Category 'Behind the scenes'

Recently the opportunity to do a newborn photo shoot literally fell into my lap - when my neighbour handed me this doll and suggested I use it in a photo. Made by Reborn Baby Central, it's delightfully creepy so how could I resist? From Reborn Baby Central   It sat in my room for a few days mocking me with its lifelikeness and I had to continually check that it hadn't opened its eyes while my back was turned. But eventually I grew fond of the damn thing and so I decided to photograph it as if it were a newborn (or in this case, reborn) baby. I enjoy the work that newborn photographers do but I sadly lack whatever maternal hormones are required for baby-rearing and so being able to do a baby shoot without unintentionally hurting it, upsetting it, or getting pooped on was immensely appealing. People that are parents, I salute you. I did a little research into newborn photography techniques and learnt that with the right props, a shallow depth of field and some basic compositing skills it's not such a tricky thing to do. Although I'm sure the actual difficulty lies in trying to keep a real life child asleep or amused. There are a number of Photoshop tricks newborn photographers employ, like reducing skin redness, selective blurring and skin softening and I thought it was hilarious that this doll is so lifelike that it has red skin patches, wrinkles and discolouration that I needed to retouch just like a real child. I've also discovered how to use Photoshop's mixer brush to retouch skin which is my new favourite thing. [caption id="attachment_3077" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Actual background and before skin retouching Actual background and before skin retouching[/caption]   Naturally, being a vampire baby I then had to do some fancy Photoshop work to give the images a dark twist. I have tried to do this tastefully as someone pointed out that people may take offence. I genuinely hope this isn't the case and that these images can be enjoyed for the lighthearted fun they are. Let me know your favourite!   [gallery columns="1" size="large" link="file" ids="3063,3071,3067,3066,3073,3064,3070,3072,3065,3068,3069"]  

When I was small we lived in a house that backed onto undeveloped land and so the neighbourhood kids and I would grab our bikes and head off exploring, making up creation stories and brushing shoulders with snakes and wild brumbies. When I was a teenager we lived in a house that backed onto rainforest and so my friends and I would head off exploring, climbing mountains and swimming in undiscovered waterfalls. Perhaps because of these experiences or perhaps because a part or me is just a little bit 'wild', these days whenever I'm driving through the country I feel the urge to ditch my car and run off into the wilderness to befriend the animals and be at one with nature. But I'm not much of a camping fan and I really hate the cold so I have to quell my Disney-esque urges and just keep driving. Instead I decorate my house in a style that can only be called 'woodlands' as evidenced by this peek at one of my bookshelves. [caption id="attachment_3082" align="aligncenter" width="960"]Woodlands Bookshelf Mind the mess - perhaps I should have dusted first ...[/caption]   But this is why I love creating photographic art. Because now I can be the girl who wanders the forest wooing the flora and fauna, and yet still stay warm and dry. 'Where She Wanders' is the first image in the two part 'Wildflower' series. The second will be released in coming weeks. Trying to match the colours of the two images while still making each scene look realistic has been immensely challenging and has taken me nearly two months to complete, the longest I've ever worked on a piece, and most of that was just spent refining colour. A woodlands inspired fine art print   The poses for the images were photographed in my studio (backyard). The background bamboo scene was photographed in Japan at Tenryuji Temple gardens in Arashiyama and the deer in Nara Park. The grass came from Stonehenge and the birds from Notre Dame in France as trained by the fabulous Bird Man. The flowers came from a number of different locations after much experimentation to find those that fit. [gallery columns="2" size="medium" link="file" ids="3080,3083,3084,3081"]   It shall have pride of place among my woodslandy decor, acting as a reminder to always nuture wildness.   'Where She Wanders' is a limited edition print of 20 that will go on sale on July 10, 2016 at 9pm (AEST). The cost of $200 (Australian dollars which converts to approx $150USD and 110 GBP) includes free shipping worldwide and 5% of each sale will be donated to my local RSPCA. It measures 10.9 x 25 inches excluding border and is printed on fine art archival paper. Prints will be individually signed and are accompanied by a certificate of authenticity. Purchase here:  https://www.etsy.com/au/shop/ExposingIllusions from July 10. Where She Wanders print by Hayley Roberts Photography   “Like a wild flower; she spent her days, allowing herself to grow, not many knew of her struggle, but eventually all; knew of her light.” - Nikki Rowe

