photo by Andy Rasheed/eyefood

Creating the impossible in Post-production

June 27, 2013

As a digital photographer, more or less any idea I can conjure up I can create in two dimensions. By building a final image from multiple files I can make the unreal come to life! It is a laborious but rewarding process to build an obviously implausible situation into a photograph that an audience is willing to believe. It takes a great deal of patience and particular attention to detail.


If you are going to try this I am assuming you have a basic general working knowledge of photoshop. If not, there has never been a better time to get that knowledge. You can search any terms you don’t understand and you will find lots of “how to” videos on line. The fundamental thing to remember about using photoshop for this type of work is that it is only possible to work on the layer or part of the layer you have selected.



This was from a semi abstract body of work I created using images I already had. The background images are the moon, a shell and sand.






Each component should have it’s own separate layer (ideally with a name). This gives you absolute control over everything from size and shape to colour and contrast now and in a week’s time. Use non-destructive adjustment layers wherever possible, they are not hard to use; they add a huge amount of flexibility and the end product will have much less pixilation. Masks are amazingly useful and versatile tools too, so get a handle on how they work.

Nuts and Bolts

There are some very important things to address when gathering or auditioning components for a build. Some things to consider;

  • The angle of the camera, and therefore the perspective of the parts. You do have some control over perspective with various free transform options. Options like puppet warp and free transform are very powerful tools for this type of work.
  • The depth of field/point of focus should be considered so you don’t have incongruous sharp sections in conjunction with unsharp sections.
  • The focal length of the lens used to capture the various parts will carry different levels of distortion depending on how wide/long they are.
  • Light direction, intensity and hardness/softness need careful consideration.
  • Pay particular attention to the scale of the components in relationship to each other.




This image of Inkpot Arts  was for calendar. it relies on the performance of the kids underneath to create the illusion of weight from the kids on top who were shot separately on the ground.







Edge Sharpness

If you are assembling parts of files you need to pay particular attention to every edge of every component. If your edge is too harsh or too soft in relation to its surroundings it will be obvious. There are a few ways to soften an edge, either when cutting out the section or as a layer. Once again there are some great videos explaining “masks” and “selection” tools. I have found I sometimes need to add a little “noise” to an immigrating layer to make it fit seamlessly with it’s surroundings.

Contrast and Colour

Good postproduction is invisible. The parts must all appear to have been in the same place and subjected to the same conditions. Lighting colours and contrast on all components needs to be consistent. There are many way to make these adjustments in photoshop; selective colour, curves or levels etc so once again, get on line and watch a few instructional videos to see which work best for you and your work. Remember; use non-destructive layers wherever you can.


This image is from the same calendar job. The little train was shot with a slowish shutter speed as I panned and shot the boy lying still on the track. Both were shot in the same light. 




How good is it?

It’s not uncommon for a photographer to assume one of their images is incredibly good because it was time consuming and challenging to make. A good image is a good image regardless of whether it’s made with a crayon on a napkin or $25k’s worth of camera gear. Your audience is more interested in the final image than the technique used to create it.  Is it a strong photo?

Save Save Save!!!

Be sure and get into the habit of saving your work regularly and always keep a separate layered version of the image so you can edit it down the track if your ideas grow.

Have a go

Your homework is to come up with a simple idea that you can build in post. If you can’t think of one, shoot a full body portrait of someone sitting down, then in post cut them out and sit them into a flower or on a little rock. Anything to get a bit of experience to start with is useful. Start with a rough plan of what you would put where to tell the story. Whilst you are shooting/gathering the parts keep all of these technical aspects in mind. Then have a go at building your own imaginings. I guarantee it will take an inordinate amount of time, and you may get wrist cramp and eyestrain but there is huge satisfaction when you nail it!

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Cheers, Andy

Images and text © Andy Rasheed 2013

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