Photoshop Masking & Compositing 2nd Edition
Photoshop Masking & Compositing
Second Edition Katrin EISMANN Seán DUGGAN James PORTO
Photoshop Masking & Compositing, Second Edition
Katrin Eismann, Seán Duggan, and James Porto
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Copyright © 2013 by Katrin Eismann, Seán Duggan, and James Porto Acquisitions Editor: Nikki Echler McDonald Development Editor: Anne Marie Walker Technical Editor: Wayne R. Palmer Production Editor: Lisa Brazieal Proofers: Liz Welch, Emily K. Wolman Composition: Kim Scott/Bumpy Design Cover Design: Charlene Charles-Will Interior Design: Charlene Charles-Will, Kim Scott/Bumpy Design Indexer: FireCrystal Communications
Notice of Rights
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Notice of Liability
The information in this book is distributed on an “As Is” basis without warranty. While every precaution has been taken in the preparation of the book, neither the authors nor Peachpit shall have any liability to any person or entity with respect to any loss or damage caused or alleged to be caused directly or indirectly by the instructions contained in this book or by the computer software and hardware products described in it.
Adobe, Lightroom, and Photoshop are registered trademarks of Adobe Systems Incorporated in the United States and/or other countries. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners. Many of the designations used by manufacturers and sellers to distinguish their products are claimed as trademarks. Where those designations appear in this book, and Peachpit was aware of a trademark claim, the designations appear as requested by the owner of the trademark. All other product names and services identified throughout this book are used in editorial fashion only and for the benefit of such companies with no intention of infringement of the trademark. No such use, or the use of any trade name, is intended to convey endorsement or other affiliation with this book.
ISBN 13: 978-0-321-70100-8
9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Printed and bound in the United States of America
For Mark Beckelman—friend, artist, Photoshop fanatic, talented photographer, dedicated familyman, and generous teacher. You are valued, remembered, and missed a great deal.
—Katrin Eismann To all the teachers, students, and fellow artists who have taught me so much in my creative journey. The path we choose to follow may not always be clear, but it is rich with wonderful discoveries.
—Seán Duggan For my wife, Beth, and sons, Cole and Dylan, for all their support. And for all the people and
opportunities that have enabled me to create a life doing what I love—making images. I’m deeplygrateful.
We’ve heard it over and over again: “Oh you can fix that in Photoshop” or “Just Photoshop it.” Anyone who has ever had that cavalier attitude of being able to quickly change this or move that in Photoshop quickly regrets it because what seems like a quick fix turns into hours of work. We’ve also heard, “I have a great idea for a book” or “You should write a book.” Although the bookstores and Amazon pages may be full of books, writing a book is never a quick, easy, or painless undertaking to take a germ of an idea and turn it into a 500-plus-page book. Most important, writing a book is not the romantic undertaking of a lone author toiling away to create a masterpiece. Conceptualizing, planning, writing, reviewing, editing, proofing, designing, formatting, printing, and delivering a final product requires a dedicated team of talented people who may never meet face to face but have one goal in mind—to create a valuable, useful, and in this case inspiring book that will help you understand and master the finest details of masking and compositing with Adobe Photoshop. Our thanks and gratitude goes out to a variety of people, including:
- Our families who rolled their eyeballs and muttered, “no more books” as they brought us yet another cup of coffee or a piece of chocolate to keep us going. Thank you, John McIntosh, Katrin’s smarter half; Anna and Fiona, Seán’s inspiration and support; and Beth, Cole, and Dylan, Jim’s raison d’etre.
- The fabulous Peachpit development staff who had their hands full with us! Katrin’s teaching obligations often pushed writing into the weekends; Seán’s workshop and travel schedules kept him offline for days at a time; and Jim’s photography business often required complete dedication, meaning that our acquisitions editor Nikki McDonald and Development Editor Anne Marie Walker often had to resort to not-soveiled threats of wet noodle whippings to get us to make our deadlines. Both Nikki and Anne Marie were always professional, dedicated, and unrelenting in their support for this project. Thank you!
