Monday, October 13, 2014


Photoshop was created in 1988 and entered the market in 1990.  But even now, over 24 years later, it still remains a questionable tool for many photographers.  Especially many of those who still work analog consider Photoshop a crutch to hide mistakes.  On the other hand, Photoshop has a loyal following of those who consider Photoshop a worthwhile tool to perfect ones photographs, analog and digital alike.  Of course Photoshop goes way beyond simple image manipulation; many use it as an artistic tool to create pieces of art that otherwise would be very difficult to achieve at best. 

To use Photoshop effectively, it is necessary to overcome a relatively large learning curve.  I have been asked quite often about other, none Photoshop related ways, to create photographs that stand out because they are different. Of course there are a myriad of ways and means to do so.  Here are a few that are relatively easy to achieve.

One of the easiest is done without any accessories or other forms of trickery.  It is simply a matter of using slow shutter speeds to create images that have a definitely different look.

This image of Cindy was done with ordinary studio lighting, simply using a shutter speed of 1 second.  For the fluent pose, I simply had Cidy dance to the background music in the studio.  Needless to say, many of the results were useless for one reason or another.  But this is a good example of what can be done in this manner.

Another possibility for a huge number of different approaches is with modified lighting.  Many studio light sources offer relatively simple projection attachments which allow projecting of a wide choice of various patterns.

Here I used a simple pattern of light and dark stripes as the main light source, making sure that Melissa, the model, was partially covered by both light and dark stripes.  In this case it was also important that her face was lit properly.  In addition, I had her strike a pose which partially followed the direction of the pattern of the light

Another very useful accessory is a sheer piece of material.  I wanted Melissa to be very much covered by the material, such that her image was actually seen through the material.  However, just hanging it proved to be quite underwhelming.  Instead I had her hold it with the fingertips of both hands, asking her to toss it up into the air, taking the shot once the material began floating down to the floor.  This image is the result of many tries, which proved to be by far the best one.

During the same shoot, I also had Melissa strike a variety of different poses with different lighting which I planned to use at a later date.  For one of these poses I had her leaning back as far as possible, using hard lighting as the main light source.  I had her standing close to a textured wall, which resulted not only in the texture showing up quite well and thus becoming part of the total image, but it also created a diagonal shadow of her in the top part of the picture.  I later used this picture for an idea that had come to me a while prior to this shoot.

For this I made an 11 x 14 enlargement with the image right and left reversed, making sure to burn in the bottom left diagonal section to be mostly black.    Once finished, I put it on a flat surface put in the spoon and covered the outline of the bottom part of the body and the spoon with sugar, after which I simply copied the image to render this rather unusual looking photograph.

Another, relatively simple means to create quite different looking photographs is the Polaroid Transfer process.  For those not familiar with this, it is necessary to use the old style Polaroid peel-apart film, and it must be color.  The black and film will not work for this.  Once the film is exposed, instead of waiting the recommended time before peeling the film apart, it is necessary to do so after about 15 seconds.  Then you discard the part which would normally be the actual picture.  Instead you use the “throw-away” portion and put it into contact with another type of receptor sheet, usually by using a rubber roller.  Watercolor paper has proven to work very well. 

These Polaroid images are created by a dye transfer process.  In this case, the dyes are transferred to the watercolor paper in about the same time it takes for a regular Polaroid picture to “develop.”  That by itself can create some very interesting photos.

In this case I went one step further.  After the image had transferred to the watercolor paper, I used running water and a soft brush to remove the transferred dye gel of the image before it had a chance to dry.  What remains on the paper after that is a stain from the transferred dyes which makes for a striking image which has more the look of a painting than that of an actual photograph.

Calumet photographic used to sell an accessory material which they referred to as Chameleon Cloth.  It was of the same size as regular, large background materials.  It was grey and had a texture very similar to a clothes dryer sheet.  The Chameleon Cloth was quite sheer and definitely translucent.  Of course it could be used as a regular, wrinkled background.  But it really came into its own when put between the model and the camera, shooting through it.  This created a texture covering the entire photograph.  This texture could be further modified by varying depth of field, from relatively soft to sharp and in focus.

Here I mainly lit the background with various colors, rendering Kallie mostly as a silhouette.  Using a relatively wide aperture rendered the texture pleasingly soft for this image.

Here is another example of photographing Kallie through the Chameleon Cloth with the added effect of using a smoke machine.

The final example of using a Chameleon Cloth is this picture of Melissa.  I used strong side lighting and had her stand very close to the Chameleon Cloth, partially touching it.  This created an almost surrealistic image, fading from the recognizable image of Melissa, with the overlying texture of the Chameleon Cloth to just texture.  The strong shadows where Melissa touched the cloth are definitely an added aspect of the appeal of this photograph. 

These examples show that it isn’t necessary, even these days, to use Photoshop to come up with something different.  All that is needed is some imagination, a few accessories and follow through.


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