Digital Imaging 1 Case Study

An Enthusiast’s Journey through Photo Manipulation


Comparison & Recap of the Art Forms

Comparing Hyperrealism, Cubism and Collage is not an obvious feat.

My feeling is that all three allow one to take a photo or object or many photos, many objects etc., and manipulate them in a way that exaggerates reality and creates your own personal expression and articulation.

One of the ways Hyperrealism does this is by depicting real life in an unusual manner sometimes with exaggerated size or with trompe l’oeil or other methods. Meanwhile Cubism abstracts the reality by deconstructing many objects and reconstructing them in an abstract manner. Collage can easily blend into Cubism since one also takes many objects, photographs, etc and puts them on one canvas in a way that represents a theme or gives a visual impact whether abstract or not.


Eric Johannson:Eric Johannson

Erik Johannson is an obvious choice as one of my favorite hyper-realistic artists. His use of trompe l’oeil is something to which I can aspire.  However, the two artists that informed my hyper-reality work the most were Paul Cadden and Ron Mueck .


Ron Mueck


Paul Cadden


Paul Cadden

Ron Mueck’s use of exaggerated size to create hyper-reality is also quite impressive and striking and majorly informed my work. Paul Cadden’s human portrait subjects with simple honest yet intense expressions is quite grabbing. He is able to bring out the feelings and emotion of a human being through capturing the details of the face, the lines, the wrinkles and especially the eyes. His paintings look like photographs and really allow you to see into the soul of the subject his capturing.



Juan Gris
Portrait of Picasso

With the cubist artists I was mainly originally impressed by Juan Gris.  His use of color, geometric shape, and composition always pull together into a way that for me was comprehensible mentally. However, the ultimate inspiration that informed my work was the more obvious, Picasso. The use of drawing within the painting is the only technique that I could pull from his work since having trouble at the time with the deconstruct, reconstruct conscept.

There were a myriad of collage artists that I admired.  However, my favorite at the moment is a modern French artist named Laudator.



He is a current artist and creates works for quite a few magazines and journals etc. in France but also has solo exhibits throughout. His combination of collage and hyperrealism and his use of heightened color are something to be noted and all qualities that inform my work.

While I do admire all of these great artists, I found in this particular journey through photo manipulation that my workflow consists of researching the period. Admiring many artists, seeing what I can pull from them in my own work. Then taking my influences, putting them aside and seeing what comes out.  The use of sketch has become more important. But I found equally important for my process, the use of experimentation as sketch. Using the canvas as a whiteboard so to speak. And between the two I am able to compose a theme and thereafter a piece.


My Pieces

My hyperrealism pieces began with two pictures:

Man Down


The original strategy was to take the two pictures in a Ron Mueck sort of way and play with the idea of exaggerated figures.  The challenge came when one of the pictures although very strong, was not sharp enough to be used, or so I thought.

What resulted was two separate pieces.

The goal of the Mime Piece was to create a miniature figure that sits and watches life while going unnoticed by the people or person around him. I wanted him to have a sort of Kazoo from the Flintstones feel in terms of size and non-existence as it were.

So I took a photo that I took from St. Petersburg, Russia as the landscape. Used the original picture and layered a duplicate of the landscape using HDR toning at only 24% opacity to heighten the color a bit, give more definition yet still give the idea of an actual photo. The Russian teenager was cut out of another picture using the lasso and magnetic lasso tools with a Refine Edge to help insert him into the landscape. Then I reduced the landscape to what would be it’s printable size and left the cutout of the boy at it’s larger size and transferred the cutout of the boy onto the landscape. This allowed the boy to appear larger than life. The free transform tool allowed me to properly place the teenager on the sidewalk and then the shadow was created by cutting out part of the leg using the magnetic lasso and then using the transform  tool to flip and angle the shadow, followed by using the layer style, color overlay with a black color and a low opacity to give the illusion of a shadow. The mime was simply cut out of his picture and reduced in size using free transform.  His head angle needed to be changed so the head was cut out, shifted using free transform and placed back on the body.  The same treatment of HDR at low opacity layered on top of the natural picture was used for both people. I did find this piece to be simple in it’s look but successful.


The star of the other Hyper Piece, Man Down, is HDR Toning tool. It’s use in this picture is to exaggerate the heightened colors almost to a cartoon or neon painting level. Also to reveal more detail in what was a less than adequate sharpened iphone photo. The same use of cutting out objects was used in this piece as in the Mime piece. Removal and replacement of the man’s feet and calves had to be done in order to make it look as if his feet were on the bottles instead of on the ground.  Use of the Blur Filter along with the Adjustment-> Exposure helped color the background.

Bottles were cut out and placed in the same manner as the Russian teenager. Then colored using the polygonal lasso and then levels adjustment. Crop and burn tools as well as the paintbrush helped to finish the effect.

Other tools used to create both pieces were: Wacom Bamboo Tablet, marquee, quick selection, brush, dodge, burn, eraser, adjustment layer tools (levels, curves, hue saturation,  brightness/contrast), blur, smudge, clone stamp, healing brush,  and quickmask.



