Being the self-appointed-official-fancy-pants-Photoshop-wizard that I am means one of my favorite pastimes is to take a mostly simple image and add a bunch of elements to make it SPECTACULAR. (Well, hopefully spectacular anyway.) Here, my friends, is basically how that all went down in ten steps ...
I recently started a series of blog posts in which I gab on about the various selection tools of Photoshop. So far I've only gone over the pen tool, my main squeeze when it comes to most selections. It's definitely my go-to selection tool because it's just so dang precise, but let's be real here ... it is NOT always called for. There are going to be many selections that don't require quite the amount of work and attention that goes into penning a path around something. Oftentimes when I know it's going to work quickly and efficiently, I just look no farther than the Magic Wand Tool ... I mean it's got "magic" in the name so it's got to be good for something, am I right?
We've all had them before, those moments when something goes "wrong" and yet somehow completely right at the same time. These are the things we can't really control and that you probably would never have thought to do, but the universe seems to align and sprinkle a little bit of extra magic onto your project. Well, I had that cosmic-accidental-magic-attack during one of my recent shoots and I couldn't be more excited about it!
I'm the first person to say that I totally LOVE studio lighting. I crave a few hours spent in a dark studio tinkering around with big-expensive-flash-photography-toys as much as the next guy. Probably more than half of my portfolio was shot in the studio with multiple huge flash banks and other fancy lighting tools and modifiers. I wonder if (slash secretly hope) some photographers out there see this image and think something like, "This is so cool, but I can't afford all of that snazzy flash lighting stuff." Or that some photographer who's stuck in their old ways, thinking you can only get good images with expensive lights, will see the image and say, "See look what a stunning image you can create with some good lighting equipment ..." Well, this image is a testament that with a little creativity, a good group of friends, a bag of candles, and .... some cell phone flashlights ... you can accomplish something truly magical!
As some of you may recall, one of my very first blog posts (my 4th to be exact), was about compositing. I talk about compositing constantly in many of my posts, because I guess it's sort of my "thing," but I figured it was about time to share another of my handy dandy tricks for pulling off convincing composites. So here goes nothing ... well I mean here goes something ... it's compositing tips and tricks for working with different colored lights! Or just faking the colors later. ;)
I know there are a lot people out there who want to be better at Photoshop - heck, I've been doing this for almost half of my life and I want to be better! Well, I was really thinking about it and it dawned on me that more often than any other tip, I'm telling people they really should master the pen tool. It is hands down the most advanced and precise selection tool and if you boil Photoshop down to its simplest form, it's a SELECTIVE photo editing software. So I thought to myself, "Hey self, why not really dive deep into selection tools - how to do them, when to use which one, and why they are so dang important?"
Hey guys it's me! ME ROBERT, remember me? Maybe not ... because this crazy thing happened where I haven't posted a new image in about three months. (I know eww WTF!) Well anyway, I'm here to tell you that I still exist (yay) and I'm still going to be churning out art and blogging about the process! (Extra yay!)
Dresses. We photographers love dresses. I know I've said it about a gazillion times before, but I'll say it again: Beautiful dresses make for beautiful pictures ... well at least they help a lot. I know that it's such a "thing" nowadays in the fine art photography world - more often than not, images that get a really great response probably have a beautiful girl in a beautiful dress. Sorry (not sorry), it's just the way it is. Obviously there are an unfathomable amount of other things you can have in your images, not have any dresses whatsoever, and still have an amazing outcome. However, I'm willing to guess that at least every once in a while you're going to want to shoot an image of a pretty girl in a pretty dress. I know I do!
Okay let's just start right off by saying this image is not just my baby. Anyone who has ever heard of the light painting extraordinaire Eric Paré would see this image and think, "Ummm Robert? You totally ripped off Eric's work." To which I would kindly respond, "Good job for knowing who Eric is and for being able to spot his work ... because this is his work!" Well, it's half his work anyway. You see, this new image is a collaboration Eric and I created together. If you aren't one of those people who knew right away Paré must have been involved (or at least have heard of him/seen his masterpieces), then you need to drop everything and check him out!!! Eric is an extremely talented, passionate, and creative photographer who specializes in light painting. Rather than trying to delve too deep into an explanation of his process, I'll just have you put your eyes on this brilliant video he recently released....
Recently I was wandering around that Facebook thing because it is the ultimate procrastination tool. I can't say I remember what I was putting off, but I'm so glad I was. Through a series of countless random clicks on god knows what links, I wound up on an event page with an open invitation to a steampunk studio photography weekend at Omni Lens Studios. "Hmm this seems interesting, " (Robert thought to himself). "Oh dang, and it's only half an hour from here..." I clicked the "I'm Interested" option which kept me in the loop without actually committing to anything. Then for the next several weeks I would check back in periodically to quietly stalk the various attendees, photographers, makeup artists, and models - you know, typical internet creepin.
Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like you to meet Marisa! (Unless you already know her, in which case ... here she is again!) She is one of my many amazing photography friends. (Humble brag?) Marisa is so talented and just a wonderful person to know and be around. You can see her being super fun and awesome in a gif in this post. I've shot with her many a time before, but by "with" I mean "near/next to." I realized during the meet up I hosted in Watkins Glen that I'd never actually shot an image of Marisa. That just wouldn't do. It was nearing sunset on the first full day of the meet up and a small group of us wandered over to this location and Marisa just so happened to have this dress on hand, so I had her throw it on and we did some shooting!
Over the years as my style and visual preferences have evolved, I've noticed that I'm kind of completely and utterly obsessed with any sort of float-y particle/dust/speckle/orb/bokeh/grit. Acceptance is the first step .... to NOT CARING AT ALL! :) I really love the way dust can add so much motion, texture, and interest to the air in my images. Some pictures call for a very clean, sharp, uncluttered feel, but more often than not I get to a stage in my editing process where I want to muck it up a bit with some atmospheric particles. I'm always on the hunt for some great speckled textures to use in my edits.
Ok, can we just agree that our beds are the most wonderfully magical places that we can call our own? Sleeping in, all snuggled beneath a sea of comforters and pillows, being warm and nestled in your happy place is just perfection. I'm now going to ask you to leave that happy place at the butthole of dawn. EWW WHAT!? Yes my friends, get your comfy little butts out of bed and go out in the cold for the sake of art!! (Unless you live somewhere with a more gentle climate year-round, in which case, get your butt out of bed and go out in the warm...)
You know how you can spend years trying to find your photography style? Testing out different techniques and effects hoping that something will eventually evolve into your perfect aesthetic? For a while I was sort of in denial of "my thing." People started taking notice of my studio work and saying things like, "Hey friend, I like your style! You're a great composite photographer." To which my brain went, "No I'm not! Wait what? Am I? ... I have a style?" I was shooting in the studio because it was convenient (I live upstairs ... ), but I hadn't ever really thought of myself as a studio photographer. My photography upbringing had taken place in the woods and on aimless adventures with my mom's camera, so I just assumed my style was going to be found somewhere out in the wilderness. I guess I did take baby step towards "studio work" when I started to steal every light fixture in my parents' house (that wasn't attached to a wall) up to my room to shoot portraits of my friends.
So obviously almost every Photoshop novice has "transformed" something in Photoshop. As in, "I just dragged this image onto my canvas and it's way too flippin' huge. Let me make it smaller with the transform function." But how many of you have really taken it much further than that? (Yes, I know there are exceptions; we are all at different levels of expertise.) Transforming seems like a pretty simple/straightforward thing to do in Photoshop - you're just re-sizing something, right? Well with a little creativity, not only can you transform the size of something, you can completely transform a handful of random images of, say, lizards into a freakin baby dragon! WHAT!?!?
One of my ABSOLUTE favorite things to do in Photoshop is to play with lighting effects. Whether that be to make something glow, create a spotlight sort of effect, or set my hands on fire, I'm always so impressed with the many ways Photoshop allows you to alter lighting. Because of the skills I've gathered for bending light to my will, I no longer look at an image I've taken and think, "Oh man, I wish I would have brought some flash equipment with me so there could be light spilling through the archway from behind her." I now just think, "Wouldn't it be simply fantastic to have some magical light coming from behind her? Yes, yes it would ... I think I'll add some." Don't get me wrong it's always going to look better if there was actually some real light falling on your subject from the get-go, but that's not going to stop me from adding a bit of illustrative oomf to my images whenever I see fit!
It doesn't take long to create something spectacular ... well at least it doesn't take too long to shoot it. This image took about 4 minutes to photograph - meanwhile I've been editing it for what feels like forever. It was taken during the Watkins Glen Flickr Gathering on the second day, about an hour before sundown. We had just arrived at Clute Park on Seneca Lake, and I knew I wanted to make use of the lake via a panoramic shot with someone on the rocks in the center of the frame. That's about as much planning as I did. I decided to let this be one of those, "I'll take a few photos and figure it out later," sorta pictures.
I swear if I don't go to at least one substantial gathering a year, my portfolio wouldn't be even remotely close to where it is now. I've taken so many of my very favorite (and often most popular) pictures at Flickr gatherings. There is just something about the crazy artistic energy that occurs with all the different photographers in one location. I think the incredibly famous and talented photographer Robert Cornelius said it best in his blog post about a meet up he went to last year, when he said, "Suddenly everyone becomes a big, harmonious, creative machine." Or perhaps when he uttered the perfectly crafted words, "Every moment is crazy, amazing, all over the place, and utterly perfect. This is where art is born."
The. Internet. Is. The. Best .... I can't even begin to figure out how to put into words how I feel about the weekend I spent with a bunch of crazies from the internet. (Ok that's not true; apparently I begin by talking about how I don't know how to begin ... that's how I begin .... ok but seriously let's begin.) Last month I had the absolute pleasure of hosting a photography meet up/gathering/photo-adventure-camp-for-adults with about a zillion unbelievably talented photographers, all of which I met on the internet. (Excluding my brother Daniel who also attended ... I met him in a hospital this one time before the internet was really a big thing.)
