The Making of "Stairs to Nowhere"
The winning image in our Negative Space photo contest
By PF Staff in Photo Contests on Jan 23, 2014
My friend had asked me to take traditional, happy photos of her daughter. It was a hot day in Florida, and after being in the sun for a while, the six-year-old was pretty cranky. We walked back to my friend's apartment building, and as I saw how the stairs floated down, I spied an opportunity. I asked her to sit on the stairs for just one more shot and told her that she didn't need to smile for this one. I switched from a standard portrait lens to the DA 12-24/4 and crouched down quickly. I didn't want to lose her attention, so I didn't even take the time to line up the shot well - I just fired three quick shots, and in the second shot, her expression just connected with the camera.
I shot in RAW in the "Natural" setting on the K200D, so the original image is pretty flat:
In Lightroom, I increased the contrast and drove the blacks down as far as they'd go. I brought down the overall vibrance and the saturation and played with the white balance and camera calibration. I added some split-toning and vignetting to really bring focus toward the middle. Finally I decreased the saturation of each individual color so that only a bit of orange and some red was left in the photo.
Finally, I manipulated the Luminance of each color channel so that her skin was illuminated and her shirt wasn't vying for attention.
In the end, I felt that the final image capitalized on her expression and captured a moodiness that seemed beyond her years - and that certainly seemed to transcend a standard portrait shoot in an apartment complex in Florida.