Something from Nothing – creating stock photos

Sometimes, on a dark winters night, it is fun to just see what can be created from little bits of photos that are already sitting on your hard drive. Here is one such effort, that I think nicely illustrates the concept of “being adrift” and can be used as a stock image for many leadership (or lack of) illustrations.

Adrift without a plan

This could have been a beautifully seen shot with a boat floating on a calm sea, or it could have started like this:


A sort of interesting shot taken on a stony beach on the east coast of England (and, yes, the sky was real and it wasn’t raining….).

The other source image was one of a nice set of clouds I took at home:
First step was to isolate the boat from the background. Because this had nice sharp edges, I used the pen tool to draw around the edges of the boat, then take a copy of the boat onto its own layer. With the clouds, I used a technique I saw in Photoshop User magazine, but there are many other tutorials on the web. Here is one that pretty much explains the steps I took:

I split my cloud into two different brushes so that I could create some variety in the results. The small cloud to the left was selected separately to create a more interesting leading line in the final image.

Next step is to create a simple blue gradient in Photoshop from light blue to a slightly darker blue. This is my new sky. I stamped the clouds onto that in a position that nicely balanced the image. Now for the magic. I’ve been playing with a plugin from Flaming Pear called Flood. This only has one purpose – it allows you to create realistic reflections of the top half of an image in a watery surface. You can set the degree of waviness, complexity of the water surface, height above the surface and go from a straight mirror like reflection to a rough sea surface:

I had to do the same to my isolated view of the boat – this creates a similar mirrored image of just the boat and its reflection with similar settings so that the two would look as though they were taken in the same conditions.

Then it was simply a matter of layering the boat over my new “sea” in a pleasing composition to get the final result.

There are some limitations – it isn’t good if the horizon isn’t pretty straight, although there is a perspective control that alters the direction of the reflection and I think you could do some more clever masking to make the edge of a lake look more realistic, but for night time cityscapes over water, it can make for a dramatic, if sometimes not altogether realistic image!

Unusual sea conditions in Sydney!

Unusual sea conditions in Sydney!

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I'm always interested in what you think - please let me know!