How I Invested 8 Months In Creating A 2.5D Movie To Attract New Clients

Sep 24, 2014

Tihomir Lazarov

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How I Invested 8 Months In Creating A 2.5D Movie To Attract New Clients

Sep 24, 2014

Tihomir Lazarov

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

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To attract new clients, I decided that I needed something a bit different for my portfolio. I had a crazy idea and no money, but I embarked upon this epic project regardless. My idea was to shoot a 2.5D video consisting of 29 separate still photography photo shoots in a project which took me 8 months to complete. Here’s my story:



The end of 2013 was a tough financial period for me. I had the idea to create a project for my portfolio that was a bit different. I had to do everything on a tight budget and after 3 small stories in pictures I decided to make another one but with more images and more complexity in the making. I called the project “Letter in a bottle”.

It is a simple romantic story of an 19th century girl who finds a letter in a bottle. From the letter she understands she had a twin sister and on the next morning this girl beings a journey to her sister’s place. She is travelling by train, horse, ship, going through a ship wreck, swimming and finally reaching to the final destination. I decided to make a 2.5D film out of the images so it looks like a short film.



It was a very ambitious project that I had to do with little money. That’s why I went with compositing for 2 reasons:

  • It was a cold autumn and I could not shoot the sketched scenes outside (the time of year would not match the story);
  • The model was a good swimmer and I wanted to shoot the underwater scenes in a pool but she decided not to;
  • There were scenes far away from where I live and it would be very expensive to shoot them with the model on location;



I hired a model and shot everything indoors. Prior to hiring the model I sketched every single image, the light ratios, light positions, light modifiers. As I’m paying the model by the hour, I had to be as quick as possible, so I had to be prepared upfront.

We shot all the 29 planned scenes for about 4 hours. Most of them were shot using 1 or 2 big Elinchrom octabanks which are awesome (see my equipment list below). Not of less importance was the acting and expressions of the model. I directed her on every single scene and she did a really amazing job although she’s a fashion model, not an actor.



After that I spent the rest of the 7 (seven) months travelling, shooting backgrounds and composing scene by scene. Every element in the backgrounds has been shot with the sketched lighting in mind. There were scenes including underwater shots which were created using a large fish tank (which I hired from a local pet shop). The ship was a 3 foot model I photographed in a luxury local shop.

Every picture took me about 3-4 days in Photoshop alone. Why so much? Because I’m not that good in Photoshop and it takes me more time to do composites. No plugins or special actions are used. I wanted the whole story to look as real as possible. There were not any monsters, aliens, guns, explosions the photos had to look as romantic movie scenes and the last thing I wanted someone to say was “look, it’s all composited in Photoshop”.

YouTube video


The 8th month was all for creating the 2.5D video out of the separate layers in the photos and recording the music for the video.

Hope this is an inspiration to all photographers who think gear is the most important asset. No. The most important asset located between your ears. Invest in it.

YouTube video


There are miniatures that I built for some scenes. For example the first scenes with the girl on the pier, she was actually sitting on chairs while the pier is a 30cm miniature I made of wood.

On all of the scenes the hair is elongated by manually illustrating it. I created a quick-pace video about that (I hope pro illustrators won’t see that :):


The project was found to be interesting for most people but not that much because they simply saw a bunch of nice pictures in a story. I’m not shouting out loud it’s been all shot in a small room and composited in Photoshop because people will start looking at it as a “lot of photoshop work”. To me it’s “lots of planned photography work and unfortunately had to be composed in Photoshop”.

The video has been created in Photoshop CS6. Each of the scenes is about 1-1.5G files which are broken down into simpler layers that were animated into separate videos. The videos are then combined together with the music into the final 2.5D clip. The video is 30fps as it doesn’t really matter for a 2.5D clip (I usually prefer 24fps).

The project took me 8 months:

  • 4 hours for the photoshoot;
  • 3 days in Photoshop (on average) per scene;
  • lots of travel to shoot backgrounds for;
  • 1 month for creating the video and recording the music;
  • …and that in between commissioned projects;

The total cost is probably about $500 most of it went for gas.


I did that for the sake of getting future clients. I already got hired for a couple of bigger projects because of “Letter in a bottle”. Some of these projects are already completed and are in publishing now (I’m not allowed to publish them yet). It’s been 4 months since I’ve published “Letter in a bottle” so it’s doing its job.

So, here it is:

YouTube video

and here is how it looks on a story board:



I shoot with a very simple setup including Elinchrom strobes, for the full gear list, see the original article on

About The Author

Tihomir Lazarov is a commercial portrait photographer based in Sofia, Bulgaria. You can follow his blog here and his facebook here. You can see his profile, links, gear, philosophy and influences on This post was originally published at inmybag and posted with permission here.

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19 responses to “How I Invested 8 Months In Creating A 2.5D Movie To Attract New Clients”

  1. Morgan Glassco Avatar
    Morgan Glassco

    Very cool project. The scenes clearly tell the story.

    1. Tihomir Lazarov Avatar
      Tihomir Lazarov

      I’m glad to hear that, Morgan. Thanks!

  2. Wes Jones Avatar
    Wes Jones

    A beautiful short film.

    1. Tihomir Lazarov Avatar
      Tihomir Lazarov

      Thank you, @Wes Jones!

