The Idea behind Overexposed

Native Americans believed that taking a photo of a human being would steal his or her soul. Try to imagine a world where this is physically true. Because I am sure it is in a psychological way. The way celebrities might feel when their are being sprayed with flash from Paparazzis must feel like beeing sucked out by vampires. Or actors that play a multitude of roles in front of a dozen cameras, like a changeling shifting quickly into whatever and whomever they need to be – but sometimes feeling like there is no “self” left. The title is a play on the double meaning of the word overexposure. Of course for us photographers it means exposing your sensor (or film) too long to light. The results you are all familiar with. But it could also mean the way we expose ourselves to our environment, other people, criticism, scrutiny, etc. Overexposure, in that sense, can also lead to a sense of emptiness and loss of identity.


I am sitting behind a short (low) coffee table with a laptop to my right from which I am triggering the Hasselblad H4D-31 using the Phocus software. Luckily, there is a small delay between pressing the “Capture” button and the shutter release, so I can get into position before I am exposed once more… Behind me are two large V-banks, for which I’ve written a do-it-yourself blog post recently. The model camera in my hand is my trusty old Canon 5D mark II, a piece of my soul on its own. Sadly, since I got the 6D, I hardly ever shoot with the 5D mark II anymore, so I thought it deserved a little time in the spotlight.

There are three studio strobes in place, all Elinchrome D-Lites.

(Mainlight) medium octa in front and above, mounted to a boom. No Grid.
(Hairlight) standard reflector bowl with a grid above me and slightly behind, sort of peeping over the top of the V-Banks
(Kicker) standard reflector bowl pointed on the vinyl floor in front of the table to get some details into the front edge of the table
Camera and Settings (EXIF)

Hasselblad H4D-31 w/ HC 55-110mm lens (shot at 100mm). F/16, 1/500s, ISO 100. Almost all flashes were fired at full power, because of the small aperture. The camera was locked on a tripod and on manual focus.

Post-Production of Overexposed

Selected a shot of the series of me sitting at the table, expanded the canvas of this shot by using a table from another more wide-angle shot. Filled in the rest of the missing background with Content Aware Fill
Removed facial features with a mixture of Content Aware Fill, Cloning and lots of dodging an burning to even out the irregular luminosities created by the cloning.
More retouching and dodging and burning (sculpting) to create depth on the face and the clothes
Applied the same raw processing adjustment on all faces, including the crop, which just had to be shifted manually for every photo
Created a PS action to agen the photos of the faces: New 50% gray layer in Overlay blending mode. Added monochromatic noise, Dust & Scratches, vertical motion blur, vignetting, save as tiff, close file. This created irregular streaks and scratches on the photos.

Used the align and distribute feature in PS to place the fotos on the background, but then manually changed some of the angles. Created drop shadows for all face-portraits with layer styles. Applied a lens blur on all background photos to separate them from the faceless me in the front.
Created a beam of light using a curve adjustment and layer mask.

Some final touches in color, local sharpening

Here is the link to the final photo in its original vertical orientation.” -John Flury


  • Daniel Eggert

    Such a great idea and perfect title!
    Congrats! :)

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