Photos @ 2003 David B. Brooks, All Rights Reserved
Many times, when I have been
out driving, whether looking for pictures or not, I often catch a glimpse
of an image as I pass along the road. I'll stop, go back, get
out my camera and make some exposures. At other times, if without a
camera, I might catch a quick impression of a picture and that becomes
a remembered perception in my mind. Then, I'll go back later with
a camera to where I visualized the picture. Sometimes I'll make
exposures if I can capture that scene in a way that is reminiscent of
what I remembered seeing.
As time has progressed I have grown increasingly frustrated by what
I am able to capture with a camera because it does not recreate what
inspired me to make a picture in the first place. This doesn't
happen because of my lack of ability to use my camera effectively. In
all modesty, I believe my knowledge and skills have increased over the
years. But over those same years I have come to realize how limited
a camera can be in capturing the pictures that reflect our inner perception
of a scene, our remembrance of inspiration.
Among Photoshop's filter resources on the main menu
bar are several I have found useful for creating image variations,
including Note Paper and Emboss in the Sketch folder, as
well as Glowing Edges in the Stylize folder. I use the latter
most frequently after modifying it with Image Adjustments.
The French philosopher Roland
Barthes, in Camera Lucida: Reflections On Photography, discussed this
dilemma of photography. In that work he made one very revealing distinction
between photography and other creative visual arts. That difference expressed
by Barthes, put simply, is that photography is linked directly and permanently
to its subject, while all other creations of visual representation are
the result of a visual perception of the subject followed by the conscious
direction of the mind. This "direction of the mind" controls
how the artist's hand creates the picture. Although the camera is
indeed under the conscious control of the photographer, it, unlike drawing
and painting, records the subject by embedding reflected light directly
onto the physical media of the photographic process. This irrevocably
ties the image and subject together.
A painter, for instance, can produce a picture solely from memory by putting
on canvas what is in the mind's eye. A photographer cannot make
a picture of just what is in his or her mind, the "remembered perceptions."
A photographer must have the subject in front of his or her camera, and
if what the camera sees differs from the photographer's perception
of what the subject is, so will the resulting photograph differ from how
the scene was first seen and then remembered in the mind's eye.
Glowing Edges filter effect is most useful after the image
has been Inverted. Then, if the resulting colors are likely
to adversely affect the final composite, apply Desaturate
to make it a gray scale. This serves to outline detail and
add texture and detail to the layered composite.
At the time Barthes reflected
on photography, the process was still limited to physical media like film,
which captures the effects of focused light and records an image in silver
or dye, one that is forever bound to its supporting substrate. But once
an image could be either scanned or made directly with a digital camera
a photograph became information, data that could be re-arranged and manipulated
endlessly. When this occurred, the irrevocable bond tying a photograph
to its subject was broken. That freedom makes it possible to "rewrite"
a photograph to match any perception a photographer might have in the
With this revelation, it became my goal to recreate the images I have
taken to look more like the fleeting glimpses of scenes as I visualized
them, "recreating" photographs to become the pictures in my
memory, in my mind's eye.
The following story is about the journey I take, beginning with a literal
image of a subject, and ending, often after many detours and side trips,
at a destination that's more like a personal, mental perception
than what a camera lens records. Your point of departure and your destination
will be different than mine, but by following some of the paths I have
explored you can create a journey that will reach your own personal destination,
and hopefully close to your personal perceptions--what's in
your mind's eye.
Corel's PHOTO-PAINT has a large selection of potentially
useful filter effects listed under the main menu Effects.
In the Art Strokes folder in the main menu Effects drop-down,
the one that I have found most unusual and useful is Sketch
Pad. This filter converts sharply defined image edges to
a dark outline and reproduces smoother image tones with
the appearance of a finely applied colored pencil rendering.
The Tools For The
If memory serves me, the popularity of special effects camera lens filters
peaked by about 1980. It took a much shorter time for computer digital
image filters to reach their zenith and all but the most practical to
largely fade from the marketplace. Most filters made for a camera lens
or an image-editing application that produce a "special effect"
I think, are used once or twice and soon forgotten, like one-song wonders
on the music pop charts. But among all the glittering glass are a few
rough diamonds, which, with a little thoughtful consideration and careful
polishing, can become glittering gems in a toolbox for imaginative image
recreation. Because digital image filters each have a single, identifiable
effect, their signature modification of a photographic image is immediately
apparent and readily recognized. The filter, in essence, presumes much
or most of what the photographer has to say by using it. It is a bit like
the songwriter who gets in a rut and repeats the same few licks in every
song--you soon know the sound by heart, and have little appetite
for more of the same.
If there is a secret to creating effective recreations, it is to have
a good-sized toolbox of "filter" gems and then to use them
selectively and in different combinations, each suited to the unique character
of the original photograph you are recreating. My approach is to use several
filters on an image to create different versions of the original, then
to copy and paste different combinations of these variations to produce
a layered image. I then work with varying transparency levels and layer
effects and blend together. This results in a complex balance that recreates
the "look" of the image in my mind's eye. Very often
I will try numerous combinations in different order and with different
transparency levels or effects. I apply these to the numerous layers before
I find a combination that "works."
