Google Bob Coates and you'll see that he is a photographer of many layers (pun intended – read on). Not only does he display his diverse knowledge of techniques and imagery by using various websites to attract customers (commerical, wedding, fine art), but he also provides a unique style through the use of textures and layering.
Personally, I fell in love with layers at Julieanne Kost’s PAC presentation during the last PPA National Conference in Phoenix.
Other presenters, like Jared Platt, have shown me that you can answer the question “is that a photograph or a painting?” with “It is what it is.” (versus my previous explanation of “yes, it’s a photograph, but I brought it into Lightroom 5 and then processed it by lightening the shadows and adding a Gaussian blur to the background and adjusting the sharpness and noise and changing the overall tonal range”…which people don’t really care about anyway.)
Bob Coates presentation added to that knowledge some great resources for the photographer who wants to explore the use of layers and textures as well as techniques to add to my library.
I’m not sure if any this is possible without a program like Adobe Photoshop CC which allows one to create layers of photographs, selections and textures and then blend them together using different modes and filters. I use Photoshop Elements (which I refer to as Photoshop, Jr.) and have yet to find any obstacles in using this technique. The easiest way to explain Photoshop Elements is that it is the photography module of the BIG Photoshop program. I’m sure that there are other nuances that I don’t miss because I’ve never had them. I also like that Photoshop Elements is still available as a standalone piece of software rather than part of the creative cloud – so I own it, not rent it. And that my personal opinion on processing programs. (Feel free to discuss among yourselves.)
Before explaining how to apply Bob’s photo-synthesis technique, it’s important that you see what the result is. Take a look at Bob’s blog at http://1-bob-coates.artistwebsites.com/myblog.html.
(Now. Do it now.)
Like what you see? Here are the basic steps as Bob described them to take an image from a fine photo to fine art.
STEP 1: Take Original Image
Bob first demonstrated using a rather casual photo of a stand-up comedian against a solid background, such as you might see in a portrait studio shoot.
STEP 2: Add a Sense of Place
Using selection tools, Bob isolated the comedian and put him against a brick background to give a comedy club feel to the photo.
STEP 3: Add Lighting (highlights, shadows, accent lights)
Rather than using dodge and burn tools, Bob suggested using regular and adjustment masks which offer more control and depth.
STEP 4: Add Texture
Use layers and blending modes, such as soft light and overlay to add a textured pattern.
STEP 4: Know When to Quit.
Obviously, this technique requires a working familiarity of the tools available in Photoshop. If you’re not there yet, PAC offers some terrific hands-on workshops, so check the page to sign up for the next one. And, while you're at it, why not pack up your Think Tank camera bag and start your next photo-synthesis project by taking some great portraits at Mandarich Studios in Scottsdale. Then order some prints through Vivyx Printing or or Bay Photo. (In case it’s not obvious, this is a shameless plug and thank you to our club sponsors.)