The Dave Hill Effect - Why it's near impossible to recreate

Posted on Monday, August 17, 2009 - 7 comments -

If, after looking at the above pic, you think , "Wow! That's an awesome image! Wonder who clicked it.", then here's a bit of history.

This pic was clicked by Dave Hill who is one of the most famous photographers in the world today. His images have a distinctive detail-rich, gritty look that has come to be known as the 'Dave Hill Effect'. Nowadays, everyone wants to create an image with the Dave Hill look and a number of sites offer a Dave Hill effect tutorial. But the end results are often awful and are not even close to what Dave Hill creates.

So, I, with my self-presumed photoshop expertise, took up a challenge and I wanted to create an image that is Dave Hill-like. After countless hours, I have to say that I have failed to create anything that's even remotely close to Dave Hill. :-(

In the quest of recreating Dave Hill imagery, I learnt a lot about Dave Hill and his equipment and his processing techniques. Here's the summary of all I had learnt.

Why It's Near Impossible to Recreate The Dave Hill Effect

1. Dave Hill shoots medium format

Dave Hill uses a Mamiya 7-II when shooting film and a Hasselblad H3Dwhen he shoots digital. (Of course, he uses a Canon EOS 5D Mark II)to shoot 'test shots'.) The difference in image quality between top of the line 35mm digital cams like Nikon D3x and a medium format digital like Hasselblad H3D is startling. You can find a little comparison here . The level of detail and dynamic range of a Hasselblad (or for that matter any medium format camera) is truly mindblowing. The price difference is even more startling. H3D costs $37,000. :-)

Here's a man who has come very close to recreating the Dave Hill look. Needless to say, he shoots medium format. In summary, shooting medium format is one key change you need to make to get that perfect Dave Hill look. But, that's not all.

2. Dave Hill uses an eight light setup, minimum

Dave Hill uses wraparound lighting ie. lighting the model from all possible directions to best show the structural detail and to create a 3D look. Dave Hill, as per his own admission, uses a minimum of eight lights to light a single model. If you check his behind-the-scenes videos, you can notice that he uses not compact flashes, but studio modeling lights like the White Lightning X1600. He also uses octaboxes the size of a tent and reflectors the size of a stand living room wall. Oh, and he uses those expensive ring flashes too. In case you're inquisitive, Dave uses PocketWizards and CyberSyncs to trigger his strobes. :-)

3. Dave Hill spends days processing a single image

Yup. He admits that he loves to spend a lot of time on a single image and he spends countless hours on processing each image. That explains how he created rain only with Photoshop. This point was no surprise, actually. Painters spend months painting a single image and it's not surprise that digital artists (yes, the term 'photographer' is getting outdated!) spend days on a single image.

So, that's about it. Shoot with a $37000 cam, use 8 lights and huge octaboxes and spend 50 hours on one image and you'll make Dave Hill run out of business soon. :-)

Of course, not many of us will want to out-perform Dave Hill but still an innocent kid in us urges us to create something that's half as cool as Dave Hill's images. Doing that is pretty easy and achieving the faux-Dave Hill effect will be subject of my next tutorial. Keep watching this space! :-)


Dave Hill's Site
Dave Hill's Interview at Strobist
A forum post by one of Dave Hill's Friends

Better Photos in 2 Minutes - Photoshop Vignette Tutorial

Posted on Thursday, July 23, 2009 - 0 comments -

This is a photo I clicked during one of my trips. This is a very common photograph and most of you must've clicked at least one such photo before. Infact, when I clicked this photo, there were five others beside me clicking the same scene. Damn! :-(

Hehe! :-) Two of your friends will comment, "nice pic..." when they see a photo like this in your Facebook album.

Now, with two minutes of Photoshopping, you could transform this image from "nice pic..." to "wow! that's an awesome pic!". The two minute magic is called vignetting. Vignetting is a technique used by 100% of all professional photographers. (Yeah! Go ask every photographer in the world if you wanna be really sure. :-P ) To know how to apply a vignette is an indispensible tool in the arsenal of everyone who wants to click impressive photos. :-)

STEP 1: Open the image in Photoshop! Just in case you didn't know. ;-)

STEP 2: Goto Filter->Distort->Lens Correction

STEP 3: In the lens correction window, pull the vignette slider backwards towards 'darken'.

After pressing OK, you'll see that the image is now noticeably better. This is because a vignette (or darkened edges) guides the eyes away from the edges and towards the centre of the image, making the subject look better. Also, vignettes give images a nostalgic feel and an attractive glow. The change is subtle but good enough to make a good pic better. :-)

Now, you can make the image a little more professional by adding a border. To add a border, choose the crop tool and enlarge the crop area to the size of the border. Select a different background color if you want a different colored border but usually black works the best.

This is how the pic will look after adding the boder.

See! It looks very professional. :-) You could probably add your name and a copyright symbol and you'll be all ready to pursue someone to buy this photograph. :-P

Now, you can take this one step further if you want five or more people saying, "Wow! Amazing pic!". :-P BLACK AND WHITE! :-D

Converting images to black and white is very easy in Photoshop. Just press Ctrl+Shift+U and your image will lose all its color.

Wow! Awesome, isn't it? :-P Actually, the final black and white image is quite great. I didn't know I had this good an image hiding in my tour photo archives. :-) Dig your archives too and probably you'll find awesome images like these. Oh, and don't forget to add a vignette. :-D

Easy Photoshop Tattoos

Posted on Wednesday, July 22, 2009 - 4 comments -

The tattoos on the above pic are NOT real. They were done using Photoshop in a matter of a few minutes using brushes and blending modes. Continue reading to know how I did this...

Prerequisites: Download and install the aggressive tattoos brush set from here. If you don't know how to install brushes, this page will help.

Now, don't be a lazy bum and stop right there. Installing and using custom Photoshop brushes takes some time but trust me, once you start using brushes you'll be wanting to use them more and more. :-)

Ok, now to the (extremely simple )instructions. Once you're done installing the Tattoo brush, follow these simple instructions and you'll have cool tattoos on your images. :-)