Saturday, December 22, 2012

PP - Example 3 - Applying a textured background

After watching some more of Gavin Hoey's short video tutorials, I was inspired by one he did at the beach using some pebbles to create a subject to photograph, and then put a texture around it in Photoshop.  This is my attempt to recreate his image.  He made it all seem so simple, but then again, I think he probably knows Photoshop a lot better than me  ;-)

Step one was to take a picture of something to be the main subject.  He built a little pile of pebbles and so I did the same.  Even my pile of pebbles was nowhere near as artistic as his.

Next, I looked around for some nice textures.  The area of beach near my work has some very fine sand, some tesselated rocks, and some coarser sand with bits of broken shell and so on, so I took several photos to try and get something I could use once I got back home to my computer.  You'll see I took some of weathered wooden posts and tree bark as well.  Here are a few samples... 

I decided on one of the coarser sand shots to use for my texture (the top middle one here, actually).  It was a quite arbitrary decision based on no prior knowledge or experience whatsoever.  It was just a 'pick one and run with it' decision. 

Now, according to Gavin's video, he suggests duplicating the texture layer so you have 2 copies, and then rotating one 180 degrees, and then playing with different blending modes and opacity to recombine them before merging them back into a single layer.  This helps even out any differences across the width or height of the texture image.  The shot below shows the result from my 2 layers in Photoshop, and the blend mode and opacity I used.

The next thing is to take the texture layer and add it to the pebble pile image.  Again, playing with opacity and blending modes provides an endless number of possibilities to experiment with, and you can even add adjustment layers to change the hue, saturation, contrast, etc. on the texture, as well as the original image.  Then, using a layer mask on the texture layer, use a large brush with 0% hardness (i.e. soft fuzzy edges), to 'erase' the centre of the texture layer and let the pebbles shine through.  The next shot shows how I combined the texture with the pebble picture, and used a mask to make a hole in the middle area of the texture.  I have left the texture a little more visible than in the finished picture, so that you can see the effect more easily.

I did a little more work on the original image to crop it, and adjust the lighting a little to reduce that harsh shadow under the lowest pebble, and also placed the whole finished image into an expanded white canvas with a drop-shadow - here is my finished article.  I hope you like it.  Who would guess that the texture was actually sand from the same place as the pebbles?
I probably didn't use the same blend modes as Gavin - mainly because I was doing it from memory after watching his video yesterday - but I was quite pleased with the overall result.  It just adds a little interest to an otherwise boring and blown out background, without detracting from the main point of the photo.

Click here to check out Gavin's version.

Well, as you can see, this was posted a little while after the Mayan's predicted 'end of the world as we know it', though I was putting it together as that moment came and passed (having already lived through 1984 and the Y2K bug, I was so worried about it, that I needed something to keep my mind busy). 

So, now that I can fairly confidently expect to be around for the foreseeable future, I'll take this opportunity to wish you all a very merry Christmas, and a safe and happy new year.  Enjoy time away from work, with your loved ones, and your cameras - obviously.  I hope you all get the photographic pressies you asked Santa for (I gave him a BIG list... but I've been a very good boy so I should be on his 'nice' list).

I'll see you again in 2013 - until then, happy Christmas snappin'


  1. I don't understand photoshop at all, but I sure like your results.
    A very merry Christmas to you, and the happiest of new years!

  2. Hi Barbara, I'm far from an expert myself. Most of what I do is learned from tutorials and examples I've found on the web. Just jump in and give it a go - alternatively, I think Lightroom might be a more 'user-friendly' version of Photoshop, as it comes with all the same functionality but packaged with a lot of preset treatments and operations to make things easier. you could liken it to the difference between using your camera in full Manual mode where you have to think about everything and make all the decisions, and using it in one of the preset modes that automatically makes those decisions for you.
    Merry Christmas to you and yours too.