Let’s just get this out there, I am a big horror fan. I have been since around the age of 5. One afternoon as I was playing with my toys behind my parents’ friends couch when they put on Nightmare on Elm street. As I sneakily peeped my head around the couch my eyes were met with the sight of a creepy guy wearing a hat. On his fingers, he had these sharp knives. His face looked weird, and for some reason, he seemed to be chasing teenagers around in their dreams. That was the moment my mind was changed forever.
I’m pretty certain, no one in that room knew just how much of an impact that movie had my life. From that moment on I was a horror fan. As my grandparents would attest, my brain was filled with the creepy and macabre. So when I first picked up my camera it was only natural that I gravitated towards horror photography.
Horror Photography pretty much taught me how to use Photoshop. I had to create these fantastical horror images, and the only way I could do that was by mastering this program. A year or so into using a camera, I decided to create an Icon of Horror series that paid tribute to some of my favourite horror movies. One of the issues I had whilst planning this was costumes and models. To get an authentic lead I would have to spend a lot of money on outfits, which I couldn’t afford. After mulling some concepts over I came up the idea of using toy figures. And alas, my first four images of my Icons of Horror series were created. Please bare in mind, that these images are old now and my Photoshop workflow and techniques are completely different, but I thought it would be good to dig out these images to show you all. And to walk you through one of the most popular ones.
Evil dead I believe was the second horror movie I watched with Evil dead 2 a close third. Both these movies had a huge influence on me. Evil dead scaring the crap out of me, and Evil dead 2 planting the seeds of my dark humour, which to some people’s misery, I still have today! Haha. This image was actually retweeted by the main star of the movie Bruce Campbell when i first relesed it.
Now some people will debate The crow as a horror, but sorry my friends, it is! It has supernatural goings on, gothic locations and death themes. It may not be a splatterfest but it definitely fits snuggly into the horro genre.
I think this fella needs no introductions! An icon. Which leads us on the last image, my nightmare on Elmstreet tribute. This image has proved quite poular over the years and was used on 500px as the tribute image to the movie director Wes Craven when he passed. Here I will show you a breakdown of how I created the image.
Here are the before images. I needed one image with the lamp on, and one image with the model lit by the lamp and some fill at the front. The next image was the figurine. I shot the figure as I would a human in the same situation. Because in the image the light would be coming from the lamp. I set up a flashgun to the right of the figurine to mimic the light from the lamp. Once I had cut the figurine out, I began to piece the elements together in Photoshop.I started by blending the 2 images of the model together.
After that, I begin to mask out the background and add some grunge wall stock to the wall on the right. I did this by using layer masks. Always work with layer masks instead of the eraser tool as it is nondestructive.
Next, I brought in my Freddy Krueger figurine and placed it in the image. A good tip when placing people in an image is to take reference images while you are doing the shoot. While I was shooting, I got the model to stand where Freddy would be stood, so I had a reference of how tall to place him in the image.
In the movies, Freddy always took his victims to a boiler house. I found some urbex stock I had of a similar boiler house and added it the background. It now looked like the bedroom was morphing into Freddy’s boiler house. To add to the creepy atmosphere I added in mist, and there is always lots of creepy mist in the Nightmare on Elm Street movies. The mist was created by adding a cloud photo and putting it on a screen blend mode.
Time to add some text to the bottle on the right. In the movies, the protagonist always takes some form of stimulant to stay awake to no avail. To clarify what the bottle is, I added some text to it so there is no confusion. I simply typed out the name and then resized it using free transform and placed it on the bottle.
Next, it was onto some styling. My dodge and burn weren’t as refined back then so bear that in mind haha. I dodge and burned the whole image. I did this with a 50% gray layer on soft light. Once the dodge and burn were done, I felt the image need a little desaturation, I did this with a hue/saturation adjustment layer and pulled down the saturation slider.
It’s always good to have a little D.O.F in your images. The most simple way to do this is by adding some blur to your foreground elements. I used a gaussian blur on the model. And then for the table and the bottle of pills, I added an even stronger gaussian, again adding to the realism of the D.OF.
The image is now coming on nicely, but I wanted to blend the elements in together a little more. I felt like the lamp needed a little more light radiating from and some light reflecting off the wall. I did the by adding some flare. All I did was create a blank layer on a screen blend mode and then painted on some white at a low opacity. Then using curves I pulled up the highlights on the wall next to the lamp and masked it in on a layer mask. I then added some more mist, using the method described earlier.
The image needed some tonal adjustments so with a curves adjustment layer I darkened the image by pulling down the darks, and then also brought more focus towards the center by darkening the outside of the image. Always remember to manipulate your image, so it leads your eye to what you want the viewer to focus on.
The tone was now done and it was time to think about coloring. Like I said in my last post, I usually go through various stages of color, ending with something completely different to how it started. I like to see what fits the image. With this photo, I started off with green. I thought it could add to the cinematic feel. I added in the green with a colour balance adjusment.
After a little playing, I decided on a more ink-ish tone with blue and yellow. I don’t often use plug ins as much these days but back then I used Color Efex quite a lot and they had some nice color profiles. This color came from asettingn they had called Ink. I applied it to the image and then toned it down a little.
Once the final color was applied all I had to do was a slight sharpen with unsharp mask and crop the image in a little.
I hope you enjoyed this article guys. Until next time, have a good week.