Category 'Behind the scenes'

[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!

'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.    

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

[gallery link="file" size="large" ids="2631,2632,2633"]  

The lakes and surrounds, The University of Queensland

[gallery size="large" link="file" ids="2634,2636,2637,2638,2639,2640,2635"]

 

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

[gallery columns="4" size="large" link="file" ids="2641,2642,2644,2643"]

 

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

[gallery size="large" link="file" ids="2645,2648,2646,2649,2651,2647"]  

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

[gallery link="file" size="medium" ids="2652,2653,2658,2656,2654"]  

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!

Seeing as Back to the Future day is now in our past and even I, a committed fan, am quite done hearing about it for the time being, I no longer want to dwell on why I made this tribute image. But I do want to talk about how I made it and what I learnt in the process. The easy solution would have been to Photoshop Michael J Fox out of the original image and replace him with myself but that'd be cheating! Instead I wanted to photograph myself and my Lego DeLorean and then recreate the scene using stock, which ended up being a fantastic exercise because I had to analyse every little piece of the image, figure out what stock I could use to replicate it and then draw on various Photoshop techniques for the effects. I wouldn't normally recommend copying someone else's image and releasing it to the world but this is an exercise I firmly believe every budding Photoshop artist should try to really hone those skillz. Back to the Future poster   I first had to figure out what I could wear to look like Marty. This ended up being a pair of my jeans, one of my dad's shirts, a red tunic with the sleeves and buttons removed in Photoshop (I had nothing else resembling a puffy red vest), a pair of 12 year old white sneakers that were literally crumbling whenever I walked, a denim jacket, a black Fitbit and my every day sunglasses (I didn't have mirrored ones). I used a stepladder to rest my foot on and I had a Speedlite set to full power facing up from about waist height to mimic the bright light from the car. I shot the image back to front and flipped it because I don't like the left side of my face. I also learnt that underlighting turns me into Seinfeld's girlfriend from 'The Strike' (the one who looked okay in certain light and bloody terrible in others) and all of these images will soon get deleted so I never have to see them again. To get the pose and camera angle right I had to keep running between the garage where I shot it and the living room where my computer was to reference the original image and it was hot in all those clothes and uncomfortable in those flaky shoes. Why I didn't just print out the image is a mystery for the ages. I shot the pose both with and without the tunic so I could easily remove the sleeves in Photoshop and still see the jacket below. Original pose   In Photoshop I smoothed the line of the jeans, replaced my watch hand (because I was holding the remote in it), replaced the shoe that got cut off, fixed the tunic and my messy hair, retouched my face and changed my eyes because they weren't open enough which explains why I look like I've had a botched facelift in the final image. Body fixes   I photographed the Lego DeLorean on my kitchen bench, trying to keep it in as much focus as possible, particularly in the area where I knew I would be standing. I had to shoot it down low to get the angle right and my mum shone a torch on the inside of the car where the bright light would be coming from. I then liquified the front of the car in Photoshop to make it look like its melting. Lego DeLorean   To create the scene I bought an image of a road from Adobe Stock because none of my pictures of roads had the right angle. Despite actually buying the image (I promise!) I somehow ended up with the low res preview version in the final image - oops! Road from Adobe Stock   I used my own photo of dark blue clouds for the sky and then overlaid a bunch of other cloud photos to get the billowing smoke effect. The pink and orange sky came from a sunrise photo I took in Edinburgh. [gallery columns="2" size="medium" link="file" ids="2580,2581"]   The light rays came from a band photo I took of the Presets, which was duplicated over and over and moved to match the ray positions. I used this image of a streetlight for the lights and a Graphic Stock image of a flare for the light itself which was added with the 'Lighten' blend mode. The mountain was shot out of a car window in Malaysia which I then blurred heaps so the trees weren't so detailed. [gallery columns="4" link="file" size="medium" ids="2585,2584,2582,2583"]   The fire is made up of about 6 different stock images purchased from Graphic Stock and Adobe Stock that I also blurred a bunch. I added a noise layer over the background and the car to get the really grainy look of the original. Finally I added a yellow outer glow around my body, drew in the shadows and bright light, and then toned the colour and lighting using about 50 different adjustment layers. Fire from Adobe Stock   The funny thing is there's a lot wrong with the original image - why the weird blue spot over the car on the left? why is there a bright white square on the road bottom right? why is Marty brightest on his right side when the light is coming from the rays on the left and the fire below? why are the shadows on his face and arms really red? why did they make the DeLorean look like it was melting? why are the fire tracks a weird angle and shape? Anyway! It was not up to me to wonder why, but how. And hopefully my image is more of an 'homage' than an insult to the world's greatest film franchise. :)   [gallery columns="2" size="large" link="file" ids="2575,2587"]

