Saturday, November 20, 2010

From Snapshot to Creative Image

Bella Boy

I thought I would share with you, dear reader, one of my processes for turning a snapshot into a creative image. My favorite area of photography is street photography. Unfortunately, I live in the 'burbs and I don't get to shoot much of it unless I'm traveling. When I do travel, I don't take my tripod with me so I'm usually shooting on the fly. I call these images, snapshots. They aren't planned, there is no thought to composition or lighting. It's just "hurry up and get that shot before they spot you, come over and either demand you erase the photo or punch you in the face." 
So, you like the image but it's not the greatest. You don't want to toss it. You *wish* it worked but there are too many things about it you don't like. Wait! Hold on! Don't send that to the recycle bin! Instead, open that image up in Photoshop and create a work of art!

For the above image of "Bella Boy", I snapped this while walking down the street in Charleston with my friend Phoebe. It was a dreary day, completely clouded over. Some people love shooting when the sun is hidden. I think it makes everything look a little bland. I prefer to shoot in filtered light, with some clouds, but mostly the sun shining full on so that everything casts shadows. Of course, we can't control the weather, but we can control the lighting in Photoshop.

Here are the two images I shot, in all their original, dull glory:
In this first image, I liked the tall guy's stance but the image overall is a bit wonky and the words above the window are slightly out of focus.
In the second image, I like the focus of the words and the window much better. I don't like the guy in the shorts in either image. In fact, as I stopped to snap the picture, he was just walking by and I thought he was going to keep on walking. Instead, he had to stop and have a conversation with the star of my photograph and I was totally annoyed. In my head I was screaming "Get the &%#* out of my picture you moron!" Of course, as evident by the above photographs, he decided that I was taking HIS picture and he would stop and smile. Um, no. 

My workflow on this image starts with a crop. I'm going to crop the second image to where I want it and then straighten the image. The guy I want to focus on reminds me of James Spader from "Pretty in Pink". He looks preppy but with a touch of bad boy to him, cigarette in hand. I want the environment to be more urban so I add a new layer above my background layer and bring in a texture over the cropped image. I use an old piece of canvas as my texture that has paint stains on it. I set the blending mode to multiply and the opacity to 50%. Using a Layer Mask and a brush, I erase the texture from my guy but leave it everywhere else. 

I adjust the light, contrast and color until it's appealing to my eye and then I am finally ready to clone out the annoying guy in the shorts. Sometimes I may clone out things from my image first and other times I may do it last. In this case, I did it last so that I could use the texture to clone over him. I prefer to use a mildly soft brush when cloning. With him gone, the other guy now looks like a spoiled rich loner from the Upper West side, hanging out on a street corner, in a not so pleasant area, waiting to buy some pot. Oh wait, that's just my imagination. :)

I used the Burn tool to darken areas for shadow and the Dodge tool to add light to certain areas. I add a bit of grain and some grunge to the edges. Finally, I add a double entendre to the only window without words. I giggle. 

And voila! The Bella Boy is born and now, the viewer can look at the image and create their own story.

What would your story for this image be?


Anonymous said...

You make it sound waaaaaaay too easy, Laura. :o)

Church of One

phoebe said...

I am beyond impressed! What a great job you did! And thanks for sharing your process, you made me look at this whole scene in a different light. And I love your little story to go along with him :)

Laura said...

Thanks Carol! It's really not too hard, just takes some patience. :)

Phoebe: Thanks! That was a fun day. Glad I got to share it with you!

Alex said...

Don't you just love those people who jump into your photos unexpectedly:) I love the way you tell of your experiences. Your words delight!

Lita said...

Laughing out loud about the guy that not only got in your picture but posed for it ;)

You so rock street photography! Thanks for sharing your processing skills -- You did an amazing job turning into a fabulous work of art.

Wow to being over 45,000 words now! Hang in there, you're nearly done ALREADY!

Laura said...

Thanks so much Alex and Lita! I can see the light at the end of the tunnel! Almost done...:)