We asked some former winners of the Readers’ Challenge… what makes a perfect entry?
“Successful composition (in my eyes) must first tell a story, convey an emotion or message. It should catch the eye, and give a sense of familiarity and freshness.
I look carefully at each of the four pictures, then, I select the components that could be assembled harmoniously. I make a sketch on paper so that each element is perfectly in place, as it allows me to have a clear idea of the final achievement. Then, I import the selected items on a new background. I create atmosphere.
I pay attention to the details for best results. Finally, have fun and unleash your creativity!”
“The first thing I find makes a good challenge entry is, of course, a good idea. Use the photo that you feel is most pleasing to your eye without Photoshop and then go from there.
It is not necessary to use all the photos in the challenges so don’t try, those entries can end up looking cluttered. Only use what will work for your theme. Make sure that the photo or photos you choose are the focal point of the entry. You want to make sure others can tell which photo you selected to manipulate. I also like to try a new technique every time I enter. I will find a tutorial for an effect and then use that in my entry.”
I love the reader’s challenge because it has a limited starting point with only four images, but the magic of Photoshop means there really are no limits!
What makes a great challenge entry? I think it needs to stand out, be different, original, as wildly creative as possible not just in the big picture, but also in the detail. Everyone will be different in their creative process, and that’s great! I will often spend time pondering the four images first. When I’ve got an idea, I might do a quick line sketch and then an extremely rough composite in Photoshop. Once I’m happy with the concept and rough layout, I’ll start on the actual artwork.
I often find the image will evolve a lot further throughout the process and for me that’s part of the fun – I’m never quite sure exactly how each creation will end up!
Once you have a ‘vision’ in mind, the most critical elements in creating a Challenge entry is lighting and cutting techniques. When cutting an image out to be sandwiched into another, it can be very difficult to control the edges. Sharp edges make the image stand out. The key is to blend images together as if they are all part of the original.
Photoshop offers tools to refine the edges by smoothing and feathering them. You can further the process by magnifying the image and using the Blur and Smudge tools on the problematic areas. But, don’t overlook the value of blending options either. Sometimes, experimenting with blending options on the layer containing the new image can a great help. Lighting is a little more challenging. Be sure highlights, shadows and shines are consistent. If the lighting is off, no matter how well you cut and blend an image, it will still stand out.