  3. dogtired Avatar

    It would have been much cooler if you added some motion into this – coulds moving, girl’s hair waving in the wind, more storm effects like lightning, ect. This way it would not be just flat images (they are splendid non the less) and the whole experience would be more cinematic. This could be done through stop-motion for instance, or like a layerd background, like they do in children school plays, you know – layers of cardbord pretending to be moving waves, clouds, ect. (i just don’t know the name for this ‘technique’) This sort of 2.5D cinmatics are coming back more and more to pc games and it’s so refreshing fom crazy animations rendered by city-size rigs if you ask me.

    Pardon my English, usually it’s not that bad but I’m just dog tired today.

    1. Tihomir Lazarov Avatar
      Tihomir Lazarov

      Thanks for your comment. I appreciate it. The sky is moving on some of the images. The hair — it’s not indeed. I thought about that but I have already published the video.

    2. ext237 Avatar

      To better illustrate your negative critique, please post a link to your work that’s better than this amazing video. That would make your negative comments more credible.

      And don’t post anonymously unless you have something to fear.

      1. Tihomir Lazarov Avatar
        Tihomir Lazarov

        First of all, thank you @ext237:disqus that you have stopped by on this personal work of mine. Thank you for appreciating it. I’m glad to hear you liked it.

        I’m not offended by “dogtired” at all. He/she is right that there’s no motion in the hair. That’s a fact. He wanted to have motion in the hair but there wasn’t. That’s OK. We all see things that could be done extra in high end productions. It will be always like that.

        It’s my first 2.5D video and the main emphasis is actually on the pictures themselves which this guy/girl said positive things about which I thank for.

        Again, thank you for spending a few minutes of your life on my work.

        – Tihomir

      2. dogtired Avatar

        are you serious?! i ddin’t mean anything negative. i think this movie’s fantactic, shots are beautiful and all the work put into making this is by far worth it. i have utmost respect for the skill and comitment required to make something like this, as well as for ingenuity of an idea of promoting yourself in such creative way. i can’t show anything of my own, because i don’t posses skills anywhere this level. i do however believe that this section is for comments and comment is what i did, pointing out things that i thing could make this movie even more interestin and appealing. sorry i didn’t pour hectoliters of sweet blablah like “oh my, this is the best super perfect thing i’ve ever seen and there’s not one thing that could have been done better!”, i just don’t think that this sort of talk brings any ideas.
        luckily, Mr Lazarow here could see my point clearly and i’m mighty glad there’s no offence taken as none was ment.
        and at last, man, you ahve some ego telling people how they can post. hah, this is the funnies thing i’ve seen in a long time. pardon me my good sir, i will post however i like. please for the sake of your own health, chill out a bit and don’t think everything you read on the net so very personally. (unless that was an act of trollism, then well done indeed, you got me to reply but just this once :))

        1. ext237 Avatar

          Since your critique seemed limited to what you didn’t like, it seemed you were speaking from expertise. Hence the suggestion that you provide examples of your work to show us how it’s done correctly. Its unfortunate that you were offended.

        2. Ben Avatar

          I’m with you on this one. No need to apologise as your comment will help Tihomir to have a better view on his project. Some of the effects are too fast and lack more fine tuning (motion in hair, water drop, rain, wind,…).

          The reason why it specially stands out is because the pictures are nice and you can tell some work has been put into this. According to me you should have worked with somebody else whom masters the 2.5D technique and video editing. You could have learned a lot and end up with a better short movie.

          The music is wrong to my taste. I would have been nice to have maybe 3, 4 different tracks describing the different parts of the story/journey with few sound effects (rain, stain,…) to give a bit more dynamique to your story.

          I understand you don’t want to overkill your pictures with too many effects but didn’t you want to put “life” to these pictures? Could you imagine how your work could have looked with these effect : ?

          1. Tihomir Lazarov Avatar
            Tihomir Lazarov

            As I said I could never please everybody with whatever I do. First I wanted to make a slideshow of the images but next I decided to get to the 2.5D and it’s good enough for what I’m aiming for — clients that hire me for photography.

            I didn’t want to put any sound effects to the story but to record music that’s suitable for each set of images. And yes, there are at least 6 tracks which match the mood and the dynamics of the story. Look at the disney movies. There are many of them which do not use sound effects but use music instead.

            I know the video you posted above. The pictures are moving and people understand the story. It’s good enough for me. There could be always something more but I wanted to push it after 8 months of work so I can get another types of clients. These clients would not hire me because I spent extra on the 2.5D as few of them go and watch 4 minutes of pictures they can flip for 30 seconds on my website.

            It’s a matter of goals one sets. Mine are business goals as I don’t do that in the weekend but as means to get new clients. When you do it as a business you have to know when it’s good enough for publishing as you can finetune it for 1 more year and still not find it pleasing for everyone.

          2. Ben Avatar

            Ok, no worries. If you you and your clients are happy with the result that’s what matters.

  • Amaryllis Avatar

    Amazing! It looks so pretty and I really like the light in each shot!

    1. Tihomir Lazarov Avatar
      Tihomir Lazarov

      I’m humbled to hear such nice words. Thank you.

  • J Kittles Avatar
    J Kittles

    This is really good. Thanks for the inspiration!!

    1. Tihomir Lazarov Avatar
      Tihomir Lazarov

      You’re welcome @j_kittles:disqus. For this project I have been inspired by great photographers

  • Marian Avatar

    I’m not expert in 2,5D so the result looks beautiful to me. I don’t care about moving hair or not, idea and execution is good enough. Great work Tichomir

    1. Tihomir Lazarov Avatar
      Tihomir Lazarov

      Thanks Marian