A few months ago my oldest friend asked if I could take some shots for his new album. The idea was to create an image for each song.
I think that this kind of challenge is a dream for any photographer, professional or amateur. I had total creative freedom to inspire myself on the music and poems to come up with images that would visually represent the songs.
This post is not about my “creative process” but about more visually pragmatic aspects and all the mistakes I’ve made during the process.
It would have been easy to make everything in black and white, or color, but I wanted a little variety as I felt that some songs called for color and others for a more dense and… noir feeling. Variety is good, I think, but… there’s the issue concerning visual unity.
Sometimes I lost sight of the big picture. I was too focused on shooting for individual songs, and that was a big mistake.
I realized that mistake when I started working on the first two songs.
These are the images for the songs.
If memory serves me right, the first shot was taken with Fuji Pro 400H and the second one with Trix pushed to 1600 or 3200 ISO.
My problem was the first shot. I absolutely love Sandra’s hair and skin tone but that green hurts my eyes. On the other hand it is the green that makes the red/brown hair stand out. A touch of warmth over a cold green field.
They just don’t work well together tough.
My first thoughts were: I’m willing to lose that gorgeous hair color on Sandra’s shot to make it “match” Joana’s. To create that visual coherence.
I ended up with this.
On top of the broken heart for turning the color shot into black and white, they still don’t speak the same visual language. I thought it was the contrast being so different.
No good. The things I loved the most about Sandra’s shot were now gone. First it was the color and now that curly hair… Another attempt to save, at least, the hair, keeping the overall darkness.
No good. What am I doing? Am I trying to create a clone shot sacrificing everything I like about the color one?
They are different in every way. The songs I’m visually illustrating are different, the girls are different, the mood is different, the light is different, one was taken indoors and the other on a green clover field… so why am I sacrificing the initial idea behind the shots just to make them look good together? For visual coherence?
But visual coherence does not mean both shots should look alike. It means that I must try to bring out the best of each one while trying to keep a certain honesty to their initial spirit. Why “certain” honesty and not “plain” honesty?
I can not forget that these images are intended to be covers. They must illustrate a certain song. They will be seen side by side on iTunes store, they will also be printed and, as such, the graphic designer in me, must deliver quality material.
I’m much more concerned in delivering a good final product rather than a good, honest, out of the scanner photograph. The image is not the star here, the song is. The image must enhance the spirit of the song and, visually, it has to stand out from the other covers on a shelf or on iTunes.
So, back to the beginning. Sandra’s shot should be in color, but not so vivid, and Joana’s shot should be a bit more colorful while keeping that darkness.
Here is the result.
I’ve desaturated Sandra’s shot a lot and I’ve kept a nice deep chocolate brown color on the hair. The skin is lighter and some parts are really close to plain white but there’s still enough texture on the darker areas and I like that white glow coming down her neck to the shoulder.
Joana’s shot is so dark but so sensual in a certain… sinful way. The light is there, the shot is there, all I did was to add two color casts over the black and white original. The deep blue gives it a cold feeling, a bit uncomfortable. The very light yellowish is an attempt to create a moonlight kind of light.
On top of it all, they now look like… family.
I’m not saying in any way that this is a master example of whatever. I’m not a graphic design/Photoshop wizard and I’m surely not a photography wizard. These are only my thoughts about what I feel I did right and wrong.
As usual, please forgive the rough English.