I needed to create something. Where did this need come from? I don’t know — it was just there. I didn’t have any new material that I wanted to work on, so I started combing through the archives. I went towards some selfies. Whatever this need was I knew I could sate it by working on a self portrait. I choose this selfie and applied a basic Lightroom preset to it. I knew from the start I was going to be layering and tweaking quite heavily and this basic image above gave me a good foundation to do that.
After importing the base image above into GIMP I set about to start adding textures. I do not have a set system to do this. I usually work with what feels right. I have a really good idea of how certain layers look at certain settings. I have been using the vast majority of my layers for a couple years now and usually default to a small handful of what’s in my layers folder. They are the ones I am comfortable with. They are the ones I know 100% of what will happen when I apply them. This, however, was not one of those times I wanted to be 100% sure. I didn’t know what I wanted to come out, so I started using a couple I haven’t used a long time. I applied 2 layers and tweaked some coloring on them. I got this.
Now at face value, no pun intended, I normally would’ve been happy with this, but something was off. This is the hardest part for me to explain. It’s not that I didn’t like the image, it’s just that it didn’t feel done to me. I don’t have a checklist I use when post processing that says okay this is done, this is done, I did this and this, so now I can go to sleep because I did all that and it is done. I work by how it feels to me. Hell, I would even say I live life by feel too, but that’s another discussion. So I worked on it some more. I knew I didn’t need to add any more textures. Those were fine — so I started playing with the colors. Coloring on an image, I would argue, is just as important as the composition and lighting. I won’t go into this at length because I plan on making that a whole article unto itself, but for me at least, colors can make or break an image. After playing with the colors I got this:
I almost actually went this. I really like it a lot, but my brain told me “no”, and I immediately understood why. To me, this looks like work I have done before. Quite a few times. Sometimes that similarity bothers me to the point where I won’t publish something because of it, other times it doesn’t and it gets published. The night I worked on this, though, I didn’t want to put it out there. So I kept working on it. I knew I did all I could do in GIMP with this so I went back into Lightroom. Nothing I did in there really made me happy, so I did something I usually don’t do — I threw it into Picnik. I don’t normally use Picnik. Not sure why, but it’s just not on my tool list most of the time. I started messing with the normal edits I use on those rare occasions I am in it, but again nothing was making me go, “yeah this where I need to go.” So I started playing with a few zoom edits and got this:
Nothing earth shattering but I knew, somehow, I was going down the right road. This was where this piece needed to go. So I just went with it. With the Picnik work being done I saved it and moved on. I opened Photoshop, tweaked some things, got this:
The whole dilemma for me at this point was the structure of the face. I wanted it to be seen as a face but not seen as a face. That was my sticking point. I wanted the image to have to be looked at and studied for a miniute to try to make out what it was, but once you did you would always see it. I haven’t had these kind of thoughts before when creating something. Honestly, most of the time, the image just comes to life for me without thinking what I want it to look like. This one though made me work. So PS gave me what I felt like was another foundational image to work off of to create the image that needed to come out. Now, I just need to figure out how to get it to come out. To do that I went back to my comfort zone, Lightroom.
The strands of pixels at the top and the sides, which at one point I thought were cool as part of the face unraveling, all of the sudden bothered me so off they went. I lightened the blues into an aqua tone, as well.
I liked the blues but I needed more contrast. It still didn’t feel right. I played with a couple more presets and this came out.
It was almost done. I could feel I was close. I wasn’t happy with the dull look of the colors though. I pumped up the vibrance and exposure some. As soon as I did that it just clicked. This, THIS was what needed to come out.
I started off with a need, an urge, a desire to create something. I ended up satisfied with what finally came out. I enjoyed the process as much as the final product. The process, to me, is as important as what I finally create. Going through the motions of adding presets or actions, or taking out textures because they just don’t fit, of importing and exporting into multiple tools, of changing colors. All that is what I enjoy. All that tinkering and tweaking is very therapeutic for me. Trying to find something that didn’t exist except in some far recess of my imagination, that is what I enjoy.