In this tutorial I will be sharing the techniques used to create an image composed of 3D and photography. I have divided the process into five stages: concepts, photography, 3D modeling, 3D layout, and rendering and compositing. These stages will overlap quite a bit as I will be doing shader tests whilst modeling and bits of compositing at the same time. Nevertheless separating the different processes will make it easier to organize the information.
My starting point was to think of a cybernetic addition to the hand. All kinds of images start to come into your mind when thinking about this kind of thing, such as the robotic hand of the Terminator, which was covered in bloody tissue, Luke Skywalker's burned prosthetic and Robocop's face (it's the only place where you see the flesh/metal boundary). Most of the time, the fusion of human tissue and metal looks brutal. I wanted something slightly different.
I did some research on modern prosthetics, which are getting rapidly amazing. There are mind-controlled limbs that provide tactile feedback, a bit like things you see in science-fiction. One thing that modern prosthetics have in common is the material. They are rarely made of metal and are usually made of some kind of composite polymer. Although modern prosthetics can do amazing things, they don't look that great yet.
This is where the idea started to hatch. How will these prosthetics look in a few years when the technical issues are solved and aesthetics start to become important? Carbon fiber is already in use because of its practical, mechanical qualities, but it also has quite cool aesthetic qualities. Just take a look at modern supercars.
I decided to create a hand with a couple of new, high-end carbon fiber fingers, which looked mildly futuristic, somewhat elegant and potentially possible at the same time. I wanted to emphasize the precision and dexterity of the prosthetic fingers, which is why I chose to have the hand holding a scalpel.
With the help of my brother I set up a very simple shoot in a dark basement (to get the almost black background I wanted). The main light was behind and above my hand, the fill was provided by an overhead fluorescent light (pretty weak), and a silver reflector on the right side (Fig.01). That was basically it for the photography setup.
The next step was to go through some trial and error to find a nice pose and position for the scalpel etc. Once we had played with this for a while I had some usable photos, of which I chose the best one and flipped it horizontally. Later in the process I cropped and recomposed the photo very slightly, cleaned up the scalpel (using the Healing Spot brush in Photoshop) and enhanced the reflections a bit.
I used an old, manual 50mm lens attached to a Nikon DSLR, giving it approx 75mm focal length. While I could have created some HDRs for reflections and lighting, I decided to skip that stage as the light setup was quite simple and should be easy to recreate by eye. However, if I had been shooting outdoors I would have tried to capture as much environmental information as possible.
This stage happened simultaneously with planning the shoot. It's pretty straightforward. I used box modeling in Wings 3D. Fig.02 shows the progress of the model. It needed some slight tweaking afterward to match the real fingers. The tweaking that was done was mainly the shortening of the middle segment.