Inserting a new background

This is a rather more technical post explaining how I produced the image of Cripps and Saunders against a background of musical notes. As always it is really important to have a good idea of what the final image needs to look like before you start. That is not to say it will necessarily turn out like that nor that serendipity and experimentation are not important - they are. But it all needs to start from some form of 'pre-visualisation' otherwise one is not creating an image to the specific brief but reduced to randomly clicking buttons, or applying pre-sets in the vague hope that something will look right. A sort of photographic equivalent to the monkeys trying to write the works of Shakespeare!

For this image I wanted to show the way music connects them and to begin to explore their concept of "two voices, one sound". The notes needed to have an ethereal or ghostly quality as if they were hanging in the air between them. I knew it would look best with a black background so the initial shots of them were taken with a black back drop. In retrospect I would have been better off with a true green screen as that would have made it far easier to separate them out. In the event it didn't prove too difficult although Alison, having darker hair, proved a lot more difficult than Jill.

The obvious thing to create the notes was to invert an image of a sheet of music, this gets some of the way there but is too crisp and not the look I was going for. I then wondered if an effect I sometimes use to create dreamy landscapes, like this one, would create the effect I was after. The 'Orton Effect' was invented by Michael Orton in the 1980s and can be created fairly easily in any editing program that uses layers. There are detailed instructions available but in essence all you need to do is to duplicate the image a couple of times, apply a gaussian blur filter to two of the layers and then use something like Photoshop's "soft light" option to combine them. By varying the amount of blur and the opacity of each layer you can achieve quite a wide range of effects from extremely subtle to almost unrecognisable!

I then deleted all of the black background from one of the original layers and placed the remaining part of the image (i.e. just their heads as the top layer so that they appear in front of the notes.

Have I succeeded with this image? Well it is how I imagined it and, on one level that is the most important point. But for a business it is far more important that the client likes it and that it represents a shared vision that you developed with them. 

Alison Cripps and Jill SaundersAlison Cripps and Jill Saunders


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