A few months ago, Laura Hollick and I worked with talented makeup artist and painter Sue Upton to create a photo of Laura taking off with her red bird spirit. In the shoot, we merged Sue’s painting and body-painting skills with Laura’s vision and my photography. It’s always fun to collaborate closely with a team of people who each contribute their own unique skills. I end up learning a lot about what is possible, even when it comes to my own medium of photography.

The process began with some preliminary snapshots to experiment with the poses and the positioning of the painting. Sue then sketched a few different bird designs onto these printouts to get a rough idea of how it was going to look. We wanted to add a branch so that there would be some context to the pose, and so it wouldn’t look like Laura was just floating there in mid-air, but rather stepping off into the unknown with the red bird as her guide. In the sketches below, you can see that Sue used white correction fluid to highlight the best image so that it could be most easily projected onto the backdrop for tracing and then painting.

laura hollick bird painting preliminary photograph sketches

Painting Laura and the backdrop took hours of meticulous work. The shoot was spread out over two days because we actually shot two completely different poses. Each of the poses required different background and body painting. It was a test of patience and stamina for everyone involved.

The actual photography was quite simple. I wanted good depth of field and even, soft lighting with few shadows. Two Alien Bees B800 flash units set close to their maximum power, modified with brolly boxes provided this bright and diffuse light. I also wanted to stand fairly far back and shoot with as long a focal length as was possible. Laura’s big studio gave me lots of room to do this. All of these techniques were designed to flatten the image so that it would blend Laura with her surroundings as seamlessly as possible.

Here are the final images. What do you think?

Please also read Laura’s fascinating blog post about this shoot.