Monday, 1 May 2017

Holly Burns - Experimenting With Textures and Blending Modes

As artists, from chefs to painters, we all must experiment with new tools and recipes in order to grow creatively. If you are a photographer, I challenge you to spend some time experimenting with textures and blending modes.

We see this technique used most when people are trying to make the photo look old, vintage or scratched, mimicking the style of sepia toned film prints or aged faded colour photos with tattered edging and less than perfect surfaces.

Now I know what you're thinking - 'But Holly, I don't like that vintage effect that just wont die out!' Well, I can tell you that it is not the style in which I work in either but in almost all of my creative fine art work, I use the SAME techniques with textures in conjunction with blending modes in order to jazz up whatever imagery I'm working on. You likely don't photograph in the same style that I do either, but trust me, there is gold in learning these techniques no matter what your style is.

Textures are a lot of fun! Not only are they a great way of enhancing your photos, they are very good at making you see the world around you differently. I have often been seen photographing what a lot of people might consider to be insignificant things, from the beautiful aged marble in Venice to dirty supermarket floors (yes Tesco, that strange person was me and sorry, not sorry!) I really enjoy experimenting with different textures to expand my creative horizons. It doesn't always work, but the failures are learning experiences and help me to grow.

Take for example 'Flowerheads 1' down below. You can see that the initial background was just a plain, uninspiring purple wall. I decided that I wanted a bit of subtle texture back there so I photographed a dirty piece of perspex that I found in an industrial estate, layered it on top, masked it off the body as you can see in the middle picture and changed the opacity to 50% and blending mode 'soft light' and voila - an instantly more interesting background.

And then, there are pictures I simply could not have made without the aid of textures and blending modes. 'Atlantis' below, was taken in my sisters attic. I wanted to create an underwater scene but had no means to do so, so I got creative! I set up my camera on a ten second timer and posed in a way that made me look like I was floating. I then did what I call a 'texture walk' and looked for all surfaces that could look 'watery' when blended correctly. Here are some pictures to show how:

The first image is simply the picture taken in the attic with a skylight and a black backdrop. The second is an image of marble, I think from Rome but I cannot be sure, sorry! The third is the marble layered on top with the blending mode changed to 'soft light'

Going a step further, I photographed the side of a fish tank, carefully removing it from the body and the lower half of the image. This, mixed with the marble, created a lovely underwater feel. The third picture is of the final piece after some colour adjustments.

Different blending modes have different effects so make sure you have a play around with them to get the best one for your image. Here's how:

Place your texture on top of your image by copying the texture by going to Select > All. Then going back to your original images, paste the texture on top using Edit > Paste. The texture is now sitting on top of the original image in the form of an opaque layer like so.

By default, the blending mode is set at 'normal'. Here you can see that I have changed the bleeding mode to 'soft light' and set the opacity to 52% because that is what best suited this particular one. Every photograph will be different so you will have great fun playing around to find what is best for yours. Do this by simply clicking on the drop down menu until you see all of the different options. It should look something similar to this:

And there we have it! This is just one example of how a relatively simple technique can significantly add a level of creativity and enhance your images.

Holly Burns

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