Author Topic: Helicon-Like Photos with Photoshop  (Read 3271 times)

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pbrooks

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Helicon-Like Photos with Photoshop
« on: August 21, 2007, 08:11:39 PM »
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Hey, Guys-

I posted this on the A Board, thought it might prove helpful here.
(Or art least make for lively discussion!)

Here goes-

------------------

I've been asked a few times how I make Helicon-type shots (with increased depth of field) using Photoshop.

Before this turns into a "You're cheating this isn't real modeling" thread, let me preface by saying, I AM cheating! Well, only in the photography part, not the modeling. I'm not really a photographer, and this technique lets me show my MODELING as my eye sees it. If using a photo-manipulation technique helps others to see my modeling like it looks in person, I'm all for it.

Of course, if I were ever to enter a modeling photo contest, I would disclose the cheat from the get-go.

I tried Helicon, but found that a lot of times it made "halos" around objects, and there wasn't much control in the process. With care you can have higher-quality images than Helicon can produce. There's no free lunch, though- this technique takes time to master, is slower, and is labor-intensive.

The first step is to become familiar with Adobe Photoshop's tools and windows, and the learning curve is steep. That being said, time and experience will eventually yield some photos that I don't think you can get any other way.

What Helicon Focus software does is stack varying-focus photos on top of each other in layers.

Next, it finds the area of a photo that is soft-focus, masks out the soft-focus areas, and allows the layer beneath (that is sharper-focus) to show through.

Finally, it merges all these layers into one flattened photograph.

What Helicon does automatically, we'll do manually.



Here is the background shot that will become the bottom layer of the Photoshop file. Notice the foreground is NOT in focus. Both photos used in this example were taken on a tripod, and only the focus was changed between them.



Here is the second photo, imported as a layer above the background. It also has a mask applied to delete the background area (shown in white on this screenshot). This will allow the in-focus background layer to show through.
We'll get to the mask in a minute.

I did something different on this photo that I don't normally do-I shot the background without the model in place. This makes it easier to marry the two images, since no out-of-focus parts of the hopper hang out behind the in-focus foreground.

With the lasso tool, select the out-of-focus area around the hopper, and hit the quick mask button. Most of the background will disappear. Click on the mask icon in the layer window to work directly on the mask. Using either black or white, paint out the background of the mask until only the hopper remains, looking like the example. Painting Black on the mask makes the image disappear, white makes it re-appear. Work with this to get the hang of it.

The mask doesn't actually delete the image, it just hides it from view. That means it is reversible if you make a mistake. Changing the tool's softness will affect how crisp the edges are. Experiment with this to see what looks the most realistic to you.

The last step is to turn the background layer back on, and save a flattened JPEG as the final composite file.



I know I've probably missed some details, but you have to start somewhere!

I'm not a Photoshop expert, but if you play around with this you WILL get the hang of it.

I will try to answer questions, but use Photoshop "help" to explore any tools or techniques you aren't familiar with in the meantime.

Above all, have fun!

-Phil Brooks

http://s10.photobucket.com/albums/a140/pbrooks137/Model%20Portfolio/

"I GOT INTO model trains for the groupies, but STAYED IN for the huge financial rewards...

Zox

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Re: Helicon-Like Photos with Photoshop
« Reply #1 on: August 21, 2007, 10:09:12 PM »
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Very clever!
Rob M., a.k.a. Zox
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pfs

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Re: Helicon-Like Photos with Photoshop
« Reply #2 on: August 21, 2007, 10:11:26 PM »
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Excellent info. I saw your post on A and was going to look for the follow up.
Figured it was a mask and 2 or more shots, now we know.


Sokramiketes

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Re: Helicon-Like Photos with Photoshop
« Reply #3 on: August 21, 2007, 11:49:53 PM »
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Actually, that's even better than Helicon, since you're not getting the "Helicon Halo" effect.  Very nice.
Mike

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dnhouston

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Re: Helicon-Like Photos with Photoshop
« Reply #4 on: August 22, 2007, 12:48:27 AM »
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Nice trick!  Now I just need to spend a little more time playing in Photoshop....
David

sparky

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Re: Helicon-Like Photos with Photoshop
« Reply #5 on: August 22, 2007, 01:14:26 AM »
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Thanks Phil.  Nice of you to share.

