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Creative pet portraits

Creative pet portraits - Simon Palmer sets up a pet portrait and uses Photoshop to give it a creative edge.

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Category : Adobe Photoshop
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The Making of 'Is that it?'

Words and Pictures Simon Palmer.

Equipment used:
  • Canon EOS 5D MkI
  • Canon 430Ex Speedlite
  • 1 x chicken bone
  • 1 x chopping board, balanced on a couple of phone directories for height
  • 1 x dining room table to place the dog and bits on, saves the older person lying on the floor
  • 1 x white plate
  • 1 x very naughty/stupid/lovable beagle
  • 1 x piece of cloth over chopping board

Step 1: Pose your pet

This is the hardest part of the process for me, beagles are notoriously disobedient. Hopefully you'll have a dog that is easier to handle. If you have a mischievous dog, like me, prepare to spend a bit of time on this stage and get someone to assist if possible.



Step 2: Add the bone

I couldn't put the bone on the plate, he'd have had it away in a nano-second plus please don't ever give a dog a chicken bone. So I took an additional shot of the bone, roughly the same angle and lighting. Don't worry too much, it's relatively easy to fool the human eye later.

Step 3: Use the Lasso Tool

Open both images in Photoshop, and very roughly use the lasso tool to draw around the bone.

Either drag the bone over your first image or copy>paste it, your choice. On your main image you will now have a new layer called LAYER 1 with the bone on it.



Step 4: Resize the bone

The bone is far too big for my image so lets resize it. First of all I hit CTRL+T to do this and used Free Transform as this enables you to rotate, scale etc. all in one. Size the bone accordingly (tip: if you hold the SHIFT key while scaling the aspect ration is maintained).

Once happy hit return to commit the size/rotation changes and close the 'bone alone' image.

Step 5: Change the Blend Mode

You will notice the bone doesn't sit that well in the image, the rough use of a lasso tool is to blame. However, it's easy to fix. In the layers palette make sure LAYER 1 is selected and then alter the Blend Mode to Darken.

Voila! The bone now blends well. Please note a better job could be done here but fooling the eye is easy and for this image this is more than enough. Press CTRL+E to merge these 2 layers.
 


Step 6: Cut out your dog

Press CTRL+J to duplicate the layer. We are now going to cut out the dog, there are many ways to do this. For this image and due to the fact that I shot it against a white background we shall use the Quick Selection Tool and then refine the edge. So, select the Quick Selection Tool or press the W key. Starting in a clean area of the image drag your mouse around the image keeping to the areas you want to select, if you have never done this before have a few practice runs first, but trust me it's the easiest thing you'll ever do. Photoshop does all the hard work.



Step 7: Inverse Selection

Click Select>Inverse Selection or press CTRL+SHIFT+I. Now Click Select>Refine Edge or press ALT+CTRL+R to bring up the refine edge selection. At the top of the screen click View and change to Black & White (this makes the edge easier to see) you may prefer on white or on black, it's up to you. As you can see though, the selection is not perfect, so let's refine it.



Step 8: Refine the image

Tick Smart Radius, increase the Radius size to about 30px and then for the clever part, 'scribble' around the edge of your selection.
 
Now, notice how Photoshop refines the edge, picking out all the hairs for a much better selection. Don't be afraid to go over the same areas again to get an even better edge. If you need to, you can also use the Smooth, Feather and Contrast sliders to refine your edge even further. Once you are happy tick the decontaminate Colours in the Output section and output to New Layer with Layer Mask and finally hit OK.

Step 9: Switch some layers off

You should now have a new layer with the dog and plate all cut out.



Turn your bottom 2 layers off and check out your edges, they should all look as though a professional did it if not, don't be frightened to whip your eraser out and give it a quick tidy up.

Step 10: Add a new background

Let's replace the background now. I have thousands of misc images to use for this kind of thing, if you don't just google 'Grunge Backgrounds' and start building your stock library up. Download some grunge and paste a layer into your image, place the new grunge layer behind your cutout layer and resize using Free Transform as in Step 4.


 
Put another grunge layer on top of this one if you want and alter the opacity to around 60% or so that the bottom grunge layer 'shines' through the top one.


 

Step 11: Create an Adjustment Layer

I then placed an Adjustment Layer on top of the grunge to knock the exposure down a little. To do this at the bottom of your Layer Palette click the Black & White circle (New Adjustment Layer) and select Exposure and adjust the sliders accordingly.

Step 12: Add a vignette

We are now going to vignette our image to emphasize the subject and darken where required. Select the top layer and then create a new Adjustment Layer>Curves. Grab the centre of the curve and pull down and to the right to darken the picture.

Choose the Elliptical Marquee Tool, or press M and draw an oval in the middle of your image.

Select the paint bucket or press G and then in the layer mask of the curves layer fill it with black. Click Select>Deselect or press CTRL-D. Your image should now have a rather nasty looking light oval in the centre.

Click Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur, Increase the Radius to 250 and hit OK.



We now have a nice vignette. For me though I want to emphasize that vignette even more so grab your curves layer and drag it over the New Layer button at the bottom of the layers pallette. Another Curves layer will now appear above your existing one.

Double the curves and blur etc. in one step, easy. If you want even more then drag another one, if it's too much decrease the opacity on the top curve layer.

Step 13: Don't let your dog float

For me now the dog looks like he's floating and spoils the balance of the image. Click Select>Select All or press CTRL+A to select all and then click Edit>Copy Merged or press SHIFT+CTRL+C. Now click File>New or press CTRL+N the new window should appear and the dimensions etc. should have taken on your document sizes and so on automatically so press OK or hit Enter. Now click Edit>Paste or alternatively press CTRL+V.

You should now have a perfect copy of your first image all flattened. I suggest you save your other image and include all the layers so that you can come back and manipulate again at a later date.

Step 14: Quick Selection Tool

Using the Quick Selection Tool again, draw around your table and plate.

Step 15: Move the table/plate into position

Select the Move tool or press M and then drag the table/plate into position to balance the image a  little more, dead easy.


 
The only other thing I did after this was add a couple more adjustment layers just to more match my mood, I sharpened it using Smart Sharpen and put my titles on because I know that annoys folk.

Here's my completed image open in Photoshop:


I do hope the above all makes sense and you have possibly learned a few things, please enjoy and if you want to ask me any questions please feel free, I don't bite.

Words and Pictures by Simon Palmer.

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Comments


25 Nov 2010 11:13AM
This is a great idea!! I can see it with many other pieces / items in front of the dog!!! My mother and I run a dog/cat rescue and I think I'm going to try this out right away in the morning with some of our rescues for our website and see if it helps us place some of the homeless pets! Make the bone X-tra big or add steak or just crumbs and make drool coming down. We do have a shepard/rottweiler (our dog) that is trained to sit and wait for his food until we say ok. I can make him drool for a bone in the photo and then put a Big Mac on the plate! Ha! This sounds fun can't wait! Thanks so much for posting!!! I will try to get out here and post some pics when I get a chance!

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