Category 'Behind the scenes'

'Wallflower' came into existence because I found this tutorial by Andrei Oprinca, which is a technique I've always wanted to try (mainly because of the shirt/wallpaper scene in Garden State) and also because I've been debating whether to do a tutorial on displacement masks. In a nutshell, displacement maps can be used to make a texture fit a shape (so if you apply a wood texture and displace it to a rose shape you can make it look like a wooden rose). I decided not to do a tutorial though because I'm not convinced the results are all that great and I don't want to teach a technique I don't 100% believe in (I think blend modes work better anyway). [caption id="attachment_2725" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Garden State[/caption]   To create Wallflower I first shot this pose of myself pressed against a wall and leaning back towards the camera. I then created a mask that only showed my arms, face and hair. Main 'Wallflower' pose   Then I shot this photo of myself wrapped in a plain fabric, making sure there were lots of ripples in the material. I did things slightly differently from the tutorial posted earlier but I basically removed all colour from the fabric and emphasised the contrast so the fabric ripples stood out even more. Fabric for 'Wallflower'   The floor was photographed at a friend's house and the texture I bought from Adobe Stock and made into a repeating pattern big enough to cover the wall so it looked like wallpaper. [gallery columns="2" link="file" size="medium" ids="2720,2719"]   I created a second layer of the wallpaper texture and placed it over the fabric. Then using a displacement map I tried to make the flower texture wrap to the folds of the fabric so the effect looked more realistic. This has worked in some places (towards the bottom) but not others (towards the top). Silly old me forgot to take a before image to show you what the displacement map did, but to be honest it wasn't that different. It has mainly distorted parts of the texture which I'm not really happy with. [gallery columns="2" link="file" size="medium" ids="2721,2722"]   Then I applied a whole bunch of textures over the top to make the wall look solid. The image only started to come to life when I added the window (shot in Venice), bird (shot in Paris) and the fallen rose (from Adobe Stock). Then I painted shadows under the girl, the window, the rose, and the dado rails to make them look like they belong in the scene. [gallery columns="2" link="file" size="medium" ids="2724,2723"]   Full credit goes to my Mum for suggesting I remove a rose from the wallpaper to make it look like a flower has fallen to the floor. She's full of good ideas that one, and is also responsible for the name of the image, Wallflower.    

‘Breaking the fourth wall’ is a more a concept than a technique and explains situations when a fictional character acknowledges that they aren't real. In theatre or film this happens when a character directly addresses the audience. In works of art the character has to show in some way that they know they are part of a photo or painting. I brainstormed many, many ideas when coming up with this week’s photo and I’ll share some with you now so you know what I mean:

  • The character tears the paper over themselves
  • An eye looks out of a torn hole in the sky
  • The character writes ‘help’ in condensation
  • There’s a fly on the surface of the ‘paper’
  • The character jumps to reach the bent corner of the page so they can turn it
  • The character studies a lipstick mark on the paper’s surface
So to ‘break the fourth wall’ you either need to show your character reacting in some way to the medium they are a part of, or you have to make it obvious that they exist only as a 2-dimensional object by giving a glimpse of the ‘real’ world (the one the viewer exists in). My favourite example of this technique is Brooke Shaden’s ‘Invading Homes’. I just love how she’s taken the concept that little bit further by giving the birds a shadow so you can see that they’re flying across a surface. invading homes  

How to photograph a ‘fourth wall’ image

  1. You’ll need to shoot your scene just as you normally would. Have your character pose in a way that shows them reacting to the fictional element you’ll be compositing in later. Shoot variations of the pose just in case your main idea doesn’t work.
  1. Next, shoot whatever element it is that will give the game away. For example, a sheet of paper with a hole torn in the middle, condensation on a glass shower door, a fly on a window. That element should be photographed straight on against a flat surface, and it should be shot so the surface is in focus. Since you'll be compositing this element into your main scene, make sure it'll be easy to remove from its background. So if you’re shooting water drops perhaps place a black piece of cardboard behind them so you can easily get rid of the black with a blend mode. (I haven’t actually tried this myself so it may take some experimentation to get right.)
For my photo this week I photographed burning paper against a black piece of plastic using 1/320 sec, f/9.0 and ISO 1000. Burning paper  
  1. You can take the concept one step further and shoot whatever is happening outside of your main scene, so if you have a tear in the paper like Brooke Shaden does, this would be whatever you can see through the hole. Or in my case I needed something behind the burnt edges so I photographed a wall to have my print hanging on, as well as a moth and a hook to give context.
[gallery size="medium" link="file" ids="2680,2681,2679"]  

