Last Wednesday (27 March 2019) Steve Brabner visited LBPC to deliver his illustrated “Taking Images vs Making Images” talk. Club members were able to enjoy the fruits of Steve’s knowledge and long experience of using Adobe Photoshop and other post-processing tools to produce “creative” images from “uninteresting” photographs. They also enjoyed around 150 of his images – “all created in some way”.
Steve is a member of the Amersham Photographic Society. And he chairs a sub-group there (the Amersham Beyond Group) which concentrates exclusively on creative photography and photo-based art. Each month he sets a photographic challenge to encourage members to explore new creative techniques.
Despite having been a photography enthusiast for over 40 years, Steve claims not to see anything interesting or take interesting photographs. He says he doesn’t do sunrise or sunset or wildlife. And, anyway, it’s all been done before – 30,000 images a minute are uploaded to Flikr, 200,000 to Instagram, and 250,000 to Facebook.
Accordingly, Steve prefers to “make” images and produce something unique. And he has been doing it since the 1970s when he used to produce his own colour prints. His talk is therefore about “creative photography” and took us through his experiences of making images – both film and digital – while, as he put it, “having fun with photography”.
All this fun encompassed the following during the film era.
His Early Graphical Style – cartoon-like prints with large blocks of strong colour.
In-Camera Effects – such as long exposures (for example, night-time shots of brightly lit fairground rides), reflections of lights, playing with grainy films, and playing with polarisers.
Scissors & Glue – such as cutting out the bits of prints he did not like (replacing them with something else), creating kaleidoscope effects with mirror tiles, and making “joiners” (using several separate prints of a single scene to create a larger one by physically overlapping them).
Darkroom Multiple Exposures – using several negatives to create a single print.
Lith Film – using a special form of film that produces very high contrast images. (A similar effect can now be produced in Photoshop using a Threshold Adjustment Layer.)
When the digital era came along Steve was lucky enough to be working in the USA and he was introduced to Adobe Photoshop even before digital cameras were available. It was “a total eye-opener”. Steve recognised the future and got “very excited”. He took evening classes to learn how to use this new software, applying it to scanned film images and producing new images that could fill a whole floppy disk.
More creative fun ensued.
Early Experiments – basically playing around with the new technology to see what it could do (for example, creating composite images, blurring backgrounds, and “cleaning up” images).
Best Bits – assembling images by using different parts of multiple shots of a single subject/event (for example, to create a single image from several firework bursts at the Olympic 2012 closing ceremony).
Creating Atmosphere – by, for instance, tweaking the light, adding snow or footprints to a scene, overlaying mirror images, or painting with light.
Digital Filters and Plug-ins – using the many tools available now in post-processing software (for example, “Diffuse Glow”, “Grain”, “Oil Paint” and “Motion Blur” in Photoshop and “Simplify” in Topaz) to produce particular effects.
Contrivances – using other software (such as the Flame Painter Programme) to produce special effects.
Combining Unconnected Images – as a step on from the Best Bits, assembling images by using different parts of multiple shots of a variety of subjects/events (for example, using a blurred image of the Nottinghill Carnival as the background for a street artist in Florence). (In passing, Steve also mentioned the Apple “U Gotta See This” app for iPhones that can be used to create “joiners”.)
High Dynamic Range – combining several, differently exposed, images of the same scene to produce a single image of greater dynamic range than would otherwise be possible. Steve uses this technique sparingly because it has been much overused. His favoured software is Photomatix Pro.
Photo Painting – overpainting a photograph with brush strokes (using, for example, Corel Painter Essentials, Dynamic Auto Painter, FotoSketcher, or Topaz Impressions).
Steve is an entertaining presenter with a nice line in self-deprecation (his original shots are not as boring as he likes to make out). And his talk was generously illustrated with his creative images, accompanied by plenty of anecdotal colour and “how I made the image” explanation. He even fitted in a diversion to a video showing how bits of 23 takes of some Mark Knopfler guitar work had been spliced together on a computer to create the final version.
This was an absorbing evening and Steve certainly demonstrated how some less-than-exciting images, and even snaps, might be turned into competition winners.
At the very least, there is clearly lots of creative fun to had playing around with Photoshop and other post-processing software!