Miniature Life Tutorial

Title

In the past few months I’ve received quite a few requests and questions around creating a tutorial for how I do photos like these, making myself miniature! I’ve been meaning to write a tutorial for how I achieve this look but haven’t had much time to sit and write one out, until now!

I’ll break the tutorial down into two parts, shooting the actual images and then editing them.

Shooting The Photos!

The first thing I always try to before I take any photo but especially these miniature ones, is make sure that I have a solid concept and an idea of any props or supplies I might need. The more prepared you are for shooting, the easier the entire process becomes. From my experience, shooting miniature scenes works best with simple backgrounds like walls, windows, or lush forest areas. If you have a busy background, even one with a lot of bokeh it can be difficult to make the images match in lighting.

Once you have your concept and your location it’s time to shoot. Here is where you really have to put yourself into tiny shoes and imagine what the scene would look like if you were only an inch tall. I think one of the ways to make these photos look as realistic as possible is to have the focussing and DOF spot on. To do this, you don’t want to just take a photo of an empty scene, you want to have a stand-in for yourself or your model so that the focus is accurate and appropriate to the scene you’re trying to create. I usually use this guy:

wall-e stand in

This Wall-e figure is a great stand-in, it allows me to set the focus on where I will be layering in my own image or the image of someone else and it also gives me the opportunity to use shadows. Shadows and reflections are some of the smaller details that really help to build up an image and by using a toy stand in (lego figures would work too) it allows you to not only set up your focus and scene but also keep and use the shadows that the toy casts.

IMG_7959

After you’ve set up your stand-in and you have the focus where you want it, lock the focus. Take a few shots with your stand-in and then remove it to get some photos of what we’ll call the “blank scene”. This is where you can get creative, you can do an expansion if you like or keep it to one shot. You can start to add in new elements (dropping coffee beans) or you can leave it simple.

Blank Scene

Blank Scene

Once you’ve finished with your blank scene it’s time to take the portrait side of the image. This is where things get a bit more particular. I always try to shoot everything in the same time frame and in the same location as possible so that the lighting and colouring looks as similar as can be. What I tend to do is look back into the first few images of my stand-in to see where my pose should be but more importantly where the camera angle should be. If you’re shooting the miniature at floor level, it means that you might have to sit on a chair or get your camera lower to make sure the angle and shadowing is similar. This is where you can go a little crazy with the photos, take more than you think you need to and check your results often so that you can adjust pose or angle if you need to. After you’re happy with the images, it’s on to editing!

Self

shootingtips

Editing!

The first thing I always do is open up my blank scene photos and expand them (if you’re not doing an expansion, skip this part!) I usually include a layer using my stand in, just in case I need to use the shadows later on. If you’re not familiar with how expansions work, I do have a tutorial here that explains it! http://joelrobisonphoto.wordpress.com/2012/04/13/an-expansion-tutorial/

After you’ve set up your blank scene, it’s time to add in your Mini. Depending on the images, it can be as simple as layering the mini images in and simply masking out the parts you don’t want but usually it involves resizing the “mini” layer to fit the scene.

Resizing the “mini” layer is where things can get tricky. You have to keep in mind the original scene that you set up, how tall was your stand in and what is the focus set to? If you shrink yourself too small or not enough, it sets everything slightly off. So, using a lot of trial and error simply resize this “mini” layer. I usually mask the layer roughly first just to get the sizing right and then do a clean up after I’m happy with it.

unprocessed

So now you should have the basis of a “mini” shot! This is where those finer details come into play. In the shot below, I knew I would need to have a shadow of my arm and hand over the egg, so using the layer with Wall-e I copied his shadow and layered it into the image. I also knew that there’d be some more shadows needed around my feet and legs so using the burn tool I lightly burned the area to darken the shadows. Sometimes I also use the soften brush on a low opacity to add some DOF to the “mini” layer, this is helpful to give some realistic DOF. Just by doing a very subtle soften of shoulders, knees or other body parts that are a bit further away from the camera it helps to give a more cohesive and finalized look to the mini layer.

