Combining Images into a Cohesive, Unified Piece

Some of you already have a great start on your projects. If you are still stuck for ideas, drag all the photos you are thinking of using into your Photoshop project file. This will create a digital collage and you may be able to see a clear theme. Here are some examples:



Replica of Slave Quarters


Once you have combined any images you might use, begin removing the backgrounds from each image. Leave the file’s background plain for now. If you can create a strong composition against a plain white background, it will only get better when you add the right background. Conversely, getting stuck on a weak background early in the project will only hinder you.

If you already have a strong concept like Lauryl or Giacomo, keep going:


Lauryl’s progress from last class


Giacomo’s progress from last class

Post your progress to your blog, and write a few sentences describing what you plan to do with the images you have combined. Make sure you also write about anything you are struggling with.

Setting up our projects

Today we will set up our project files and begin working on our actual portraits.

To set up your final project file:

  • Open Photoshop
  • File -> New
  • Set the proportions as follows (These are for a portrait orientation. If you would like a landscape orientation, set the width to 14 inches and the height to 11 inches.)
  • Open any pictures you would like to work with in Photoshop and drag them into the file. If your images seem hidden, click the icon at the top of the screen that looks like two squares overlapping one another. This will separate the images you have opened:

At the end of today’s class, create a new blog post with the following:

  • a PNG or JPG of your project so far.
  • a paragraph detailing your plan for your project. Include anything you need help figuring out how to do.

Advanced Photoshop Techniques we may use in our projects

Today we will learn several advanced Photoshop techniques that may come in handy for our projects. Before starting your final project, you will follow at least one of these tutorials and post a PNG of the competed tutorial to your blog. You will download your own photos to use, so each person’s completed tutorial file should look unique. You can choose to complete all three tutorials to receive extra credit.

Photoshop tutorials:

Create a Reflection

Make something look like it is in a glass jar or sphere

Make a photograph look like it is turning into a sketch. (Bonus challenge: figure out how to use the skills taught in this tutorial to blend two photos.)

Today we will:

  • learn several advanced Photoshop techniques that may come in handy for our projects
  • complete at least one of the tutorials linked on this blog post (or all three for extra credit)
  • create a new blog post with the following:
    • a PNG of your completed tutorial image
    • a paragraph describing how you might use this technique in your project
    • list any skills or techniques you still need to learn to create your project (even better if you can link to a tutorial that teaches these skills)

How to Create a Partial Sketch in Photoshop

This tutorial will teach you two skills – how to turn an image into a sketch, and how to blend two images with a gradient mask.

  1. Start with a color photo:
  2. Make two copies of the Background layer (Layer -> Duplicate Layer) and name them Layer 1 and Layer 1 copy.
    Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 6.51.04 PM
  3. Desaturate layer 1 copy. (Image -> Adjustments -> Desaturate)
    Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 6.53.01 PM
    Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 6.51.46 PM
  4. Duplicate Layer 1 copy to Layer 1 copy 2.
    Invert this layer. (Image -> Adjustments -> Invert)
    Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 6.52.50 PM
    Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 6.52.42 PM
  5. Change the Blend Mode of Layer 1 copy 2 to Color Dodge. The image should turn completely white with the possibility of a few small black spots. This is normal.
    Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 6.53.36 PM
  6. Go to Filter->Blur->Gaussian Blur.
  7. Experiment with the size of the radius until you are happy with the sketch effect you have created:
    Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 6.54.55 PM
  8. With Layer 1 copy 2 highlighted press SHIFT and click on Layer 1. This will highlight the top three layers.
    Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 6.55.34 PM
  9. Group these layers into a folder. (Layer -> Group Layers) Click the Add Layer Mask button at the bottom right hand side of the screen. Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 6.56.43 PM
  10. A Layer Mask will form on Group 1 Layer. The Blend Mode will be set to Pass Through.
  11. At the top of the layers palette, change the Blend Mode to Normal.
    Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 6.57.32 PM
  12. Click the Gradient Tool. Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 6.58.22 PM
    Make sure that the Foreground Colors are set to Black/White.
  13. Go to the Gradient Editor on the top left side of the screen and click on the Foreground to Background.
    Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 6.59.37 PM
  14. Here is the tricky part. Click and drag the gradient tool across the part of the image you would like to fade. You will have to experiment to see the effect you want.

