Neil November 21st, 2008
If you shot this image – would you find something in it?
Then would you believe it could finish like this?
When I talk about a concept such as “Mind Like Water” there are two very important lessons to be learned:
- always be open to be impressed by the world of experiences around you
- always respond appropriately to your experiences to make them expressions
By no classical measure is Shane’s original photograph a success.
So why do I feel it’s a great illustration of mind like water?
Because Shane kept his heart open to what was moving him about the photo – and sought that out through expressive manipulation of the photograph. The visual cues that generally tell us this is not a good photo were ignored and creative freedom was found – out of creative freedom came a unique and expressive image. The principles you learn keeping your Mind Like Water are the key to unlocking your vision and expressive potential in the image – foundational to understanding how to move forward in your retouching. You don’t need to like Shane’s image to learn from it. You need to learn to feel and respond to the potential of your image, not it’s problems.
So let’s deconstruct this process
I’m not in Shane’s head – but I get a glimpse in when I look at this picture. After e-mailing he told me the eye caught his attention, and I will attempt to explain the visual principles he used in retouching to capture and convey the energy of the eye. You might say the eye was Shane’s muse. This tutorial is using LAB color space and my ONE ACTION layers. It is not an attempt to copy Shane’s work, but an effort to deconstruct the adjustments and curves that are used to achieve a similar effect. The effect is to draw the viewer’s attention directly to the eye – while balancing the focal point with texture in the frame.
First in my saturation layer I desaturate to black and white leveling both the A* and B* channels.
Second, on my vignette layer I paint in close to the eye and alter my curve lightening the shadows (left end point) and darkening the highlights (right end point). The effect of this curve is to flatten the overall contrast and remove any blacks from the image – leaving the eye the only point of black in the image.
Listen to your shadows, and as the white shirt was competing too much for attention it was minimized. The top end point on the curve brings the whites down to less than 50% grey. The middle point is interesting because it nearly removes the stripes in the shirt by lightening their range of tones. And finally the bottom point of the curve is brought in for extreme darkening. It looks really weird on it’s own, but the Vignette layer that’s focused on the eye is on top of it so that’s OK!
A little warmth in the image is created by adjusting the B* channel up by 2 points. With such a dramatically artistic manipulation, a lightly perceptible warmth will hint viewers that this is an inviting image of mystery and warmth/tenderness/security.
Shane added his own texture – I added a Veritas Vignette from my collection using a Hard Light Layer Mode and a transparency of 60%. In deconstructing this image, this is my result. What does the texture do? Well, it’s a visual counter point to the dramatic focal point of the eye. The creative reduction in overall contrast makes the eye the dramatic focal point as the only black element in the frame. But remember water, it always seeks balance. The balance of the specific interest in the eye – is the non-specific interest of the squiggles and blops introduced by the texture on the remaining space of the image.
Shane has created a gradient of darkness to the right – and a dose of highlight just above the eye on the man’s face – that keep the whole surface of the image activated. You’re almost embarrassed to look directly into the woman’s eye – so you look away and bounce through the texture – and sneak another peek into the searching eye. This is the balance that brings forth the Tao of a rich artistic experience – the tenuous balance – a balance with energy – a balance not at rest.
May your creative path continue like water…