The last self portrait tutorial I wrote went down a treat, so I thought I’d try my hand at another one. This is a little bit more difficult though, so any of you out there who said ‘yeah that’s easssssy’, this one might take you a little longer.
Before I get started, I’d like to give credit where credit’s due, by saying that I found inspiration for this photo, from this image. I used Tin-Eye to try to find the original, but no luck. If anyone knows where it came from, please leave a comment.
The idea of this photo is to produce a cross section of yourself, by intersecting two photos. This confuses the eye and makes it struggle to find the correct facing.
Take Three Photos
I say three photos, it will probably end up being more like 50 as you struggle to find a smile that you like. Take one photo facing the camera, a second looking to the side at 90 degrees, and the third of your background.
Here’s what I suggest:
- Keep your lips flat, no big grins as it will make it harder to complete the photo.
- Set up a monitor so you can see yourself.
- Look straight ahead. If you look up or down slightly between photos, you will struggle to line up your face’s key features.
- Stick your neck out slightly for the side view (all will become clear).
- Wear a shirt with a collar.
- Turn to the side which suits your hair.
- Use a flash.
- Use a plain background.
Let me walk you through my suggestions and what I learned from the experiment.
Firstly, no big grins. You can smile, just don’t overdo it. Remember you have to line up the side of your face with the front of your face, so if your lips are going up at the side, then that’s not going to work.
Use a monitor. I like my smile in a mirror, but hate it in a photo. Don’t ask me why this is, I just know that the process is a lot faster if I can see myself on a monitor, and I’m not running back to the camera after every photo.
Look straight ahead. Again, this goes back to lining up your two photos. Keeping a level face is essential, otherwise you’re going to have a nightmare in photoshop.
Stick your neck out. This is probably one of the most unusual suggestions, but I actually had to go back and retake the photos because I didn’t get this right the first time round. If your neck isn’t sticking out enough, then you will have very little overlay between the two photos. Look at my photo, the neck is minimal, even when I have stuck it out.
Wear a collar. It sounds silly, but it works. I didn’t do this because I couldn’t find a shirt I wanted to wear (didn’t need ironing), but it would have helped. Again, this just adds a bit of overlay to your photos.
Think about your hair. Facial features aren’t really that hard to line up, because they’re generally quite uniform, but hair is a little bit more predictable. Because of the way my hair changes across my face, it worked best for me to turn to the right. Think about what works best for you.
Use a flash. This is really important. I used a flash, but I bounced it off the ceiling, which led to a few problems (shadows). It was easier than if I hadn’t used one at all, but it would have been better to point the flash at my face. Sure, it would have flattened the image, but it would have made it much easier to edit.
Use a plain background. As plain as you can really. It just makes editing your photos easier, as it’s one less thing to worry about.
How does it work?
You combine both images into a weird mix of the two.
The side-facing photo makes up the left profile of your body, while incorporating different body parts such as mouth, nose, and hair.
Your front-facing image accounts for your right profile, while using your hair, eye, ear, and nose as key facial features.
The bit where it gets tricky is where the two images merge.
The main merge points of my photo is the eyes, nose, and hair, which combine together to confuse the eyes. If I were to take this photo again, I would set the eye closer to the bridge of my nose, so that it would look more like it was looking to the left.
Pro tip: If you’re trying to find a front-facing, and side-facing image that match up in your computer, place your thumb on your screen (on a facial feature) and flick between the two. This makes it really easy to spot any differences.
You’ve got your photos, now lets put them together.
First thing you’ll want to do is open up your plain background photo in photoshop, and use that as your background.
Then open up your other two photos. It was my preference to place the side-facing image on the top, using layers. Take this top layer and change the opacity to 50%, so that you can see both images. Then it’s simply a case of moving the top image so that it lines up nicely. Make sure that the neck isn’t too thin, and that all the key features line up.
The next step it to add layer masks to the top two layers. This is really simple, just go to Layer > Layer Mask > From Transparency. Now, when you select a layer mask and paint on the image with black, you are effectively deleting that area of the image. If you want it back again, you paint white back on. Simple.
Now comes the tricky part; merging the photos so that you can’t tell what’s been done.
You can do this your own way, but here’s what I did.
From the left-facing face I used:
- Top part of the hair
- Forehead and brow
- Half of the nose
- Bottom of the cheek.
From the forward-facing face I used:
- Right part of the hair
- The eye
- Part of the nose
- Right cheek.
To merge them, you can start off by using the layer mask tool and picking out the parts that you want, but for these finer details, I suggest switching to a softer brush. This makes for a smoother merge.
It becomes fairly intuitive from this point in, but if you find yourself really stuck, then I would suggest using a shade of grey over some areas of the skin tone. This effectively changes the opacity for that area of the image and works well for merging images.
One area that you really want to play close attention to is the nose. The trick is to have it both facing forward, and to the side, which you can see in the image below. It really messes with the eyes, but it’s still really subtle.
I found a discrepancy in the colour between my images so I adjusted the colour balance slightly, and this made a dramatic difference. If you’re still having problems, try using the burn and dodge tools.
From there, you should have a complete image.
Don’t worry if it’s not perfect when you’re zoomed it, it will look much better when you save the image and see it as a whole.
Now share it with your friends and freak them out. I’m thinking about putting it on my business card, you wouldn’t forget it would you?
Cheers – Josh.