Smoke trails

A smoke trail portrait

After reading an article by Caroline Schmidt in January 2016’s edition of “Digital SLR Photography” magazine I was keen to attempt this technique. It’s fairly simple to do & although it can be somewhat hit or miss during the photography stage, the editing side is very easy.

Set up. Ensuring you have a black background (a cloth or as I used, sheets of black cardboard) place the incense stick & tray at least two to three feet in front. With your camera on a tripod, shoot in RAW, in Manual mode with ISO 200, shutter speed of one second & aperture f/8 to start with. If you find the smoke drifts towards the camera you may need to adjust the aperture to keep it all in focus. Place the flash gun behind & slightly lower than the incense stick. Make sure none of the flash illuminates the backdrop or hits the lens. With the room lights on, use single-shot AF to focus on the tip of the incense stick before switching to manual focus to prevent the camera from hunting. Now recompose the shot so the incense stick is out of the frame. Turn off the room lights & shoot away.

Editing. Open the image in Adobe Camera Raw & increase the “Clarity” slider to draw out the detail. Next increase the “Highlights” & “Whites” sliders before decreasing the “Blacks” & “Shadows” sliders until you’re happy with the contrast. Don’t worry if the image turns blue due to the ‘clipping warning function’ as there is no detail in the black backdrop anyway. To colour, create a new layer (Layer>New), set the blend mode to Color & use the brush tool to paint the smoke trail in your chosen colour. Adjust the Opacity of the layer to obtain the desired effect. You can add additional layers with different opacities if you wish.



Week 52

Settings: f/2.8, 1/15 second, ISO 100, 50mm prime

Set up. Open a cookbook near the middle & turn two pages in on themselves to create a heart shape. Arrange various baking props around the book. The camera was placed on a tripod.

Opinion. I have seen numerous pictures similar to this one however, the background is usually quite plain to emphasise the shape created. I wondered if it would work with props in order to create an “I love baking” message.

Week 51

Settings: f/10, 1/20 second, ISO 100, 21mm

Set up. I placed my camera on the pier to get the low point of view. After experimenting with various exposure compensation settings I opted for an HDR image in an attempt to get more detail in the sky.

Opinion. Continuing my project with Cyril the cyberman, I found this bent lamp post sculpture on the harbour front in Halifax, Nova Scotia & thought it would make an interesting composition. The idea was to try to make it look as though Cyril had bent the posts himself using some strange cyberman power. I’m not sure it entirely works due to him standing so far infront of the lamp posts & with his back to them. But the original premise is sound.

Week 50: How to do a head swap – the easy way.

Open both images. Go to the image with the head you wish to keep. Duplicate the layer (Ctrl J) & use the “quick selection” tool to select the head. Edit>Copy.

Now open the image with the body in it & Edit>Paste. Click on the “move” tool to position the head. Ctrl T (transform image) will let you adjust the size of the head until it looks similar. You may want to decrease the opacity of the head layer in order to match the face below as accurately as possible. Click the tick to confirm once you’re satisfied.

Ensuring the head layer is highlighted you could use the “eraser” tool to rub out any untidy bits around the head eg. the neckline. However, a less destructive way to achieve the same result is to add a layer mask Layer>Layer Mask, ensure the foreground colour is black & use the brush tool to erase any bits (this way if you erase too much you can turn the foreground colour to white & paint them back in). Next, to help blend the two images together alter the opacity of the eraser to about 12% & using a soft brush, go around the entire head to feather the edges.

If you need to match the skin tone a little better, again with the head layer highlighted, go to “hue/saturation” & alter these settings until you get the desired effect. You could also use the “curves” adjustment after this step if you have the full PS software.