What a concept

Photo illustrations are photos created to illustrate a concept. As such, more leeway is allowed for Photoshop manipulation than the standard news photo. Think of them as a drawing or painting done with photography.The three things to think about in a photo illustration are the idea, the planning, and the execution.

For the last seven years The Record has issued its Charles Washington Award to teenagers who are not only the some of the area’s top athletes but are exceptional scholars and citizens as well. This year we decided to feature portraits of the top five finalists (which included the award’s winner).

Photo editor Craig Sanders assigned the portraits to me, and we talked out plans for shooting them. We decided to shoot them on the recipients’ fields of play, such as a football stadium, softball field or soccer pitch. For the winner, Ripon Christian basketball player Logan Vos, we wanted to do something a little different from the others. My first idea was to get a shot of him through the basketball hoop’s net. But then I thought about the concept of the scholar/athlete aspect of the award. I decided on a photo illustration that would incorporate both sides.

My idea was to photograph Vos in his basketball uniform in the Ripon Christian gym and then again in a classroom wearing his street clothes. Then I would meld them together in Photoshop. Vos’ shoot went off without a hitch, as did most of the other finalists’ photo sessions (East Union’s Jillian Goulart, who was unreachable because she was on vacation in Las Vegas, was the only one we didn’t photograph).

My Photoshop skills are basic, but combining the two photos of Vos wasn’t too difficult. However, looking at the finished product, it didn’t look quite right. To my eyes there was something lackluster about it, something that’s called a slow read. The backgrounds didn’t add anything to the photos; in fact, they were a distraction more than anything else. In hindsight, perhaps I should have should shot the photos in the studio against a plain background.

I discussed the photos with Craig Sanders, and he agreed with me. I borrowed a ladder from Craig and reshot Vos using my original idea. The photo turned out just how I envisioned it.

Newspapers are a collaborative effort, and page designer Marty Greenstein looked at my first effort of Vos and saw the potential in it that I had missed. He cropped the picture tighter and lightened the background, fading from a normal tone at the bottom to nonexistence at the top. Vos popped out from the cluttered backdrop and stood out, and the photo now worked.

Though the concept and planning of this picture went smoothly, it was my execution that fell short, but the creative vision of a co-worker breathed new life into it. And the effort on the second image wasn’t lost, either. It was used as a teaser photo on Page 1 to refer back to the Charles Washington Award story in the Sports section.

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