As part of my proposal for this year one of my objectives was to create images with the intention of entering competitions. For my first entry I have chosen to create Harry Potter themed newborn image.
The very first Harry Potter novel – The Philosophers stone was released in 1997 and since then the much-loved author J.K Rowling has since gone on to write another 6 award-winning novels. These were then made into films by Warner Bros and are famous worldwide.
Some of the very first reviews described Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone as “the most imaginative debut since Roald Dahl” and “a hugely entertaining thriller” with “all the makings of a classic”.
Glowing as they were, those early reviews almost undersell the eventual success of the book and its six sequels.
The books have collectively sold more than 500 million copies, making them the best-selling series of all time — with the final four novels consecutively setting records for the fastest selling book in history.
The series has been translated into 73 languages and adapted into eight hugely popular films, as well as spurring spin-off books and films and a lucrative body of merchandise.
In the 20 years since the first novel was published, the world of Harry Potter has grown to be worth more than $25 billion.
Literature and films
These days there appears to be a growing amount of films that are remakes of ones done before, the first one that springs to mind is the Spiderman movies, originally a Marvel comic book which was made into it’s first American film Spider-Man in 1977 which was intended as an introduction for a weekly TV series. Sony Pictures Entertainment bought the rights to the character and released Spider-Man in 2002. Then followed Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man 3, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Spider-Man: Homecoming. It is a wonder they haven’t exhausted the characters potential but he has gone on to feature in other Marvel films such as Captain American and the Avengers Series and still to be released – Spider-man: Far From Home.
In George Bluestones Novels into Film: The Metamorphosis of Fiction into Cinema (1957) he discusses the common reaction from those who’s favourite novel has been made into a film which they describe as being ‘butchered’. It is definitely a difficult task to take a book and adapt it for film, some novels are strongly narrated from the thoughts of the characters and you get a much deeper insight into their personality which becomes the path for the story. It can tell you what a person is feeling, what something looks like or even tastes like whereas movies have to rely on visuals, action, sounds and music. With the use of CGI in films, which has been said to fill the gaps where the story lacks, there is so many ways of bringing magic and fantasy to life.
Avatar (2009), however, looked stunning, but only had enough storyline for a 21-minute episode. It should’ve been the most expensive TV series, and the plot we were presented with would fill the pilot quite nicely.
CGI should be there to enhance a narrative, not try to distract you from it or paper over a lackluster tale. All too often, the audience is underestimated: the filmmakers figuring that if they make something look pretty, the general public won’t notice the distinct lack of incident.
After watching the film Girl On The Train which I loved I spoke to my Mum telling her that she needed to watch turns out she had and hated it! Only because she’d read the book first and in her opinion the film didn’t do it justice. That appears to be a common thread with films that have come from novels, readers feel short-changed after watching the film because the have only skimmed the surface of the details that were in the book.
When it comes to the Harry Potter films, having not read the books and having nothing to compare them to I love them and was eager to create an image inspired by the films for some time. This opportunity arose when I found out that a client who had booked a newborn shoot with me was a huge fan. She was unaware that I was planning anything and I chose to do it as a surprise with the intent of using the image as a competition entry if she was happy for me to do so. Knowing how popular the films are I also hoped that by sharing a Harry Potter themed image on my website and social media it would increase my traffic.
Before I started to sketch out my idea for the shot I searched the internet to find other Harry Potter style newborn images to see what had already been done before.
This collection of images is from Pinterest & Google (Image references are at the end of this blog)
This gave me a good reference point when planning my image, not wanting to replicate work by another photographer, I made this mood board as inspiration but mainly to so I knew what not to do. These days it’s extremely difficult to come up with an original idea and as I’ve mentioned before the internet can be great for inspiration but it can also have the adverse effect when you feel like everything has been done before.
The world always seems brighter when you’ve just made something that wasn’t there before. Neil Gaiman
The demand for themed newborn props has definitely increased over the past few years. I have noticed on sites like Etsy there is a huge selection of vendors making baby props for almost everything you can think of.
