Digital Imaging

9A Conceptual Photography


Needless to say, this was a great project to work on! I loved being able to let my creativity really go off the rails, and make something visually entertaining. And it was fun because it kind of let me express an idea that I hadn’t really been able to put into words.



In class, we had to draw three words from bowls, and come up with two words on our own. This was great because I had no idea what kind of concept I wanted to do, or even where to begin for that matter. Little did I know, the words that I would draw would leave me even more lost than before.

The words I drew were: Mug (noun), Dumbfound (adjective), and Pop (verb). What on earth was I supposed to do with those? Regardless, I started drawing some mugs, and things that made me think of “pop.” Now, when I first drew the word “dumbfound” I was confused. But when I looked up the definition, I was able to get a little more direction as to how to handle this picture. After that, the ideas started coming.

But I wasn’t quite sure how to make this image interesting with just those words. Luckily, being able to choose two words gave me some ideas on how to tie them all together in an interesting way. So I chose “Space” and “Light” as my words. After I got that out of the way, the ideas started coming a lot easier.


The sketching process is SUPER important. When you are first presented with an idea, you will get these inspirations and thoughts on how you can execute the idea. So no matter how silly, or how stupid the idea might seem, try your hardest to get something down on paper.

These were my sketches:

And after finishing the sketches, I went a took a poll from co-workers and family members to see which one they liked the best. Sketch #1 was the best, and so I refined the sketch a little bit. After doing that, I put the sketch book away for a day and just sat on the ideas. This was good because when I came back to the sketches I could tell if I really liked them or not. Fortunately, I loved the first sketch even more than I did before; I was excited to get to work on this.

Elements of the Photo:

After I was settled on the sketches, I had to start getting different pictures to make my vision a reality. I knew that I needed a couple of things: A mug, an expression-filled face, a picture of space, and LOTS of lights. The easiest thing about this picture was probably the lights. Before I got married, my roommates and I would throw tons of dance parties in our apartment, and so I had lights to spare. But I wasn’t sure where I was going to get a plain white mug, or an expression-filled face.

I started by looking for the mug. I figured someone near by had one that I could borrow for a couple of minutes. So I posted on our community’s Facebook page and asked if anyone had a plain white mug I could borrow for a few minutes. Luckily, the family kiddy-corner from us had one that we could borrow. So I got the mug, took the picture, and gave it back.

The next obstacle was going to be finding an expression-filled face. It was one thing to have a dumbfounded look on your face, it was another to find one that looked truly animated! And then it hit me, my brother might as well be a cartoon character! He has one of the most expressive faces that I have ever seen! And to make it even better, the event he looks forward to each year with amazement and astonishment was happening this week, the E3 Gaming Expo. I knew that if I was ever going to get an expression of amazement and astonishment out of him, now would be the prime time.

So, I invited my brother over for dinner and talked to him a little bit about the Expo. He regaled me with the different games that were coming out, and all of the breaking news in the video game world. When he mentioned that the new Assassins Creed game was coming out (of which he is a big fan), I asked him to make the face that he made when he saw that announcement. And with just a little moving, the face was perfect!

After that came the fun part. I love light graffiti, and so this was a blast for me! Really quick, here are the different photos that I used to make the light show happen:

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The settings that I used to get these pictures were all the same. The way you want to set these up is by first off getting a tripod, different lights, and a dark room. For my lights, I used a white LED tea light, a red laser level, a cheap LED flash light (here is a link to something like it on amazon, but cheaper ones can be purchased at Walmart or most Gas Stations), and Blue EL Wire. My F-Stop was set to 5.6 because you want to have a nice open lens so that you can capture as much light as you can. My focal length was only 28mm because I was in a smaller room. My ISO was set to 100 because I found that I got the light to look a little more like what I was wanting.  And finally, I set my shutter speed to BULB. What BULB does is keep your shutter open until you release the button. Now if you are doing this alone, I would suggest either just setting your shutter speed to a time limit, or be like me and use a trigger.

After you get everything set up, you can click your shutter, and move your light into what you want. If you want to cut your light off, just put your hand over the light. If you want to draw lines with your light, you can just move it without covering up. With the shutter being open, it captures the light as it moves. The same thing can be done if you want one of those cool urban shots with the headlights and taillights following the highway.

Editing Photos:

 What I had to do first with editing the photos was that I had to get my brother’s face onto the mug. I figured that would be the hardest part, but it turned out to be easier than I thought. What I did was take my lasso tool, outlined the face, and brought it over to the mug. After that, I used the sponge tool to remove the color, and then did an overlay blending. I found that this gave me effect of the face looking like it was part of the mug. I’m sure that maybe there is a better way to do this, so if you know of anything or have seen a tutorial, please comment below and let me know!

After doing that, I took the picture of the mug with the face and carried it onto a royalty free photo of space that I found. Super simple to do, but that gave me a good basis to work from there. The thing was, the photo of space looked really boring. What I really wanted was something that was visually captivating. So I went to youtube to see if there were any tutorials on how to make a cool space scene.

I really liked this tutorial because it was vague enough to where you could apply it to different pictures. So I found a couple of royalty free images from and from for my planets and nebula.

I used this image from for my planets:

And this image from for my Nebula:

After the tutorial, I got this very unique and interesting space image with my mug:

Much more interesting than just that regular image of some faint stars.

After all of that, I started with the fun part! I started taking my images of the different lights and blending them into the main image. My process was to drag the images of the light onto the main picture, apply and layer mask, remove everything that wasn’t light, and then did a screen blending option to make any black that was missed disappear for good. Here is a step by step gallery of the different steps that I added the lights.

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You’ll notice that in the pictures, I have these four different lights that kind of fly up and turn into a bird. What I did was I took the image of the light square, and I went to Filter > Liquify and morphed the light to look like it was changing into a bird. I just took the same image of that square, and slowly altered them into the different stages.

My photo was looking almost perfect! But I felt like something was missing. Something about this photo wasn’t popping nearly enough. So I watched a little more into the space tutorial and figured out that my stars were looking pretty dim. Now, in the first video he talks about how if you sign up for some group you can download the brush that he used to make the stars shine a little more. I on the other hand am too cheap for that, so I found a different way around it.
He mentioned that he was using a brush, so I looked up a video on how to make my own custom brush using this image of the LED Flashlight that I used for my image. It was actually way easier than I would’ve thought to do it by myself.

Here is the video that I used to make the brush:

Now I realize that the video explains how to make a smoke and fog brush, but if you follow the same steps and principles you’ll get a very rewarding result. So I followed the first video’s advice about brightening up the stars and realized that with that, my photo was complete! It popped, it was engaging, and it conveys the message that I was going for.

The Message:

I wanted to give off this message that the mind is a wonderfully bright and creative thing. Often times we fail to see the ideas and creativity of others because maybe they seem like plain or ordinary people, just like how a mug is often over looked in the back of a cupboard. But if we could just see the potential of those with whom we cross paths, we might just see that they are capable of things that we may have never thought possible. They can present us with ideas that can take us out of this world.


After finishing with the picture, it was time to print it. For the assignment, we had to print an 8″x12″ image mounted on foam core. In printing, it’s important to understand that you’re going to lose a lot of details in the print if you have anything slightly blurry. And since I really wanted my brother’s face to be sharp, I copied the mug and face layer, and I added an unsharp mask. After that I just dropped the opacity until it looked sharper.

The final result for it was this:

All in all, I was very pleased with the result. I had it printed on glossy paper at Quick Ship N’ Copy in Rexburg. They were prompt and professional in getting the print back to me. And while I was at it I shipped some packages. Super convenient!


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