Simon Plant has had a specific photographic skillset in his back pocket for decades, but it arguably has never been more useful than right now. With the COVID-19 pandemic still very much a part of our lives, the ability to create imagery that shows models in a far-off land without actually going there is vitally important. Fortunately for Simon, he’s been compositing and retouching images since the 1990s. That hasn’t stopped him from evolving along with the technology he uses.
I was attempting this stuff the darkroom way back in 1992 and that was tough and very restrictive creatively. Digitally, my first composites were done around 2000.
You never stop learning, there is always new technology coming out that offers new “better” ways of doing things, although rarely do they work to the level I’m happy with. I still take advanced training classes if and when I find something that I think will be useful.
There are, as you can guess, a number of steps Simon needs to take to make sure his final products don’t look “fake,” if you will. Each part of the process is time consuming in itself. Yet the United Kingdom native has also spent lots of time detailing his methodology, both on his blog and on videos on YouTube.
Sometimes, the backgrounds are captured many months before I get the models on set. The models are often captured within a few hours once I have the lighting and perspective all matching to the background.
This is the bit that needs time and attention to get right otherwise it will never look right.
While the shooting requires painstaking work, that’s doubly the case for the postproduction side of things. Some shots — because Simon has to line up the angle, the shadows, and other elements — take longer to polish up than others.
Postproduction time can vary a lot but is helped by careful planning.
For example, the image of the couple embracing under the arches at Mandraki Harbour Greece took probably three days to complete in post.
This was because although many of the background elements were all at the same location, they did not exist at the angle I wanted. For example, the arches were close to the sea but actually had a car park in front of them so everything needed moving. I also decided to replace the floor with something more ornate.
Since Simon is a seasoned vet in this field, he gets a good bit of creative freedom while on assignment. When I asked him if he had any cool anecdotes surrounding this work, Simon was ready. While he doesn’t try to deceive anyone and is always open about how he creates an image, he loves knowing that some viewers are convinced everything was done on location.
A couple of years ago I went to show my book to a very established art buyer at McCann’s in London. She asked me if the images were personal work or commissioned to which I replied that the ones she was currently viewing were personal shots. She said they must have cost a fortune to produce with taking all the models around Europe! She hadn’t realized they were composites and that was the biggest compliment I could have wished for.
See more of Simon’s work at simonplant.co.uk.