Synthetik's Studio Artist 2.0 is an imaging corollary
of a music synthesizer. By referencing the color and brightness
of pixels in a photographic image file, it will then paint
the image stroke by stroke on a new canvas with one of 1500
brushes in the selection included with the application.
Some of the brushes mimic naturalistic pencils, pens, and
paintbrush effects, while others render a photograph as
if painted by a fanciful, imaginary tool. After using Studio
Artist for over two years, out of the 1500 brushes and effects
available I have worked with just a small portion.
The Computer Applications
Used To Recreate Photographs
Adobe's Photoshop or Elements (www.adobe.com)
is my choice as the core editing application to do the final composite
processing. The Filters the program provides also are an excellent resource.
Another image-editing application that is both capable and contains a
large selection of filters that in part differ significantly from the
Photoshop selection is Corel's PHOTO-PAINT. My primary application
to create the variations of saved files to composite however, is Synthetik
Software Inc.'s Studio Artist 2.0 (www.synthetik.com),
which for some is not an option as it is a Mac-only application. For PC
users, Painter 8 (information about both Painter 8 and PHOTO-PAINT 11
is available at www.corel.com)
is quite rich and powerful in producing the kinds of modifications to
a photographic image that work well in composite, layered recreations.
Producing Image Effect Variations
After choosing an image file you want to recreate, the first step in the
process is to decide what your final print image size will be and then
re-size a copy of the file. For instance, if you want to produce a print
with an image size of 11x14", I would suggest planning on a resolution
of 300dpi for the print image. However, special digital effects applied
to that high a resolution produce much too fine a result and will not
be readily apparent in the final print. I recommend using Photoshop's
Image Size with Resample turned on to reduce the image resolution to 100dpi.
Then after all of the processing and layer compositing is completed, use
Photoshop's Image Size with Resample turned on to increase the resolution
back to 300dpi.
Corel's Painter 8 was one of the first computer paint
applications designed to mimic natural media effects. The
earliest versions I explored many years ago demanded a lot
of freehand work and required learning an excessively complex
set of tools. In the latest version since Corel has owned
Painter, the interface has been simplified and is more intuitive.
In addition, this latest version of Painter provides both
automated and hand-controlled clone brush effects.
The next step in the process
is to produce a set of image effects variations of the 100dpi file. After
an effect is applied use Save As and add the name of the effect to the
file name and save the file in a "resource" folder.
I have found that there are three general modifications required. The
first is an image effect that produces a definition of the basic shapes
in the original. The second is an effect that replicates the colors and
brightness of the original by means of a relatively fine texture. And
the third is created by larger and bolder "strokes" of interpreting
the colors and tones of the original. In some instances two of these functions
can be combined. Then again, some original images need four variations
to build a satisfactory recreation. Because the process is very much one
of trial and error, like putting together a puzzle, I may make many more
special effects variations than I will actually use. And, because each
original is unique in content, the blended recreation elements will be
equally unique as a combination of different composite layers. The more
recreations you produce the more you learn about the process and it gets
easier. The more you engage in the process the more recreations work as
images of your mind's eye.
Putting The Variations
Into Layers And Blending
Although I prefer to work with Photoshop or Elements to put the image
variations together by blending the layers to recreate a photographic
image, Corel's PHOTO-PAINT or any other image-editing application
that has layer support can be used. Regardless of what application you
use, be prepared to use lots of patience. Even after making dozens of
recreations I am often frustrated and occasionally completely disappointed
because I cannot find a combination and balance of image blends that works
for me. It is not just putting a certain combination of special effects
image variations together, but also trying them in different order.
So, if you have made six or a dozen variations and tried every combination
and order imaginable, sometimes you have to go back and make even more
special effects variations to discover the one that almost magically provides
the balance of effects that finally works.
Rarely will the simple blending of two layers result in a completely satisfactory
recreation. Usually I find there is something lacking. The effect may
be too bold. (In that case I find that adding another layer might "soften"
it and make the texture more complex and interesting.) Or, using only
two layers does not fill in enough visual information to be representative
of or define the shapes of the subject.
My recommendation is not to be too easily satisfied. Even if you have
blended two or three layers into a composite that is interesting and satisfying,
use Save As and a new file name like "Poppies-X1.tif," and
start over again with a different combination from your folder of image
effects variations. Then once you have made a number of different layered
and blended composites save each as file name-X1, X2, X3, etc. Then you
can compare them one against the other and you may find the one that works
best is X4.
Finishing And Printing
Very often the result of blending layers to make a composite image produces
an image file that may not fully utilize the gamut of what can be reproduced
in a print. This usually requires a Levels adjustment, and possibly a
mid-tone correction to lighten or darken the image. In addition, some
overall saturation is often lost in the blending and you will need to
use Hue/Saturation to restore the color intensity. Less frequently you
will find a need to use Curves to increase contrast or even change the
relative brightness at some level of tone density. Usually this is fairly
minor image tweaking similar to fine-tuning a digital camera image or
a scan made from film to make an ideal print image.
