Playing with fire / by Alexandria Cox

Hello everyone!

I’m excited, and I must admit, a little nervous to write my very first ever blog post. I never thought of myself as a “writer”, mainly because I tend to let pictures speak for me. So this will be a learning experience for me. That being said, I would just like to just write to you as though we were out at some nice coffee shop talking about things we’re passionate about. J

So let’s jump in, shall we?

I’ve always been a huge fan of special features and what happens behind the scenes. So much so that, at age 13, I got the National Geographic’s documentary of Lord of the Rings, and watched it all by myself in my parents basement. I do admit I am a bit of a fantasy nerd.  Like I said, I really like to see what happens behind the scenes.

When I first came across Conceptual Photography, I was simply blown away! I had no idea how people could make such surreal looking pictures using only Photoshop! But, I was excited to find out. I know there are many, many, great photographers out there and I am still only just beginning my Photoshop journey. However, I’d like to pass along to you what I do know and what I’ve learned because I think you’ll find it interesting as hopefully helpful.

 

That being said, for this first post I thought it would be fun to show you the process of making “Like a fire” from my 52-week project.  

"But if I say, “I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot." - Jeremiah 20:9

"But if I say, “I will not mention his word
or speak anymore in his name,”
his word is in my heart like a fire,
a fire shut up in my bones.
I am weary of holding it in;
indeed, I cannot." - Jeremiah 20:9

First of all, when doing self-portraits it’s extremely helpful to have a tri-pod and a shutter release. If you happen to have a friend who is willing to help you out and watch you make a fool of yourself, (mainly with the “hair flipping” as you will see below.) that’s always nice too. ;)

Stage One:

 I went to my local Goodwill and purchased a $3 sheet so I could rig a makeshift dress that I could then burn. I know there are techniques you can do in post processing to add flame… but alas, I am not that skilled yet so I opted for the real thing.

Once I was satisfied with the dress I went outside to set up the shot.

I know, super glamorous right? It was kind of chilly out that day.  Here you can see that I use my cell phone as my shutter release.

I know, super glamorous right? It was kind of chilly out that day.  Here you can see that I use my cell phone as my shutter release.

 

Here’s the part that tends to make me look rather strange (I’m sure my neighbor was quite amused if he happened to look out his window.). I knew I wanted the picture to look like there was a good deal of wind and blowing about and I couldn’t have my dress all up in billows but my hair not be moving. So, the easiest way to make this effect is to do a hair flip…. Many hair flips…. It’s surprisingly difficult to time it just right. But you just have to keep at it. Once I got a few different shots I thought I could use it was time for the next step.

 

Stage Two:

Let’s move on to the dress. A single sheet does make a splendid dress in a pinch, but I wanted something a little more grand and with some more movement. I threw the dress around a whole bunch getting different parts of the dress in motion. Then I added this in Photoshop and took out sections of the dress from different images and added them to the main image.

 

Stage Three:

Now for the fun part! I conveniently had a dress form on hand that my sister and I had made several years ago that is my exact size. I recreated the dress on the form and then set it up in the exact spot I had been standing. I did a few tests to see how quickly the fabric would burn, took some shots and then put out the fire and set the dress alight in another area. However… I’m afraid my dress form is a little worse from the experience… I did get some delightful pictures of the flame though!

***Please note that this should not be tried at home without adult supervision. If you do feel like trying this one your own please take precautions. I made sure to set this up in an area that would not catch fire and I had water readily on hand to put out the fire right away. ***

18.JPG

 

Stage Four:

Alright! Almost done. Now I just had to load everything up in Photoshop and put it together.

Once I had expanded the background (http://digital-photography-school.com/5-steps-to-rock-the-brenizer-method/ ) it was time to assemble the dress. I had the main picture that I liked of myself and in several other tabs I opened files with the dress flowing in ways that I liked. There are many methods for this sort of thing, but what I did was:

·         use the lasso tool to cut out a section of the dress that I wanted

·          made a copy via new layer

·         Then moved that layer over to my main picture.

·          Once there I would use a layer mask to blend that section in with the rest of the dress. I repeated that process several times.

 

 

 

I then repeated those same steps with the pictures of the dress on fire.

 

 

Stage Five:

I realize that I did things a little backwards with showing you the earlier steps. All of that would have been done with the raw, unedited, files. Once I was totally happy with all of the compositing, then it was time to do the color editing. This included adjusting hue and saturation, levels, curves, and adding a few different color filters (actions). I was extremely happy to receive some lovely actions from “Greater than Gatsby” (here is a link to how you can get some of their free actions https://www.greaterthangatsby.com/free-photoshop-actions/ .). I think it’s important that all of my photography has the same “feel” to it in mood and lighting and that’s still something I am working on.  But having a set of actions to use over and over again is very helpful.

Here you can see my before and after of the color editing.

 



There we have it! My first tutorial and my first blog post. I hope you like it! I would really love to hear your thoughts, questions and feedback! If you’ve created an image similar to this I would love to see it! What method did you use to add fire to the picture? Do you have a different method for expanding the background?

Hopefully I will be writing again soon and Talk to you all later!