HOW WE DID IT: Craig Brackins Poster

Quick update for all the Cyclone Fanatics coming to the blog: Since this whole post is about photography from a technical and artistic standpoint, I wanted to share with you my personal experience working with Craig. Craig Brackins was super fun to work with. He cracked jokes and was a good sport about me making him “dunk with ferocity” over and over until I got my shot. I was seriously surprised and pleased with his humility and attitude. He may be a beast on the court, but he’s a gentleman off the court, which makes me proud to be a Cyclone fan! We recently worked with The Meyocks Group to photograph a special edition poster of Iowa State basketball star Craig Brackins as a treat for season ticket holders on Friday’s game (DEC 11) against Iowa. If you’re going to the game, grab as many copies as you can! I just got my hands on a couple copies and it looks SWEET!: Full deets on how we created the image after the jump This is one of those images that will turn the heads of ISU fans, but the average person will have no idea how much work went into it. Heck the average person wouldn’t care how much work went into it. But for photographers, this is the type of images that makes you scratch your head and want to know how the heck it was done. So photographers, this post is for you! Merry Christmas! Prior to the shoot I was given a very rough concept to work from so I could do a little pre-planning. Here’s my starting point: I knew from limited experience (I shot a BBall game at Hilton in college) that the built-in overhead lighting at Hilton is terrible (for photography) and that I would want to light the poster artificially to “idealize” it a little bit. I arrived about 30 minutes before Craig so I had a little time to find my frame and test my lighting because I knew time with Craig would be limited (it was “media day” for the BBall team and they had a ton of other shoots and interviews to do that afternoon). For starters, I put my camera on a tripod to find my angle for the photo. Here’s a straight-out-of-camera test shot: The test shot turned out like I thought it would – pretty ugly. I shot a bunch of bracketed photos on my tripod with intentions to merge them later and create an HDR Hilton (which would “pop” more and blend better with the lighting I wanted to use). Then I had a few minutes left to test my lighting. I used 2 AB800′s with extension chords graciously lent to me by some Hilton employees to create a dramatic cross light. I used a beauty dish for front fill and a strip box for highlight: I would have LOVED to have some high end Pro Foto’s or Broncolor strobes and a MKIII to just shoot this sucker at 12fps in one take, but I was limited to my alien bees and Canon 5d (both have very slow recycle times) so I had to shoot this bad boy the hard way: lighting each individual frame one at a time. When all was said and done I think it was a blessing in disguise that I had to do it the hard way because Craig ended up looking extra cool all the way through the sequence (because I had multiple images to choose from for each “Craig”).

Since I already shot my background I didn’t have to worry about blending my strobes with the ambient, I just needed to light my subject for maximum coolness (you can see there were other photographers and media people already setting up their gear in the background by this point). The blending would come later – with hours of grueling photoshop work It was crucial that I had my lighting set up before Craig arrived due to his tight schedule. When he got there the only thing I had to tweak was raising my stands a good couple feet (because he’s a good couple feet taller than my incredibly-good-looking test subject!). Here’s an out-of-camera Craig shot: I shot the whole sequence from a tripod to make the post processing easier (because our deadline was pretty tight). I had Craig go through the sequence step by step until we were happy with every part of it. Alex moved the lights in-between every frame to make sure the crispness of the light was consistent throughout. Once we were done, we cut out each piece of the sequence and layered it together in photoshop. Here’s a rough screenshot: Once all the cutting out was finished (Shout out to Andrea Dalhberg for all the help with that part!), I blended everything together with dodging/burning, contrast and sharpening (you know, all that digital enhancement nonsense that kids are using these days!) to make it really jump off the screen for the final composite: Overall I’m very happy with how it turned out. Craig’s jersey is blown out in a few areas but I wasn’t able to fix that without messing up the overall feel of the image. White jersey + dark skinned basketball superstar = blown out jersey, but I can deal with that. This project stretched me creatively and technically and I’m stoked to start cranking out some similar commercial work this winter!

We’re skipping town to shoot a wedding for some extremely cool friend of ours and won’t be able to attend the game. If you’re going, please take some cell phone pictures of the masses of people hoarding our poster and send them to us! Better yet, get your hands on some extra copies and give them to us! We would seriously love to have some (you know, to like…give to our parents to show them what we do for our “job” and reassure them that all the money they spent on our college tuition is finally starting to pay off!)