Living a dream as a photographer & filmmaker

Making a surreal photographic portrait -- 5 photos composited to make the final image

In this post I will talk about making a surreal portrait (definition) photograph. As an example, I will use the photo I made a few years back titled “My Way” - a surreal portrait of Scott, in which 5 photos were composited together to make the final image.

The prep.

The photo of Scott was taken during one of the Visual Content and Form classes. I took 2 images of the sink, because of the positioning of the handles looked weird in the first one. I also took a photo of a spoon (the plate didn’t make it in the final image, obviously ;). I took NYC photo a few years prior.

And here's the final image:


I wanted to keep elements to a minimum, thus strengthening the effect of each element on the viewer. The image designed to have a “mirror” quality, so that the viewer can “identify” with Scott by seeing through his eyes (his face reflected in the sink).

The piece is designed to look a bit like a painting; various elements were manipulated to achieve that look (by having texture, shadows, and depth). The face was blended to have an over saturated look, while allowing water texture in the sink to show through. The background (NYC) was blended to have a soft look and be barely visible, providing the texture. The sink composite was constructed from two images, where a left knob was replaced by a knob in the “open” position.

Various subtle techniques were employed at the final stage of compositing, like adding side shadow to the spoon, applying a slight vignette to the whole image, and other small adjustments to brightness/contrast/saturation. This version of the final image [which in 2008 was submitted to FotoDC / National Geographic contest and won 1st place] was also processed in Adobe Lightroom to have raised local contrast.

  • Techniques: layer Blending, layer compositing, vignetting.
  • Elements: sink, sink knob (left), NYC aerial, Scott, spoon.
  • Tools: Adobe Photoshop CS3, Adobe Lightroom.

So, whacha think? Leave your feedback in the comments below! You can also share your surreal portrait photo!

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