- The Peachpit design and production staff—thank you for making these pages so elegant and well designed. Specifically, über production editor Lisa Brazieal, cover designer Charlene Charles-Will, and compositor Kim Scott of Bumpy Design for all of their long hours put into these pages. We very much appreciate you taking into account our nondesigner opinions.
- The artists, photographers, students, and image makers that allowed us to feature their images, techniques, and insights. Your point of view and talent make this book richer and more inspiring.
- Our Technical Editor Wayne (Option-click [Alt-click]) Palmer. Knowing that you read the text and tried out all of the exercises helped us avoid many errors and inconsistencies.
- Thank you to Julieanne Kost for a wonderful Foreword and inspirational teaching; Candace Dobro for helping Katrin with photo compositing history research; and the dedicated staff, product managers, and senior engineers at Adobe Systems: Russell Brown, Jeff Chien, Chris Cox, Cari Gushiken, John Nack, Bryan O’Neill Hughes, Jeff Tranberry, and Gregg Wilensky. We don’t really understand how you do what you do, but we love what you allow us to do with Adobe Photoshop!
As Winston Churchill said, “Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with it is a toy and an
amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant.” We can
honestly say we have experienced all of these stages, and we thank everyone who supported us, shared
There is no way we could have completed this project without a large group of people who deserve a great deal of thanks, gratitude, and more thanks.
Best regards, Katrin Eismann, Seán Duggan, James Porto, and our neglected plants, pets, and family members.
Contents at a Glance
Artist In the First Person: Glen Wexler
Artist in the First Person: Jim Huibregtse
Artist in the First Person: Giselle Behrens
Artist in the First Person: Bojune Kwon
There is a well-known saying that compares painting to photography: Painters include and
photographers exclude. Painters begin with a blank canvas and decide what elements to add to create
their interpretation of the scene; every brush stroke and mark on the canvas are gestures of their hand and have a reason for being there. Photographers start with a scene from the world in front of the lens that is often chaotic and visually cluttered, and through conscious composition, they decide what to exclude until the scene is just how they want it.
Although the source material begins as photographs, creating a composite image has much in common with painting. Everything in the image has a purpose, which is to build the story of the scene and create the message you want to communicate. The conscious arrangement of these elements, combined with a unified color and a tonal and textural palette, all help to bring the different elements together into a single image. Compositing allows me to create an image that doesn’t exist in reality. The collage process lets me explore ideas and concepts that would be difficult, if not impossible, for me to portray with a straight photograph. A good composite is like an intriguing doorway, partly open—an invitation to viewers to come inside and see what they can find. When you view a composite, you pick up a conceptual thread left by the artist and follow it to see where it leads. Creating composites on the computer requires not only a creative vision, but also the technical knowhow needed to implement that vision. This book provides the reader with the necessary technical foundation of the essential techniques and considerations required for masking and compositing in Adobe Photoshop. Katrin Eismann, Seán Duggan, and James Porto are dedicated photographers, artists, and educators. They’ve been compositing images for many years and have learned how to master the digital tools so that the technical part of the process doesn’t get in the way of their creative vision. Whether you want to create composites yourself or are shooting the source images and having someone else do the compositing, this book is an ideal guide for anyone who wants to learn the art of combining different images together.
Photoshop Masking & Compositing is certain to broaden your horizons as to what is possible when more
than one photograph is combined into a new image. With the techniques covered in these chapters, you can learn to create your own composites that will become those intriguing invitations to explore—those delicate conceptual threads to leave for others to discover and follow as they view your images. —Julieanne Kost Principal Evangelist, Photoshop and Lightroom, Adobe Systems, Inc.
© Julieanne Kost
Introduction: Concept, Craft, Vision
We photograph to explore. Each time we raise a camera to our eyes, we see two worlds, our interior world and of course the exterior world that the camera lens is focused on. We photograph what catches our eye; what is important to us; the ideas and questions we are trying to express and resolve; and in many cases what a client is paying us to photograph. Each person has a unique point of view, and even if we were all in the same place at the same time with the identical camera and lens combination, what we each perceive, frame, and create would be uniquely different.
We work with Photoshop to refine and deepen our exploration of our imagination, to create, and to make the unreal very real. Being a visual artist requires you to see (not look), be honest (not cynical), be curious (not stubborn), and be open to exploration, learning, making mistakes, and starting over again. Being a visual artist involves showing the world what is important to you, and with each image you are portraying yourself.