Finished

If you’re unsure of shadows or reflections, just return back to your stand-in shot to see where things should be and if you need to add in any final details. Once you’ve finished with the smaller details, you can continue to edit the colour tones, curves, textures etc of the image all at once!

editingtips

As always, if you read this tutorial and you enjoyed it please comment below and if you take a miniature photo, please send me a link! I will be drawing a name from all the people who create an image based on this tutorial and that winner will receive a very special “mini” themed prize!

Floating Orbs and Planets Tutorial

Hello!

It’s been an interesting few weeks since my last post. I’m hoping to become more active on this blog and in the next few weeks I’ll be organizing things and trying to make it more of what I want it to be, sometimes with all the various social media networks this blog gets pushed to side and I want to turn it into more of an interesting and engaging place to check out!

With that said, I thought I’d post a tutorial that goes along with the photo that I worked on today. It’s similar to a photo I posted for Earth Day earlier this year and had a few people request a tutorial for. I’ve used this technique a few times in these images:

it’s quite simple and doesn’t require too much time or Photoshop knowledge.

Step 1 :  The photos

In order to give the effect of having something bright emitting a soft glow, I take my photos in a darkened room and change my camera settings to about a 1/6 second exposure. I took two main shots of myself holding a fishbowl that I filled with yellow christmas lights. In order to make the final image look like I’m cupping a floating sun, I took two identical photos just switching which hand I held the bowl with. 

 Here’s the starting image:


Here is after adding the second image (opposite hand holding the bowl) and then using a layer mask to get rid of any parts I didn’t want:

 

Then I expand my scene by taking additional photos of the wall and floor. To make sure my shadows stay as similar as possible, I always move my camera to face the next area and then return to the spot I was sitting at and resume the pose with the light. You don’t have to expand your scene but I always like lots of negative space :)

Step 2: The Editing
After you’ve added your layers to expand your frame (or not) now it’s time to add the effects!  The first thing I do is colour over the lighted bowl with an orange-yellow colour, this helps to cover up the wires or shapes of the bowl and lights.

I found this stock image on DeviantArt and it was the perfect sun for the image I had in mind., DeviantArt is a great resource for stock images, just make sure you read the description on the image, some artists don’t approve of non-deviantart related use and some just want a link back to see what you’ve done.

I add the sun onto the image as a new layer and then change the blending mode to “SCREEN” (you might need to play around with h the blending mode to see which you like the most). I changed the opacity to about 85% just to give it a bit of a transparent “gaseous” look. Then using a layer mask I got rid of any harsh lines or unwanted parts to the layer.


Almost done!

The next few steps are optional and really depend on what kind of image you want to create. In the case of this image I wanted to heighten the glow effect, so I added a radial gradient, changed the colours to a mustard yellow and then the blending mode to Linear Dodge and the opacity to 23%. This adds a nice glow to the whole image and can make your shadows pop out.  Play with the colours. blending modes, and opacity to see which you like the most!

This next part is totally optional but I thought I’d include it just to show the progression to the final image.  I like to add a bit of depth to the wall behind me by adding in a vintage wallpaper texture. I’ve had the texture for a few years and can’t seem to find the source link. You could look up vintage wallpaper textures on any stock website and add it to your image. I add mine as a new layer, change the blending mode to overlay and then lower the opacity. Then with a layer mask and soft brush on black I get rid of the wallpaper covering up the main part of the image (me in this case). 

I also added a texture to add some fine details, the texture came from Flickr user Les Brumes.

That’s it! Now you can hold as many floating, flaming planets, orbs and objects as you like!

I hope that you enjoyed reading this tutorial and that if you end up trying this technique on one of your own images, you’ll post a link in the comments!

An Expansion Tutorial

Well, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted and an even longer time since I’ve posted a tutorial!  For me, planning tutorials isn’t really the difficult, I have a list of them that I want to post, it’s the actual part of putting them together that I’ve been ignoring. I’m really hoping to grab the reins on this blog and put more energy and effort into making it a one-stop for all sorts of news, information, and resources so this is my attempt at kick-starting it again!

