Updated: Apr 4, 2020

INTRO


So self-isolation is going "great" as you have seen in the illustration. What you don't see it that my current housemates consist of two hampsters and a ferret. Always did say I prefer animals to people but it's not exactly what I had in mind... oh well the irony.

Another life problem showed up - after two weeks of doing nothing I cannot lie to myself anymore that "if I had time" there would be so many things I could accomplish. I mean I always knew it deep inside that was a lie, simply didn't need anyone or anything (like a natural disaster for example ) to prove it to me.


The first two weeks or cleaning the flat and talking politics with Eleanor (one of the hampsters) was a slightly different experience to a running a pub, but there's only so much I can discuss my thoughts on how the government is dealing with the current situation with my "Flatmates". Going out for long walks in the city with my camera and taking photos of strangers isn't exactly an option given London lockdown so I had to come up with other things to do in my "Free time". And here's why the composites and Photoshop came to mind. I decided to give it a go and given the amount of time wanted to do it properly.

Failed first attemp of creating composite

Intentions were there but the First attempt didn't go well, I mean I watched tons of tutorials but was lacking a decent idea. By now I do care a little bit more about creating something with a story behind it, funny, sad, thought-provoking and my first attempt definitely wasn't any fo the above. The moment you come up with an idea though... oh the excitement!


PHOTOGRAPHY - TAKING PHOTOS FOR COMPOSITE


Lost a big part of the day to create this illustration, about 2 -3 hours on working out where to start, taking photos, refocusing camera, taking more photos and working out details that didn't think of at first. Seems I've learned a bit from my past mistakes (Read: Puzzled Man) and made absolutely sure that the mirror was spotless before the attempt of taking any photos. Other than that as most things you do for the first time I was going pretty much blind. It took me a good while to get the right angle of the mirror, me and a camera. To get the focus correct did take shots of my face, my hand, and mirror focusing on each separately. To help myself with focusing and making sure all photos are in the same position used red electrical tape to mark the position of the chair, camera, put a piece on the mirror as well to make it easier for the camera to focus on it. Potentially could have moved the camera to the back but the cable to the laptop was too short, for that reason switched from 70mm lens to my nifty fifty to get more in the frame.

Had many doubts if the idea will work out at all, wasn't sure if I'd have to flip horizontally the image (Because mirror and all), and if so would I need to take another set of shots with flash from the other side so the shadows would be right, should I take a shot of my reflection from the mirror or take it normally and then composite into the photo an so on but finally did what I always do - said "Fuck it" and went with it not expecting much and things somehow worked themselves out.

LEARNING CURVE

Whenever you watching tutorials or little loops of photo editing on youtube everything seems so damn smooth and easy nevermind it takes only 10-15 minutes. Possibly for more knowledgeable and experienced people it is. For me, it was more of six hours full of mistakes, two steps back for every step forward experience. Even though that being quite a difficult process it was enjoyable, and the last couple of hours when I started seeing things coming together exhausted and with a headache from looking at the computer screen still coun't stop smiling thinking "Fuck - did i do that?"


Worth mentioning I ended up not sticking completely to the theme as originally it was meant to be a lot darker, scarier illustration expressing the feeling of self-isolation which doest still express the feeling, just not exactly in a way I thought it would. Did also come up with ideas along the way, for example, nor the face or hands were meant to be squished to the mirror to start with, it was only meant to be me choking myself through the glass, that was until I noticed the body scale and decided to take more shots of myself (don't worry, I've cleaned and disinfected the fuck out of it before it got anywhere near my face) Face. Also little details like blurring parts of myself behind the mirror that didn't touch the glass also came in when editing and weren't thought of at the very start. What it showed me (of which that website is the perfect example) is that in the process of creating, whatever is the concept, you will probably change it slightly on the way, evolve ut and in most cases add detail - it shouldn't be something discouraging, quite opposite.


PHOTOSHOP - CREATING COMPOSITE


Video is a cutout from hours of recording at high speed and as I said I did a lot of mistakes so if you flip between the frames you might notice that some layer that was there before in bottom right aren't there anymore, that simply because of said mistakes I had to take few steps back and start from the beginning and including it in the video seemed pointless. But all essential work with time slots, techniques, links to the tutorials I've learned them from is there. Video is at high speed so if you want to see exactly what's happening slow it down



*If you are completely new to photoshop and have no idea where to start pop into Appendices section of the side, lots of less and more complicated tutorials and other useful links (and more coming)

Otherwise, let's get started...


**You can click on the time to start the video from there.


3:12 Pen-tool - Something that I never used before and dreaded of trying to learn it but when doing this wouldn't manage to cut out or mask most of different photos in this illustration. Simple to tutorial Here.

Tutorial: Master the Pen Tool in 30 Minutes | Photoshop In-Depth Tutorial


4:18 Now as you can see not the whole hand fit in the frame so had to improvise and fill in a missing bit - Seems simple but wouldn't be as obvious to me if I didn't watch that video:

Tutorial: Broken: A High Speed Photoshop Composite

4:36 Blend If - For the sake of cut-outs and understanding how to cut out/blend different layer you need to understand what it is. You'll find yourself using it a lot in photo composites.

Tutorial: What the Heck is Blend-if in Photoshop?

5:52 Hue/Saturation - Tutorial below is about using it to remove blemishes as I did in the video. Saying that I can imagine I'll be using it a lot to change colors of... well, absolutely everything. Think background, clothes, sky and whatever else comes to your mind.

Tutorial: How to Remove Reds from Skin in Photoshop


6:26 High Pass - Used to bring in the contrast and some detail to the photo, especially when it feels a bit flat or touch out of focus.

Tutorial: How to Sharpen Images in Photoshop


7.20 Dodge and Burn - Something I have already used quite a bit when learning how to retouch portrait (Read: My ugly mug)

Tutorial: High-End Skin Retouch with Dodge & Burn in Photoshop

As you noticed around 8 minutes in I moved to the lightroom. Whether you do it or not is down to your preference. For the most part (when I could still go outside) I walked around with a camera to take photos of all kinds hence use of photoshop was very limited or close to none at all until recently and hence lightroom is a lot closer to my heart and finds using it for last touches and color corrections a lot quicker. Saying that if you prefer to stay in photoshop you might find "camera raw" very useful.

Tutorial: Photoshop CC Camera RAW Trick

8.24 Curve Tool - Very underestimated tool that for bit-part until around 6 months ago I left untouched, still cannot force myself to spend more time on it but by now got some understanding that helps me working with the photos - basic of it in the tutorial below

Tutorial: Master Curves from Start to Finish in Photoshop

As you might have noticed all but one or two tutorials link to #piximperfect, that's mostly because guy teaches you why and how it works where most of the tutorials will only tell you what button to push without explaining why you doing it. Also, I am yet to in someone else other than him that when listening to his tutorial I am not felling asleep.


Last but not least, if you paid enough attention to the video you might have noticed that eyes in the picture have changed as well towards the end and there was nothing in the video about it. That's because I already did photoshop my eyes in another project when learning frequency separation and portrait retouching, Read: "My ugly mug" or go to Appendices in the top menu for tutorials on portrait retouching.

EQUIPMENT

(Or what I used in taking the photos for this composite)


  • Camera: Nikon d7200 - Had it forever now, it's great peace and you can get it for a reasonable price, even not being full-frame that some "professionals" call necessity to create something good it works magic. Everything I own is second hand mostly from eBay and that camera by having built-in focus motor lets me grab some great older lenses for third of the price I'd have to pay normally. Saying that is you have a decently new mobile phone you probably can take photos with that, just make sure you put it somewhere steady so all photos are from this same position.


  • Lens: Nikkor 50mm F1.8 - As mentioned to keep the camera connected to the mac had to keep it pretty close to me. Normally I would use my new favorite 70mm 1.8 that's perfect for portraits but got to say and everyone will confirm - nifty fifty never fails, it's the sharpest thing you can buy for £60 or under - must have with your first (or last) camera.


  • Speedlight: Nikon SB-80DX, it's so old it's ridiculous, missing screws and some other parts that should be there but aren't, not mentioning broke sensor as it doesn't work as a slave (it's possible am not smart enough to set it up). But hey! It works and got it for pennies. Is it necessary? If you are shooting indoor probably best you have something to lower the ISO and reduce the noise. If you shooting in the garden or open space on a sunny day you'll be perfectly fine without.


  • Neewer wireless remote flash - cheap salvation to my slave problem, your flash on one side remote on the camera. Kept it up to 3 meters away and had no problem with the connection

  • Soft Box: Got £4.73 light spreader so soften it a little and not get hards shadows, not a big price to pay for a quite dramatic difference, this composite might not be a perfect example as I was going for stronger shadows to get more atmospheric shot but can promise it does the job.


  • Tripod - I bought that thing from a friend for £10, have no better clue if it was even worth it and for the first 3 years until I started taking some photos at home it was used as a jacket hanger. All I can say about it is that it works, I could not care less about the brand or what it's made from. If you want to buy one, get it cheap and save money for lenses, alcohol, drug addiction...still better than spending stupid amount on carbon fiber... three legs and a stick.


  • Remote shutter - again, got mine for under £7, it does exactly what it's job supposed to be, surely there are some more posh options but what you need it to keep the camera stable and press a button? Had it for months now, no issues.


Other than that you still need is a computer that can run Photoshop. If you do editing, even just small retouching do your self a solid consider buying a tablet. Again, it doesn't have to be anything fancy, I've bought Wacom Intuos recently as my old tabled died a horrible death, saying that I was using it for nearly two years and originally bought it for about £20 with delivery, no need for any fancy tablets with a screen, etc - simple basic at cost of mouse you'd buy will be great. Might take you a couple of days to get used to it but drawing tablet will be your best friend forever after.



Anything I've missed? Or you do have photoshop experience and want to correct me on anything (other than my grammar)? Drop me a line or leave a comment below.

Keep safe, have fun and #STAYTHEFUCKHOME



Peace!




So yeah, the all happened and before

i am gonna get to the point let me rage to myself a little for next few sentences before I get to the point ...


(Rage begins....)

Stuck at home, pretty shocked how it all went from one week everybody thinking it doesn’t involve them to “oh fuck - need to buy all toilet paper I possibly can“. To start with - no dipshit, you don’t need all the loo-roll and if you did buy it out I truly hope the government will make you eat every single piece of whatever you have left of it once all of this is over (Now close your eyes, take a deep breath and imagine average dickhead Joe with a mouth full of toilet paper, tears coming out of his eyes, trying to fit another piece of loo-roll in his mouth - Bit drastic? If you think that’s harsh try to remember it’s probably this same guy that cleaned up the shelves from food as well hence NSH staff, elders, vulnerable couldn’t any food for the last few days. Not that drastic anymore? Great, let’s start from the beginning - close your eyes, while you imagine him having his daily meal dress him up in little ballerina dress, run your imagination wild - it’s fun. Another photography unrelated thought that struck me was when I went to Sainsbury's for the first time yesterday and it was quite funny seeing people buying all that fruit, kale… wait what? What kind of animal buys kale? Would even know what to do with it?

It feels a little bit like seeing people preparing for their NYE resolutions that they are going to give up on sooner than they think, cannot wait to see for their next challenge is trying not to drink before midday.

(Back to the photography subject)


The rage above made me come up with loo-roll.co.uk. - Toilet paper-related "Art" (In Brakets as still not confident that's really art, saying that that banana duck-taped to the wall sold for £120K so who knows). It's free to download unlike actual toilet paper which price is sky-rocketing, with intention of taking a piss from all above mentioned dipshits. Nevermind keeping me occupied and another creative challenge which I need now. Saying that I am on my last two rolls so not sure how many more shoots of toilet roll will all be able to take before time/paper runs out..... (Laughing on the outside while on inside realizing that my shower head doesn’t reach the cubical)

If interested in getting involved create something end send it through to me, will put it on the page. If you don't, you think I should take it down... well, not happening, already spent £1.99 on the domain and never getting that money back.

Also, if you do any better then most do consider donating some money to UK Food Banks, any pound will help - all the links to do that are on the page.

Keep safe, stay creative and #STAYTHEFUCKHOME

Save


Updated: Apr 2, 2020


Crazy shit, isn't it? - I actually look approachable and for the first time not to bad effort. If you cannot be bothered to read the whole thing and simply want to know the tutorials I've watched to get there there's a playlist in appendices on every youtube video (and more) to make myself pretty again, so won't blame you if you go straight there. (Also feel free to use the photo at the end of that post as a cheat sheet if that helps) Otherwise, read away below,


Now depending on how far you want to go and how many techniques you want to use it can take anything between 30 minutes to hours, possibly days of working to get it just right. For me, it took over three hours with youtube tutorials floating in a small window in the top right corner of a screen as I was doing it step by step. Have in mind by now the third portrait in, having a bit more confidence (yet still coming back to the tutorial when I get lost) I sliced the time by half. For my first try I've intentionally picked the most hangover photo I found (not that I look a lot better on a good day) with bits of ketchup on the chin nevermind out of focus. What I wanted to learn was so-called "Frequency separation", or in other words, a fancy way of calling splitting an image in two where one has all the colors and light shades and the other has the color taken away which leaves you with all the texture and outlines. Having it split like that into two layers lets you work on those separately and in a sense repainting skin from scratch. I have accidentally picked up on a few things along the way cos as it turns out working on portraits requires a mixture of techniques to get it done well and learning only one might get you only halfway there, so watched also how to remove eye bags before going into that technique, for my second portrait also watched how to work on lips, add a lipgloss and makeup, trim eyebrows, or remove any unwanted hair... But for that specific bit you might want to watch that toturial to start with :

