Composing the Scene – Part 2

As discussed in the previous post, Chapter 5 of How to Cheat in Photoshop, 6th ed., is more about learning than doing – at least compared to the chapters that come before. The first three tutorials provide valuable information about working with figures (the human kind, not numbers).

Urban Farming
In the fourth tutorial of Chapter 5, Caplin finally provides an exercise to work on. In this case, he explains that just placing a figure in a background is rarely convincing.   To make figures look like they actually belongs in an image, it’s usually necessary to have the figures interact with the background in some way. Take this image:Back to foregroundBothOn the left, the farmer looks artificially inserted. On the right, notice how the farmer looks much more convincing. Not only is the farmer behind the fence, his feet are in the grass (instead of on the grass) and the pitchfork he’s holding is now on the other side of the fence.  In addition, the background is blurred, using a gradient, to give the image more depth.

Making it Work
When you’re trying to get a message across in an image, you’d think the best way to do so is by making it the most prominent item. However, that in-your-face approach is about as subtle as a slap, and frequently less effective.  Instead, adding other elements can draw the viewer’s attention to the right spot: composition tricksBothOn the left, the sign with the message is in perspective with the rest of the image and it’s the most prominent feature. But, due to the perspective, it appears to be pointing towards the statue in the background.  Very distracting.  On the right, the background is moved and blurred and a figure added (which, according to the book, is a picture Caplin himself). Now the focus of the image is clear.

In the Driver’s Seat
The final tutorial in Chapter 5 involved placing a figure in a car.  It seems like this ought to be an easy enough. But,  there’s the windshield and the interior of the car to deal with.  Caplin shows how, in nine steps, to take car from empty to occupied (and appearing to be driving down the street, too):People and carsBothThe first few steps cover removing all of the glass, including the sides and rear windows.  Next, a new interior, driver and steering wheel with a hand are added.  The car and new driver are then placed in another background that matches the perspective of the car.  The windshield and other windows were added by painting diagonally, in white, with a soft-edged brush set to a low opacity. Finally, the car was recolored by filling a new layer with blue, using the car as a clipping mask and then erasing the parts that didn’t need to be colored and a shadow added underneath. I could have also fixed the dent in the hood, but if someone makes it a habit of speaking on his mobile phone while driving, he probably has a few dings on his car.

Of course this exercise is drawn from an older project of Caplin’s. In a modern photo, the man would be texting. But, that project will have to wait for another day…

By the way, for the American audience, the driver seems to be on the wrong side of the car.  Keep in mind that Caplin is from the UK.

To summarize these last two posts: the Chapter 5 tutorials offer far more lessons on the art of photo montage than all of the content in both of the books used by the curriculum in my previous graphics courses.  So, don’t skip the first three just because there aren’t any exercises to work “on.”

Next: Getting Into Perspective

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