Photo Tricks: The Magic of Desaturation

Ever seen photos with just a little splash of color while the rest of it is in grayscale? It’s a neat little trick photo-editors use to make certain elements of the image ‘pop’. I have tried using it successfully for quite some time now but the results still never fail to mesmerize me. All you do is use the ‘Select tool’ to make a clean selection of the region you want to keep, ‘Inverse’ your selection to select the area that needs to be converted to gray, and using a ‘Desaturation Mask’, bring the saturation levels all the way down. Here is a little example to show my point. Do give this a try and let me know how yours turned out!

After the treatment

 

The original shot

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Light Painting Basics

Over the years, especially with the advancement in digital imaging, I have seen some amazing photographs using lights as paintbrushes on very high shutter speeds. This was my first formal trial (with a DSLR) and I thought the results could have been better, had my daughter not been chasing me around while I was ‘painting’ with light. Anyways, the photos below shows how easily one can coordinate his/her movements to make interesting effects. If you own a DSLR camera, you can have fun with these techniques too in just a few simple steps:

  1. Get a hold of some LED or Laser lights; these seem to work best as the light emitted from these is relatively focused on one point. Having said that, I suggest you try using some other light sources, like toys, to get some really interesting outputs.
  2. Set your DSLR camera to Shutter Priority mode (S mode), and choose a shutter speed; you may need to experiment a little with the speeds depending on what you are trying to paint, but generally, anything between 10″ and 30″ should do the trick. Remember: the higher the shutter speed, the more time you get to paint on one exposure.
  3. Set up your camera right in front of a dark wall, and take a test shot with the room lights open to gauge the ‘canvas’ area that you’ll be getting to do the painting.
  4. Turn off all the lights in your room; stand in front of a relatively dark wall, if possible, so as to eliminate any light bouncing back from it.
  5. Press the shutter release button, run and take position in front of the camera.
  6. Paint your heart out till you hear the shutter close again, signified by a barely audible click.

It was about 12 am when I started and I went through with it even though I could see my wife’s angry gaze piercing through me. So naturally, I wanted to write ‘I love you’ for this test to show my wife that I loved her more than I loved my camera. Then midway through the shoot, I decided it was more interesting to draw a heart and write the word ‘love’ in the center. I took these four photos in sequence at shutter speeds between 10 and 15 seconds, and the end-result was not bad at all, given that it was my first time (kind of). Enjoy!

First Attempt

Second Attempt

Third Attempt

Fourth Attempt

Here are a few other images I have done using my Nikon D7000 DSLR as well as my trusty old Cybershot DSC-W130, and they were creating using some of my daughter’s toys.

Outta Control

One of my daughter’s favorite toys – may it rest in peace (or should I say ‘pieces’?)

Cacophony

Trick Photography – Faux-Multiple Exposures

Ever wondered how photographers show multiple instances of people/things in a single photograph? It’s an age-old photography trick made easier with the recent advancements in digital imaging and tools like Adobe Photoshop. Here’s a primer that will get you started right away.
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You will need:
  • A tripod
  • DSLR Camera (some basic digital cameras may work too)
  • Adobe Photoshop (even 6.0 or 7.0 will work)
  • A subject willing to be your sacrificial goat
Steps:
  1. Make sure the place you are working has a constant amount of light; windows are a definite no-no, esp. in cloudy weather.
  2. Mount your camera on a tripod.
  3. Set your lens such that it allows you to focus manually.
  4. Set the camera to manual mode; set the aperture as well as the shutter speed appropriate for the scene.
  5. Take one image of the background without the subject – let’s call this image A.
  6. Now, take as many images as you want of the subject in different locations (ideally with different dresses).
  7. Once completed, open up a new PSD file in Adobe Photoshop.
  8. As the first (base) layer, import the background image (i.e. image A).
  9. Now, import all the other images.
  10. Using the selection tool, cut out the different variations of the subject on the scene and delete the rest of the image area.
  11. You may have to do some minor brightness/contrast adjustments on the subject but all in all, the effect should be fairly believable; your image is now ready.

Here are a few samples I did; the results could have been cleaner had I invested more time/effort into them, but I suppose I did an OK job.

Enjoy!