How to edit a ‘fourth wall’ image

Now it’s really just a matter of compositing your elements together. If you've decided to include an external scene, make it your bottom layer then add the main scene above it. Your element should be the top layer. Use the move <v> tool to drag each image into place. Using masks and your favourite selection tools remove all the parts of the ‘element’ image that you don’t wish to include. If you’ve photographed against white or black use the ‘screen’ blend mode to drop out the black or the ‘multiply’ blend mode to drop out the white. If that doesn’t completely work clip a levels or curves adjustment to the layer and modify the blacks and whites until the background disappears. When all your images are convincingly blended together, remember your principles of compositing and make them match in colour and contrast. A little insider tip on blend modes: For my image this week I photographed a lit match against a black background to composite into my character’s hands. Because fire is tricky to select I had to do some creative masking. I made a copy of the match layer and on the first layer I masked out everything except the burnt black centre of the match. The other layer I set to the blend mode 'screen' to get rid of the black surrounding the outside of the flame. Using this method I entirely removed the black background but still kept the black areas of the image I wanted. I then grouped the two layers using Ctrl/Cmd g so I could move them around together. Lastly you want elements such as a tear in the paper to look three dimensional so add depth by creating some shadows under the torn edges (or in my case add glow to the fire). This technique is fantastic for helping to tell a story so if you’re stuck for ideas try brainstorming the fourth wall concept!

About ‘Self-Destruct’

To create this week’s image I photographed myself just after sunrise at my cousin’s farm. I don’t normally like to work with sunlight but I wanted the soft orange light of sunrise to give a glow to the image and light my body where the match flame naturally would. The photo is an expansion of four images and was a pain to edit because it’s a really large file that tested my computer’s CPU. (My own stupid fault because I should have reduced the size of the stitched image before starting to edit it.) The sky was replaced with a more interesting one from a sunrise scene I shot at a beach in Noosa. [gallery columns="2" link="file" size="medium" ids="2682,2683"] I worked with two poses, one where I was making a ‘shh’ motion at the camera and another where I was reaching up to light the corner. If you look at the main image you can spot my cousin’s Clydesdales on the right of the image and if you zoom in REAL close you can even see my dad in front of the horses taking photos. Hi Dad! With my mum’s kind assistance I shot the match and the burning paper outside my house with a bucket of water to hand.   [gallery size="medium" link="file" ids="2684,2685,2686"]   I came up with the idea for this week’s image while on a long car journey to visit relatives. I thought my cousin Mary’s farm would be a great location for a girl setting fire to the world, but little did I know how much my cousin’s farm, as well as thousands of other Australian farms are suffering severely from drought and fire. When you live in a city and you hear about the plights of farmers I don’t think you can grasp how serious it is until you see it for yourself. I grappled with whether this image was in poor taste but considering how some farmers have been reduced to drastic actions to save their livelihoods, including killing off their animals because there’s nothing left to feed them, I thought it might help make a statement about the plight of our farmers. If you’d like to help Australian farmers please donate to the charity Aussie Helpers.

Dr Seuss has a story about a stalky pair of pale green pants with nobody inside them that I found deliciously frightening as a kid despite the main dude and the pants hugging it out at the end. So it seemed “fitting” to celebrate Halloween with a technique to create your own clothes with nobody inside (or maybe the person’s just invisible – who knows – either way it’s creepy).  

How to photograph the clothes for an invisible person

Creating an invisible person is just a combination of masking and compositing, both of which I’ve covered in previous tutorials but here’s some tips for shooting your outfit that will make the Photoshop process easier.
  1. Stick your camera on a tripod and grab your remote. Even if you’re shooting someone else I still recommend a tripod and remote so you can help your model with their outfit as you’re shooting.
  1. Lock down the focus and exposure on your model.
  1. If you want to keep the background you’re shooting against remember to take a blank shot of the background. Skip this step if you plan on cutting your character out and placing them on a new background as I did. If you’re using a new background analyse this scene first so you know what angle you need to shoot your subject from and how they should be lit.
  1. Get your model to pose. For my photo this week I started with some static poses but then I began to spin around as I clicked the shutter which gave movement to the outfit and made the poses more dynamic. If you’re trying to make your outfit look as if it’s alive giving it some movement will certainly help sell your effect. Just be sure that your shutter speed allows you to adequately capture the movement and your aperture is narrow enough to still allow focus if your subject is moving around. Also use a wider frame to allow an area for your subject to move in. (I ended up having to move my camera farther back from my subject.)
[gallery columns="2" link="file" size="medium" ids="2604,2603"]  
  1. When you’re shooting make sure that the parts of your model’s body that you’ll be masking out are not covering any portion of their clothes. So if they have long hair, make them tie it up and ensure their hands aren’t over their sleeves, etc. If you want to pose the clothes in a way that requires you to shoot with body parts obscuring the outfit (like hands folded over the chest) make sure to shoot the outfit both with and without the body part across it (so photograph the chest without the folded arms and then with the folded arms) so that when you remove the body part in Photoshop you can still see through to the clothes below.
[caption id="attachment_2605" align="aligncenter" width="200"]My final pose with hands, hair and legs not covering the clothes. My final pose with hands, hair and legs not covering the clothes.[/caption]  
  1. For the most realistic effect you now need to photograph the holes of the clothes without the body parts in them. Take my neck hole for example, I could have masked out my head and left only the front part of the collar. But for realism I photographed the back part of the collar too because that’s what you’d actually see in a headless dress. So either have your model pull their hands inside their sleeves and photograph the empty hole positioned similarly to how it was in your main pose, or have them remove the outfit and hold the neck hole up so you can photograph the back.
[gallery link="file" size="medium" ids="2607,2606,2608"]  

