If you follow our blog regularly, you know that we love toy photography and Star Wars. And today we have a treat for fans of both. Photographer Matt Ferris shared his photo of an X-Wing Starfighter, and we were immediately drawn by it. Although it’s a toy photo, it looks pretty real, just like it came straight from the movie.
Matt was kind enough to share the details of creating the photo with DIYP. What I find especially interesting is that he relied more on practical effects than on post-production. It took some rain, a puddle and a can of compressed air to create the desired effect. Just a few post-production tricks later, he got some pretty impressive results. Here are the details of the setup for the shot:
“With this image, I really wanted to add a little pop to the X-wing that I wouldn’t get from shooting with natural light alone. So I brought out my trusty Alien Bees B800 modified with a 22″ white beauty dish (w/diffusion sock) to shine just a touch of light onto the star fighter. It started to rain on me, and I have it on good authority, it’s not a good idea for these bad boys to get too wet! Many thanks to Angel King Productions for the heads up!
To get power in the middle of nowhere, I utilized my Vagabond mini battery pack. The things super handy if you need power in when a plug in isn’t available.
To hold the light, I used a c-stand to give me the stability and the angle I needed the light at with the 4′ boom. Then for my tripod, I simply took the post from my tripod and inverted it to get my camera level to the ground. This will work with some tripods, and not with others. So this is a must have feature for me when I purchase a tripod. This one is made by Silk. The model number is long worn off, so I’m sorry I can’t help you there.”
So, you will need to get your camera low for a shot like this. In case your tripod doesn’t have this feature, don’t worry. As you can guess, we have a DIY solution for this.
Matt also shared the post-production details with us:
“For me, practical effects sells the image more so then digital effects. That could be that I’m just not as good in post as others, but it just works for me. So that being said, I like to do as many of the effects as possible in camera. Here I used an ever so effective compressed can air to give the effect of the engines spraying water up behind the x-wing. I used 3 individual photos with water spray and layered them together. From there I simply used a layer mask to paint myself and the excess spray out of the image. This can sometimes take some doing to get the effect I’m happy with, but in the end, it’s completely worth taking the time to plan out what you want to capture in camera and the strategy to blend it all together. To remove the post, I used the clone tool on a blank layer to get rid of it.
To finish everything off, I added a little afterburner action on another blank layer, duplicated it three times to have the same effect for the four engines.
For color toning and polishing off the image, I applied a couple custom filters I built in Googles NIK collection. Specifically Color Efx, Silver Efx (luminosity blend mode) and Anolog Efx.”
Although I enjoy good photo manipulations and highly admire digital artists, I can relate to Matt’s point of view. Practical effects also work better for me. After all, original Star Wars trilogy was based on practical effects, and Rogue One went back to the roots. So for an image like this, I think this approach really works best.
Finally, Matt also shared gear details with us, as well as the camera settings:
“For color perfection I always use a color checker passport by www.xritephoto.com
The Alienbees and Vagabond Mini Battery Pack are from www.Paulcbuff.com
For my wireless triggers, I use the Phottix Stratto ii’s from www.phottix.com/
The X-Wing is a snaptite model you can buy at just about any toy store.”
I’d say this is a perfect way to pay a tribute to Star Wars. Practical effects, imagination and by doing what you love doing – photography. Thank you Matt for taking the time to share your photos and talk to us.
About the Artist
Matt Ferris is a photographer based out of Pacific Northwest. His primary passion is routed in photographing the fast paced action found in sports: primarily, Combat and field sports of every variety, from the youth leagues to the professionals. When not catching live action, he chases shadows for dramatic portraits in the studio, or gets deeply immersed in his imagination with his toy photography.
If you’d like to see more of Matt’s work, make sure to check out his website, like his Facebook page and follow him on Instagram. If you loved his toy photography project just like we did, you can find more of it here and here.