New Project: Shattering Stereotypes via Portraiture

Today’s essential question: How do you think people perceive you? How is this similar or different to what you are actually like?

For our next project, we will create a portrait in Adobe Photoshop. You may choose to create a self-portrait or a portrait of someone you know. You must know this individual well enough to conceptualize a well thought out response to the theme, “What people think I’m like versus what I’m actually like” and be able to post a high-resolution image of them to your blog by next class.

First, we will examine photographer Joe Pares’ series, “Judging America,” and explain how his juxtaposition of portraits responds to societal stereotypes.

Project requirements:

  • 11×14″ at 300 DPI
  • created in Adobe Photoshop
  • combines a minimum of five different images. At least 3 of these images should be heavily altered.
  • depicts a clear conflict between multiple aspects of the individual’s personality
  • works together as a unified whole
  • progress posted daily to the class blog, along with a written reflection on any challenges, how you are moving towards your final vision, etc

Learning Targets

  • I will create a portrait on the theme “What people think I’m like versus what I’m actually like” in Adobe Photoshop. My portrait will display a clear conflict between multiple aspects of the chosen individual’s personality. (NYS standards 1&2)
  • My artwork will display an understanding of the following Photoshop effects: blend modes, gradients, filters, hue/saturation, and levels. (NYS standards 1&2)
  • The different parts of my artwork will work together as a unified whole. (NYS standards 1&2)
  • I will respond to and analyze the role of cultural stereotypes in the work of Joe Pares.

Here are some examples of pieces that would fulfill the project requirements:

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Here are some links to written pieces depicting the struggles of various groups:

Today we will:

  • examine photographer Joe Pares’ series, “Judging America,” and explain how his juxtaposition of portraits responds to societal stereotypes.
  • brainstorm ideas for our portraiture project
  • create a new blog post with the following:
    • your response to today’s essential question: How do you think people perceive you? How is this similar or different to what you are actually like?
    • the subject you plan to use for your portrait (if you plan to use someone besides yourself, write how you will obtain high-resolution images of this person by next class)
    • imagery you plan to incorporate into your portrait to depict the conflict between appearance and reality
    • 5-8 images depicting the style you hope to create with your portrait (photorealistic vs. collage, clean vs grungy, use of text, etc.)

Ways of Seeing: Social Media and Art Theory

Today’s essential question: Do you think social media and the ease with which sites like Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook allow the untrained masses to post photographs has degraded the quality of art, and in particular, photography? Explain your answer.

Today we will:

  • discuss an excerpt from the ArtNews article, “Ways of Seeing Instagram” by Ben Davis
  • identify some common subjects throughout art history
  • view one another’s photo essays and leave thoughtful comments on at least 10 classmate’s essays. You may choose to explore photo essays from both class sections.
    • Examples of empty comments: “Like :-)”, “Nice work”
    • Examples of thoughtful comments: “Breanna did a great job showing the difference between the architectural city scape and the tranquil beach. The light, cool colors of the beach scene show a significant contrast from the darker cityscape.”
  • create a new blog post with the following:
    • a link to 2-3 photo essays you found compelling, and a few sentences explaining why
    • an image taken by you or another Media student that reminds you of an artwork from art history
    • a paragraph comparing and contrasting the student photo and the famous artwork. What do you think the artist would have thought of the photo if they had been alive today?
Left: Pieter Claesz, Still Life with Roemer and Oysters (1642); right: Instagram post from inahalfshell

Left: Pieter Claesz, Still Life with Roemer and Oysters (1642); right: Instagram post from inahalfshell

An excerpt from Ways of Seeing Instagram

Ben Davis, Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Perhaps it’s not surprising that the average person would be more interested in their friend’s Instagram account than, say, Sigmar Polke at MoMA—but as far as Google knows, “Instagram” has been a more interesting subject to the masses than “art” itself since sometime last year. A force that important in visual culture is probably worth having a theory about. And in fact, rather than just being swept along by the stream of images, it may be possible for art—and art history—to add something to understanding the photo-sharing obsession.

