Sell the fake or add to the surrealism.
As as creative retoucher and composite photographer, these are two aspects that in my opinion are very important, you either learn techniques to help blend realism into the piece, or techniques to make it stand out and add surrealism. For example, you can have a model float in the air with giant swords, fighting a very angry octopus, but if the shadows are in the wrong direction to the sun, then i’m sorry but that is a big fat fail!
And it is the little details that help solidify the realism, or increase the surrealism. Today I am going to teach you a technique that I came up with all on my own (yes I am claiming this technique as my own, from this day forward it shall be known as the Lofthouse haze effect haha), and it will add that final touch of either realism or surrealism to your images.
Its fair to say I spend a lot of hours scouring the internet for new photo manipulation techniques…..and that is not including the hours where I get sidetracked watching videos of playful kittens or giggling babies in the deep dark depths of Youtube. This can happen to most seasoned web browsers among us, so don’t feel bad about it.
So to save you some time, today I am going to reveal a simple technique to to add bullet haze and fire haze in Photoshop. So now you are probably scratching your head head wondering what the hell is Bullet haze and fire haze are?? Well my friend, they are two completely different entities, one (fire haze) is to sell the fake, and the other (bullet haze) is to add to the surrealism.
To make it easier, let me give you a little description of each one.
Have you ever seen the the movie, The Matrix?? If not, then shame on you!!! Go and educate yourself on one of the defining action movies of the 90’s. If you have, then you will remember the scene where Neo is fighting the agent, they are both locked into a gun duel. In slow motion the dive into the air, shooting bullet after bullet towards each other. As the bullets soar slowly through the air, they leave a bullet trail behind them….well that my movie watching friend is bullet haze!!!
Here is a portion of image that retouched for a UK photographer Johnny Kaos. I added in the bullets being shot from the gun and the bullet haze, which is the distortion of the air around the end of the gun and following the bullets.
This effect adds to the surrealism of the image, and stylizes the hell out of it!
Fire haze on the other hand is a cool way to add realism to an image. Have you ever been stood by a bonfire, or fire of any size and type, and watched the air above it. The heat rises and creates a wavy distortion. Sometimes the same distortion can be seen on hot sunny days rising from the hot tarmac.
Here is a portion of image that I created for Alt supermodel Shelly D’inferno. I added an explosion of fire bursting through the door. Around the explosion is the fire haze, which enforces the effect of the realism, as it helps the viewer feel the heat from the fire.
So now we are up to speed on what bullet haze and fire haze are, lets get into how to create the effects. Well the good news is, you can create both using the same simple technique. Are we all sitting comfortably?? Cool well lets do this.
First open your image in to Photoshop….and make sure your file is set to 8 bits as you will need to use the Photoshop filter gallery, and you will not be able to use it if your file is set to 16 bits.
Next. Go to the Filter section on your top bar, and choose Filter gallery from your drop down menu.
Once the filter gallery opens, click on the Distort folder and then click on the Glass filter.
This is what your options should like, once in the Glass filter section.
Make sure the Texture option is set to blocks.
You have 3 sliders. Distortion which controls the strength of the Distortion effect (the ripples). Smoothness softens out the blocks of the filter effect, and scaling is to control the size and amount of blocks in the filter.
Now you can play around with the sliders if you like as every image is different, but for my images I found these to be the settings that gave the most pleasing effect. I would recommend though that you leave the smoothness slider at 15 for every image.
So, once you have the settings nailed, go to the top and click ok. This will then take you back to your image.
Daaaaaaaammmn, your image now looks like its been murdered with the forward warp tool in Liquify, but do not worry!! Go down to your adjustment layers, and add a layer mask.
Then hold down Ctrl and press i to invert the layer.
This will hide the filter effect on your image.
Then Press B or select your brush icon. Turn the flow down to around 30% and then slowly brush in the effect wherever you want it.
And it is that easy son!! The same technique can be used for both the bullet haze and the fire haze, so you only have to memorize one sequence (Thank god!). The possibilities with this effect are endless and i’m sure there are many other ways to use it. Maybe as a cloaking device on a space ship, or even even The Predators camouflage cloaking (yes, I know, I watch too many movies!).
So go create some images and give it a whirl, be sure to share the final pieces with me so I can have a good look. I hope that this technique was helpful in some way or another, I would love to hear your comments, or any little Photoshop techniques that you have invented yourselves. We can all learn some new tricks from each other, share the love haha.