This is a favorite image. The CEO and president of PADI (the company for which I work) requested a picture of a zombie diver for a presentation at the dive industry's annual trade show. Fortunately, he made the request the week before our annual Halloween party -- and as good fortune would have it, my department had already planned to come as zombies.So, I knew I'd only have to pick an appropriate zombie, deck him out in scuba gear and put him underwater (or her, to be fair).
The "put-him-underwater" part would be the challenge. We didn't have time or funding to go on location, nor does most makeup hold up to being submerged, unless it's specifically for underwater (and even then it doesn't last long).
We solved the problem by shooting this image in the studio. The model, Tod, is not underwater at all. Here's how I crafted the shot:
First, I went through my library of stock images (it's always great to have a library of stock images) and found shots of a ship model I'd taken about four years ago. The model was about 3.5 feet long, so I had taken multiple shots to give it a relatively even focus. I composited the shots together, then, created the color, lighting effects, silt, haze and so on to create the background.
In the studio, I shot straight down on Tod, who is looking straight up. The lighting was set up vertical-for-horizontal to match the background shot. I took the master of Tod and then retouched it to make him more zombie-ish (Tod doesn't really have the big dent in his head), then composited it on to my background. To blend it smoothly, in compositing I created transitions of color-haze-silt and so on so that our zombie looks realistically like part of the shot, yet separates to create the sense of depth (that is, 3D depth, not diving depth). The finishing touch was borrowing some bubbles from one of my underwater images.
The image was a big success. Perhaps the biggest compliment I get is from photographers -- including underwater shooters -- who don't realize this isn't a real underwater shot. There's another composited zombie shot you can check out (not underwater) of Tod and zombie Dawn (Dawn of the dead) in front of a spooky barn (again, created for the shot).
A caution: If you think this kind of image manipulation replaces the need to actually take underwater images on location, guess again. The time it takes to do it in Photoshop is so long that if you have more than two or three images you need, it's more time and cost effective to shoot underwater for real.