Monday, February 16, 2009

Secrets of Photoshop

People often come up to me and ask what's the most important thing when taking pictures like if it's my camera equipment or if it's the lighting or if I dope up the dogs to get them to sit still and though it's a little of all three, I have to say that it's mostly Photoshop.

Photoshop is about the most amazing photography tool to come along since eyeballs. Unfortunately, using Photoshop correctly doesn't come as naturally as using your eyeballs so I thought today I'd pass along some tips I've come up with over the years and what better way to do that than with a few examples.

In the first example, there's an unseemly cigarette butt in the bottom left corner which I want to remove from this photo of Rocco.

Removing extraneous objects is one of the most often done feats with Photoshop and while it may look easy it's actually something that takes years to perfect.

You can see in the revised version of the photo, below, how I've managed to conceal the butt by carefully painting it over with a colour that so closely matches the background, you can barely tell I've manipulated the photo at all. It may look easy but in real time, that took me a good three hours to do.

The next example involves hair. In the Photoshop Super Master Users community, we have endless Twitter conferences over how to handle hair because without a doubt, hair is one of the hardest things to revise. It's just so finicky, all those little strands, and dogs, of course, have got a lot of hair.

Luckily, I happen to be somewhat of an expert on hair, so I thought it might be beneficial to show an example of how I handle this most difficult of techniques.

In the next example, we see Molly who is cute as a button. Unfortunately, the photo is absolutely ruined by the loose strand of hair just above her right eye (I've got an arrow pointing to it in the picture).

I know what you're thinking. Impossible. This photo cannot be salvaged ... and yet. And yet ...

With the right combination of brushes and filters and hands as steady as any world class brain surgeon, I've managed to not only remove that devastating curlicue, I've actually restyled it so that what was once absolutely appalling is now transformed into a unique and eye catching accent on Molly's brow. This image took me nearly two days to complete but I feel the effort has been worth it.

For Dino's photo shoot, unbeknown to me, my memory card was full so I didn't actually end up with any shots of Dino - but no worries. With a little Photoshop magic and an original picture of a stuffed toy, I was able to reproduce Dino based solely on my memory of that photo session.

This transformation took me almost a full two months to complete and I almost died but I just kept telling myself that it's for the dogs, it's all for the dogs, and knowing that, I was able to persevere.

Before Photoshop:

After Photoshop:

Now the trick to accomplishing the previous transformational task is to start with something that looks like the final desired image. The stuffed toy I used was unfortunately the closest thing my assistant could find which reminded us of Dino, hence the long time to complete the final image, but in the next example, because what I started out with was so similar to the desired result, the work was a lot easier. This Photoshop transformation only took me a couple of minutes.


And even then, if my assistant had actually been listening to me more carefully, instead of finding me a picture of a brick, she would've found me what I really asked for and the photo would have been pretty well self made.

Okay, everyone, hope this was useful for you all and happy Photoshopping!


Joanne said...

Thank you so much for the workshop. I was right with you up until the brick/vick thing. I had no idea what you had done with Photoshop and then I realized...the brick has a higher IQ, more principles, more scruples, more compassion, more empathy and more morals than what it was to morph into. Thanks, I appreciate it. Perhaps you could submit this to Sports Illustrated .... since they seem to have rethought their stance on pitbulls...may be they can also put the truth out there about this unremarkable piece of crap they call vick.....

Anonymous said...

Brick, um... you would still have had to put the eyes in above the hair, and draw a little smiley mouth.

I have some custom shapes for things like AK47s, so we could at least have the vicarious pleasure of bobbitting the p.. ooops, brick before the picture was finished....

Photoshop Til You Drop!

Anonymous said...

LMAO! Excellent tutorial and mastery of Photoshop!

Barb said...

I really enjoy your writing... you can write a serious or even heartbreaking piece and then you can come up with some of the funniest stuff I've ever read!!

Anonymous said...

Did you tell us that you have a Wacom tablet and that this cuts things down to DAYS that would normally take MONTHS?

I like the treatment of Rocco's cigarette butt, BTW. At first glance, it was a star, and of course that got me going about Loren Eiseley's starfish story, which I think he wrote about you, you know.

Fred said...

redstarcafe, not sure what you mean re: Wacom tablet. Sure Wacom makes great mouse pads but having a great mouse pad doesn't cut down the amount of work that much.

Lynda said...

Brilliant, as usual!

I thought it would have been nice to see the butt moved to the forehead of the last pic.

Caveat said...

Wow, thanks for the tips, Fred. I've been a little apprehensive about getting into Photoshop but now that I see the possibilities, I'm sold.

The work you did on Molly is seamless - certainly the best I've seen.

Anonymous said...

Fred, you draw on a Wacom tablet with a Wacom pen, rather than hefting a mouse when you want to do fine illustration. No carpal stuff or anything. But a Wacom mousepad has to be better than scratching the mouse over some unforgiving surface, making it seem as though you'd rather be drawing with a blueberry.

Cathy said...

Hehehe - I like your amazing Photoshop work, the transformations are stunning. Thanks to you, I know now this software could be used as a truth detector :).
I was wondering also what type of lens you use or how do you use it - since some of the dogs close-ups seem to be a bit distorted (I am a learner so please do no take this comment as an attack on you). Something like a barrel distortion? Anyway, I am curious...

Fred said...

I just use a point and shoot so I suspect whatever distortion there is comes from the lens. I'm sure you could get a better image from a DSLR but I find that a lot of dogs actually don't like cameras pointing at them so when I don't have time to acclimatize the dog to a big bulky camera, it's easier just to use a smaller point and shoot.