Skills test

A friend of mine on Facebook sent me this link and said it made her think of me; I’ve been sent links to photos like this before and they always make me jealous. I don’t have the photoshop skills to pull something like this off yet – it is tricky to seamlessly edit a subject into another photo like that without it looking sloppy. For me the issue is the edges of the subject (in this case, a person) – I haven’t yet figured out how to soften the outlines of the body and hair so that they aren’t too harsh. I’ve done a little research on it but haven’t got a clear answer yet to the problem, because as usual the tutorials all talk over my head – I have more skills than I have knowledge, so when trying to learn something new, it’s not that I can’t do what they are telling me do, I just don’t know enough terminology to pinpoint what it is that’s going on, if that makes sense. So as usual, I end up gleaning what little I can from the tutorials I read and then screwing around with the software until I figure it out on my own. This works very slow and piecemeal for me – I figure out one little step of a process at a time, rather than be able to follow a full tutorial on the entire process at once.

But after looking at the photos on that page, I decided today was the day to start figuring this shit out. I’d already taken a ton of photos the day before of me playing around in the new clothes I bought over the holidays, just putting outfits together and learning how to integrate everything into my wardrobe, so I had tons of shots of me against a white background I could use. I do have some straight-up outfit shots I’d like to share later, by the way, but I thought for this post I’d share the Photoshop experiment – which actually isn’t using Photoshop at all, of course, but Paint Shop Pro, which is what I know how to use. I just call it Photoshop because everyone knows that name and I’m too lazy to call it anything else that might involve more explanation.

So – here’s the original shot. The skirt,by the way, is from ModCloth and is just lovely. Only forty-something bucks and it photographs like a dream, as well as being a great addition to the clothes closet. Shorter in the front than in the back, and in a very light material, it is incredibly flowy and comfortable, although to wear it out of the house I’ll most likely put a slip under it. But I’ll talk more about the clothes in another post – back to the original:


To play around with editing my body completely into another photograph I needed a background photograph to use; I first looked up backgrounds on Google, as my idea was to have me floating above a bed in a room or something. But I couldn’t figure out quickly how to get my hands on a decent-quality free photo like that without flat-out stealing one, which I wasn’t going to do, so I went for this picture I took with my iPhone when I was at a work retreat back in August:


I had to get myself “cut” out of the first photo and “pasted” into this one, and through some tutorial deciphering and screwing around I managed to get a pretty good copy of my body to layer into this shot. The issue is in how I have to “highlight” (sorry for all the quotes but I know I’m not using the right words here) just my body, and absolutely nothing else, out of shot #1 (a lot of white can slip into the shot around the body’s outline, especially the hair, and that may not seem like a big deal until you paste that subject onto a new photo, where the background is not white). As far as that goes I think I did OK, but I still think I look rather pasted into the shot (click on it to see a better quality copy):


So, I did what I always do when I’m not completely satisfied with an edit: I Pixlr-ed it, of course. I added a little more light flare to hit right on my body and maybe soften my edge a little, made a slight change in tint to the overall shot, and added some faint, glittery bokeh:


As I said when I shared this over on Facebook, I think it looks like a 70’s prog-rock album cover, but aside from the cheese factor it isn’t bad. It’s actually leaps and bounds (pun intended) above any previous attempt I’ve ever made to do this sort of this thing. I’ll be flying around empty bedrooms before you know it.

One thing I’m thinking now in looking at this is that my obsession with clarity might be working against me here. I used an already-processed original of my body to layer over the trees, and that layer of me is decidedly more crisp than the image of the trees; that may be what makes me stick out a bit. Perhaps in the future I need both the background and the subject to be unedited when I merge them together, then add the sharpening and detail clarification after it’s a merged photo. Or maybe I should just have less clarity in these shots overall, as that’s probably part of what makes the hard edges of the body difficult to seamlessly blend into the shot. I noticed the girl who took those photos in the link used a lot of blurring and textures in the shots too, so maybe those things help conceal edits also. And I’m sure I can work with light and shadows to add to the realism…see what I mean? So much to learn.