Bad Light, Great Subject? Use Photoshop to Create Stunning Images

Blend Modes Can Combine Layer and Background in Unique Ways

by Jim Zuckerman

fo-4797
fo-4797
© Jim Zuckerman
All Rights Reserved
I recently photographed something that I had wanted to shoot for many years – tall ships. There was a gathering in Norfolk, Virginia, and instead of shooting them from the land I chartered a fishing boat so I could be completely maneuverable and capture them from any angle I wanted. I counted about 17 ships under full sail, although there could have been more.

The biggest challenge I faced was the lighting. It was pretty bad. The “Parade of Ships” took place between 9 am and noon, and they couldn't have chosen a worse time as far as photography goes. At nine o’clock, as the ships were raising their sails, the lighting was decent. It wasn’t great, but it was OK. Every minute that passed meant that the lighting got worse and worse, and by ten is was almost pointless.

FO-4787
FO-4787
© Jim Zuckerman
All Rights Reserved
What I was looking for was graphic design – meaning beautiful angles on the classic ships that underscored the artistry of these timeless sailing vessels. Once I had that, I knew I could combine them with beautiful backgrounds from my files. Photoshop was my only option to make compelling images, and to suggest I had been really lucky to be in the right time at the right place. I would have preferred to have the magical lighting of sunrise or sunset, but that was out of my control.

In my Creative Techniques in Photoshop course, one of the techniques I discuss is blend modes. This is a technique where you can combine a layer and a background in unique ways. I knew that it would be impossible to select a tall ship from its background with all the rigging, so the only way I could combine a great sky and beautiful natural light with the ships was by blending the images using this technique in the layers palette.


FO-4799
FO-4799
© Jim Zuckerman
All Rights Reserved
The secret is choosing the right images to combine, because not all skies will work with any given subject. I was very pleased with what I got, but next time I shoot tall ships I’m going to charter one and arrange for it to sail past a sunrise or sunset so I get the real deal.


More on Jim Zuckerman...




About Author / Instructor / Photographer, Jim Zuckerman
Photography Instructor: Jim ZuckermanFew people are able to spend most of their time pursuing their passion in life. I'm one of them, and I feel blessed to have had a love affair with photography since I began taking pictures.

In 1970, I decided to abort my intended career as a doctor in favor of photography and have never regretted it. Photography has enriched my life more than I can tell you. My career has taken me to over 60 countries, and I've seen and photographed wondrous things.

I specialize in wildlife and nature, international travel, and digital effects. In addition, I also shoot nudes, photo- and electron microscopy, children, and other subjects that stimulate my visual or emotional sensibilities.

For 25 years, I shot a medium format camera, specifically the Mamiya RZ 67, for its superior quality. When I would lecture, I’d project the large, glass mounted transparencies, and it was really an incredible experience to see the brilliant color saturation and resolution of these slides. However, I went digital in 2004 because the technology finally equaled or surpassed medium format. I now shoot the Canon 1Ds Mark II digital camera with a variety of lenses.

I am the author of 12 books on photography. My work is sold in 30 countries around the world, and my images have appeared on scores of magazine and book covers, calendars, posters, national ads, trade ads, brochures, and corporate promotions.

For many years I've led photography tours to exotic places. These include Papua New Guinea, Thailand, Burma, Greece, The Czech Republic and Slovakia, Spain, Morocco, and Peru.