Monthly Archives: July 2014

Composing the Scene – Part 2

As discussed in the previous post, Chapter 5 of How to Cheat in Photoshop, 6th ed., is more about learning than doing – at least compared to the chapters that come before. The first three tutorials provide valuable information about working with figures (the human kind, not numbers).

Urban Farming
In the fourth tutorial of Chapter 5, Caplin finally provides an exercise to work on. In this case, he explains that just placing a figure in a background is rarely convincing.   To make figures look like they actually belongs in an image, it’s usually necessary to have the figures interact with the background in some way. Take this image:Back to foregroundBothOn the left, the farmer looks artificially inserted. On the right, notice how the farmer looks much more convincing. Not only is the farmer behind the fence, his feet are in the grass (instead of on the grass) and the pitchfork he’s holding is now on the other side of the fence.  In addition, the background is blurred, using a gradient, to give the image more depth.

Making it Work
When you’re trying to get a message across in an image, you’d think the best way to do so is by making it the most prominent item. However, that in-your-face approach is about as subtle as a slap, and frequently less effective.  Instead, adding other elements can draw the viewer’s attention to the right spot: composition tricksBothOn the left, the sign with the message is in perspective with the rest of the image and it’s the most prominent feature. But, due to the perspective, it appears to be pointing towards the statue in the background.  Very distracting.  On the right, the background is moved and blurred and a figure added (which, according to the book, is a picture Caplin himself). Now the focus of the image is clear.

In the Driver’s Seat
The final tutorial in Chapter 5 involved placing a figure in a car.  It seems like this ought to be an easy enough. But,  there’s the windshield and the interior of the car to deal with.  Caplin shows how, in nine steps, to take car from empty to occupied (and appearing to be driving down the street, too):People and carsBothThe first few steps cover removing all of the glass, including the sides and rear windows.  Next, a new interior, driver and steering wheel with a hand are added.  The car and new driver are then placed in another background that matches the perspective of the car.  The windshield and other windows were added by painting diagonally, in white, with a soft-edged brush set to a low opacity. Finally, the car was recolored by filling a new layer with blue, using the car as a clipping mask and then erasing the parts that didn’t need to be colored and a shadow added underneath. I could have also fixed the dent in the hood, but if someone makes it a habit of speaking on his mobile phone while driving, he probably has a few dings on his car.

Of course this exercise is drawn from an older project of Caplin’s. In a modern photo, the man would be texting. But, that project will have to wait for another day…

By the way, for the American audience, the driver seems to be on the wrong side of the car.  Keep in mind that Caplin is from the UK.

To summarize these last two posts: the Chapter 5 tutorials offer far more lessons on the art of photo montage than all of the content in both of the books used by the curriculum in my previous graphics courses.  So, don’t skip the first three just because there aren’t any exercises to work “on.”

Next: Getting Into Perspective

Composing the Scene – Part 1

In How to Cheat in Photoshop, 6th ed., Steve Caplin doesn’t just provide tutorials on how to use the software. He also spends considerable time explaining the art of creating a good photo montage.

For example, of the six tutorials in Chapter 5, the first three don’t present any exercises.  Instead, each tutorial contains valuable information about positioning figures in a scene, combining figures and varying the positions of the figures in association with one another to create relationships between them. In addition, the discussion includes the subtle effect of eye contact – or lack thereof – and how it can alter the entire meaning of an image.

Ascending the Mountain
Below is an illustration of the importance of placement. On the left, the climber has his goal in sight.  On the right, there is still a daunting challenge in front of him:LocationBoth

It’s All Relatives
Next up, combining figures for good storytelling:

Relative valuesCompositeOn the left, the two individuals are not relating to each other at all.  For all we know, they could be two people at a crosswalk waiting for the light to change.

In the center, with both individuals flipped horizontally and the addition of the man’s hand on the woman’s shoulder, we now have a picture of a proud, but perhaps protective, father and his affectionate, albeit somewhat stroppy, daughter.  (For you Americans in the crowd, the British term “stroppy” roughly translates as ill-tempered. Caplin, is after all, British.)

