Thursday, October 16, 2008

Revealing Images: Pinchbottom Burlesque

In Revealing Images, photographer Don Spiro dishes up sweet photographic treats and the stories behind them. Today, Don aims his lens at Pinchbottom Burlesque.

Pinchbottom Burlesque is doing a James Bond send up, You Only Pinch Twice, and asked me to shoot their promo poster, lampooning the new 007 film, Quantum of Solace. I’d shot the poster for their adventure show and am a huge fan. I’m also a huge fan of James Bond (I’ve seen all the movies and read all the books, including the short stories) so I couldn’t say no.

Jonny Porkpie would do the post production for the poster. Movie posters are usually a composite of a variety of images taken by a photographer, skillfully combined with graphics by a digital artist for the publicity campaign. The photographer on a movie set will take hundreds of photos for this purpose. I know because that’s my day job.

We started with the posters from the actual film’s campaign. Our parody would use this as a template for composition, color, lighting and thematic design. Knowing in advance that the image would be retouched let me concentrate on the models, Jonny Porkpie and Nasty Canasta.

A white backdrop was hung behind them to make separation of the subjects easier to composite. The background would be replaced later so I didn’t care if I shot off the set, I only cared about the area immediately behind them. While Nasty and Jonny got into wardrobe I studied the official poster for light and contrast and saw that the main light was coming from the right side of frame and was hard enough to throw defined shadows. I set one strobe light high and to the right of my frame as my key light, then set a softer light with an umbrella to my left to fill in shadow details and bring out the light in their eyes. I set a third light behind them aimed at the backdrop to blow it out, giving them a nice crisp white background.

Nasty and Jonny posed in positions to match the official poster and I directed them regarding hand placement, weight shift and eyeline. The idea was not to be an exact copy but to give the impression of the actual poster, nonetheless we wanted to get as close as possible. I set the camera at a level between knew to waist, which appeared to match the original. Looking at the perspective of the figures it seemed that the original was composited from images shot with a telephoto lens, so I got as far back as I could and zoomed in. We shot dozens of shots before we were satisfied that we got enough that would work. I shot high resolution RAW format and gave all the images on a dvd to Jonny for immediate editing.

Jonny pulled the elements of Nasty and himself and combined them with other elements, including new graphics (just like theydid for the original Bond poster), and created a masterful parody exactly as I knew he would.

~Don Spiro