Collaboration and Update
The first edition of this book was released in October 2004, and as you know, Photoshop has been updated and improved upon at a geometric rate since then. What took hours of work in 2004, such as pulling a fine-detailed mask can now be accomplished in a few minutes with the Refine Edge controls. But one thing remains the same—visual talent requires time and practice to develop confidence and skills. On that note, I asked and was greatly thankful that Seán Duggan and James Porto agreed to collaborate with me on updating this book. Seán, who is an outstanding educator and fine artist, concentrated on the ” and many “Essential Skills” chapters. Jim, who brings decades of photographic and commercial experience, focused on the “Photography,” “Lighting,” and “Photorealistic” chapters. I had the pleasure to write the “Art of Compositing” chapter and then delve into the finer points of the “Channels” and “Fine-edged Masking” chapters. In all honesty, I would not have updated this book without Seán and Jim, and I owe them more thanks than I can ever express. They both put many more long nights and countless weekends into this book than they had imagined they would. I’m sure that there is an effigy doll full of pins in it that bears an uncanny resemblance to me on their desks. Ouch and thank you!
Is this Book Right for You?
This book is right for you if you enjoy working with photographs, and have ideas to express and explore by combining multiple images. This book is right for you if you’re excited by the possibility of staying up late at night to finesse a perfect mask or to combine images in new and unusual ways. Masking and compositing requires flexibility and dedication: There is no “make great art” button on your keyboard, and it often takes a few attempts and approaches to get an image right. This book is not for you if you don’t have the time, curiosity, or patience to read through the examples, try them out, and then—just as we push our students—take the techniques further by applying them to your own images. You have three ways to learn the techniques in this book: • By reading the examples and looking at the images.
- By downloading the images from , and with the book in hand, re-
creating our steps.
- By taking the techniques shown here and applying them to your own images. As you work,
This is not an introductory book. To get the most out of it, you should be comfortable with the fundamentals of Photoshop, know where the tools are and what they do, and know how to execute common tasks, such as how to activate a layer or color balance an image. We all tried to write a book that we would want to buy or that would interest intermediate and advanced Photoshop users who are looking for indepth and challenging learning materials. As you flip through the book, you’ll see that all of our screen captures were taken on an Apple computer. If you’re a Windows user, don’t let that deter you from this book. Photoshop functionality, for the greatest part, is identical on the Macintosh and Windows platforms. All the features discussed in the book are available on both platforms, and the interface is nearly identical. When offering keyboard shortcuts, we give you both Macintosh and Windows commands. The command for Macintosh appears first, followed by the command for Windows, which appears in parentheses, like this: Command+Option+X (Ctrl+Alt+X).
The Structure of the Book Creating art is part craft and part imagination—one without the other gives you lifeless and banal results.
With this book, we address both—sometimes with words, but many times more quietly and effectively by featuring images created by professional photographers, creative artists, and a number of our students. We are fortunate that they trust us with their work and that we all can benefit from the insights and talent that the images reveal. New to this edition of the book is the “Artist in the First Person”—a double-page interview featuring one artist, photographer, or illustrator’s images and insights. This book should really be called Photoshop Vision, Photography, Selections, Masking, and
Compositing, but that title would be too long to fit on the spine of the book! However, the four sections of
the book reflect how important and interrelated creative vision, photography, selections, masking, and compositing really are:
Part The first part of the book addresses the history of compositing and the creative process. The second part of the book focuses on the photographic issues of planning, composing, lighting, and completing the photography of source materials and environments. The better the initial photography, the more successful the final composite will be. The third section bursts with Photoshop information and techniques on selections, layers, layer and channel masking, and maintaining fine details. The final part of the book is divided into two chapters ,” and even if you prefer one type of composite over the other, we recommend that you don’t skip a single page, because the same skill or technique can be used to work on and create a wide variety of images. Each chapter starts with a brief overview of what is covered in the chapter. We always start with a straightforward example that leads to more advanced examples. You may be tempted to jump to the more advanced sections right away, but we don’t recommend it. The introductory examples serve as the foundation for the advanced examples, building on the same tools and techniques. Although this book was an ambitious project from the very start, there are many Photoshop aspects we do not cover. We concentrated on the (for us) most exciting aspects of image making—combining, juxtaposing, and blending images to express new ideas and explore new worlds. We used the latest version of Photoshop CS6 when writing this book. If you are working with earlier versions, you will still learn a lot, because the most important tools for masking and compositing—layers, alpha channels, and blending modes—are a part of previous versions. And this book will also be useful long after the next release of Photoshop.
