A digital postcard was used to create custom floral elements in the background of this portrait.
Note: this is not so much a step-by-step tutorial as an idea piece. I am assuming that you already have a grasp of using Photoshop / Elements and know how to use layers, blend modes, adjustment layers, and layer masks.
The original image
I created this self portrait by photographing myself in front of a backdrop made of the lining of a vintage curtain. I’m constantly looking for goodies at flea markets, yard sales, and thrift shops. Living in France, I can find wonderful, really old, grungy elements. My “skirt” is also a vintage curtain wrapped around my waist. In case you’re wondering, I used a light stand with a flower pot on top raised to my head level to focus on and then moved it aside to place myself in its place.
I didn’t like my left hand on this, so I swapped the hand for another. I then added 2 textures from the Glorious Grunge collection. I’ve also done a bit of retouching and filter work. I used OnOne’s Focal Point to blur part of the image.
Hold On, We’re Not Done Yet
I originally thought I was done at this point, but a few days later, I realized that I wanted a little something else happening in the background. I added subtle floral elements that pick up on the flower held in my hand, fill the negative space in the background, and create a visual flow in the image. It also adds to the feeling of a fantasy, experimental portrait.
The floral elements come from this Roses & Campanula vintage postcard:
How To Use The Postcard
I placed the postcard file, set the blend mode to Soft Light and then duplicated it 4 times and placed in in various locations in the background. Each placement was either flipped or rotated. Below, you cans see what the flower layers look like on their own.
Tip: When I thought I was about done with the floral overlays, I duplicated these layers to a new document, where I could see them without any distractions. Which allowed me to better see the areas that needed more blending. After softening the hard edges, (shown circled in red) I moved these layers back into my main document (being sure to drag holding down the shift key so that is is placed exactly as it was.) I then deleted the older versions. I could have just turned off the other layers in my original document, but as I had so many layers, I found it easier to move the layers I wanted to work on to a new document.
The Layer Panel
Here is a peek at my layer panel in Photoshop.
I created layer groups to make my editing organization easier.
Tip: be sure to name your layers and layer groups so they don’t get confusing.
Here is one of the layer groups of the postcards opened up so you can see what’s going on. Actually on this group, I have the postcard placed twice. This was the floral elements along the bottom and I flipped the postcard for the other side at the bottom. As you can see here, I have used layer masks to eliminate the edges of the postcard and soften the opacity in other areas. I also used levels adjustment layers to brighten and take yellow out of the highlights. I find that I will usually need to do this with vintage images. In this case, I also used Hue/Saturation adjustment layers to to selectively desaturate. Desaturating in some areas helped to blend the flowers into the background.
By varying placement, orientation, opacity, and saturation of the postcard, they eye doesn’t immediately see the elements as being the same. Also, think about creating a dynamic composition. In my first draft, the flowers were placed more symmetrically. I then edited further so that some areas of the background have barely a whisper of the flowers, which created a better flow to the image.
I hope that this gives you an idea of the possibilities of using vintage images in your work.
Grit and Timeless from the Glorious Grunge Collection