Behind the scenes with Joel Robison - Halloween Pumpkin Shoot

Behind the scenes with Joel Robison - Halloween Pumpkin Shoot

October 22, 2020 , Liz Ludlow

I hope you're enjoying your October so far! It's definitely one of my favourite months and I always feel so inspired to create!

One of my favourite parts of Halloween are pumpkins. I'm a pumpkin everything fan - pumpkin pie, pumpkin cookies, yes even the pumpkin spice latte. Something about them just makes me happy and I love to create images with them as well.

So of course when I came across a massive shipment of pumpkins I had to buy one and get my creative juices flowing.  I wanted to create an image that was a bit of a "Welcome To Halloween" image, something that illustrated that excitement of the first glimpses of Autumn and Halloween.

The idea I came up with was a hand reaching out of a pumpkin, like a genie coming out of an autumnal lamp, bringing with it the magic of the Halloween season! In my head it seemed like a simple image to create and thankfully it came out almost exactly as I saw it in my mind!

The first step was, of course, to carve the pumpkin. I wanted the image to look as real as possible which meant that I did, in fact, need to stick my entire arm into the pumpkin so that  my hand was emerging out of the top. I cut open the top and then a hole at the bottom and then scooped out all the guts and brought everything to my shooting location.

The next step was finding the best angle, I actually shot this image in two different backdrops but in the same spot. One was the background I used in the final finished image, shot facing toward the setting sun, the other was shot simply 180 degrees behind me, facing the woods. I preferred the first. I simply shoved my hand inside the pumpkin and held it carefully from the bottom so that it would be easy to remove the parts I didn't need/want.

It definitely took a few tries to get the angle right and to find the right hand posture as well that showed a bit of movement but not too "zombie" hand. I really want to include a sense of candid excitement so I added in the lid of the pumpkin flying off. I picked this pumpkin especially because of the twisty stem that looked like a wizards hat!  I also shot images of the lantern in the bright sunset light as well.

After I had shot all the main components of the image, I then expanded the scene, as I wanted this to have a very shallow DOF, I used an 85mm 1.4 which meant that I needed to shoot extra images of the background to extend the background in each direction. This is easiest when done using at tripod but can be done without as well.

Putting the image together was pretty simple. I started with the first main image of my hand in the pumpkin and then extended the frame by adding each additional image and using layer masks to blend them together. Any time you are creating a floating or levitating image the most important thing to remember is to take a clear empty shot of the background to serve as the backdrop. Using this I was able to mask away the extra bits of my arm that were coming out the bottom of the pumpkin.

I added in the floating pumpkin top, the lantern and the leaves using layer masks to remove the unwanted bits as well.  I used some dust brushes that I've included in this post to add a bit of extra detail around the arm coming out of the pumpkin.

The last step was really in colour grading and I used a series of HSL layers, to adjust the yellows and reds mostly, making sure that all the elements in the image matched. Using curves I adjusted the contrast and the light to make it bit more punchy and bright. I did have to add a slight gradient of orange and yellow coming from the top of the image down to add a bit of colour to the sky so it wasn't just white.

The final image! 

 For more of Joel's work, please visit any of the following social media links:



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