It’s a shot from a test set-up for a product shoot in which I was aiming for a low key look with lots of contrast to separate the subject from the background. I also wanted to get a lighting set up which would freeze the action but also be fairly even.
I achieved this by using flash positioned to the right of the subject as we look and, instead of using a reflector as fill, I used a mirror to throw back an almost equal intensity of light. I used a black backdrop and set the subject far enough in front of it to get the most benefit of the inverse squared rule to make sure I kept the background black.
Rather than put my signature watermark on the image itself, I’ve chosen to put it on a border which I think looks less intrusive in this case, I created the border by adjusting the canvass size in Photoshop then adding a white layer.
I posted this picture (well, not exactly this one, as you will discover) last week on a Facebook group for photographers and it proved to be very popular with 140 likes (as it stands). There were also lots of complimentary comments and one member said, “How did you do it, if you don’t mind telling. ”
I’m more than happy to tell, but I thought this might be better done by way of a blog as there are a few processes involved. In an ideal world I thought all I had to do was go back to Photoshop open the file and describe the process from there. It turns out this isn’t an ideal world. As I’d been experimenting with an idea I’d had, I hadn’t actually been alert enough to save the Photoshop file. In order to do this blog post, I had to go back an recreate the entire thing. That’ll teach me to be more alert about saving the experiments. In the end, I think this version is just a little more heavy-handed with the highlights but, as the main aim of this post is to explain the process, I wasn’t about to go back and re-edit.
So, here is how this image was created.
Stage 1 –
electrifying the logo
is all about making the logo look like an active filament in a light bulb.
I opened the white Hi-res version of my Photologo in Photoshop and, as usual, duplicated the layer. I do this to make sure that if anything goes wrong I can always get back to the original. I don’t work on the base layer.
Using the paint bucket tool, I filled the logo with orange (hex value f4a816). You need to be careful at this stage and make sure you only get the logo. I suggest zooming in for detail. Staying on the copy layer, I went down to the layer style (fx) and selected outer glow. In the layer style box I clicked on the solid colour box in the structure options and chose an orange colour. In this case the hex value is ff6c00. I then clicked OK on the colour. I set the opacity to 60% and made sure the blend mode was normal, set the size to 190 pixels then clicked OK on the layer style. The result is an orangey glow round the logo. I then duplicated the layer (CTRL+J). Then on the new duplicated layer, I edited the effect by double clicking it to open the dialogue box. I changed the colour to a lighter version (hex value f0962b), I increased the opacity to 100% and reduced the size to 65 pixels then clicked OK. The end result of those processes on the logo looks like this:
Next I wanted to add some highlights to the effect so opened a new layer and put that on top of all the others. I renamed that layer “highlights”. I find with multiple layers, it’s a good idea to rename them for ease of identification if I need to come back and re-edit. If you don’t know how to rename a layer simply roll your mouse onto the layer name and double click. That allows you to rename then confirm by hitting “enter”. On the new highlights layer, I set the blending mode to overlay. I selected a soft round brush and sized it to be just marginally thicker than the logo text. I reduced the opacity to 50% and then painted highlights where I thought they looked reasonable in giving the logo that electric activity. This stage is very much directed by eye and what you think looks “natural”.
Stage 2 –
doing this other than experimentally, I’d have photographed a bulb myself but,
in this instance, I chose a stock image. As my logo is wide, I wanted a bulb
that was more oblong in shape.
Keeping the work on the logo open in Photoshop, I then opened the selected a photo of the light bulb. This opens as a new tab within Photoshop. The image I chose is pretty low res, so really wouldn’t stand up to enlargement and it also means the relative canvass sizes are very different between the bulb and my logo. I therefore checked the size of the bulb canvass which turned out to be 11.43 cm x 8.2 cm. This will become significant shortly. So, back to the logo tab in Photoshop. Selecting the top layer I made a new layer and then stamped visible into it by doing the following: hold down Shift, Ctrl, Alt, N to create the layer, then Shift, Ctrl, Alt, E to stamp the visible into it. This creates a new layer which has all the detail of the layers below and is the one I will copy to the light bulb image. First though, I changed the image size (please note NOT the canvas size) to 11.42cm x 8.2cm and in the dialogue box opted for auto resolution, which slightly changes the images dimensions.