The Cubism Piece free is based on a photo of a sculpture of a horse.


Many photos of this horse as well as environments such as a lake are used within the piece. However, the actual focus of this work is the sketch created purposely to use in the project.


I began by using the Polygonal Lasso tool to create the font followed by the use of the gradient tool to create the orange- yellow color between the letters. Added a picture of the Hudson river and gave it a Hard Light Blending Mode. While you cannot see this, there is a notable difference when you take away this layer. Next, parts of the horse sculpture from different pictures and angles were inserted between the letters. Filters and blending modes along with adjustments and layer styles  and levels were used to create a more pulled back, texturized effect.  Finally pieces of the sketch were placed within the drawing. The sketch was photographed with a vivid color setting on the digital camera to support the color of the gradient. Pieces of the sketch are rearranged in an order that I found more fitting and appropriate. Finally the Letters are given a layer style of stroke-> yellow followed by a Wind filter to create a more paintbrush swiped effect.  Other tools used in this piece were:  Polygonal Magnetic Lasso, Lasso, Layer Styles, Filters, Blending Modes, Adjustment Layer, Levels, Hue/Saturation, Brushes, Pencil, Blur, Dodge, Burn, Healing Brush, Clone, Transform.



The goal for for my final pieces was to use tools I had never used before along with tools I had recently learned instead of just grabbing tools I was already comfortable with. I also wanted to intentionally pay attention to the composition as well specifically in the collage that dealt with so many parts and layers of so many different pictures. This is the point where I finally became very good friends with the masking tool and the smart object as well as setting up personal Photoshop shortcuts to create a better workflow.  I had lots of ideas and experimented with my way of creating….using lasso to pull  imperfect images from pictures….sketching…playing with tools. Itried many different concepts had tons of different ideas and beginnings of several pieces. The strongest concept came, though from photos taken after Hurricane Sandy while residing in the city on the upper west side for the week. There was so much garbage outdoors I suddenly felt the need to stat taking pictures of the different types of garbage and the different garbage cans etc. I figured somehow I would eventually be able to compose a collage of this trash that would have an impact. However the idea did not come.  Then on another day a week or so later when visiting NYC I started taking pictures of some construction work and several areas around 23 & Madison and figured I’d use them one day for something. The dirt the caution signs etc… Also while walking I came across a sleeping street guy stretched out on a bench and stopped to take pictures of him. He had a striking face and a long body. On my last shot he awakened and that ends up being the picture I’ve used in my last two pieces. As he woke he said to me, “You can take the picture…but you got somethin’ for me? A man’s gotta eat ya’ know.”


So he was paid for his iPhone modeling shoot. However, I was immediately inspired to use this guy in both of my pieces. So I immediately started cutting out different parts of the trash pictures and turning them into smart objects placing them on a blank canvas. I assembled these layers but this time with purpose instead of random placement. When I saw that this could work I went back to the photos and used the pen tool this time to cut out the images and then turned them into smart objects and moved them onto the canvas. Then I created a mask of each item so that I could add and take away as much of each photo as I needed. I also liked the idea of using text in the collage so I added different objects that contained text, newspaper, dunkin donuts bag, a caution banner, a trash bag etc. Then it suddenly came to me to put the man inside the garbage can as if he had been thrown away from society. Everything came together from there., After that it was all about using blending modes, no HDR, and layer styles to create some type of texture and variety. I also wanted to make sure edges maybe looked a bit unfinished in the way of the traditional collage that I grew up knowing. Use of pattern overlay and color overlay also helped with this piece. And levels for creating different levels of light and dark.

Then finally playing with the polygonal tool and using levels to create lighter and darker areas for focus and an attempt at some depth. The man’s face is purposely brightened and interrupted with blending modes etc.  A bit like a newspaper article perhaps. And there is even a tentative use of the paint brush by me a la David Salle, to paint on top of the picture. I also finally created a layer on top of the whole piece and added a subtle pattern overlay to give the piece a bit more texture.


In my final piece, the same man is the center of a photo being taken maybe a photo shoot. Again by Happy Accident I end up using the Ron Mueck idea of oversizing. The photo behind him with the stump tree and the glowing ball are all actually a real picture I took in the city. HDR toning is again used but not as a crutch this time. It’s used at the beginning and then from there lots of purposeful editing. Cloning, healing brush, burn, dodge, filters and blending modes as well as the transform tool. Heavy use of the masking tool and smart object tool as well.  The clouds are created with the render -> clouds filter. At first they looked more realistic but in the end I decided to go for the heightened look that I am pulled towards. I like the idea of the picture maybe looking painted with louder, sometimes neon colors.  The selection of the street guy is done this time by using the pen tool and converting it thereafter into a smart object. This made re-sizing the image much easier in the piece. A mask was then place on the object to allow for cleaning the image and for editing. The shadow was again created by cutting out part of the object of the shadow, transforming it and using color overlay with opacity to fade the color.



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