Shooting and Retouching Portraits for a SFX Workshop

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Happy Halloween!

A couple of weeks back, we were asked to shoot some portraits at a workshop held by Christine from Kvint FX. During the workshop, the mostly unexperienced participants learned to work with SFX make up. Unlike with normal make up, SFX make up is about creating shapes and body parts that don’t really exist, and afterwards paint them to make them look realistic. SFX make up is also used for wounds in movies or cosplay.

In this workshop, the participants were asked to create masks of monsters and sci-fi creatures. And what better topic could there be for a blogpost on Halloween than monsters and weird creatures?

The shoot

We recorded a spontaneous behind the scenes video to give an insight into the process when we shoot portraits:

Behind the scenes of a SFX make up photoshoot

The task was to take some photos of the final results of the workshop, where the participants would have applied masks and make up on each other.

The venue was a house with a lot of activities for children and young people, so it was pretty chaotic and pragmatic. However, by researching the place we found out that they had a cellar where concerts were held, which is where we decided to take the photos. No gigs were planned for that day, so the cellar would offer the most space and quiet.

We brought a single studio flash, a soft box and a reflector, which was the lighting gear we could easily carry with public transport. Also, it would provide us with a lot of different lightning possibilities without being over the top. We would be able to create simple but well lit portraits.

Here are some of the shots:


We didn’t follow a complicated retouch process for the delivered photos. The main goal was to provide the participants with some good photos of the their product which they could use in their portfolios.

However, when Halloween was approaching, I got the idea to experiment with creating composites in Photoshop.
I am not an expert in using Photoshop at all as I haven’t had the patience and drive to keep my knowledge completely up to date in the past years.

For the following composites I experimented with different tutorials and techniques, combining the portraits of the SFX make up workshop with some older photos for the background. Those first ones are taken in an abandoned amusement park last winter, while the last one is taken in Highgate Cemetery during my last trip to London.

As the photos were not meant to be used to create composites, they don’t fit seamlessly together. To create a realistic looking composite, a lot of technical details need to be accounted for and planned already when taking the photos: focal lengths, distances, angles, lightning, colors, etc. It might have been easier for me to use stock photos but it’s much more fun and motivating to work with one’s own photos.

If you want to check out Christine’s work with silicone, latex and a lot of fake blood, go to her Facebook page or Instagram account. She is based in Copenhagen and definitely a good connection for the more fun photo ideas.