Recently I was asked by some work friends to create a special birthday commission. The gentleman subject, Russell, is a golf fan and world traveller so I knew straight away that I wanted to create a unique piece that combined his two passions. Sadly a trip to Europe wasn't in the budget so I had to use scenes I'd photographed previously for the background. But since the majority of the scenes I had in mind were captured from a moving train I was unsure what angle I'd need to photograph Russell from to make him fit realistically. To get some answers I first chose a bunch of possible scenes and then scoured the web for photos of golfers taken at different angles to see which fit the best. As you can see in the example, the first golfer looked the most natural, followed closely by the third and as it turned out, these golfers looked the best in EVERY scene regardless of the angle the original scene had been photographed at. Curious. Choosing a golfer to fit a composite   But what angle had THESE golfers been photographed at? Without access to this information I had to take a stab in the dark and guessed that both were taken from waist height with the camera straight on - but looking at the original images they appear to be photographed at quite different angles. Even more curious. [gallery columns="2" size="medium" link="none" ids="2958,2956"]   Now I totally lack the skills to confidently look at a scene and guess what angle it was photographed from, but I needed concrete answers before the client shoot! So I did this little compositing experiment. I stood in my backyard and photographed myself at all different angles so that I could overlay each person onto my scene and figure out which fit best. This way I'd know exactly how to photograph my model. It's also a handy reference guide when looking at the work of other photographers to compare the horizon lines and figure out what angle it was shot from. Genius! I've added a link to the end of this post so you can download and use this tool too. Although keep in mind that it's not foolproof because distance and camera tilt are also important factors. [caption id="attachment_2965" align="aligncenter" width="960"]Free compositing tool Free compositing tool[/caption]   So based on my original guess I added the waist height example into my scene and, WHAT?, it didn't fit! Yet it turns out, the one photographed at thigh height was a match. So now I could confidently photograph Russell from this angle and have him fit my scene. Brill! [caption id="attachment_2963" align="aligncenter" width="960"]Golf compositing example Waist height example on left, doesn't fit as well as thigh high example on right[/caption]   Photographing Russell was a delight and zooming around the golf course in his buggy was a tonne of fun. I spent about an hour photographing Russell using various locations and poses but it was actually the 13th image I shot that ended up being the winner because the pose was the most natural. Russell Plastow   To create the scene I used three different images of grass, 1 lake image, 3 photos of mountains and 5 images to build the sky! The ball was photographed wizzing along the ground and the geese just happened to fly over as we were shooting. [gallery columns="2" size="medium" link="none" ids="2957,2959"]   I did have a problem with moire in Russell's clothes, which is the flaring you get in patterned fabric (and coincidentally also happened in the dress I'm wearing in the examples). And because of this I learnt that there's actually a moire reduction slider hidden in Lightroom's adjustment tools. Who knew? So now I have one happy client, one happy photographer who got to hang out on a golf course and learn some new things, and hopefully one happy blog audience who now have a handy compositing tool which you can download here. :) Golf commission

