Category Archives: Photoshop

Interior Photography with Skela Studio

If you are an interior designer, it is very important to showcase your work in the best possible way. Visitors to your website will get their first impression of your designer skills from the images you show them.

When showcasing a room, for example, it is also important to tell a story with the photographs, and  to convey the atmosphere of the place. I’ve been collaborating for a while with Aleksandra of Skela Studio interior design, and on this particular day we decided to shoot her bedroom.

Interior photograph of backlit bedroom with tray on bed

The establishing shot, showing as much of the bedroom as possible

To borrow a term from the movies, the first photograph above is the “establishing shot”, namely it gives an overview of the location, or room. I love backlit pictures, i.e when the light source is the window in the photograph. Those are rather difficult technically (try it yourself), because the range of light and dark is much greater than what the camera can capture. It is thus essential to take a number of photos with different camera settings and combine them in post-production. On this occasion, I also “light painted” the curtains as they were too dark in the original image.

Close-up of interior design. Bed with tray.

This composition seemed the natural one in the sequence of photographs.

After the establishing shot, I needed to showcase the important details in the interior design. The bed and tray were an obvious choice.

Close-up of interior design. Bed with tray. Vertical composition

As one of my photographic heroes Bryan Peterson says “What is the best time to take a vertical picture? Right after you take the horizontal”. It gives you options for different types of layouts.

I chose to take a horizontal photograph as well as a vertical one, to give more choice to a photo editor wishing to showcase Skela Studio’s work. The vertical composition could be used as a magazine cover, for example.

Interior design, reflection of bed and tray in mirror with perfume bottle.

It is really important to “work your subject”, and try many different compositions. You never know what you may get. I really like this photo.

Finally, I noticed the mirror in the room and being a big fan of reflections, I knew there was a great photo opportunity there. It took a little rearranging of the items to give me the composition I wanted. This may be my favourite photograph of the set.

Vision Training: Fork Art

I greatly valued my education when I was a scientist, and always looked to learn new skills. That hasn’t changed now that I am a photographer.

Fork and reflection edited using the Photoshop Gradient Map tool

I took a picture of a fork on a black piece of plexiglass (hence the reflection) and then started playing with the Photoshop Gradient Map tool.

A while back, I took an online class “Stretching your frame of mind”, taught by Joe Baraban, and this course left a lasting impression on me. The instructor, who is a top photographer with an impressive list of clients and awards,  told us about the principles of design. He also stressed the fact that he had the great advantage of having studied art instead of photography.

Fork and reflection edited using the Photoshop Gradient Map tool

Another version of the fork photo using different colours in the Photoshop Gradient Map tool.

So when the opportunity to take a graphic design class on Coursera presented itself, I immediately signed up. The first week of the class was an introduction to image making, and we were asked to create at least ten images of an ordinary household object.

Fork and reflection edited using the Photoshop Gradient Map tool and the addition of a texture  filter from the Photoshop filter gallery

In this version, I changed the colours of the Gradient Map again and also added a texture using the Photoshop filter gallery. When combining these two tools, the possibilities are nearly endless.

I chose a fork for the assignment, because I really like the lines and shapes of that object. Visually, I find forks more interesting than knives and spoons. And I didn’t want to chose too large an object, because that would have made finding a suitable background more difficult.

Fork and reflection edited using the Photoshop Gradient Map tool and the addition of a texture  filter from the Photoshop filter gallery

Another version using the Gradient Map and the texture filter. Sometimes it’s hard to know when to stop!

Initially, I thought I’d need about three compositions of my fork on a background in order to generate the ten different versions required for this assignment. But when I started playing around in Photoshop, I quickly generated ten variants using only the composition above. I’m only showing you my favourites.

Black and white picture of the fork on a black pice of plexiglass

It is easy to overcomplicate things, when playing around in Photoshop, by stacking many effects. It is useful at some point to step back and try a new simple version. Like a black and white one for example.

It is also fun to play with the various Duotones, Tritones and Quadtones that come with Photoshop. There are many good tutorials on this subject online. The photograph below uses one of the default Photoshop Duotones.

