I have been enjoying experimenting with Photoshop, creating something different, more than just enhancing features on the photograph, creating digital art by adding extra textures and elements.

This part of the course is about reality and intervention, whether a photograph should be kept as close to the original – as seen at the time of releasing the shutter –  or could the image be elevated by changing colours, tones, textures in order to perfect the composition. Personally I think it will depend on the purpose of the photograph, where and what will it be used. Lately I have been doing many portrait shoots, where I would generally perfect the skin but keeping its natural texture, for example I remove blemishes, scars or hair if it’s in the eyes or somewhere it is distracting from the image, but I would only soften moles, bags/wrinkles under and around the eyes to keep it realistic and natural, I would never fully remove them which would quite likely alter the face. This is for the purpose of selling to the client in forms of prints to hang on the wall or digital images to share on social media or sending to model agencies. The key here is to perfect but keep it not too perfect to stay on the realistic ground.

For the purpose of this assignment, I had to go beyond this, manipulating in a way that would make the image successful as a cover.

I loved the idea shooting for something specific that later on in the editing process will look its best, adding a little magic will make all the difference! Speaking of magic, I decided to shoot with kids, little girls dressed up as fairies, and a boy who had a Harry Potter outfit as well as the perfect hair! I tried to pose and light them with the finished image in my head, what will I add to the image to create the desired effect.

Thinking about potential book cover, I was debating between a fairy tale book or a Harry Potter cover with a little twist. I settled with the latter.

Final Image


The original image was with a plain grey-green background with Toby posing dressed up as Harry with a large soft box placed on his left quite high up, head point downwards.

Will post all original images and elements I used for this cover, unfortunately I edited on a different computer which I don’t have access to until Wednesday.

First thing I added was the sparkles which was on a black background, I pulled into Photoshop, changed the blending mode to screen which got rid of the black and only the sparkles left, I resized and twisted it to get the right direction and masked out the unwanted parts like between fingers as it was covering his thumb as well as the whole arm so I got rid of it creating a more “realistic” 3D effect.

Next step was sorting out the background as it was a plain wall and I knew I needed some sort of brick texture to make it more “Hogwarts like”. After importing the wall image as a layer, I only lowered the opacity and again, masked out the unwanted parts as it was covering the boy’s face and body.

Luckily I found all these textures for free, as well as the Harry Potter font which was surprising but I had lots of fun styling it to make it look like a real book cover, adding different textures to the text and placing them carefully.

I was thinking for a long time what would be the book about, I had everyday magic in mind but couldn’t work out how to work this into the title and then suddenly it’s just clicked… It would be truly magical having zero hour workweeks! Is it imaginary or not? Of course, everything is possible…


As my tutor suggested, I came up with a different idea on this subject, as with my original work, there is no ambiguity between real life and constructed imagery and thanks to his support, I understood why as it’s being obviously edited in Photoshop. My idea was the relation between magic and real life, but I should have created something which equally could be done in camera or in Photoshop. He further suggested to look at the work of Kyle Thompson and explore the idea of surrealism within portraiture photography. I was absolutely stunned by his work, it moved me and genuinely got me thinking with the artist’s brain, figuring out the message he is conveying through his images.

He also suggested to look into image manipulation, in particular the moral and ethical considerations, when people are stealing other photographers’ work and presenting as their own. I was surprised how obvious plagiarism is in the following two cases what he recommended me to look at: Souvid Datta credibility as a photojournalist was questioned when his photo “In the Shadows of Kolkata” got accused of plagiarism and rightly so, he appears to “steal” a person from Mary Ellen Mark’s photograph of  “Transvestites getting dressed in a courtyard” from 1978. The person’s face, expression, clothing and body language appears to be exactly the same, there is no way he could recreate this in camera so many years after with a different person. The second case was about “stealing” an entire image by a Swiss photographer and entering a contest after she finds them on a public domain. She even wrote a passage about how she felt when she was taking these images, can’t believe people can just lie like this. We should only look at artists’ work to be inspired by, not to steal some part or the whole image for selfish reasons.

As I have been struggling with depression for a long time which effected me at work as well in private life, I thought I could do something to illustrate how I feel when I’m down, just feeling trapped in my own body and unable to reach for help. It is particularly difficult as I live alone and I have been working almost every day in the last two years now just to survive and being able to pay the bills, not seeing any friends or making attempt to make any friends at all because of work, also not being able to spend enough time on my coursework because of busy schedule, being creative on demand is just doesn’t work.