High-End Skin Retouching & Sculpting in Photoshop





Close up on the eye before and after Topaz Lab

As I said it's a mixture of techniques and in this case certain software as well. The photo was in fact out of focus so before moving to photoshop, I started off downloading something called Topaz Sharpen AI, software that is meant to recover detail from blurry photos. I got to say it does a surprisingly decent job at it. By all means, don't expect miracles but if you need detail you missed in your camera viewer it might actually save a potentially good photo. You can try it for free for about a month. I don't think I do enough to spend money on it now but somewhere in the future, I might actually buy it. There are tutorials and you can get similar effects in Photoshop but me just wanting to get on with it and move to the fun part of the editing that was close to perfect and took under a minute.


Once you do basic corrections (white balance, exposure, contrast, etc) you'll start with removing blemishes, spots and ketchup from the chin, that's quite easy and well explained in PixImperfect youtube tutorial (Again - playlist on everything Portrait here) - and if you like fairly mechanical tasks that you don't have to think about too much it's actually a quite pleasant exercise. By now I've already practiced on three maybe four different portraits and with a bit of music in a background and a drink in the other hand, it's most relaxing and probably the favorite part of post-producing portraits for me.


Now if you are going to attempt "frequency Separation" or already have done it you'll probably realize a couple of facts. For starters, you might need to get better at drawing to repaint the skin, and it will take some practice to get a hang of it. Getting the shades right was a bit of a nightmare for me, even after few soul-sucking hours you'll spend doing it you'll end up noticing later you still did some bits that you are unhappy with. It seems to me that the better are your drawing skills in real life the better you'll get at doing that. The biggest challenge is getting different shades right. It helps to realize that you do change the shape of the face when painting new skin on even if you'd think you don't. Simply because picking brighter skin shade will make it look closer and darker further away, that's it. Not knowing that the next few portraits I really struggled with, changed the shape drastically enough for a face to look unnatural, weather because it was little to flat or the chicks were to round and so on, getting right chick bones is probably the hardest bit for me.


Before and after painting iris

Once all of that is done and it's all getting shape you need to do a bit of "dodge and burn", so add shadows to some areas and brighten up the other to add a dimension to everything and to make it look a little less flat - that's a fairly easy process hence managed to do it fairly effortlessly.



Liquify in Photoshop

And once you went through all that hell you'd normally be done by now, but since I am so pretty I took another 5 minutes to straighten my nose, make my jawline a little wider and forehead a touch smaller, eye a little bigger... you know, got myself Tinder ready.

I am using Photoshop 2020 and liquify option will really do it all for you, simply check out the options on the side.


Now doing that thought me few things - Mostly I realized that if like me you are on Facebook groups and ask about retouching eyebags or removing marks, blemishes, etc first teen people will throw at you "frequency separation". It's a technique that's definitely powerful, worth learning and fun to practice however for some reason, maybe because it sounds cool or some are simply excited they can spell it (I still struggle) but for inexperienced as I am I can tell by now that's a fairly lengthy practice that not always will provide desired results and sometimes healing brush or clone stamp will get you where you need in half the time with better results - that will work in most cases where you are after small corrections, removing eye bags or some hair.


On my second portrait I've ever done I have learned how to work on the lips, including lipgloss as well, cutting eyebrows, removing unwanted hair and quite a bit more. All those videos and more are here. So I guess have fun, it's interesting to see how relatively quickly you can change a pretty shitty photo and seeing step by step all the changes after

And once you do that and you have a minute let me know how your first time went better yet send me a photo of before and after. My Facebook page is facebook.com/lostpuzzleproject1/


Oh, and not sure if that will help much but together with my playlist of tutorials on portraits (here) if it's any help here's step by step how Ii worked on my own face.


Step by Step proces of work on my photograph. *Doest apply to all but might be useful guideline.e


*For any similar lengthy work in Photoshop do yourself a favor and for the life of god - buy a drawing tablet. It can be any cheapest second-hand piece of crap you can get from a £10 on eBay (I think I paid £15 for mine). I can only imagine that if with the tablet it took me around 3 hours to get it done without it it would be around three days.


**...I did try to do things with a mouse, 15 minutes in had a glass of rum to calm me down, also, the mouse ended in the bin... after bouncing off the wall... shortly after I jumped on it... Let's just say my anger management issues started showing really quickly,




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