Thursday, April 24, 2008
But creating the sense of perspective is a fairly simple matter.
This jeep sits outside a WWII museum in New Orleans. Taking this picture with the end of the barrel in sharp focus and the rest of the gun progressively blurred was pretty simple.
I simply set my focus point to the right, locked in tight on the end of the barrel and adjusted the aperture properly and got the tip in sharp focus.
Sometimes, however, you can't take the picure with such a sharply defined focus. Here's where you can use Photoshop to your advantage.
What makes a subject "leap" off the image? It's accomplished by tricking the eye. It will focus on everything that is in focus, and immediately put everything else into a mental "background."
This angel guards a grave in a very small cemetary in Texas. She needed to be in the center of the graphic because I really wanted to create the idea that she was coming out of the picture.
The steps taken to finish this graphic are included in the upcoming "Perfect Portraits" course. But briefly, when taking the picture I wanted the background to be recognizable, I wanted to heighten contrast on the angel and I wanted to add a very strong perspective element to the photo.
The idea here is to use the "Quick Selection" tool in Photoshop CS3 to define the angel and her stand. I used the Selection options to build higher contrast on her, even as I "inverse" selected to blur and slightly desaturate the background. Then, with the background selected, I used Filter/Blur/Lens Blur to complete the effect.
This being done, the angel stands out on two fronts: she has a higher contrast and she is in sharp focus, as opposed to the background which features a lower contrast and has been uniformly blurred.
The "uniform" blur is important to the success of the picture, by the way. Remember that the camera would, in most cases, have a gradual blur. Since our intent is to create an angel in stark contrast to her background, the uniform strong blur makes her stand out even more strongly.
Think about using this perspective technology on another sort of picture. Think about how strong a product shot could become. Think about the specific focus on the bride even as you blur everything else. How about a child's eye? How about....???
Perspective is a great device to use on many graphics. It directs the viewer's eye to the specific aspect of the picture you have pre-chosen AND it makes them go "ooooooo."
And isn't that what it's all about?
Friday, April 18, 2008
How do you make a good image of this kind of place?
The first thing you DON'T do is take a broad shot of the house, trying to include everything inside one picture. Sure, your viewer will get the sense that this was a really cool house, but unless you do some vast Photoshop work, that's the only impression they'll get. Let's face it: the Photoshop work you would do would result in the visual representation of one or two elements of the picture anyway.
Think of one of those Find Waldo puzzles, where you have to look for a long time at confusingly similar images to find the geek in the red and white striped shirt. You study it and finally he jumps out at you.
But if you take a second to look at the WHOLE picture, where does your eye go? It travels around, looking for something to focus on. Your brain is trying to make sense of the image, wondering what the picture us about.
My very interesting house picture would have had the same effect. So I made an image of the doorknocker. And I broadened the focus to include this great textured door as well. It's a great effect, finished by adding a raised bevel frame using a combination of onOne's Photo Frame Pro and the Layer Style (that fx logo at the bottom of the layers menu) options to complete the effect.
The point here isn't so much the frame as it is the image inside the frame. It's an odd rectangle with an odd and beautifully textured image in the center.
Did you know that Hollywood heavyweight Nicholas Cage owns what is reputed to be the most "haunted house" in New Orleans? It's true. His house is featured on every Ghost Walk tour the city does. The tour guide tells you about a wealthy woman who lived there and tortured, starved and abused her slaves in secret. Now you can hear the ghostly clanking of chains, see strange misty people and a bunch of other stuff that sounds a lot scarier in the dark.
Tourists lined up to get pictures of this house -- which is by anyone's account, a pretty ordinary looking house. Not an interesting image. It would be different, of course, if it were to have dramatic gables and a hunchbacked butler answering the door. But it doesn't. So I took two images from this house...each one is designed to allow me to tell the viewer the story about the hauntings. As with the Creepy Doorknocker above I focused on one or two elements.
This is an urn just inside the doorway to Nick's house. (Just try to tell me he's not playing up the whole "my house is haunted" thing...) and it was the most "obviously haunted looking thing" in the area.
Do you think this picture just might be more dramatic than a shot of a fairly ordinary New Orleans house?
The second pic I took here, by the way was of bright yellow flowers on the second floor balcony. The reasons for this, and the treatment of the picture is discussed in the upcoming "Perfect Portraits" course coming out in the fall.
If you've been following this blog, you know that my wife and I both like graveyards. The older the better. We hit the jackpot in New Orleans and Brownsville, Texas. There were some amazing pictures here.
Many postcards feature panoramic views of raised crypts. These are great -- but they don't say any one particular thing about the grave, the person in the grave, how people who have seen the grave responded -- they are just pics of generic graveyards.
This picture was taken in a little out of the way graveyard along a back Texas highway. From here you can spit into Mexico. The grave marker surprised me. It was visually interesting. It was elegant -- even though it depicted the most horrific death possible. Someone had gone to the trouble to hack the head off. It makes for an interesting picture.