The image on the right tells a completely different story.  Although it’s still a father/daughter story, the daughter is separating herself from her father as all children eventually will. For his part, Dad is showing concern, possibly due to his daughter’s growing independence.

The Eyes Have It
In the next three images, the only thing different is the placement of the eyes. But what stories they tell!

I only have eyes Composite

On the left, the gentleman is clearly happy about winning the trophy he’s holding, but the woman is non-committal.  In the center, the man looks as if he can’t believe the trophy is his, while she looks totally bored.  On the right, he’s looking to see whether winning the trophy might win her as well. Her expression, on the other hand, reveals he hasn’t got a shot.

Even though there wasn’t an image to work on in any of the above examples, skipping them would have meant losing out on some valuable lessons on image composition.

Next: Composing the Scene – Part 2

Friday Challenges – Seeing Double & Back to School

Since last week’s post was so much fun, I decided to post a couple more Friday Challenges.  We will get back to lessons next week.

Managing Multiples
For the next Friday Challenge Steve Caplin posted this:

“Welcome to the 500th Friday Challenge! When I started this series back in 2004 I thought of it as most likely a one-off that, with luck, might keep people’s attention for a couple of weeks. And here we are, nearly 10 years later, able to look back on a vast body of outstanding work.

I’ve given a lot of thought to how to celebrate this momentous anniversary. Rather than setting a standard challenge, or even one of the compilation exercises that have marked previous centenaries, I thought that since, above all, you are the stars of this section, then you really should be the stars of this special edition.

You may remember that a few months ago I posted this image, photographed by the man who cuts my hair and featuring his father: barberdadIt’s an outstanding piece of work. Not only does his Dad feature as every single character in the image, there are several changes of clothes and – this is the best part – there’s a lot of apparent interaction going on here between all the participants.

So for this 500th Friday Challenge, I’d like to see you feature yourself in a similar montage. Position yourself in as many poses and changes of clothes as you can manage, placed at various locations in a scene. I know some of you are camera shy, so if you really can’t bear to appear, you may choose to portray a family member or friend instead.

Remember, interaction is the key here. Show me what you’ve got!”

I don’t have an abundance of pictures of myself nor was I about to go out an take some. However, I knew my sister and brother-in-law took lots of photos so I decided to contact them.  They agreed to put in the effort culling photos, and taking more if needed, with the caveat that I use the product as a networking opportunity by starting a blog to showcase my Friday Challenges.

Sara Cheats Is Born
On the one hand, I knew I really did need to up my networking game. On the other, I’m uncomfortable “bragging” about myself. After further reassurance from my sister and brother-in-law that blogging doesn’t mean I’m braggart,  I decided to start Sara Cheats In Photoshop about my progress working through How to Cheat in Photoshop, 6th ed., by Steve Caplin. And, to my surprise, I’m enjoying myself.

In any case, I waded through my sibling’s standing-in-front-of-something-and-smiling photos until I found some that detailed a few of their traditional Christmas activities. Some activities were food-related. This gave me an idea. So I asked my sister and brother-in-law to take a picture of their kitchen, which I used as the backdrop.

Below is my creation.  When I posted it to the How to Cheat forum (aka HotchiPs), I also issued a challenge as to which people were in the original image. Can you figure out who is original and who I Photoshopped in? (Forum members please don’t give this away.)KitchenScene11

Caplin’s critique and his guesses (not all which are correct!)

A personal challenge from srawland, as her kitchen scene features one original sister and brother-in-law, and three added-in extras. And it is hard to work out. I’d guess from the lighting that the one with the calendar is real – the tomato chopper looks convincing, …  As to the brother-in-law – the one at the back?

Post a comment and I’ll let you know if your guesses are right!

School Days
For the next Friday Challenge Caplin posted this image:EtonCaplin gave these instructions:

“As I was looking for a 501-themed idea for this week’s [501st] Challenge, I came upon the wartime 501 squadron of the Royal Air Force, and its Honorary Air Commodore Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester. One of the images on his Wikipedia page shows him as a young schoolboy at Eton in 1914, dressed in the uniform of top hat and short coat.

