John shows how he creates a stock image with Photoshop - a picture of the Devil.
Coming up with a stock photo idea
In coming up with stock photo ideas I always try and make it a practice to look at the opposite of whatever idea I am working on. It was natural then that when I had just completed an angel image for a magazine assignment (Design Graphics out of Australia) when the idea of doing the Devil as a stock image presented itself. I love it when I can come up with an image that can have a lot of impact, fills a real need in the image world, and costs little to nothing to produce. In this case I had the perfect model…me! I knew from years of looking into the mirror each morning I knew that I would make a very good Devil. I also knew I could create an environment for the Devil with little to no expenses…and just shoot it in my studio which meant that it would be convenient too.
Photographing the elements
I had my assistant at the time photograph me with a Leaf DCB I (Digital Camera Back) mounted on a Hasselblad camera. This was quite a while back…and the Leaf Camera, in single shot mode, would only capture in Black and White. To shoot a color image it needed three exposures (one each in Red, Blue and Green)…so it was pretty much impossible to shoot anything with any movement). In the image we captured I am beckoning with my finger. The idea here is that we don’t just have a Devil, but we have temptation as well. The background was crinkled up seamless lit from underneath to give a kind of cave or underground quality. We also photographed a pair of deer antlers that I happened to have around. For the final element we found a shot of flames in my stock files (35 mm slide film that we scanned on my drum scanner).
Next distort my features in the image
It is a relatively simple matter to use the liquify brush to reshape my face lengthening and thinning it, giving my ears points, thinning the fingers between my knuckles and tapering my finger nails to sharp claws. When using the liquefy brush for such things I prefer to set the density to about 50% and use short smooth strokes. If one starts the stroke in the center of and image the result is much different that if one starts on the edge. The only way I know to really understand the nuances available with that tool is to spend some real time experimenting with different settings and brushing styles. It is really amazing what can be done with that one tool!
Next I converted the B and W files to RGB and used “curves” to change the color to red. The liquify brush again came into play to convert the antlers into more “devil like” horns. A clipping path was used to isolate the new horns, which were then copied and pasted into place. I used the “burn” and “dodge” tools to create the impression of shadows and highlights to give the “ridge” around the base of the horns a more dimensional look (remember “the Devil is in the details”). Next I copied and pasted portions of my bald head to eliminate the fringe of hair I actually sport and to get a shaved head look. Some more cloning created the cat-like eyes. The final piece of the puzzle was painting in the flames. For that a large brush and a layer mask works well.
Using the pen tool in Photoshop
One thing worth noting with this image is how simple it really was to execute. The pen tool to create a clipping path, the liquefy brush, burn & dodge tools, curves, cloning and layer masks…really a pretty small set to complete what might appear to be a complex job. One could probably spend a lifetime mastering all the tools, filters and whatever that Photoshop offers. In fact, I used to spend days experimenting with channel operations, combinations of layer modes and countless third-party filters but almost all of the images that I create can be done most efficiently with just the basics. Master the basics and you eliminate the barriers between imagination and execution!
For me, the most difficult part of imaging is still the photography. Give me the right raw materials and I feel I can create just about anything with Photoshop…but trying to fix images that aren’t right in the first place…at leas when one is trying to create a new image with compositing, is a waste of time and can be a real exercise in frustration. It can often be done…but it is far better to start with the right raw materials.
The picture of the devil - another timeless profitable stock photo sale
The “Devil” image sells well---about a dozen times a year! I had a friend let me know that he had seen it used in The National Enquirer to illustrate a story on the Pope selling souls to the Devil. Another friend reported seeing it used in MAXIM magazine. It has probably been used more than a hundred times at this point. The licensing and marketing of the image is handled by Getty Images. It is a rights-managed image that fits well into the conceptual stock category. Like many of my favorite images the “Devil” image is timeless…and hopefully will provide me with at least some income until it is time for me to go to…well…wherever the heck I will be going!