How Virtual Photography Makes It Possible to Meet Creative Goals & Overcome Safety & Logistical Challenges
Marketing professionals and others are facing a balancing act: how to get creative headshots and group photos while at the same time getting it done in a safe and efficient manner.
The solution: Virtual Photography.
Virtual Portrait: Original image as shot in the studio shown on the right. After editing, on the left, the image becomes an environmental portrait.
Trend more than fashion.
Over the last few years, professional services firms have stylistically moved toward images of people in the work place. Pictures of people surrounded by their work environment adds a level of authenticity not usually found when shooting corporate portraits in a studio.
Demand for group photos has also steadily risen. Projects are often planned and executed by teams of people rather than one individual. The team concept is now an important part of the business world.
Combining a traditional group portrait with a Virtual Group. Some members of this group of physicians were added when they joined the medical group.
The Current Photographic Environment.
The era we now live in has changed the way people approach headshots and group photos. Health and safety concerns are impacting environmental photography. Location photography is harder to do because companies are limiting the number of outside people who can enter their work spaces. Proximity is also a barrier to creating the kind of group photos a lot of firms want. Few people are meeting in person because most people are working remotely. Project teams are being built by bringing people together from multiple locations.
Virtual Photography has been a growing part of my tool box for several years. The process involves taking photos of a person in a studio setting against a white or neutral background. In post production, the subject is removed from the background using a technique called masking. Finally, they are placed onto a background. Group photos work the same way. After all of the individual photos have been taken and each person has chosen their favorite, everyone is virtually brought together to form a group.
Individuals have been added to this group of financial advisors over time. One person changed her photo after she changed her hair style.
During a typical Virtual studio photo shoot, I work with each person to create scenarios that might exist in their office. For example, a person might be sitting at their desk or standing with a hand on a conference room chair while engaged in conversation with a colleague. They might be listening to someone who is just off camera.
A background is usually chosen from an archive of photos I’ve taken at their office to be used expressly for this purpose. In some cases, we’ll access an extensive library of background photos from other locations or ones licensed from a stock photo house.
There are several advantages to creating group photos by using Virtual Photography techniques.
1. Each person chooses their own favorite photo.
We don't have to compromise by choosing a group image where some people look good and others not so much.
2. Updating is easy.
As the group changes and grows, we easily add new people without reshooting the whole group. Periodically, we may want to reshoot some people at their request as hair styles change or they lose weight (hopefully!). A huge advantage for people who hate having their picture taken: they NEVER have to have their photo taken again once they are done for the initial group photo.
3. Scheduling is easy.
People can have their pictures taken at their own convenience. This is a lifesaver for marketing people and administrators because it eliminates the challenge of getting everyone together on one day, at one time, and at one place.
4. The group can be placed onto a Virtual Background
so that they appear to be in the office or another location.
5. Once the initial group is created savings are incremental over time.
Fees are charged only for the newly added people.
This group of financial advisors has been revised 11 times to add new people and remove others who have left the firm.
The applications used and the way I use them is key to creating authentic and convincing Virtual Portraits and Virtual Groups. There are many bad examples available where a photo editor simply dragged crudely masked people on top of backgrounds. You won’t have to look very far to find group photos where individuals have oddly proportioned heads and bodies or appear to be unrealistically close to each other.
The following images walk you through the main steps in editing Virtual Photos.
Abigail's original capture prior to editing.
Background chosen for this image. I'll edit around the woman currently seated at the desk.
This is the initial masking step to remove the background (red) and keep the foreground (green).
Although the initial masking removes most of the background, white fringing is visible in Abigail's hair.
A refining tool and a chisel tool are used to remove fringing and other unwanted elements.
Abigail's masked image is dragged onto the background. The tonality of the background is adjusted to match her.
Her image is scaled to match the overall foreground and background.
The background is skewed to line the monitor and desk elements up. Edges of the woman in the original background are cloned out.
Final edits including cropping, adding a slight blur to the edges of her jacket, and cloning part of the monitor so it appears in front of her forearm.
I have refined the editing techniques and applications I use over the course of many years. Numerous steps are applied to each person to mask them out of the background in a natural and convincing way. The color, tonality, and brightness of the background is matched to the person to make it look as though they were photographed at the same time.
Realistically composed group photos are created first by making sure we have multiple poses of each person to work with. This gives us the flexibility to place people in a group in the most logical and flattering way. We make sure each person is proportionately sized compared to everyone else in the group. For example, we take note of each person’s height when we take their pictures. Finally, we add subtle shadows on each person that would naturally be cast when people stand near each other.
Here is another example of how I put together the cover photo for this post.
Original cover image for this article.
Selected background with subject placed into it prior to final editing.
Creating authentic Virtual Portraits and Virtual Group photos is an effective way to create the visual narrative that companies want.
More articles about photography: click here
Silverman Be Remarkable