I love dragons.
I always have done. I still have little scaly dragon statues scattered around my bedroom, from when I used to collect them as a little girl. The fact is dragons are cool. End of.
Now if I could have anything in the world, real or fictional, in one of my photo shoots, it would be a dragon. Can you even imagine?
Sadly, I don’t have that kind of power… But I am able to create the illusion of a dragon presence in an image. Now, of course I am aware that through the power of green screen this dream of mine could become a reality… I just don’t do green screen. I completely respect any photographer who does, it is a skill in its own right without a doubt, but personally I like to create a scene off camera to capture, not create the scene in post production.
I do experiment a great deal with post production on my images. That is undeniable. But everything in my photographs has been photographed by me and was there in front of me. Nothing is entirely created from the digital world. It all stems from reality. Then, they are mine to manipulate in post production to achieve the ultimate image.
Whether it is a subject created by a make up artist, a set designed by myself, or a simple trick of light, it is all real. In this case, I created the dragon illusion using smoke bombs. Yes, this was quite an interesting experience in my new studio, and yes I did burn a hole in my new floor.
But before I tell you how I created the smoke dragon, let me introduce you to wig designer and hair stylist – John May. John is an incredibly talented wig designer who I have been fortunate enough to have work on several of my photo shoots. John creates these wigs from scratch, by hand, which is an incredibly time consuming and intricate craft.
‘I was given a brief by Linda, and with the model Emily Smith who had already been cast for this shoot in mind, I went away and designed the wig. Once I had the design ready, I could begin creating!
For this particular wig, all the hair was synthetic. To begin I knotted part of the hair to the wig foundation across the parting, from then I was able to sew on wefts throughout the rest of the foundation to give the desired length of the wig – 24 inches from “root to end”. Here is a brief tutorial I found online which explains what a ‘weft’ is and how to create them. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mfaF8e31BLE
Once made I simply needed to style the fringe into the triangular shape you can see in the image. Then, it was ready to go! ‘
The amazing wig was designed with for model, Emily Smith. I cast Emily for this role as she has the most beautiful oriental look, and I knew no one else could do the shoot justice. Having worked with Emily on a few shoots now, I am never disappointed. With an incredible look, determination and general pleasant attitude I knew the shoot would be a success.
In the beginning this concept was a little different. I originally had the idea of a white backdrop, the model in a black dress, black smoke bombs, and black and white make up. Ashleigh, the make up artist, asked me whether she could use red contact lenses. This then caused me to reconsider the style of the shoot. Suddenly I wanted a blue backdrop, entirely red make up, a white dress and red smoke bombs, as opposed to the original black concept. The shoot had just gone up a whole new level.
Now let’s talk make up.
I was so excited about this concept when Linda told me her ideas. I love the way our shoots sometimes change a little along the way but it always works out 100% for the best!
In preparation for the shoot I designed this Face Chart. This allows me to design the make up look I want in detail, and gives me a clear vision on the day of the shoot so I can begin work on the model straight away.
Ashleigh’s Face Chart
On the morning of the shoot I firstly asked the model Emily to put in her red contact lenses that we had purchased before hand.
John put the wig on Emily first as he had designed it with a triangle fringe and I wanted to make sure any makeup design I created wasn’t covered. This also allowed Emily to get used to the contacts before I started working on her eye make up.
When John was ready and Emily was comfortable, I began working on the look, starting with Illamasqua skin base foundation. This has an amazing coverage and they sell a vast variety of tones from pale right up to white! I then contoured her face using Mac Gingerly Bronzer to really exaggerate her face shape and blocked out her eyebrows using a disposable mascara brush and Kryolan Supra Colour matching the skin tone. This works well as rather than simply smoothing out the brow so that it’s invisible, it creates a bleached look. Briefly and quickly I used my Dinar Airbrush System with a red airbrush paint to outline where I was going to colour the red around her eyes. Then, using a red powder by Kryolan I created the blended edge of the design and started work on the sharp lines along the the nose – making sure they were symmetrical. I used a blending brush to drag it up the bridge of the nose and an angled brush for straight edges and lines.
I had to create a gap between her eye and the red makeup otherwise the contact lenses would have been lost. So, using a white gel liner I created a dramatic ‘cat eye’ flick, both above and below the eye. I then created the bold red design around the eyes. I had a picture in my mind of what I wanted the eyes to look like and I was so pleased it turned out exactly how I wanted!
I then matched up the lips with the white and red theme by creating a two tone finish using a matte Mac Ruby Woo Lipstick and a white Diamond FX paint to blend with. Keeping on top of the white eyeliner was a must while shooting, as when Emily blinked, the vibrant red sometimes stained the white and I needed it to be crisp.
So now you know how the make up and hair was achieved, here is a little information on the ‘dragon’ effect.
After capturing the images I needed of the model, I cleared the area and set off a smoke bomb. I captured between 30-40 shots of the smoke, from start to finish. From the moment you light the smoke bomb, the smoke creates gorgeous shapes full of movement and shadows. From the different formations I was able to piece together different segments to achieve the appearance of a dragon forming.
How I created the hand however… Is my little secret. 😉 The fact is, if you have an imagination. Anything is possible. If you have an idea. Do anything you can to create it. Don’t worry about what you think you might not be capable of. Risk it.
I hope you enjoyed this insight into my photo shoot world. This has to be one of my favourite shoots of this year. I loved it. I hope you love it too!
Linda Blacker ALUK