Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Stage A Photo Series

I have long had a fascination with what's known as the "highwheel" bicycle, a novelty from a bygone era.
Text & Photography By Britton Black Published in Shooting
Black's first photo of a highwheel bicycle inspired his series of posed portraits with antique backgrounds.
Black's first photo of a highwheel bicycle inspired his series of posed portraits with antique backgrounds.

Lighting the greenscreen as evenly as possible is essential to making the Photoshop work easier. Keep an eye on your drop shadow. It's very difficult, if not impossible, to strip out the drop shadow from the green backdrop. The shadow will retain some green value and will make your selection incredibly choppy. My suggestion is to completely remove your drop shadow and create your own with Photoshop.

To create a lighting pattern that would fit well with my photographic style, I knew I would want a lot of contrast and short lighting. A lot of my style relies on the use of spot grids, usually never exceeding 30º. These portraits were made with a total of five lights: three lights with spot grids are hitting my subject, and two lights with softboxes are evenly illuminating my greenscreen.

For even greenscreen lighting, both background lights were placed equidistant from the greenscreen and adjusted to the same power. Typically, my exposures were 1/125 sec. at ƒ/16 to ensure enough depth of field. The spot grids allowed me to precisely place the lights illuminating my subjects, and the dramatic falloff of light helped me create the atmosphere I like in my images.

To make the final composite, you need to replace the greenscreen with the background image. Using Photoshop's Select > Color Range made it easy to quickly select the greenscreen background. Once a selection is made, the "marching ants" will show you if all of your green is being selected. You can use the Select > Refine Edge tool to improve the selection from there.

Making Connections

Once team captain Paul Schmidt came for his portrait at the studio, he helped spread the word to other members of the group. He was so kind to introduce me to a gentleman named Carey Williams who made this entire project come to life.

After I photographed Mr. Williams in his post-Civil War wardrobe, he quickly began helping me to promote the idea of these portraits to everyone involved in this community. As the project grew wings, Carey and I would be shooting as many as five bicycle portraits per session. Individuals came in from all surrounding states and some from as far as Colorado to have their portraits taken.

Luck would have it that most of our wheelmen owned their own wardrobe. It was a neat experience on set as my subjects were completely comfortable in their wardrobe—this is the way they truly like to cycle!

To see more of Britton Black's highwheel photos and other projects, visit his website at

« Prev 2/2 Next

Login to post comments

Popular How-To

Popular Gear

Subscribe & Save!
International residents, click here.