[box style="info"]   SIGN UP to my brand new newsletter featuring latest news and images and exclusive access to flash sales! Enter your email in the box at the top to stay in touch. [/box]   To get between work and home I regularly drive a busy highway and as those who drive highways know, the traffic can often stop for reasons unknown. During one of these particular ‘jams I was daydreaming about what could be the cause of the trouble ahead and I started imagining an oversized girl lying on the road. This is going to sound really weird, but when I was young I used to have recurring nightmares where I would forget the size of things; so big things would become small and small, big, and I’d get upset because I couldn’t remember the ‘right’ size of things. Because of this I think about wrongly sized things probably more than is normal. If any shrinks care to weigh in on what this might mean I’d be interested to hear just how crazy I am. I was quite taken with the idea of this gigantic girl so to create the image I literally took to the streets, photographing all kinds of roads, but being an annoying perfectionist I couldn’t find any that matched the vision in my head. So eventually I coaxed Mum into driving me up and down (and up and down) the highway while I took photos of the road. I love the random and weird experiences I have when creating images. [gallery columns="2" size="medium" ids="2912,2913"]   I shot the self-portrait twice because the angle wasn’t right. The second time was on a windy day and the backdrop kept falling over and smacking me in the stomach (so maybe not all the weird experiences are fun). I think the official term for this is “suffering for your art”. Especially since I never ended up using those second shoot images anyway. [gallery columns="2" size="medium" link="file" ids="2914,2916,2917,2915"]   The roadside trees were also photographed on my highway drive but as we were moving they are slightly blurred and were really hard to cut out, so I ended up layering many trees from different photos behind them to disguise the masking issues and give the image depth. [gallery columns="2" size="medium" ids="2919,2918"]   The mountains are created from different European scenes, while the sky and stars are overlays I purchased from Jessica Drossin. [gallery columns="2" size="medium" ids="2923,2920,2922,2921"]   Now, to that all important meaning behind the photo … I am obsessed with the stars and have been known to wish on a star or two (hundred) in my time. Some years ago I even started writing a novel about a man whose wishes on stars started coming true (which was also titled ‘The Luminaries’). But I eventually learned that the only person in charge of your destiny is you. If you want something to happen only you can take the steps to make it so. Perhaps the stars can align for you but you’ve got to already be pursuing your dreams to be able to seize the opportunity. So for this image I wanted it to be ambiguous – is she the kind of person who catches stars or the kind of person who creates them? (I‘ll leave the mystery of her largeness up to you.) Luminary definition And a quote I love featured in a photo posted recently by Damien Echols. [embed]https://www.facebook.com/damienwechols/photos/a.245185425537382.66621.215418411847417/1023696481019602/?type=3&theater[/embed]  

As part of my current gallery exhibition I had to create didactics, which are wall panels that describe your art. Being primarily left-brained I focused on the technical because 'how' an image is created is the most interesting part of the process for me and is the entire driving force behind my 'Exposing Illusions' brand. So it was a shock when the gallery curator flat out said I was doing it wrong. (Apparently art has some right and wrongs - who knew?) She said that when I write about my art I need to talk about the 'why', because that's what people relate to. The thing is, I don't know why my art comes about and so often my final images resemble nothing of my initial concept. It's ironic because in high school my favourite subject was art history and theory so I know how to analyse and write about other people's art, but have absolutely no clue how to write about my own. When you go into a large municipal gallery the didactics are almost always written by someone other than the artist and are an interpretation of what the art might mean based on an analysis of what was happening in the artist's life at the time. Can't someone do that for me? Anyway, Metamorphosis came about because our obligatory pastime for celebrating Australia Day is to spend 8 hours at the beach (Scarborough Point to be exact) and I'm incapable of spending 8 hours anywhere without doing SOMETHING with my camera. Whenever I go out for the day I chuck a bunch of props and costumes into my car and usually choose whatever items contrast best with my surroundings. Being a murky grey/blue day I reached for something pink and I vaguely wanted to create a weird, faceless deity rising from the water. Why? Your guess is as good as mine. [gallery size="medium" link="file" ids="2865,2862,2864"]   After photographing myself in the water I threw about the pink dressing gown in case I wanted to use the fabric in the image.   [gallery size="medium" columns="2" link="file" ids="2860,2859"]   In the editing process I blurred the water to give it a fantasy feel and after some experimentation decided to create wings out of the fabric. This notion of flight inspired me to add some birds. I then spent a lot of time perfecting the blurry water and the reflections of the fabric, none of which you can actually see in the final image. [gallery size="medium" link="file" columns="2" ids="2870,2871,2858,2866" orderby="rand"]   As for the pink flames, I honestly couldn't tell you what I was thinking about when I added them. I just sampled various colours from the image and painted them in at different opacities using a cloud shaped brush. [caption id="attachment_2861" align="aligncenter" width="297"]Painted fire Painted fire[/caption]   But what does it all mean?! Here's what I think ... to me the water suggests a baptism and the flames and wings suggest a phoenix so it's about some kind of new beginning or metamorphosis. When I created this image it was almost exactly a year since I started my art photography business and a year was the deadline I gave myself to either make something of it or give it up and pursue a different career path entirely. Some goals I failed but others I hit out of the ballpark and they were the ones that made me think I might be able to make a future out of my art. So it was created at a time when I was transitioning from  'can I?' to 'I can!' and the change of mindset that goes along with that. As for the mask, and the faceless aspect of the image ... 18 months ago I wholeheartedly believed there was nothing creative about me. Today I am an artist with a solo exhibition in a space in the largest gallery in my region. This has made me a very firm believer in how, with hard work, ANYONE can reinvent themselves and so I want this piece to act as an inspiration for those who dream of being something different or better. It's all possible. Unfortunately that's way too wordy to fit on a didactic. Now I'm interested to know, which part of this blog did you enjoy the most? The 'how' or the 'why'? ;)  

