Messing About with Mood in Image Composites

Taking another stab at visual assignments, I opted for Switch up the Mood, mostly because I had a few photographs that I had taken with a colleague’s top-shelf digital SLR camera the other day. Consequently, shooting in RAW format, I would be able to crop with much greater ease.

In my first attempt I was really playing around with filters more than anything. I am not even sure that I really accomplished the assignment, at least how it was intended. Mood is kind of an ephemeral thing and perhaps this wasn’t the best image to use. Still, it was worth the experience of playing in Photoshop.

Four Flags Mood Composite

I started with the original image in the upper-left corner, very little adjustments made, save a few auto touch-ups correcting the color, contrast, and tone.

One of the initial problems was determining how large the final composite image would be and doing some of the basic calculations. Mat is not my strong suit, but I knew I was going to quadruple the original image size, even though I was going to do some cropping too for the additional versions of the image. This helped determine the aspect ratio that I would use in the cropped images.

At that point, I just started playing around with adjustment layers in a separate, mock-up window. In the upper-right corner, I was going for an older, darker feel with the cropped version of the two flags. So I played with the exposure settings to get darker tones and deeper contrast. I also toyed with the hue and saturation to pump up the color saturation. I even used a photo filter to enrich some of the warmer colors.

In the lower-right corner, I mostly amped up the saturation and pushed the red color as much as I could without completely distorting the image. I wanted the colors to be brighter and more vibrant, kind of overly rich reds. It was meant to be a riff of the original shot.

In the lower-left image, I had played around so much that I was kind of filtered out and wanted to drain a lot of color out of it. I didn’t really want to go black and white with a full grayscale. So I used a black and white filter, but then kept pushing out the gray until I got the stark, simple black and white look, kind of like old newspaper prints, which seemed fitting for the subject of an antique shop full of old items.

Playing around with all of the filters got a little overwhelming at some point. Without really knowing what I am doing other than trial and error, it does highlight the need to keep track of what I am doing to achieve certain effects. Otherwise, I would never be able to replicate the intended effect.

One of my original ideas was to just riff off of the red, white, and blue scheme in the flags, so I thought I would make another attempt. THe second time I simplified even further, again beginning with the original image. This time I chose to use the same cropping for the other three parts of the composite. This seemed appropriate since I was already thinking of working with three color tints.

Four Flags Mood Composite 2

This effort proved to be a lot faster and simpler. I had already been playing with the cyanotype option in the hue/saturation adjustment layer. So that produced a nice blue-tinted version. Thus, to get the red image I used the same adjustment layer with the cyanotype setting, but then adjusted the hue setting until I got the red look I wanted. The black and white image was adding the adjustment layer of the same name. Then I made a couple of minor adjustments to the contrast.

In each of these images, I had to work with each of the images on separate layers. So I would basically mock-up the look I wanted in a separate window, only to paste them into the window where the final image would be built.

In order to get all the adjustment layers and looks, I would have to flatten the mock-up version before copying and pasting into the final image window. That was a lesson re-learned for me, since I had forgotten some of those little wrinkles.

Originally, chasing some stars in the assignments, I had not at all considered doing the same assignment more than once. It just kind of worked out that way, because I don’t think I was completely satisfied with my original attempt. Also, I did want to see if I could do the red, white, and blue thing relatively easily and quickly, more as proof to myself than anything.

I know just enough about Photoshop to make me dangerous and routinely get frustrated knowing that there is definitely a way to achieve the look I have dreamt up in my head, despite not necessarily knowing which combination of options to use to make it happen.

Still, these were opportunities to explore some of the tools and options that are available. Plus, it was a great reminder of the importance of narrating the work, in part as a way of keeping track of what and how I am getting certain results, even if sometimes they are happy accidents.

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