The Assignment

Module 4 Reality and Intervention has been building all the way through to set up a supposed moral dilemma  for us to wrestle with.

The dilemma hangs around the question that digital photography creates about how much should we change an image in the digital darkroom. This debate is real for those documentary photographers who work for organizations like Magnum where their entire credibility hangs on images being real. Photoshopping in nuclear weapons in a picture of an Iranian military base could clearly have massive repercussions on a world stage.

In 2013 Narciso Contreras took an image covering the war in Syria.

In the image in the bottom left hand corner he caught a colleagues video camera, he was found to have used Photoshop to clone the camera out of the published image. The Associated Press severed all ties with him over this, effectively destroying his career. Had he cropped it out there would have been no fuss, however changing pixels in a news image is considered a total no go as it calls in to question the validity of all images.

So that’s the Magnum / Associated Press take, but I am not a documentary photographer, I tend to veer towards the art side of photography, as a lover of Boris Vallejo, Kristy Mitchell, Brooke Shaden and Derek Gallon, I have no problem at all with being the Captain Hook of Photoshop.

What this module did make me face is that I don’t mind any form of change in Art Photography (whatever that is) However I do think you need to be able to justify why you did it. Too many images exist on sites such as Pixoto and Flickr where the sky is an unnatural or ridiculous colour, so many badly masked shots with big halos etc. they are just plain nasty.

However, this week at the TV group a colleague Michael Colvin produced some work that sported some cut out pastes with big halos, the work in question was poking fun at the bigoted attitudes that often exist in advertising. Those deliberately bad cut and pastes worked really well, demonstrating once more that anything goes if there is a reason. Go take a look at his calendar assignment if you want to see what I mean.

So as I came to assignment 4 I had all these thoughts in my head, I have been doing some workshops on portraiture and studio work, which tend to require some editing. I was going to submit an image of a model I took in January, where I had done some subtle changes to the image.

Kristina Processed small

I think it was Jessie who said in the TV group meeting where I showed them that he did not think they were radical enough. This got me thinking and working through the exercises I went from wanting to create a flying castle through my model pictures to wanting to make a change that is so obvious that it really nailed my position.

I re read the brief and noted that the assignment was actually to produce a book cover, something I had largely ignored up to this point. It got me thinking I still liked the idea of the changes made to model pictures as a subject but it did not fit in with the book requirement and as Jessie said was not really radical enough.

I started thinking about putting textures over a face, making the skin peel, then it hit me, V the 80’s mini series and book about alien lizards coming down to earth to use the human race as a source of food.

I remember a distinct image from the series of the head of the lizard race tearing off half her face to reveal the lizard below:

This image was iconic for the book though the book and Video cover were rather plain:

I felt that I could create a new cover using a model shot I took and using some skills with Photoshop to create a whole new image.

My workshop with Shellie Marie produced some useful images and Shellie is not dissimilar to the actress in V so I now had the start of a project.






The Work

The assignment started with a studio shoot and the following steps were taken to produce the final image:

Stage 1: The Starting Image

Shellie Lizard Stage 1 This was the initial image, it was the product of the exercise on enhancement that can be found HERE so this assignment almost begins where I was originally going to leave it. With an image that has been Photoshopped to a magazine state.

Stage 2: Selecting the components

img_3321 HD600120 halloween-look-facial-skin-ripped-off_look_52fbd325cd7d06074ea1a15493d3ee57_lookSONY DSC I used all of the images in this section to create the “Special Effects” the Lizard skin head was used as an overlay to create the lizard beneath and the damaged people and peeling pait were used to create the hole in the face. The next set of steps show how.

Please note the gore is fake it is make up not real tragedy, there are some lines even I wont cross

Stage 3: Add the torn hole

Shellie Lizard Stage 2 In this step I used a combination of the images above to create the illusion of a hole torn in the face, I carefully masked it to look like it sat properly on the face.At this point it does not look real as the shadows are wrong.

Stage 4: Adding the Shadow

Shellie Lizard Stage 3 In this stage i created a dodge and burn layer around the hole to darken and blend the edges. The original background is still in place so the effect is not very convincing at the moment.

Stage 5: Adding the inner lizard

Shellie Lizard Stage 4 I created a layer containing the lizard mask and applied a layer mask to it to hide the parts we did not need, I also masked out the face inside the hole so that it did not blend through the layers.The base layer for the lizard face was a brown rubber colour as seen above and I had to add some hue and saturation and colour adjustments to it to make it the desired green shade I needed for the image.

Stage 6: Adding the Lizard Eye

Shellie Lizard Stage 5 This stage involved pasting in the Eye lid and Eyeball of a lizard.  I did this on its own layer and used the liquify filter to make all of the edges work with the mask as well as a transform warp.As you can see the Eye socket and lids all work nicely but the warping has distorted the eyeball. This is not a problem as we are going to add a slitted orange eye in this image.

Stage 7: Correcting the Eye Ball

Shellie Lizard Stage 6 Next I pasted in a nice round eyeball with a slit pupil that looks the part for our alien lizard.

Stage 8: Correct the other eye

Shellie Lizard Stage 7 For the authentic transformation her second eye reveals itself Lizard like too. In this stage I copied the first eye over the original and faded them together with the opacity. This makes it look like a normal eye that has suddenly gone slitted.

Stage 9: Fixing the Image

Shellie Lizard Stage 9 I did quite a lot of sharpening on the Lizard face and Jessie pointed out that the image was pixilated at this point so I copied the lizard layer and used some soft noise removal filters and the smudge tool to blend and re do the lizard skin. This image is much more pleasing as a final edit of Shellie than the original, So good catch Jessie.

Stage 10: Make a book Cover

V Original Mini Series2 To finish up I extended the top of the image with a blended fill to add room for the titles.I added the type setting and created the final book image.


This was by far the most fun assignment yet, I did enjoy the churches but this made me think about my stance and set my flag in the ground. I have deliberately done something that is on the edge of extreme, the reason I decided to do this was to show my stance of tolerance for manipulation. I am going to be the first to shoot down bad manipulation but where it is done well and for a reason I do feel anything goes.

It is worth reading the artist statement at this point as it says a lot about the journey I have been on though it is posted on the submission page I will copy it here to make life easy for the dear reader:

I hope you feel that my attempt was done well and for a reason. I was pleased with the result only time will tell if the assessment agrees.