Category Archives: PHOTOSHOP

Storytelling and exploration


This post is a little peek into my thought process and editing method. Like most other dabblers in some form of art or another, I have developed through the years something that I feel is my personal style and have built a workflow that enables me to attain the results I want without going crazy or broke.

I had the pleasure of shooting again with lovely Tanya and she arrived bringing her boyfriend Seth, a couple of suitcases of stuff and, totally randomly, this bat hat. As she was getting her make up done, I started to test the light: while I normally use the model (i.e. if I need to check on how the clothing/makeup looks under the lights) we took a couple of portraits of Seth wearing the hat just to have a laugh and then moved on to serious business.

Here it is, static pose and “why me” expression typical of boyfriends worldwide.

Fast forward a couple of weeks later, I’m working on a completely different project and after a day spent editing wedding photos I decide to take a break and sort through my personal shoots: the first couple of photos that pop up from Lightroom are the bat hat ones and there was something in there that I didn’t see when we were taking them: maybe the fact that it was 2 am, but my first thought was “here’s a guy who’s having a really bad trip”, followed by “let’s make it even worse”… I just had to decide what was happening to my subject and why.

Setting the scene
Lately, I’ve been trying more and more to incorporate storytelling elements into my photographs and I found that finding an answer to the classic Five W of journalism is the best way to have a clear direction towards the final result. This method is easy to do on your own and it scales well in team projects because once the character and situation is decided, everyone involved has a clearer insight on what to do to obtain that particular result.
Workwise, I always start with Lightroom: in this case, I tweaked the RAW file colour balance to obtain a bluish tint, desaturating the skin in the process, then moved on to Photoshop for the real work.


The outside mirrors the inside
I wanted to show that the young man in the shot had been lost in his personal world for quite a while, detached from reality both in mind and in body, so using a couple of underground cavern shots I assembled a corridor made of jagged edges of a sickly blue and red palette enveloping him like an aura. The hat and gray shirt reminded me the costume worn by Max in the “Where the wild things are” book (and the fact that I have a row of figurines from WtWTA displayed next to my workstation only heightened the idea), so the editing had to make him look more vulnerable and childlike.
The eyes are always the focus of headshot portraits for me, so I am particularly picky on how I edit them. In this case, the eyes/sockets had to match the two colours of the background without being too over the top, so red puffy eyebags and sunken in bluish eyes were a natural choice.


Keeping content-coherent
I briefly toyed with the idea of giving him a badly torn ear: the colours, wavy lines and haunted stare started to remind me of the Van Gogh self portrait. I know I wanted something gorey and disturbing, so I started googling infected wounds and worms. The results were starting to look hideous (in a good way) but I found out that the ear was stealing the show as my eyes were constantly looking towards that portion of the shot, obscuring the face… that to me was a definite no, as the eyes were my focal point, so I scrapped the levels and went back to the whole ear.
The risk is getting lost in unnecessary details just because they look good rather than aid the storytelling: no matter how good it might have turned out, it would have resulted in a weaker portrait.


Never forget your beginnings
Before I close everything up and export it, I usually spend a couple of minutes away from the computer and then once back I cycle through all the levels and groups, looking one last time to see if the choices I made are coherent. That’s when I decided to add a blurriness to the edges of the shot to enhance the “woah, he’s tripping” effect as well as a slight vignette to (guess what?) steer the attention towards the eyes.

A fun not to close this rambling post: the original title I gave the photo was simply “Bad trip”. However, without having told him about my work process, Seth called it “Where the wild things are on a bad trip”… nerd telepathy or just having hit the mark with what I wanted to show? You decide!

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After working so much on “serious” shoots where both the concept and the mood were solemn and composed, I wanted to have a bit of fun and experiment so I decided to combine two of my loves (hair and old school computer art) into a single project. So starting with a poppy colour palette, add 90ies era kitsch graphics (those have been making quite a big return into mainstream culture lately!) and a sprinkle of glitches to the girl with the softes hair ever and you have the recipe for “Glitch!”.

These got picked up by Dye Magazine and are featured in their latest issue.

Model: Valentina Tafferini
Styling: Videnoire



A little bit of background on how I went about making the graphic/glitchy part of these images. As an 8bit aficionado, I am naturally drawn to all things pixely but I particularly enjoy glitch art as it’s the punk rock of computer art: it’s all about destroying/corroding a pristine file, repurposing it in order to send a different message from what it was intended to originally.
There are plenty of online resources (such as this one) where you can simply enter a file and watch as it gets randomly glitched, but I prefer to make mine from scratch by opening the image code in text edit and effing it up big time… tons of fun in what you can enter (do not simply cut and move bits around, you also enter text or glitch the image several times around!) and the random element of what actally comes out is always a fresh point of inspiration to me.
The resulting images were then used for sampling (along with a series of channel mixes) so that I could pick and choose what I liked -because “random” is such a nice word but it clashes with my obsessive “I want that red pixel cluster to be just THERE!” method of work.



