Dark Angel - Process.

Cross-posted from my Gothic Photography blog:

I've been asked quite a few times to do something of a discussion of the process whereby I edit one of these photos, so I thought I'd begin with this photo.

First is the base shot of my lovely assistant Kelsie. This was taken back in October of 2009. When I was going through the photos from that shoot, this one really jumped out at me as something that could benefit from a set of wings. The only problem, however, was that there was no room behind and around her for those wings to appear.

A couple of weeks later, I was taking photos around downtown Winnipeg, just simple background stuff, and grabbed this shot in the basement of the VIA Rail station. My initial idea for the photos taken around these columns were as self-promotional pieces, but I found I liked how this column in the foreground synced up with Kelsie's pose.

So I copied just Kelsie from that first photo and placed it into the background plate. When copying pieces of images, I like using the Quickmask setting in Photoshop and paint in the selection with the airbrush tool (with a hard edge).

Now, the pose and basic lighting lined up well enough, but Kelsie was, of course, not casting any shadows on the floor or column. I then created a new layer under the Kelsie layer to paint those in, setting said layer to Multiply so that the shadows would interact with the texture underneath and not just hover on top.

Next came the wings. These are hand-painted using a Wacom stylus and tablet with a variety of my own custom brushes. Periodically, I create my own brushes from photographed textures or designs made with other brushes. The wings were left a bit blurry to indicate movement and also leave in a sense of other-worldliness, rather than being made to look like costume props.

Another layer set to Color to gray out the bulk of the colour on the page.

With her one eye exposed, I felt that a glowing red eye would work here. So, hand-painting it like I did the wings, this was all done on a Screen layer.

With the core photo illustration completed, it now came down to adding a texture to the entire photo. I scanned an old tuxedo shirt of mine and dropped it onto another layer above everything else, set to Multiply. I then erased most of this texture, just giving hints of the dark shadows from the folds of the cloth.

Then, the highlights from that shirt were added on another layer above that, this time set to Screen. Again, I erased most of it, just leaving in select highlights as to not completely overwhelm the figure underneath.

The entire photo is then given the proper black border. I was still playing around with different picture dimensions at this point, which is why the border sizes can vary a bit in some of my earlier work.

This was a very simple edit, on par with the bulk of the ghost and vampire edits that I've been doing. I'll be doing another process discussion on a ghost image later, as well as the more complex doll and robot edits.

As always, prints of this photo can be purchased at this link.


Eric San Juan said…
This is very cool. I'd long been curious about your process. Had no idea it involved as much stitching together from separate images as it does! The end result is almost always seamless.
Ian Sokoliwski said…
Thanks, Eric.

Well, quite often it doesn't - it depends on the look I'm going for. However, yeah, for that Doll Story we are doing together, all those images were composite shots, even if it was just to make the models much smaller than they are in real life. I was working with the idea that Kelsie and Tina were both about two and a half feet tall, so they could fit into the cabinet early on in the story. So even when I wanted to use them in the same background they were originally shot in, I would still have to tweak the image quite a bit to fit them to the proper scale.