Enjoy life now... it has an expiration date.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Using Photoshop as a composition tool

This is a commission piece.

The original photo (bottom photo) is landscape orientation and has a busy background which detracts from the subjects. This commission is to match a cp sketch I did some time ago (the original featured the same child (the boy) as a one and a half year old) so the client wants this piece done in the same style, size and orientation.

I started by simply cropping an 8 x 10 out of the original which gave me the image shown in the second from the bottom photo. Rather bland.

So, using Photoshop, I started experimenting. Photoshop's layers feature gives me complete design freedom- I can add, subtract and move elements around to my heart's content. Anything I do is reversible so I can try any idea that pops into my head.

I used the Rubber Stamp tool to add elements to the composition. In the 8x 10 crop, the image just kind of sits there. I did some cloning to add some interest to the layout: the sky from another photo to give a pleasant but uncluttered background and mums and bales of hay from the left side of the original photo to balance the composition. I did not take the time to refine the composite image - you can see a blue outline around the boy's head - because this is only to suggest a layout.

The final composition is the top photo, and this layout was accepted by the customer.

Photoshop is an invaluable timesaving tool that allows you to experiment with all kinds of changes to the composition, lighting, degree of saturation, and other aspects of your design. It's also great for quickly converting a color photo to black and white to easily see values, and for "posterizing" a photo- which reduces an image to simple bands of color and helps you see subtle color changes (the photo second from the top is posterized). Notice the distinctive bands of color around the bottom of the large pumpkin.

Photoshop is mostly used by professionals in the design and photography industries, and it has a significant learning curve if you wish to take full advantage of all of its features. It is also a fairly expensive program - retails for $586.49 on Amazon. However, there are alternatives: Photoshop Elements (which has about 75% of the features of Photoshop for about 25% of the price), and there are also several free programs similar to Photoshop - they don't have all the bells and whistles - but are quite capable. Two such programs are ArtWeaver and Gimp. Google "free alternates to Photoshop" if you're interested and you'll get a dozen matches. As always, before downloading software make sure it's spyware and virus free. I like to get my downloads from cnet. com - they often have staff and consumer software reviews and their downloads are certified spyware free.


Laure Ferlita said...

Aren't you the clever one!?! Congrats on the commission - is that Levi by any chance??

The Weaver of Grass said...

That is very clever Teresa. Often the background detracts from the real subject matter. I suspect that the more one uses Photoshop the better one gets at using it. Shall have to get one of my rotten photographs and give it a try - presumably I can erase telegraph lines etc.

Jan said...

Way to go! I don't have PS but use Paint Shop Pro in a similar manner. In addition to the freeware you mentioned, I've heard that Paint.NET is also good. I've never used it so can't really vouch for it but do have the Gimp and it's rather complicated but can do just about anything PS can do.

Congratulations on your commission - it looks as if it will be a fun one!

Teresa said...

Re: clever? Hmmm....just trying to make life a little easier!

This is Nate, the little Flower Waterer. (Nate is in the post for July 8, 9 & 15, 2008)

Teresa said...

Hi Weaver... yes, you can delete telegraph lines - and anything else you want!

Hi Jan: I think GIMP is quite popular. The ArtWeaver claims to be more like Photoshop - I can't say... never used ArtWeaver.

Michelle said...

Thank you Teresa for the wonderful lesson. It's a great photo reference and I cannot wait to see your finished work!

"JeanneG" said...

You're holding out on me. I didn't know you got another commission. I wish I had PS but that is a little steep. Still...would be nice.

Cathy Gatland said...

It's a great tool isn't it? I use Corel Photopaint, which is similiar to Photoshop. The trouble is there are so many variations one can try out on photos and work-in-progress, I confuse myself!

Artist Unplugged said...

Looks great, the results are lovely and much more focused on the children, as it should be. Hope your shoulder is feeling better and you are enjoying the new computer! You have posted some lovely photos recently - loved catching up and seeing it all. Have a great weekend!

Lynne said...

Hi Theresa,
So glad you visited me. For various reasons, I haven't made it over to your blog before now. I apologise for not making it over here sooner. I'm way behind with it all yet trying to blog everyday! I'll get there eventually.
Great to be back here and catching up with what you've been up to. I love the autumn photos especially the flowers. The yellow Daisy like flowers are similiar to ones growing here along the river bank. I took them to be a form of Sunflower.
The information you give on Photoshop is very interesting. I can't afford it but I think I will look up some of the alternatives. But how do I know if a site is spyware or virus free?
Fascinating seeing the stages in your work, as always it's lovely!
We're not sure when we will return to the UK. We will be in Germany for a year.
Great to catch up with you.

Jo Castillo said...

Thanks for this post. Very informative. I use Photoshop Elements. Does all I need.

It will be fun to see the finished work. :)

Jo Castillo said...

I'm awarding you the Kreativ Blogger Award, you can pop over to my blog and pick it up. :)

You are not obligated in any way to carry it on, I just wanted to point to your great blog and art. :)

knittingdragonflies said...

Wow that is amazing. I have trouble just taking a good photo. I'm envious. It looks great!

:) said...

im learning photoshop in my class.
its pretty nice

Krista Meister said...

Teresa, thank you so much for this post! I've been wondering for some time just how Photoshop would be worth buying and its capabilities. What a wonderful tool to use as you've done for your commissions too. Keep us posted on the painting progress.

victoria said...

Gracias porcompartir esteblog lleno de creatividad y sobre todo el amor que sientes por los animales,lo que demuestras que tienes un grán corazón,,Con cariño Victoria,España

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