You can also buy Harry Potter Digital backgrounds, to use these you need to photograph the baby in a way that it can be added into the background with some clever Photoshop skills.
This research into the buyers market for newborn prop vendors shows that if there is an increased demand, more and more props and related items are available to buy then it seems right to assume there is an increase in photographers doing these type of themed shoots.
SKETCHES (*take a photo of my sketch)
With the great selection of props and accessories online I could probably have bought most of the items that I needed for my image. Instead I chose to make as many of them props as I was able to so that my image would be unique. Taking inspiration from photographer and artist Kirsty Mitchell and her Wonderland series.
Using her experience in fashion and costume design she created every bit of the extravagant outfits, props and scenes. The complexity of each individual image was so intricate that I can only assume that having full control of the design at every stage was so important to achieve her vision.
Not in any way comparable to Mitchell’s creations but inspired by her I wanted to make as many of the props as I was able to.
For the bed, I used the branches from a cherry tree that we recently chopped down in our garden, I wanted it to look like it had been made in a time where there was no fancy tools. Just simple wood cutting tools with nails and rope to hold it together with a hessian mattress.
I also made the fluffy wool blanket using a needle felting technique, I knitted the scarf, melted and stuck the candles together, printed paper with script text and then aged the letters and envelopes with coffee and teabags.
The owl, wand, headband & wrap were purchased from Etsy sellers, I could have attempted to make these as well but I ran out of time so these were bought items.
As always, with a newborn shoot you never know which way it’s going to go. You can get a baby that sleeps the whole time or on the odd occasion they have health issues like colic or reflux and they generally don’t settle at all.
During this shoot the baby girl – Maisie, slept really well…. a relief after all the preparation for this shot I’d hoped for! When I revealed the Harry Potter scene, the Mum was lost for words! Another relief for me, I was so pleased at her reaction and how eager she was for us to get the shot I had in mind. The (rough) sketches that I had done were handy to have because I was able to show her how we needed to have Maisie positioned. She was going to be wrapped and on her back so it wasn’t a complicated set up, all we needed was for her to be content in a deep sleep.
Nikon D750 & Sigma Art 50mm 1.4
Jinbei Light and softball diffuser @ 45 degrees to the front left of the baby
1/250 F4 ISO 200
I usually shoot most of my newborn portraits at around F2 to achieve a nice soft fall off behind the facial features to the blurry background. For this shot I wanted to make sure I got a little bit more detail showing in the letters so I set my aperture to F4.
As recommended by Duczman on the workshop I attended I purposely underexposed these shots. Making sure to preserve all the highlights with the intent to recover the shadows in Photoshop.
Out of these 2 images I much preferred the aerial shot of Maisie, it is more pleasing to the eye, less cluttered, better composition and she’s holding the wand which meant I could add some magic light to that. Even though I intended for her to hold the owl the wand worked just as well.
Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. Scott Adams
The edit consisted of removing the flaws & skin retouch then adjusting the exposure, highlights, shadows, contrast, colour, and adding light to the wand. After that I flattened the image and took it into Alien Skin (Additional editing software for Photoshop) here I used the sliders to increase the contrast and final colour adjustments.
The final edit of this is very close to how I imagined it, the only difference from my original sketch is that she’s holding the wand instead of the owl. In hindsight the wand is what stands out as the focal point and appears to be the light that illuminates her face. There is even a bright circle highlight in the tip of her nose which looks like it’s been cast from the wand. If I was to do this again I would perhaps try a different layout with the papers on the floor. The more I look at it the more they look purposely placed instead of fallen or discarded. In general I’m really pleased how this turned out, it’s never a sure thing that the baby will sleep never mind get the shot so I’m grateful for that. And I look forward to hopefully entering it into a competition, even if that just results in some constructive feedback which will help me improve my work in the future.
All images taken are copyright of myself (Suzanne Ross-Hughes | Perfect Moments Photography ) Any other images shown have been sourced from the internet and have been referenced accordingly. This blog also includes research and references to other photographers that relate to the topics discussed.
Pinterest photo references: