Category 'Compositing'

We’re all aware that celebrities and models are retouched to within an inch of their lives but until I started using Photoshop I didn’t realise just how easy it is to entirely change someone’s features. Good retouching though is an art and a science and one that I’ve not yet mastered, but since I shoot primarily self-portraits I’d be crazy if I didn’t at least know how to pretty myself up a bit. Everyone’s method for retouching is slightly different but here’s the workflow that currently works for me:

  • A quick note on compositing and retouching before we get started. My image this week had fairly bad lighting. My neck has weird shadows and there is an eyelash shadow under my right eye. I could have retouched these areas but I thought it would be easier to find other photos from the shoot where these shadows were less of an issue and mask them over the problem areas in the main image. You can also try mirroring features as covered in last week's tutorial.
[gallery columns="2" size="medium" link="file" ids="2515,2516"]  
  1. Make a copy of your background (Ctrl/Cmd J). If your portrait is made up of different layers as mine was, group the layers (Ctrl/Cmd G), make a copy of the group (Ctrl/Cmd J) and merge the layers together (Ctrl/Cmd E).
  1. Load your healing brush tool which we will use to fix blemishes and wrinkles just as you would with concealer. Hopefully you’ve used either this or the clone stamp tool before and are familiar with how they work, but if not, you need to sample a smooth area of skin that is a similar colour to your problem area by holding down Alt/Opt and clicking the clean spot. Then you paint over your problem spot. If the brush accidentally clones things you don’t want, just undo (Ctrl/Cmd Z) and try again. Paint over all your problem spots this way, remembering to resample often. Use discretion when removing scars and moles because they are part of someone’s appearance. Rename the layer you’ve been working on to ‘healing’.
[gallery columns="2" link="file" size="medium" ids="2526,2525"]  
  1. Now for frequency separation! Duplicate your healing layer twice. Rename the layer directly above it ‘colour’ and the one above that ‘texture’. Turn off the eyeball next to the texture layer and apply a blur to the colour layer using Filter>Blur>Surface Blur. Adjust the sliders just enough so that the detail starts to smooth out and lose clarity.
[gallery columns="2" link="file" size="medium" ids="2528,2529"]  
  1. Turn the texture layer back on and highlight it. Go to Image>Apply Image and in the layer drop down box choose the ‘Colour' layer. Apply the settings from the image below. What this does is analyse the two layers and subtracts out what is different - which is the texture - so you're left with a layer containing ONLY the texture from your image. When finished with the dialogue box change the blend mode of this layer to ‘linear light’.
[gallery columns="2" link="file" size="medium" ids="2532,2531"]  
  1. Now for the part I struggle with the most - applying foundation and contouring. Skin generally has blotchy colours so we need to even out the transition between these colours but also be mindful of the areas where the face has contour and enhance these. For example, in this image I want to soften the gradation of dark to light on my cheek, add more highlights to the ridge of my nose to even out the bump, take the redness out of my chest and just generally make the skin look more even. SO, with the colour layer selected choose a soft brush (b) and change the brush’s opacity to 10%. Sample a skin tone colour you wish to paint with (Alt/Opt click) and then paint over the area of colour variation to even it out. Don’t go overboard though because you want to keep the face’s natural shape and not make it look like a flat surface. It took me much experimenting to get this right so take your time with it and resample often. If you’re really struggling I’ve seen another method for this which is to lasso areas of skin, feather the selection A LOT and then add a small Gaussian Blur to smooth out the colour differences. The beauty of doing this technique on the colour layer is that because we have a texture layer, any changes you make to the colour layer only affect the colours and leave the textures intact.
[gallery columns="2" link="file" size="medium" ids="2538,2537"]  
  1. Add a curves layer and create a very soft S curve to put a little contrast into the skin and even out the skin tones further.
[caption id="attachment_2539" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Curves adjustment layer Curves adjustment layer[/caption]  
  1. If you’re noticing that the texture of the skin is still too pronounced (for example, if your subject has quite large pores) you can paint with the blur tool on a low setting to blur these areas a little more. Zoom right in while you do this to ensure that the blur isn’t too obvious.
  1. Decide if you need to reshape any of your subject’s features and if so head to Filter>Liquify. The main tools to use here are the ‘Forward Warp’ tool which allows you to very gently push and pull features around (good for things like minimising waist lines or smoothing flyaway hair). The bigger the brush size the broader (and more convincing) the change. The ‘Pucker’ tool makes things smaller so with a brush just big enough to cover the area you wish to reduce, tap a couple of times until you’re happy. I use this on my nose. The ‘Bloat’ tool does the opposite to the ‘Pucker’ tool and is good for areas like lips. You can use the undo shortcut in this dialogue box at any time if you go too far. I'm sure there are other useful Liquify tools but I've never used them. Press OK when you’re done.
[gallery columns="2" link="file" size="medium" ids="2527,2522"]  
  1. Make two new layers and label them ‘dodge’ and ‘burn’. Set the blend mode for both to overlay. Load a soft brush tool with white and change its opacity to 10%. Paint over any areas of light to make them even lighter. Areas to concentrate on are: the bridge of the nose, under the eyes and the top of the cheeks, the eyeballs and iris and the middle of the lips.
  1. On the burn layer change the brush to black and paint over dark areas to make them darker. Concentrate on the cheekbones, the sides of the nose, eyelashes and brows, pupils, on the neck under the chin and around the hairline.
[gallery columns="2" link="file" size="medium" ids="2541,2540"]   The point of dodging and burning is to further contour the face and add contrast and sharpness. It’s similar to the contouring technique used by makeup artists because it flatters and enhances facial features. In this example photo I’ve used this technique to enhance my shoulder bones, painting black on dark areas and white on light areas to make them more pronounced. If you feel your dodge and burn is making your image look cartoonish lower the opacity of your layers a touch.
  1. If you wish to add makeup to your subject add a new layer and change the blend mode to colour. Select a colour and paint over the lips, the eyes or the cheeks. Reduce opacity if needed or add a hue/saturation layer to change the colour and intensity.
[gallery columns="2" link="file" size="medium" ids="2543,2542"]  
  1. If you didn’t capture any catch lights in the subject’s eyes you can add your own with a small, medium hardness, white brush. Just dot in a spot of light on each pupil. Heal any blood vessels on the eyeballs using the healing brush. You can then enhance brows and lashes by drawing in more hair with a very small hard brush if you need. And you’re done!
[gallery columns="2" link="file" size="medium" ids="2545,2544"]   [gallery columns="2" link="file" size="medium" ids="2554,2553"]  

 About 'Gaia'

I had two goals for this week’s image: to try and recreate the look Paul Apal’kin uses in his portraits, and to create a scene similar to a print I bought a few year’s back off Etsy by TheNebulousKingdom. [gallery columns="2" link="file" size="medium" ids="2547,2546"]   I failed at both goals. I did a very rough mock up of Paul’s technique in Lightroom but when adding the animals I discovered that my stock were all shot at different angles in different light and I couldn’t work them into my hair successfully. Eventually I just started throwing images into Photoshop to see if something would stick. I hate this period of experimentation but I love it when an image begins to take shape. In this case I loaded a photo I shot out of the window of a moving train window and I liked the way the mountains followed the shape of her hair. So I started to bring in more shots from the same train journey, building up a mountainous scene and sprinkling some animals throughout for interest. The composited animals are way too large for the scene but when an image is this fanciful you tend to get away with a bit more thankfully! [gallery size="medium" link="file" ids="2548,2550,2552,2549,2551"]

One of the fundamental design principles in art theory is ‘balance’ which means that an artwork is more pleasing if its elements are arranged equally. Symmetry is one method of achieving balance and occurs when half of something is mirrored to create a whole, much like a face. So I want to show you how to mirror an image and talk about why you should consider it in your workflow. Mirroring an image is one of the easiest things you can do in Photoshop and it’s an incredibly effective and striking technique for a few reasons, which I’ve illustrated below using photos I took in Malaysia:

It directs the eye

If the elements in your main photo are anything but straight, mirroring the photo creates an interesting v shape where the photos meet, which is perfect for leading the eye to the centre and works well if you want to composite someone into the scene (just imagine someone standing at the juncture of this pier). The eye is also repelled by sameness so rather than the eye bouncing around the image it’s first drawn to the centre before travelling around the rest of the scene. Just be mindful when creating your mirror image that the two sides line up exactly (this image is a poor example). [caption id="attachment_2454" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Malaysian Clan Jetties mirror image Clan Jetty, Penang, Malaysia[/caption]  

It’s interesting

Without really trying, mirroring an image immediately makes a scene interesting because it creates something unusual that we don’t see much in everyday life. This photo was taken with a wide angle lens which are known to make buildings lean, however the leaning buildings become really interesting in a mirrored scene. [caption id="attachment_2455" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia[/caption]   I can imagine a multiplicity scene taking place here with the same person peeking out of different alcoves. Here’s another. This is a fairly dull picture of a staircase that I hoped to use in a composite someday. Now, if this was the venue of a wedding I could pop my camera on a tripod and photograph the bride posing on the stairs looking to the centre, then the groom in the same position. Then I could flip his photo and suddenly you have this unique image of the bride and groom gazing at each other in a visually interesting scene. [caption id="attachment_2456" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, Penang Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, Penang[/caption]  

It helps stimulate ideas

I shot this photo at a tea plantation. The light in the scene is diffuse and moody but really there’s not a lot happening of interest. If I flip it one way all of a sudden it looks like there’s a staircase in the middle and the clouds form the shape of a Chinese dragon face so I could create some kind of deity descending the stairs. [caption id="attachment_2457" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Boh Tea Plantation, Cameron Highlands, Malaysia Boh Tea Plantation, Cameron Highlands, Malaysia[/caption]   When I flip it the other way the scene curving around the ground makes it look like a stage. I can imagine some kind of ritual being performed here while people watch on from the surrounding hills that resemble theatre seats. I usually have to work pretty hard for my ideas but these two popped straight into my head based on the shapes that the mirroring created.  

It helps fix faults in an image

I photographed this bridge on the weekend in Toowoomba (not Malaysia) during their annual flower festival. This Japanese garden was BUSY and I could have waited all day and not got a clear photo of this bridge. But as long as I have ONE SIDE clear, I can just flip it and voila, all the people are gone. Then I could just cut it out and composite it into another scene if I wanted. [gallery columns="2" link="file" size="medium" ids="2460,2459"]     Or, if I take a photo of someone who has partially blinked, or has a weird reflection in one of their glasses lenses, I can load that photo into Photoshop, create a new layer and use the clone stamp to make a copy of their good eye onto the new layer. Then I just flip that layer and move it into place over the bad eye, masking out any bits that don’t fit and then I have two great eyes. [caption id="attachment_2461" align="aligncenter" width="300"]My right eye looked a little cross-eyed so I cloned my left eye and moved it over my right My right eye looked a little cross-eyed so I cloned my left eye, flipped it and moved it over my right[/caption]  

It can make a prop or scene look bigger than it was

I have been collecting fake flowers for YEARS so I could one day create this image. Despite that I still didn’t have quite enough to cover the floor all around my head without leaving gaps. BUT, I knew that by bunching them up on one side I could mirror them to make the floor look full. Alternatively I could have changed the arrangement of the flowers for the second shot so that the two sides would look different when mirrored. Flowers for portrait   And of course, last of all mirroring an image creates that all important balance.  

How to mirror an image in Photoshop

I’ve been trying to think of ways to do this without Photoshop but I don’t think it’s possible, so please leave a comment if you know how.
  1. Open your image in Photoshop.
  1. Duplicate it into a new layer with Ctrl/Cmd J. If you only want to mirror a portion of the image select this area first.
  1. Go to Edit>Transform>Flip Horizontal.
  1. Press c to activate your crop tool and drag the edge of the image outwards to add roughly enough canvas space to fit the flipped image. Press the tick when you're done.
[caption id="attachment_2463" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Resize your canvas Resize your canvas[/caption]  
  1. Press v to load the move tool and hold down shift as you drag the second image into place (shift stops it moving up and down).
[caption id="attachment_2464" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Move your mirror image into place Move your mirror image into place[/caption]  
  1. Zoom right in to check that the images line up exactly (you will stop seeing a definite line between them). With the v tool still loaded you can use your arrow keys to nudge the photo exactly into place.
[caption id="attachment_2465" align="aligncenter" width="300"]The seam line disappears when lined up exactly The seam line disappears when lined up exactly[/caption]  
  1. Choose your crop tool again and drag the crop back to the sides of your image.
  1. If there are parts of your image you don’t want mirrored (ie my face looked weird mirrored so I wanted to keep my original face while still mirroring all the flowers) add a layer mask and paint black on the areas you don’t want mirrored so the underlying layer shows through.
[caption id="attachment_2466" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Hey good lookin. Hey good lookin.[/caption]  

About ‘Deer Petal’

Deer Petal was shot in my living room right under a floor to ceiling window. I arranged the flowers on one side of a white sheet and laid amongst them. In terms of colour and light the final image is almost straight out of camera because that’s just how amazing window light is. I had to shoot the image with a tripod that lets you tip the camera parallel to the ground and away from the legs so they weren’t in shot (I meant to take a set up photo but I always forget *sigh*). [caption id="attachment_2467" align="aligncenter" width="225"]A crappy iPhone pic I took as I was packing up A crappy iPhone pic I took as I was packing up[/caption]   I moved some of the flowers around in between shots so I had some variety later on when ensuring the scene was completely full of flowers. I mirrored the image but as previously mentioned my face looked strange so I kept my original face. However my face is pretty wonky so I did mirror my eyeball and my lips and I had to do some liquify work on my nose to reshape it. I have quite obviously retouched my skin to make it look smoother. I own one antler which I shot in the same light but thanks to mirroring I now have two! I included the antlers purely to give the scene a little magic. :) Antler  

When I photographed last week's shadow image I also shot a few other concepts; the tree girl being one of them. She sat open on my computer for a week, with her tree arms on a plain background, and I kept staring at her thinking there was nothing I could do to make her interesting. Tree girl base shot   I looked through my Lightroom catalogue at photos of potential locations but nothing felt right so I decided to build a scene from scratch. I started with grass because where else would a tree girl be? Grass   This is the exact same field I used in my shoot two weeks ago, it's just that the flowers are a bit further up. Then I added a blue solid color layer and used the gradient tool to draw in a sky. I added a flower texture (from Graphic Stock) and some clouds to give the 'sky' depth. Simple steps that took no longer than an hour (mostly to find textures) but straight away the image came to life. Flower texture   Her cherry blossom arm was photographed during the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers at the botanical gardens. Her bare branch arm was photographed at a beach somewhere (I forget which one.) Branches for tree girl   I used curves and solid color layers set to 'soft light' to tone her. Some of my past photos have been overly complicated so I've been experimenting lately with creating simpler images. What do you think of this new direction?  

Shadows can make or break a composite. And while they’re easy to create, unless you’ve got a solid grasp of physics they’re hard to get right, which is why when someone is trying to figure out if your photo is a composite the shadows are usually the first thing they look at it. But since shadows are confusing for everyone, as long as you follow some basic principles you can usually fake them fairly successfully. The properties of shadows that most compositers use are:

  • Your shadow should fall in the opposite direction to your light source with the subject directly between the two. You should be able to draw a straight line between them. Light bounces off surfaces though, particularly bright ones, so keep this in mind when plotting the direction of your shadow because there may be light sources you haven’t considered.
  • The density of your shadow is dependent on the brightness of your light. Very bright light causes very dark shadows.
  • Shadows are darkest where they make contact with the object. This contact point also contains a little of the object’s colour.
  • Shadows become less dense as they travel away from the subject, so they become lighter and less defined.
  • The height of the light source dictates how long or short your shadow should be. Low is long, high is short.
  • If you don’t include shadows where your object meets a surface (even if they’re in diffuse light) they’ll look like they’re floating. Adding a simple contact shadow can make a world of difference.
BUT in reality shadows aren’t that simple. And here’s some examples I took with my iPhone to prove it. Ball shadow This is my dog’s squeaky ball in a ray of light. It’s actually LIGHTEST closest to the object because the ball is translucent and letting some light through. The shadow is long because the sun is low, and a little blurry at the farthest point from the object. Birdcage shadow The second is a bird cage I have hanging in my room. The light source is behind, to the right, and slightly above the cage which you can tell by the direction the shadow is falling. However there are TWO shadows because my lamp contains two light bulbs pointing in different directions. The shadows are WIDER than the objects because of the angle the light is hitting them. But because you can’t see the light source, if this were a composite you wouldn’t need to create the double or wide shadow because no one would ever know. So as long as you follow the basic principles of shadows no one can really prove you wrong. Let’s work through an example. Here’s a photo I took of myself in my garage. Don’t worry about my hands; they’ll show up in next week’s photo. I had an undiffused Speedlite on a light stand to my left so you can see that the left side of my body is brighter than the right. The floor and the wall are just photos of textures I’ve added in. Before adding a shadow the girl just looks like she’s floating. But by painting in a shadow using a soft brush and different opacities I can anchor her to the scene. So even though the angle of the floor is wrong and the shadow doesn’t match her shape it still looks like she belongs there. Painting in a shadow with the brush tool is the most basic technique but there’s more accurate ways to create shadows. [gallery columns="2" link="file" size="medium" ids="2418,2419"]  

