Has Modern Technology Negatively Impacted Our Lives? Composite Photographer Illustrates How

One of the biggest challenges society faces today is modern technology. It's a double-edged sword that if not handled properly, can quickly become a problem where human-to-human interaction digresses. Photographer Andreas Varro believes this is a problem that needs attention, and he sought out to bring awareness to this issue the best way he knows how.

The premise behind this stand-alone image project is a man that is lounging in a room during a vacation. On this vacation, he is soul-searching to find himself again. But to a fault of his own, he still is being sucked back into the digital world checking his messages and email. Even if he is setting himself out to avoid these distractions, he inevitably cannot avoid them. His expression shows panic and compulsion.

Like most of Varro's projects, a great amount of time, planning, production, and compositing go into it. He was kind enough to take everyone step-by-step through the process.

The Sketch

Some photographers take this step, some don't. With a well thought out project and idea like this, Varro created this sketch to visualize how he wanted this image to unravel.

The Location

After stringing together his connections, Varro managed to land a furniture studio as the location for his idea.

The Lighting

Since Varro is very particular with his method. While he mixes ambient and strobe lighting together, they are actually mixed at different exposures. He explained that ambient exposures were shot separately to avoid problems with the change in temperature throughout the shoot. This allows Varro to have consistent light, shadows, and color temperatures throughout the photo.

Varro used one large key light and a secondary rim light to mimic the light coming from the windows to edge the model. He also used a white reflector behind the model to make it easier to extract his hair as well as fill out shadows.

The Shoot

After sourcing models for both the main character and arms via Facebook, the production was full steam ahead. 

Varro wanted the model's expression to show panic and overwhelmed to portray the essence of the image. The main character needed his arms and legs still to prepare for postproduction. When blending exposures, staying still will make everything easier with alignment.

After the main character image was complete, 10 to 20 exposures were shot in different areas around the main character. The multitude of exposures gave Varro options when composing.

For background and props, Varro shot separate exposures with both strobes and ambient light. 

Having different exposures shot at different f-stops, I get to know that if something changes on the way and I want to make the room interior much lighter for some reason, I know I can do that without destroying pixels. If I want to remove furniture, I can do it without having to clone it away.

The Composite 

After raw conversion and placing different images together in Photoshop, Varro placed the images as Smart Objects so he could go back if he had to tweak the raw file's exposure, white balance, sharpness, etc., and avoid destroying pixels. 

He then moved around images and aligned them until he was satisfied. Layer masks were created for each individual image which included windows, ceiling, chairs, tables, hands, phones, and the character.

The next step is dodging and burning. The most important part of this step is to cast shadows on each other to make the image look natural as possible because they didn't cast shadows in the first place. On top of that, he processed the standard global dodge and burning most photographers are accustomed to.

After the dodge and burning step was complete, Varro cut out the original background and sourced an image of a Swedish landscape. He retouched the image to blend well with the interior, details like the lamps' highlights were retouched to show light coming in from the windows, as you can see.

The Stats

Production time totaled around 30-40 hours with 15 hours spent retouching. The time span from idea to final product was six months and the final PSD size was 12.56 GB.

Varro used a Nikon D810, Nikkor 24mm tilt-shift lens, two Profoto d1 500s, and a Lasolite Scrim Jim for diffusion.

All images used with permission of Andreas Varro.

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Brian Rodgers Jr.'s picture

Cool Idea, also glad to see that I'm not the only commercial photographer/digital artist still using the Wacom Intuos 4 :)

Piotr Maksymowicz's picture

Great Idea and execution!

btw. Brian I'm still rocking my Intuos 4 too :)

Brian Rodgers Jr.'s picture

Nice! If you're a mac user, are you running macOS Sierra, or High Sierra? I haven't upgraded to High Sierra yet, because unfortunately it doesn't currently support a 5K iMac with a fusion drive yet. I was just curious because I'm wondering if the update to High Sierra will be the end of my Wacom Intuous 4...

Piotr Maksymowicz's picture

Brian I'm PC user and Intuos 4 works just great!

Have a backup of your system and give it a try. You could then always roll back to your current system. Time Machine has always worked for me when doing that. As you said, High Sierra doesn't yet support Fusion drives so it will be installed without the new file system.

I just recently ditched the hard drive side of my iMac's Fusion Drive. Now I have two drives running on their own, the original 128GB SSD and the new 1TB SSD I installed. I use the smaller drive for the OS and apps. I still use Sierra, since I will wait until High Sierra matures.

Brian Rodgers Jr.'s picture

I use my 5K iMac as my main computer for my business. I'll wait until I know for sure that macOS High Sierra supports fusion drives. That's pretty cool that you were able to add another SSD to the fusion drive. I'd be scared to take the iMac monitor apart in order to get the drives though man. I personally think it's a little ridiculous that apple didn't have the fusion drive/high sierra thing figured out before launch. As long as they eventually support it...I don't want the brand new iMac I bought last year to become a paperweight because it's not supported by the new OS.

I know what you mean about waiting for it to mature before moving over to High Sierra. I'm usually all about upgrading as soon as I can, but I can't take chances with my main machine. I recently updated to Photoshop CC 2018 and it was full of bugs. Ended up re-downloading the 2017 version just to get client work done.

"That's pretty cool that you were able to add another SSD to the fusion drive."

Not quite accurate. Replacing the hard drive that was part of the Fusion Drive system with an SSD simply eliminated the Fusion Drive setup and the need for it in my iMac. Apple's Fusion Drive system works great but doesn't match a pure SSD system for consistent performance.