Assignment rework

People with depression and anxiety are making life even harder for themselves than it is already by just unable to focus on anything and get it done, also feeling down for no particular reason. Most times I find myself just sitting in my room, don’t want to get out or even chat anyone on social media or on the phone, completely detaching myself from anything. The idea was to describe this feeling through a photograph.

Original image – the idea was to create a window to the right of the girl with shutters on in Photoshop representing the feeling of being alone in a room in the dark and only a little light shines above giving a sense of little hope so it’s more positive rather than suicidal. I couldn’t find a way to shoot it in camera nor managed to find a realistic looking window so it was the time for plan B.

Resized and extended background – Plan B was to “put the girl in a jar” literally, while I’ve seen this done in camera in terms of two photographs blending together, I didn’t have the jar photographed the same time as the girl so it left me with one choice: Photoshop. Obviously I need to make sure it will look realistic.


Found a realistic jar image and dragged onto my photo in Photoshop. It looked perfect as it’s only been lit from the left, so the other side is dark enough to be realistic.

Positioning and masking – Re-positioned the jar align with the floor and starting masking out the girl by adding a layer mask and painting with a black brush on it.


Magic – Simply by changing the blending modes, “multiply” mode gave me the perfect effect I wanted. Although it was quite strong, I just lowered the opacity of the layer to find the ideal intensity.


Final image

Simple text – I didn’t want to make it look too busy, so I settled down with my book title “ALONE” which I felt was enough to convey the message of my imaginary book. The ratio of the image wasn’t quite right for a book in my previous work, so I made sure this time will be the right size too.



Overall I’m much happier with the latter image, although I’m still frustrated about my coursework not spending enough time on it, which was simply impossible with my current lifestyle. I’m very grateful for the pointers given by my tutor, first time I was struggling to understand what needs to be done with this assignment, surrealistic portraits are now on my list for further exploration.


Recently I heard a professional photographer using this phrase, “blinded by styling”  as she referred to a portrait, where there was so much going on, but made it to be published in a magazine anyway even though it wasn’t necessarily well composed or lit. When I was planning this assignment, these words were replaying in my head but in sense of colour is being distracting sometimes, or even when that particular composition looks well in colour, it conveys a different story when it’s processed into a black and white image.

Taking the advantage of working in a studio access to all equipment, I decided to experiment with portraits again, as well as high and low key photography. I always shoot in RAW format in colour.

RAW file


Tonal contrast – The only image I shot on location, I am obsessed with shadow patterns, loved how the sunlight hits her face through the hat, definitely worked better in black and white, surroundings were too distracting in colour. Natural light only.

RAW file


Tonal contrast – Almost the complete opposite of the first image, the background and her jumper are almost the same colour, only different textures, but it really makes her stand out more especially in black and white, such beautiful freckles. Only one large soft box been used, fairly close to the model and the wall.

RAW file


Texture – While this works well in colour, I prefer the black and white again as colour isn’t distracting, love how the different textures work well together (chunky knit jumper, brick wall against a soft facial expression. Same 150 cm soft box but almost 90 degrees to the right of the model facing away from the background.

RAW file

Texture – I loved the fairy tale look created by soft curtains, curly hair and her expression, prefer black and white as the bright orange brick would have been too distracting, but as a texture it’s a nice contrasting element.

RAW file

High key – One of my first attempts to achieve this look, I admit I probably should have used more lights.

RAW file

High key – Second attempt, I think looks much better, I placed the light directly in front of the model raising to same height as the models face and there is me standing in the middle of it as you can see it in her eyes. Her skin was very tanned so it was pretty much dominating the image, but in black and white the attention draws straight to the eyes.

RAW file


Low key – I love how this turned out, although I love it in colour, I think being monochromatic just adds so much more drama to the image. I loved the fact that I was able to create it with the same light I used for the previous images, the only thing I did differently was placing only the edge of the soft box towards the face of the model, although it was facing directly towards her, only small amount was actually hitting her body as the rest was passing right in front of her.

RAW file


Low key – Similar set up again but this time I used a 70cm soft box placed higher above her head but facing it the same way as before, and I also added a grid for more control achieving no light spill. I love this look and again, definitely more dramatic than a colour version.


Feedback and reflection

I really enjoyed playing with light differently than I did before, also trying to see in black and white and it was interesting to see why certain images just wouldn’t work as well in colour as it does in black and white and how the story changes simply just by taking away colour. I love the dramatic feel of monochrome and how certain qualities appeal and how focus shifts.

As the tutor suggested, I readjusted couple images as they were almost overexposed, I didn’t notice my computer went to default setting rather than the calibrated one, so the images I produced were slightly too bright, I calibrated the monitor again and sorted the images out.