by Tracy Willis Published 01/07/2016
Tracy has five live-in models for her series of images - Barney, Bella, Bonnie, Freya and Murphy. In the headline image of the feature the piano was shot in a local music shop, the bearded dragons in a local pet shop (with permission!).
Just over 60 layers were employed some with image content, others as adjustment layers to harmonise the tones and lighting. Tracy uses layer masks to control the cut out and refines the selection edges with the Edge Refine tool. The attention to detail can only be discerned by close examination of the many layers. For example the concentrated stare of Barney (the white Havanese) is the result of reworking the eyes a little so that you would swear he was looking intently at the music score being turned by the crazy bearded dragon. The enthusiastic grin of Bella only adds to the surreal effect, you get the impression she is not taking things seriously!
We could devote the entire copy of Imagemaker to the techniques of montage but here are some important tips to follow:
1. Never forget that the idea trumps all (sorry about the pun!). It is not worth devoting a lot of time to a poor concept.
2. Plan the image first and make sketches so that you can gather additional images with the correct perspective and lighting.
3. Always use layer masks so that you can refine or change selections as the piece progresses. Always keep an eye on reusing any clever cut-out work, don't do it twice - Ctrlclick on a layer mask copies it for transfer to a new layer mask. Also remember that you can invert a mask using Ctrl-I.
4. Match noise, sharpness and detail through the depth of an image. If a background object is too sharp, blur it. If it is carrying too much resolution add some noise just to that one layer.
5. Shadows are vital to realism - spend lots of time on them.
6. At the end harmonise the tones and lighting and don't forget to add dodging and burning, as needed, to bring emphasis where required.
7. Don't forget to pay the dogs!
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