It's been six whole weeks since I last released a photo which is probably more of a surprise to me than you. Back in November I photographed all the component pieces I needed for a photo that I hoped would be my biggest and best yet but I'm afraid to say that after weeks of work I became really disheartened with how it was turning out. I hear conceptual photographers say all the time that they had to abandon a project because they weren't happy with it but I've always believed I could make anything work. Until now. So I put it aside and started working on something new. Which didn't work out either. And then two others turned out to be a disappointment and I started to believe I'd lost it, whatever "it" is. It's a horrible feeling knowing something you've worked so hard at may have just been a passing phase. So I took some time out, worked on other things (including a new travel focused Instagram account at @hayleyrtravels) and thought a lot about what direction to take in the new year. But quite simply, creating photos is what I do and I wouldn't know how to get by without it. 'Run Red' was photographed at one of my favourite places, Yamba, NSW, Australia during a road trip I took after Christmas. The location was the beautiful Angourie Beach on a very busy and hot day. If you ever happen to go, there's a strange path by the blue pool that leads to a dense, dark forest and if you keep following it (after most turn back) you will find the place I shot this. I'm sure there were people walking down the path to the beach who spotted a flash of red in the forest below and weren't quite sure what they'd seen. [caption id="attachment_2786" align="aligncenter" width="960"]Angourie Blue Pool Angourie Blue Pool[/caption]   [caption id="attachment_2787" align="aligncenter" width="683"]Angourie forest path Angourie forest path[/caption]   The image is a seven shot pano and a frankenstein of different portraits. [gallery columns="4" link="file" size="medium" ids="2788,2790,2789,2791"]   My German Shepherd, Koda, needed MUCH coaxing to pose as the wolf. [caption id="attachment_2792" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Koda, wolf, woof Koda, wolf, woof[/caption]   It's not my best work but it is a work that worked which is exactly what I needed. And hopefully soon I'll be ready to retackle the pieces that WILL NOT DEFEAT ME!

Some people have a natural eye for shooting black and white but sadly I am not one of those people, I guess because I like how expressive colour can be. I took black and white photography in high school, the kind that used expensive film and meant extracurricular hours spent in dark rooms but I was never very good at it; ending up with muddy grey images of vegetables and carnival rides. It’s actually difficult for most beginning photographers to recognise light and contrast because they initially focus on the technical and the aesthetic. I can remember the very minute it all clicked for me and I started to see light, but that was a good year into my photography journey. Photography really is about learning to see and I guarantee that photographers view the world in much more detail than non-photographers. [caption id="attachment_2747" align="aligncenter" width="300"]The dappled light really highlights the subject The dappled light really highlights the subject[/caption]  

