Concept

Wide Awake

Photography for me was never about capturing moments but making them. I was instantly drawn to directorial photography because I can control every aspect of the photograph. Yet, I am equally attracted to things that I have no control over, like dreams. Dreams are a curious thing. They are ephemeral and seem to be without rules, where laws of physics don’t exist. However, I have noticed one constant: time. Dreams are still bound by time, which connects both realities. We have a finite amount of time no matter the reality. My series “Wide Awake”, explores the idea of dreams and its relation to time. 

For the image that won PPOTY Student of the Year 2013, I used compositing with different photographs I took over the years, which emphasizes the nature of dreams. Compositing is a technique in which you place different images into one image. For me, the most important mindset when making composites is realism. The image has to seem as if it was a moment captured by the camera. 

01 Collecting the Images

Most of the images used for the final image were photographed by me but not all with the intent of being used for this photograph. It is important to be organized and keep a stock of all the photographs you take at its highest quality so you have them when you need to make composites. 

Untitled-1.jpg

02 Masking the Figures

To isolate the figures, I used the masking tool and created a layer mask for every figure. I always zoom in and out to make sure that I define the masks as precisely as I could. To speed up the process, I use a pen tablet. 

03 Assembling the Elements

I usually start with the background and work forward, as it makes it easier for me to place elements easier. When placing elements together, make sure that the light source is coming from the same location and consistent. Make sure that the colors of the elements are also similar and you can manipulate those with the curves tool. When placing elements together, I also employ the same rules of composition as I do when I take a photograph. For this image, I placed the main subject on the center to give it emphasis and impact. 

04 Placing a Light Source

One of my secrets to make composite images realistic is by adding a light source in photoshop. This unites the elements making it more convincing that it is a captured moment. I use the gradient tool set on radial and then play with the opacity until it looks believable. 

05 Adding Reflection

When you use reflective surfaces on composites such as glass and water, make sure that you add reflections as well. Reflections are an easy tool to make audiences “believe” in your image. I often add reflection by duplicating the image then transforming it with the “flip” tool. I then change the opacity and use gaussian blur depending on the situation. 

06 Dodge and Burn

To emphasize the shadows and highlights, I use dodge and burn. I create separate layers increasing and decreasing exposure using the curves tool and then use the mask tool to paint either shadow or highlight. 

07 Adding Blur

I then add blur using the gaussian blur tool to give the image a shallow depth of field. I wanted to further emphasize the main subject by isolation but also make the image more believable. Our eyes do not perceive the world in complete sharpness as they have a specific depth of field. I wanted to recreate that. 

08 Final Touches in Lightroom 

My last step for any image is usually transferring the new image into Lightroom and apply small adjustments. This may be a strange process for most photographers but I feel that applying filters and adjustments on Lightroom really unifies the composite. 

Here is the whole story for "Wide Awake"

I edited these photos mainly using Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom 4. I also used Portrait Professional Studio for retouching. If you have more questions on how I produced these images, feel free to comment here or post on my wall on facebook.

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Rough Landing

This summer, I decided to use my time as efficiently as possible and start my career as a photographer. However, I wanted to approach it differently than others. Most photographers find small jobs to build up their portfolio until they gained enough exposure and experience to get bigger jobs. I wanted to continue my own path of photography by doing personal shoots that portray my own stories rather than others. In my personal opinion, you grow so much more because you are forced to think of concepts. You don’t have a stylist, a fashion director and a make up artist. Everything comes down to your own imagination.

This summer, I had my first ever serious photo shoot entitled “Rough Landing” with model Rhea Schmid. Rhea is an old friend of mine who thankfully gave me the chance to work with her. When you are starting off and trying to build a portfolio, it is best to ask any of your friends if they could model for you. It’s great to start with friends because it is more casual and you can do a lot more experimentation.

The concept for this shoot is “What happens when we think we are lost in the world, but in reality the world is the one that’s lose.”

It is based on my experience, having to study abroad in America. I went through a culture shock. I thought that I knew what living in America would be like through television and the internet. However, I could not have been more lost. That was the feeling that I wanted to portray. Watching a culture from afar and actually living in it are two completely different things.

This is the first shot of the series:

First photo from the series of “Rough Landing”

First photo from the series of “Rough Landing”

As you can see, this is a “composite” photograph. A composite photograph consists of several other photographs taken at different times and placed together in one photo through the means of photoshop or other tools. This process is called “photo manipulation”. There are many ways to create a composite photograph. You can either take the photos yourself or use stock images from websites. Personally however, the best way is to take your own photos.

Most of the time, the purpose of making a composite is to make it look as realistic as possible. The most important tip I can give you when creating realistic composites is to shoot the photos you are going to composite in the same location. This is to ensure that the lighting is consistent throughout the photo. Also, make sure that you shoot the photos in the same point of view.

For this photo, I used three different photos and composite it together. The first photo is the background.

Nikon D800, Shutter Speed 1/400, Aperture f/5.6

Nikon D800, Shutter Speed 1/400, Aperture f/5.6

The second photo are the clouds. I created this image of clouds by looking for “cloud” Photoshop brushes. When creating composites, brushes are one of the most useful tools that Photoshop offers. They are mostly free and easy to find online. When picking out brushes, make sure you get the high resolution one (at least 1500pxl).

Then the last photo is the model. I photographed the model at the same location as where I took the background. This was to make sure that I had consistent lighting. We shot on top of a condominium to get a birds eye view. As you can see, the model is laying on top of a reflector. This is to emulate the reflective quality of clouds (as they are colored white). The most important tip I can give you when working with composites is to plan ahead. Make sure that all the details of the photo match your intent.

Nikon D800, Shutter Speed 1/320, Aperture f/4

Nikon D800, Shutter Speed 1/320, Aperture f/4

All of the photos used in the composite are all in raw. No color correction was applied to them beforehand. This is important in creating unity and realism in the piece. The secret is to apply all filters and color corrections after you composite the photo to unify the piece.

I used this same composite technique for the rest of the other photos in the series. Here are the rest of the photos in the series:

If you have any questions as to how I did the other photos, just leave a comment. You can also write on my wall on facebook.

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