Cheadle CATS Goldilocks Panto

I cannot remember how many years I've been at Cheadle High School / Academy taking photographs of the cast for Cheadle CATS Panto which, this year, was Goldilocks. CATS are Cheadle Amateur Theatrical Society and they put on a variety of shows during the year. For the panto I go along as part of Blythe Bridge Camera Club to take photos of the cast and some performance photos. Both the Camera club and CATS are part of the local community and it is a bit of mutual cooperation togetherness. Usually I provide 2 studio style setups. One is for the blown white background ( this is NOT high-key) which I use to get the standard cast photos that they want. The second setup is usually a coloured or dark background for other club members to use.

One of the setups

This year I decided to try a system for automatically creating cut-out masks, the Hensel Freemask system. I’ve used it before for head and shoulder and product photos but not for full length photographs. Also it is expected to be used with stationary subject matter and with the camera fixed on a tripod. Neither of these would be so today. However, it would be a realistic test of the system to see if I might be able to use it for Proms and Balls. With this not being paid work I can justify trying something out and, in this case, if it didn't work out I'd just be giving myself more work to do afterwards in processing the images. Basically the radio trigger first sets off the lighting that is on the subject and then a second exposure is made which is just the background lighting. The Mask Integrator software, once setup, automatically takes the two exposures and creates a cut-out mask. Background replacement can be done automatically with the software. It is a bit like Greenscreen but no colour fringing or disappearing to worry about. My not using a tripod was a bit of an issue, I needed to nudge the background layer into the correct place and this was different for each image. More of an issue was my not having black flags up to block any unwanted light from the background falling on the subject foreground. I had some with me but setup time and then individual repositioning based on the subject/s size was not possible in the time that we had. The biggest problem though was the floor. I ended up having to tidy this up from the processed file and this does not work as well as using the raw file. In the end the method actually took me much longer to produce the images. The upside was that the saturation and clarity in the images was better due to the subject lighting not being mixed up with the background lighting. When using a blown white background contrast and saturation loss is not unusual, particularly when the extra light from the sides is not flagged off. Oh well, we learn from our mistakes, hopefully. For me, my hope of being able to use this system for quick blown white background images at events is at an end. Upper body photographs, yes, fine, it works. Full length and it doesn’t, or at least the way I was using it.

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