How to create a shadow in Photoshop

First step – assess your light! Where is it coming from and what are its properties? This will help you plot how your shadow should look. Here’s two different methods to create shadows:   Method one:
  1. Make a selection of your subject/object. For accuracy’s sake I prefer to use the pen tool to make selections even though it takes the longest, but any method is fine.
  1. Press Ctrl/Cmd J to make a new layer from the selected area. Ctrl/Cmd click the thumbnail of this layer to load the selection again. Go to Edit>Fill and Use: Black. Press Ctrl/Cmd D to deselect the object.
[gallery columns="2" link="file" size="medium" ids="2421,2420"]  
  1. Rename this new layer ‘Shadow’ and drag it below your main layer.
  1. Go to Edit>Transform>Distort and drag the middle top handle in the direction you want your shadow to fall. You can also play with the other handles to affect width and height. (Keep in mind that if your shadow is against a surface like in my image the shadow would change direction where it met that surface. You can see how this looks in my final image. This example photo isn’t accurate and is purely for demonstration purposes.)
[caption id="attachment_2422" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Use handles to transform the shadow's shape Use handles to transform the shadow's shape[/caption]  
  1. Use the corner handles OR click inside and drag the selection to make sure the shadow lines up with the feet of your subject or the base of your object. Press the tick when you’re happy.
  1. Shadows are never perfectly sharp so go to Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur and choose a radius to your liking.
[caption id="attachment_2423" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Add Gaussian blur to make the edges less harsh Add Gaussian blur to make the edges less harsh[/caption]  
  1. I like my shadow to be blurrier the further away it is from the subject and the quickest way I’ve found to do this is to use quick mask mode. Select the gradient tool (g) and make sure the Linear Gradient is selected in the options bar. Press q to enter Quick Mask. Draw a line from the base of your subject to the top of the shadow. The red overlay will show you the area that is NOT selected. Try again with Reverse ticked if the selection is wrong. Press q again to exit Quick Mask.
[gallery columns="2" size="medium" link="file" ids="2424,2425"]  
  1. Now go back to Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur and apply more of a blur to the top portion of your shadow. Ctrl/Cmd D to deselect.
[caption id="attachment_2426" align="aligncenter" width="298"]Blur the top half more Blur the top half more[/caption]  
  1. As well as making the farthest part of the shadow less sharp you should also make it less dark. So, add a layer mask to the shadow layer and select your gradient tool again (g). Click the gradient bar and select the third option ‘Black, White’. Press OK and change the opacity to 60%. Experiment by drawing in a gradient line. You will need to do this several times (the effect resets each time you draw) to get the fade going in the right direction and to get the right intensity (draw shorter and longer lines and vary where you draw the line from and to).
[gallery size="medium" link="file" ids="2428,2427,2429"]   That’s method one done! The second method is best for giving just a little bit of shadow. For example, I have these vines climbing through a hole in my image but they didn’t feel like they belonged there so I added a little drop shadow to anchor them in place. [caption id="attachment_2432" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Composited vine Composited vine[/caption]   Method 2:
  1. Your object will need to be selected as we did in step 1 of the previous method. Add a layer mask to hide all the parts you don’t need. Ctrl/Cmd i inverts the mask if it has masked the wrong area.
  1. Double click on the far right hand side of the layer to bring up the Layer Style panel.
  1. Tick Drop Shadow and then click on the name to access its options. Play around with these to taste and click OK when done.
[caption id="attachment_2430" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Layer Style panel Layer Style panel[/caption]  
  1. Right click on the word ‘Drop Shadow’ in your layer. Choose ‘Create Layer’. This turns your layer style into its own layer which is super cool.
[caption id="attachment_2431" align="aligncenter" width="228"]Right click on Drop Shadow to create a new layer Right click on Drop Shadow to create a new layer[/caption]  
  1. Now you can add a mask to that layer and paint away any part of the drop shadow that you don’t like. You can also use this technique as an alternative to steps 1 and 2 in the first method.
[gallery columns="2" link="file" size="medium" ids="2432,2433"]   And that’s it. Shadow achievement unlocked!   About ‘One Day I'll Fly Away’ Sometimes an image just works and you’re excited about it from the get go. This was not one of those images. I’ve spent two weeks massaging these pixels to within an inch of their lives and it still doesn’t make me happy - generally a sign that it’s time to put it aside and move on. Unfortunately you can’t win them all. But funnily enough I’m working on another concept from this shoot which I loved almost instantly. The image is composed of a shot of me photographed in my garage, a wall in Venice, a bird from Stradbroke Island, a Graphic Stock shot of clouds (which was just laziness as I have plenty of my own), and a vine from a garden in Melbourne. My photographs are very well travelled. I combined the shadows of the bird and the girl into one but I had to be careful using the blurring and fading techniques discussed in this tutorial so the bird didn’t disappear. I took plenty of shots of the girl lit by a Speedlite so I could see how her real shadow looked and replicate it in Photoshop but I ended up using a photo where the flash didn’t fire. I had to use Lighting Effects in Photoshop to light her side and back and make the harsh shadow believable.   [gallery size="medium" link="file" ids="2434,2438,2435,2436,2437"]   If you have any advice about shadows or wish to share a shadow photo of your own, please do so in the comments. I’d love to hear/see them! :)

The curse of the conceptual photographer is that you always want to include some kind of magical element in your photo even when it doesn’t necessarily need one. Knowing how to create a reflection is a good little bow to add to your quiver of tricks. It’s also useful when creating car or product shots for advertising purposes or for landscape photographers wanting to embellish a scene. You can add a reflection to most scenes but unless you’ve photographed your subject straight on you *may* have trouble with perspective so just keep that in mind.

How to create a reflection in Photoshop

  1. Duplicate your image layer (Ctrl/Cmd J).
  1. Next you’ll need to add space to the bottom of your canvas to put the reflection. There’s a few ways to do this but I prefer the lazy option which is to activate the crop tool (c) and drag the bottom and edges out to reveal the checkerboard. This doesn’t have to be exact because we can crop it back in later.
[caption id="attachment_2313" align="aligncenter" width="201"]Use your crop tool to make room for your reflection Use your crop tool to make room for your reflection[/caption]  
  1. Highlight the top copy of your image and go to Edit>Transform>Flip Vertical and then hold down shift and drag that layer into place below your main image. Recrop your image (c) by dragging the handles back to the sides.
[caption id="attachment_2314" align="aligncenter" width="201"]Drag the vertically flipped photo into place Drag the vertically flipped photo into place[/caption]  
  1. If you're using this method to reflect an object rather than an entire scene you can use a gradient on a layer mask to make the reflection gradually fade out. You can see what I mean in the image below. The layer marked in red shows the gradient applied to the mask.
[caption id="attachment_2315" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Gradient applied to reflection Gradient applied to reflection[/caption]  
  1. This step isn’t crucial but I wanted to distort my reflection a bit to give the illusion of water movement so, select the reflection layer and make it a smart object by going to Filter>Convert for Smart Filters. Then choose Filter>Distort>Wave and play around with the sliders to taste but you probably don’t want to add too much. Being a smart object you can go in and change the filter until you’re happy.
[caption id="attachment_2316" align="aligncenter" width="300"]The wave filter gives the water reflection some movement The wave filter gives the water reflection some movement[/caption]  
  1. Now we’ll add some ripples which gets a little tricky but builds on techniques I’ve covered in the last few weeks. I mostly followed along with this tutorial to get the following steps but I simplified a few things on the way. Create a new layer and Edit>Fill with white. Then choose Filter>Noise>Add Noise, set the amount to 70% and choose Gaussian and Monochromatic. Press OK.
[caption id="attachment_2319" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Add noise Add noise[/caption]  
  1. Add a little blur to the noise with Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur and choose 5 pixels as the radius.
[caption id="attachment_2320" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Add Gaussian blur to noise layer Add Gaussian blur to noise layer[/caption]  
  1. Go to Image>Adjustments>Curves and drag in your sliders as shown to the ends of the histogram spike. This gives more contrast to the noise because while noise is great for these sorts of techniques it’s far too fine and dense without some adjusting.
[caption id="attachment_2321" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Curves give contrast to noise Curves give contrast to noise[/caption]  
  1. Now we need to visit the Filter Gallery which you can only access in 8 bit so if you’re working on a 16 bit image you’ll need to convert to 8 bit by going to Image>Mode>8 Bits/Channel.
  1. Choose Filter>Filter Gallery>Sketch>Bas Relief. Set both Details and Smoothness to 2. Press OK.
[caption id="attachment_2322" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Apply bas relief filter Apply bas relief filter[/caption]  
  1. Apply a motion blur with Filter>Blur>Motion Blur. Make sure the angle is 0 and the distance is 35.
[caption id="attachment_2323" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Add motion blur Add motion blur[/caption]  
  1. Press Ctrl/Cmd T to transform the size of the noise. Drag the top handle down to cover only the area of the reflection. Right click the image and choose Perspective and drag the bottom handles out to make the ripples larger towards the bottom. Press enter.
[caption id="attachment_2324" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Use Edit>Transform to drag the water ripples into place Use Edit>Transform to drag the water ripples into place[/caption]  
  1. Right click on the noise layer in the layer’s palette, choose duplicate layer and in the dialogue box change Document to New. Press OK.
[caption id="attachment_2325" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Move your layer to a new document Move your layer to a new document[/caption]  
  1. To get rid of the empty space in the new document go to Image>Trim, select Transparent Pixels and hit OK. Save this document as a PSD.
[caption id="attachment_2326" align="aligncenter" width="284"]Trim transparent pixels Trim transparent pixels[/caption]  
  1. Back in your main document switch off the noise layer we were working with earlier. Highlight the reflection layer and go to Filter>Filter Gallery>Distort>Glass. You’ll see a little box on the far right where it says ‘Texture’. Click this, choose ‘Load Texture’ and then choose the PSD we saved in the last step. Play around with the Distort slider to give more or less of the effect. As you previously made this layer a smart object you can go back in and change the sliders if needed.
[caption id="attachment_2327" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Use glass filter to give ripple texture Use glass filter to give ripple texture[/caption]  
  1. A cool tip from the aforementioned tutorial is to turn back on the noise layer we created earlier. Change the blend mode to soft light and drop the opacity way down to give the water a glassy reflective look. I also clipped a levels layer to this layer and dulled the whites to make them less severe.
[caption id="attachment_2328" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Change blending mode of other noise layer to soft light Change blending mode of other noise layer to soft light[/caption]  
  1. The last step is optional but I studied a bunch of different images of reflections to see how they should look. I decided to desaturate the reflection a touch, add some bluish toning with a curves adjustment layer and applied some Gaussian blur. I made it slightly brighter and slightly less contrasty and I darkened the area where the water and land meet. Here’s a close up of the result.
[caption id="attachment_2329" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Close up of water seam Close up of water seam[/caption]   And that, dear readers, is how you make a watery reflection!  