On Thursday 1 October I exhibited my work for the very first time at RAW Brisbane's MERGE showcase. After months of planning, buying things for my display and organising prints it was wonderful to finally have everything come together. There was a great response to my work with lots of positive feedback and people spent a long time looking at and discussing all my prints. A few artists expressed an interest in collaborating - one guy was so keen he gave me his daughter's business card twice! I am really grateful to all my friends and family who came along for support. I had a fun night and I couldn't have done it without you all! Congratulations to all my fellow artists on a successful night. If you're considering having a RAW exhibition of your own, they hold showcases worldwide and it's a fantastic experience I'd recommend to all artists. Photos courtesy of Noel Roberts and Elliot Tonks of Live Exposure. [gallery columns="4" size="large" link="file" ids="2484,2488,2489,2485,2486,2487,2496,2490,2491,2493,2494,2497,2498,2500,2501,2502,2499,2504,2492,2503"]  

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! :)

Since the Exposing Illusions tutorial blog is now a fortnightly affair I've decided to fill the off-weeks with other bits and pieces I've been working on. Recently I'd been thinking about doing a lifestyle shoot to add to my portfolio with the stock agency, Arcangel. While driving around my suburb with my mum looking for locations we found this field that happened to be full of wild flowers and a few days later we returned at sunset loaded with costumes, wigs and props. It was good timing as the field was mowed a few days later. We didn't have a lot of time so I struck a few poses and came home with about 100 images. I challenged myself to spend no more than half an hour per image working on colour and tone, which I mostly did using Lightroom presets so no fancy Photoshop trickery here. Here's some of the results. [gallery columns="1" link="file" size="large" ids="2382,2391,2386,2389,2388,2387,2383,2385,2384,2390"]

How long I’ve wanted to shoot underwater! When girls in pretty dresses are combined with the weightlessness of water the results are elegant and ethereal. But shooting underwater is costly as it requires expensive purpose-built camera housing (around $2k) or an underwater point and shoot, which is cheaper (around $500) but offers less control. You can hire equipment but I’ve heard too many horror stories and the one rental company I spoke to said they couldn’t afford the insurance. It’s also a very physically demanding experience for both the model and photographer. All this AND I’m the only person on my street without a pool (which I sadly discovered while browsing Google Earth). So I’d love to do an underwater shoot some day but for now my options are limited to Photoshop. Please keep in mind this is an advanced tutorial.

How to photograph a fake underwater photo

First, find a blank background to photograph your model against so it’s easy to cut them out in Photoshop. I set up a black sheet because I knew this would roughly match the colour of the water I’d be compositing myself into. Light underwater is unpredictable but it definitely won’t have bright sun spots so shoot your model in diffuse light. I shot in my backyard in a shaded area as the sun was going down. [caption id="attachment_2242" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Testing the camera looking mighty impressed Testing the camera looking mighty impressed[/caption]   Set your aperture narrow enough to have all of your model in focus (you can blur them later if need be) and choose a shutter speed that gives the tiniest amount of motion blur, but not too much or your person will be hard to cut out. (My settings were 1/160 sec at f/9, ISO 800.) Resist any temptation to wet your model unless part of them will be out of the water and then only wet the exposed part. For my pose I first started out by leaning back on a chair in the same way I would pose for a levitation photo but it wasn’t until I tried jumping and posing mid-air that I started to like the shots because the movement was similar to floating. I also separately shot hair and dress flicks that I didn’t end up using but I wanted to have the option available for compositing. [gallery columns="2" size="medium" link="file" ids="2244,2243"]   For the water you have a few options including creating it in post or using stock, but I wanted to photograph my own elements. I again set up a black backdrop so it would be easy to separate the bubbles using a blend mode, half-filled a vase with water making sure the vase’s surface wasn’t reflecting too much light and photographed the water line and then the bubbles as I poured more water into the vase. [caption id="attachment_2245" align="aligncenter" width="200"]Bubbles for underwater Bubbles[/caption]    

