Using layers to create a realistic scene

Today’s essential question: How can I use layers to create a realistic scene with a foreground, middle ground, and background in Photoshop?

I created this photo of puppies on vacation with many layers in Photoshop:
beach_layers

Here is what the layers palette looks like:
layers_palette

Here is a step by step process for building the scene with layers:

1_beach_layers

2_beach_layers

3_beach_layers

4_beach_layers

5_beach_layers

beach_layers

Using foreground, middle ground, and background will help your characters look like they are actually in the scene, versus on top of an existing image. How will you use layers in Photoshop to create a realistic environment? What are some things you could add to your foreground?

Today we will:

  • Continue building our scenes in Photoshop
  • Create a new blog post with the following:
    • PNG images of anything you worked on today
    • a few sentences describing what you found easy, as well as any challenges or things you would like extra help with

Pen & Quick Selection Tools: Removing the background from an image in Photoshop

Today’s essential question: How can I combine images to build a unique setting for my story?

Today we will remove backgrounds from images we will use in our digital collage. If you have taken your green screen photos, you may wish to use them. Otherwise, you will download pieces of your scene and remove the backgrounds from the various pieces that will comprise your setting.

Creating a setting

You must photoshop at least 3 different images together for your background or setting.  (So, for example, you cannot just put the images you photographed in front of the green screen into an existing photograph – you must add at least 2, preferably more, other items to customize your scene.) The emptier the scene you start with, the better. For example, the image below is terrible for the purposes of the project, because it is already full of cars and people, so we have no room to add our own:

1f2d7a02-dd5c-45e9-84fe-b98e76377bf1

The next image is much better, because it has space to add whatever cars or people we would like, giving us complete control over the mood we establish:

dennys_restaurant_at_the_elko_junction_shopping_center_in_elko_nevada_cropped.jpg

Here is another example. These wooded scenes are all a great place to start because they have ample space in the foreground to add other imagery:

Here are some extra images that might make the scene more interesting:

 

Removing the background from an image

Quick selection tool

If the background is solid, and contrasts with the subject, you may wish to use the quick selection tool. It is quicker than the pen tool, but will not give you as much control. Here is a tutorial on how to use the quick selection tool.

The pen tool

If you would like more control than the quick selection tool provides, use the pen tool to path around your objects. Today we will learn how to use the pen tool to path out part of a photo and copy and paste it on a new layer. You can then drag the layer with the isolated object into the Photoshop file where you are building your scene.

How to create a composite image:

  1. Go to the “paths” window on the lower right side of the screen. It is likely tabbed next to the layers palette.
    Click the “new path” button. new_path_icon
  2. Go to the toolbar on the left side of the screen. Select the pen tool. pen_tool
    Outline the part of the photograph you want to modify.
  3. Once you have closed your shape by clicking on the first point, go back to the paths window.
    Right click on the path you have created, and click “make selection.”
    make_selection_layers
    Feather the selection by 1pixel (this will soften the edges of your selection).
    It should look like ants are marching around the part of the photo you have selected.
    Screen Shot 2017-02-15 at 7.43.06 PM.png
  4. Control + C to copy your selection. Control + V to paste your selection. Hide the original image by clicking on the eye icon.
    photoshopproject-162
  5. Save your file as both a Photoshop file and a PNG. (You will be able to post the PNG to your blog and maintain the transparent background.)
  6. Drag the isolated layers into the Photoshop file where you are building your scene.
    s8pbf7_scene

Today we will:

  • Finish shooting any needed photos in front of the green screen
  • Remove backgrounds from images we will use in our digital collage
  • Create a new blog post with the following:
    • any photos taken today
    • before and after photos of any images where you removed the background
    • a few sentences describing any challenges you faced today, as well as how you worked through those challenges

Common Green Screen Photography Mistakes

Today’s essential question: What are some common issue that arise when taking photos in front of a green screen? How can we prevent them?

Today we will continue shooting green screen photos, trying to prevent common green screen photography mistakes. Here are some of my favorite photos taken during last class:

Common Green Screen Photography Mistakes

Missing Body Parts

Why it happens: The subject’s clothing or accessories are too close in color to the green screen.

How to prevent it: Avoid green clothing, accessories, and subjects. When that is not possible, create a screen in a color that contrasts with the colors you are photographing.