Fork on black reflective background edited with a Photoshop Duotone

I used a different composition to play with the various Duotones available in Photoshop. Here again, there are many, many possibilities available to you if you are willing to experiment.

To conclude, I strongly suggest you try this exercise with a household object of your choosing. It opened my eyes to many new possibilities for image making.

Fork on black reflective background edited with a Photoshop Duotone and a texture filter from the Photoshop filter gallery

One can of course combine effects and add a texture filter to the Duotone photograph. Here is an example using the craquelure filter from the Photoshop filter gallery,




Light Painting Comedienne Juliette Burton

Last December, I had the wonderful opportunity to photograph Juliette Burton.

Juliette is an award-winning actress, writer and performer, whose last show “Look At Me” received raving reviews in the national press at the Edinburgh fringe festival 2014.

At the time Juliette was about to move to London and wanted some photographic memories of her beautiful Edinburgh flat. I was very happy to oblige because I relished the challenge of light painting a new type of environmental portrait.

Light painting of actress, writer and performer Juliette Burton in her Edinburgh flat, sitting in a chair

Juliette wanted to be photographed in front of this wall. I really liked the two open doors and the story they tell, so the framing of the photograph pretty much worked itself out.

I really love working with artists. They are very engaged during the shoot and it makes my job as a photographer easier. In all the photographs, there are a number of items included whose true meaning only Juliette knows!

Light painting of actress, writer and performer Juliette Burton sitting in front of  the fireplace in her Edinburgh flat

Juliette particularly liked the fireplace in her flat. This is my favourite of the four set ups we tried.

But the beauty of photographs is that you can interpret them in your own way, even if that isn’t what the subject and photographer intended. And I’m sure you can create your own story with each of the photographs shown here.

Light painting of actress, writer and performer Juliette Burton standing by  the fireplace in her Edinburgh flat

This is my second favourite of the fireplace setups. The wall was rather bland, and you may have notices that I overlaid a texture on top of the photographs to make the wall a bit more interesting.

Juliette was a joy to collaborate with. A subject is always vulnerable in front of the camera, and she/he must trust the photographer to do them justice. Juliette and I first met on the photo shoot and I was very grateful she trusted me from the beginning. That is why I’m really delighted she likes the results.

Light Painting in the Forest

In my previous blog post, I talked about trying a number of new techniques on location, in the forest of Blackford Hill.

Light painting is the last technique I tried on the shoot with actress/model Electra Gouni. We had to wait until light levels in the forest got sufficiently low because the technique involves lighting a dark scene with a light torch by hand. Since it is difficult to illuminate the whole scene during a single exposure, a number of exposures were taken and then combined later in Photoshop. This also allows greater flexibility in constructing the final image.

light painting of actress and model Electra Gouni in the forest of Blackford Hill, Edinburgh

I needed to set up this shot  before the forest got too dark, so I could properly compose the image. We then water until the forest got dark enough for my torch light to be brighter than the fading ambient light. The final image is a composite of may images, each one with a little bit of the scene revealed by the light torch.

I first learned of this technique from world class photographer Dave Black and I’ve been experimenting with it for a while, mostly with still subjects. So wanted to experiment a little bit more with people. This poses a challenge in that the model has to stand very still while he/she is being lit by the torch light.

I really like the surreal and moody atmospheres one can get from light painting. In this day and age where we are being inundated with imagery, it is important to be able to create photographs that stand out from the crowd, and the light painting technique offers plenty of opportunities in this regard.

Photo Shoot in the Forest

I really believe in personal projects. They give me the opportunity to hone my craft and try new ideas and techniques, so I can better serve my clients.

I recently did a photo shoot in the forest of Blackford Hill, Edinburgh. My collaborators for this project were Electra Gouni (actress/model) and Miriam Wilson (makeup artist).

I wanted to try a number of techniques on location for this project. But I always make sure that I take some photographs that the model and makeup artist can use, in case the experimentations don’t work out.

