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Photo Academy: Simple Portrait

Short Introduction.

It often happens people ask me “How have you done this or that?” in Second Life’s photography. I admit I would love to find enough time to share all I know about it, but repeating it to every single person asking might be not very effective, so let me put this topic into series of articles like the one you’re reading.

First of all: I don’t find myself an expert or genius in taking digital pictures. I’ll tell you more: there are many who are way better than me and when I see their Flickr streams I literally cry how lack of talent and skills I present. But it’s not really important as long as taking photographies is fun to yourself, and it’s definitely to myself. This is why I’d like to share what I know and how I make things to achive some results.

Okay, let’s start from how my photo looks at the end and then I will go through all steps that made it looks like this:

pa1_finalphoto

Very simple picture, I’d say. But could probably work as profile photo, for example. I used it for Aroused! Issue 43, for the ‘Letter From The Editor’ page (at the moment I am writing these words it’s not published yet, so you see kind of teaser of incoming magazine).

 

Prerequisities.

  • Second Life viewer (any, I used Firestorm, but really any other is okay too)
  • Photoshop
  • Anypose (it’s a tool inside SL used for creating poses in world. You can grab it here: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Bay%20City%20-%20Morton/221/210/25), but you can also use any other posing tool. You can also use any earlier prepared pose, this is really up to you.

 

In World Preparations and Actions.

First, let’s have a look at the scene, how it looked in the viewer:

pa1_slview

On the left you got overall view at the pose I created – it’s obvious this is very, very simple pose with head turned at the camera. I also underlined the option I find crucial if it’s about making a portrait – the view angle. Normally I have this value set to 1.047, what allows me see my whole avatar during walking. But decreasing this value allows making really nice close ups and it’s what we need this time. I changed the value to 0.37, anyway it’s quite random pick, I just liked how my face looks at this zoom level, so I’d advice to experiment with this setting. There’s also red arrow drawn just under my avatar, it points the sun position, the light doesn’t beam directly into my face.

So that’s pretty everything you need to do in world for the photo we want to have. Save hi-res snapshot to disc, and let’s move into post production stage.

 

Photoshop-me!

Let’s have a look at raw version of our photo:

pa1_raw

Wow, it still looks like we’re far, far away from the end. Not really, let me spoil the fun a little and tell that we’re like maybe 5 to 10 minutes far (or near) from it. Let’s crop the picture a bit to find the most interesting area (in my case I needed a photo of specific aspect ratio, 1.8, because as I mentioned I required the picture for magazine’s page). Also after cropping, I decided to flip the whole image horizontaly (Main menu: Edit->Transform->Flip Horizontal). Here’s what we got then:

pa1_rawflip

Not bad, however… Yes, I love this hair, but these don’t always look good on pics, sadly. Let’s start the cheating part then: add 4 new layers into the picture first, then select Brush tool and pick a brush type that allows you adding hair bits… Okay, this is tricky part, because such brushes aren’t part of Photoshop at all… I downloaded them for free from deviantart.com, there are really plenty of them there and all you have to do is to use search and find some you can use in PS later. Let’s pick the brush then:

pa1_brushselection

We leave its default size of 1102 unchanged. Now move your cursor over image area, you will see the contours of the brush. Press and hold left alt key, what allows you pick the colour from pixel in the image, find some brighter area on the hair and left click on it. You should see the colour selection has changed. Make sure you got selected first of 4 newly created layers and simply let the brush make the work for you… Now, select next of 4 layers and do the same on the other side of the face, the same drawing colour… What do we have?

pa1_brush1

Too red/brown! Let’s tone it down. Hide 4 additional layers, left alt and click on darker hair area. Show layers and select free one. Now try, more less, draw darker hair over red ones, but don’t do it too accurately, some little shift is more than okay for our needs. Select last clear layer and do the same over the other red/brown hair.

Let’s sort our layers into right order and change the opacity and blending mode:

pa1_sortlayers

As you can see, I sorted layers to have ‘left’ hair over each other, the same with ‘right’ ones. Now, select they layer that is more above and slide its opacity to something between 65-75%. On the left from opacity slider you will find the drop down list defining blending mode for currently selected layer, change it to Soft Light (this is really powerful thing that lets you play with many nice effects just using blending mode, we’ll get back to it in next posts about photography). Do the same with another pair of layers, but remember: change opacity and blending ONLY for upper of two layers. At this moment we are almost ready to fit hair to look like they part of my head. Let’s merge pair of layers: left hair with left hair, right with right. How to do that? Right click on upper of two layers and select Merge Down, or when you have upper of two selected, press Ctrl-E. Now you should have only 3 layers in total: original picture and two with fake hair. Let’s move and fit them:

pa1_rotating

Select Move Tool (1), if you don’t see the frame around the layer, click ‘Show Transform Controls’ in top bar. Grab the corner of the layer (2) and rotate is slightly into desired position. Switch into Warp Mode (3) and play with the layer until you fit it the way you want – I know, this is tricky part at first, but not a magic. Finally confirm changes. Do the same for the next layer with fake hair. Merge all layers into one.

Finally, to give the whole picture some ‘dramatic’ look, we’ll add some filters. I used 4 Color Lookup layers with these options:

  1. 3DLUT File: Bleach Bypass.look
  2. Abstract: Green-Red
  3. DeviceLink: TealMagentaGold
  4. Abstract: Sienna-Blue

And the very last thing: click the layer with the photo, from main menu select Filter->Camera Raw Filter and here’s another great tool that works globally on whole picture, allowing to apply various effects. You can save the filter set you created in this window for later, which is really cool idea. The filter I used was called ‘Iris1’, I created it to make this picture, named it with the name of my co-model, so yeah, if it ever happens you pose with me there’s big chance I’d save the custom filter with your name 😉

Let’s quickly go through details of the filter to make the full picture:

pa1_cf1pa_cf2

You’re absolutely free and encouraged to experiment with these sliders, obviously.

And do NOT forget to save your photo!

 

Final Thoughts.

As you could see this isn’t any kind of dark knowledge and you’re able to create your own portraits quickly and effectively. You can also use these simple techniques in any other of your works, really, your own imagination is your limit. Of course, this is very basic editing and the whole article may even seem funny for real Photoshop masters, but it’s kind of starting point for many others, I hope.

Enjoy your edits 🙂

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