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Trying to Learn Some New Skills

As a photographer, I feel I should never stop learning. Technology has changed drastically over the years, and with those changes, come more potential abilities to develop within the craft.

Most of these go under utilized simply because there are so many of them. Alternatively that also means you can probably find something on your level of experience that can also be used in the direction of your preferred style.

Jeffrey Paul Kelly Photography
Xbox Controllers Composite Image

This image of three Xbox controllers is the result of my taking some time (a lot of time) to learn something new. This is my first attempt at doing something like this. A lot of work went into the creation of this image and, while I used a lot my current knowledge, I also learned some new things, simply by attempting to create this image. I want to share some of those things with you.

* Please note, for this there is a lot of photoshop work that I will not go into detail here, such as cutting out objects, using healing and clone stamp tools, etc. I may write about how to use these tools at a later date. However for now there is plenty of information regarding these tools to be found on YouTube and the internet at large.

Below I will show you a few images showing the progression of the creation of this image;

I used one of my light stands to mount the controller, suspending it above white background paper. I used three speed lights for these shots. One on either side of the controller and one further back above the camera. All lights had a soft box on them and the two lights on each side were also fitted with grids, This posed an issue later on.

The two images above are the images used to create the final image. The left image was shot with the front facing light off. This was because I noticed some glare on the buttons that I didn't want in my final image, but I still wanted the front of the controller to be lit. For this reason I decided to use two exposures and blend them together using Photoshop in post production.

From here I imported the images into Lightroom and corrected some of the colours and contrast and did a bit of simple editing. Once I was satisfied with this I brought them into Photoshop as layers.

Although I was using a tripod, I was not using a remote shutter release, so some movement did occur. I had to auto align the layers to make sure the pixels were perfectly aligned. I was now ready to start working on the bulk of the image. But first I had some things to fix.

Close Up Shot of Controller Lit With Three Lights

If you look at the buttons here you can clearly see the reflection of the grid on the right as well as the soft box at the front. I was able to fix some of this by blending the other image into this one by using a layer mask in Photoshop. To clean it up further I used the clone stamp tool as well as simply brushing in some of the highlight. Another issue you can see with this is that there is some lint on the bottom part of the controller. To clean this I used the healing brush tool. This whole clean up bit was pretty time consuming but it made for a better image.

Close up Shot of Controller After Clean Up

Here you can see the image after it's been cleaned up a bit and the highlights have been fixed. Also in this image I had cut out the controller using the pen tool. This isolates the object and I can move it around on the canvas. Also here I did a bit of dodging and burning to increase some brightness and shadows in some areas. This is most apparent in the logo in the middle of the controller. I also added some white to the Xbox button in the middle to make it look as if it is lit. The last thing I did at this stage was to add a high pass filter, set to overlay, to add some sharpness to the image.

Now that I had finished with the controller itself, I was ready to get creative with crafting the final image. Initially I was going to just have the single controller in the frame but I opted to have three in the configuration as seen above. To do this I copied the controller layer, resized it, reordered the layer to make it look like its behind the large one, copied it once more and aligned all of them.

Next, I added a black radial gradient over the two rear controllers (seen in the image on the right above) to add shadow and adjusted the layers opacity. For this I had to make sure the two rear controllers were masked as to not have the gradient spill into the background.

The next thing I did was add colour to the background. Initially I was going to use black for this but I decided to use a colour found on the controller itself. For this I used the burnt yellow colour seen on the stripes on either side. I used the dropper tool to select the yellow on the controller and made slight adjustments with hue until I was satisfied.

With this the image looks pretty good but it still felt a bit flat. To make it more dynamic I added some light glow behind the controllers by adding a new layer below them and painting in some white using a large brush with very low hardness. I adjusted the opacity of this layer and the result is the image on the right seen above. This helped to add some depth.

I wanted to add a shadow to the image under the controllers to make the image appear more dimensional. To do this I used the ellipse tool with a black fill and gave it a pretty extreme gaussian blur. Once I had the first one, I copied the layer twice, positioned the two additional shadows and decreased the opacity. The result of this is the image on the left above.

Next I added a brightness and contrast adjustment layer and increased the contrast on the overall image by about 30 points or so.

The Final Image

The last thing I did for this image was to add a vignette which added more contrast to the overall image and added to the sense of depth.

I'm very happy with this image but it is by no means perfect. This little project has helped teach me some things and has allowed me to put some previously learned skills into practice in a different way. However, when it comes to product photography, like any area of photography, there is a lot to learn. For example, using different types of modifiers, bounce cards, flags, etc.

With changes in technologies there are new skills that can be learned within photography that will develop our capabilities. We should never stop learning, it's how we continue to grow and develop. Both as photographers and as people.

Find more of my work on Instagram @jeffreypaulkelly as well as here, on my website.

Also, if you have any questions please don't hesitate to ask.

Thanks for reading!

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