behind the scene

How to create and multiply weird creepy hands

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Sometimes, when you want a picture, you need to get your hands dirty. And I mean, for real! 

This picture has a really basic setup (that I use all the time with my self-portraits) 
-One diffused light
-A white wall that I used as a background
-A tripod, (but you could use anything, like a stool, so the camera does not move)
-A remote to trigger the camera
 
-A very patient model (crucial point)
 
So there is NOTHING fancy in here, I like the clean and simple look that gives plenty of space to get creative! 

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For the black hands : 

I had this idea in my mind for a while, and I thought of many different ways to create a mixture that could be used on the skin, without being « too messy ». For example, China ink is A VERY BAD IDEA, unless you want to have black stains on your skin for ten days (trust me on this one, I went to art school  ). Acrylic paint is not really good for the skin and dries very fast so I can’t have this « vinyl » look I’m looking for. I know there are many options in the professional make-up industry, but I want to keep it cheap (and free is even better!). So I used charcoal, which is actually pretty good for the skin, it absorbs all the toxins and I do use it myself as a purifying mask on my face once in a while YES (free beauty tips, you’re welcome), and I mixed it with oil! Like basic oil that I had in my kitchen for cooking! 
 
The mixture was pretty good, not perfect, but I liked the oily look better than water, it’s not as liquid and doesn’t dry at all. It doesn’t stain the skin, and is not toxic for the model, so this was perfect! 
Careful though, IT DOES STAIN EVERYTHING ELSE : we protected the floor, our clothes, but the rags we used after to get rid of the mess are now black forever!
 
(and if by chance, you have a better idea/recipe for that black oil idea, I would love to hear it!)

Once the setting is ready the shooting is EASY :  

We first checked the lighting and the posing, to find something that I loved. Once we were happy, Camille dropped her hand into the black mixture : the hand in front of her is her own! 
Then, I dropped my hand into the mixture as well (and in just a minute, Camille was oiling my entire forearm, we had just unlocked a whole new world in our relationship! OUHW YEAH) 
 
I went behind her and I triggered the camera with my remote (with my not-too-dirty hand), just like any other self-portrait.

Creativity in action !

Creativity in action !

When it was over, I just had to stitch all the photos together into one, in Photoshop, aaaand that’s it ! 
 
Here is a video of the Photoshop process. Real time I would say around 3 hours, skin took half of this and I took a while deciding which element to include or not. I’ll probably do a post (or more!) very soon about retouching, as it is such an important part of the process! 

I hope you enjoyed it, and don’t hesitate to leave me any comment or ask any questions! See you very soon for more experimental/oily/weird projects! 

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A creative photoshoot through the eye of my model

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This full story was written by Benoit, the model for this picture.  I think it would be interesting for you to have another point of view on my work, and I hope you enjoy this story!

With Pauline and her camera, you’ll always end-up naked somewhere. In an attic, in a flower tray or somewhere else.


This time, it’s during a walk in the middle of the forest, that we came across something that led us to a new creative project. A lost pond, a few ducks and grandmas feeding them with bread. That’s all Miss Big Nostrils needed to picture me in the middle of it. The idea was simple. Trudging in the pond, naked (again) in front of her camera’s watchful eye. Fate led us to this watering place in autumn, and after thinking about it and taking the time to go for it, it was already December, « Yay, Hello freezing temperatures! ». Dawn’s light and morning fog should bring more inspiration to the atmosphere. So let’s set the alarm clock at 5am, though it’s seems unbearable for the unemployed person that I am. So as we noticed when we arrived, the mist on the lake in the morning, is a big joke!


A lively red car, a flapping wing mirror and old duct tape holding it, that’s her good old Ford Ka. After a kiss on the cheek and a hot coffee, here we are, parked on the D284 road, in the middle of St-Germain en Laye’s forest, small city of the Yvelines département, 30 min away from the Capital. It now seems obvious, that in a few minutes, I’ll be freezing my ass off in an 8°C water. The sun is far from rising and we’re walking in pitch black quietly, as two (almost) normal employees would do. When we get to the pond, we need about 10 seconds to understand that we got here way too early. Though it’s very very dark, the place is really quiet, and we can only hear the distant humming of the road.

