Like so many things these days, standard is ok, acceptable even, but it is not going to get you noticed. This applies to just about anything and everything from TV shows and movies, marketing materials, products and services - you need to be different, or in other words, separate yourself from the pack around you to be noticed and prosper. Different is not always better - but better is always different. This applies to your images as well, whether you are creating images simply for your own enjoyment or especially if you are professionally marketing your images. It's all in the thought process - how can you approach a subject in a fresh, creative, manner?
I recently assisted Bryan Peterson on his on-location workshop in Paris, France. Ah...Paris - you would imagine endless opportunities of amazing imagery at every turn. You think of Paris and immediately think of something akin to an iconic image such as this.
While meandering the streets, we came to a square just outside the historic Louvre. Near the square's edge, was a Metro entrance flagged by its wrought-iron sign above as illustrated below.
Interesting enough but on its own, the sign itself presented quite a photographic challenge. Seeing a fun opportunity, Bryan threw down the gauntlet to the participants - a contest of who could produce the best image of the "sign", no help from him or myself and I would judge. Students scattered trying low and wide-angles to include the throngs of busy pedestrians, bicycles, street traffic, etc. I wanted to throw a wild herring in the creative mix as while they were all getting some interesting images. However, I wanted to illustrate how one can break out of the obvious and do something completely outside this thought process. Bryan said nothing in his instructions that the image couldn't be "created". Simply that it had to be of the sign. Here was my idea.
1. The scene itself was tough. Overcast cloudy sky. Not ominous enough to add texture or mood - but enough to blow out white. No matter which way you tackled the scene, it left me wanting. So, I had Mylan Dawson (thanks Mylan!) pose for me as though shooting his camera at my eye level. To anyone who doesn't know me, I am a bit vertically challenged at 4' 11½". Mylan was a more than a bit taller than me so I asked him to come down to my eye level as there was not a way for me to get up to his on location. He graciously cowered down while I, with my 28-70 f/2.8 Nikkor lens, shot a simple portrait filling the frame. Since my concept was to highlight the area of the lens I went in tight enough that it would be prominent, but enough surrounding it so you could tell someone was taking a picture.
2. Secondly, to fill the frame with just the sign, with my 80-200 f/2.8 Nikkor lens, I shot this close-up including just enough of the buildings to give a taste of the European architecture.
3. Now, let the fun begin! In Photoshop CS4, I opened both images. Then I selected the sign image with the key command CNTRL+A (MAC users command+A), copied the image and pasted it over the top of Mylan's image. I then resized it to fit squarely within the lens glass area and hit apply when satisfied to save the sizing. Then under Edit/Transform I selected the "Warp" option, as indicated in the screen shot below, so I could round out the overlaying image's shape to fit inside the lens.
4. Carefully, I shaped the sign into the lens outline by clicking on the points and dragging them inward, rounding out the edges all around so it would appear realistic.
5. Once sized and shaped, I needed to bring back some of the original lens detail underneath the image around the edges - this is what gives the lens the shading indicating it is slightly rounded. I added a layer mask as indicated on the following screen print by clicking the mask icon on the bottom menu of the layers palette. You will see this added a white framed box next to your image on Layer 1 and also in the history palette entered the action.
6. Next, select the brush icon on the left hand menu, then go up to the opacity slider and lower this to about 10% for a smooth effect but not too drastic.
7. Now with your brush, around the edges of the lens, making sure the black square is on top at the bottom of the left-hand menu to show through to the image underneath, start brushing back enough of the edge to give a natural, bowed wide-angle lens effect as indicated below.
8. Next, select the elliptical marquis tool, select the lens area, then under Select/Modify choose "Feather". Using the Feather function will allow you to "blend" edges naturally, or in other words soften otherwise hard edges that may not appear realistic. If you do not select the area with the marquis tool, the Modify option under Select will not be available. If you have a steady hand you can also do this with a lasso marquis. When you select the "Feather" option a window will appear as indicated in the next screen shot asking you to enter the pixel range you want to soften. Here I thought about 4 pixels would be sufficient.
9. Now that the lens image work is complete, deselect the area by either clicking Select/Deselect or using the keyboard command CNTRL+D (MAC users command+D).
10.Now ready to flatten the layers, click Layer/Flatten Image as indicated below.
To complete the compiled image, I simply converted the final image into black and white via a click with my Kubota action B&W edgey, added an edge burner and black border with white key line.
Q: There is a technical flaw in this image. Can you guess what it is?
A: Figured it out yet? If this were a real "reflection" the sign would be backwards - but hey - we're just having fun and the image works so sometimes breaking the rules just a little doesn't hurt!
This is just one example that will hopefully get you thinking of the NOT so obvious shots that will get your photography noticed!
"The Perfect Picture School of Photography"