Smoke screams out of the train like an adamant teakettle. A young girl stares in wonder. Who is she? Where is she going?
And why are the colossal machine and the innocent child meeting here?
We were thrilled to work on this promo piece with Philadelphia area-based, Chris Crisman Photography.
The Original Vision
What started off as one photo of a train taken at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in Lancaster, transformed into a dreamy and compelling image that stands as a true testament to Chris’s vision and our close partnership on this project.
“I had wanted to do something with trains for quite some time,” Chris told us. “The reality of going to a real train depot to shoot and having this kind of vintage train chug up was just not humanly possible. That’s where some of the skills and talents of PXL.HOUSE came in.”
The Collaborative Process
Chris had a clear idea of where he was headed with this project, but he still needed to take a few more photographs for the composite piece to turn his vision into a reality. He worked with his team to hire a model, and then he set up a photo shoot. Chris sent us shots right from set, so we could drop the model into the train photo and provide instant feedback and direction while he was still shooting.
This real-time approach allowed us to collaborate with Chris to find the perfect shot and determine the exact assets we needed to complement the original train image. This also helped to ensure that Chris and his team would get the shot they needed that day, instead of running the risk of setting up an additional photo shoot at a later date.
The process of working on Chris’s composite was a team effort from start to finish. After two and a half weeks of conversations and rough mockups, we began working on finessing the actual image.
Our first challenge with this piece was breathing life into the scene and starting to tell a story. We created movement by layering in a few billowing smoke images underneath the wheels and above the train, and painting the whirls and wisps of smoke to help evoke the sense that the train was pulling into this dream-like setting.
Our next challenge was striking the delicate balance between the photo looking both ethereal and grounded. How do you make something feel otherworldly, yet totally believable? Constructing this look was a bit complicated, as we had to walk a fine line and make sure that the contrast, color and textural qualities were just right.
Chris was a fantastic partner throughout the entire process. He visited the PXL.HOUSE studio for an editing session where he worked one-on-one with our team. This ensured our efforts were in line with his overall vision for the project. Not only was he open to our recommendations, he would also provide helpful feedback and guidance as we worked.
Ultimately, the final product was composed of six images, not including the smoke effects. It took a little under two days of retouching on the image to complete.
Creating composite photographs is truly the ultimate exercise in collaboration. While these types of projects always begin with a stellar image from the photographer, it is the alliance with our partners and clients that helps to produce the most striking and successful results.
View a video of the final train image unfolding.
Find us on Instagram at @pxl.house for more photos of our recent work.
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