Andrea has always loved taking photographs. She particularly likes wildlife photography. “But I’m a photographer, I photograph everything”. And, while she did go to art school, her courses did not include photography and she is essentially self-taught.
Andrea describes herself as a “competition photographer” and her presentation took us through her workflow for developing the fabulously inventive images she enters in salons and competitions. Using examples from her “Mermaids” and “Ladies Marvellous Adventures” series of photographs, she demonstrated how a truly imaginative “art composite” can be produced from a variety of source photographs through skilful post-processing in Photoshop.
We started with the “Mermaids” and Andrea described a three-stage process that began with an original subject image, which was first developed into a “photo composite” (essentially a cleaned up version of the original), which was then developed into an “art composite”. Thus, from an original subject, she created something else.
“Mermaids” started with a photoshoot. Typically, Andrea prepares a “mood board” to assemble her ideas and knows what she wants to achieve at a shoot. She takes lots of photos (jpegs) and, a couple of days later so she comes to it with a fresh mind, she goes through a “review and delete” process to identify and rate the “keepers”, jotting down ideas as she goes. She then chooses just, say, three images to work on.
For “Mermaids” Andrea chose a particular pose she wanted to start with, worked on cleaning up the skin of the model (there were tattoos and piercings), and did some cloning, painting, dodging and burning and cutting out (she uses the Pen tool) to produce a figure on a plain black background. This was the “photo composite” and the same “recipe” was then used to similarly develop the other chosen images.
Other elements – sky, waves, rocks, the mermaid tail (constructed using the warp tool from, among other sources, a picture of a chameleon), coral, etc – were added to the “photo composite”. There was plenty of other processing too, such as adding a vignette and a “moonlight” effect. Key tools were the Blend Modes and the Opacity slider. Andrea’s “top tip” is to zoom in really close so you can see the individual pixels.
This process got Andrea close to the final “art composite”. But after leaving the image for a couple of days she came back to it and added a lighthouse and some shells. By then there were lots of layers!
“Ladies Marvellous Adventures” started with a costume shoot. And using the same three-stage process Andrea developed shots of the two models into a whole series of charming and amusing scenarios – “Ladies That Lounge”, Ladies Balancing the Books, Ladies Up Up and Away”, “Ladies Take a Cruise”, “Ladies Send Out a Mayday”, and many more.
Creativity is perhaps the combination of imagination and originality. Andrea’s endlessly fascinating images of mythical figures and whimsical dreams revealed the real breadth of her creativity and skill. And her step-by-step demonstrations showed how such flights of the imagination can be artistically depicted through the medium of photography.
She reckons anyone can learn to do all this. She has taught herself, clearly relishes the learning experience, and simply looks online is she needs a new technique.
Andrea is a fluent and engaging presenter and laced this lavishly illustrated talk with plenty of explanation about her artistic vision and the techniques used to realise it. This sort of post-processing creativity may not be everyone’s cup of tea. But Andrea’s images amply demonstrate that photography is not necessarily just about what you photograph, it’s about what you create.
We hope Andrea will Zoom in again later in the season with Part 2 of her presentation. She gave us a short preview – it includes Valkyries, the Goddess Morrigan, Sun Goddesses, and Wind Singers!
More of Andrea’s work, including her CPAGB, DPAGB and MPAGB panels, can be found on her website at https://www.andreahargreaves.art/