About ‘The Return of the Sword’

Because I am a conceptual photographer and therefore cursed with needing to include a magical element in all my photos I decided to be a bit tricky and change my reflection slightly. The scene is composed of a photo I took at Palatine Hill in Rome and two pictures of me shot in my backyard. The sword is courtesy of FantasyStock on DeviantArt. I'm really taken with the idea of a normal person suddenly finding out they are special or chosen (as all the best characters are) and that's how the idea came about. [gallery size="medium" link="file" ids="2332,2330,2331"]   I created the reflection of the background first and then, because the girl had been cut out from her background, I created her reflection separately. I copied the bottom of her dress exactly and then changed the top half to the girl holding the sword. (I used a stand-in wooden sword when posing which I changed to the stock sword in Photoshop). GIrl's reflection   After much colour toning I needed to draw the eye first to the top girl which I did by making her the sharpest and most saturated thing in the image. Then down to her reflection by making the sword glow and brightening the bottom of the image because the eye is drawn to light. I applied all the effects covered above to the water but I masked most of them off the reflected girl so she could still be clearly seen. But will she choose to take the sword?

Although this isn't a tutorial week I got a bit carried away with the underwater theme after last week's tutorial and wanted to try filling half a room with water which is how 'The Blue Girl' came about. I photographed myself against a blank wall in my living room with a floor to ceiling window diagonally to my left for light. Isn't window light beautiful? [gallery columns="2" link="file" size="medium" ids="2296,2297"]   In Photoshop I duplicated photos of the blank wall and skewed them to make the wall look like a room. Room created in Photoshop   The water and water line came from this shot of otters (aw, otters!) that I shot at some zoo or other. Otters   The tears were eye drops applied by my assistant (Mum). The Blue Girl fake tears   The ship and the birds were from my own stock collection. The Blue Girl stock   The rain came from Jessica Drossin's 'Force of Nature' weather effects pack. Various textures were used to give the image a stormy feel. And that's how I became the saddest girl in the room!      

The Exposing Illusions blog has always been an important part of my photography journey; so much so that I spent years researching and planning it before I even wrote a single word. Every one of my conceptual photos has been created to demonstrate the photography technique I am learning and teaching that week. But sometimes I just want to create photos without the constraints of the blog. And that’s what this week’s photo is. ‘In Bloom’ came about because I had an orange flower wall and a white dress. Nothing more. I just wanted to create a pretty picture that wasn’t driven by story. I’d planned to photograph it a year ago but the vine only flowers briefly in winter and by the time I went to shoot it the flowers had died. Being in my late thirties and unmarried I’m sure there’ll be those who’ll think this photo is a statement about my marital status but I love being single and much prefer it to an unfulfilling relationship. I’m just a character in this photo as I am in all my others. Point of interest … right behind this flower wall lives a dog called Panda who regularly hangs over the fence and barks at all who wander innocently by. I was very lucky this day that his owner had just came home so he was too distracted to bother with me. [gallery columns="2" size="medium" link="file" ids="2237,2236"]

While it’s currently the height of summer in the only hemisphere that (supposedly) matters, where I live in Australia it’s so cold that the state I live in saw snow for the first time in 30 years. When faced with the prospect of driving 2.5 hours to photograph said snow OR hibernating under blankets, I decided to stay in the warmth of my home and research how to make my own snow. Problem being that no two tutorials use the same method to add snow and some weren’t even convincing so after much experimentation I bring to you the Photoshop-snow-makin’-machine that I like best. Note: This was the exact workflow I used in my image this week but to demonstrate some of the steps for creating snow I’ve used a forest image from Graphic Stock so it’s easier to see the results.