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Mystical Fullmoon promo shoot


During the past year or so I had the pleasure to work on both the art direction and the photography of Mystical Fullmoon’s new release.
While I still can’t showcase the booklet’s artwork, I got the green light to post the promotional shoot.
Intended both for press purposes and for the cd booklet, the shoot was supposed to be a progression from their old look: to go with the rest of the artwork, I had them covered in layers of clay, dirt and metallic powders.

Models: Mystical Fullmoon
Make up artist: Arianna Arcelli.







Below is a short backstage video of both the make up process and the different stages of editing done to the main group photo.

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A couple of weeks ago I had the chance to spend a busy afternoon with lovely Xarah, who was visiting Italy for the Milan Burlesque Awards -where she managed to snag a trophy for “best performer” too!

Despite having only a small amount of time for the shooting, we managed two outfit changes, both revolving on Xarah’s beautiful leather mask. I also got the chance to use some of my black acrylic nails, which I fashioned into talons… I’m in love with how they turned out and if they weren’t so horribly impractical I would sport these myself everyday, just to scare little children! On a nail-related note, I see more and more elaborate nail art being featured in magazines and media as part of the styling, but it’s only abroad right now… when is this going to finally get over here?

Between work and the fact that I spent the past week buried in bed with the most horrid flu I had in years, I didn’t have the chance nor the inclination to start working… I was still grumpily lamenting my clogged-up state while reading for the nth time Dance Macabre (King’s excellent analisys of the horror genre through media and ages) when I came across this little gem that got me firing up the computer for the first time in a whole week.


That little tidbit from a Kenneth Patchen poem is the reason a more “standard” postproduction ended up in the dark forest 😉




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The hated font – Comic Sans girl

Sometime during the past Christmas holidays I decided that I wanted to try my hand in a continuative, multishoot project: while I stil had free time and was in a somewhat relaxed atmosphere, I brainstormed for ideas and decided that I wanted to bring together my love for typography with my style of portraiture.
As we already (more or less consciously) associate distinct personalities to the more commonly used fonts, I thought that bringing these characters to life would be an interesting project and something that could be worked on and off through the year without having to discard working on other shoots.
Little did I know that I was getting myself into something of insane proportions: first my idea of including a brief history that could help flesh out the character of the font to non-obsessed fontaholics got me researching high and low for material, then my desire to include as many easter eggs about the history of the fonts into each portrait had me switch from one single shot to three, tied together in an editorial setting. Fast forward three months and after a ton of emails, preparations, countless hours of shooting, retouching, trial and error (and of course cursing!) the machine got finally rolling. This is the first of what I hope will be several chapters, enjoy!


I realise that the text is impossible to read like this, so click on the photos for a larger version! ^_^



model:Cleo Viper
make up:Claudia Malavasi
all the rest (type, copy, photos ecc) is from yours truly ^_^

BONUS: here’s a little backstage of the make up process. This was definitely the longest make up job I ever witnessed, lasting more than 10 hours! So kudos to lovely Claudia for the work and to Cleo for being a real trooper trough all of it!




Uno degli ultimi shooting dell’anno scorso, ed il primo che voglio pubblicare come inizio del 2013 perchè emblematico di uno dei goal che mi sono imposta per scattare da qui in avanti, ossia spendere più tempo e risorse per lo styling. Per la cronaca, gli altri due sono mettere in moto (e possibilmente chiudere entro fine anno) il progetto che sto iniziando a organizzare ora e gambizzare la prossima persona che mi dà buca.

Dato che sono immagini promozionali, sono state postprodotte in due versioni: una più neutra per flyer ecc e una seconda con colori più virati e surreali.

Model: HappyValentine
Makeup: Lawiky per Kryolan
Outfit: Dshock & HappyValentine





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Skin and feathers

Tra la pioggia torrenziale e quella specie di pre-influenza che porta ad attaccarsi a mò di mitile ai caloriferi appena accesi, mi pare sia il momento giusto per pubblicare questo set… sono scatti moderatamente vecchiotti che tra l’altro hanno avuto una genesi quasi fantozziana, visto che non mi è mai capitata una tale sequenza di sfighe: appena arrivati alla location, la troviamo vandalizzata (tra l’altro, era accaduto poche ore prima, durante un afterhour da fighetti), i vestiti da uomo erano di due taglie più piccole, la truccatrice originaria aveva dato buca e il replacement…. beh, diciamo che ci ho messo un bel po’ più del solito a editare!

Model: Nathalie Hers
Styling: Francesca Luciani e Chiara Sfredda
Assistant: Francesco Tosi

Bonus, uno degli scatti con Marco

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Recentemente ho partecipato a una visita guidata nei sotterranei del castello Sforzesco… al di là della delusione di scoprire che tutti i tunnel di un qualche interesse non sono più utilizzabili perchè in un modo o nell’altro ci passa sempre in mezzo la metropolitana, ho scoperto che nei sotterranei vive una nutrita colonia di animaletti (con un nome uscito da un film di fantascienza anni 50 o un cartone giapponese di robottoni) di cui mi sono subito innamorata: i Tenebrionidi(*).