Once your recreation image file is finalized in color, tone, and contrast,
you should restore the resolution using the Image/Image Size dialog with
Resample clicked on and change the resolution from 100 to 300dpi. Please
note that only after the resolution is restored should you apply any image
sharpening. I have generally found a moderate amount of the Unsharp Mask
option will bring out and better define the texture detail in the image.
However, don't overdo the sharpening or the result will be a harsh,
noisy-looking print image.
You can print a recreation image file in the same manner as any digital
photograph. Be aware, however, that the work you have done on the image
might make it print differently than a "straight" digital
photograph. My suggestion is to try a matte, natural, fiber-based paper
for ink jet printing with the recreations you produce. You may very well
agree with my taste and see recreation images look best on an exhibition
style of printing paper.
Image Effect Variations
Once you have re-sized your original photo file, 11x14" by 100dpi
for instance, save it as a newly named file to your desktop, and be
sure from then on to avoid making any changes to the original. Use
Save As and a modified file name once your special effects variation
is applied. This becomes a distinct file that you will use as the
layers to blend together in a composite. (Right) One of the filter
variations I nearly always use is Photoshop's Filter/Stylize/Glowing
Edges. And, I usually Invert the Glowing Edges image effect so the
subject and detail is outlined in black or dark tones. With some subjects,
like softly lit portraits, the Glowing Edges effect is much too distinct
and strong. Instead, to serve a similar purpose I use the Filter/Sketch/Note
Paper. With photographs that have large areas of smooth tones, sparse
detail, and little or no texture, Filter/Sketch/Bas Relief can also
Another filter effect that provides a similar function of defining
the shapes in a photographic subject, but more subtly and with an
addition of fine texture, is the Corel PHOTO-PAINT Effect/Sketch Pad.
The Sketch Pad effect often works well when the Glowing Edges outline
is too bold. (Right) Studio Artist 2.0 also offers several automatic
paint selection "patches" which will define the edges
of strongly contrasted shapes in a photograph. The Preset/New Fun
Stuff and Category/Autopaint 1, with the Patch/Soft Edge Rougher 1,
functioned remarkably well to outline and detail this photograph of
poppies. On other subjects with less distinguished shapes and colors
in the original photograph it is usually less effective. And unlike
the filters in Photoshop or PHOTO-PAINT, Studio Artist will take many
minutes instead of a few seconds to auto-paint an effect on a blank
Studio Artist 2.0's wealth of different "paint patches"
or filters is richest in effects that paint with moderate to bold
strokes. The Preset/New Fun Stuff, Category/Autopaint 1, Patch/Orient
Paint Wet 1 is a good example of a moderate effect that preserves
the broader elements and colors of a photograph but with flourishing
strokes that have a look between a watercolor and oil paint media.
(Right) An example of a Studio Artist rendering that offers a bold
and a distinctly styled rendering of the original image is the Preset/Default,
Category/General, Patch/Creamy Dream Paint. This interpretation is
so distorting that the identification of the subject content is almost
entirely lost. However, blended with more representational image effects,
the subject's identity can be recaptured while maintaining some
of the stylized effect.
Corel's Painter 8 is somewhat like Studio Artist, offering a
diverse selection of Clone brush effects that are quite interpretive.
Painter also provides an added dimension--making the application
of the effect selective by allowing you to manually apply the brushed
Clone information on the new canvas by hand with a mouse or tablet
pen. Thus you can paint in just what you want from the original photograph
and leave portions of the canvas unpainted. Or, you can choose to
use alternate brush effects to paint in different parts of the canvas.
(Right) The first step in putting two special effects variations together
is selecting one to open in Photoshop to become the base or background
layer. Because this layer is the foundation it essentially remains
constant. I would suggest starting with a special effects variation
that contains much of the color and tone of the original.
The Variations Into Layers And Blending"
To create your second layer use the menu bar command Edit/Paste. Then
open the Layers Palette on screen. You will see that there are two
layers. The one that is highlighted at the top is the one you just
created by using the Paste command. At the top of the Layers Palette
window there are two control tabs. The one on the left is the Mode
drop-down, which has numerous possibilities you may want to experiment
with, but the only one other than Normal I have found particularly
useful is Multiply. Click on it and see what happens to your image.
The background variation and the one you just pasted together are
now blended together. Another way to blend is to leave the Mode Normal
and then use the Opacity slider at the top right of the Layers Palette
window to make Layer 1 that you have pasted in partly transparent
so the background layer is partially seen through. This effectively
mixes the two images together. (Right) Once a satisfactory blending
level is achieved between two special effects layers the resulting
image may be too dark or light. You can go to the menu bar Layer/Merge
Visible to make the two layers one. Then open the Image/Levels dialog
to tighten any space without image data at either end of the gamut.
Then adjust the mid-tone triangle on the slide under the histogram
to left or right to lighten or darken the image.