February 2015

queen of questions sylvia photoshop retouch playing card

Saved by the Sleeve!

When someone called Sylvia, the inventor of Inquiry Cards, “the Queen of Questions,” a light went off in my head. Or on in my head. I can’t tell the difference. The light said: why not make a playing card, with her as the queen? I don’t know how we’ll use it, but hey, it was a slow day, and there was a talking light.

The first step was to study cards. They use rotated images, plus graphic elements that weave between the two ladies, tying them together. I looked through a hundred images from a photo shoot and chose the shot with the best sleeves. Many of my decisions are sleeve-based. I thought the way they flowed would be the tying-together element needed to make it read as a playing card.

Next up was cutting out the image in a way that captured half the woman and all of the sleeve, and flopping it. Like many queens, she now has two heads and no legs, a product of inbreeding.

That weavy-sleevy thing needed to happen, so one sleeve got copied and rotated and put into position. Now they’re all in place, and with a little more judicious slicing and dicing, they form one smooth unit. Finally, adding shadows where the sleeves overlap make the sleeves look natural, like a totally realistic, floating, all-head woman in huge sleeves in the forest.

Photographs: They’re Liars

Remember when people said, “Photographs don’t lie”? If you do, you’re in line for an AARP membership. Anybody born since the advent of Photoshop knows that a picture is worth a thousand lies.

A camera’s lens isn’t a human eye. It reads things differently, so it’s never been completely truthful. Even Honest Abe told his wife that no, that bustle didn’t make her butt look fat, can we just go, the play is starting. That’s the brand of almost-honesty cameras have. Except they’re more likely to make your butt look bigger.

A really good lens means you can experience the joy of portraits where every line and crack in your face becomes a focal point, especially in an outdoor setting, where there’s no control over the lighting. Each pore can look like the Grand Entrance to the Empire of the Moles.

This is why portrait photographers take a bunch of pictures, find out which ones you like, then they spend a bunch of time making them good.

The real beginning of the playing card was tweaking the photo, using tools with names like dodge, burn and airbrush. Her teeth came out dark, as did her eyes. They got brightened. Laugh lines sobered up. Her un-made-up Scandinavian eyebrows and lashes got some darkening. A queen is born!