Wednesday 24 September 2014

Book cover shoot: Write Like a Pro

Write ("skriv") and sell ("sälj") is what Lennart's new book is about: The entire process, from idea to publication.
My friend, author Lennart Guldbrandsson has just published his tenth book, Skriv som ett Proffs (Write like a Pro). It's a book about how to write and sell books, something Lennart knows how to do.

Lennart asked me to shoot the cover photo. The first thing I did was to ask for a draft copy to read, which I did.

There is a lot of useful advice in those pages. I do write a little bit too, so I recognize sound advice when I see it. If I started actually following it, I might be a lot more successful.

Lennart and I met a couple of times to talk about the cover. We even did a somewhat improvised portrait shoot before we got started on the big one.

The idea that turned into the final shot was Lennart's. We wanted something that would make his book stand out, make it visible when it is on a bookshelf, competing with a lot of other books on writing and publishing.

I think we succeeded!

Lennart wrote a blog post about his book. It's over here (in Swedish).

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Droste effect with Pixelmator

I usually do droste effects with special software, but this time I decided to do it with Pixelmator.

The droste effect is interesting, and actually quite simple to do. You take part of a photo, and repeat it, over and over, giving the appearance of infinite repetition.

Here is the original photo. I asked my son, Tim, to hold a piece of colored cardboard, and took the shot.

I used Pixelmator's Paint Selection Tool and Magic Wand Tool to select the cardboard, and then used Edit->Refine Selection... to expand the selection by 1 pixel, and feather it slightly.

Then, I used the Eraser Tool to erase the cardboard, leaving a transparent hole in the photo.

I duplicated the photo, and then shrank and rotated the bottom layer, so it fit into the hole in the top layer.

I merged the two layers, which left me with a new picture with my first recursion, which of course had a smaller hole in it.

Then, I just repeated the process a couple of times: Duplicate, shrink, rotate, merge...

I exported the resulting photo, imported it into Aperture, and gave it a final touch, increasing definition, brightening it, and increasing the saturation just a touch.

Easy to do, and fun.

Thursday 4 September 2014

Victorious: How to turn toys terrifying with Pixelmator

I played with my son yesterday, and this gave me inspiration for an impromptu photo session. I recently hosted a Low Key photography themed Photo & Coffee meeting for people in my photography network, Fototräff i Göteborg (Photography meetup in Gothenburg). Low Key photography was still on my mind.

To take the shot above, used a DSLR and one remote controlled flash. The shot was taken in a living room. I did the following:

  1. Set the camera on manual, and the ISO to the lowest possible setting.
  2. Set the flash to manual, and reduced the strength to its minimum setting.
  3. I put a speed grid on the flash to eliminate light spill. You can use a snoot, or an empty Pringles tube.
  4. I put the action figure on the edge of a table.
  5. I took the shot with the flash above the figure, and angled downwards. The camera was angled slightly up. This creates dramatic shadows, and makes the figure look quite large.
At this point, the photo looked like this:

Fairly good for an improvised shot of a toy, but the look is too shiny and plastic.

Enter Pixelmator, my favorite image editor.

At first, I thought I'd just do a quickie, and add some rain, so I created a new black layer and used Pixelmator's rain generator. I then selected the rain, created a mask that left only the raindrops visible, and changed the blend mode to screen.

I wasn't happy with Venom's tongue. In the original photo it looks very plastic, and I wanted a more organic look. I decided to add some texture by using an old photo of catfish skin. (Yes, I got stuff like that lying around from other projects.)

The catfish skin looked pretty good on the tongue, but even better on the armor, so I decided to keep it. I used a mask to erase it from the Iron Man helmet though.

Next, I selected all the brightest parts of the image, copied them to a new layer, added a tiny bit of Gaussian Blur, did something I don't quite remember (sorry about that), and changed the blend mode to Luminosity. This turned the highlights into gaping black holes. Perfect battle damage.

I used a soft brush with about 10-20% opacity to touch up the picture, mostly by painting on the various masks to hide or display parts of the original photo.

I created a layer for the blood, selected a deep red color, and used two spatter brushes from Pixelmator's Abstract brush set to paint blood around the gashes on the helmet and armor. I changed the blood layer blend mode to Darken. The best blend mode to use for blood can be different on different photos.

The blood looked a bit thin on the helmet, so I copied the blood layer, and erased all blood except the blood on the helmet on the copy. That gave me a bit stronger coloring on the helmet.

The armor looked a bit dry, so I copied it to a new layer, changed the blend mode to Overlay, and reduced the opacity to about 56%.

That gave me a pretty cool look.

Best of all, my son liked it!