If you follow my work, you know I often like to imagine a world very different from one I actually inhabit here in suburban Los Angeles.
This has never been more true as during this pandemic.
When I created this image, we were still locked down here in Los Angeles. I’m not going to lie: The pandemic hit me hard emotionally and mentally. I struggled. Those first weeks were the longest I’ve ever gone without creating art. I simply had no passion. But as the days passed, I worked hard to try to re-focus my mind on good things, beautiful things.
This is a portrait of my little daughter, shot just blocks from my house. My dad thought I was going out to locations for my photography so I put this together to show him how I created this imagined world… Built from my neighbor’s bush (that’s my minivan parked on the street) to make it seem like she was in a swirling field of flowers.
It gave me tremendous comfort to create this image: In my mind we were still exploring our world.
After I shared this image on social media, other photographers began asking me if I would transform this image into a digital background. I wondered how I would make the delicate flowers and the shallow depth of field translate into an backdrop that would be easy for other’s to composite their subject into.
After some experiments, I determined that an easy way to get fast results for users was to create a “pocket” for the subject to slide into between foreground and background. Editing this way would make compositing different subjects much more user-friendly. So often, it’s the feet that give away a composite. It’s can be difficult to edit into a digital background so that the subject doesn’t appear pasted on top. By using the pocket and “sandwiching” the subject between foreground and background, users can place their subject with less masking and no need to worry about creating shadows.
There are MANY ways to extract a subject. How I decide the method by which I extract depends on the subject itself and the background that surrounds it.
For my image above, it was relatively simple because I had good separation between my subject and the background thanks to differing colors and sharpness. I also didn’t have to worry about tricky hair thanks to her hat. With these factors in mind, I used the Quick Selection Tool in Photoshop. It’s the tool in the palette that toggles with the Magic Wand. You can watch the full video of how I extracted and placed my subject below. Note that I didn’t worry too much about her feet because I knew they would be mostly hidden by the foreground flowers and tall grass.
Watch Me Composite
Since the product’s release, there have been so many gorgeous examples of other’s work incorporating these backgrounds. Users have added both animals and people, changed the crop and toned the colors. It’s been wonderful and inspiring to see how these backgrounds and even just the PNG foreground overlay have been used as a jumping off point for so many different artistic visions!
Showcasing gorgeous work from the Beautiful World Facebook Group… Artists and photographers incorporating Yellow Flower Fields into their workflow.