The original idea behind this image was to have someone looking into a mirror and seeing what they wanted to see or what they thought about themselves. I may turn it into a larger series as I had considered many options such as tidy - scruffy, plain - sexy, peace - chaos etc. The important consideration is to choose which way round to present it. Putting the more positive image in the mirror creates a feel of uplifting hopefulness, conversely putting the more negative image in the mirror give a different feel. For example consider a nun looking in the mirror and seeing a sexy girl compared to a sexy girl seeing a nun. I think you can see it carries a subtle but different message.
I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to shoot Nicole in a wedding dress for a different concept I'm working on so took the opportunity to use this as my mirror image. She had also sent me a picture of her in floral dress to show me her hair colour prior to the shoot. She was fresh out of festival session so it was fading from pink back to blond and wanted to check it was OK for me. Seeing the dress I knew it would provide a light and colourful alternative image so asked her to bring it along.
So model, dresses, mirror and concept all in place this is how we shot it and post processed it.
The first shot we took was the bridal one. The lighting is pretty simple here as we are only after the reflection. It's just a octagonal soft box to the camera right next to the mirror point straight at Nicole. No other lighting from behind as we don't need to see the back of the dress and Nicole's hair colour means that rim lighting isn't really needed plus it would probably show in the mirror somewhere. In a perfect world we would have done this in a bedroom so the background in the reflection would have been relevant and I would have lit it but it was a studio so we were going to darken the background out around the bride so it's left dark for the shot.
Camera position and angle here is important if you look at the position of Nicole, camera position and the reflection position between the bride and floral shot you will notice a slight difference. It is intentional, the mirror needs to look like it is facing Nicole and not just at an angle to get the reflection to the camera position. So for the bride shot Nicole is standing about a foot closer to the bed and I've moved over the same amount shooting almost straight behind her.
For the dress shot Nicole has moved further out as have I and I have added a beauty dish with a grid and sock to light the back of Nicole in some soft tones. The dish is clearly visible in the mirror here. The soft box is now acting as more of a rim light to put some light into the side of Nicole's hair and rim light her arm.
The hard bit here is getting the pose as close as possible and I take little credit for that as before we started Nicole and I reviewed the bride images and she got straight up and mirrored the pose exactly even down to the bend of the arm and head tilt.
As discussed above you can see that Nicole is more directly in line with the mirror now pushing her reflection off to the side in the reflection.
So here are a series of steps I went through to build the final image.
- First get both images in to different layers in Photoshop
- A few bits of spot removal and skin retouching, Nicole has very good skin so it didn't take much
- Take the bridal shot and scale and transform the image until the bride matches the frame of the mirror and then create a mask around inside of mirror edge so only inside mirror is shown. It is important to use the mirror frame from the dress shot as the one from the bridal has reflection of the white dress in it rather than the pink of the floral dress.
- I burnt in the area around the bride to darken down any distractions and have her on a black backdrop
- I then has the problem of Nicole's hand covering part of the mirror in the bride shot. Couldn't be helped really as I needed to shot from a tight angle while still having the arm bent. So the only thing I could do it was to recreate the missing dress. This was done using the patch tool and a bit of spot healing to build up the bits of missing dress a little bit at a time.
- The next problem area was the reflection of the beauty dish in the frame so I duplicated the frame edge from the other side flipped it and lined it up and blended it back in.
- Once the mirror image was in place I applied some adjustment to the tone and exposure to correct for the low contrast of the RAW images. Then applied a bit more vibrancy to get a much brighter warmer feel.
- Then back into to Lightroom and applied a graduated filter on exposure to the bottom and one at a slight diagonal across the top.
- The last step was to give it a slightly lighter feel. I tried a fog or lighter vignette but it wasn't working for me. In the end I got the brush tool in Lightroom and turned the clarity on it right down and painted over the floral dress so the pattern wasn't quite so crispy crisp. This achieved what I wanted.
This is the final image, a big thanks to Nicole for modelling for it and being so brilliant at getting the posing right between the shots.