The best methods for shooting black and white photos

When looking for good black and white subjects you need to seek out high contrast situations. Contrast is created in two ways:
  • Colour contrast - when something white is next to something black
[caption id="attachment_2739" align="aligncenter" width="200"]White vs black White vs black[/caption]  
  • Light contrast - when something bright is next to something dark (Chiaroscuro)
[caption id="attachment_2740" align="aligncenter" width="197"]Light vs dark Light vs dark[/caption]   Other things to look for are:
  • Lots of tonal variation. Different shades of grey (fifty?) give more interest and depth to the image.
[caption id="attachment_2741" align="aligncenter" width="200"]Shades of grey Shades of grey[/caption]  
  • Texture and detail make an image look crisp and interesting which is why HDR looks fantastic in black and white.
[gallery columns="2" link="file" size="medium" ids="2742,2743"]  
  • Repeating patterns / shape and form – colour can sometimes distract from patterns but the simplicity of repeating lines can make a really dynamic subject in monochrome. The same goes for studies in shape and form.
[gallery link="file" columns="2" size="medium" ids="2746,2745" orderby="rand"]   If you can, shoot in RAW because the tones of the image will be easier to manipulate later. To help you recognise suitable subjects you can change your camera's picture style to 'monochromatic' and photograph real time in black and white. A great feature of doing this in RAW is that your camera is still recording all the colour info in case you need it. Try and shoot with a low ISO. Black and white conversions tend to make noise more pronounced. Having said that sometimes grainy black and white can look quite good stylistically. Photographing black and white is effective on a cloudy day because the skies look more moody and dynamic BUT photographing on a sunny day is also great because the sun naturally introduces a tonne of contrast (bright light and deep shadows) into your scene. Keep in mind that if you expose for your highlights you’ll get nice looking clouds but the blacks will go very dark. If you expose for your shadows you’ll get detail in the darks but the highlights will blow out and become very white. Decide which of these is most important to you and consider taking two images – one exposed for highlights and one exposed for shadows and combining them later.  

The best methods for editing black and white photos

Converting an image to black and white is so super easy that you’re probably wondering why I’ve devoted an entire blog post to it. The problem is that there’s SO MANY WAYS to do it that people get confused knowing which method is best. I’m not going to cover them all. Ain’t nobody got time for that. But here's my favourites.
  1. If you only have Lightroom (and if you don’t even have that I doubt your commitment to photography) press ‘v’. That’s it! You don’t even have to be in the develop module! BUT if you want to improve the result do be sure to play around with your sliders. If you want that super crisp HDR look that I adore pull your highlights slider down and your shadows slider up and then play with the black and white sliders to add contrast back in. I used this process on all the components of my image this week before opening them in Photoshop. If you won’t be doing any editing in Photoshop also open the HSL / Color / B & W panel, select B & W and experiment with those sliders as well. You can even click the targeted adjustment tool, place it over an area you wish to make darker or lighter and click and drag it up or down to affect only the colour sliders related to that spot.
[gallery columns="2" size="medium" link="file" ids="2748,2749"]  
  1. In Photoshop if you’re looking for a really quick and effective black and white conversion add a Gradient Map adjustment layer. In the Properties panel, click on the gradient bar and make sure the third gradient ‘Black, White’ is selected. This maps all the tones in your image to black and white making the darkest area black and the lightest area white. This gives an effective conversion with punchy contrast straight away. You can play with the smoothness slider and add stops to the gradient bar to customise it further. It’s the method I used for this week’s image purely because someone once told me it works best and I tend to agree.
[gallery columns="2" link="file" size="medium" ids="2751,2750"]  
  1. Adding a black and white adjustment will do the conversion for you but also provides six colour sliders for you to affect the tone of the original colours as you wish. Like the Lightroom method it also has a targeted adjustment tool. This offers the most control out of all the Photoshop methods.
[caption id="attachment_2752" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Black & White adjustment layer Black & White adjustment layer[/caption]  
  1. There is a further option that black and white photographers rave about because of the level of control it offers and that’s to use Silver Efex Pro. This is now part of Google’s Nik Collection and can be purchased for around US$150. I’ve never used it as it’s a little out of my price range but it’s definitely on my wishlist.
  There's a couple of other techniques you can try to complete your image:

Selective colour

Selective colour allows you to retain a little of the original image's colour as I have done with the umbrella in my image. A stern word of warning - this technique is frowned upon by photographers (in the same way that the font 'Comic Sans' is frowned upon by graphic designers) and I've seen many a novice photographer shot down in photography forums for using it. Like anything though I think it can be tastefully done in moderation and only if it furthers the story of your image. (The red umbrella in my image actually doesn't add anything to the story but I can’t get enough of red, white and black in photos so I couldn’t help myself.) To add selective colour in Photoshop you would just add a mask to your black and white adjustment layer and mask that area away. Then you can use a hue/saturation adjustment to change the featured colour if you wish. In Lightroom you can create the same effect by loading an adjustment brush and taking the saturation slider all the way to the left. Paint this all over the image leaving your desired colour intact.

Tinting

I have added a bluish tint to my image to make it look more cinematic. I did this using a Channel Mixer adjustment layer (a Photo Filter adjustment layer also works). You can achieve the same effect in Lightroom using the Split Toning panel (pull up the saturation sliders slightly and then play around with the hue to choose a tint for your highlights and shadows). [caption id="attachment_2753" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Adding a sepia tint in Lightroom Adding a sepia tint in Lightroom[/caption]

About 'Storm Clouds Gather'

When I create my weekly images I always have a secondary goal that I rarely tell you guys about. For this image my goal was to build a scene from scratch incorporating a moody sky, an interesting landscape and a character doing something. I went through SO MANY images to find a suitable landscape but it was actually really tough to find one that looked good in black and white. I first settled on this dirt scene and shot a concept based on a girl lying on the ground protecting a seedling. But come time to edit it just wasn't working so for me I abandoned it. [gallery columns="2" link="file" size="medium" ids="2754,2755"]   Then I chose this desert scene and shot poses of a girl with an umbrella holding a cup up to the sky but the image wasn’t quite conveying the irony of a girl in a desert with an umbrella so I abandoned that one too. But I kept some of the outtakes of this shoot and experimented with different backgrounds until I found one I liked. [gallery columns="2" link="file" size="medium" ids="2756,2757"]   The final landscape image was taken at a beach in Yeppoon. I like this image very much in colour and was disappointed to convert it to black and white, but the contrast between the rocks and sand was too good to pass up. I started importing different cloud photos and masking them so it looked as if they were wrapping around her. The final black and white image uses both types of contrast that I mentioned earlier; a light contrast with the bright and dark clouds and a colour contrast with the black hair, skirt and rocks and white top and sand. The rain is a combination of two of Jessica Drossin’s rain overlays. [gallery size="medium" link="file" ids="2760,2759,2758"]  

'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.

Every September my city (Brisbane, Australia) turns purple when the Jacaranda trees begin to bloom. The purple flowers are feared by students because it signifies exams are about to start and relished by locals and tourists because they're such a beautiful sight. For me it means packing up my camera and heading out on numerous day trips to capture the trees in all their glory. Of course I had to create a conceptual image featuring the iconic tree and so I've been traipsing all over the city trying to find the best location. Jacarandas can be viewed practically everywhere and if you can manage it I highly recommend flying over the city when it has turned purple, but if you're stuck on the ground my favourite locations are here:

New Farm Park

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The lakes and surrounds, The University of Queensland

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Roma Street Parklands - where you can see the rare white Jacaranda, although the trees are still only small

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Evan Marginson Park, Goodna - which holds its very own Jacaranda festival

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Anzac Park, Jacaranda Avenue, Logan Central (Thanks Jeff for the recommendation!)