Tutorial Files and Pen Tool Chapter
Please visit and bookmarko download the tutorial images. Many chapters have up to 12 JPEG images that you can download to work and learn along with as you read the book. Posted images are signified by an icon and a name in the book, such as ch10_hulagirl.jpg
The images on the book’s companion website are for your personal use and should not be distributed by any other means. If images are not posted on the website, it means that we do not have the copyright permission to post them and therefore cannot legally make them available.
Many of the images in the book originated from our own image and photography collections. The copyright of all images used in the book and posted on the website remains with the originator, as noted throughout the book. For those specific images that we didn’t have permission to post on the book’s website, we recommend that you use similar images from your own photo collections to follow along. Although you won’t be using the exact image we used, the issues being addressed are so universal that we’re sure you’ll be able to learn the techniques using your own images. After all, you’ll probably be branching out to your own images sooner rather than later. Due to page count and print quality, we opted to update and post the “Pen Tool Power” chapter on the book’s website at . The PDF is laid out exactly like the book, and we hope it
allows you to call the Pen tool a friend, not your foe!
Note to Educators
This book was built around the techniques that we have taught over the years to the numerous students in our digital- and creative-imaging classes. We hope that this book can help you teach Photoshop, and that the examples and images we have provided will help you learn and demonstrate the concepts and techniques of masking and compositing. As teachers, we’re sure you know how much time and work is involved in creating exercises and preparing materials that fulfill all the needs of a classroom. We ask that you respect our work and the work of the many contributors and imaging professionals featured in this book by not copying pages of the book, distributing any images from the website, or otherwise reproducing the information, even if paraphrased, without proper attribution and permission. Of course, if students own their own copies of the book, they can freely download and use images from the website in the classroom.
It is the experience of life that the passionate visual artist reaches into to find the creative spark of self- expression. We create images to explore, discover, reveal, and express ourselves, and they often end up and express your own images. We would love to hear from you. Please email your comments about the book and show us how you’ve taken the techniques in these pages and gone further with them.
Best regards, Katrin Eismann, Seán Duggan, James Porto
Inspire: Seeing & Creating
Chapter 1. The History of Compositing
Artists have been combining drawings, photos, paintings, remnants, and found objects for centuries. The digital tools and techniques that this book describes are an important addition to the practice of envisioning, combining, and discovering images that uniquely express the subconscious and conscious. No one lives in a vacuum, least of all artists whose eyes and very beings thrive on viewing images and exploring ideas for substance and inspiration.
As artists and educators, you appreciate the importance of understanding the history, terminology, and contemporary practices of the art form in which you are a part. For example, you enjoy visiting contemporary art galleries because they inspire and inform you as to what is relevant in the contemporary arts. We’re not suggesting that you look at someone else’s work and copy it, but instead that you see how the many past and presently practicing image makers have investigated similar ideas and issues, and learn from their examples and solutions. Or as Sir Isaac Newton (1643–1727) succinctly put it, “If I have seen a little further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Appreciate where you have come from in order to know where you are going.
To create successful composites and collaged images, it is essential to value the history of compositing and understand the basic vocabulary of your chosen art form. Before we get into the nuts and bolts of Adobe Photoshop, we’ll take a brief foray into the history of combining images, discuss composite categories, and present a variety of composite work that will inspire and inform you to explore and express your unique point of view. In this chapter, you’ll:
- Be introduced to the history of compositing
- Meet influential artists
- Explore where compositing is used
- Learn about the types of composites
A Multilayered History
The history of collage and montage is rich and varied. Its roots are in the history of painting: Painters often used symbolism and metaphor to convey a thought or perception. Photography is infused with artists who use combinations of printing, montage, and collage to overcome technical limitations or expand creative expression. Digital compositing continues this history. The computer gives artists new ways to combine images from disparate sources, eras, and mediums to create new and compelling work.
