Thursday, May 27, 2010

How To Be A Better Photoshop Artist

Becoming Rich Creating Stock Photos
I have been invited to make a presentation at the San Francisco Photoshop Users Group next Thursday. I spent the better part of today going through my images and putting the presentation together. That process reminded me of a couple of things. First, how much I love creating images. Ten years ago I thought I would become rich creating stock photos...and I have. But that wealth is not in money, but in being able to spend my time doing something I love so much.

Archimedes, Raw Materials, and Photoshop Artistry
The second thing that struck me was that to become a better Photoshop artist I need to become a better photographer. That old saying, garbage in, garbage out, is as true with digital imaging as it is with anything else. It was Archimedes who reportedly said, "Give me a place to stand and I shall move the earth ". Along the same lines I say, "give me the raw materials, and I can do anything in Photoshop!".  Of course, if you have the right raw materials, creating an image in Photoshop really is easy. For me to become more efficient and to create better images in Photoshop I need to pay more attention to the details of my photo shoots and to prepare more thoroughly.

Visualization, Detail, and Consistency
To become a better Photoshop artist it behooves me to pre-visualize my images in the most detail I can. Visualize exactly how I want the final image to look, and what is necessary for each individual part to work together to create the whole. What angles will I need?  What is the quality and direction of the light…and how can I make sure that the parts I photograph will be consistent in that quality and direction?

Hair, Fur and Stripping Out
Will there be hair and fur…and if so…how will I deal with it? Can I shoot it against a background that will meld with the one I will be putting it into? How can I shoot it in a way that eliminates or best facilitates the stripping-out process? How can I shoot my subject with the appropriate amount and color of light wrap around?

Perspective, Details and Motion
What kind of perspective problems might I encounter? What tiny details will take the image to the next level? Will motion be an issue…and how can I shoot something that will best indicate that motion? If I shoot something in motion, how can I do so in a way that will facilitate that stripping-out process?

Out of Focus, Or Blur Filters?
Will it be better to shoot something out of focus, or use the various blur options in Photoshop? How out of focus do I need to shoot? Do I need a particular kind of sky for a background (you can never be too thin, too rich, or have too many skies!).

A Detailed Sketch, Preparation, and the Best Possible Job
If you want to be a better Photoshop artist pre-plan your image to death. Make a detailed sketch of your upcoming image, number and label each potential problem area, and make sure it is addressed in the photography. That is a habit I developed when creating my Animal Antics imagery.  It is not a bad idea, either, to look at photos similar to what you are undertaking to offer an even more concrete vision of just what exactly you need to do the best possible job. Of course, even with extensive planning and preparation the unforeseen will probably crop up, both good and bad. But you will be way ahead of the game, and if you get into that magical “flow” you won’t have it rudely interrupted by some annoying detail that could have been avoided. Your work will be better, and maybe more importantly, you will have more fun!

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