Review: Post Edgy Photoshop Techniques by Joel Grimes

Joel Grimes - Post Edgy Photoshop Techniques

Photo by Joel Grimes

Joel Grimes is a commercial advertising photographer based out of Denver, Colorado. He is best known for his edgy sports, action and beauty composites where he combines studio shots with location shots (mostly HDR) into incredible images.

He has worked for clients like AT&T, Case Logic, Goldman Sachs, Kodak, Nikon USA, Pentax USA, Philip Morris, Red Bull, Sony, Visa, Volvo, US Postal Service, Wacom and many others.

Apart from being a successful photographer, Joel is also a great teacher who gives a lot to the photography community in his tutorials, workshops and seminars.

The Topic

Compositing is a photographic technique by which several image elements that are shot separately are combined into a single image. In most cases, the photographer tries to create a believable final image that looks as realistic as possible, making the viewer believe that the scene was actually set up and photographed as it is presented in the image.

This technique has become a very important tool in commercial photography as it makes the process of creating an image very flexible. The elements (typically a subject in the foreground and a background scene) can be shot independently, and different subjects and backgrounds can be combined.

The challenge however, is to get visual properties like the perspective, the lighting, and the color balance right so that they are consistent across the entire image and allow for a perfect illusion.

The Tutorial

In this video, Joel shows you his entire workflow for creating the image you see at the top of this article. He is not holding back anything here. He starts with the RAW image from a portrait shoot of his subject and takes you through the key processing steps in Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop. You’ll learn how to go back and forth between these two key programs, use blending modes, adjustment layers in Photoshop and a few tricks to adjust the skin-tones and the overall look of your image.

Then, Joel shows you how to extract the model from the portrait shoot with the latest tools in Photoshop. You’ll learn how to use the Quick Select tool, Refine Edge and the Brush tool to create selections, including the most difficult parts of an image: the hair.

Next, you’ll learn how to combine your subject with an HDR background image. Joel explains how to create a consistent believable composite that “sell your audience that the subject is actually standing in front of that background”. He takes you through the steps of cleaning up and refining your subject’s mask. Then, he explains how to use techniques like dodge and burn to get the lighting right and create a perfect illusion. Joel even creates additional lighting effects that are consistent with the rest of the image.

Other Things You’ll Learn

  • How to use the liquify tool to work on little imperfections of your model
  • How to create an atmospheric mood on the background (glowing foggy look and light rays) to separate your subject from the background
  • How to use Photo Filter adjustment layers to match the color balance of the background with the color balance of your subject

The Style of Teaching

Joel is a teacher at heart and it shows in this video. But he is also a working professional with a sense for efficiency. Therefore, he does things fast. Some knowledge about Photoshop and its tools is required to follow along at Joel’s speed. Make sure you use the rewind button of your video player if he’s too fast. But despite the speed, he takes the time to explain things in a very accessible way.

The Summary

The Pros The Cons
  • Joel is a great teacher who presents the individual steps of his workflow in a very accessible way.
  • You’ll get a real insight into the workflow of one of the most successful advertisement photographers.
  • You’ll pick up some tricks that will help you beyond the type of images that Joel creates. You can apply these in a wide range of situations to get more out of your own images.
  • Joel will also share some of his philosophy about “selling the illusion” efficiently without getting tangled up in too many time-consuming details.
  • Photosho CS5 is used in the video. This is not the latest version, but the tools that are used are all applicable to Photoshop CS6 and CC.
  • Joel moves along fast. The video is 39 minutes long, so he does not waste any time on the basics. You should have some knowledge about these basics to get the most out of this video. But keep in mind, since you can always rewind and watch a section again, you can really work the video at your own pace.

My Personal Tips for this Tutorial

Here are a few personal tips on what to look out for in this tutorial:

  • Pay attention to how Joel uses the Quick Selection tool in combination with Refine Edge. This will help you solve 90% of your masking problems.
  • Check out the techniques for adding atmosphere to a location that are explained towards the end. You can also use these on normal (non-composite) images to add a bit of extra character.
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