One of the tutorials I’ve been asked for the most is one on expansions, making an image much larger than what is captured in camera. This technique is sometimes referred to as the “Brenizer Effect”. First off let me just say that there are countless tutorials, videos and resources to give you an even better understanding on how to expand your frame. I’ll list a few links I’ve found at the end of  this post.

Let’s get started!

So the first thing to consider when you’re expanding your frame is make sure that you have all the images that you need to do so. You can expand your frame from just a single photo but it’s really tough and takes a considerable amount of time. When you’re shooting your photo, whether it’s a self-portrait, a portrait of someone else or even a landscape or still life photo, take in as much of the surrounding backdrop as you can. Typically what I do when I shoot is I take the “main” image and then I switch over the focus to manual focus and then I take photos of the background, moving in clockwise pattern from right to left. I usually take more photos than I think I’ll need, just to make sure that I have what I need to work with. For the photo below, I actually had 15 images but only ended up using about 8 of them in the final photo.

Once you have your images, the fun starts!

Step 1:

 Open up all your images in Photoshop and then open to your “main” image.  Here is my first image, what we’ll call the “main” image. 

Step 2: 

Expand your canvas size by clicking Image —> Canvas Size.  This part is totally up to you and depends on how big you want your final image to be, if you have a large scene to expand you’ll want to expand your canvas quite large. I typically start with a canvas of 300cm by  300cm (which is pretty big) but then you can always crop or expand wider if you need.

Step 3:

Once your canvas is widened, now you can start to add your new layers. It doesn’t really matter where you start, but I usually start with the images that are closest to the “main” image.

Go to one of your other images (in this case the image that will fill in the immediate left of me) and select/copy it.  In your main image, paste this new image into a new layer over top. Now line up this layer to match where it fits the image below, you might need to lower the opacity a bit to be able to see behind it and line it up.

 

 

Step 4: Masking

In Photoshop, apply a layer mask over this second layer.

Then making sure you have black as your paintbrush colour and a large soft brush, paint over the hard edge of this layer in the mask mode. You should start to see your main image appear. Paint over anything that you want to get rid of and don’t worry if you paint over too much, you can make it reappear by painting it back with a white brush. 

Step 5: 

Repeat steps 3 & 4 with all the other images you need to fill in your background. You can automate Photoshop to stitch your images together but I find that doing it manually helps you to create the image from scratch and see the final image being created. 

As you add in and mask all your layers, you can either expand your canvas again to bring more space into the image or you can crop it. In my photo , I just left it as 300cm by 300cm.  This is 6 layers which only took about 5 minutes to add in and mask.

That’s really all that it takes to expand your frame!  This was a fairly simple image to work with but here are some tips for successful expansions!

- remember your focus! -  always make sure that you lock your focus into manual mode so that all your images have the same focal point, this is key to creating a seamless expansion

- lighting/shadows – If you’re expanding in a space where the lighting is changing or you need shadows, remember to set up your additional images to capture that. In photos where I’ve been in my living room with a wall behind me, I’ve taken the main shot, then moved the camera and taken another shot with me in the same position to make sure that the shadow remains intact

- busy backgrounds -  The more neutral the background the easier your expansion will be, keep in mind that backdrops like  tiled floors, wallpaper, bricks and tiny twigs and branches can be difficult to line up when you’re adding them to your main image, it’s doable but will take a bit more time.

- gaps - sometimes even if you take a lot of photos you might end up with a few gaps in your stitching, if this happens you can just clone in some of the nearby background into these gaps. In the photo above, I had a few spots in the grass that I had missed while taking my photos so I just cloned in some surrounding grass and this helped to cover up any white space.

Here are a few links including a vide on how to automate this effect:

http://blog.buiphotos.com/2009/07/the-brenizer-method-explained-with-directions/
http://www.ryanbrenizer.com/2011/05/brenizer-method-instructions/
I hope that this tutorial helps explain this technique and that if you haven’t already tried expanding you frame, that you’ll try it out! 

