Almost exactly a year ago, I reviewed a DVD by master photographer Richard Ramsey, called “Painterly Faces.” (You can read the review here.) Richard Ramsey has a new DVD out, called “Backgrounds 101,” and he was kind enough to ship me a review copy. I wish I’d had this DVD six years ago when I was starting up my digital portait service for photographers. Ramsey’s method is fast, beautiful, and most importantly, sellable. In his low-key, friendly style, Ramsey has been sharing his knowledge of Painter on a series of DVDs, and they have a well-deserved high reputation in the photography community. If you want to know how to create painterly images with Photoshop and Painter–images that customers will find irresistible– I can’t think of a better way to learn. After all, Ramsey has won Tennessee Best Photographer of the Year 13 times!
One nice thing about the movies on this DVD are how clear and sharp they are, and they fill up the screen. It’s like watching over his shoulder as he paints. These are not the type of “speed painting” videos you may have seen on YouTube. Rather, you’re watching Ramsey paint in real time, so you can see just how fast he moves, what brush sizes he’s using, and how much time he spends on each area of the painting. As I say, six years ago, I taught myself Painter, and my style was always slow and very detailed. The results didn’t look very painterly. Photographers and their clients were looking for a much looser, freer style. In this DVD, you can see how to attain that look without losing the likeness of the subject. You may be surprised at how fast he works, while still achieving great results. Painter can become part of your workflow, without taking hours and hours. One part of Ramsey’s secret is his painting technique, which he shows in the first video demonstration. In the second, he reveals his second secret: pre-painted backgrounds.
In the second video, you’ll watch how Ramsey applies his technique to a portrait of a little boy about three or four years old. This was fascinating to me to watch, as I have always struggled with the smooth faces of children and women, trying to look painterly, without giving the subject a case of bad skin! The trick is to use the same rough technique everywhere, so that it looks relatively smooth. If you overwork the face, smoothing and blending with a tiny brush, you’ll end up with a painting that has a photograph in the middle of it. It will look like you didn’t paint the face. Ramsey moves quickly, painting the boy’s face in about 3 minutes (he does go back to it later on, but the main work is very fast).
Once the boy is painted, he opens the file in Photoshop, and scans through his collection of painted backgrounds. These same backgrounds (101 of them) are included for your use on the DVD. Each has a different color scheme and look. Some are very busy, some are quiet and serene. Some are very brightly colored and modern-art looking. Ramsey finds a suitable background, then copies and pastes it onto a new layer behind the painting of the boy. Next, he shows how to use a layer mask in “reveal mode.” The mask is filled with black, and then he paints with white to reveal the boy surrounded by the background. This technique helps him avoid the “cut-out” look you’d get using a selection mask. It works really well with this loose style of painting.
The big advantage in using a pre-painted background is the enormous amount of time saved: you only need to paint the subject, not the background! Some of the portraits I have done had very complex backgrounds which ended up taking hours and hours to paint. Again, I wish I’d had this DVD way back when. Not only does the background save you time, but it lends the portrait a very painterly look. I’ve included some examples of Ramsey’s work here, so you can see how the backgrounds work with various subjects. Here’s a portrait of the actor Morgan Freeman, with a well-chosen background.
A background like this does not compete with the subject. Rather, it enhances the subject. It stays, well, in the background, doing its job. In a third, short video, Ramsey quickly reviews a gallery of his work, showing how he used a background in different ways in each. This part will really get your creative juices flowing. You’ll begin to see the possibilities. These aren’t just “digital backdrops.” They are parts of a painting, waiting to be used.
You can order this DVD on Richard Ramsey’s website for $149. The link is www.richardramsey.info. You can also see many examples of his work on his studio site, Ramsey Photography. Disclaimer: Digital Image Magazine makes no money from the sale of this DVD, but we did get a free copy of the DVD. My honest opinion is this DVD is worth every penny. If you’re a professional photographer, it’s easily worth much more. Enjoy!
- Review: Painterly Faces DVD by Richard Ramsey
- Create Digital Backgrounds for Your Photos with Vue
- How to Handle Backgrounds in Fantasy Portraits
- Create Digital Backgrounds with Vue, Part 2
- Book Review: Beyond Digital Photography
- Create Digital Backgrounds with Vue, Part 3
- Tutorial: Create Colorful Backgrounds for Your Portraits