Behind the scenes: Set them free

I created “A painting too real” four years ago, I had several ideas on how I could realize it but I was limited by my knowledge and experience. I’ve learned a lot over the past years regarding lighting, camera and post-production and I felt it was time for another version. This is not part II, it’s just a different take on the initial idea.

Set them free - Erik Johansson
Photographer: Erik Johansson

To me it was important that the painting/frame would be the center point of attention in the frame. I knew that it was very important to get the water-out-of-the-painting effect as realistic as possible and the best way to make something look realistic is to actually do it for real. I also decided to crop the head to remove the distraction of a possible face expression and put more focus on what was happening to the painting.

I bought a frame in a second hand store and removed the back of it. I then built a small space/container behind the frame using paper, plastic and duct tape. The idea was to be able to actually pour water out of the frame. I covered the bottom part with plastic to hold the water and placed a flash with a warm filter and a radio trigger in the upper part of the frame to create a sun. Check out a larger version of the final photo in the portfolio here.

I tried it out a couple of times to see that I worked that way I expected and then it was ready for the shoot.

At the location, a soft light was used as a fill light in the foreground.

I shot both some model- and real boats in different lights depending on where they would be placed in the final photo.

The actual painting was created in post where I shot a sunrise with the sun in the same location as the flash in the frame construction.

And, these are 100 % crops of the different parts of the photo:

Erik Johansson

Erik Johansson

Erik Johansson is a full time photographer and retoucher from Sweden based in Berlin, Germany. He works on both personal and commissioned projects, and sometimes creates street illusions. For more information please check out and his TED talk.

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