RB's Fine Art Photography Lessons

Just to test the waters here I thought I would post a basic tutorial on how to get started in "fine art" photography. If there is enough interest I will go into some of the more advanced techniques for both this style and cover some other styles as well. I wanted to start simple as not to intimidate anyone considering this is really serious stuff as the term "fine art" is intimidating enough.

Okay let's dive right in and get right to the meat of it. You can start with any old image I happen to like naked people and this is one of the tougher subjects to get right and really demands a lot of the things that this lesson covers. You can start out with a tree, or a roll of toilet paper if you want but make sure that it is old or broken. Naked people don't have to be old or broken as an exception to the rule. So here  goes:

  1. Load up your image in photoshop, preferably a 16bit image su you can screw with the tonal curve in a big way. JPG is not going to cut it.
  2. Crop it square. If you shot it with a square camera on film that's okay too. It doesn't matter, just make sure that you crop it leaving something that should be in the frame sort of part way in and part way out as I did in the example image here at the bottom.
  3. Create a layer copy and convert it to a smart object. this is key so you can go back into the blurry filter later and change it. Now run a couple of the blurriness filters on it and crank them up really high. For the basic lesson you can use Gaussian blur with the radius really high. Make sure you are having a really hard time figuring out what any of the image is and make sure that If its naked people you cannot actually see any of the naughty bits.
  4. Adjust the opacity of that layer down just a wee wee bit so some of the basic shapes barely show up, I used about 90% here.
  5. Now convert it to black and white and screw with the color channel mix until all of the tones are really close together you do not want to make it have too much contrast that is hard to correct later but don't worry too much because we are working in 16bitts.
  6. Now we are getting somewhere - add a new curves layer and whatever you do do not make the blacks black, put a couple of control points in there so that you can leave the shadows where they are and bring down the mid-tones a hair and the highlights too. You want it dark with really compressed mid-tones and highlights about where they are in the example art work. This image could actually go a bit darker for the web but will print on art paper about right.
  7. Now add a vignette, try the ellipse selection tool, invert the selection, and create an adjustment layer - If you have CS4 you can use the mask tab to blur the mask a whole bunch. Any way you choose to do it make the edges really dark. You can go really a whole lot darker than what I did here if you want - in fact you are probably better at erring on the side of too dark.
  8. While still in 16 bit mode flatten your image, change the mode to 8 bits. Select a color mode of duotone. I used a stock warm gray preset for this one but go nuts - if you play with the duotone curves you can get all of your darks really dark without screwing up your midtones too much and you get that brownish color that is absolutely required. Neat.
  9. Now convert back to RGB, convert to sRGB, profile, export it as a JPG and you are done.

You do need a catchy title for your image and a fuzzy sort of esoteric theme based name for the project portfolio that you are going to chuck this into along with a bunch of images that have nothing to do with each other. The more enigmatic the title for the portfolio the better. I think I am going to put this in a portfolio with an image that I made of a see-saw and my dead fish image.

I am at a loss for this one right now but it will probably go with some thing like "Loss #19" or something. You can pick any number you like except really low numbers like 0, 1, etc. I would not go too high with the number though. Just make sure that the title is esoteric so that other people don't exactly get it and never ever ever explain it clearly yourself. If you want to sell prints you are going to need an artist statement for each "portfilio" or "body of work". This is the same thing just call them portfolio's on your website links and "bodies of work" when you talk about them. In each artist statement just be vague, esoteric, enegmatic, and somewhat contradictory. This is a tall order but with a little practice it will become natural. Maybe something like "I was going through a period where brown blurry imges helped me see things much more clearly and opened up a world of color", you get it. You will also have to use words like "silver gelatin" for black and white prints on photographic paper and words like glicee for ink jets. You have to use archival and limited edition for both kinds of prints though.

Make sure that your website is flash based for no good reason and that you post really really small images like 300 pixels at the longest so that nobody can steel your images.

I am nthinking about some advanced fine art lessons down the road maybe advanced blurrieness or printing really really dark without going black. If you are interested in these kinds of things let me know or my fine art curves presets. If you are interesetd in doing this on film I can provide some step by step lessons as well.



I really don't intend to offend anyone out there. Let me rephase that - I do not intend to offend everyone out there. I don't take myself too seriously, I do make fun of everthing and I love South Park.

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