Tutorial: Eva and Blackbird

14 Aug

This is a quick explanation of my process to create this photo. If you are not familiar with Photoshop layers, selection tools, and filters, it will be a bit difficult to follow, as I do not explain in detail all of the actions I used. An intermediate user who is familiar with Photoshop tools will find this a challenge, but simple enough to follow. An advanced user won’t even bother to read this, as they should already know the general idea of how I created this composite.

1. I started with the photo of Eva and a photo of the blackbird. When I was searching for a photo of the blackbird, I made sure its leg positioning and body positioning would make sense in the photo with Eva.I used the photo of Eva as the original layer, and then went to the photo of the bird and selected the blackbird using the pen tool. I feathered the selection by 1 pixel, then copied the selection to a separate layer on top of the original blackbird photo. I used the lasso tool to select all of the tiny details, hairs and feathers of the bird, then copied that layer on top of the blackbird selection layer. I then used the eraser on that layer to clean it up. This is a time-consuming process; if you want it to be perfect you should spend the majority of your time on this selection. Selection techniques vary, but I like to use the pen tool. Try your hand at magnetic lasso, lasso, etc. There are even ways to use the color channels to make a selection. I will not get into that, as it could be an entire tutorial on its own. Merge the bird selection and feather layers, but leave the original photo as the background.

2. Next I dragged the bird onto the photo of Eva. You may need to resize the bird in order to scale it properly. Use the shift key to maintain the dimensions of the bird, otherwise it will appear skewed and thus, AMATEUR. I positioned the bird over her hand, and made sure the legs aligned with her fingers. I had to use the transform tools to get the bird’s feet to appear wrapped around her hand. This is in the Edit>Transform menu. Also, I used the Liquify filter to nudge the feet and get them perfect. This is in the Filters>Liquify. Use the Smudge Tool under the Liquify filter in this instance, although this is a powerful filter and can be used in a variety of situations. Again, the Liquify filter is a tutorial on its own.

3. The layers are still separate at this point. I burned Eva’s fingers under the bird to give the appearance of shadow, so it looks like it’s really there. Everything casts a shadow. VERY IMPORTANT thing to remember when compositing. Many a Photoshop fumble has been made with the failure to give things shadows. Also, I used the dodge tool to lighten up the bird, so that the lighting on the bird and Eva was about the same. Try to look at the photo as a whole and make sure the lighting matches. This is key in making the composite blend and look natural.

4. Next I adjusted the color of the bird. The original photo of the bird had a very warm tint, with gold in the highlights. I used the Adjust menu to lower the saturation and then used the color balance to bring some more blue into the bird, until the blacks and highlights of the bird matched the blacks and highlights of Eva.

5. You can add a Photo Filter to warm it up or cool it down and further bind the composite together. Also, adjusting color, saturation and hue on the whole photo helps to blend it. Use your own judgment and preferences to adjust color on the entire photo.

And that’s it. Pretty simple. This process may take a few hours, because there is a lot of precision work involved in the selection.

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