Photo of the Day

Natural Elements

March 20, 2017

By Libby Peterson

© Zarita Zevallos

When Zarita Zevallos, a Haitian photographer, dreamed up this photo (part of a series called "Imperium"), she wrote down the words "monument of self," "shadow play" and "movement." With the fluid posing, hard lighting and material experimentation that she put into this shoot, it seems she fully realized what she had in mind.

Zevallos met this model on the subway. "I hesitated before approaching him because I had never asked someone random if they'd be okay if I could do a photo shoot with them—I'm also very shy," the photographer says, "but I did, and that weekend we got it done. It turns out he wanted to start his modeling career! He was very smooth with directions and even when we were quiet, trying to think of other poses, he would let his hands float above his head and I would tell him to keep that position."

What made this shoot stand out is the editing process. Zevallos used Photoshop, increasing the contrast of the model's skin and playing with the curves and brightness to get this crisp look. "After the edits, the picture were sharp and they had movement, but I felt like I needed something more, a prop," she says. "Since the idea of the shoot was somewhere along the lines of 'self love,' I wanted to add natural elements to the shots, something that could tie us as human beings to our environment."

She headed to a store and bought some glass that she later shattered into pieces, as well as dirt and colored powder as added elements. "I printed each picture, put them on the floor and spread each single element on every picture. It took hours to get this done for 11 pictures! And I had printed colored alternative edits as well—in fact, 33 pictures." The fun part was slowing down. "Being patient and testing treatment for your shots is an amazing feeling," Zevallos says. "Tiring, but worth it. It was the first time I took so long on deciding on how to treat my pictures."

But after taking photos of the printed shots and checking them on her computer, she noticed the color was off compared to the original prints. "I was very disappointed," Zevallos says. "I wanted to give up, so I left them." Taking a break at this point in the process wound up being a good thing; the next day, a solution dawned on her. "I superposed the printed pictures over the first digital prints, and I took a long time to delete the pictures I was disappointed with but kept the dust, colored powder and glass that I had poured. That's how I got to the final edit." Using the Quick Selection tool in Photoshop, she "carefully deleted the unwanted parts."

(Shot with a Canon Rebel T5i and 50mm lens at f/4, 1/125th sec. and ISO 100, plus a speed light on a light stand.)

Check out more Photos of the Day, and email for submissions.