Edinburgh model leaning against tee with a forest background and texture added in Photoshop

I asked the model to wear a red dress, because it provides the best colour contrast with the green forest background. I added a texture to the photograph in Photoshop

Close-up portrait of model with tree bark as background, taken in the forest of Blackford Hill, Edinburgh

I shot some close-up portraits for the makeup artist. I decided to pose the model against a tree because I liked the contrast between her soft skin and the rough texture of the tree bark.

In a previous blog post, “Gravity”, I described an experiment with levitation photography in my flat. I wanted to try that technique on location. I’m relatively pleased with the result, but I need to make the levitation effect more striking. This is part of the learning experience. It usually takes a few tries to get it right.

Model levitation in the forest, Blackford Hill, Edinburgh

Levitation effect achieved in Photoshop. I also added a texture to the photograph in post-production.

If you follow this blog, you know I’m a big fan of multiple exposures done in camera. Thus far, I used this technique on natural subjects, like flowers and trees. I want to see what could be done with a model. By combining two exposures, one with the model and one without, one can give the person a ghostly appearance. Similarly to the ‘levitation’ experiment, I need to work on this technique a bit more before I get a photograph worthy of putting in my portfolio. Live and learn.

Model in forest, Blackford Hill, Edinburgh, ghostly appearance

Ghostly effect achieved in camera with multiple exposures (two in this case)


Urban Textures

A while back I took some wonderful online photography classes by Kathleen Clemons on Fine Art Nature Photography. Kathleen introduced me to the idea of superimposing textures on my images using Photoshop. In the Fine Art Nature Photography classes we had to chose our subjects from the natural world. So I first added textures to some photographs of flowers and trees, and very much like the results.

As a scientist I learned to develop an inquisitive attitude and a good question to ask is always ‘what if?’.

What if I added textures to images of urban scenes? Urban environments are replete with elements of designs such as lines and shapes, and sometimes colour. This was the reason I was attracted to take the two photographs below.

Newhaven, Edinburgh red warehouse with stairs

I loved the colours, lines and shapes of this building. It is only quite some time after taking this photograph that it occurred to me to try blending some texture with it.

In the above photograph, taken in the area of Edinburgh called Newhaven, the roof and pavement provide some texture to the composition, but by superimposing a texture on top of my original image, I created more of an ‘urban feel’ to the photograph.

Industrial blue building in Musselburgh. Lines, shapes and colour abound in the picture.

I was scouting the area when I saw this industrial building in Musselburgh. I quickly thought of this photographs when I started experimenting blending textures with urban photographs.

I was attracted to the industrial building in Musselburgh by the colour, lines and shapes. The walls also add texture to the composition, which I further enhanced by superimposing a texture of my own. As in the previous image, the final result has more of an ‘urban feel’ in my opinion than the original photograph.


The Colours of Musselburgh, Not Quite

A few weeks ago, I was doing some scouting for a music video project in Musselburgh. The band dropped their lead singer shortly after, so the project is on hold for now, but that is an entirely different story.

Since I was early for the meeting, I decided to walk around and do some sightseeing. An orange coloured wall soon attracted my attention for certain elements of design. Colour obviously, but also lines, texture, shape. I liked the mailbox in the wall, but not its colour. While red mailboxes can provide good colour contrast in quite a number of situations, it simply didn’t work for me with that orange wall. Nowadays if an object in the frame is the wrong colour, Photoshop can come to the rescue and the colour of the object can be changed. Which is what I did. A blue mailbox provides much better colour contrast against an orange wall. Don’t you think?

Musselburgh mailbox on an orange wall. The colour of the mailbox was changed from red to blue

You have likely never seen a blue mailbox before, but colour wise, this works much better than with the original red coloured mailbox

On the other hand, the green door worked just fine, so in this case I just left the colours alone.

Green door against an orange wall in Musselburgh, with some flowers  hanging from the top of the photograph

Green doesn’t provide as much colour contrast as blue against orange, but the two go well together.

The neighbours seemed to have taken notice of the wall and decided to be in harmony with the local colour scheme. The windows of that orange house intrigued me.