RS-27

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Re: Helicon-Like Photos with Photoshop
« Reply #6 on: August 22, 2007, 04:22:43 AM »
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It's funny about the disclaimer.  I posted in the Trainboard thread/topic about the anal-retentive attitude towards image manipulation.  If you adhere to the concept of model railroading as an art form, how can you demand that photography of same be 100% representational? 

If someone wants to fake their entire layout in Photoshop, and I can't tell the difference, then they are mavens. It doesn't matter that their expertise is twiddleing their fingers in our space-time to make some perfect item, or fiddling the image on a computer  to make it perfect.  I would admire the result.

Shall we burn at the stake the Virtual Modelers as being heretics? Or maybe we need to cut off an ear to be an artiste.

Bob in IDaho

nscalesteve

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Re: Helicon-Like Photos with Photoshop
« Reply #7 on: August 22, 2007, 05:05:47 AM »
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Phil, thank you very much for sharing this with us...
...that is great and so simple (but someone has to find it out first).   ;)

well done, thank you...  :)
steve w.

nscalesteve

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Re: Helicon-Like Photos with Photoshop
« Reply #8 on: August 22, 2007, 05:13:37 AM »
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It's funny about the disclaimer.  I posted in the Trainboard thread/topic about the anal-retentive attitude towards image manipulation.  If you adhere to the concept of model railroading as an art form, how can you demand that photography of same be 100% representational?

Bob, I think those are two different pair of shoes. the way Phil is "manipulating" a photo is a "legal" way to do it in my opinion (which is aparently also your opinion) because he is not altering his paintjob nor his weathering with photoshop. if he would use all the different filters and tools in photoshop to make a badly painted model look like a professionaly custom painted model that would be "cheating" (and believe me this is possible to do...)
unfortunately I did miss this discussion over on TB...  :(

DKS

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Re: Helicon-Like Photos with Photoshop
« Reply #9 on: August 22, 2007, 06:44:19 AM »
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Before learning about Helicon Focus, I was using the same trick. Only difference is that I used Corel instead of Adobe. Nearest object here is about 2 inches from the lens, furthest is about 12 feet. Shot on Rick Spano's Sceniced and Undecided as a test of my brand new (at the time) DSLR. Two shots were combined using a soft-edge mask; the joint runs along the track in front of the CP train up to the green house, around its roof, around the tall tree, down around the roof of the blue house, then off the right along the siding.



If Helicon is not to your liking, you may want to try CombineZ, which is freeware. But don't let "free" fool anyone--it is very high-end software that is used by my employer (a major pharma) to combine images of protein crystals, and works equally well for models.

http://www.hadleyweb.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/CZ5/combinez5.htm

A side-by-side comparison of CombineZ and Helicon is here--the comparison is a bit dated, as both apps have undergone many upgrades since, but it does give you an idea what to expect using each:

http://www.outbackphoto.com/workflow/wf_72/essay.html
« Last Edit: August 22, 2007, 06:58:38 AM by dks2855 »
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ryourstone

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Re: Helicon-Like Photos with Photoshop
« Reply #10 on: August 23, 2007, 01:02:36 AM »
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Phil nice work! I think you could have used one more exposure to catch the middle ground (tracks right behind the hopper). But yes there are some shots that Helicon can't deal with, particularly dark foreground objects of cases where there is a lot of depth between foreground and background. The halo effect is caused by the greater area taken up by a blurred object in the foreground, obscuring too much background. I usually tried to arrange shots with a gradually receding depth of field to avoid this, but how simple it is to just remove the foreground when shooting the background! Opens up a lot more possibilities for some really extreme DoF.

