Visitor Work Log

The Concept

We have this little metal dog decoration that I thought might make a cool alien. Here is what I sketched out.

The Shiny Dog

First I wanted to figure out how I was going to light this shiny thing. I tried several light positions and combinations of reflectors. The style of light that I found most pleasing was the bottom left photo where the dog is backlit.

Testing different lighting for the shiny dog.

In the Lord of the Rings films, they had a special lighting rig for Galadriel to make her eyes look magical by reflecting several points of light. This is the only character they did this on which gives a very distinct and otherworldly feel to her closeups.

Galadriel’s eye lighting

I wanted to do something like this for the shiny dog, to make it feel like it had some magical star-light emanating from it. I read that in LOTR they used simple christmas lights. So I strung up a bunch of christmas lights to get a nice pattern on the dog.

I also got this little LED moon light. I wanted the moon light to be in the dog’s reflection so made sure I shot his reference shots with the moon in the frame. I also made an HDR of the moon (bottom right) so that I could use the light spill without the moon being blown out.

Final dog lighting and moon lighting.

The Talent

I took a few easy takes of Artsy, who kept wanting to play with the moon light. In the end I had about 6 shots that I felt could work with. I probably didn’t even need the moon in there but now you have a scale reference for how tiny the thing is.

I lit Artsy very similar to how I lit the shiny dog, you can see my key light behind her and then I placed a silver reflector on-axis to the camera to give her some fill

Artsy waiting to play with her busy moon.


I began by setting up a very rough scene outline to test different poses and scales. I also combined the 2 different shiny dog shots and did a basic color adjustment so the christmas lights were more on the blue end of the spectrum.

Testing different poses.

After settling on a pose I got the different assets scaled and started playing with backgrounds. My lack of planning an actual background was my single biggest mistake on this shot. I didn’t like the stars and so removed them.

Trying out some stars

I decided that I wanted to inverse the shiny dog lighting, so I left the christmas light layer at full strength and dialed the opacity down on the lit layer.

Adjusting the shiny dog

Some blending of the ground planes and minor color adjustments and I arrived at the final image.

Lessons Learned

  • I need to focus more on the background for each concept. Compositing a bunch of photos all shot on a black background makes it hard to tie everything together. In the future I need a solid background to insert my characters into. This shot may have worked with just a little patch of grass and the night sky.
  • I need to vacuum my backdrop before every shoot, I just don’t have the energy to photoshop out every little dog hair.

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