North by Northwest: A Movie Poster by Diana Lundin

I did a recent pet photography shoot with Sailor, a beautiful German Shepherd. I took lots of running shots of her. Gorgeous dog. And then... and then... well, as much as she looked great running in the park, I thought another running scene might capture part of her essence.

Yes, a Hitchcock movie. "North by Northwest." The vision of Cary Grant running as a biplane (I think it was a crop duster, no? It's been ages since I've seen it) chased him. In a cornfield. Somewhere Mt. Rushmore is involved. So I Googled "North by Northwest" and there are just tons of Cary Grant running. Hmmm. And then I saw a very graphical movie poster. It appears it was rereleased and a new poster was made. It looked easy enough. I had an afternoon to kill. And so that's when I attempted the poster.

Friends, when I tell you I didn't know what I was getting into when I started out, you can take that as the truth. It was far harder than I thought it was. 

I found a stock photo of Mt. Rushmore that looked like it would fit the bill. I found a tile floor that would work. And after that, it got complicated.

You see, in an earlier post, I told you I don't draw. Well, truth be told, I'm not a graphic artist, either. Every time I want to do something in Photoshop, I have to learn it. Which is actually great, I know enough about Photoshop to know when I can't do something and have to learn it because it is a really complex program. And I don't know that much about type. And the type on this poster has to have perspective. I actually found out what font was used in the poster and I happened to have that so that part was easy. But putting in that perspective. Yes, it was tricky since I rarely use perspective outside of straightening a few buildings here and there. 

And then I found a really hard way to make that red runway type thing. Turns out, once I finished making my first draft, I discovered a really easy way of doing that. Figures. 

Then I cut out Sailor. Usually, composites are photographed against a gray background. But the running dog was in a park so I had to cut her out there. That wasn't the worst part. The worse part was the crop duster. Now again, you'd think, a plane on white wouldn't be that difficult to cut out. Oh, but it was, it was. I had to leave Photoshop, which has the worst masking tool ever, and go to Topaz ReMask 5, my go-to program for complex cutouts. It does a great job. To do a great job, it takes a long time. But I did it. 

I had to fool around with making things fit so it's not exactly like the Cary Grant version. But I like it. Want to recreate a movie poster with your pet? Or even just you? Yes, I shoot people, too. 

Send an email to the Secret World's Secret Headquarters in suburban Los Angeles and let's create your world.

Lyle and Fiona at the Music Hall by Diana Lundin

In my secret world as a mild-mannered pet photographer, I photographed this "couple," Lyle and Fiona, as the mild-mannered Lyle and Fiona. Beautiful poodles, well-groomed, living the dream. Ah, but their owner had another dream. Once I began creating composites in my pet photography, she conjured up in her mind Lyle as a piano player, Fiona as a singer. And she asked me if I could do it. 

So in my mind, I envisioned Lyle in a tie and tails in front of a grand piano and Fiona in an evening gown. That's not what my client had in mind. Hers was a more gritty lounge or music hall. More downscale than upscale. And she thought Lyle should have a beret. 

Well, now I was starting to get the picture, different than it was in my head. And actually, the thought of trying to create Lyle in tails, besides his own tail, was pretty daunting for someone who does not draw. I repeat, I do not draw. I create worlds, yes, it's true, but they wouldn't exist if I had to draw them. Not even if I had to storyboard them. Not even with stick figures. 

We photographed the two of them in front of an unlit white background with one Profoto B2 with no modifier as the key light, and a Profoto B2 in an umbrella as the fill. My client envisioned Fiona maybe on the piano, stretched out, but that wasn't happening. We just couldn't make that work. So I had her stand and lay down and her image in this composite is a head from lying down and her body from standing up. 

Lyle -- Lyle, let's say, really wasn't interested. Now, these are big dogs and my client is a little woman and she was trying to prop him on an apple box so we could give the illusion he was tickling the ivories. We got one perfect picture. But guess what? In compositing, that's all you need. 

And so once I saw what I had, I began putting the composite together. There are 11 elements; a background, a tip jar, the money (which actually took five objects to put some scratch into the jar), a piano, a bench, Lyle, the beret, Fiona, a bow, a microphone, and a stand. And then a blitz of Photoshop magic. And voila! Lyle and Fiona, ready for their Summer Tour 2017.

And that's how it's done, son. Want one for yourself? Write me here at The Secret World's Secret Headquarters and let's dream something up. Who will your pet be?

Lyle and Fiona, World Tour 2017. Pet photography composite.

Lyle and Fiona, World Tour 2017. Pet photography composite.