Final Part 2 – Balancing Light


To demonstrate your ability to use PhotoShop you  will be creating a self portrait based on the tutorial below. Using your own portrait add 5 images you have taken (or need to take) this year and add them them to the inside plain of your head. Create consistent lighting and shadows; color and composition; similar POV; with correct scale and proportion “within” the composition you are creating. Talk with each other and Ms. O as you are working on this assignment. Accept discussion/critique  to make your work better.

About the images you are using – Everything must be original images taken by you – clear focus. Some variations are understandable – be open to the critique – but you must include different levels (high, medium and low) in your choice of images. Use everything we have learned this semester to create your portrait.

Artist Statement: When you are done with the image write an artist statement explaining why you chose the images you did – why are they “in your head” all the time. add it to your post with a hyperlink.

Though compositing images together is a commonplace task, doing it right when there are a lot of objects to assemble is always tricky, especially when they are all lit differently.

Erik Herrström says by colourising everything to the same colour temperature and contrast, you can make it look as if all the elements came from the same shoot. In this tutorial he shows you how to add different lighting effects in Photoshop using brushes, the Lasso tool and adjustment layers. The goal is to create an image with a deep blue/magenta cast, in keeping with the cold outer-space backdrop. You will also learn to add simple shadows. Learn how to use adjustment layers and filters to get the look you want. 

Step: 1  Create an A4 portrait document in Photoshop and add a black background with the Paint Bucket tool (G). (8″ x 10″, 300 dpi)

Mark the centre of the image using guides. Go to the Gradient tool (G) and create a transition between a light blue (I used #3399ff) and black. Then drag a radial gradient from the centre of the canvas. Change this layer’s opacity to 35%.

Step: 2  Have a friend take a close-up portrait (head shot) of you. In PhotoShop eliminate the background. Adjust the portrait so it is excellent! Collect (at least three)additional images of people and/or items important to you. This is to be a portrait showing the viewer what is important to you – what you are thinking about all the time.

Roughly sketch out the piece you want to create. Mask out (eliminate the background using the magic wand >delete and eventual layer via copy) your elements if necessary and place them in different layers in the composition. Scale and place them to match to your sketch.

Step: 3 We’ll need to add shadows to the objects in the composition. To do this for any particular element,Cmd/Ctrl + click on the layer thumbnail of the element to select the element. Create a new layer and fill the selection with black using the Paint Bucket tool. Then move the layer beneath the original element’s layer and use Edit > Free Transform (Cmd/Ctrl + T) to shape, size and position your shadow. Reduce its opacity to 85%.

Repeat this for all elements except for your head.

Step: 4  As a first step towards the cold feel that we want, add a Gradient Map adjustment layer at the top of the layer stack. Select the black to white gradient in the Adjustments panel.

To get the level of contrast I wanted, I duplicated the Gradient Map adjustment layer and adjusted the opacity of the new layer as I saw fit.

Step: 5  Now add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer above the Gradient Map adjustment layer. Check the Colorize tickbox, then set the Hue to 225 and the Saturation to 50 to give a blue/purple tinge.

Step: 6  This gives us a good sense of the overall composition and whether it needs more elements. I chose to added a few more details – some spotlights on the ‘ground’ and make-up on the clown’s face, for example. Ensure you add some spotlights or other lighting devices as they will play a role in steps 8 to 10.

Step: To get an even better match between the objects, adjust the Curves on each. As before, to select the element to work on, Cmd/Ctrl + click on the layer thumbnail of its layer. Then add a Curves adjustment layer. Here you have to adjust every object until it simply looks right in the context of the other objects.

Step: 8 Add light beams to the spotlights by creating a new layer beneath the Spotlight layer, then making a selection with the Polygonal Lasso tool (L) where you want the beam to shine (from the spotlight up into the air). Fill the selection with white using the Paint Bucket tool.

Step: 9 Use a Gaussian Blur (Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur) to make the beam edges a lot smoother. Set the radius to 25 pixels, press OK, and set the layer opacity to 10%.

Step: 10 To make the light beam fade out, use the Eraser tool (E) in brush mode – make the brush large (1100px) and smooth (Hardness 0), and set the brush’s opacity to 50%. Apply it at the end of the beam furthest from the spotlight. Repeat steps 8 to 10 for all the lights you added.

Step: 11 Now we’ll create a background light effect. Make a new layer beneath the object furthest down in the layer stack. Paint with a large (1300px) and smooth (Hardness 0) white brush outwards from where the effect will be centred – for me, it’s where the clown’s forehead ends.

Step: 12 We’ll also do a magenta background light effect by adding a new Hue/Saturation adjustment layer at the top of the layer stack. In the Adjustments panel, choose a colour that is equivalent what you’re striving for (I set Hue to 110 and Saturation to 75).

Step: 13
Select this new adjustment layer’s layer mask thumbnail and fill it with black using the Paint Bucket tool. Add white to the layer mask to select the area to modify. Do this with the Brush tool and select elements as in Step 3.
Step: 14
Here I felt the lighting needed to be more hazy, so I repeated Step 11 a few times to add a succession of white light effects just on top of the background light effect we added there.
Step: 15
Boost the contrast by adding an Exposure adjustment layer as the top layer with the exposure at 0.9. Then do the same with the layer mask as in Step 13, but this time just apply the white brush in the centre of the background light effect. This is to add even more ‘energy’.
Step: 16
To finish the piece, I added ‘stars’ (painted), meteorites (images of rocks) and planets (stock photos) just on top of the background layer. I also added motion effects to the acrobats and the person being fired from the cannon using Filter > Motion Blur) mixed with stars.
Save the PhotShop document on your flash drive. Save it again as a .jpg. Resize to 8×10, 100 dpi and Save for Web and Devices. Upload to your web page by 3:15 on Friday. January 16th.

By Erik Herrström