Due to image copyright and licensing requirements, we cannot feature all of the historical images addressed in this chapter. We hope that the references inspire you to look up, search, and visit galleries and museums to appreciate the work of the many artists mentioned in this chapter who inspire our creativity.
People have been gluing, sticking, stitching, and attaching disparate objects to a variety of surfaces for many centuries, such as adding valuable jewels and gemstones to religious artifacts and coats of arms. On a less expensive note, quilting—the art of combining cloth remnants into complex and meaningful patterns —is enjoying a true renaissance. Quilts that were once discarded are now valuable collector’s items and shown in museums. The practice of scrapbooking is also enjoying immense popularity, as young families even in this digital age gather to glue, notate, and memorialize family events, such as children’s births, first day of school, and other similar rites of passage.
In the early twentieth century Pablo Picasso (1881–1973) and Marcel Duchamp (1887–1968) created artwork with discarded or found objects. Their works influenced Louise Nevelson, Joseph Cornell, and Robert Rauschenberg, who all worked with what most people at that time would consider trash to create unique artwork that has in turn influenced countless artists and achieved great critical acclaim. These artists encourage us to be inspired by source materials that are in our basements, in our garages, and even on the curb on trash day. For example, Louse Nevelson (1899–1988) created stunning sculptures out of discarded blocks of wood that she most often painted a monotone white or black. Joseph Cornell (1903- 1972) created beautiful assemblage boxes that remain quirky, beautiful, and intriguing, and have motivated many artists to take a second look into the back of kitchen drawers and attics to see what hidden objects they have to tell their personal stories with. In fact, Katrin’s mother Carol (1922–present) used such objects to create her autobiographical boxes.Figure 1.1. Carol Eismann’s exploration of feminine roles and identity.
Robert Rauschenberg (1925–2008) was an incredibly prolific artist who worked with paint, silk-screen printing, and sculpture. His multilayered approach of juxtaposing images of contemporary media across and on top of one another was a precursor to the Pop Art of the 1960s. Among his most important works are the “Combines” in which he gathered found objects and integrated them with one another to create something new. He enjoyed the use of the found object, as he perfectly expressed, “I wanted to use the generosity of finding surprises. And if it wasn’t a surprise at first, by the time I got through with it, it was. So the object itself was changed by its context and therefore it became a new thing.”
The next time you’re walking down the street, walk a bit slower and see what you can find to use as unique source materials. Let yourself be surprised and open to seeing and finding a wide variety of source materials for your compositing projects. Carry a camera to photograph the item on the spot, or if size and circumstance permit, you can bring the item back to the studio for more controlled photographing or scanning.
Traditional Photographic Composites
It is often said that photography liberated painting from being a medium dedicated to recording reality to being an expressive medium that allowed (although not limited to) Impressionism, Expressionism, Cubism, and Abstract painting to develop and flourish. But just because painting was liberated did not days of photography, artists were exploring multiple exposures and composite images to offset physical shortcomings of the materials of the day and to express their artistic sensibilities.
