We all have those uninspiring, middle-of-the-road, photos. Matter-of-fact, we probably have many more mediocre shots than beautiful breathtaking shots. Everyone shows off their great shots on Facebook, Pinterest, and other social media sites but what are you doing with the others. I hope you're saving them. There are many reasons to treat them as you would those that have that "Wow Factor".
I have been at this for well over twenty years which means I have thousands of shots sitting in my library seldom seen, except by clients looking for a specific shot. I comb through my library often, looking for a shot that might inspire me, something I think I might improve on by blending with another photo or taking extreme measures like a grunge finish. I call these photo illustrations. My definition of a photo illustration is a composition created by manipulating a photograph beyond reality. This can be one photograph or blending of multiple photographs. Highly altered photos in Adobe Photoshop and/or with plug-ins that result in an unrealistic finish or misrepresents the actual subject fall under my definition of a photo illustration.
This photo illustration was created by combining parts of three photographs and manipulating them with multiple plugs-ins and Photoshop. Like most professional photographers, when I'm in the office I've got lots of busy work and don't have a great deal of time to simply play around. I spent two days creating this illustration, but it was maybe two hours on the first day and another hour the next. I stopped working on the photo after a couple of hours the first day not happy with the results. Originally, I placed a lighthouse in the distant background with light beams gleaming through a light fog cover. The seaside village was not a part of the original. I simply needed time away to think it out.
I started with a cutout of the yellow wooden boat placing it into the sky. I used the transform tool to reshape the boat slightly giving it a tilt. I wanted viewers to use their imagination and felt the tilt would allow this to happen. I needed water, instead of finding an existing photo with water, I created water with a wonderful filter called "Flood" by Flaming Pear. This would give me the reflections I wanted from the boat.
The village was cut and placed in position from its original photo. Before placing the village I ran a very slight gaussian blur and ran the Soft Focus Filter from Nik Color Efex Pro adding a slight out of focus appearance. These two steps gave the village the distant look it needed.
I ran the flood filter twice, one for the boat and the second for the side side village. The reason for running the filter twice was the flood filter hides everything in its path, the boat in my case although I needed the water to run beyond the boat. Once the Flood filter was run the second time (to the horizon) I used a mask and painted the boat and its reflections back into the composition.
The final steps after the pieces are in place is to create an atmosphere. This requires a little experimentation playing with the many tools most of us have in our tool boxes. I created the lightening bolts with Alien Skin Eye Candy. I purposely kept these subtle, I didn't want the lightening to distract from the boat. I then used Auto FX Mystical Suite software, "Dreamy Photo" to create the soft dreamy look. I added a slight vignette to help bring the attention to the boat. This was created using the darken/lighten center in Nik Color Efex Pro. A couple optional touches, I adding film grain, which I love, because it adds depth and texture. The final step, adding a frame around the picture. I do this sometimes, simply because. These final two steps were created using Nik Color Efex Pro.
Final thoughts. As you can see from this illustration, the three photographs I used were not photos I would post on social media. These are not those eye catching images people are accustomed to seeing on social media created by photographers. With a little experimentation, a little creativity and a lot of fun I turned three mediocre shots into one pretty cool photo illustration worth sharing with other photographers and on social media. Save all your photos and you just might find a need for them later down the road.
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