Sometime I find myself floating randomly about the great vastness of the interwebs, creeping in all the artsy inspirational corners with no end in sight. Nobody really knows how one of these aimless info-gathering binges begins; they just happen (usually when I need to be getting something done). A few months ago, during one of these time-sucking-internet-benders, I stumbled across a digital artist/finisher/retoucher named Mykie Rogers (Mykier) who left me thinking, "Whoa dang, this guy is awesome." I was just going to breeze by and continue on my digital journey to see what rabbit hole I'd click down next, but then I thought, "You know what, self? This guy seems like a pretty righteous dude. Why not just leave a nice comment saying how I think he's fantastic?"
Success.... What is success anyway? How do we get it? If we do, how do we know that we've achieved it? Well I'm convinced we are all as successful as we decide to be, but also we will never really "make it" either ... kinda ... Wait what? Yes. What I mean to say is that if you ever get to a point where you think, "There, I've done it, I've succeeded! I'm a success. I'm great." Then you fail. No matter how amazing you get (or already are) at something, there is always more you can accomplish. There's never NOT going to be room to grow, learn, refine, reflect, and change for the better.
Inspiration is such a strange and sometimes elusive creature, but only if you let it be ... Well that's not exactly true. Getting inspired is always going to be strange - having thoughts materialize into your head out of nowhere is just magical, but it doesn't always have to be elusive. Sure, sometimes we all seem to hit a slump and fall deep into an inspiration dark age. It can be so infuriating when you have the desire to create but no idea what the crap to make or where to start. Luckily for you I have a few handy tips on how to jump start a bit of creative thinking that might just lead to your new favorite work of art!
I'm seriously struggling here, people. Usually while I'm dreaming up/shooting/editing a concept, my head is swimming with ideas for what to write about on the blog. This one has me stumped. It's quite rare that I'm creatively stranded when it comes to making images, but apparently blog posts are a different creative animal. I have so many ideas for shoots ready and waiting to be brought to life, plus I'm pretty good at coming up with something on the spot (or just shooting something and figuring it out later). However, here I sit in my editing cave and I still have no clue what this blog post is about...
Odds are if you shoot a subject for an image (as in not just a landscape or abstract or something), you want them to stand out. I know I do. As is with all of my work, I try to tell the story of whatever character I've dreamt up. So obviously I want them to be the main focus, the thing you notice first. JUST LOOK AT THEM, WOULD YOU!
One of my biggest goals when creating artwork is to tell a story. I strive to activate imaginations and spark creative thinking. I want my viewers (that's you) to see my images and begin to ponder what is going on. What happened before this, what's happening now, and what will happen next? All of these questions and desires are precisely why I create, and why I was so excited when the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet came to the studio to create some promotional art for their upcoming ballet, Coppélia.
I had kind of a hard time coming up with an appropriate title for this post ... I'm still not totally sure if it conveys what I'm trying to show you today. As you may hopefully have guessed by looking at my new image, I'm going to be talking about how I made the shadow that the eagle is casting. The problem was I couldn't really call this post, "How to Create Long Shadows Cast By A Subject That Is Suspended In An Epic Beam Of Light." It's just a bit too wordy ... So anyway this is how I did it!
If you follow my work at all, you've probably realized by now that I did a shoot with Lopti of "Some Like it Blue." For those of you who don't already know, she is a cosplay artist/model/awesome person. What is cosplay you ask? (Well ... you ask if you don't know yet.) It's a word that's firmly in my vocabulary, but I say it to some people and they look at me like I have tentacles coming out of my head ...... which ironically is just the sort of thing a cosplayer might do, but anyway ...
Have you ever noticed a pattern in photography? ... And by a pattern of course I mean the same technique done by tons of photographers? Maybe I'm just living in a bubble, and I only really see images that are in my "niche" (if I have such a thing), but very often I see the same thing done over and over and over again. Just because everyone else is doingsomething, doesn't mean you have to do it too ... BUT it certainly does not mean that you can't or shouldn't do it!
Ok let's be honest - your work is awesome, right? Right. You want every piece of your new artwork to top the last and be even more beautiful and well renowned, but they can't all be the best. It's just not possible (because ... science). All of your work can definitely be good or even great; you can love each and every one of your art-babies equally, but no matter what you do you're going to create a real winner every now and then. Sometimes you accidentally create a unicorn (ok not an actual unicorn ... well maybe you're making a picture of a unicorn ... but just stay with me.) - an image that just shines a bit brighter and sticks its head a bit higher out of the ever-filling pool of images flooding the internet these days.
Obviously one of the most important pieces you'll need when creating your own gorgeous woodsy wonderland is a top-notch image of a forest (or other natural setting of your choosing). Unfortunately, I have been crazy busy with life, work, vacations, and side projects, so I didn't have the time to shoot my own background image. I thought I would turn to one of my photography friends to see if someone would be willing to donate an image to my cause.