In the nineteenth century, photographic materials were overly blue sensitive and couldn’t differentiate between sky and clouds, causing the skies to be very white and uninteresting. Photographers used combination printing to add skies, as Camille Silvy (1834–1910) did with his highly regarded river scenes in the 1850s. The difference clouds make to a landscape was well described by a contemporary critic of Silvy, “A sky should convey the effect of space, not surface; the eye should gaze into, not upon it; and instead of coming forward and throwing back every other object, it should retire and bring the landscape into prominence.” Landscapes without skies, with only a uniform white tone above the ground, were found wanting by critics. They lacked atmosphere. But the blue sensitive negatives of the time made landscapes with skies an almost impossible challenge. Oscar Gustave Rejlander (1813–1875) used multiple exposures and combination printing to choreograph and create complex images, which even today would be impossible to take with a single exposure. One of the most famous examples of an early photo composite of Rejlander’s is “Two Ways of Life” (1857), which was made from over 30 glass plate negatives ). The image portrays a sage who is
guiding two young men toward adulthood. On the left a lusty young man eagerly looks at a life of wine, woman, and gambling; on the right side the young man sees a life of family, hard work, and faith. It may be difficult to comprehend, but at this time in history the sight of naked people created quite a stir. When the image was displayed in Scotland, the left side of the image was covered with a cloth. In 1860, Rejlander created a scandalous composite image called “The Bachelor’s Dream,” which portrayed a young man lying on a daybed as he fantasizes about the scantily clad and tiny woman climbing on the ribbing of a woman’s corset. Viewers were incensed by the blatant sexuality. Although Rejlander is considered the father of fine art photography, he died in absolute poverty.Figure 1.2. Oscar Gustave Rejlander “Two Ways of Life,” 1858
Henry Peach Robinson (1830–1901) studied with Rejlander. His images started with sketches and drawings in which he worked out complex scenes. Robinson’s pictures told stories, including the famous “Fading Away” (1858) in which a young woman is seen lying on her deathbed surrounded by her mother and sister, as the distraught father gazes out the window. The image struck a deep nerve in Victorian Europe, because deaths of children and young family members were personally experienced by most families. Viewers were incensed that the photographer had been privy to and profited from such a personal event, even though the image was of willing models and at least five different glass plates were combined to create the final image. Interestingly, painters at the same time also portrayed this subject without creating an uproar. Because the image was photographic—that is, realistic—viewers imbued the image with truth and related to the situation much more keenly than when a similar subject was portrayed with oil on canvas.Figure 1.3. Henry Peach Robinson “Fading Away,” 1858.
Well into the late nineteenth century and into the early twentieth century, photographers were compositing or double-exposing images to create trick photos of people with two heads; people standing in boats, including Bobby Leach, who was the second person to survive going over Niagara Falls in a barrel ( ; and the very popular spirit photographs, which often portrayed a seer who could
communicate with the deceased who were shown floating in the backgroun. Perhaps most famous are the five images of the Cottingley Fairies that were “photographed” in 1916–17 by two young girls, Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright, who lived in Cottingley, England. The photographs attracted tremendous international attention, including a book by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and being made into a movie in 1997, Fairy Tale: A True Story, with two of our favorite actors, Harvey Keitel and Peter O’Toole. As Paul Atterbury—a British antiques expert often featured on the popular television series
Antiques Roadshow—stated, “These extraordinary photographs took the world by storm in 1918.”Figure 1.4. Postcard showing a composite photograph of daredevil Bobby Leach, July 1911. Library
of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, DC 20540Figure 1.5. Spirit photo. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, DC
As artists and photographers, we cannot rush to judgment and quickly discount these seemingly crude attempts at photorealism with our Photoshop-induced superiority and hindsight. It is important to understand the roots of our art form and to appreciate that the times of our great-grandparents were more innocent, and in regard to photographic images, less sophisticated.
The Twentieth Century: Dada
The nineteenth century saw the dawn of photography. Much of the work was dedicated to working around technical limitations and simply showing what photography could do. It wasn’t until after World War I that artists began to use montage as a truly new art form—one that tore, questioned, and challenged existing perceptions. The Dadaists in Berlin, including Raoul Hausman, Hannah Höch, Kurt Schwitters, and John Heartfield (1891–1968), worked with photomontage to question the status quo. Of this group, Hannah Höch (1889–1978) continued working with photomontage until her death. In fact, she rejected the literal and what she deemed the tendentious political work of the group’s most well-known member, John Heartfield. Born in 1891 as Helmut Herzfeld, Heartfield anglicized his German name to protest World War I. Not one reliance on German industrial wealth and the horrors of war. Heartfield and his brother Wieland Herzfeld founded the publishing house Malik-Verlag in Prague, Czechoslovakia, which provided an ideal outlet for Heartfield’s critical images as featured in the groundbreaking magazine the AIZ (Arbeiter Illustrierte
Zeitung) or Workers Illustrated Magazine. Heartfield’s work was banned during the Third Reich and
then rediscovered in the late 1950s. Since then, his powerful use of image and type has greatly influenced many artists and graphic designers. Katrin had the good fortune to visit a retrospective of John Heartfield’s work, which taught her two lessons: First, whenever possible, it is essential to see artwork in the first person, not on the web or in a book but in a gallery or museum. Second, she was fascinated by how he used mundane newspaper images and cut and pasted them into place. To create the final image, he photographed the montages and retouched the copy negatives to conceal the seams that were so obvious in the original pieces.
