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Creating A Masterpiece

Lesson 11 from: Creative Composites Using Your Own Photo Stock

Karen Alsop

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Lesson Info

11. Creating A Masterpiece

Take a journey through the creation of Homeless Penguin and learn how she creates a masterpiece from conceptualization through to finishing touches.
Next Lesson: Conclusion

Lesson Info

Creating A Masterpiece

I'm going to take you on a walk through of the Photoshop creation of homeless penguin. Now you've seen the creation and behind the scenes of the other series at the start of this class, homeless penguin is an extension of the story that I want to tell where each of the animals that I'm featuring, I can explain through a visual what it is that they're challenged with. And for the penguins, particularly for the penguins here in Australia, the challenge is when they're out in the ocean and the storms are raging and they're trying to find food for their young and a lot of these penguins, they come back just exhausted and they really, really struggled to survive and to bring back that food to their young that are in the boroughs. And so I really wanted to showcase that story through my visual of these penguins out on ships that had just been thrown about by these stormy seas and they're trying to find food for the young by fishing. And so the creation of this was it was a lot of fun and I h...

ad to use a lot of elements that I had already in my library. So that's where the brilliant thing of light room sisi came into play because I could search for things like boats and sea and fish and ocean and use images that I'd photographed. I created this particular piece in isolation in lockdown. And I'm so through with the results. So let's take you through that walk through right now. This is a speed edit of the creation of it and I'll just start with the basis, like I started with an ocean picture that I had this boat and this boy, this life boy, I really thought everything was going to work together. The boat itself was something that I photographed on a trip, The waves and the sea, all of that was photographed on my various adventures. And I loved, I loved the sea and the way the waves were cascading over the boat, the sunshine was quite harsh, so I knew I'd need to dial that down now. The boy itself, I really thought I was going to have a penguin sticking its head out of this. That that was my original vision and sometimes things change now. I ended up borrowing this boy. I put a call out on facebook in the local facebook group to say, does anyone have an old life boy And someone donated this to the cause. And um yeah, we started with this and I photographed it. And then as I was working through it, I just realized it just really wasn't fitting as I started creating this piece and I didn't have anyone around me. I was sitting in my studio and just kind of pulling it together. I sent it to a few people and I found out and realized that the penguins that I started with featuring we're not actually penguins that were in danger down at Phillip island in Melbourne where I was focusing this image on. So I found out that in fact the little blue penguins are the ones that I needed to feature. And I went back to my collection and found that I had quite a number of photographs of these little blue penguins that I'd photographed at Auckland. And then I knew I had the pieces to really put this together. So you'll see me changing those penguins over as I'm creating through this little speed at it here. I wanted to add another element of ropes and tying the rope to the boys. That's what I'm doing here. This piece here. I mean, I love collecting these elements that I can use again on a trip to new Zealand, that steering wheel was in a museum and just fantastic to add to the feel of the piece you can see. There's a lot of small elements that employing from a lot of different images in my collection. These lots I at some point was able to photograph at the local op shop and you call it a thrift store. It's a second hand store and it's got a collection of amazing pieces and the owner allows me to go in and photographs. So, I collected a number of photographs of these lanterns that I was able to include in this piece I even showed him. So, one of the things that when you're creating a piece, it's really great to get local people involved part of the process. So, I showed him what I was doing and he then he's understanding kind of what my concept is and people are just really happy to be part of these projects, particularly if they have a good cause or a good reason behind it. So here you see the boat and the supersizing that I did in placing this in the front and it became the replacement to the life boy and it really fit a whole lot more. I found the life boy was pulling that attention away, it was too bright to orange and I really wanted to tone the colours specifically for this one. So I put this boat in and I'm using the same technique with the splash brushes that I have shown you throughout this class on how to create brushes. So, I've created splash brushes from pictures that I've photographed of waves so that I can then add that up and around the boat. So lots and lots of additional layers. Again, this is the wrong penguin. So I'm here cutting it out, placing it in later define this is not the penguin that I should be including more waves, more splash, more movement, more storm lots and lots of additional layers. One of the things that I really want to highlight at this point is that when people get into Photoshop and when they get into compositing, they often think it's sort of going to be one adjustment lee is going to turn day to night or one adjustment layer or one brush is going to solve all the problems of the waves when in fact it's a multitude, it's a multitude of layers of adjustments, of lots of little fixes. Now we're getting to this point where I needed to add water in the boat. So again, I'm grabbing images that I've got of all of their water that I can then merge into the boat and then using blending modes to bring it into the boat so you can sort of see a little bit into the bottom of the boat. So those blending modes are so powerful for so many things, not just for overlays but to really blend your elements together. So I'm asking this in working around the different parts of the waves to make it look like that. Water is really, really in there, a bit of splashing involved in that bit on the side of the boat there and masking back with wave brushes. So, using the water masking in and out with actual water. Now at this point you can see that I'm adding droplets on all of the areas of the boat that have windows and the droplets. The water droplets are also photographed on black and I created patterns from them. So exactly the same way that I've just shown you how to create patterns from grass. I created patterns from the water droplets that I used actually quite a lot in this piece. So you've got the water droplets showing up with using overlay modes and screen mode in this case and placing that on the windows so it looks like they're wet. And then later throughout the process, do the same thing with the life jackets and clothing that the penguins are wearing. So let's keep going through this, the sardines. I thought that I'd be able to get away with photographing sardines from a can and using that in this composite. But I didn't realize that these sardines were headless until I open the can. So I did try it and all my studio's stank for a long time. These oily sardines, these fish. So it sort of works with the netting there. But you'll see later in the process. I ended up buying frozen fish that had heads. There are only about that big and placed them into the place where I had the headless fish as well, bringing in these little blue penguins and working out how I want to place them. And often I will cut up animals to make them look more human like and I know that sounds bad, but it's just in Photoshop and for this, you know, I wanted to have the wing of the penguin out so that it could be holding the lantern. I move and adjust feet and arms and things because you really want to be able to control like a puppet control your pieces and then dress them later on. So a bit of masking at a shadow and just as I go, I try and place these elements in and shadow them and highlight them and do what I need to do so that I'm not backtracking. I always tell my master class every element that you cut out. Try and blend it in as best as you can, make sure it's matching the light, matching the scene so they don't have to come back at it because the problem with coming back at something later on is that you end up missing it, you forget about it or you're looking at the big picture and you don't see the little errors. Whereas you're if you're focusing in on the element each time you're getting that right and then you'll get the next one right and the next one, right? So with this the lanterns, I didn't have the luxury of focus stacking them, but I knew they'd be so small that it wouldn't matter. So we talked about focus stacking and in this case I didn't do it. But I knew that these elements are going to be small if I wanted this element as a big piece in another scene, I'd need to go back and re photograph that. Now here we see, I'm going to cut that foot off and move this penguin and put another foot on. So that's what I'm talking about with changing the shapes of the animals and cutting out the bits that you want, you saw them when the wind bent a little bit. I use puppet warp a lot and you saw me use puppet warp when we were addressing the animals earlier on in the class. So you can do the same thing obviously with limbs and with the parts of the body that you want to bend and shape because we want that wing to be touching the steering wheel so that it looks like it's really connected, lighting shading, doing all that I can as I go some images of fish to try and add those heads on. I already had that in my collection, adding this penguin in and you saw with that particular penguin, it is actually a combination of two penguins. So the bottom of a penguin in the top because I had that really cute shot of this penguin, the head, but it was behind something, so I didn't have the base of it that I wanted to, I needed to blend it together. Found a fishing rod photographs that mastered out another fish that it's fishing with and then the life jacket. So this life jacket, I purchased this. I hope it fits the kids. I haven't even tried it on the kids, but I knew I needed a lifejacket. Whereas the other clothing, I just put a word out again to the local community sharing my what I was doing. Just a little little hints, not the whole thing and seeing if anyone had anything. And I was after yellow clothing because I really wanted that contrast of the blue and the yellow in this to be my theme. But I knew that I could always change colors as well. So some people lent me some things that I needed to change. The color is completely on with this. I just changed the color a little bit and you saw earlier in the class how we added the water droplets to this life jacket to and reshaped the life jacket to fit the penguin. So the idea is that you, you really do need to photograph it on as close of the right angle as possible. He's a red hat that I changed to yellow, so it really is not an issue changing colors dodging and burning. Here's a purple jacket that I had in my cupboard and I'm changing it to yellow again and blending it and shaping it and lighting it, doing everything that I need to to blend everything together. These gators were fantastic. Um some people let me these and they said, oh they're not yellow, but I knew that that just the look of this and being able to scrunch them up and have the little boots on and make it look like they were fitting a penguin would just be brilliant, but I had to scrunch them up fist because if I photographed like a full size person and it didn't have the scrunched part of the legs then it wouldn't really look right on the penguins. So you've got to do as much as you can in the camera and then finish it off in Photoshop. So again, changing the color using a few different methods there because it was a darker shade and then puppet warping and masking it onto the penguin in the shape that I wanted shading and shadowing it to fit. Here are these fish that I was talking about that I ended up buying and my bookkeeper must have a field day with the things that I claim on the business. Raw frozen fish is one of them. You're not going to have headless sardines on a, on a ship. These penguins are fishing for the stuff that they need to take home to their young. So it is blending that in and lighting it lights coming from above from that lantern. So I needed to really highlight that, putting a few more in the boat and making it look like their half in the water half out of the water. This little dude, I was determined to try and get him to work because I have a teddy and every other of these pieces, it's just I needed to have a teddy. So this penguin is my kids penguin and I tried, I tried, I put it in, but for this image just really wasn't fitting. Um and I think it's probably because with the other homeless wildlife pieces, they're all about the little baby animal. Whereas this one is about the adults fishing for their young because the younger actually back in the boroughs so the teddy didn't make a whole lot of sense and it just sort of fell out of place, but I still did my best so you can watch me trying to put this in. So shading, shadowing, doing everything I need to then the flippers. So I borrowed those flippers as well. Use the hat and change the shape. So I had a different shaped hat for this penguin. We went through this on adding water and droplets. So I re photographed the life jacket and added the water. And then I also did the droplets as an overlay and added more of that as well and looking at it small, looking at it, small on screen, you can't really see it. But definitely when you print it and people are looking at it in person, all of these tiny, tiny, tiny little elements are very important. So I'm using the pattern overlay for a lot of the clothing right here to create that wet look without needing to re photographed the clothing. Now, the umbrella, I purchased this umbrella with the specific reason that I wanted to include it in this piece. I spread it with water and I changed the color yellow and I got some feedback, feedback is important feedback that I got a couple of people liked it and my husband thought it was just overkill. It didn't really work. And then I started thinking it would make more sense if it was inside out because of the wind. But then again, I maybe they wouldn't be carrying an umbrella on a ship. So you sort of go through this process of thinking through the consistency of the story and making sure that everything makes sense as well, particularly when you are entering awards, When you're entering awards, judges will see it and they will look at everything, everything is analyzed and the story is deducted from what's in it. So if you put something into your image that doesn't really fit or that you just like it because maybe it looks good, but it doesn't match the story, it actually can pull it down. Now I enter a lot of awards and I've learned over the years, all of these things to think about. I sort of think like, what would the judges say? And I think that's important. Even when you're creating just for yourself or you're creating your art for selling or you're creating it out for your clients. The story is really important and it making sense. And every part of it, having a reason is important. You need to be able to stand on all those elements that you put in. So you'll watch as I put this umbrella in and then it decides, no, it's not going to stay. So you can watch as this umbrella goes into the image, but then it gets taken out. So another rain jacket that I decided to replace the hat that I put in there and put this rain jacket on. So we had a variety of different outfits for all of the penguins, so much that went into homeless penguin and this was a fast version of sharing that with you. You can probably see that I could talk on this for hours and hours and hours. But what I hope is that you've been able to pick up those nuggets and there's a little tips that will help you in your own compositing in those things that you're trying to achieve in thinking outside of the box, in ways that you can photograph things, ways that you can better your workflow.

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Ratings and Reviews

Charlene Mitchell

WOW! I'm not familiar with Karen's work so this was a wonderful surprise! Loved the detail she included in her instruction and her passion shows through in every topic! So many tips and tricks to help 'sell' the finished piece as believable - details I wouldn't have thought of. Going to check out her other class on CL and also her website!

Melissa Helland

Can’t tell you how much I appreciate all I’ve learned from this teacher. Wonderful classes here on Creative Live and her site has even more learning opportunities. Worth every penny of my Creative Live membership just for this class alone!

Cristina Menor

Karen is an excellent teacher. Her lessons are always very well explained and very easy to understand and to follow. You will learn lots of valuable tips. I absolutely recommend this class if you want to learn how to create incredible compositions very near to reality.

Student Work