When I think about that problem, I think about John Berger’s Ways of Seeing, a work of theory that came more than four decades ago, in 1972…If you doubt that a 42-year-old BBC documentary might be a guide to the possibilities of social media, the following passage makes it pretty clear to me that it was ahead of its time on this front:

The means of reproduction are used politically and commercially to disguise or deny what their existence makes possible. But sometimes individuals use them differently.

Adults and children sometimes have boards in their bedrooms or living-rooms on which they pin pieces of paper: letters, snapshots, reproductions of paintings, newspaper cuttings, original drawings, postcards. On each board all the images belong to the same language and all are more or less equal within it, because they have been chosen in a highly personal way to match and express the experience of the room’s inhabitant. Logically, these boards should replace museums.

To be fair, that sounds a bit more like Pinterest or Tumblr than Instagram. But, then, Instagram art star Richard Prince himself has written about how it was Tumblr that inspired him to rethink his brand of appropriation art in relationship to social media:

The first time I saw Tumblr I saw it on my daughter’s computer. I said, “what’s that”? She had organized a bunch of photos according to color. As she scrolled down I was reminded about how I use[d] to look at hundreds of slides on my custom made giant light box. What I was looking at and what I was remembering wasn’t that different. The next question I asked her was, “whose images were those and did you have to ask “permission” to use them”. She looked at me like I was the “man from Mars”. “Permission”? “For what”? (That’s my girl)…

These days, extending that line of thinking, Prince has this to say about Instagram: “It’s almost like it was invented for someone like myself. It’s like carrying around a gallery in your pocket.” From there, it’s just a hop, skip, and a jump to Berger’s prediction that Instagram, or other things like it, “should replace museums.”

Isn’t it striking that the most-typical and most-maligned genres of Instagram imagery happen to correspond to the primary genres of Western secular art? All that #foodporn is still-life; all those #selfies, self-portraits. All those vacation vistas are #landscape; art-historically speaking, #beachday pics evoke the hoariest cliché of middle-class leisure iconography.

Why this (largely unintentional) echo? Because there is a sneaky continuity between the motivations behind such casual images and the power dynamics that not-so-secretly governed classic art. Last year, Slate speculated about how Instagram’s photo-boasting tends to amplify feelings of isolation, perhaps even more so than the more textual braggadocio of Facebook and Twitter. (“Seeing,” Berger writes, “comes before words.”) One expert described how Instagram in particular might accelerate the “envy spiral” of social media: “If you see beautiful photos of your friend on Instagram,” she postulated, “one way to compensate is to self-present with even better photos, and then your friend sees your photos and posts even better photos, and so on. Self-promotion triggers more self-promotion, and the world on social media gets further and further from reality.”

View the full article here.

Discussion questions:

  1. The article alludes to the “envy spiral” of social media. To what extent does this happen with our class blogs?
  2. Compare the subjects you most frequently photographed for your photo essay to the subjects most frequently painted throughout art history. Does this make your chosen subjects feel more or less important?
  3. Name some historical artists whose theoretical Instagram accounts you would like to follow. Why?

I noticed some interesting parallels between Katie’s photos and Impressionist paintings. What do you see?


Left: Photo by Katie Murrer; Right: A Rainy Day in Paris by Gustave Caillebotte


Top: “Feeding Ground” by Katie Murrer; Bottom: “A Sunday on la Grande Jatte” by Georges Seurat

top: cross country race course photo by Ms. Lawson; bottom: "Autumn Sunset" by Jasper Cropsey

top: cross country race course photo by Ms. Lawson; bottom: “Autumn Sunset” by Jasper Cropsey

Examples of “Fine Art” photographs that have recently appeared in my Facebook news feed:

Photo Credit: Erin Mahoney; adjunct photography professor at The Art Institute of California - Sunnyvale

Photo Credit: Erin Mahoney; adjunct photography professor at The Art Institute of California – Sunnyvale

Photo Credit: Beth Adams, art teacher at Geneseo High School

Photo Credit: Beth Adams, art teacher at Geneseo High School