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90 minutes fly away, just the time to catch sight of a bold jogger, equipped with a headlamp (I’ll tell you there are weird people) and to notice that the ducks are asleep in the trees and not on the pond. The day begins and the mallards land on the pond, one by one, on a slightly unclear water. Time’s up! We’re about to start the shooting session. We need to hurry-up since the particular dawn light does not last for long. After running 3 times all around the pond and a few push-ups as a warm-up later, it’s time to go into the water. What the hell am I doing here? It’s easier to get in than I thought. I’m moving carefully in the pond. It’s not that deep. The water is a bit oily and stinks of gasoline, but lucky me! I get to keep my pants on this time.


The first pictures are essential to « get  » the moment and to adjust the light, set the right angle, and it’s only after deciding to dive into the water that it becomes interesting. I’m all wet now. There’s always this idea of a non-idea. What can I do? How should I act? What is she waiting from me? What’s coming out of these? I’m following her advice with caution. The walkers are a simple curiosity when the cold starts to pierce my body. There’s nothing I can find in this pool. Yet I try to find something. I’m searching. I’m observing. The ducks look more comfortable than me. They even act like gentlemen and do not look at me. After all, it’s everyone’s pool. I look at Pauline. I look up. I look down. I look at my hands. I look at me. I’m shaking. Fuck it’s cold. Very cold. It’s been 30 min in the water, and 10 min freezing my ass off, while I keep delaying the time to go out of the water. We never know, maybe the next picture will be the right one. 400 clicks later, it’s time to go out. I’m confident. I intimately know that Pauline will get the image she wants. And it doesn’t matter if that’s not the case. Because I’m here for this talented and enthusiastic blondie. Her projects are stories. So that’s a pleasure to dive into this pond, in the middle of the forest, at 8am, during winter.

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With Pauline and her camera, you’ll always end-up naked somewhere. In an attic, in a flower tray or somewhere else. 

How to transform your model into creepy monsters for 10 euros

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One day I decided to buy 5 kilos of modeling clay (it’s super cheap in any arts and crafts store) I felt inspired by the raw material and though that would be cool for pictures. But a few weeks passed by and I couldn’t find anything. Until I spent an afternoon with my friend Camille from Délicate Distorsion, she saw the clay waiting patiently in my studio and asked what my project was. I told her I wanted to do something photography related but was kinda stuck. She told me about this french artist doing weird happenings and events where he just covers himself in clay and it BLEW MY MIND. 

You can have a look at his work, his name is Olivier de Sagazan, he has plenty of youtube videos. I found them haunting, and highly inspiring. I love how he becomes the creator and the art piece at the same time, covering himself in clay. 

Clay is fascinating because this is the most simple basic boring component when it is raw. But it can give you so much freedom to create whatever you want. 

So i contacted my friend Kevin to do a photoshoot : he is a dancer and a wonderful human being. We have a strong artistic connection and he trusts my vision. 

When he arrives at my place, I am telling him right away « I might have a weird idea, are you up to it? »  I am not giving him any more informations, just that I have clay, and I would like him to cover himself with it. Right away he says « this inspires me so much! ». I am letting him bring his own vision into the creative process. He trusts me to bring strange concepts on the table, and I trust him to bring them to life through his body. He has incredible skills as a dancer, and he uses his body to express his art. The first time I photographed him, he danced in my studio and I was literally crying behind my camera because this was such a damn beautiful moment!!! (I know I am such a wuss) 

So I get the setup ready, really simple, one black background, one light, my favorite! It is also a setup that I know will allow him to move freely, I just put a piece of gaffer tape on the floor to give him an indication of where he should stand, and we are good! I also put music to set the mood. For dark moody photoshoots I love Nine Inch nails (some weird dark electronics instrumental) this music resonates a lot with my soul and inspires me to create . 

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This awkward moment you have an almost naked guy cutting clay in your living room

I waited a few weeks before starting the editing process, and then finally came up with the ideas you are seing. I used only the brush in Photoshop and literally painted everything on the picture. The stars/particles are a handmade brush I am using all the time. And then a bit of color correction on Alienskin and we are all done! 

