Post Processing » Taking Photoshop to the Limit
*Note that throughout this article you can click on any of the images to enlarge them.
|Self-portrait with my head lit on fire. There was no Photoshop involved in the taking of this picture.|
When I started taking photographs the assumption was that a photograph was, in a sense, evidence. When you looked at a photograph you were observing a visual truth. Think of the photograph of Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald, the assassin of JFK. At that time it would never have occurred to anyone that the photograph wasn't a representation of reality.
Now if I see a photograph my first assumption is that it has been altered.
After I completed a photo session that went deep into the early hours involving lighting objects on fire, it somehow seemed like a good idea to set my head on fire, so I did. (Editor’s note: this is not recommended by me or this website for anyone, professional or not!)
While Photoshop can offer an amazing array of visual effects, be aware that there are limits to how far these effects can and should be taken.
Guitar World Cover
Today we will take a look at a cover I created of Stevie Ray Vaughn for Guitar World Magazine.
I will discuss:
1. Choosing the basic image.
2. Analyzing what could be changed to make the client happy and altering the image. This includes:
3. Going too far.
Guitar World wanted to use a photograph I had taken of Stevie Ray Vaughn for their cover. As Stevie Ray Vaughn died quite a while ago and I had been less-than-meticulous with my images through my moves from Milan to London to Sydney, back to New York etc.... I only had about 12 images left from the photo shoot.
Fortunately one of them was the photograph they had in mind.
|The basic photograph of Stevie Ray Vaughn before any kind of adjustment. It is was moved into the cover sized file where it will live.|
The Basic Image
The photograph was a film original, horizontal and quite covered with hair and other general sludge. It needed to become a vertical for the cover, cleaned up and the rest of Stevie Ray's hat had to be generated.
Altering The Image
Crop: So first I cropped the image to a cover image size, keeping in mind the art director and I would be adding additional information at the top of the photo.
Clean up: Using the Cloning and Healing tools I removed the visual debris. When using the Clone tool I set it low, between 20-35%, so as to be able to find the proper blend gradually.
Color adjustment: The color was adjusted to take some of the red cast out of Stevie Ray's skin tone. This was mainly to communicate to the publication generally what I wanted to see, as they typically do their own color and a tone adjustment before the cover goes to press. I primarily concentrated on the general tone of the coat and then selected the hands with the Lasso tool to adjust separately.
Replace the background: Next I replaced the background with a white tone. Again, this is often done by the art director , however I prefer to do it myself (though I will upon request provide high-res scans of the original images if the client requests them).
First I will go to Photoshop>File>New and create a document the size of the final cover. Then I will drag the image I have adjusted thus far into the document and re-name it 'cover base.'
There are many roads to all Photoshop destinations and I could do an article on each of the various ways to do every one of these steps. None would be wrong. The way I am going to replace the background here is to:
|The other face of Stevie Ray Vaughn, taken the next moment but without the angst.|
Now you might be asking yourself why I have not adjusted the face. It is red and blown out on one side. This is because Guitar World told me they thought his expression was overwhelmingly sad. I personally did not see this, and if it was the case, hey, I'm a better photographer than I thought!
So they asked if I had another face. As it happened I had another image that had his face and a full hat, though not the rest of his body. The client decided that they wanted to go with this second face on the original body. I have to point out that I perceive little difference in the expressions, though the light is vastly preferable in the second shot and so I was not opposed to the digital surgery.
Replace the Hat and Face: The second image, taken moments after the primary exposure, has the full hat, an even exposure and less apparent sadness and desolation in Stevie Ray's face. I adjusted the tone and color then used the Lasso tool to cut out the face and layer it over the basic image.
When lining up the two images you place the new head and, using the Opacity option on the Layer pallet, take the opacity down to about 80% so you can line up the correct proportions. I find the eyes are a good place to start but ultimately you have to go with what feels right to you.
Trim the edges with the Eraser tool set with a generous amount of soft edge to soften the blow.
Flatten Image: When everything is in place and adjusted to your satisfaction, make a copy of the file by going to Image>Duplicate, then you can flatten the duplicate copy by going to Layer>Flatten Image.
Going Too Far
So now I ask myself. Do they really want a happier Stevie Ray? Don't we need all that stormy vexation? What can I do to help. Maybe put a smile on his face.
First I look at the other images but his smile is pretty goofy. Lovable, but nothing for an icon to wear. So I figure I'll select his mouth and by going to Edit, then Warp, I'll give him a subtle whimsical smile. So I make a copy to the layer by dragging the layer on the Layer pallet to the Create a New Layer icon hanging on the bottom next to the garbage can.
|The smile of Stevie Ray Vaughn, a child of the Edit Warp...|
Then I take my Lasso and select his mouth: Copy (Command C ) and Paste (Command V) the selection on the image. Go to Edit>Transform>Warp... and I have my way with his lips.
Then I think - What am I playing at? This is the province of Zeus...and I am no Zeus.
I have gone too far, so I give Stevie Ray Vaughn back his face.
|The final cover.|
I hope you will all learn a lesson from this and that you will recognize when you too have gone too far.