How to add settled snow

Stock images:

For my image, 'Rest Stop in Winterglen' I needed to replace the floorboards and snow was the obvious choice to add to the winter wonderland scene so I downloaded a bunch of snow images from Graphic Stock to use as ground cover. I get that not everyone is comfortable using stock images, just as not everyone is comfortable driving over two hours to photograph their own stock so when you’re weighing up your options sometimes there’s no other alternative. When you’ve found snowy stock that fits your scene, you can mask it in and colour correct to make it fit. And if necessary use Edit>Transform>Perspective or Edit>Transform>Warp to make your stock match the angle of your scene. [gallery size="medium" link="file" ids="2181,2185,2183,2184,2182,2180"]    

Channels:

Channels are brilliant at creating selections and I personally need to use them more in my workflow. So here’s how to use them … Channels panel In your layer’s panel you should see a tab labelled ‘Channels’ but if you don’t you can access it with Window>Channels. Now you need to look at each of the colour channels to see which has the most white showing in the areas where you want your snow. Do this by clicking the eye next to Red and Green so only Blue is showing, then turn on Green and turn off Blue etc, etc. When you’ve chosen the channel you wish to work with drag it to the new layer button at the bottom of the layer’s panel to duplicate the channel. If you want to get fancy you can add a curves (Ctrl/Cmd M) or a levels (Ctrl/Cmd L) adjustment to the channel to create more or less white in your image. [gallery size="medium" ids="2190,2189,2187"]   Now stay with me here ... Ctrl/Cmd click on the channel to turn it into a selection and then switch back to your Layers tab. Create a new layer. Click on the top square of the colour swatch in your tools palette and choose a colour a little under white. Click OK. Go to Edit>Fill and choose Foreground Color. Ctrl/Cmd D to get rid of the selection. Pretty magical right? [gallery columns="2" size="medium" ids="2194,2193,2192,2191"]   If you aren’t entirely happy with the result you can continue to create more snow by pressing Ctrl/Cmd J to duplicate the layer or follow this process again with different colour channels. You can also mask in some snow in areas that you feel need more. [gallery columns="2" link="file" size="medium" ids="2195,2197"]    

How to create falling snow

There’s two ways to create falling snow – the automated method and the brush method – and to get the best results I recommend a combination of the two.

Automated method

Create a new layer at the top of your layer stack and Edit>Fill with black. Go to Filter>Noise>Add Noise. Make the amount somewhere between 80 and 100%. Choose Gaussian and Monochromatic and click OK. [caption id="attachment_2198" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Add noise Add noise[/caption] Add a Threshold adjustment layer and drag the slider until you get a nice spacing between your snowflakes. Clip the threshold layer to the noise layer (by alt clicking between the two layers). [gallery size="medium" link="file" ids="2201,2200,2199"]     With the noise layer selected go to Filters>Pixelate>Crystallize and move the slider to 10. Press OK. Change the blending mode of the layer to Screen to get rid of the black background. [gallery size="medium" link="file" ids="2203,2202,2204"]     Add some movement to the snowflakes with Filter>Blur>Motion Blur and adjust the angle and the amount to taste. Pull down the opacity of the layer a touch. Done! This gives a nice snowfall to use in the background of your image but it’s all the same size so we don’t want to stop there. [gallery columns="2" size="medium" link="file" ids="2206,2205"]  

Brush method

I created my own snowflake brush which I considered offering for download but what would you learn then? So let’s do it together! First you'll want to create two new layers. One will be for medium sized snowflakes and the other will be for large snowflakes to signify snow close to camera. Name your layers ‘medium snowflakes’ and ‘large snowflakes’. Highlight the medium snowflakes layer, hit b on your keyboard to activate the brush tool and select Photoshop’s standard soft round brush. Press F5 to bring up the brush settings. [caption id="attachment_2207" align="aligncenter" width="203"]Photoshop's soft brush in brush settings panel Photoshop's soft brush in brush settings panel[/caption]   Under Brush Tip Shape start off with a brush about the size of a grain of rice. Make your hardness 0 and your spacing around 230. Under Shape Dynamics, change your Size Jitter to 100%, your Angle Jitter to 10% and your Roundness Jitter to 35%. Under Scattering tick the Both Axes box and take your Scatter all the way up and make your Count about 10. Under Transfer take your Opacity and Flow Jitter sliders all the way up. [gallery columns="2" size="medium" link="file" ids="2211,2208,2209,2210"]   Now start to paint in your medium snow using a few clicks because it’s easier to control than dragging your mouse around. [gallery columns="2" link="file" size="medium" ids="2212,2213"]   On your large snowflake layer make your brush about the size of a small coin and just dot in some large snowflakes. Save this as a brush preset if you wish to use it for future use by clicking the menu icon at the top right of your brush settings panel and choosing ‘New Brush Preset’. [gallery size="medium" link="file" ids="2214,2215,2216"]     If you have people in your scene spend some time brushing snow into their hair and clothes. Using the same brush we created, set the size to 25 pixels, scattering to 60 and with this you can draw little piles of snow. It’s time consuming but will really help make your scene convincing. Lastly, depending on the original colour of the image it might help to add some bluish toning. I chose to add a solid color layer filled with blue, set the blend mode to Hue and reduced the opacity slightly. Let it snow! Let it snow. Let it snoooow. [gallery columns="2" link="file" size="medium" ids="2218,2217"]   About 'Rest Stop in Winterglen' Every Christmas in Brisbane, Australia a magical world appears called Lollipop Land. The keepers of Lollipop Land, Jule Barten (visual designer) and Chris Boston (doll designer) were kind enough to let me photograph there after hours last January but I haven’t had the right project for the photos (until now). [gallery columns="2" link="file" size="medium" ids="2226,2225"]   I chose to work with their gorgeous Enchanted Forest scene, posing myself on the unicorn (supplied by Natureworks) and taking a 25 shot panorama. I composited in snow and hedges to cover the wooden floor. I added icicles (from Graphic Stock) to the roof and and an ice cave (from DeviantArt) to cover the ceiling. The trees outside of the ice cave are also from Graphic Stock. The dragon was photographed in another area of Lollipop Land but moved into the scene. My favourite part is that the unicorn has a seat built into him so I had to composite in a real horse’s “ass” for realism. I added snow using all the methods above and spent days colour toning the image (only to later delete three-quarters of what I'd done). Lollipop Land is a magical place to spend time (their high teas are great fun) so do visit if you get the chance.   [gallery size="medium" link="file" ids="2220,2221,2222,2223,2224"]    

Using special effects can instantly transform an ordinary photo into a magical scene, and they’re not nearly as complex to create as it seems. Traditionally artists use bright, glowing light to signify magic or special powers but if you set off fireworks or bring out your glowsticks during the day you’re not going to impress anyone. That’s why when working with special effects you’ll ideally want a dark base photo. I’m not saying it’s impossible to use special effects on a light background but they’re probably not going to be super effective.  