 
 
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I hope you enjoyed seing the process of creating these pictures, and that it inspires you to do something (weird) as well! What is the craziest weirdest photoshoot or ideas you ever had? 

From concept to creation - Fun with LED lights

For this picture, I will write about the whole process of creation : from the basic idea, to the picture right above (for those interested only in the making-of, don’t hesitate to scroll down!) 

1 – Looking for an idea

As you may already know, I have a real visual relationship with the music I am listening to. During a concert (but most of the time just laying on my floor) I am often starting to visualize stuff, like in a dream, I let the music create a whole universe in my mind. I don’t do it often, but if I am looking for inspiration to create new pictures, this is 85% of the time, how I would proceed to find inspiration! (favorite song for inspiration : Space oddity – David Bowie <3 )  

This is basically what happened there, the only difference was it is a commissioned work: The guys from Wyve need a new artwork for the releasing of their album! Of course, having a picture I created on a CD is a child’s dream, but this is also a huge honor to be the bone that is going to represent their music. (but also A LOT OF PRESSURE). I put myself into « looking for ideas » mode, exactly as I described above. I was listening to their album all the time, and particularly one song « birth » that is also the name of the album. 
  
I sketched more than a dozen ideas, to be able to bring them different choices. When I am looking for ideas, I try not to get influenced by how-am-I-going-to-do-this? thoughts : the technical questions have to come after so it won’t interfere with the creative process.

My wonderful sketches aheum  So, once I have my sketches, I am like « but now, how? »

My wonderful sketches aheum
So, once I have my sketches, I am like « but now, how? »

2 –  Find a way to make this real

I was imagining the light coming through someone’s eyes, he is covering his face, and the light seems to come from his own body. I am imagining the fingers, getting a bit transparent and red, and the rays of light going through the darkness. Technically speaking, it eliminates straight away the speed lights, because they can’t be hidden in his hands. For the place, it’s going to be easy, just a dark room.
 
 Cool, but how do I do it?
  
I’ve thought about it a lot and I remembered I had already seen similar things with light up eyes in movies (like in Midnight Special for example). However, I guess they probably used big special effects and CGI as they usually do in Hollywood (and probably with After Effects), but I don’t really have 10,000 dollars to create my picture. So the other solution I found was to call my buddy Maxime, he’s a Light Engineer and he works in a Theater. He’s the guy you wanna know when you’re looking for a solution that includes light! Well, also when you need Mojitos! Apparently, I need Mojitos more often. Anyway, he told me about mini LEDs Light that could work. I took a look but did not really like the price so I looked for something else! (but it’s still good to know)
 
I went to ACTION (if you don’t know this store, it’s basically the BEST store in the world, where nothing’s expensive), and I started my quest. I got back home with two frontal LED lights (3 euros each), and LED fairy lights, because it’s pretty and can always be useful.
 
I took a bit of time to take to pieces the frontal lights, in order to only keep the LED system and the batteries (next time I go to ACTION, I’ll buy a tiny screwdriver for electronic devices) but a good pliers and 20 minutes were enough this time. The first test is pretty convincing, I can tape the thing in my hands and it’s not noticeable. Regarding the power of the light, it’s not that great, but you really have to test it to be sure.

#macgyver

#macgyver

3 – The shooting! 

I take advantage of the opportunity to have Maxoo around to test it and I’m not satisfied…the light is too white as well. So we take the LED fairy lights to tape it in his hands. The batteries are taped to his forearms, to be honest he kinda looks like a lousy super hero, or a robot in a B series movie! The result is nicer and the light more powerful, so we try to take a few pictures like this. He can’t really move that much, because everything falls, and I try to hide the cables the best I can so I won’t have a lot of Photoshop afterwards.

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I realize that the idea of the eyes is not that great and that the result is way better when he puts his hands close to his body, that’s cool, I’m happy with my picture and I start to edit it!

