Advantages of Digital layered Backgrounds and Backdrops. PhotoShop Digital layered backgrounds and backdrops are a great time saver and promotional advantage to Jax Custom Photography. When Tammy and I first started setting up promotional sittings at pet shops moving to digital layered backgrounds was a blessing. We had decided from the beginning we were not going to take what I call production portraits as a person can go anywhere and get that type of portrait. You know, set up a white background, change a couple of props and then holler next. We tried using one backdrop which was fine except at end of day all the portraits looked basically the same with the same theme. We started bringing a large amount of backdrops and props and were completely wore out by end of day, This extra work was done as we wanted to offer much more variety. Going to digital layered backgrounds and props helped accomplish that and greatly reduced the amount of equipment we had to haul in. We started off with green screen then went to blue screen and pretty much now use white and have a black on hand. Our clients were impressed and told their friends and even inquired when we were returning as they wished more, The little pampered breeds with ribbons, painted toenails looked great in a bassinet etc., while a doberman or sheppard had to be completely different. We accomplished it all with each dog shot on same table and same backdrop. We take plenty of photographs without using digital but I must admit the digital helped our promotion. With proper extracting skills a photo does not have to look like a composite but can look natural. Digital backgrounds remind me a little of HDR. HDR is a very useful technique when used as it was intended. To display detail in all tonal values-which will render it more like our eyes saw the scene, The web is so full of images that are extremely oversaturated and colorful that many think of HDR as being artful highly saturated images, A complete misconception of what HDR really is. Digital props are in some sense taken overboard also. No matter of the extraction quality, the scene itself screams of composite. I consider many fantasy style digital backgrounds as such. As soon as picture is seen you immediately know that it was not taken as a set. They may look good and may sell but you know immediately it was pieced together. Not knocking them as many are great images that showed talent as a photographer and photoshop artist.
Picture on left was taken during a maternity shoot for the mother. Child was prancing around in front of a green screen just enjoying being in front of a camera and Tammy captured this shot of her doing a Cinderella pose. At first we felt not much to do with image but Tammy located and purchased the castle scene. The horse we saw out in a pasture in Hilliard, FL. so we stopped and took a picture. Horses tail was not showing so Tammy painted it in. The pose fit the scene- along a stream bed in fantasy land. Not really my favored type of picture but the child and mother loved it. Which is all that matters. We eventually decided to use digital backgrounds only on mobile shoots and started putting our creative energy into building our own studio sets.
The picture on the right has a problem since she was looking away from the main light but I loved the look of intent wonderment she had and decided to do something with it. The scene had been set up previously for a spring themed shoot. Rock sidewalk had to be built, real plants, and backdrop purchased just for one weekend only and then dismantled. Baby was photographed a few weeks later during a shoot at pet shop sitting in chair with white paper behind and under. The only thing that gives it away as a composite are the butterflies I placed as something to appear she was focused on. Another picture a proud mother was tickled with and a picture that differs from most of the others you run across. Even though scene has long been dismantled I have it as long as I wish without the expense or time of recreating.
These natural realistic backgrounds are the ones I appreciate. Recently had a shoot where we used a basket and large paper lantern as a hot air balloon, we placed the puppies in the basket and Tammy and owner held a pole above head to suspend the prop above ground. As long as I do not paint or fantasize the background I could use over and over again and all would look as if we went to the beach and created the shot.
As mentioned earlier, there is benefit of varying your photos from the usual poses. A popular infant pose is the chin propped up on the hands, I think this pose is very cute and we take them ourselves and the mothers love them and I will continue to take that pose. However, every infant photographer takes them. There are so many, I realize that the lighting and Photoshop skills of the photographer are what make the best ones stand out. In addition to the common poses I like to offer my customers something a little out of the ordinary and that is where digital props come in.
Disadvantages of digital backgrounds backdrops are that they can look outlandish if not chosen carefully. They can look pasted if not extracted properly. It can be very time consuming in learning and in actual composition of image. It may look easy in some of these videos on the web where everything is just right for extraction but you will find out that many real life images are not quite so easy.