Wednesday, June 20, 2007

All Good Things Must End

In April I began taking an Introductory Photoshop class. Now I’ve been “playing” with Photoshop for years and achieving “ok” results. However… I discovered two things – 1) No one really ever masters Photoshop (“playing” was a good description for my Photoshop skills prior to this class) and 2) Photoshop CS3 Extended is amazing!

For our final we needed to submit a 9.5” wide by 7” tall book cover. We were to use as many techniques as reason in our design submission. Here’s what I submitted:

The biggest challenges with this project were 1) deciding on a layout and 2) choosing the photographs. I started out trying to force fit five band photos into a layout I’d seen in a direct mailer. After a couple of hours struggling, I started fresh – well almost fresh two of the original photos survived. I used the following five photographs to create my collage.
  • Angie and Rachel, February 2007 gig at Red Devil Lounge in San Francisco
  • The Band, April 2007 gig at Blackthorn Pub in San Francisco
  • The Band, June 2007 gig at The Plaza in Redwood City
  • Chris, June 2007 gig at The Plaza in Redwood City
  • The Crowd, April 2007 gig at Johnny Foley’s in San Francisco
Camera Raw CS3 has extended image correction functions – including Fill Light. I was able to easily and quickly reset White Balance, Exposure, and add Fill Light to bring out details in The Red Devil Lounge, Blackthorn Pub, and Johnny Foley’s photos. I also used the crop/rotate function in Photoshop to change the angle of the original shot in the Johnny Foley’s and The Plaza crowd shots. For the photo of Chris at The Plaza I did a simple crop.

Once I got the photos retouched, I was ready to create my collage. I started with a black background. I then added the photo of Chris’s guitar and created a quick mask around the guitar. I saved the quick mask as a selection so that I'd be able to use it again. I then broke the photo of Chris's guitar into two pieces on two layers (originally I created four pieces on four layers) - Chris and the guitar was on one layer and the soft focus background was on the other layer.

I placed the Blackthorn photo and the Red Devil Lounge photo under the masked photo of Chris. I then cleaned up the soft focus background layer by cutting it on the right to line up with the edge of the Blackthorn photo and on the bottom to end where the Blackthorn photo began. I next placed The Plaza photo and created a clipping mask with Chris and the guitar. I moved the The Plaza photo until I had the band and crowd in a position that I liked. I finished the clipping mask by cutting the image where it overlapped Chris's wrist and hands. To further soften the crowd, I set the layer to Screen and changed the Opacity to 90%.

As you can see from the original photos the spots in each venue were different heats/intensities. To create a unified collage, the photos needed tonal corrections. With the exception of the Johnny Foley's photo which is going to be used as a texture for text, I created Hue/Saturation layers for the other images. I desaturated the concert shots. The photo of the two girls on the left has a Hue/Saturation layer associated with it with Saturation value of -81. The photo of the band with the crowd at the top of the collage has a Hue/Saturation layer associated with it with a Saturation value of -57. The photo of the band on the right has a Hue/Saturation layer associated with it with a Saturation value of -52.

Two months ago I wouldn't have been able to create the image I submitted. My goals in taking the class were to learn how to process RAW digital images and create more seamless collages. I still have more to learn, but am happy with what I can now do as a result of the class.