Camera angles do not match
camera_angle

Why it happens: Different photos are taken from different camera angles. These photos then will not work together if composited into the same image in Photoshop.

How to prevent it: Set up a tripod to your desired height and camera angle, and keep it consistent as you photograph all of your subjects. Make sure the angle of the camera matches the angle of your background scene.

Awkward Lighting

Why it happens: Studio lighting is too dark, too light, or inconsistent.

How to prevent it: Take test photos and adjust the lighting as necessary. Start with even ambient lighting from overhead lights and windows, and experiment with the distance, strength, and angles of any auxiliary lights.

Motion Blur
motion_blur

Why it happens: The subject moves before the camera finishes taking the photo.

How to prevent it: Use a quick shutter speed (if you have a DSLR). If you can’t control the shutter speed manually, force the camera to use a quick shutter speed by providing sufficient light and using a tripod to steady the camera. Remind your model to remain as still as possible.

Subject Extends beyond the Green Screen

Why it happens: The model and photographer do not take the camera angle and subject’s position into account before taking the photo.

How to prevent it: Take test photos and adjust the position of the model and camera/tripod as necessary.

Subject is not Realistically Posed
zombiefilming2

Why it happens: The model awkwardly acts out a pose without the necessary props, and consequently, poses themselves incorrectly. When the scene and props are later added in Photoshop, they do not fit or look strange.

How to prevent it: Provide the model with placeholder props and scenery that mimic the size and shape of whatever will be added in Photoshop. It’s amazing how much simple objects such as boxes, paper towel rolls, rope, and stuffed animals can help the model pose properly.

Today we will:

  • Take photos in front of the green screen
  • Begin building our scene in Photoshop
  • Create a new  blog post with the following:
    • images of any work created today
    • a brief reflection of any challenges you faced, how you worked through those challenges, and what you would like help with

 

Featured Artist: Tim Burton & The Green Screen

Several people still need to finish their project proposals. To receive full credit for your project proposal blog post, you need to include the following things:

  • a well-developed concept sketch that includes characters, accessories, and a scene with a background
  • a paragraph describing your concept, as well as which students will be your models, and what sorts of costumes and props you will need
  • any images from the internet you may use in your scene (or that depict the type of environment, costumes, or accessories that you will attempt to photograph)

Brian has created an A+ project proposal. Please use his as a reference if you did not receive full credit.

Today’s Essential Question: How can I use a green screen to capture digital imagery?

Today we will learn how to shoot photos in front of a green screen. We will light, pose, and photograph models as a class, then analyze our photos at the Smart Board.

First, though, we will look at how director Tim Burton utilized green screen technology for his 2010 production of Alice In Wonderland.

Here are some stills from Alice in Wonderland:

And here are some images depicting what was actually filmed in front of a green screen:

What surprises you? What ideas have these behind-the-scenes images given you for your own project?

Want to learn more? This article covers Tim Burton’s utilization of a green screen and other special effects.

Today we will:

  • Light, pose, and photograph models as a class
  • Analyze our photos at the Smart Board
  • Create a blog post with the following:
    • What did you learn from today’s green screen demonstration?
    • What challenges do you anticipate when photographing your subjects?
    • What, if anything, will you modify about your project concept after today’s green screen lesson?
    • What (if any) costumes and props are you struggling to find? What are some resources you may use to acquire these costumes/props? How might you modify your project concept to use costumes or props that you already have?

Featured Artist: Annie Liebovitz

Today’s essential question: How can the costumes, backgrounds, and accessories in an image work together to tell a story?

Today we will refine our concepts, making sure we our planned subject, background, accessories, and costumes will work together to tell a cohesive story and create the intended mood.

Featured Artist: Annie Liebovitz

Photographer Annie Liebovitz creates fantasy scenes with a combination of elaborate costumes, props, lighting, and digital manipulation. Here are some examples of her work:

Here are some behind-the-scenes photos illustrating how she created these images:

This article shows how Annie Liebovitz created her Disney series. We will use similar problem solving skills for our Digital Storytelling project.

Today we will:

  • View and discuss examples of Annie Liebovitz’s work
  • Continue to refine our concepts. If you have not already done so, list any costumes or props that you plan to bring next class.
  • Create a new blog post with the following:
    • finished concept sketch (including the planned scene/background and any intended accessories)
    • a well-developed paragraph describing your concept. Include who you plan to photograph, what type of background or scene you will use, what types of costumes, accessories, or props you will incorporate, and what type of imagery (if any) you will use from the internet

New Project: Digital Storytelling

Essential Question:  How can I tell a story with a digital collage in Adobe Photoshop?

