A Composite Exercise Part 2

As I mentioned in the previous post, I wanted to do another version of the Dance Composite with wider grid lines. So I went  back to the previous image and pulled out the gird lines so they where wider. That actually made the grid MORE powerful. Everything  became more – blacker, heavier, bigger. The opposite of what I was going for. So I tried different things to minimize the grid. I ended up minimizing it to the point of almost eliminating it. As I looked at it it felt like the grid didn’t really fit the rest of the elements. So I added just enough to use it to tie the overall image together, without being a significant element. At least that’s what I tried to do.

Tell me which you think works best:

The first:


The revised:


A Composite Exercise

I’ve actually been pretty busy since I last posted. I shot Sr. Portraits for a friend and Class/Individual portraits for my daughter’s dance class. I actually made a couple of bucks on the dance pictures. I traded for the others. But money isn’t the issue at this point. I defined a workflow just before I did these two jobs so they were both exercises in following the work flow. It worked well. I need to make some adjustments, which is good. I think I’m close. I have the full tool set and the work flow to tie it together. It feels like it is starting to come together.

I’ve spent way to much time ‘learning’ Photoshop. Watching course videos and reading books. Now I need to actually start building things. To that end I’m going to take images that catch my interest and mimic that image. That will help me focus on the image, really examine it to understand what works, what doesn’t and work on my PS skills by building my own piece based on the original.

The first image I used is a TINY bit violent. I saw the image and was intrigued by the overall concept before I really paid attention to the detail. Sorry about that. But it gave me something to work from.

Here’s the original. I pulled this from a blog post by Chase Jarvis on ‘The Best Album Art’:

Here’s what I built:


I think what caught my interest on the original was the grid and how the artist used that to pull the piece together. I’ve been struggling with how to build backgrounds, so I’m paying more attention to that than anything else at the moment. The background is what ties everything together. It’s the most important neutral element. It needs to be there, it needs to work, but it shouldn’t be obvious. Looking at the two together I’m thinking I should have made the grid less dense. It may be too heavy on this one. I may try one with it expanded and see how that works.

Feel free to give me your thoughts.

What I really love…

I love photography. I love beautiful images.  I love looking at them, making them, surrounding myself with them. I really do.

This journey started when I was a Boy Scout working on my Photography Merit Badge. My counselor took me into his dark room to show me how to develop a picture. To this day I remember that moment, watching that image appear in the developer. It was the single most magical moment of my life. I was hooked. So I started taking pictures, earned a degree in it, worked in studios. My strengh was in the darkroom which was good, because my bosses liked to shoot. Then I quit. I didn’t like it anymore. Something was missing.

Then digital came along and I started playing again. I missed the dark room, but I was amazed with what I could do in Photoshop. So I started almost all over again. I’ve been shooting a lot, but I’ve been spending most of my time in Lightroom and Photoshop. I love what I can do to an image, how I can make it better, stronger, more interesting. So I’ve been trying to figure out how to get back into the game. To do something I really enjoy and get paid for it. To be able to spend the time at it to get really good.

It finally hit me a couple of weeks ago. It only took me 35 years. I shoot as a means to another end. What I really enjoy, what I’ve always enjoyed is the post work. The darkroom and now Photoshop. I’m a sloppy shooter, I’m technically tight in post work. I’ve always shot as an input to the post. So I going to concentrate my efforts there. I’m exploring if I can build a business doing post work. I’m liking this concept.

In the mean time, here are a couple of images I’ve restored recently. The first one is my wife as a baby. I was able to clean up the damage of a lot of years of neglect and abuse. She was very excited. 

I posted my wife’s baby picture on my Facebook account to show it off. My uncle saw it and asked if I could do something with a picture he had. It’s a picture of my cousin when she was much younger. It was pretty faded and he can’t find the negative.

First I popped what was there. 

Then I did some hand coloring to give her skin, hair and the fence some color. 

They both turned out really nice – and I enjoyed the process. Now, how to get people to pay me for this…

Engagement Composite

This is the composite I put together of our Engagement images. I wanted something a little more personal, that would show more of our personalities than just a single image.

Here’s a list of the elements I used and what I was thinking when I used them:

  • Background with our shadow. Provides a nice base layer but still ties everything together with the directional shadow shapes.
  • Floating leaves. They add an earthy feel – fills the blank spaces.
  • Handwriting adds a level of meaning, expands the story line and adds an organic element.
  • A scan of the pot Cheryl built on our first ‘date’. This provides a touch of the history of the relationship. That ugly little pot has become very significant to the relationship.
  • A hand colored couple shot. I like the feel of that look, as I’ve talked about in the last couple of posts.  The more graphic, less detailed treatment softens the overall piece.
  • An aged black and white couple shot. This adds a sense of time to the image. It provides a sense of history, one that doesn’t exist yet, but hopefully will be long and rich.

This isn’t mind shattering, but I think it shows a positive progression.

