Blog Post

People, Portraits and Pachyderms by Adrian Lines

There is something primal about our need to be creative. It’s probably as important to our mental well-being as food and exercise are for keeping our bodies healthy. And once you discover there’s something you can do well, you can’t help wanting to do it again, and to do it better.


The Zoom presentation by Adrian Lines MPAGB, FBPG, ARPS EFIAP illustrated this perfectly. The pleasure he gets from the creative process is clearly the main driving force for what he does. Obviously, it's nice if other people like your work too, but this appeared to be of lesser importance to him. In fact, he confessed to enjoy producing the kind of work that people either love or hate.


He got into photography literally by accident around 2006. A 1 MP point-and-shoot camera he had on holiday broke and he went into a camera shop and bought a 6 MP bridge camera not knowing quite what that meant. He soon appreciated the potential of a half decent camera, joined a camera club and picked the brains of the more talented members to help him learn how to use Photoshop. He soon found he wasn't satisfied simply using Photoshop for straight image-editing and soon began exploring it as a creative tool.


From a child, he had always been interested in story-telling (a 'little liar' according to his Mum) and was drawn to the idea of creating pictures with a clear narrative. He said he doesn't go out capturing images with a specific story in mind; he takes subjects that look photographically interesting to him whether they are studio models, characters in the street, backdrops or skies.


The image files get classified in folders as a resource base when working up an idea. Often the subject itself, perhaps a facial expression or pose, will suggest an idea for a story to tell. People's faces will then be edited in Photoshop to reinforce the features in keeping with the idea. He sometimes gives a copy of the picture to his subject - the original shot, not the edited one, particularly if he had made the subject look 20 years older! Having placed the subject into it's backdrop, he will often add one or more smaller elements to help the story-telling and to improve the composition, often using a triangular layout.


Adrian said he didn't consider himself an expert in Photoshop. He said the best way to learn it is not from manuals but by setting yourself a task and then figuring out a way of achieving it. He showed as an example his attempt to create an image of an elephant crashing through a brick wall. Although he wasn't 100% convinced the picture worked, he learnt an enormous amount about how to manipulate images in the process.


He mentioned a few of the techniques he uses. For example, to cut out a subject from its background, he uses a mask rather than a standard marquee tool. He uses Quick Select using the ’new layer with mask’ option. Masks are a way of hiding parts of an image (or the effects of an adjustment layer) without permanently losing them. Painting on the mask with a black brush applies it, and a white brush erases it, so when cutting out a subject from its background this can be done very precisely and mistakes easily rectified. Mind you, selecting outlines like fine hair are very difficult to do accurately. Adrian didn’t always bother and instead painted a bit of extra hair in with a soft brush of the same colour (a hair brush?).


He also uses a Soft Light layer for dodging and burning (a method I demonstrated to the club a few weeks ago). Global contrast adjustments are achieved with Levels and Curves Adjustment Layers.


Another trick he uses is to custom-make a brush from a cloud and use it to paint misty effects into a picture - several layers may be needed to produce the effect he wants. Photoshop is provided with many different brush shapes, but you may not know that you can make brush shapes of your own from any subject you choose.


With each image, we were treated to an animated phantasmagoria showing how the different picture elements and photo-editing steps were built up to produce the final result.


As you probably know, I'm old-school. I like to think of photography as a distinct way of generating an image and that it works best when it preserves that distinction. Although I'm not above doing a bit of manipulation myself now and then, I can't help feeling uncomfortable when I see boundaries eroded between traditional photography and what could be considered a form of graphic art. What do other members think?


Adrian has very kindly allowed me to include some of his images in this blog to give you a flavour of what I've been talking about. To see more, visit https://500px.com/p/adrianlines?view=photos .


In the wars


Dirty business


Land cruiser


Welcome to the workhouse


Train driver


A fascinating and fantastical evening Adrian. Thank you from all of us.