How to edit a fake underwater photo in Photoshop

Before getting started I studied many underwater photos so I could try and replicate the look in Photoshop. The elements I decided I needed were these:
  • Bubbles
  • A water line / top of the water
  • Light rays
  • A reflection of the girl
  • Shimmers of light on her clothes and skin
  • Blue toning and matted highlights
  • Textures to give depth to the water
The following process is an amalgamation of tips from this video, other underwater tutorials found online and my own experimentation in Photoshop.
  1. Create the background. To do this I found an underwater photo with colours that I liked and opened it into my main document. Hit g to activate the gradient tool and click on the gradient bar. In the Gradient Options select the first preset ‘Foregound to Background’ and then double click the left bottom tab (‘stop’) to bring up the colour picker. Alt/Opt click on a highlight colour in the sample photo to select it and press OK, then double click the right bottom tab and sample a shadow colour. Keep pressing OK until you exit the Gradient Editor then draw a vertical line downwards over your canvas so that the lighter colour is at the top. (Make sure the 'reverse' box isn't ticked if you find this isn't the case.)
[gallery columns="2" link="file" size="medium" ids="2249,2251,2247,2250"]  
  1. Next you’ll need to create the top of the water. You can do this using stock photos (for example, waves at a beach) by going to Edit>Transform>Distort and playing around with the perspective handles, but I’d found a tutorial on how to create water from scratch that I wanted to try.
To do this create a new layer and draw a rectangle with your marquee tool (m) about 2/3 the size of your main document. Press d so that your colour swatch is set to default colours and go to Filter>Render>Clouds. Press Ctrl/Cmd t to bring up your free transform handles and drag the edges of the box to the edges of your document. [gallery size="medium" link="file" ids="2253,2254,2252"]   Now go to Filter>Filter Gallery>Artistic>Plastic Wrap (if the Filter Gallery is greyed out you may first need to change your image from 16 to 8 bit with Image>Mode and choose 8 Bits/Channel) and set your sliders to 14, 3 and 11. Click OK. Then go to Edit>Transform> Distort and pull your handles into place as shown. Change the blend mode to Linear Dodge. Add a mask to the layer and use a soft brush to remove the harsh edges. Add a curves adjustment layer above your water line layer and clip them together by pressing Alt/Opt and clicking between the two layers. Use curves to darken the layer to match your background. [gallery columns="2" size="medium" link="file" ids="2257,2258,2256,2255"]   Convert your water effect layer to a smart object (right click the layer in a blank area and choose 'Convert to Smart Object') and then go to Filter>Render>Lighting Effects and add a small spotlight to a section of the water. Play with the sliders to get an effect you like and the handles of your light to shape it. Press OK when you're finished. It's sometimes hard to get an idea of what the final effect will look like until it's applied which is why it's a good idea to apply lighting effects as a smart filter so you can keep changing the effect until you like it. [gallery columns="2" size="medium" link="file" ids="2259,2260"]  
  1. At this point I made sure my subject was perfectly cut out and placed her above these effects.
[gallery columns="2" size="medium" link="file" ids="2262,2261"]  
  1. Create rays of light by making a new layer and using your marquee tool to select the top half of the image. Press d to set your colour swatch to default and then go to Filter>Render>Clouds once again. Next go to Image>Adjustments>Threshold and use the default setting, press OK. Press Ctrl/Cmd D to get rid of the selection. Now go to Filter>Blur>Radial Blur. Take your amount to 100. Choose Zoom and Best and drag the centre point to the top of the box. Click OK. Press Ctrl/Cmd F a few times to repeat the effect. Change the blend mode to soft light and the opacity to about 50%. Use Ctrl/Cmd T and move your rays so they look like they’re coming from the spot light you created earlier. Add a mask and use a soft brush to paint out the rays wherever you don’t want them.
[gallery ids="2268,2264,2269,2267,2265,2266"]    
  1. I had no clue how to create the girl’s reflection so I created some tricks of my own. First I duplicated my subject layer and converted it to a Smart Object with Filter>Convert for Smart Filters. I then went to Edit>Transform>Flip Vertical and used Edit>Transform to move the reflection where I wanted it and dragged the top middle handle to make it quite squat. After playing around with all Photoshop’s filters I found I got the best result with Filter>Distort>Wave and played around with the sliders until I got a result I liked. Because I applied this as a Smart Filter I was able to apply and change the results as much as I liked.
[gallery size="medium" link="file" ids="2270,2272,2271"]  
  1. To create the shimmers of light I created a new layer and filled it with black. Then I went to Filter>Noise>Add Noise. I chose Gaussian and Monochromatic and set the amount to about 35%. Now I went to Filter>Pixelate>Crystallize and made the Cell Size 160. This is similar to how we created snow last tutorial. Now go to Filter>Stylize>Find Edges. Press Ctrl/Cmd i to invert the layer. Choose Filter>Distort>Ripple and make it about 300. Then Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur and just apply a little to make the edges less severe. Change the blend mode to screen. Zoom right out of your document and pres Ctrl/Cmd T and make this layer larger. Clip this layer to the subject, change the opacity to 60% and mask it out where you don't want it.
[gallery size="medium" link="file" ids="2273,2276,2278,2277,2280,2279,2274,2281,2283"]  
  1. The bubbles were added using a screen blending mode and then I clipped a levels layer to the bubbles to get rid of any lingering background. You could also use a bubble brush to create the bubbles.
[caption id="attachment_2284" align="aligncenter" width="296"]Bubbles added Bubbles added[/caption]  
  1. I used a few curves layers clipped to the girl layer to introduce some bluey green toning and then darkened the bottom of her body. I also desaturated her skin tones and dragged the highlights down to dull them slightly. A good trick I learnt recently from Glyn Dewis is to make the opacity of your subject layer 95% so the background shows through ever so slightly and tones your subject to match the scene.
[caption id="attachment_2285" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Colour toning Colour toning[/caption]  
  1. Adding textures is optional but I thought the scene looked too flat without them. I added various bokeh textures and overall colour toning to give depth to the water.
[caption id="attachment_2286" align="aligncenter" width="297"]Final toning and textures Final toning and textures[/caption]   And we're done! It's definitely a lot of work but the more effort you put into it the more realistic your final result. And not a single camera was harmed.  