The Twentieth Century: Surrealism
World War 1 had soaked the European continent with blood, and the war to end all wars had forever changed the established social, political, and economic systems. The darkest, irrational aspects of war had been exposed to the world through the press and film. Taking impetus from Dada, surrealists, including the artists Man Ray (1890–1976) and Méret Oppenheim (1916–1985) as well as filmmakers Luis Buñuel (1890–1983) and Jean Cocteau (1889–1963), were part of a wide-reaching and influential art movement whose characteristics included exploring shocking juxtaposition and the surprising use of the absurd. In the early twentieth century, Emmanuel (“Manny”) Radnitzky’s family changed its surname to Ray due to a deep fear of anti-semitism, and Manny took on the moniker of Man Ray. Man Ray had ties to both Dada and Surrealism, and although he considered himself a painter, he is most often remembered as an avant- garde photographer who created compelling photograms (images created in the darkroom on photosensitive materials without a camera). In fact, he coined the term rayographs or rayograms. The images are ethereal renderings of familiar objects, such as bottles, glasses, and scissors layered on top of one another to create images of Man Ray’s imagination. Many credit his lover and muse Lee Miller (1907–1977)—a fashion model and photographer who also explored Surrealism—with influencing Ray’s art. As the story goes, she accidentally exposed one of Man Ray’s images to light by opening the darkroom door, which resulted in the first solarized image—a technique that Ray used quite often thereafter.
Man Ray’s grave in Cimetière de Montparnasse in Paris ( is an oft-visited site for art
lovers, and as the headstone says, “unconcerned but not indifferent.”
Figure 1.6. Man Ray’s final resting place.
Serendipity, experimentation, and making mistakes are the best ways to learn. So the next time you rush to Undo a step in Photoshop, take a moment to look at it with a fresh eye and learn from it.
The list of artists and photographers influenced by Man Ray is lengthy and continues to grow. Two of Katrin’s favorites include Maurice Tabard (1897–1984) and Lucas Blalock. Tabard, a French fashion photographer, printed through multiple negatives to create images that do not exist in a recognizable space or time; Blalock, a young, contemporary photographer, frenetically and wonderfully mixes and matches subject and materials.
The Twentieth Century: Darkroom Masters
In the late 1950s, two American photographers were beginning to emerge as montage artists. Jerry Uelsmann ( and Duane Michals (1932–present) composed evocative, dreamlike
images with traditional black-and-white materials. Michals is best known for his image sequences that often include handwritten text. According to Michals, “to illustrate grief by taking a picture of a woman crying does not aid the observer in understanding what it is truly like to experience deep sadness. Instead, the photographer must help the viewer feel what the woman feels by tracing the woman’s pain with photographs, text, icons, or anything else that brings the audience closer to the actual experience. It’s the difference between reading a hundred love stories and actually falling in love”
© Jerry UelsmannFigure 1.7. Created in the classic darkroom with multiple enlargers, Uelsmann’s images have inspired countless artists to explore combining images.
© Jerry UelsmannFigure 1.8. Jerry travels to Yosemite National Park on a regular basis to photograph source materials, as featured in this composite
Both of these men, but especially Uelsmann (1934–present), created the very foundation of contemporary photomontage; in his multiple enlarger and traditional black-and-white darkroom, Uelsmann created images decades ago that many strive to create with Photoshop today.
Artist in the First Person : Jerry Uelsmann
Although Jerry works in the darkroom to create his original images, he takes advantage of the quality of large-format inkjet prints. A few years ago at the AIPAD (Association of International Photography Art Dealers) art fair in Miami, my husband and I suddenly stopped in front of a stunning 30- by 40-inch large-format, black-and-white print. Both John and I instantly recognized the work of Jerry Uelsmann, the master of traditional darkroom compositing. But we simply couldn’t imagine Jerry working in the darkroom to produce such a large print ). The
sheer size of the paper and required developer and fixer trays would make handling such a print unwieldy.