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Other recommended locations which I'm yet to explore:

City Botanic Gardens Brisbane River and Wilson's Outlook, Kangaroo Point Jacaranda Park, Yeronga The biggest problem in photographing jacarandas is that for some unknown reason there's always signs or poles or buildings or other photographers in the way. The location I chose for my image this week which I found by accident and I *think* might be Guyatt Park in St. Lucia had a bride and groom being photographed to the left and a guy photographing his girlfriend jumping up at the trees on the right. The base photo is created from a stitched panorama of three different images. [caption id="attachment_2660" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Brisbane, UQ, University of Queensland Original location for Dance with the Jacarandas[/caption]   Thanks to the magic of Photoshop I was able to replace the distracting elements in the original image with a new background of Jacaranda shots taken at other locations. Using the same tactic I also covered the ground with fallen petals. [gallery columns="2" size="medium" link="file" ids="2662,2661"]   I photographed myself in my backyard in a $5 dress I picked up at a theatre costume sale the weekend before. I had to be careful with posing because I was surrounded by dog poo and mushrooms. I added a different arm, a fuller skirt, and more hair, all toned to match the background image. Then I blended some real Jacaranda petals over my dress. [gallery size="medium" link="file" ids="2664,2667,2666"]   To finish off I added some more Jacaranda branches behind the trees on the top left to block out the sky a bit more. I also added some falling petals by using a photo of a single Jacaranda flower to create a Photoshop brush and using that with a motion blur to paint in falling flowers. [gallery size="medium" link="file" ids="2665,2668,2663"]   If you know where I can find other great Jacaranda locations in Brisbane, please let me know!

13
Jul

A newborn photo shoot with a difference

Recently the opportunity to do a newborn photo shoot literally fell into my lap – when my neighbour handed me this doll and suggested I use it in a photo. Made by Reborn Baby Central, it’s delightfully creepy so how could I resist?   It sat in my room for a few days mocking me […]

3
Jul

The making of ‘Where She Wanders’

When I was small we lived in a house that backed onto undeveloped land and so the neighbourhood kids and I would grab our bikes and head off exploring, making up creation stories and brushing shoulders with snakes and wild brumbies. When I was a teenager we lived in a house that backed onto rainforest […]

22
May

Behind the scenes of a special commission (with free compositing tool!)

Recently I was asked by some work friends to create a special birthday commission. The gentleman subject, Russell, is a golf fan and world traveller so I knew straight away that I wanted to create a unique piece that combined his two passions. Sadly a trip to Europe wasn’t in the budget so I had […]

8
May

The making of ‘Luminary’

  To get between work and home I regularly drive a busy highway and as those who drive highways know, the traffic can often stop for reasons unknown. During one of these particular ‘jams I was daydreaming about what could be the cause of the trouble ahead and I started imagining an oversized girl lying […]

13
Mar

The making of ‘Metamorphosis’

As part of my current gallery exhibition I had to create didactics, which are wall panels that describe your art. Being primarily left-brained I focused on the technical because ‘how’ an image is created is the most interesting part of the process for me and is the entire driving force behind my ‘Exposing Illusions’ brand. So it […]

17
Jan

Run Red, and some musings about failure

It’s been six whole weeks since I last released a photo which is probably more of a surprise to me than you. Back in November I photographed all the component pieces I needed for a photo that I hoped would be my biggest and best yet but I’m afraid to say that after weeks of work I […]

6
Dec

The best methods to shoot and edit black and white photos

Some people have a natural eye for shooting black and white but sadly I am not one of those people, I guess because I like how expressive colour can be. I took black and white photography in high school, the kind that used expensive film and meant extracurricular hours spent in dark rooms but I […]

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 […]

8
Nov

Jacaranda season

Every September my city (Brisbane, Australia) turns purple when the Jacaranda trees begin to bloom. The purple flowers are feared by students because it signifies exams are about to start and relished by locals and tourists because they’re such a beautiful sight. For me it means packing up my camera and heading out on numerous day […]