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Captain Jack Sparrow Movie Posters Using Minimal Gear In A Garage Studio {How You Shot It}

By Guest Contributor on February 13th 2015

How You Shot It is a series where you show us how you shot an image. Many who use our presets love to share their special processing recipes. You can join the SLR Lounge Textures and Presets group on Facebook and share your favorite images and recipes as well! For our wedding and portrait photographers, please join the SLR Lounge Wedding and Portrait Photographers group.

Today’s post is from Antti Karppinen. Antti is Digital artist, photographer, retoucher from Finland. Antti is was named Portrait photographer of Finland for 2013 and is an internationally awarded commercial photographer. He belongs to a new generation of image artisans, to whom believe all things are possible and creates complex visual concepts and images with unlimited imagination.

dangerous_tides shot_from_the_mist Background

Last year, I stumbled on a Youtube video showing a man dressed up as Captain Jack Sparrow, and decided that this was the one guy I wanted to take photos of and make some movie-like posters. I love everything about the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, especially the movie posters of the whole series.

In reality, Cardiff Jack Sparrow ( is a lookalike of the famous pirate character, portrayed in this case by Terry Cooper, an actor based in Cardiff. And he is pretty awesome! Not only does he have all the bells and whistles to portray Jack Sparrow but his voice and acting in character are just perfect.

I contacted the guy and after few months trying to find a perfect time for the photo shoot, we booked the day and off we went.


The Vision

The idea was to create some images that could look like actual movie posters, and also try to re-create some of the memorable scenes from Pirates of the Caribbean movies. I was especially drawn to that one epic scene (never seen on screen though) where Jack Sparrow escapes from Rumrunner’s Isle with sea turtles. Or at least the legend says he
did escape that way.

The Photo Shoot

It took Terry (Cardiff Jack Sparrow) around 45min to get all the Jack Sparrow gear and makeup done and then we went out shooting. I had already prepared my garage studio and tested the light with myself. I started with couple of basic poses and then moved to do those frames I had in my mind one by one. Since I had pretty much all the images pre-visualized in my head, the photoshoot was pretty straight forward. Basically the only thing I changed with the light over the photo shoot was the gels in the lights. So I changed the backlight gel from orange to deep blue when I was shooting the scenes for the “smoky” image.

dangerous_tides_before escape_from_rumrunners_isle_before shot_from_the_mist_before

Behind the Scenes



lighting-diagramThe Post Processing

The post processing of the images had pretty much the same overall workflow. First, I select the frame in Lightroom and then edit the raw to my liking. Usually, I try to even out the contrast of the image in Lightroom to make it more “flat” since I will be bringing those lights and shadows back in Photoshop to get that “painted” look with dodge and burning.

So, after basic tweaking in Lightroom, I will bring the image to Photoshop and usually the first thing is to cut out the character. For this, I use the Pen tool with really high magnification to get a really precise cutout.

After the character is cut out, I will start creating the overall tones to the background, adding the environment, details etc. I’m using images from stock banks like iStock, Shutterstock, etc. and try to use as much my own shots as possible. It is a trial and error kind of work to get the background elements fit the image, and try to achieve the result I
have in my head. I try to be really careful when it gets down to the perspective, shadows and light to make the image more believable. The main character also gets retouched, basic retouch to the skin and then lots of dodge and burning to bring all the lights and shadows back to the places I want them. This will bring out somewhat “drawn or painted” quality to the image.

jack_sparrow_before jack_sparrow

After the background elements are in place, I will start color grading the image, blending the lights and shades of background to match the character. I add mood with smoke, gradient overlays, lensflares, lights and shadows. It is a long process and depending on the image, this might take me the longest, just to get everything feel “right”

When I’m happy with the image, I will bring the image back to Lightroom where I do some small adjustments to the shades and colors. I add vingetting, noise etc. and then the image is ready.

Gear List

  • Camera: Canon 5D Mark II
  • Lenses: Canon 24-105mm 4L, f8, Iso 100, 1/160sec
  • Lighting Equipment: 2x Godox Witstro 360 with PB 960 battery packs,
  • Other Equipment Used: 90cm octabox, reflective umbrella, blue /
    orange gels

Since my dream some day is to make these kind of movie posters for real, this was the closest thing to get to shoot Jack Sparrow in real life. Of course, in the REAL world, these would be done in huge studios with lots of cool lights and gear with assistants, but I wanted to show that you don’t need necessary that to create really cool Hollywood grade images. When you put your mind and vision into play, you can make even the simple things work. It is just about going out and doing stuff you feel passionate about. And someday I might be doing these things in bigger scale, you never know.

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Q&A Discussions

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  1. Stephen Glass

    Great work! I’ve been through a tone of lights and Godox are becoming my go to. I can fit 3 of ad180 and 360 along with batteries and extra cells and shoot a headshot gig at a law office all day. Thanks for showing that high quality work doesn’t mean you have to spend $2K per light!

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    I’m blown away by your work Antti Karppinen. But my jaw dropped even further when I saw that he didn’t use a solid backdrop behind the subject to facilitate and ease the compositing process. Anyone who has spent time with the Pen Tool knows how brutal and time consuming it can be to make a complete selection of an entire person. The final products in your series are simply amazing! Bravo

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  3. Jason Boa

    Incredible , great work !

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  4. David Blanchard

    If you are heavily into Captain Jack Sparrow be aware that Disney has a Captain Jack Sparrow school somewhere. So, lots of potential Caption Jack’s to shoot.

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  5. Connor Katz

    Man I just love this kind of stuff. Nice Work!

    At the end of the day its all about the image, how you create your pixels is pretty irrelevant, be it from photography, painted, CGI, whatever… as long as the level of execution is where it needs to be, who cares. A pixel is a pixel!

    Reminds me a bit of a CGI composite i did of a sailboat, not quite the black pearl though :)

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    • antti kappinen

      That is very true. We all have our own way of doign art. It really doesnt matter what tools and techniques we use, as long as we just do it!

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    • antti kappinen

      And those boat images you’ve made Connor are really cool. Have been collaborating with 3D artists too when I need to create something that cannot be shot or will be hard to create from stock or miniatures. I love collaborating with other artists!

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  6. Danny Caro

    Love it!

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  7. Eric Sharpe

    Awesome work! Hats off.

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  8. Chuck Eggen

    Antti, you, Brooke Shaden, and Joel Grimes have me inspired to they some of the concepts I’ve been thinking of. Thanks for the post and the photos are great!

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    • antti kappinen

      Thank You Chuck! Just to be named along with those two great photographers is a huge honour!

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  9. jared campbell

    Awesome job man! Congrats on the “cover of slr”. Inspiring to start shooting again…

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  10. David Hall

    Very nice work Antti.

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  11. John Havord

    More proof, that creativity, is the most important factor. Virtually anything is possible with the vision and the will to try. Well done Antti.

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  12. Greg Silver

    I’m impressed. This goes to show you don’t always ‘need’ the latest and greatest studio to shoot in. Kudos to Antti for some great work!

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