Creative Photoshop: In a pickle

Amateur Photographer

Sometimes it’s best to work alone and use yourself as a model, says Jane Long, so long as you don’t mind picking chickpeas out of your hair for hours...


All images Jane Long Amateur Photographer

This image, titled ‘In a Pickle’, is part of the ‘Self-Preservation’ series. As a self-portrait series it is about how physical and emotional attempts at preservation are ultimately pointless. Change is inevitable, and you are changed by the things you experience and the memories you make.

I am quite an introverted person – I can get quite flustered and end up rushing when directing others or when there is a large crew. Sometimes it’s just easier to work alone and use myself as the model – although the older I get, the more post- production I need! I don’t have to think about directing the model, hurting her feelings, or keeping her too long in the bath. I just have to set up the gear and take shots in lots of poses until I’ve got all the material I need.

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Original image of me in the bath and of the jar with mustard seeds Amateur Photographer

In this case, there were two key scenes: the jar in the cupboard and the shot of me in the bath. The jar in the cupboard contained mustard seeds in water and the bath shot contained chickpeas (to mimic the mustard seeds) as well as capsicum (red pepper), chilli pieces and celery leaves for herbs. Unfortunately, the chickpeas sank to the bottom of the bath, and I was left picking them out of my hair for hours afterwards despite taking several showers.

Step by step guide

1 Extend the base

Starting with the jar, I matched the lighting of the bath shot with a Speedlight to the left with a reflector on the right. I shot a panorama of images on a tripod so I could extend the background on the left and right. I then elongated the glass by doing a Stamp Visible of existing layers, moving the image up and masking off the bottom. Amateur Photographer

2 Cleaning the body

I used a tripod leaning over the bath. I did lots of skin retouching using Portraiture. I removed the water line/ reflections with the Healing brush and cloning. I also puffed out the cheeks (Liquify) and darkened the skin using colour layers set to Multiply, and increased contrast using Dodge & Burn layers and Curves. Amateur Photographer

3 Add more flotsam

I straightened the image and removed much of the blue cast from the bath where it reflected onto the skin. I used Selective Colour to reduce most of the cyan and blue reflections. Then I used some of the other images from the shoot to add in more celery tops and capsicum. Strategic placement was key. Amateur Photographer

4 DoF and masking

Once those pieces were masked, I blurred and darkened some towards the back to create depth of field, and added shadows on the body and where items overlapped before masking off the background. I kept the masking on the hair fairly loose before saving the image and importing it into the jar image. Amateur Photographer

5 Blending both images

I set the layer to Overlay to retain the highlights and reflections on the glass and blended the hair, celery and capsicum into the water. I stretched some of the items on the edges to create the distortion you would see when looking through a round jar. I then masked off the edges outside the jar. Amateur Photographer

6 Tweaking

I added a copy of the body image set to Normal and masked out all except the skin, face and foreground items. I used a Selective Colour layer to tone down the colour of the greens on the ‘Normal’ layer and painted a golden yellow over any areas still looking blue (Normal layer set to 30%, plus a Curves layer). Amateur Photographer

7 Adding detail

I then brought in a series of images of the jar with the mustard seeds suspended in the water. I added mustard seeds throughout the image, making sure to get ones from the front, back and sides of the jar for depth of field and distortion. Amateur Photographer

8 Shadows

Finally, I added shadows to the mustard seeds on the body and a shadow at the base of the jar. At this stage I saved the image, then flattened it and renamed the document. Amateur Photographer

9 Toning

For toning I used a Gradient Map (Cyan-Selenium) set to Soft Light at 50%. I ran Florabella’s Retro Film action and removed the contrast layers. I used Curves to add a vignette, and added texture layers (scratched pots and old concrete) set to Soft Light at a maximum of 50%. I masked the texture off the skin areas. Amateur Photographer

Australian photographer and digital artist Jane Long combines photography and photo manipulation to create slightly surreal images that straddle the line between reality and fantasy. Completely self-taught, she has worked with Photoshop since 1994, both commercially and for personal work. She has exhibited in Australia, USA, Romania and Greece. www.janelong.com.au

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