Today we will introduce our next project: Digital Storytelling through Green Screen Photoshop Collage. We will photograph ourselves and our classmates in front of a green screen, and then build a scene in Photoshop that tells a story using these green screen photos.

Here is a sample project created by a middle school student during an RIT summer workshop. To make the project appropriate challenging for 11th and 12th grade students, I would expect more objects in the scene, and for the lighting/shadows to be more realistic:

Hutteman_S_clone.jpg

Image Credit: Samantha

Project Requirements:

  • Created in Adobe Photoshop
  • Minimum size: 11” x 14” @ 300 DPI
  • Original, realistic scene created from a minimum of six images
    • Minimum of 3 images taken in front of green screen with techniques taught during this lesson
    • Background can be either taken by student or downloaded from the internet (minimum 12MP). Any internet images must be noticeably modified to create your own unique scene.
    • Realistic background, middle ground, and foreground created through use of Photoshop layers
    • No copyrighted characters
  • High Quality Craftsmanship
    • No pixelation
    • Background cleanly removed
    • Images Photographed from appropriate angles
    • Lighting matches up
    • Scale and proportion makes sense
  • Final Blog post includes:
    • PNG of final image
    • 150 word Artist Statement

Today we will:

  • Introduce project: digital collage in Adobe Photoshop
  • Brainstorm concept
  • Create a new blog post with the following:
    • Paragraph with the following:
      • Describe your concept
      • What will you photograph for your 3-6 green screen images?
      • What background or scene will you use?
      • What extra images or accessories will you add?
      • What costumes or props will you need to bring in next class for the green screen photography portion?
    • Sketch (including the background/scene)
    • Any sample imagery you may use from the internet

 

Mini Lessons: Digital Collage in Photoshop

Today’s essential question: How can I create a digital collage in Adobe Photoshop?

If you feel like you understand Photoshop well, consider becoming a student leader and help teach your classmates how to do the mini lessons. (Notice that I said teach, not do their projects for them!)

Today we will complete a series of Photoshop mini lessons. These tutorials will teach us how to combine multiple images into one Photoshop file, how to use the transform tool to scale and rotate an object, and how to use layers to make an object look like it is in front of parts of the scene but behind other parts of the scene. We will complete both the kitten dress up and kitten in a box tutorials, save a Photoshop version of our file and a png of each tutorial to our username, and post the PNG to our blogs. You must create a new blog post that contains the work you did today in order to receive participation points.

Links to the resources we will use today:

Kitten in a Box (teaches us how to make an object look like it is inside a container)

cat_in_box_starter

Kitten in box tutorial starter file

Completed cat in box tutorial

Completed kitten in box tutorial

  • Click here to view the step-by-step instructions for the kitten in a box tutorial. (If you do not have this file open and cannot tell me what step you need help with, I will not help you.)
  • Click here to download the kitten in a box tutorial starter file.
  • If you have time, personalize it by adding other accessories, and perhaps a background that you have downloaded from the internet. You can even switch up the animal in the box if you’re not a cat person. Here are some examples created by Media students:

Kitten Dress Up Tutorial (teaches us how to combine multiple images into one Photoshop file, and how to use the transform tool to scale and rotate objects)

Completed kitten dress up tutorial

Completed kitten dress up tutorial

  • Click here to view the step-by-step-instructions for the kitten dress up Photoshop tutorial. (If you do not have this file open and cannot tell me what step you need help with, I will not help you.)
  • Click here to download the kitten dress up Photoshop file.
  • If you have time, personalize it by adding other accessories, and perhaps a background that you have downloaded from the internet. Here are some examples created by 9th grade students:

Today we will:

  • Complete the kitten in a box tutorial. Save your file to your username as both a photoshop (.psd) file and a .png file.
  • Complete the kitten dress up tutorial. Try to personalize it by adding other accessories, and perhaps a background that you have downloaded from the internet. Save your file to your username as both a photoshop (.psd) file and a .png file.
  • Create and publish a new blog post with the following:
    • a png of your completed kitten in a box image (if you got that far)
    • a png of your completed kitten dress up image
    • a paragraph describing how you create each image. Include any challenges you faced, and how you worked through those challenges.