How to shoot a photo for special effects

You can add special effects to any image you like but if you’re shooting specifically with special effects in mind there’s a few tricks you can do to really sell the effect.
  • Shoot against a dark backdrop – even if you’re going to replace the background later you’ll probably be replacing it with a dark scene so you want the tone of the scenes to match. (This was the first time I’ve shot against a black background cos I was under the mistaken impression that it’s easier to cut out brown hair from a white background. N.B. It’s not. Just try and match the tone of your “studio background” to the tone of your replacement background and everything becomes much easier.)
  • Try and replicate the light your effect will create. For example, I was shooting with a top hat and I knew I wanted light coming from the hat so I put a small torch inside the hat shining out and then lit the top of the hat with a lamp so the rim was lit up. What I didn’t do but should have was to remove the hat from the scene and position the lamp so the light was shining upwards roughly where the hat would be and then photographed myself next to that spill of light so my face was properly lit. You can recreate this lighting in Photoshop but light and shadow are always going to be more accurate if you shoot them for real. You should also colour the light to match the final effect if you're comfortable working with gels.
Hat with lighting

How to add special effects in Photoshop

There’s a tonne of different way to add special effects so I’ll go over a few of them.

Using stock

This can be stock you’ve shot yourself (light painting, sparklers, smoke – all techniques I will cover in future) or stock from an agency. I’m no graphic designer and I don’t have the talent or the know how to create graphics from scratch so I prefer to use a stock agency for graphic art. I signed up for a 7 day trial with Graphic Stock and searched for images using search terms like galaxies, rays, flare, glow, bokeh and fractal. Images on a dark background are best. Open up your chosen stock as layers above your main image, and working through them one by one choose the move tool (v) and cycle through your blend modes using Shift + or – until you find one that gets rid of the dark background (I used Screen, Soft Light and Lighter Color the most). If you can’t entirely get rid of the black background add a levels adjustment layer (clip it to your stock layer by alt clicking between the two layers) and move the sliders until the background disappears. Then just move your stock into place and mask parts out if necessary. Remember you can also use warp (Edit>Transform>Warp)and liquify (Filter>Liquify) to shape the stock to fit your image. So easy! [gallery link="none" ids="2151,2152,2153,2154,2155,2156,2157,2158,2159"]

Flame Painter

Flame Painter is a nifty little tool that creates light effects. You can have some control with the free version or full control with the paid version. Play around with the settings and draw! Then just download the result and use a blend mode to make it fit your scene. So cool! [caption id="attachment_2149" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Light effect from Flame Painter Light effect from Flame Painter[/caption]

Layer Styles

To make it look like my top hat was glowing I used a couple of layer styles. To access the layer style menu double click on the layer of the object you wish to give a glow to (this will have to be cut out and on its own layer). Click on outer glow (make sure the check box is ticked to apply it to the image) and play around with the sliders until you’re happy. Photoshop defaults to a glowing yellow colour but you can change the colour by clicking on the colour swatch. This gave my hat a glowing outline but for realism I wanted it to have some inner glow too so I also ticked the Inner Glow checkbox and making sure the name was highlighted I played around with the settings in here too. Layer styles can sometimes behave in odd ways but I learnt some super useful tips from Phlearn on how to manage these. So glowy! [gallery size="medium" ids="2163,2161,2160"]  

Brush tool

Which brings us back to our old friend the brush tool. Using a soft brush and a bright colour you can paint in glows wherever you like. If you need to light a lamp / lantern a great trick is to create a new layer set to Color Dodge, choose a medium hardness small brush with a yellow colour loaded and dot it once on the lamp. Then make the brush softer and larger and dot it again. Do this a few more times until you have a realistic effect. I also created the smoke in my image using a smoke shaped brush and a bright lavender colour, painting some on a layer under the girl and some on a layer above her to make it look like it was wafting around. So handy! Photoshop brush glow   If you expect to use special effects a lot in your work the designer sevenstyles creates and sells amazing actions designed to add special effects with a couple of clicks.  

About ‘The Magic Show’

Photo 26-07-2015 8 31 56Photo 26-07-2015 8 30 46Because magic is the underlying theme of my blog I decided that turning myself into a magician would be a good way to illustrate how to use special effects. Coincidentally, I recently realised that the bird on my business card (created for me by a designer in the UK) is almost the same bird on the cover of the book I'm currently reading, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, which just happens to be a book about two magicians. I photographed myself in my garage against a black sheet using a household lamp and Speedlite for lighting. It took forever to get a flattering light set-up. The girl is made up of different photos of parts of my body while the hat and flying hair were shot separately. The rabbit came from a Graphic Stock image that I turned into a Photoshop brush and added a glow to. The background curtain and all light effects are from Graphic Stock. I was thinking about Donnie Darko while conceiving this image which might be how I ended up with a Frank-like light flare over my eye. This is why it's important to ingest as much culture as you can if you're a creative person so all this stuff can swirl around in your psyche and manifest itself in interesting ways. Hey presto!   [gallery link="none" columns="4" size="medium" ids="2167,2168,2166,2165"]

Photoshop brushes are a brilliant way to add interest to your photos but did you know you can use brushes on layer masks? Say, for example, you want to create a bird made of fire, you could take a picture of fire, add a black layer mask to it and then using a bird-shaped brush paint with white on the mask to reveal the fire in just the shape of the bird. Here, let me show you what I mean … [gallery columns="2" link="none" size="medium" ids="2112,2113"]

* Fire stock and bird brush courtesy of DeviantArt.

Yeah, phoenix baby! Using brushes on layer masks you can create a fun dispersion effect that makes your subject look like they're breaking into pieces and scattering away. Perfect for those moments when something really awkward has happened and you wish you could dissolve away into nothing.  

How to photograph for the dispersion effect

If you Google dispersion effect you’ll notice that 90% of the results show subjects against plain backgrounds, which is most likely because the effect would get lost against a busy background. So if you’re shooting a subject specifically for this technique I recommend shooting them against a plain wall or a seamless backdrop (since I can’t afford a seamless I use a bedsheet hung over a clothes rack. Fancy.). Then to save yourself a bit of work take a second exposure of the same scene without your subject in it. But really, you can do this technique with any subject you please. To show you how this is done I’ll use a single photo example for this tutorial. For interest's sake the photo I've chosen also shows the background and lighting I used to shoot my main image.

