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The Making of The Mistress of Mischief

"The Mistress of Mischief"

I'm seriously struggling here, people. Usually while I'm dreaming up/shooting/editing a concept, my head is swimming with ideas for what to write about on the blog. This one has me stumped. It's quite rare that I'm creatively stranded when it comes to making images, but apparently blog posts are a different creative animal. I have so many ideas for shoots ready and waiting to be brought to life, plus I'm pretty good at coming up with something on the spot (or just shooting something and figuring it out later). However, here I sit in my editing cave and I still have no clue what this blog post is about...

Bird before and after Photoshop

I figured I'd just start writing and see what happens .... so far it looks like I'm just complaining about my lack of blog-post-direction. Oh well, I guess not every image I create is going to have some fancy new Photoshop technique I haven't talked about yet. This picture is actually full of a bunch of techniques that I do alllll the time, but I've already blogged about all of them. For example I could have talked about color editing, shadow/highlight painting, or shooting without a plan to name a few, but I've obviously already blogged about those (hence the links). 

SO...yeah I guess this won't be a very technical post with lots of "try this filter like this" or anything, but I'll gladly talk about the process of creating "The Mistress of Mischief" and maybe you'll learn something in the process. If not...well thanks for listening to my ramblings anyway, and for caring to take a peek behind my creative curtain.

Studio shoot with Singer Mackenzie Johnson

This is another image I shot with Mackenzie Johnson. I just can't say enough good things about this girl - she really is one of the sweetest most talented people that I've ever had the pleasure of knowing. She makes songs ... makes them right out of nowhere. I mean yeah she can totally cover the living crap out of just about anything, but she also writes originals that blow my poor little mind. Check out the video below and let your ears soak up her musical brilliance.

When I knew for sure that Mackenzie was going to be coming to the studio for a shoot, I dove deep into brainstorming mode to be sure that I'd have a few ideas ready to create that day. I knew I wanted to do a simple colorful portrait and then make it look like a painting, because it just sounded like fun. I also had this magical scene in my head of her singing and playing for a whole smattering of woodland critters. That one came out better than I ever could have hoped for, and the response the internet (that's you guys) had to it still warms my insides. Other than those two ideas I figured I'd just see what else we could come up with.

Mackenzie Johnson before and after Photoshop GIF

Towards the end of the shoot I figured it never hurts to put on some dramatic makeup that she might not normally wear, right? So I asked her to go a bit heavy and dark with her eye makeup. (Did I mention that not only is she a phenomenal musical artist, but this girl really knows her way around makeup too!!) She nailed it.

Mackenzie Johnson hamming it up on set

Lucky for us we were shooting images for a high end suit company at the studio that week, and there were still some super snazzy items laying around. And by laying around of course I mean "carefully stored on hanging racks to keep them crisp and wrinkle-free."

Before and after Photoshop Mackenzie Johnson

I asked Mackenzie to select one of the jackets and we would shoot some sort of fierce fashion portrait. The blue plaid sport coat we decided on added a wonderful cool tone to base the final image around, and really made her red lips pop. It was definitely too big for her since it was a men's jacket made for a big tall male model, but we made it work. I ended up using the Liquify tool in Photoshop to make it appear to fit better.

Photoshop Layers GIF

I was super pleased with the images we ended up with and knew right away which one I was going to edit. She really embodied that certain "I'm a total badass rocking this jacket and crazy swooping hair" look that I was hoping for. Now the problem was (much like trying to come up with what to write about for this blog post) I wasn't really sure what to do with the image I'd taken. I knew I wanted it to have a bit more interest than just a girl sitting there looking at the camera. I was hoping for a little more "wow factor," so naturally (because I so very often can't not) I just added birds. Because, duh ... birds. 

Thanks to Jim Bendon for the bird stock images!

Thanks to Jim Bendon for the bird stock images!

Not only do I love adding birds to images, but apparently I just can't seem to get enough of this shadow technique I did recently. I figure if I'm digging a technique or something, there's no reason not to just keep on diggin! I was thinking her hair reminded me of a cockatiel's head feathers so I went with cockatiels, and just to make them more interesting I thought I'd match them to her blue jacket. I very rarely use a blue color palette for my images - they usually end up warm even if I was planning to go cool. I really had to restrain myself to keep this image away from my comfortable orangey realm, and I'm quite pleased I was able to hold out! 

Mackenzie Johnson Detail crop

Since finishing this image and putting together all the pieces/parts/gifs/whatnot for the blog, I showed the finished creation to Mackenzie (because models get pre-release-sneak-peek-rights, obviously), and she mentioned how she thought she looked like a Disney villain (and was super cool with it). I didn't even think of that! However, while creating the forest woodland animals image called "The Storyteller," I was absolutely going for a Disney princess sort of a feel. How cool that unbeknownst to me I ALSO made her into a super villain!?

Gilmour warmed up to Mackenzie crazy fast and spent most of the shoot chillin at her feet <3

Gilmour warmed up to Mackenzie crazy fast and spent most of the shoot chillin at her feet <3

I love when interesting picture-to-picture things work out like that. So just to take it one tiny subtle detail further, I made her eyes red at the last minute to slightly play up the sinister evilness. (Thanks for the final little sprinkle of inspiration, Mackenzie!! Oh and for all the inspiration from the start and for coming all the way out here and modeling for me. You rock my socks right off!!) 

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