Treasures from Snapshots by Jane Conner-ziser - part 1 of 1

by Jane Conner-ziser Published 01/06/2006


Photoshop and Painter have blown the roof off of the product lines portrait studios can offer, and with all of the freedom it's easy to just go crazy! There's a little bit of Rembrandt, Monet and Van Gogh in all of us aye! HOWEVER, when you open the door to your business, it's important to incorporate practical lines of fine art that you know you can sell.

The big sellers for the portrait industry are beautiful photography, photo-realistic oils and classic watercolours. It appears that most people still want portraits that look like them. This means that the customary process of retouching and enhancement in Photoshop and brush painting in Painter will never let you down and are great candidates for top-level portrait items on any photographer's price list.

Beyond that, there is a HUGE market for working with customer files. Offering fine art paintings of treasured antique photographs can really set you apart from the other studios in your area. In addition, having the ability to provide paintings from their favourite snapshots gives them part ownership of the finished piece. They love being involved - but you have to choose the images that will work!

This painting was created from a snapshot a friend of mine took of his granddaughter and sent to me via the internet. His family lives in Australia and he says that they love this picture of her. What a cutie aye!

OK, so it's a REALLY small file from a consumer digital camera and a bit jpegged and ragged around the edges and her forearm and hand are not particularly graceful and her flesh tones are not that great, BUT the head size and expression are soft and sweet, the front lighting resembles a classic butterfly lighting pattern and the breeze is adding an enchanting quality that can be lovely in paint. So let's go for it.


First, Canvas Size was used to increase the canvas two inches on each side to provide room to paint. The image was then res'd up to approximate finished size. At 100% it's a bit blurry - just PERFECT for a classic watercolour! NOTE HERE - it's tempting to over-retouch and enhance portraits which is inappropriate to looser mediums like watercolours and pastels. Relax with these techniques; the beauty of these techniques is that they do NOT look precisely like photographs!

Image/Adjust/ Shadow Highlight was used to open up the shaded sides of the face and to achieve the best overall value and contrast for the image, remembering that watercolours are traditionally light to medium in value and of soft contrast. The hand and arm have to go away which is a major task in Photoshop so I made the decision to just paint over them when we got to Painter.PAINTER

The file with the extended border and image adjustments was opened in Painter, using File/Quick Clone. The head and shoulders were fluffed in using the Cloner/Soft Cloner brush and choosing to Clone Colour in the colour wheel. The Artist/ Impressionist brush was chosen and colours were selected to extend the hair over the hand, create the shaded side of the girl's face and her new shoulder. No attention was paid to detail at this time, just blocking in colours and creating movement in the hair.


Three colours were used for the hair to create highlights and shadows - light wheat, chocolate brown, and golden yellow. Blue and green were also added to the background just around her head and shoulders. A fairly large Blender/Grainy water was used for an initial blend, again, just to block in the painting.

The file was saved and cloned. Focus and details were added to attract attention to the face using small Artist/Impressionist and Airbrush/Detail Airbrush 3. The airbrush was used in the locations needing clean edges and definite shape, like the eyes, lips and shaping of facial features. The impressionist brush was used in less detailed areas like the hair and clothing.

The colours were blended in with the Blender Grainy Water brush. Notice that the background was also reworked slightly for balance and feeling.

I focus on while I am painting watercolours is not to over-paint them. When I first started painting watercolours with a stylus, I think my retouching days were too heavy an influence and I believe my paintings have become better as I have been able to let go of the photograph and enjoy looking


Back in Photoshop, the image was cropped to its final size and resolution. This one ended up a 14 inch square. The balance of paint was enhanced by duplicating the background image, changing the copies to Screen and Multiply blending modes, applying layer masks, hiding all, and painting selected pieces of the lighter and darker areas in here and there. To add a bit of summer feeling, I used Nik Color Effects Pro filters Sunshine. Finally, a bit of sharpening and it's done!

The painting was printed on Hahnemuhle heavy weight Photo Rag art paper using the Epson 7600 printer and UltraChrome inks.

Making paintings from customer files is one of the Galleria's specialties. Our customers love the feeling that fine art can be created from their own photography and the small paintings are profitable for us to do. Advice is to make it smooth painting by making sure the customer knows in advance that fine art requires special criteria and work with them to choose the images that will work up the best for them.

The Author Jane Conner-ziser and Patrick Ciatto own the Galleria del Arte and Jane's Digital Art School in Ormond Beach, Florida. Jane is an internationally recognized retouching artist, painter and instructor. She is also a professional photographer. You can find her class schedule and purchase her Photoshop and Painter DVDs on line at . Email Jane at

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1st Published 01/06/2006
last update 09/12/2022 15:00:00

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