An overview of the images without retouching, straight from the camera

An overview of the images without retouching, straight from the camera

I edit it, and as I think about it, I realize that something’s missing and that the image could be richer. I decide to add particles, like a sky full of stars, in order to add meaning and depth to the picture. For the particles, I did not know how to do it so I looked up on Youtube. PHLEARN, (a photographer who gives Photoshop lessons) gives me the answer. It’s in English and if you need to make progress in Photoshop, they’re the best Free lessons on the Internet.
 
Here’s my approach overall. In the end, it’s longer to find the idea for a picture and the solution to make it, than to actually make it!

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10 before & afters in Photoshop

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Here are 10 examples of before and afters in Adobe Photoshop! Curated for you, with love! (alright I actually did after / before, just let me do whatever I want :D ) 

When people see me editing pictures (when I am in a coworking space for example) they always want to see the before and afters! I think this is an entertaining part of my job, and I always love to share it! I believe there is a lot of mystery around creation sometimes, and we all loves to see the behind the scenes of our favorite movies! Photoshop has definitely his own magic, especially for fine art photographers, and I am glad if I can help you understand more the process that goes behind creating theses pictures so you can get inspired by it! 

I think it is very easy to achieve really cool results simply if your ideas are good, so here all my secrets! 

Take your innocent niece, have a friend with a creepy hand, a black brush to have Camille’s arm disappear, some color correction and we’re done here!

Take your innocent niece, have a friend with a creepy hand, a black brush to have Camille’s arm disappear, some color correction and we’re done here!

An upside down picture, add darkness, add stars, boom done! (the light was shot on camera, it is a speed light reflecting on the surface of the water)

An upside down picture, add darkness, add stars, boom done! (the light was shot on camera, it is a speed light reflecting on the surface of the water)

Made myself look fitter (express gym session!) changed the hand, added darkness (I do love the darkness!) add stars again, BOOM done!

Made myself look fitter (express gym session!) changed the hand, added darkness (I do love the darkness!) add stars again, BOOM done!

Put a friend in a kid inflatable pool, clean and extend the background, color correction, BOOM DONE!

Put a friend in a kid inflatable pool, clean and extend the background, color correction, BOOM DONE!

Wear this dress you love but never go outside with, extend the background, make it red, HOP!

Wear this dress you love but never go outside with, extend the background, make it red, HOP!

Photograph a friend, do weird stuff on his face, have him be grateful for it : perfect creation!

Photograph a friend, do weird stuff on his face, have him be grateful for it : perfect creation!

Steal a flower in your neighbor garden, stuck it on your face, add hair, extend the background, EASY!

Steal a flower in your neighbor garden, stuck it on your face, add hair, extend the background, EASY!

Go in the middle of a meadow, ignore the cows judging you, clean the background, add birds, color correction, and you’re done!

Go in the middle of a meadow, ignore the cows judging you, clean the background, add birds, color correction, and you’re done!

Tape yourself some flowers around your body, look sad, add more flowers, color corrections and THAT’S IT!

Tape yourself some flowers around your body, look sad, add more flowers, color corrections and THAT’S IT!

Stuck your face in Christmas LED lights, look very proud about it, erase the wires, add geometric stuff, BOOM!

Stuck your face in Christmas LED lights, look very proud about it, erase the wires, add geometric stuff, BOOM!

I have a very few rules in Photoshop, I would say my big one is that I HATE TO CUT OUT, so I always find a way not to do it. For example if my final result is in a black background, I will shoot on a black background, simple, and I am saving myself A LOT of time! 

Also, I think I am spending half of my editing time extending the background to make my picture bigger. EACH DAMN TIME! I think It’s because I always crop it in a weird way. Why not shooting from a bigger distance : firstly I can’t MOST OF THE TIME because I am photographing in a small space, and secondly I don’t want to crop the original photograph because I don’t want to loose quality. While I am extending it, I am making the file bigger, which is nice to have big prints. 

What do you think? Did you imagine it was the work that went into some of these? Do you struggle to achieve your vision in Photoshop? 

These are older pictures, but if you love this type of article, don’t hesitate to let my know in the comments,I will do more of them!