Digital Post-Processing: When The Picture Comes Together

The Sky I'll Never Reach - Redux
The Sky I'll Never Reach - Original photo
My Tormented Mind 2

A poorly executed photoshoot during my beginning years as a photographer resulted in some photos that didn't quite live up to what I had envisioned.

The idea was simple, morbid, but simple: a blood-soaked room featuring a tortured, forlorn girl would represent a trapped, depressed state of mind. I wanted the girl to be framed by a window with a blue sky outside, representing the heights and dreams she is eternally separated from. ... Like I said, morbid, but simple.


I won't bore you with all the details of how poorly this idea was assembled in camera. To say the least, it was rushed, I was sloppy, and everything I tried looked like crap. You can see the original photo on the right.

Years later I came across the photo in my personal archives, and though I still hated it, the concept still intrigued me. I loaded it in photoshop and began playing around with it, but quickly realized that for the picture to have the right impact I had to completely re-imagine the background.


JPG isn't very fond of too much digital artwork, but this picture is supposed to exist in the mind, so the surreal nature that can be created in Photoshop is appropriate I think.

There's a thousand different schools of thought when it comes to photography - some people believe that if you don't create it in-camera it's not a photograph. Others say such notions are archaic and look at the digital realm as the new medium for photography. I'm of the opinion that photography, just like a brush or a pencil or Photoshop, is just another tool for creating art. And as a graphic artist I use all of these things and more to create art. So is this a photo? Yes. Is it digital art? Yes.


I began by re-conceiving the background. Using some stock photos of an old, cracked wall, a peeling window frame and a blue sky, I arranged them behind the model. I overlaid the image with close to a dozen other layers including a victorian wall-paper texture, blood splatters and smears, grungy brush strokes, broken glass, shadows and damage effects.

The model, after being extracted from the original background, was flipped horizontally to match the light source of the background. I also felt there was something symbolic of her facing to the right (to be to someone's right is to be on their good side, the favored position. With the model facing right, it goes to show how correct she believes she is in her hopeless state of mind. ... I'm over-thinking this aren't I?)

The model is actually made up of two images of herself - the first is desaturated by 70 percent. The second is set in an overlay blend mode to merge the two images, drawing out the highlights, darkening the shadows, and softening the colors. There were a few other blend modes that looked just as good, but the overlay mode worked the best to match the model's color tone with the rest of the scene.

Call it what you will

so... great evil or time well spent? You decide. I thought it was a fun exercise and it gave me something to do while I watched "The Replacements." It wasn't a bad movie. My kind of cheerleaders! ;)

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