Hand Coloring – RGB vs. CMYK

In my last post I explored Hand Coloring an image. I used the RGB Color Mode. The tutorial I was kind of following said to use CMYK. At the time I thought RGB worked fine. In fact I mentioned in the previous post that he said to use CMYK and I used RGB.

The reason I used RGB? Because it is my default mode and by the time I remembered to change it to CMYK I’d done most of my mods and added a bunch of layers that would be deleted if I moved from RGB to CMYK. (big breath) It’s called stupid laziness. Not really a suggested design strategy. Although I expect most of us practice it more often then we’d like to admit.

I liked the affect so I decided to try it again on another engagement image. As before, I did all my mods and adjustments then started my hand color process before I thought to change to CMYK. Of course I didn’t want to lose my previous work, so I just kept going. Later, it started to bug me. So I decided to do it again, this time using CMYK.

This is the side by side comparison of the two treatments. The first is RGB. The second is CMYK:

I expected the difference in having the black channel would give me control over the luminance within the color. And I was right. That additional channel allowed me to dial in the luminance of the color.  While the RGB mode worked, the CMYK provides more control and more depth.

I still like the first one I did, but for this one, I preferred the CMYK version better. It had more depth, the colors were more natural and overall it was easier to get what I wanted.

Hand Color Engagement Image

We did family pictures and engagement pictures a couple of weeks ago. It was a big shoot. I did 2 studio setups and 2 locations for 5 kids and 1 adult, in 3 different groups – her kids, my kids and our kids. Then I handed my camera to my daughter and she did couple shots for the engagement, both studio and on location. First I went through the family and kid pictures which I posted in my previous entry. Then I moved on to the engagement image.

There was one picture I really liked. The composition was good, the moment was great. Lighting was alright. It was almost a wonderful shot, but it needed something. And going in I wanted to do something with some grit, some character.

I started with this (after basic LightRoom adjustments, cropping):

I went out to the internet and searched for Photoshop Instagram effects – looking for ideas. I found a couple that I liked, one using a Threshold adjustment and one on Hand Coloring.

I started with an exploratory and came up with the following:

Then I started with a new canvas and built the final, using higher resolution images:

The Steps to build the final image:

–   Background copy – no changes made

  • In the exploratory I added grain to this level, but decided I liked it better without

–  Converted to Black and white

  • I did this in two layers, one for Scott’s face and the area below the window (B&W Scott) and one for everything else.  When I lightened the faces by adding Yellow and Red it was losing highlight on Scott’s forehead against the wall. And the colored area below the window was losing its detail – I wanted to maintain enough to color.
  • B&W Scott (masked)
  • Reds: 40
  • Yellows: 60
  • Greens: 40
  • Cyans: 60
  • Blues: 20
  • Magentas: 80
  • B&W Cheryl (masked)
  • Reds: 79Yellows: 11
  • Greens: 40
  • Cyans: 79
  • Blues: 71
  • Magentas: 80

–  I added a Threshold Adjustment layer to drop out the fine details and add a graphic feel.

  • On the exploratory I got a lot more texture – but when I used it on the higher resolution image the range was much finer so I didn’t get the same amount of texture.
  • Had to adjust the Threshold level and the Opacity to get the affect I wanted.
    • Threshold Level: 76
    • Opacity: 12%
  • I had issues with the shadow areas
    • Blocked the hair out on the Threshold layer.
    • I had other shadow areas that were very blotchy, I decreased those shadows using the Localized Burn/Lighten layer until the blotch went away. This worked really well

–  Added Blank Layer for localized Burn/Lighten

        • Blend Mode: Overlay

–  Added Blank Layer for localized Burn/Lighten around Cheryl’s lips

        • Blend Mode: Overlay

–  Added Curves Adjustment Layers to hand color individual areas. Selected the area to be colored, then added the Curves Adjustment Layer, which masked out the selected area

        • Skin
        • Scott’s Hair
        • Cheryl’s Hair
        • Window Shadow
        • Below Window
        • Window frame
        • Scott’s Shirt
        • Far Right Shadow

The Tutorial I used said to change the Image Mode to CMYK. That adds the black layer. But I used the default RGB image mode.

I really like the way this turned out. It gave me just enough graphic grit and dropped out some of the fine detail.  That actually solved some of my lighting challenges on my face by softening the shadows. The hand color gives it a soft translucent watercolor look.

Here’s the final:

Here’s what I started with, for side by side comparison:

Blending Modes – Composite Portraits

Here are a couple of examples of using blend modes to build composite portraits. I found these on 500px by Alfredo J. Llorens.

The first one uses multiple head shots blended together to create a single portrait image. I really like this:

25 Aniversario by Alfredo Lloren

Here’s another one using an environmental element to blend. I can’t say I love this image, but I really like the concept.

Alfredo Lloren A Forest

Thank you, Mr. Llorens