Tag Archives: composite

Pic of the week – Thursday 9 May 2019

Healing Hands
Healing Hands

Adding value

It’s a fine balance set against delivering on a brief, but I believe that one of the added values a professional photographer should bring to work for a client is creative input. So, let me share the story of this one of a set, which I really like.

This is Sharon who asked me if I could do some head shots of herself and the staff at Healing Hands Wellness Centre in Glenrothes. Sharon was looking for photos that would be an improvement on the ones already in place and was thinking of the standard head shot approach. There’s nothing wrong with that but I wondered if she might be open to someting a little more creative which said something about the centre.

I felt that “Healing Hands” was significant in the centre name and ought to be reflected somehow in the head shots. I also have a personal preference to show people in context as much as possible. I had the idea of creating a background shot which illustrated healing hands and put together a mock up of the concept to see what Sharon thought of it. I was pleased when the idea met with her approval and so we agreed on details for doing the shoot.

Each of the head shot images is constructed as this example, with the same background and here’s how they were shot and constructed.

First of all, we shot the background. This involved Sharon and one of her team. The room we shot this in was quite compact and I needed lighting in there along with a camera, tripod and myself. There was only one configration possible for this, which meant me being on the left of the subject with the lighting on the right. I knew this was the wrong way round for the final composition, but it was an easy enough job to flip the image in processing.

I wanted the background image to be muted so that it was very evident but not dominant in the overall composition, This was achieved in Photoshop where I placed a pure white layer under the background image then dropped the opacity of the background image. This was then used for the whole set of head shots.

The portraits were shot in another treatment room which has a pleasing forest image on one wall. I set up a temporary studio there using the feature wall as a backdrop. The lighting for the head shots consisted of two studio lights – one above and behind the subject to add some highlighting to the hair, and one at about 45 degrees from the front as a fill light. The main light was flash bounced into an umbrella reflector.

The final image was completed in Photoshop by blending the portrait shot with the “healing hands” background.

I’m pleased with the final composition and that we have managed to give a fresh expression to corporate head shots. The moral of the story is that we should always be prepared to offer creative suggestions to clients in the interest of adding value to them. Of course, suggestions might not always be accepted – I have experience of that too – but when they are and come off like this, it’s really pleasing.


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The things you do

How do you illustrate an After School Club without using photographs of children doing what they do in the club?

I’m working on a project for a client to provide illustrative photographs for a website redesign and this is a question to which I’ve needed to find an answer. Why? Well, the obvious thing is to take a photo of the club in action but that would require shots of children and for that I’d need to get parental permission for every child in the photograph and that’s a logistical nightmare.

So, to avoid doing the obvious, I decided to ask the basic question: what is it the website needs to convey? Answer: that there is an After School Club. That opened up the opportunity to approach this in a different way. My original idea was to photograph a sign on a school gate and add some graphics to it so I set off in search of something appropriate that would also not identify any specific school. The answer ended up staring me in the face as I drove towards a school:

School street sign

I immediately envisaged a nice tidy crop on this with a graphic treatment that would clearly say there is an After School Club.

This is the end result:

Street sign composite

So how did I get there? Let me take you quickly through the process.

I did some initial work in Lightroom which involved slight adjustments to tone and contrast, lens corrections, straightening and cropping. The rest then happened in Photoshop where I worked with layers.

Photoshop layers

I find it helpful to name the layers so that it’s easier to make sure I am working on the correct one at any given time. As I drove home, it occurred to me that the background would be cluttered and distracting so when I got back I took a shot of the clouds which I intended to use as a background. That became a layer called Background copy (it now occurs to me it would have been easier to call it sky, but there you go; wise after the event).

I made a selection round the sign and used that selection to create a new layer via copy which I called Layer 1 and stacked that above the sky layer. I wanted to create a mixed approach to this graphically so decided that it would be good to have the word “Club” contained in a box like “School”. To do this, I made a careful selection round the “school” lozenge and again created a new layer with that. This one I called lozenge (finally getting down to one word labelling!). That was OK but it still contained the word School so that needed to come out. The easiest way to do this was to make a selection surrounding the word (but not touching the letters) and using the edit menu select fill/content aware. After that it was a simple job of tidying up some loose pixels using the clone stamp tool. Next I created a new text layer and typed the word “Club” which helpfully automatically renamed the layer. I moved that layer to overlap School and adjusted font and size until I had the closest match I could find. Then I moved the Club layer into position below School.

The next step was to create another text layer for After where I used a handwriting font, and free transform to place it just where I felt it had most impact. I was almost there, but two things still troubled me.

If you look at the original image you can see that the pole to which the sign is attached is off-centre. I decided to cut this into a new layer then reposition it centrally. That brought a better balance to the image.

Finally, I felt the sky was just too distracting so applied a gentle blur to make sure all the attention went on the actual sign.

And these, my friends, are the things you do to deliver on a brief.

Beginnings

egg plant

Beginnings

What came first; the chicken or the egg?

I was quietly reflecting on this recently after watching a TV documentary about cosmology (as you do) in which the narrator commented, with no further explanation, that at “the big bang” the universe exploded out of nothing. Call me naive if you must but I’m sure I’ve heard scientists say that something from nothing is impossible, yet here was a statement effectively saying that everything came out of nothing. That’s quite a leap of imagination.

So, this had me reflecting on the old philosophical question of which came first, the chicken or the egg? Inherent in that question is the assumption that anything must come from something but, I wondered, can one thing ever give rise to something completely different? I also started to think about how that thought might be illustrated and came up with this image.

As the egg is a vital element in the philosophical question, and we are accustomed to eggs giving rise to chickens, it seemed to me a logical element to feature in the image. I then wanted to consider the possibility of the egg being either a seed or fruit and that led rather logically to trees, and so I ended up with the combining of plant life with animal life.

The conundrum in this image is the question of which gave rise to which. Did the egg put down roots which grew the trunk and raised the egg off the ground, or did this tree produce an egg as a single large fruit? I found that visual puzzle quite satisfying in terms of questioning beginnings but I felt there was still something missing. The appearance of one large egg atop a tree limb with no foliage seemed just too odd and also left the question of what next?

Just as trees lose their leaves in autumn, I wondered what might happen in terms of a continuing life cycle and considered that there might be a season of change. I decided to express this with the egg fragmenting and scattering its parts to the wind and I decided that the pieces of egg would be leaf shaped. Given that the egg is rather closer to an autumn colour, I decided to make those departing leaf fragments green in a final act of transformation.

All of this is mildly entertaining but behind it lie deep philosophical questions, and I think that’s what really irked me about the throw-away statement on that TV documentary about the universe exploding out of nothing. At that point, science has nowhere to go, because if there really was nothing before there was anything, there is nothing to observe and science operates on the basis of observation, experiment and measurement. And at the point where there is nothing there are still questions, which is why science alone cannot be sufficient to answer everything.

There is a popular feeling among some scientists to dismiss religious faith, specifically Christianity, as irrelevant. This is a disservice to the many capable and very senior scientists who are also Christians and have no issue in reconciling faith in an intelligent creating God and the scientific process which seeks to better understand creation. Each can actually enhance the other and lead to a better understanding because while science can often explain “how” it can never explain “why”.

I hope to have explained the why of this image. As for the how – a little time and effort in Photoshop CC (2014) working mostly with layers and masks.