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Nature meets technology for interesting imagery

Nature meets technology for interesting imagery - See how Janet Walters (Chase) created her floral portraits that have a distinctive artistic feel.

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Category : Flowers and Plants
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Images and tips by Janet Walters (Chase).

As Janet was once a watercolour artist it's no surprise that she's created a series of digital images that have the same artistic feel her canvases once had just without the wet paint! Her digital paintings have many admirers and now you can learn some of Janet's artistic secrets to recreate floral images with a similar style.

By Janet Walters (Chase).

Gear
Lenses that focus well and give good detail are essential. Like Janet, try a 105mm or 50mm lens which will get you nice and close. A lens that goes right down to f/2.8 will help in low light and help produce a 'soft' image that has a good, diffused background.

As you're working indoors where light levels can be low you'll need a tripod and this is particularly important if, like Janet, you're taking a bracketed set to use for HDR because without it, the camera will move and your frames won't match up.

Natural light produces the best colour and form but sometimes it can be quite harsh which results in bright reflections on vases that support the flowers. If it's a particularly bright day, use material such as muslin on the window or get out your diffuser. You need to work where you have two light sources as a single light source can leave your images flat and less interesting. Janet works in her kitchen as she has two large windows at 90 degrees to each other but this technique will work anywhere there's plenty of light. Another vital piece of equipment is your computer as post production work is the most important part of this technique and can take hours, sometimes days to get right.

By Janet Walters (Chase).

Technique

Always focus on the flower or part of it as this is the main point of interest and shoot on a plain background such as white/coloured card or fabric as this makes it easier for the layers to be applied much more evenly later on. Do try folding the fabric around the base of your vessel as this can add interest to your final image. For more definition try HDR but sometimes this won't result in a great looking image and you'll end up using just one frame.

Your next task is getting your images onto a computer where you'll soon become good friends with textures, layers and masks. It's a good idea to have a large selection of textures saved on your computer. You can create them yourself but there are plenty of free ones available on the internet as well. You'll be amazed at what a texture can do to an image. Even just one texture can give you loads of options,even just applying a simple gradient & blending it gives you a different look.

Colour coordination is important at this point and matching at least one colour from your image to your chosen texture is important as they can easily appear 'muddy' or even garish if incorrectly or randomly applied.

Apply a texture to the whole image on an adjustment layer, blend it and decide where you want the most/least effect to be applied. As the flower/plant is the main point of focus and most detailed, apply less of the effect to it.

To help you further, here's a list of Janet's top tips to get you started:

1.Decide on the finished 'look' you want to achieve. I usually take an image with a finished product in mind.

2.Start with a good clear image that's well lit and has detail where it should be. Crop/straighten for composition if necessary, adjust levels and generally 'tidy up' the image if needed.

3.Apply a touch of USM on an adjustment layer with a hide all mask added,paint in the USM where it's needed carefully!

4.Open the appropriate texture(s) for the look you want and drag it/them onto the start image,covering the whole image.

5.Choose a blending mode from the drop down menu for each texture layer, usually one of either 'multiply', 'screen' or 'soft light' work the best for me but I tend to go through them all to see which looks the best! Or try a combination if you use more than one texture. Then alter the opacity of the layer(s) until you like it - Simple as that!

6.Add a mask to the texture layer(s) and with the foreground colour set to black, paint with a medium brush on the mask(s) to remove the textures where you choose. If you make a mistake then switch the foreground colour to white and paint back on the masking layer. Then, alter the hardness and opacity of the brush as you see fit. This can be a lengthy process and needs to be done with care and attention to detail.

7. Try adding a touch of diffuse glow or Gaussian blur on a separate masking layer and 'paint' in, generally on the vase/container just to soften it a touch and blend it into the texture layers. This is not a process to be rushed otherwise the image will look hurried. Signs of a hurried process include lighter halos appearing around the subject where the textures have been removed.

8. There are many more things that can be done in Photoshop but the above work flow is a good place to start. Other tweaks with curves/levels/brightness/contrast and vignetting adjustments are the finishing touches and should be completed to personal taste.



You've read the article, now go take some fantastic images. You can then upload the pictures, plus any advice and suggestions you have into the dedicated Photo Month forum for everyone at ePHOTOzine to enjoy.

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