Then I right clicked on the layer and select duplicate layer. This opens a dialogue box in which you choose the open file in which you want to open the duplicate layer and, for me, that’s the light bulb image. In the dialogue box there’s a drop down option for destination document. This is where I selected the light bulb image.
Next I selected the light bulb image tab in Photoshop to switch to it which now showed my copied logo layer above the light bulb. Having adjusted the image size in the logo, it is now an easier job to set about aligning it. The imported layer comes in as layer 1 which I renamed to logo. Making sure I had the logo layer selected I used the move tool to align the logo across the centre and in line with the existing bulb filament like this:
Still on the logo layer, I went to edit and selected free transform. To see the handles I hit Ctrl 0 on the keyboard (see below). Now the task is to align the logo within the bulb so that it connects to the ends where the actual filaments connect. I did this by adjusting the handles on the free transform box but held down the shift key to retain perspectives and prevent skewing the logo.
Next I made a copy of the background layer and moved it to the top of the layers stack. I then created a new fill layer (filling it with black) and put that below the logo layer. Then I applied a mask to the background copy layer (top) and with the foreground colour set to black and background to white, I selected a soft brush and painted to reveal the logo. This then needed some adjustments back and forth setting different brush opacities to get to a final look that I was happy with.
I hope you’ve found this interesting and helpful in terms of Photoshop technique. There may well be better ways to achieve this effect, but this is how I ended up doing it. I think it’s a technique I might employ again at some time.
Before I close, let me give a shout out to Photologo. I got my logo from them and am using it not only as a watermark on photos that I publish online, but also as my business logo. They’ve not asked me to give them and mention and have certainly not paid me for doing so. I just think they are worth knowing about if you are a photographer who wants to do something to help protect your images and add a stylish signature to your work.
How do you preserve confidentiality and tell a compelling story? This photo is my answer to that question in a very specific context.
Recently I have been working on a set of photographs for the Levenmouth Foodbank which will be used in a new brochure they are producing. One of the challenges of this project was to illustrate aspects of the work of the Foodbank whilst preserving the confidentially of those who use it. It’s important to be able to tell a story through these kind of images which, for me, fall into the genre of documentary.
Why the need for discretion? It’s probably well known that people who use foodbanks are not doing so through choice but because they have fallen on hard times financially, perhaps temporarily, or perhaps more long term. There is a natural stigma about this and, for the most part, no-one forced to use a foodbank would wish to be recognised as doing so. The trustees and volunteers at the foodbank, quite rightly, also wanted to protect the identity of their clients.
One of the surprising things for me was to find that there is so much more going on at a foodbank than handing out food. I can’t be sure if this applies to all of them, but the Levenmouth Foodbank also runs a café where clients can come in and get a cup of tea or coffee, a hot filled roll and biscuits or, occasionally, some cake. It’s also a social time when clients can meet with each other and chat with Foodbank Volunteers who can guide them with things like budgeting, job seeking etc.
During a shoot at the café I was attracted to the pool table where clients can have a relaxing game with one another or, typically, challenge a volunteer to a game. I wanted to be able to capture this and illustrate the importance of human interaction in a supportive way. I also had to be discrete.
I knew this would need to be a tightly focused shot (and I’m not talking depth of field here) closing in on the detail rather than going wide. The set up for this was pretty simple. I set up my light source (one speed light mounted on a light stand bounced into an umbrella) to the side of the table. I used a wireless trigger to allow me to roam around the table looking for compositions that would work.
The single light source allowed me to create a clear focal point for the image and the shadow cast by the player on the left emphasises the light on the table. I like that the eye is drawn to the action on the table and the cue of the player on the left provides a nice leading line into the composition. It’s obvious that there are two players here and, in the background, there is also one spectator clearly visible. Immediately, there is a sense of what’s going on here without having to reveal any faces.
One of the bonuses for me is that I feel the depth of foreground shadow helps to accentuate the action and perhaps this gives a sense that out of the darkness of despair, there is always the hope of light and better things to come.