Q&A: Us­ing pho­tos

Con­rad Boulay, France

ImagineFX - - Contents -

An­swer

Mark replies

Us­ing photo tex­tures for con­cept de­signs is a com­mon prac­tice, es­pe­cially in movie pre-pro­duc­tion or VFX de­vel­op­ment. Usu­ally I try to use my own ref­er­ence pho­tos for my pro­fes­sional work, to avoid any copy­right is­sues. Of course, there are cases where you sim­ply can’t go out to shoot some pic­tures of snowy moun­tains, but there are sev­eral free or cre­ative commons-based im­ages on­line that you can use in your per­sonal or pro­fes­sional art. Fam­ily hol­i­day pho­tos are ideal be­cause they of­ten have more nat­u­ral light­ing than most over-sat­u­rated and colour-cor­rected im­ages on­line.

For fan­tasy con­cepts/land­scapes I of­ten com­bine var­i­ous pic­tures with sim­i­lar light­ing con­di­tions and tones. Try to use pho­tos that match each other as closely as pos­si­ble. The eas­i­est way to tweak the var­i­ous im­ages is with a Pho­to­shop Hue/Sat­u­ra­tion ad­just­ment layer, but us­ing Color Bal­ance and Se­lec­tive Color can also achieve good re­sults if you’re keen to ad­just the colours more ac­cu­rately. To give ex­tra depth to your im­age, in­tro­duce sub­tle ex­tra ‘ fog’ lay­ers.

To give an im­age an epic, larger-than-life feel, mix slightly dif­fer­ent land­scapes and fo­liage, and in­tro­duce dra­matic light­ing. Pick­ing a dis­tinc­tive time of day or type of weather will strengthen the mood of your con­cept. I’ve cho­sen the time be­fore sun­set, just af­ter a storm has passed. This en­ables me to use more fog and mist in the for­est, and em­pha­sise the fo­cal point by ad­just­ing the light­ing. For man-made struc­tures, keep the over­all shapes recog­nis­able and then add some­thing out of the or­di­nary. Here, my cas­tle has un­re­al­is­ti­cally high tow­ers that lack side sup­ports. This mi­nor ar­chi­tec­tural de­tail in­stantly adds the fan­tasy el­e­ment, what is what I’m af­ter.

Here I’ve used photo ma­nip­u­lat­ing and ba­sic matte paint­ing tech­niques on my brother’s hol­i­day pho­tos. I re­moved any mod­ern fea­tures and change the light­ing, then add a cas­tle to cre­ate a fo­cal point.

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