your shadows should be when working on a composite, refer to the original image and see where the shadow falls.
Then I selected the brush tool, picked the grass brush on photoshop, sample the greens of the grass and painted around their feet and on the bottom of the Matches box.
I found an isolated image of a spark and an isolated image of fire on a black background on Adobe Stock and added them to the end of the rope of the firecracker and the match respectively. I set their blending mode to screen. Then I added a new empty layer, I picked a soft brush, sampled the yellow from the fire, and painted on the grass right under the spark, I set its blending mode to Color Dodge and lowered its opacity to about 20%. I added another empty layer, and with the same yellow sampled before and the opacity and flow set to 100% I made a stroke on top of the fire and sparkle and set the layer blending mode to Linear Dodge.
I dodged and burned the image a little bit to add depth and contrast, and I color graded it using a Color Balance and a Selective Color Adjustment Layer. I added a light yellow gradient on the top left of the image to mimic sunlight. Then I added a lens flare, a little bit of a vignette and adjusted the tones one last time.
When it comes to creating images with kids my number one rule is to make it fun. I’m against forced smiles and over posed photo shoots. I always plan these concepts with my kids in advance, I get them excited about it and make them feel as involved in the whole process as possible. If they feel part of the project, they will do their best to get the shot. In the end, I want the final image to reflect who they are, their ideas and input in the project and for them to feel proud of the image we created together.