Using Backgrounds to get Arty and Have Fun

I’m no expert. I’m really not a techy, as I’ve said before. But with practice in Photoshop, it’s not too difficult to make some arty looking images from pictures of your friends. You might even be able to make an image of them that will make them smile. It all started when my photography magazine arrived with some free backgrounds and basic instructions on how to use layers to overlay another shot. So I thought as Christmas is coming you may want to try it and perhaps surprise a friend or two with a unique present.

You need a background images to start with. Mine in the shot above was one of the downloads offered with the magazine CD. However, since then I’ve been busily taking my own collection for future use. Scroll down to have a look at the kind of ideas you can use. I’d recommend that you take your own background shots at the same resolution and size as the image you want to overlay.¬†This will make the layers easier to align and merge together.




Now, below I’ve used a background I shot myself of a slab of rock on a beach (background3, above). It was a landscape image and I wanted it to be portrait to fit my image of my friend the comedian Randy Wornhole. So I rotated the image by 90 degrees.

Randy Wornhole

The combined layers merged.

Assuming you now have the images on your computer as jpg, now open the background image. You might want to play around with how light or dark this background layer is. As you’ve overlaying someones’ face, or perhaps an animals profile, you don’t want it to disappear into too dark a background. Don’t worry about this too much, however, as you can still alter it later. Try to choose an image with a very simple background so you can cut out the person’s outline using the quick selection tool.¬† Now on the top bar of Photoshop, go to window-arrange-float in window. Using the move tool, drag the outlined image into the window of the background image and move it around until you like how it’s lined up. You now have two layers.

In the layers bar (bottom right) double-click on the top layer and you’ll see a menu come up on-screen. Now you can blend this layer with the background. Try different settings. This screen allows you to view your experiments as you play. I’ve found the blending mode the most useful, and in Randy’s image I used multiply with an opacity of 92 and in advanced blending, a fill opacity of 71. I didn’t like the effects of any of the blending options on the styles list for this image, but did use them for the picture of my son above. It all depends on your picture and background choice as to what will work for you. You may at this stage decide the background is too light or too dark. Simply click on the background layer and alter this shade either using curves or exposure.

Once you are satisfied with your results, you’ll need to close the blending window and choose layer-flatten layer to save as a jpg. Have fun with it. Be aware that I’ve tried quite a few different images before I found ones that really worked for me. This is another chance to play! The image below is one I teased a friend with. I managed to line up the bark on the background with his face and chin, and it gives him an ancient, gnarled look. He did laugh, honestly.


Creativity In The Face Of Adversity

Frozen cage

Here’s a lesson I’ve learned. I thought I’d pass it on. There’s is ALWAYS a way to make a negative into a positive if you look hard enough. Yesterday I woke to my computer throwing a strop. Nope, can’t find server. No, can’t get email. Sigh. What now. Well, to cut a long story short, writing my blog, getting some new photos and working on my website had to be put to one side to fix the bloomin’ PC. It took all day, lots of trial and error, the blue screen of death at one point and finally backing up everything in safe mode before giving up on it for the day. I have my laptop, but only got it last week so all my photos and editing software aren’t installed. So I was stuck.

Spooky Tree

I sat down about 11pm having decided that the PC would have to go and be sorted under its’ guarantee thoroughly fed up. Then I went to the window and saw my squirrel-proofed bird feeder and had an idea. Despite being tired, the idea gave me the kick I needed to get my camera and go out in minus ten for a quick experiment. Using the on board flash and manual focusing via light from the window, I took a few shots. Here are the results. I shot in RAW, reviewed the results on camera and poured myself a nice, warming brandy. Today while I was at an important appointment my partner took my PC to be sorted, bless him. Then, I sat down tonight and did a bit of photo editing.

The bird feeder, as with the other shots, was lightened using exposure control to get the white really white (flash gave me a grey cast as it was so dark). Then I adjusted light and shade using the curves control. For the spooky tree, I also adjusted, in the black and white controls, the colour sliders. (This might seem strange, but colours have shades in black and white that can be adjusted one by one to get the shades as you want them. I wanted to darken some of the branches to make them stand out more).

Frozen Branches

I hope you like the results. Please let me know if you do.

So, out of a rotten day I managed to come up with something that at least made me feel I’d got something positive out of the day. I have a full up to date backup of all my work, a new idea that for me has worked and I also have my blog. Now it’s all yours. Remember, creativity can rule over adversity!

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