I used to work with textures often but, as other techniques began to interest me, my editing habits changed over the years. Walking round the L&CPU Exhibition with our current president, a cat lover, he commented there are always pictures of dogs at such events, but not domestic cats. We thought it might be time to start a trend. So, this afternoon I had some time to spare. I first reminded myself of how to extract a subject using Photoshop’s latest tools. I first tried a dog, as it was a relatively easy cutout. In fact, the cutout took not much more than 10 minutes. I created my texture from three different photographed texture files and added some paint strokes with Photoshop’s dynamic brushes, blended them all together and applied the resulting textured file to my doggy image. After less than an hour I had my textured dog shot. Voila!
The next task was to try to photograph one of my cats. Neither would play. One insisted on curling up outside and sleeping. The other would not keep still, would not look at the camera, bit my hand in excitement when offered a treat. Ah, now I realise…dogs are a “man’s best friend”…they can perform tricks…they can be trained to sit still…they will look at their owner! Cats are very different…they have peculiar minds and agendas of their own! I eventually had to stop following the cats around with the camera and admit defeat, relying on something from the back catalogue to work on.
Then came the editing problems:
- Cats are not easy to cut out…they have long soft fur that is soft at the edges and harder to cut out than even the curliest dog hair or average head of human hair.
- I had made it infinitely more difficult by using shallow depth of field on my cat pics, so there were no contrasty edges to help me cut out.
- Cats have long whiskers that stick up above their heads, out of their cheeks and from under their noses…so, how do you cut out whiskers? The answer is, don’t even try…blending modes might help.
- The only suitable photo of my cat Pepper is just a head and shoulders shot – it will have to do.
The cutout seemed to take ages. I don’t like fluffy edges all around, so I wanted at least the ears and part of the head to be properly extracted from the colourful background, even though it was going to be partly obscured by texture. Two hours later, after a lot of scratching of heads (mine and hers), and Pepper is at last encased in a romantic fog of texture. Next time…I shall glue her to the floor (just kidding) photograph her in front of a suitable backdrop and use lots of depth of field so that I can extract her…or better still, I’ll find a duck instead.
Result…I quite like the portrait of Pepper, looking unusually demure and dreamy. I think I might make a print.