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! 


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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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.



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.


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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Clara and the magic of LED lights

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For this shooting, all you need is:

A crack squad :

  • A beautiful Clara who is ok to be naked <3

  • A Camille (Délicate Distorsion), who is really useful to choose the right ferns AND to bring the Kinders AND to create awesome drawings on the pictures (of course :p)

The most expensive props in the world :

  • Ferns  (collected in the closest forest)

Gear :

  • A garland of multicolor LEDs:  you can find them everywhere, I put an Amazon link (20 euros for 5 meters and that’s exactly what we used)

  • A piece a cardboard

  • Scotch Tape

  • A reflector (or a piece of polystyrene board/cardboard/ANYTHING white)

  • A black sheet

  • A canvas sheet (to put under the black sheet in order to protect the floor, we’re not savages!) I had kept the plastic packing from my mattress (I don’t know why, I kinda like it) in case I hadn’t kept it I would have used trash bags

  • A camera of course, a Canon 7D + Sigma 18-35 1,8 mm in that case

For this shooting session, we went for a walk in the forest of Saint Germain en Laye on the previous day, near my home studio (sounds better :D) in order to collect some ferns: we picked up entire plastic bags filled with things we found pretty (waaaah did you see the color?! waaah), while enjoying the last moments of summer to grab some wild flowers. I think we did not see anyone when we got out of a sinuous path with 3 huge trash bags that we stuffed in the car. We got back home and put everything in water to keep it fresh for the shooting the next day.


On the next day, Clara and Camille join me at home MY STUDIO (damn it!). The first idea was to take nude pictures in the middle of branches, so Camille could draw things afterwards upon them, in order to mix our two artistic worlds. The organic side of the leaves would remind the delicate universe of Delicate Distorsion, that is inspired by nature.
We already made a shooting with Clara on the previous year (a crazy story, with underwater picture and an inflatable swimming pool for kids, in the yard of my former house-share, that didn’t even have water mains inlet ANYWAY that’s another story that deserves an article on its own)
So naturally, we wanted to work again, the three of us, on something creative and experimental, during a girly afternoon in a good atmosphere, without any pressure, theoretically.


That was before the radio I used to trigger my Flash decided to stop working, just when everything else was ready ARGHH! I think I didn’t even say anything to the girls and that my mind worked at 300 miles to find a solution: I pulled out a garland of LEDs, I had used during the month, a piece of cardboard from a suitcase, I taped 2 pieces of A3 cardboards together, LED lights on the cardboards and we played with that all afternoon! I even taped a ruler on the back of the cardboard so Camille would have a handle to position the lights really close to Clara and more easily while I was taking pictures.

The beast.

The beast.

And, by accident, we have an amazing result! We realize we can play with the colors (which was not planned at all!) and we can create images that are still among my favorites more than a year after! I think I would even thank my CACTUS (which is the thing that was supposed to trigger my Flash Light) because it forced me to overcome the difficulties and to look for creativity, and eventually to experiment something really new.


I took care of the retouching part in the week (to be honest I didn’t have much to do on these pictures). I sent the files to Camille, she printed them out and then drew on some Rhodoïd paper (the transparent plastic paper we used to put in overhead projectors back in the days, when we were young) with the pictures beneath it. She then scanned the Rhodoïd and put back the drawing on the pictures with Photoshop. And that’s how you have this result!

The images as I gave them to Camille so she could draw on top of them

The images as I gave them to Camille so she could draw on top of them

To conclude, I would say that I loved this shooting, that I love working with Clara <3 she’s an amazing model and for me her personality is really part of the pictures. With Camille, we have compatible artistic worlds and a brainstorming/hot chocolate afternoon with her really gives a spark to my creativity. A year after, by working again on the pictures, I retouched the images with respect to Camille’s drawings. I was really attracted to the colors last year, but to my surprise, I found out that some images were also really interesting in Black and White: it’s more like me, and I think it’s also more like Camille.
However, I think that the Rhodoïd step reduce the quality of her drawings, and it doesn’t highlight the meticulousness of her work, and that’s a pity!
So we thought it would be a good warm up, and another shooting is planned, and THIS time we’ll print them on HUGE papers and she’ll draw directly on the pictures! (and they will be original Artworks, which is pretty classy!) I can’t wait to see the result (yes I know, we did not even start :p) So stay tuned if you’re willing to know more about this upcoming project (SPOILER ALERT: there will be a naked Clara :D)
Have you already been in a difficult situation with a client? With some gear that doesn’t work? (I cannot be the only one) And more importantly, did you find a solution? It could be interesting to write an article with all the problems encountered by everyone with matching solutions in case of emergency!
I hope you liked this article, do not hesitate to let me know what you think about it! 
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See you soon