"I'd be scared to take the iMac monitor apart in order to get the drives though man."

Actually, it was very easy. The hardest part is carefully removing the two small display connectors. With a careful and light touch most anyone can do it. Keep it in mind for the future, once your warranty is over.

What size is the hard drive in your Fusion Drive?

"I personally think it's a little ridiculous that apple didn't have the fusion drive/high sierra thing figured out before launch."

Unfortunately Apple software these days, post Steve Jobs, is not what it used to be, so new OS versions and updates are often missing expected features, can be full of bugs and tend to break things that previously worked. For example, on the iOS side it is going on two months since iOS 11 was introduced and Home Sharing is still broken.

"I'm usually all about upgrading as soon as I can, but I can't take chances with my main machine."

Yeah, unless you are ready to quickly go back to your previous configuration then that's a bad idea for a work computer or a personal one you need to be able to rely on. Today's software, OSs and apps, are more beta products compared to what used to be released say ten years ago.

Brian Rodgers Jr.'s picture

I have the 2TB fusion drive. I bought it because it had a more SSD storage than the 1TB did. I still have Apple Care, so I'd probably wait to do any hard drive upgrades. I'm fine with the fusion drive, I just wish that Apple would have supported it in the new OS when they released it.

Yeah iOS 11 killed my iphone battery as it did to many others. It's gotten better with updates though.

Thanks for sharing your experiences, cheers man

Yeah, unfortunately Apple has crippled the 1TB Fusion Drive in the 5K iMac with a very small 24GB SSD compared to my older iMac with the 1TB Fusion drive whose SSD is 128GB. That was smart of
you to get the 2TB version.

I lost around 2 hours of battery life on my iPad with iOS 11. Terrible.

Brian Rodgers Jr.'s picture

Yeah, a friend of mine had advised getting the 2TB fusion drive for that very reason.

michael buehrle's picture

why sooooo many sand bags on his tripod ?

Brian Rodgers Jr.'s picture

Probably to ensure that it doesn't move. When you're compositing multiple frames together, it's crucial that the camera doesn't move, makes your life in post production much better

I guess he wanted to be sure that there was no movement whatsoever.

They all look like different types of iPhones, except for one odd and small phone (Blackberry?) in a flip case. I'm guessing that was intentional, but for what reason? 🤔

"Has Modern Technology Negatively Impacted Our Lives?"

No, modern values have.

Anonymous's picture

Both. Technology necessarily makes people lazier unless you don't use it. Of course I agree with you on values but poor values are nothing new. It merely seems that way because they're generally cyclical.

Laziness is a human factor. A machine can relieve someone of work but it can not make them lazy. Laziness is an unwillingness to do something. That is why I criticize photographers who promote the use of a film camera "to slow down" and to be "more considerate" in what they shoot. Such thinking promotes and encourages laziness. In that case a laziness for developing some simple self discipline and control when shooting digital.

As for the values, I was merely remarking on what exists today, not that they are new or not.

Anonymous's picture

People adapt to their surroundings. If you constantly use technology to perform a particular task, you'll very likely become lazy, at least relative to that task, and possibly all tasks. Is it an absolute? Of course not. I tend to be pragmatic. I don't understand, though, why you believe such thinking promotes and/or encourages laziness. Doesn't that statement follow the same logic?

You wrote, "modern values". If they're no different from previous generations, there's no need to include "modern".

The keyword in the definition of the word lazy is "unwillingness." A human must be unwilling to do something to be rightly considered lazy. Machines can't make people lazy. Humans choose to be lazy. I don't subscribe to the idea that people are not responsible for their actions, so them adapting (the better word would be conditioned) to, as an excuse to not do something, doesn't figure with me.

The example I gave about encouraging shooting with a film camera is encouraging people to be lazy when it comes to developing the discipline and self control to shoot similarly with digital. What don't you understand about that Sam?

I also wasn't referring to the values of another period in history; I said values of today. Modern means relating to the present or recent times. The word was correctly used. The values of today are very different from the values of the most recent generations. That's all I said. I'm not interested in a philosophical discussion on the cyclical nature of human values.

Anonymous's picture

Let me see if I understand your point. Encouraging people to do less through the introduction of technology which allows them to do less doesn't promote laziness but encouraging them to do more by promoting shooting with film, which forces them to do more, does. Yeah. That sounds about right. ;-)

Sam, read more carefully what I wrote. 😉

Anonymous's picture

I will in a bit but I'm not sure how much good it'll do. I'm not very bright. :-(

Anonymous's picture

Okay. Let me give this another shot. By telling people they need a device (shooting film, using a tripod) to force themselves to develop good habits, it provides an excuse for not developing those habits in the absence of these circumstances. Technology, by virtue of the absence of an individual, can not have intent and is therefore not encouraging anything, good or bad.

If my analysis of your POV is correct, it seems to me you're focusing on denotative definitions, which I've noticed in your prior opinions. While I'm very interested in the correct meaning of words, I'm more concerned with the well being of individuals, if necessary, to the exclusion of precise linguistic skills. Also, I'm encumbered with the weight of connotative definitions which seem to be no great burden for you.

Sorry. I told you I'm not very bright.

Sorry Sam, but facts don't care about "the well being of individuals."

Anonymous's picture

That's right. Humans do.

The true "well being of individuals" is not served by denying them facts and the truth. That's how political correctness is destroying America and Western civilization.

Anonymous's picture


Anonymous's picture

Today I learned that using a film camera directly leads to the destruction of Western civilization.

Interesting, using tech to show how we are slaves of tech...