How to edit the dispersion effect

  1. Open your image and duplicate your layer twice using Ctrl/Cmd J so you have three copies. Make an optional fourth copy if you want to change the background. (If your background is already separate place it below the subject layer and duplicate the subject once).
[caption id="attachment_2114" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Dispersion effect base image My base image[/caption]
     
  1. Highlight the top layer and go to Filter>Liquify. Keep the default settings and use the Forward Warp Tool in a largish size start to push the edges of your subject in the direction you want the scatter to go. Press OK when you’re done. (It’s weird to me that Photoshop has misspelt Liquefy, but whatever). (Also weird that my spell check thinks misspelt is misspelt.)
[caption id="attachment_2115" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Pretty Pretty[/caption]
     
  1. Add a layer mask and invert it (Ctrl/Cmd i) and using the brush you wish to scatter with (I used Photoshop’s default maple leaf brush) paint white on the layer mask to reveal the liquify layer. If you’re not getting random scattering with your brush please refer to my previous tutorial on how to change your brush properties. I usually have to scatter a few times until I’m happy with the result.
[caption id="attachment_2116" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Dispersion effect on liquify layer[/caption]
     
  1. Now we’ll work on the background (bottom layer). Just skip this step if you have your background already separate. You need to have background behind your subject so that when you start scattering them there’s something behind them to see through to. I roughly selected my subject using the Quick Selection Tool and then chose Edit>Fill and selected Content-Aware in the ‘Use’ box. This replaced my subject but left a yucky outline, so then I created a new layer (Layer>New>Layer) and selected the clone stamp tool (s) making sure the sample was set to ‘Current & Below’. Holding down ‘Alt’ I clicked to select a blank piece of wall and then painted over the messy area. It doesn’t have to be perfect as you’ll only see small snippets.
[gallery columns="2" link="none" size="medium" ids="2118,2117"]
     
  1. With the middle layer selected, add a layer mask and paint black with your chosen brush around the edges of your subject to make some holes.
[gallery columns="2" size="medium" ids="2119,2120"]
     
  1. And that’s the answer my friends! But if you want to take it a step further and give your subject a new background highlight the fourth layer and select your subject using the selection tool(s) of your choice. You may want to turn off the other layers so you can see what you’re doing. Go to Select>Inverse and then press delete to remove the background. Then add in your new background which can be as simple as a layer filled with a colour. You can even add a texture to give it some interest.
[gallery columns="2" size="medium" ids="2121,2122"]   There is ANOTHER way to achieve this effect by using the clone stamp tool and it can be done on one layer. Press s to select the clone stamp tool, choose your brush and go to Window>Brush to change its size and scatter amount. Alt click to sample inside your subject and then paint the scatter around them. Alt click to sample your background and paint over your subject. This technique is not as easy to control but it’s handy if you only want your subject to scatter a little.  

About ‘Under the cloak of night’

I’ve seen a few people use the dispersion technique with bird brushes and I always look at their photos and think ‘that would’ve been better with bats’. With a bat theme in mind I set out to photograph a cave, settling on Kweebani Cave at Binna Burra National Park (which turned out to be more of a rock formation than a cave). I photographed myself in costume in my garage and Frankenstein-ed different body parts, hair, dress and cape flicks to make the final girl. I replaced the sky and composited in a moon from photos I’d shot separately and added the bats using the method above. The only difference is that my subject became all streaky when I liquified her and I didn't like how this made the bats looked so I used a black solid colour layer instead. Always better with bats! [gallery size="large" link="file" columns="2" ids="2123,2131,2129,2130,2126,2127,2125,2132"] [caption id="attachment_2124" align="aligncenter" width="960"]Bats added Bats added[/caption]  

18
Oct

How to retouch a portrait.

We’re all aware that celebrities and models are retouched to within an inch of their lives but until I started using Photoshop I didn’t realise just how easy it is to entirely change someone’s features. Good retouching though is an art and a science and one that I’ve not yet mastered, but since I shoot […]

4
Oct

How to mirror an image in Photoshop.

One of the fundamental design principles in art theory is ‘balance’ which means that an artwork is more pleasing if its elements are arranged equally. Symmetry is one method of achieving balance and occurs when half of something is mirrored to create a whole, much like a face. So I want to show you how […]

27
Sep

Tree Change

When I photographed last week’s shadow image I also shot a few other concepts; the tree girl being one of them. She sat open on my computer for a week, with her tree arms on a plain background, and I kept staring at her thinking there was nothing I could do to make her interesting.   I looked through […]

20
Sep

How to create shadows in Photoshop.

Shadows can make or break a composite. And while they’re easy to create, unless you’ve got a solid grasp of physics they’re hard to get right, which is why when someone is trying to figure out if your photo is a composite the shadows are usually the first thing they look at it. But since […]

6
Sep

How to create a reflection in water with Photoshop.

The curse of the conceptual photographer is that you always want to include some kind of magical element in your photo even when it doesn’t necessarily need one. Knowing how to create a reflection is a good little bow to add to your quiver of tricks. It’s also useful when creating car or product shots […]

30
Aug

The Blue Girl

Although this isn’t a tutorial week I got a bit carried away with the underwater theme after last week’s tutorial and wanted to try filling half a room with water which is how ‘The Blue Girl’ came about. I photographed myself against a blank wall in my living room with a floor to ceiling window diagonally to my left for light. […]

16
Aug

The orange wall and the white dress

The Exposing Illusions blog has always been an important part of my photography journey; so much so that I spent years researching and planning it before I even wrote a single word. Every one of my conceptual photos has been created to demonstrate the photography technique I am learning and teaching that week. But sometimes […]

9
Aug

How to create snow in Photoshop.

While it’s currently the height of summer in the only hemisphere that (supposedly) matters, where I live in Australia it’s so cold that the state I live in saw snow for the first time in 30 years. When faced with the prospect of driving 2.5 hours to photograph said snow OR hibernating under blankets, I […]

26
Jul

How to add special effects to your photos in Photoshop.

Using special effects can instantly transform an ordinary photo into a magical scene, and they’re not nearly as complex to create as it seems. Traditionally artists use bright, glowing light to signify magic or special powers but if you set off fireworks or bring out your glowsticks during the day you’re not going to impress […]

12
Jul

How to create the dispersion / scatter effect with Photoshop.

Photoshop brushes are a brilliant way to add interest to your photos but did you know you can use brushes on layer masks? Say, for example, you want to create a bird made of fire, you could take a picture of fire, add a black layer mask to it and then using a bird-shaped brush […]