Photoshop and Unconscious Inference

As I’ve been learning more about manipulating images in Photoshop, I am so fascinated by magical potential of pixels. For me, building a composite image is like solving a super-fun puzzle. Because people look at a photograph expecting reality, as photographers we are innocent until proven guilty!

I love the way something as simple as a correctly placed shadow can make realism slide into place. I have yet to achieve true competency with this technique, but it’s a goal.

Photo by Aaron Nace

It’s so amazing to work at the level of 1, 5, 10 pixels, and then witness the illusion. There is powerful potential in this kind of work, and you know what they say about power = responsibility.

I found this Wiki definition of unbewusster schluss, a German term which translates as “unconscious inference”. It describes an “involuntary, pre-rational and reflex-like mechanism which is part of the formation of visual impressions”. This phenomenon can be applied to still images, but can also refer to a convincing theatrical performance. “The mechanism follows its own rule and thus wields an imperious mastery over the human mind.”

Erwin Blumenfeld, German fashion photographer, b. 1897, d. 1969

I have very little formal education in design, so I’ve been doing a bit of light research into visual logic. This paragraph is pretty cool, though dense (or maybe it’s me that’s dense):

Screenshot from the Handbook of Visual Communication

On the flipside, this website has some pretty straightforward tips for achieving realism in Photoshop. I’ll wrap this up with the assignment that inspired this post. At Humber, there is a second year project that requires each student to buy a toy car, shoot it in the studio, and place it in an environment. It was a fun little challenge. Here’s the 2 images I combined:

… and here’s the final image.

HZD Photography

Pretty fun.


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