Couple of windows on an orange wall in Musselburgh

I’m really curious. What is behind these two windows?

Couch Potato

As a former academic, I obviously believe in the value of education. Which is not to be confused with the education system, but that is a different matter altogether. So I always try to learn new things. And as a scientist by training, I also love technology.

Philippe Monthoux as couch potato, Photoshop composite of Philippe on a couch and a potato

I felt pretty miserable living the life of a couch potato

Given the large number of people online consuming visual content, the demand for imagery has never been greater. The flip side of the coin is that it is even more important for your images to stand out.  By making use of recent advances in technology, one can create images that were simply not possible (or practically impossible) to create before, which guarantees that the public hasn’t seen this type of photograph over and over. It gives your pictures a chance to stand out. The ever improving digital darkroom software is making it easier to create fantasy images by combining elements photographed at a different time and/or place. So I decided I wanted to get better at creating photo composites in Photoshop, and I gave myself a few assignments. The photograph above is the latest in the series.



In the quantum theory of a particular physical system, the lowest energy attainable is higher than the minimum energy of the system predicted by the classical Newtonian theory. This difference in energy is called “zero point” energy.
For example, in the classical theory of the hydrogen atom, the electron orbiting the proton would gradually lose an infinite amount of energy in the form of electromagnetic radiation and fall onto the proton. In the classical theory, the hydrogen atom would therefore be the size of a single proton, or roughly 10-15 m. In the real world, the hydrogen atom is way bigger, with a size of about 10-10 m. The quantum theory, which gives a very good description of the properties of the hydrogen atom, only allows the electron to lose a finite amount of energy until it reaches an energy 13.6 eV below that of the ionised hydrogen atom. But no more. The zero point energy in that case is infinite. We also find that the electromagnetic zero point energy of empty space is infinite, or at least extremely large if we assume that there is a minimum wavelength (the Planck length) for electromagnetic radiation. But it is no cause for alarm, since in electromagnetism only energy differences matter, and not their absolute value. The zero point energy cancels out of the calculations.

Levitation or zero gravity using Photoshop

Making someone levitate is relatively easy with Photoshop. Zero gravity without the space shuttle.

This is different in Einstein’s theory of gravitation, in that the absolute value of the density of matter determines the curvature of space-time. Einstein’s celebrated equation E = mc2 states that mass and energy are equivalent. Hence the very large (essentially infinite) zero point energy predicted by the quantum theory should be equivalent to a very large mass density that in turn would produce some enormous gravitational fields, which are not observed.

The development of a quantum theory of gravity is an important and yet unsolved problem that is occupying some of the best minds in theoretical physics.

Fortunately, the solution of problems caused by gravity is a lot easier in Photoshop. In the photograph above, I appear to float in zero gravity in my flat. A problem I was able to solve in relatively little time. Thank you Adobe!


There are many reasons I’m not into selfies, pictures of myself taken with a cell phone.  The first reason is that I’d rather be behind the camera.  And as a photographer, I tend to prefer better quality portraits in good light.

Shelfie, Photoshop composite of bookshelf and Philippe Monthoux

My first Shelfie pic.

On the other hand, something totally up my alley is a shelfie. Reading is one of my favourite pastime. In my many years as an academic, I amassed a rather large collection of books. But the book buying didn’t stop when I got into photography and business. My interests keep expanding and you can get an idea of the range of books I have on my shelves from the above photo.

The shelfie picture is also a good illustration (pun intended!) of the kind of imagery the digital technology and Photoshop allow one to create.  This shelfie photomontage is part of a personal project of mine involving photo composites. Apart from the creation of interesting surreal images, the technique of compositing has some very practical applications. For example, a reflector (or white card) may be needed to get the light just right on the subject, but the placement of the reflector is such that it appears in the shot. A combination of photos with and without the reflector allows one to solve the problem.

I believe that the mastery of Photoshop is a requirement in this digital age, and I plan to explore other kinds of composite ideas to hone my Photoshop skills, because I just love to learn new things. So look for other Photoshop composite experiments like the shelfie picture above in the coming weeks and months.