tom mann

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Re: Helicon-Like Photos with Photoshop
« Reply #11 on: August 23, 2007, 12:47:42 PM »
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Here is a way to remove the out of focus background of the foreground layer:

http://blog.thembid.com/index.php/2007/08/22/removing-backgrounds-quickly-in-photoshop/

diezmon

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Re: Helicon-Like Photos with Photoshop
« Reply #12 on: August 23, 2007, 02:33:19 PM »
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pbrooks

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Re: Helicon-Like Photos with Photoshop
« Reply #13 on: August 23, 2007, 06:22:21 PM »
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Here is a way to remove the out of focus background of the foreground layer:

http://blog.thembid.com/index.php/2007/08/22/removing-backgrounds-quickly-in-photoshop/

Thanks for the comments and input, guys! This was what I hoped for this post.

One thing before I forget, I'm not touting Photoshop as superior to Helicon, just another way to get there from here...

Tom, my wife has the latest Photoshop wherre she works, and she watched a designer
there cut a background behind a portrait, and she said the new tools are almost magic.
Really cool and easy. Ain't technology wonderful?

This coming from a guy that's in a beat-up-rice-burner on the information highway!

Keep those ideas flowin'...  ;D

-Phil

http://s10.photobucket.com/albums/a140/pbrooks137/Model%20Portfolio/

"I GOT INTO model trains for the groupies, but STAYED IN for the huge financial rewards...

RS-27

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Re: Helicon-Like Photos with Photoshop
« Reply #14 on: August 25, 2007, 02:18:32 AM »
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It's funny about the disclaimer.  I posted in the Trainboard thread/topic about the anal-retentive attitude towards image manipulation.  If you adhere to the concept of model railroading as an art form, how can you demand that photography of same be 100% representational?

Bob, I think those are two different pair of shoes. the way Phil is "manipulating" a photo is a "legal" way to do it in my opinion (which is aparently also your opinion) because he is not altering his paintjob nor his weathering with photoshop. if he would use all the different filters and tools in photoshop to make a badly painted model look like a professionaly custom painted model that would be "cheating" (and believe me this is possible to do...)
unfortunately I did miss this discussion over on TB...  :(

I'm saying, IMHO, that both are "legal".  But if you are posting the picture on eBay to sell a model, that would be fraud. Or if you are trying (ala 1984) to rewrite history...  but these are just toys.

My feeling is 'bogus' weathering pix wouldn't have any negative effects on me, it might even impress me enough to attempt a real model if I thought it wasn't just a photo.  Yeah, somebody could gain a reputation on a forum by posting a magnicifent roster, but someone knowlegeable would eventually point out the deception.  More likely, a person that was skilled/artistic in photomanipulation would want the recognition of other geeks (in the best possible meaning) and would be into virtual railroading.

The TB topic started in by accusing the first digitally manipulated entry that took top prize in the Model Railroader photo competition was 'cheating'. This view is patently ridiculous, as MR gave him the Grand Prize.  Yes, they did make two catagories the next year (because of complaints).

Some of us will spend time and money to make the room our layout will be in as innocous as possible, coved corners on walls and ceiling,  sky blue paint, etc. But you have to have lights, hopefully even coverage with no pesky shadows.  The edge of the benchwork has a nice profile board, again in some innocous color.    You take a picture, there _will_ be something grating the sense of reality. If you manipulated out one of the two shadows from that line pole, that's fine, or extend the scenery photomagically.  Others won't have this luxury of the most benign environment and will have to use creative croping (manipulation??).   Building _fake/temporary_ scenery to extend the foreground is just as phony (as it all is) as photoshopping it in.

Vic Roseman has had multiple Eastern RR photos published over the past 30 years, by setting up a diorama outdoors and using some appropriate background.  Why is this more acceptable than taking a shot of the background and making a photo backdrop, or simply combining the two images on the computer?

Bob in IDaho, who, on vacation in Skyline Drive  in Virginia, stopped at the gift shop at Panorama and had someone take our picture.  There was some kid upstairs in the scene. I Big Brothered her out of existance.  No guilt.