Combining Graphics and Photographs

By Mark

There are times when you want to use other creative elements in your photography. Photoshop gives you lots of tools for bringing in graphic elements and incorporating them.  You can use found images, create them in programs such as Adobe Illustrator or use the tools found in Photoshop itself.   Last week, I wrote about how to find and manage those types of assets, because Lightroom is NOT the best tool for that job.  This week I’m actually going to show you how to create something quick and easy.  


While I was browsing my graphics files one evening (yes, I know pretty nerdy thing to be doing), I noticed and liked this abstract landscape image. 

I’m not really a deconstructionist/cubist art fan, but the colors and the general outline reminded me of some of the pictures from last summer’s Ireland trip.

I opened the Ireland Image from LR using the Photo>Edit In>Photoshop command.  Once inside PS, I converted the image into a Smart Object, by right clicking and selecting that from the pop-up menu.  Since I already had Bridge open, I selected the abstract image and used the Place Command.  That opened it up, as a Smart Object automatically in the PS document.  So why am I making such a big deal about Smart Objects?   In this case especially, it is a very important step.  The graphic file itself is not an exceptionally high resolution image.  It certainly is not the same size or the exact dimensions of my underlying high resolution image from my D800.  Since I knew I would have to transform (Ctrl-t) the graphic, I wanted to take advantage special properties of Smart Objects.  If you try to stretch and resize small objects, all you really do is distort the pixels and then you can’t push them back into shape (Don’t worry, this will be the topic of next week’s blog).  A Smart Object doesn’t really exist except as a figment of software in your image, so as you transform it, you aren’t really messing with the original content.  It allows you to change your mind and even replace the content later if you choose.

My intent was to sort of gradually fade the blobs of the abstract into the image and then out again.  I created a layer mask and then applied gradient masks at the top and bottom to achieve my desired final product.  By painting with White, Black and Grey on the mask, I was able to fine tune the boundaries around the clouds and foreground hills

It’s not going to hang in the Louvre, unless it is the basement which is now under water, but it was something fun to play with.