See you again soon!

Levitation Tutorial (and giveaway!)

It’s been a while since my last tutorial but I wanted to wait until  I had the right photo in mind before writing one, I hope that you find this one as informative and fun as the previous ones :)

So this is what I think is the easiest way to do a levitation type photo, there are endless ways for you to interpret this style and editing and I hope that it gives you a good starting point for creating your own floating, flying, levitating photos.

First off, I’ll say that the most important parts of doing a levitation photo are basically to have a base image with nothing in it, and your main focus image. For the tutorial I’ll break it down into three main points; the set-up, the photos, and the processing.

Part 1: The Set-Up

So one of the key points of doing a levitation photo is to have something to sit, stand, lean, lay on. I’ve used anything from stumps, stools, chairs, even an ironing board. Use what you think is going to give you the best height, and will be the easiest to bring in and out of your setting. Keep in mind you want the surface of what you’re going to be on, to be rather small that way you don’t have to worry too much about creating a large flat section of your clothing when you’re laying or sitting on your item.

this is what I found in the field to lean on….probably not too safe

Part 2: The Photos
Once you have your scene set up with your resting item (we’ll call it your seat),  you can start shooting. I usually take a lot of images at this point just so there are more to choose from, change your pose often so that in case you want to borrow parts from one image and add it to another, you can (like flying scarves, different hand positions etc…) If you’re wearing something that’s loose try to drape it over the edge of your seat so that when you are editing, you can create a more natural looking line. Also, try not to hide anything behind your seat, make sure your hands and legs aren’t hiding behind the seat!

Once you’re done shooting what we’ll call your “focal image” go to your camera and set the focus from Auto to Manual (usually on the side of the lens, switch to MF). That way from now on, your photos will all have the same focus length. Now you’re going to need to take your base image which is going to be the exact same as your “focal image” just without you in it. Remove your seat from where it was and then take a few pictures without moving your camera, you should have the same image as your “focal image” just without anything but a background. From this point you can take any additional images you need to fill the frame or expand.

Part 3: The Processing

In your editing program, open up all your images. We’ll be working with your “base image” (aka the image with just the background).  If you’re expanding your frame using stitching presets or manually do that now with your “base image”.

expanded frame

Now, open up your “focal image”, select the whole thing and copy it. Now paste it in as a new layer onto your “base image”. Lower  the opacity of your “focal image” and then get it to match as closely as possible to your “base image”, then you can put the opacity back up to 100%.

matching both layers

With a soft eraser tool, start to erase your “seat” from the “focal image”. You should be seeing the background starting to show up. Erase all of your seat and any other parts of that layer that you don’t need. This is pretty much the basics of doing a levitation image.

You can at this point do any other editing like changing tones, curves, levels etc…you can also add in other parts of other “focal images”. For this photo, I liked the flying scarf from another photo so I pasted it in as new layer and softly erase the hard edges until it matched  the rest of the image. At this point I also added the snitch and the “broom” part of my broom.

after the "seat" has been erased

I hope that this short tutorial helps you out and I’m really excited to see you try it out. In fact, I’m offering a give-away of some custom made Harry Potter props if you try out this tutorial and share it either in the comments below, on my facebook page or linked on Flickr. All you need to do is let me know that you’ve tried this tutorial and I’ll add your name to the hat and 3 weeks I’ll pick a winner! I made the “golden snitch” in this photo, as well as some other Harry Potter props like a wand and some other goodies and I’ll send them to the winner :)

Patronus Tutorial!

It’s not exactly a secret that I’m a big Harry Potter fan, I’ll admit that it took me a while to actually read the books but once I did, I was hooked! It’s a story that has so much visual goodness that it’s easy to get inspiration from it and create art based on it’s characters, words, and themes. Back in July when the final movie was being released I did a few photos based around the books/movies and one of my favourites was one based around the Patronus Charm mentioned in the books.

Patronus Charm:  “Conjures an incarnation of the caster’s innermost positive feelings, such as joy or hope, known as a Patronus. A Patronus is conjured as a protector, and is a weapon rather than a predator of souls: Patronuses shield their conjurors from Dementors or Lethifolds, and can even drive them away.”