About ‘Rosewater’ and ‘I Tried to Drown my Sorrows’

The poses for both photos were photographed in my backyard wearing a $10 dress I found through a Facebook “garage sale”. Little known fact, I studied six different types of dance as a child and I finally got to use some of this training in my photos. Unfortunately my body is no longer primed for this kind of activity and my legs hurt for days. In Photoshop I was hoping to recreate the particular look used in this Adam Attoun photo. 'I Tried to Drown my Sorrows' started out with this in mind but by a happy accident when I opened a vase photo to use the bubbles I noticed how great the girl looked inside the glass, so this image took on a life of its own and was very quick to complete. To create 'Rosewater', I began by following along with the video tutorial posted earlier to see if I’d like the result which I did, so she ended up being in a bluey/green scene rather than black because the colours grew on me. I always planned to have flowers floating in the water so I shot some miniature roses in a vase and was most annoyed to discover that roses float so I had to poke them into the water with a gardening fork. Despite being miniature the roses still look way too big for the scene, ruining all my convincing underwater scene building but I like how they look and am happy with the final photo regardless. I Tried to Drown my Sorrows

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23
Aug

How to fake an underwater photo with Photoshop

How long I’ve wanted to shoot underwater! When girls in pretty dresses are combined with the weightlessness of water the results are elegant and ethereal. But shooting underwater is costly as it requires expensive purpose-built camera housing (around $2k) or an underwater point and shoot, which is cheaper (around $500) but offers less control. You […]