How to edit the clothes for an invisible person

  1. Set up your Photoshop document so that the background is the bottom layer, the holes are your middle layers, and your main pose is the top layer.
  1. Add a white mask to the top 'pose' layer and carefully paint with a hard black brush to remove any areas of skin. Or you can use your preferred selection tool to select the area you don’t want and Edit>Fill that area of the mask with black. I personally used the pen tool to create a path, loaded that path as a selection, feathered it by one pixel and then filled the selection with black.
[caption id="attachment_2610" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Mask out the background and the body parts you don't want Mask out the background and the body parts you don't want[/caption]  
  1. Next you’ll want to work on your holes by masking out everything but the hole (I just add a white layer mask and roughly paint black to remove whatever I don’t need), then using the move tool (V) and the arrow keys, line up the hole with the main image. Use Ctrl/Cmd T if you need to make the holes smaller or larger to fit. Then you can carefully refine the mask on the hole’s layers until they look perfect.
[gallery columns="2" size="medium" link="file" ids="2612,2611"]  
  1. Clip a curves adjustment layer to the holes layers and change the brightness and colour to match the main image if necessary. Though since you shot everything at the same time they should ideally match without extra work.
  1. If need be, go back to the mask on your main pose layer and use a soft brush to blend the garment so the front and back holes match up seamlessly.
  1. If you wanted a pose where the body parts obscured the outfit, once you have masked out the body parts you will have gaps in your image. Drag that blank shot you took of the outfit into your main document and place it above the background. Blend it in using steps 3-6 above.
  1. If you find that body parts obscured your clothes when you DIDN’T want them to, create a new layer and use the clone stamp tool to Alt/Opt click a sample from another part of the outfit and then paint it over the problem area.
  1. Post the image to social media and freak all your friends out!
 

About ‘The Dark Side of the Tomb’

I knew I wanted to create a headless Halloween image with a jack-o'-lantern head so I photographed a bunch of poses against a plain wall in my living room. I then went looking for spooky backgrounds in my image library and even spent an afternoon at Toowong Cemetery collecting various shots. In the end I chose an image I took at the Glasgow Necropolis. I don’t recommend shooting the pose before finding the background but sometimes that’s just how things pan out. Glasgow Necropolis   I was going to create a Halloween pumpkin in Photoshop myself using this wonderful tutorial but I downloaded an image of a jack-o’lantern from Adobe Stock as a placeholder and ended up liking it so much I decided to purchase it. The fire is from Graphic Stock, the skeleton parts were photographed using my neighbour’s skeleton, the spider is from a Butterfly Park in Penang, Malaysia and the moon and clouds are images of the sky I shot at one time or another. I used layer styles and motion blurs to add glows and swishes. [gallery columns="4" link="file" size="medium" ids="2614,2616,2617,2615"]

Happy Halloween!

29
Nov

Wallflower

‘Wallflower’ came into existence because I found this tutorial by Andrei Oprinca, which is a technique I’ve always wanted to try (mainly because of the shirt/wallpaper scene in Garden State) and also because I’ve been debating whether to do a tutorial on displacement masks. In a nutshell, displacement maps can be used to make a texture fit a […]

22
Nov

How to ‘break the fourth wall’ using Photoshop compositing.

‘Breaking the fourth wall’ is a more a concept than a technique and explains situations when a fictional character acknowledges that they aren’t real. In theatre or film this happens when a character directly addresses the audience. In works of art the character has to show in some way that they know they are part […]

1
Nov

How to create an invisible person.

Dr Seuss has a story about a stalky pair of pale green pants with nobody inside them that I found deliciously frightening as a kid despite the main dude and the pants hugging it out at the end. So it seemed “fitting” to celebrate Halloween with a technique to create your own clothes with nobody […]