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This chapter is from the book

Stacking Images

For the processes in this section, we’re going to be shooting multiple images through handmade filters. While you may have some success with smartphone cameras, you’ll get better results using a camera that you can control the aperture and exposure settings manually, and one that can be attached to a tripod so the images align perfectly.

Making a Bracket to Hold Pre-filters

In this section, we’re going to be holding a lot of things (sometimes more than one at a time) in front of the camera lens. When doing so, not only do my arms get tired, but I just don’t have enough hands to do it all. To hold some of the handmade filters we’ll use, I’ve put together a special bracket (Figure 4.3).


FIGURE 4.3 I designed this simple bracket to hold pre-lens filters so that I could get stable, consistent shots.

To make a bracket to hold pre-filters:

One choice you’ll need to make is what color you want the boards painted—white can cause glares, colors will bleed into the image, and black is fairly neutral. I prefer black for my own work.

  1. Measure and cut the boards for the bracket (Figure 4.4).

    FIGURE 4.4

    FIGURE 4.4 Cut all the pieces and lay out your materials before starting assembly.

  2. Drill a hole in the center of the short board.
  3. Stack up the 18" boards and drill holes in the ends of the boards (Figure 4.5). These extra boards will be used as spacers when stacking multiple filters in the bracket.

    FIGURE 4.5

    FIGURE 4.5 Make sure you drill straight down into the stack of boards.

  4. Paint all the boards black (optional) or a color of your choice.
  5. Tap in the ¼" T-nut into the hole in the center of the short board (Figure 4.6). The tripod bracket will screw into the T-nut used to mount it on the tripod.

    FIGURE 4.6

    FIGURE 4.6 If you have a rubber mallet, use it to pound the T-nut into the board.

  6. Screw the short board to the longer board (Figure 4.7).

    FIGURE 4.7

    FIGURE 4.7 Don’t over tighten the nuts.

  7. Slide the bolts through the holes and screw on the wing nuts (Figure 4.8), and then slide a filter in and tighten the wing nuts. You can use additional boards to stack more filters.

    FIGURE 4.8

    FIGURE 4.8 One last bolt, and you’re ready to go.

  8. Mount the bracket on the tripod (Figure 4.9).

    FIGURE 4.9

    FIGURE 4.9 You can paint the holder black if you’d like.

Using Two Tripods

Using two tripods makes it a lot easier to work with these filters—instead of having to hold one in your hand, you can set everything up and capture an image without worrying about shaking the filter (unless you want that blur!). Initially you’ll place your camera on one tripod, place the camera into manual mode (including manual focus) and determine the proper exposure settings, and take your first, master, image.

Then, without moving the camera or changing settings, place your second tripod (holding the handmade filter) in front of the camera lens and take another image. Repeat with as many different filters as you’d like—I prefer to take many images with different filters so I have options when I’m back in my studio.

If you want to experiment further, you can change the focus, aperture, or shutter speed to alter the depth of field or exposure of the image. I do not recommend changing the white balance or ISO settings as these make merging the images together more difficult. To get the best results from this technique, you need to be in full control. Set up your camera to take the first shot as you would normally, and then note the focus, shutter speed, aperture, ISO, and white balance settings. Put the camera into full manual mode (including focus) and duplicate those settings. Take an exposure—this will be your master image.

Now, as I’ll talk about in the chapters of this section, you’re ready to use filters or alter the settings on the camera to take additional photographs of the same scene with distortions or alterations.

Combining Images

While this is not a book on Photoshop or on creating digital images, one key technique that we’ll use throughout this book is digitally combining multiple images. We’ll be taking multiple images of the same scene through different physical (rather than digital) distortion filters, and then combining them in Photoshop for use as custom textures in more complex works.

To digitally combine multiple images:

I use Photoshop CC on a Mac, so your system may be slightly different as you follow these steps.

  1. In Photoshop, open your sharpest photograph you wish to combine and place it as your bottom or base layer (Figure 4.10).

    FIGURE 4.10

    FIGURE 4.10 Photograph the base image as a normal exposure.

  2. Open your first filtered image (the one you want to combine with the base image), copy it and paste it into a new layer in Photoshop (Figure 4.11), and then set the new layer’s mode to Normal.

    FIGURE 4.11

    FIGURE 4.11 Create a new layer with your first filtered or altered image.

  3. Create a mask on top of the layer, and then paste in the next image (Figure 4.12). Use the Brush tool to paint black in the mask. This reveals the sharper image underneath.

    FIGURE 4.12

    FIGURE 4.12 Make a mask of the new layer.

  4. Repeat Steps 2 and 3 with as many additional images as you’d like. For example, adding a rippled acrylic filter blurs only part of the image (Figure 4.13). You can also change the layer mode or transparency to achieve your desired result (Figure 4.14).

    FIGURE 4.13

    FIGURE 4.13 Stacking filters gives additional effects, like adding this acrylic distortion filter to blur part of the image.

    FIGURE 4.14

    FIGURE 4.14 You may have many different layers, with different layer modes, as part of your final image.

  5. When the texture is what you want, flatten the image and save it as a new filename.
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