When I was coming up with a list of tutorials I’d like to do on my blog, the patronus tutorial was one that jumped right to the top. Last week I wanted to work on the image and thankfully my dear friend Sabby agreed to my model! Hopefully the tutorial is easy to understand, I’d LOVE to see you guys create your own Patronus images :)

Step 1 (optional) -
I’m starting from the very beginning of the photo, this is the “bare” image straight out of the camera. Because I used a fixed focus lens, I always expand my frame which essentially means that I take the main photo you see here, and then change my focus to manual and then take about 20 photos of the background. Then in photoshop, I expand the canvas size (for some reason 300cmx300cm is my number, and then add each photo onto a new layer and work at getting them all to match up.  You don’t have to worry about this step, but I thought I’d start from the very beginning.

you can click on the images to make them bigger :)

^—– before expansion

^——- after expansion

Step 2 (Flying Scarf)
This is another optional part, but I think it adds a bit of dramatic flair to the final image. While taking the main photo of Sabby, I also took another one of her scarf in the air, just by using my timer and flipping the scarf up to catch it flying. Then I just added the scarf on as new layer and matched it as closely as I could to the original photo.

 

Step 4 (Light)
This is where the fun part comes in, and the part that you can start to be creative. To achieve the “bright light” that a patronus charm would give off, I use a series of “fractal brushes” from deviant art (link below). The brushes are used on a new layer with screen as the blending mode. I use a light bluish green tone, but really you could any vivid colour, play with what looks best for you. Same with the brushes, you can use a variety of different brushes to get different effects.

In this layer, I also added a dark gradient (add a new fill layer and set it to radial gradient and then to forground to transparent mode). Then you just drag and click to add the gradient to the part of the image you’d like to be a little darker, for this type of image I usually like to make the outer part of the photo quite dark to highlight the lightness of the spell. Play around with this step and you can create neat effects.

Step 5 (Adding your patronus)
This is another creative part! Sabby chose (well, actually I chose based on our conversation) to have a white horse be the animal that is coming out of her wand. Once you choose your animal, locate a silhouette image of that animal. Add it into your image on a new layer. Invert the image so that the animal is now white (CTRL-I) and then get rid of the black (I use the magic brush and delete). Then duplicate this layer and blur the duplicate using a Gaussian blur, you dont’ want a large blur but enough that it takes away the rough edge of the silhouette.

Step 6 (Fancy Stuff)
Now, duplicate your animal layer again and this time colour it in (paint bucket is fine) with the same hue as your lights/brushes from step 4. You should have a blue/green animal. Set the blending mode to screen and blur this layer to give the silhouette a coloured-hue around it. As you did in step 4, play with different brushes (on screen mode and using a bright colour) and try new things. I like to give off little trails of light so I use brushes that give that effect. You can find links to all the brushes I used at the bottom of the post. I usually end up applying a soft blur to this layer as well just to get rid of any harsh lines.

Step 7 (Final Touches)
Now that you have the hard part out of the way, it’s time to have some more fun. It looks like a big jump from the last image to this one but it’s really only a few small steps. First a couple of radial gradents, the first was that same blue/green colour that should match your other colours from the last steps, I use this just to create a nice radial blur of colour, set this layer to screen mode and have the gradient  positioned over the wand/brush/animal . Then I add another radial gradient set to muplitply mode and with a darker tone, this radial gradient should cast a darker tone over everything but the wand/brush/animal. Blur both these layers.

In my image I played with the curves, levels and colour tones of the image but you don’t have to do this if you don’t want to. It’s interesting to use the colour balance tool to give everything an even hue but you certainly don’t need to do this. I also added some cloud textures to enhance the sky, but again not necessary. To add another dimension to the sky I painted over the clouds with a pink brush set to “soft light” and on a low opacity just to give it some colour.

Final Image:

Resources!
Fractal Brush
Sparkle Brush

- Sihouette-

How to Load Brushes