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Shooting For Post

Everyone has heard the expression "I’ll fix it in Photoshop." Usually, blowing off details when you shoot because you know you can fix them in Photoshop isn’t a good idea, and often it’s not as possible or as easy as you think. However, making images around a concept that uses Photoshop to pull it off is a great way to work.

1 The illustration shows the light effects that will be required. Since all layer images will need to be made without striking the set or ­­moving the camera, make a sketch or shooting list to assure that all the needed layers are captured.

Choosing to use Photoshop doesn’t eliminate the need to know how to properly expose and light. Creating a glow of a backlit liquid, illustrating a correct tonal change, eliminating an unwanted shadow or accurately creating a lighting effect will be difficult, if not impossible, and immensely time-consuming for all but the most skilled Photoshop users. But with an understanding of how light interacts with various materials in the subject, as well as how to use layers, selections and opacity, lighting can be enhanced with the use of Photoshop. While this process can be done with scanned film or transparencies, it’s far easier to use a digital camera.

Photographing With Layers In Mind
To effectively composite images, the lighting needs to be done correctly for the subject, set and background or it will look faked. Further-more, when contemplating compositing an image using multiple parts in Photoshop, you need to understand the specific Photoshop tools and exactly how they work.


This process requires that the angle of view and position of the subject remain consistent in each shot. The technique will work for still subjects, large and small, from tabletop to architectural shoots. Keep the camera anchored and immobile to maintain the angle of view. Also disengage your autofocus and auto-exposure. Changing settings, including focus, focal length and ƒ-stop, also can change the size and quality of the image at the sensor.

2 The first image was made for positioning and to set the background’s tone. The back portion of the calendar isn’t adequately lit because it has no direct reflections showing on its surface.


Remember that the critical issues are light angles, shadows and reflection on and from the subject. These elements need to be consistent on the set and background. In the step-by-step example here, I’ve photographed an adjustable Lucite calendar as I might for a catalog. The lighting created all the effects.

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