Tutta questa logorroica premessa per capire come mai, quando Alige Corsetry mi ha proposto verde metallizzato e pvc come base per l’outfit di queste foto, immediatamente ho pensato al nome e ho iniziato a cercare insetti -stavolta di plastica, data l’esperienza passata di questi scatti, dove gran parte delle crisalidi se le è mangiate involontariamente la modella.

Outfit: Alige Corsetry
Model: Rita Lynch
Assistant: Francesco Tosi

(*) Si, so che il link porta a un sito scientifico con la navigazione in comic sans, ma per quanto rabbrividisca nell’animo è comunque meglio del link a Wikipedia.



Golden butterfly

Per fortuna che all’estero il nostro paese è conosciuto come “sunny Italy”, perchè sembra di stare a Seattle: tutti i fine settimana, da un mese a questa parte, sono stati incredibilmente piovosi…. quasi ovvio, dato che avevo in programma solo scatti all’aperto! Tuttavia, per ogni legge di Murphy c’è sempre una scappatoia… la soluzione stavolta è stata scattare nel bel mezzo di settimana scorsa (quando il meteo era ottimale) anche se ha significato delle corse non indifferenti per riuscire ad uscire a un orario decente e soprattutto sopravvivere al traffico da ora di punta milanese. 😉

In un mondo perfetto, saremmo andati a scattare in un campo fiorito… peccato che oltre a rendere impossibile stare all’aperto per tutti gli esseri sprovvisti di branchie, le trolling rains hanno provveduto a cancellare dalla faccia della Terra buona parte dei fiori per cui la scelta è ricaduta su un bosco artificiale che, come abbiamo presto scoperto a nostre spese, era soprattutto un enorme allevamento di insetti photobomber e ragni assatanati.

Scleri metereologici e insettofobi a parte, stavolta ho approfittato del lusso di avere ben due assistenti e ho trovato il tempo di sfruttare la Mark II anche per fare qualche video: da un po’ di tempo volevo mettere insieme una sorta di backstage/workflow e visto che il weekend scorso è stato nuovamente piovoso, il risultato è stato questo: una serata di scatti e circa 40 minuti di editing in meno di 3 minuti. Enjoy!

Per quanto riguarda le foto: due set al prezzo di uno… tramonto in mezzo ai campi scattato con flash e foresta (in mezzo agli insetti) con luce naturale. Ancora una volta, la modella è miss Cleo Viper, il trucco è merito di Claudia Malavasi, mentre hanno avuto una pazienza infinita a starci dietro ai nostri scleri Francesco e Andrea Tosi.



Game of drinks

Domenica sera, e mentre sto scrivendo questo post attaccata di straforo alla connessione dell’ignaro vicino, chissà quante migliaia di persone stanno godendosi la premiere di Game of Thrones. Internet a parte, personalmente una puntata non mi basta per cui cercherò disperatamente di non avere spoilers e aspetterò che ce ne siano almeno un paio a disposizione prima di inaugurarla. Meanwhile…. durante le ricerche per gli scatti di Arya Stark, mi ero accorta che non solo c’erano pochi cosplay o scatti dedicati ai personaggi, ma mancava qualcosa di ancora più essenziale per festeggiare la seconda serie: un drinking game come si deve! Oh, c’è un post su Reddit che ne offre uno (c’è tutto su Reddit) ma è in stato embrionale e soprattutto, non è specifico per la seconda stagione, per cui ho pensato di mettermici io e crearne uno apposta.

Non sono quello che si definisce una spettatrice silenziosa -commentare qualsiasi cosa accade sullo schermo con buona pace di chi mi sta a fianco è più forte di me- per cui i drinking games sono la soluzione migliore per evitare di venire lanciata fuori dalla finestra: giocando è impossibile mantenere il silenzio.
E soprattutto, a differenza dei vari beer pong di provenienza americana (che solitamente richiedono un minimo di abilità motoria) o dei giochi a filastrocche che andavano per la maggiore a Bergamo (non capisco come mai dato che richiedono un livello di presenza mentale superiore a chi di solito ci giocava!) i drinking games da nerd si giocano comodamente spaparanzati sul divano con una stampata delle istruzioni.

Ovvio che, una volta iniziato, dovevo fare le cose in grande: gli scatti sono stati fatti a Bergamo sfruttando la collezione di libri antichi (e di carrabattole) di mio padre mentre la copertina e l’interno sono frutto di un paio di settimane di lavoro nei ritagli di tempo. Dato che è un gioco con due drinks (superalcolico per gli shots + alcolico normale per i sorsi) ho incluso tre modi diversi di gioco a seconda delle casate, ma non avendole coperte tutte, se qualcuno ha suggerimenti su come giocare (ad esempio rum + qualcosaltro per i GreyJoy) cercherò di includerle nella versione finale, a serie finita. In the mean time, enojy!

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SPOILER WARNING: ho cercato di mantenere le istruzioni del drinking game il più possibile vaghe, ma la copertina ingrandita è pericolosa per chi non ha letto i libri perchè contiene spoiler su come finiscono alcuni personaggi, per cui ingrandite a vostro rischio!

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E, ovviamente, Game of Thrones non è mia proprietà intellettuale ed è copyright di HBO… questo non è il drinking game ufficiale ma un fan made tribute 🙂