First, I reduced the picture to a high contrast black and white, using both Desaturation and Alien Skin's Exposure filter set. I had pre-selected the flowers and dropped the contrast just a little bit so that it would retain color -- but not too much.
Think for a second about how this one cross would fail to stand out in a panorama shot, and how much more effective it is when shot by itself.
The upshot of this whole blog is that shooting bits of the "whole" picture can result in some very strong graphics indeed.
I am always interested in seeing "Bits" photos, by the way. If you've got something you'd like to share send it to us. We'd love to post it and allow others to comment on it.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
One afternoon I decided to take up my camera and see what stories the streets of New Orleans might have to tell me.
This fellow is a Chess Grand Master. He sets up shop beside the French Market and for five bucks he'll play a game with you, and pass along some tips as he kicks the snot out of your chess pieces.
I framed the picture so the chess pieces are really only a small part of the overall shot. I wanted my streetscape to capture his intensity and his excitement as well as his passion about his subject matter. The picture was sharpened and the contrast turned up a little. When you look at the picture, do you get a sense of who this guy is?
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
There's great history here -- and so many picture opportunities that choosing which one to go with first is a real challenge. Take that sweet-but-slightly-creepy girl in this picture. She's the highlight of the entire cemetary and you could spend hours trying to get the picture just right.
As I finished my work on this graphic, my wife pointed out that she (the creepy girl, not my wife) was on the cover of a "Ghost Tour" brochure. It is my wife's contention that this statue has probably been photographed thousands of times. Suddenly my carefully processed photo didn't look so good.
So today, let's take a look at several ways to take an apparently well known landmark and make it into an interesting picture. The basic pic is above. It's been cleaned up a little. The background, which is an office tower, has been blurred and darkened.
But it needs to have an antique treatment. For this you can use a combination of effects. Start off with Image> Adjustments> Black and White. The conversion in CS3 is vastly improved. (If you are a third party plug in junkie like me, you may want to use Alien Skin's Exposure.)
We need to create an really antiqued look. To do it quickly, I have used a combination of two effects. They are "Dreamy" from Auto FX's Dreamsuite series and Antique Photo from their Mystical Tint and Color collection. This results in a slightly blurred effect (hence the name "Dreamy") and the Antique Photo Collection injects a good combination of color and aging effects. You can achieve the same effect (with a little more work) using Filter> Blur> Lens Blur and Image> Adjustments> Photo Filter.
Here's an off the wall option. Transform the picture into a gothic looking painting. For this, you need to copy the layer so you can go a wee bit nuts with the photo. First, you can try doing some work with Filter> Brush Strokes.
However if you, like me, are counting down the seconds to the moment when you have to leave lovely New Orleans and go back to snow, try a short cut: Virtual Painter has an excellent vastly adjustable Gothic Oil Painting option. You'll wind up with something like this.
There are a ton of other ways the image can be transformed: try adding light and colors with Knoll's Light Factory, try Mosaic Tiles inside Filter> Textures> Mosaic Tiles or some of the other options.
The real key is to take a long hard look at your graphic and try to think of how it makes you feel, and how you want your viewer to feel when they look at it.
The final step is to figure out how exactly to communicate that concept to your viewer.
We go step by step through the image editing steps in our courses. But the intent of this blog is simply to show a couple of ideas for creating better images than they have on the Haunted Tours Brochure in New Orleans.
Friday, April 4, 2008
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
The great thing -- I mean the really great thing about travel -- is not so much the places you go, but the people you meet.
Take a good look at the guy in the picture.
What do you think of him?
Look hard at the picture and see what kinds of things you come up with. It's obvious we are looking at an Elvis fan, right? Now look at the position of his right hand...the way it's resting on the statue's shoulder. What opinions have you formulated about him?
"He" is Simon Vega. Vega served with the most successful singer of all time in the army and turned down the King's offer to come and work for him. Vega had just been married and he didn't want to leave his new bride, Teresa, for any longer than he absolutely had to. He still gets misty when he recalls the day he learned his friend, Elvis Presley, died.
Since that time, though, Vega has turned a portion of his house into a bona fide tourist attraction called "Little Graceland." He's copied the design of the gates from Presley's Memphis palace. He's built a miniature size replica of the home Presley was raised in. He's got cards, all 64 official Presley albums, one of Presley's uniforms, personal letters and much more. If you want to take his picture, he will put on his Elvis tour jacket (which I suspect fits a little more snugly than it used to) and obligingly poses.
He's not a nut. He's one of the nicest guys I've met. When we left, he hugged both of us.
Whenever anyone comes by the museum, he drops what he's doing and takes them on a personal tour. Okay. I can guess what you're thinking: what does this have to do with Photoshop or photography?