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Office Kitchen Image Composing

With image composing we can creatively turn our photos into pictures that follow our imagination. I had some photos that I made of Model Nina in an office kitchen during a photo workshop. However, when shooting a few images I knew already that I would not be happy with the results, for there was a difficult lighting situation (only one flash) and due to the narrow space, time frame and lack of experience with studio lighting. Also the kitchen would need some digital restauration and magic to match my imagination of the scene. The final composition was the result of experimenting with different combinations and looks, using the classical basics of photo retouching. This is a crop of the finally edited picture and I documented some steps of the making-of.

Step 1 - My RAW Images

This is the RAW image that I considered to be the best one of my series, is was taken from an above perspective. My hope was, that a non horizontal perspective would make the image more interesting to look at. The stainless steel of the espresso machine and the table give interesting reflexions, unfortunately the espresso machine is too small and the white refrigerator is too huge and dominant in the background.

When I was looking at my images two weeks after the shooting, I found that I had made an image of the kitchen without model in the afternoon light. With that image I would have an image of the uncovered espresso machine for the background, as I wanted to extend the machinery and table to the left side of the model. As it can be seen, its perspective is slightly different to that one of the model image, so I would have to overcome some difficulties when editing.

Step 2 - Replacing the Background

To match my new background extension to the foreground image, the next step was to isolate the model from the old background on her left and mask out the frigerator and its environment.

Step 3 - Perspective Transformation

Now came the most difficult part - I had to distort and scale the new background image according to the perspective view of the given image. Therefore I placed a copy of the furniture forground image and the uncoveredespresso machine of my second image as new layers in the background. For the transformation of both the new images it was important that their edges follow the perspective lines that were given from the original (foreground) image.

In theory, all perspective lines have to aim their common vanishing points. We have two vanishing points on the horizon line (which marks also the height of the camera position). As can be seen, one of the lines is not exactly crossing with the other lines on the left vanishing point, but small deviations can be tolerated in the image.

Step 4 - Aerial Perspective

The scenery of a kitchen environment is often characterized by steam and haze, which I wanted to add next. As known from landscape painting or photography, the decrease of saturation and contrast gives also the impression of depth to a flat picture, same as a low depth of field does.

I decided to use the hazy clouds of an image that I shot in Barcelona for my purposes. I mirrored the cloudy sky top-down (like viewing the clouds from an airplane) as the kitchen scenery is photographed from above.

With masking, blending, (maximum) blurring and "light painting" methods I could bring a hazy atmosphere into the kitchen scenery. Just the model was free of haze and can be clearly seen through a hole in the clouds. I also checked the golden ratio - I would have to crop the image in its lower part to match it perfectly, but it would mean to cut off the tables leg. Cropping should always be the final stage and can be made later as an image variant.

Step 5 - Final Color Balance, Depth of Field and Vignetting

There can be spent a lot of time to try different teints, color tones, tonal compression, vignetting, light painting and varying the depth of field. I used different settings in NIK Color Efex Pro 4 as plugin in Affinity Photo, which is my main application for image editing. From Affinity Photo I used live filters for depth of field, to let the model be in focus and center of light.

I like a subtle dark blue toning in the foreground and the picture more dark than bright to let the model stand out. We can find this game of dark and lighting in many oil paintings (e.g. Rembrandt, Delacroix).

Next step - Repeating the Workflow With Other Pictures From the Session

I did this workflow with yet another image of the photo session, which was made froma more close perspective. Here is the RAW Image as it comes directly from the camera - still not corrected in contrast, sharpness and noise.

This is one of the final variants, once again with doubled espresso machines in the background.

In my next blog post will show some more images from that photo session afternoon.

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