American Household

Thank you to my little brother Carter, my lovely Brooke, my rock star dad Keith, and our good friend Alexa for helping to make this photo a success! I could not do it without the help of these amazing people. These passion projects are images that are not done for commercial purposes, but simply to push the boundaries of creativity and to challenge ourselves to improve on our skills. With that said, the limited budget for these projects makes willing volunteers a necessity and, even though they have no idea what they get themselves into, they are why my images end up being so much fun to look at!

Now let’s go over some stats before we talk back story and behind the scenes shall we?


Layers: 230+ (I lose count sometimes because I have to merge layers when the file grows beyond 5 GB)

Original images: ~20

Editing time: ~50 hours (I am a perfectionist so the first time around I always take much longer)

Shooting days: 4



The story behind this one is more of an evolution than a definitive vision. Before I had the idea for this image, I found myself reflecting on the awesome modern amenities that we are provided by companies like Amazon, Nest, Cisco, and others. Luxuries like: home automation, rapid delivery of essentials, and remote control all provide a safer and more reliable home “experience.” One of my favorite prospects from these companies is the idea of home delivery via unmanned aerial vehicles or “drones.” Amazon has promised the use of drones for rapid delivery for several years now and, despite FAA restrictions and public privacy laws, they seem to continually explore the possibilities of using this technology to make their prime service even quicker!


This is where the idea came from. I wanted to showcase the relationship between the modern home services and the often chaotic household environment. The modern family home is often home to many little children along with their career oriented parents. The sight of a parent cleaning up a cluttered house, while cooking meals, and trying to get their kids off to school is all too common today. With the comforts of new technology at our fingertips, I think we will be seeing a dramatic shift in home life over the next decade.


The idea of a fundamental shift in how we picture the American household is what brought me to the realization that I could make an image based on the idea. I decided I wanted to juxtapose the chaos of the busy home life with the peaceful idea of having modern frills work for us, but not against us.


As the idea evolved and I started to shoot the images necessary for the final result, I decided to keep the left side very simple and without clutter, while the right side would be filled with kitchen appliances, ingredients, and people to give the illusion that our subject is buried in work. to cut through the mess a bit, I wanted to raise our subject up and have her changing a light bulb so we can get a sense of dynamism and realism. The idea was to impress on my audience the feeling of being in the middle of a hectic evening in the kitchen when something as simple as a light bulb burning out puts a halt to production. I think we can all relate the feeling of mundane tasks piling on top of one another while we try to get something truly important done.


Amid the maelstrom of activity, a friendly drone arrives outside of her kitchen window with the much needed replacement light bulb to relieve a bit of pressure in her life. Her happy expression gives us the feeling of reprieve and elation that would come from receiving much needed help from a friendly individual, however, in the modern age we will see these drones and automated features taking place of the human being!


Behind the Scenes


The BTS is fairly simple. I shot the background assets first. With any complicated composite, it is essential to start with the immovable objects. This way you can get a sense for your lighting in your final photo. The lighting from your background will determine how you light your smaller assets to eventually provide for a seamless blend!

All of the smaller assets that went into this composite were shot in various makeshift sets. As a composite artist, I am able to make the world my studio. I can shoot my backgrounds and then shoot my assets from the comforts at my home.

A simple setup of two Canon Speedlight 600ex-rts providing rim lighting and a 300 watt hot light providing fill, I can create the look of an expensive three light setup. This lighting setup takes some careful color correction but is great for the “no-budgeters” or people who want a challenge!


For added efficiency, use a piece of white foam core to create a makeshift seamless paper back drop. This will make it incredibly easy to extract your assets in Photoshop.


After some final effects like: dust, smoke, dirt, and light rays as well as final color grading, I was able to pull of these images together to make an exciting scene.


Next time you are creating a project for your book, I encourage you to challenge yourself creatively and logistically. By pushing the envelope when it comes to what you are able to do with your creative tools, you will find yourself constantly improving. This is why we do these passion projects after all! Furthermore, when I mention logistic challenges, I mean try to restrict yourself on budget or equipment because you will find yourself coming up with some innovative new ways to use equipment and may even come up with some new techniques!


I hope you all enjoy this image. I will be back next week with a some more top tips for being creative.


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