Dressing like this today would lay young Henry open to public ridicule. Can you adapt the costume to make its wearer blend in better with modern fashion styles? You may wish to bear in mind that 501 is also a trademark of Levi’s jeans.”

Coincidentally, I’d  just finished  Chapter 8, “Heads and Bodies,” in How to Cheat, where Caplin explains that swapping out heads is relatively easy compared to changing clothes. So, I didn’t even consider putting young Henry in a pair of jeans.  Instead, I came up with this: EtonModern4Caption: Much to the chagrin of his father, King George V, Prince Henry started hanging out with the wrong crowd.

Caplin’s critique:

“An excellent image from srawland, with an electric guitar-playing Prince dressed in decidedly casual clothes. I like the new hat, and the hair that goes with it – a very good updating. Nice work.”

 Now, if changing bodies were only so easy to do in real life…

Next: Beyond the Basics: Composing the Scene

Friday Challenge – Madge Triumphs

Welcome back!  I know you’ve been waiting for this post because, let’s face it, Friday Challenges are way more fun than reviewing my progress through the book.   Although How to Cheat in Photoshop by Steve Caplin is very entertaining, creating something from scratch is much more interesting .

Madge Gets Her Way
On his How to Cheat in Photoshop online forum, Caplin eventually gives regular participants a nickname when he feels their work has improved enough to deserve one. The Friday Challenge entitled “Open the Pod Doors”  finally earned me a moniker: Pixel Perfectionist.

It also happened to be Caplin’s the 499th Friday Challenge, for which he posted this image:3Dcar

His instructions were:

One of the exhibits at last year’s 3D Print Show in London was a prototype of a futuristic car, in which it was claimed that 3D printing played a part – although I’m not quite sure how big a part. The car itself, though, is intriguing. How, exactly, would you get into such a car? How does the door mechanism work? And how hard will it be to take it out of the showroom and put it on a city street?

When I originally saw this Challenge I thought that there was no way I’d be able to open the door. So, I submitted this image, instead:StreetScene2To create the scene I used the Warp tool so the car  would be in perspective.  I also added a dark, stormy sky to dramatically reflect how Madge felt about her neighbors.

I’d planned to post just this image. However, another HotChiPs (How to Cheat in Photo Shop) forum member posted an image he had found of the real car, which showed how the door opened. Then, yet another member – who posted a closed-door image – posted  a new image where she opened the door.  So, I decided if she was willing to make a second try, then I would too.

For my second effort, I created a prequel to the first image:StreetScenePrequelTo get the man’s arm to appear to be holding onto the door I used Puppet Warp. For the woman,  I had to make her clothing  match the original image. I re-colored her dress and put yellow sweater in her hand. To make the sweater appear folded, I used the Liquify filter. Since this it was a prequel, I added a slightly less stormy sky to hint at Madge’s mood.

Here’s what Caplin had to say:

A very strong image from srawland, whose car is well integrated into a suburban street. I like the view of the woman inside the car, although it’s hard to see exactly what she’s doing – and the woman peering out of her front windows. Very nicely achieved. The second entry is splendid: a perfectly integrated scene. See – I knew you could do it! And it’s certainly good enough to earn you a much overdue title. Shall we say Pixel Perfectionist for your great attention to detail? Good work, Sara

I was so happy to receive my appellation that I didn’t bring up the deep ambivalence I felt surrounding being called a perfectionist.  If he knew the story, I’m sure he would have come up with a different title. But, all the same, I’m still pleased Caplin felt my efforts deserved bestowing a nickname.

Buoyed by my success, I decided to add a final image to complete the series. Now it’s all blue skies for Madge:StreetScene3

To give you an appreciation for the whole story, in the proper order, I created this graphic:StreetSceneWholeStory

Like Madge, hope all is well in your world too!

Next: Friday Challenges: Seeing Double & Back to School