© Jerry Uelsmann
Figure 1.9. The final refined image.
That evening we had dinner with Jerry and his wife Maggie Taylor, and we talked about the image. As it turned out, Jerry always wished his negative of the couch in the museum had a bit more room on the sides so that the couch arm was not quite as close to the edge of the image ( ).
Maggie scanned the original silver gelatin print with a flatbed scanner at 16-bit, and after a lot of cleanup, Maggie was able to add the extra space to the sides of the couch (as shown in the first image). Then she worked on the overall and selective tonal range, and concentrated on areas under the couch and the detail on the legs to enhance certain areas ( ). By using the Smart
Sharpen filter and selective Shadow and Highlight adjustments, Maggie was able to bring out detail in the wood grain of the couch legs and improve the details in the leaves that were not as visible in the original silver print.
© Jerry Uelsmann
Figure 1.10. The original image, which Jerry always felt needed more room on the sides.
© Jerry Uelsmann
Figure 1.11. Selectively refining details and sharpness added the final polish.
Maggie printed the image on an Epson Stylus Pro 9880 onto Epson Signature Worthy Exhibition Fiber Paper. As Jerry said, “I am amazed by the tonal range and exquisite quality of the prints that Maggie made for me on the Epson printer. The attention to detail that Photoshop allows, with very subtle dodging and retouching, enhances the overall effect of this image that was initially created in the darkroom. I am so excited to see some of my images in this larger scale. I could never do this in the darkroom!” On most days, after breakfast, Jerry and wife get to work. Maggie Taylor, a fabulous digital enters his darkroom where they each work for hours to examine and create fabulous images. As Jerry says, “Simply stated, my hidden agenda is to amaze myself.” We’ll address “working as an artist” in
that to be a successful artist, it is essential to maintain a regular schedule and a working environment that is conducive to the creative process ( .
Figure 1.12. Jerry Uelsmann in his office reviewing medium format contact sheets.
Most recently, Katrin attended a very impressive retrospective of Jerry’s work at the Harn Museum in Gainesville, Florida; his largest inkjet prints were 60 inches wide ).
© KEFigure 1.13. Jerry Uelsmann with wife and artist Maggie Taylor (left), and Harn Museum of Art Director Rebecca Nagy (right).
Compositing in the color darkroom
Creating color composites required the use of pin-registration easels and hand-painted masks to print onto large-format film to create unique images. The darkroom process, as Jim explains and was a master of, often involved weeks of work to create one photo-illustration.
1. After planning the image, I would start by photographing all the elements using film formats that
would integrate with each other, so that when the elements were scaled to the desired size, their grain size would match. This required a lot of planning and using a variety of cameras and film formats. For example, sometimes I would have to duplicate a 2 ¼ image up to 8×10-inch film to get the scale right.
2. I would then make a sketch by tracing the image elements onto a clear piece of 8×10-inch film and
punch pin registration holes in it. Using this as a base, I would position each piece of film that was to be combined onto a separate sheet of registration-punched, black, opaque film, and then cut a small window for the image.
3. I would overlay a frisket (similar to a layer mask) of plastic adhesive film onto the image and
precisely cut it to the edge of the image. Removing the waste film, I would paint around the image with black opaque, let it dry, and then remove the frisket to create a single element component.
, I made a mask for the cigarette, the figure, and the
4. For the cigarette stomp image (
building by exposing a sheet of Kodalith or Pan Kodalith film with the pin-registered element on black, resulting in a clear piece of film with a black image of the element in exact registration. At this point, I had three elements—the cigarette, guy, and building—and three corresponding masks (which appear very much like the alpha channels in Photoshop), as well as the last image element
© JPFigure 1.14. “Cigarette Stomp.”
5. To make the composite dupe while working in complete darkness, I taped a piece of 8×10
duplicating film to the vacuum easel. I started with the cigarette element, placed it over the unexposed dupe film, and made the exposure. I then placed the cigarette mask on the dupe to protect that area from being exposed again. I repeated this for each element, placing the mask onto the dupe film after each exposure. The final exposure was the sky with all the masks in place.