Beginners Guide to SFX
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PRO Bakster
Difficulty: Advanced , Length: 2:45 HR
• Composite Backgrounds
• Dream-like Atmosphere
• Combine Exposures for Balance
• 3 Free Brushes Included
• Create realistic Shadows
• Match Lighting and Color for Compositing

Every night when the boy falls asleep his best friend Bakster comes to life and they go on imaginary adventures. Make these dreams become a reality with this special 2:45 hour advanced Photoshop Tutorial.

Free included compositing action and 3 Photoshop brushes make creating composites easier than ever!

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PRO Tutorial: Bakster
PRO Texture: Amazing Skies


Photo Shoot

All of the images in the Bakster series are shot on location to give the series a very real look. For some of the poses Bakster was also shot in the studio and lighting from the on location shots was used as reference. The photos in the series happen near dusk and for this there is not much faking that can be done. Shooting at the right time of day is crucial. For this image that meant getting to location early and shooting for hours to achieve the perfect balance of light. If you wait too late the shadows become too deep and the sky turns black. Too early and you don’t get the correct color tones and soft shadows.

This shot was lit with an 86″ parabolic reflector camera left gelled 1/4CTO to mimic the light of a street lamp. We also used a strobe in a 9″ Long Throw reflector behind the subjects raised 20ft in the air with no gel to create a contrast of light and to help separate the boy from his background.

Post Production

The post production done for this photo was a combination of subtle and very complex compositing. For example the street that you see doesn’t exist, it is made of of two different streets facing opposite directions. Shooting multiple locations allows you to have more of a choice when creating your final image, and in this case allowed Bakster a place to hide (kind of).

Multiple exposures were taken of both the sky and the ground that play up the lack of contrast that happens at dusk. These were combined together and then a lot of work went into coloring the image. The shadow and highlight tones are chosen independently and the saturation of the image overall is painted from one area to another.

Bakster is composited into the image using our techniques of lighting and coloring in addition to clipping masks. Even his hair was selected out using a custom made brush that replicates Bakster hair.

Bonus: Included Compositing Action+3 Free Brushes!

Compositing Bakster

In the above behind the scenes video you can see that making Bakster was a huge undertaking, and it was very important that he looks alive and believable in the final photo. To take care of this we spent time on his facial expression and pose, making sure he interacted with the environment around him.

When it comes time to composite in such a large part of a photo, every light detail and color cast has to be taken into account. Think of a chrome sphere, it reflects everything around it. Every object actually does the same, just to a lesser extent. When we composite Bakster into this scene we show you how to analyze the colors that surround an object and bring them back into the object to create a realistic composite.

We also include a FREE Compositing Action along with instructions on how to use it to create amazing composites. Getting the light levels correct on a composite is the most important thing you can do on your way to getting something to look real. We take care of that for you.

In order to cut Bakster out of his background we create a special custom brush that mimics his har. Using this included brush, you will simply paint on and off his hair!

Creating a Dream Like Atmosphere

As you can see from the original shots, the atmosphere of this image has changed completely. This is supposed to be a made-up dream world in which the boy goes on adventures with his imaginary friend Bakster. To compliment the concept of the shoot, the mood had to reflect that dream like world. To achieve this we did the photo shoot at dusk when the blues naturally take over and contrast between the sky and ground lowers. It was also important that there were not any hard shadows from the sky.

Part of getting this look is shooting at the right time of day, but another very important part is post production. We show you how to take images that look quite normal and transform them into something that looks much more like a dream!

How to Composte a Background Seamlessly

It may not look like it in the final photo, but the background is actually to completely different places composited together to create the perfect scene for our adventure. If you look at the two images below you can see that the sky is completely different, they were taken at different times of the day with completely different lighting and at a different perspective.

How then are we able to bring them together perfectly? In this tutorial we go over every single detail including special techniques that will fool the eye of whomever is looking at the image and how to perfectly match hue, saturation and luminosity to blends worlds together seamlessly.

Bringing in More Details

During a photo shoot the unexpected happens, and it can be an opportunity to add interest into your photo shoot, Just be sure you capture it on camera! For all composite shots such as this one, we shoot with the camera on a  sturdy tripod and continue to shoot no matter what. In this case a car actually drove through our scene, forcing everyone to move. It turns out that the car was turning into a garage to the left of the shoot, and as the driver opened the garage door, I was snapping away.

In the end it is not the most important detail of the photo, but it does add a bit of interest and mystery to the shot. Because we had frames with and without the garage door open, we can simply choose which variation to use after the fact. We cover how to exchange details in a photo quickly and easily in this tutorial!

Subtlety of Color

It can be easy to get carried away with color when working on a concept like this one, but the magic happens in the subtleties.To achieve this look we show you how to manage saturation, hue and luminosity separately in order to achieve a balance that draws attention to the correct part of the image, while not overtaking the main subject.

Making a Flashlight Glow

If possible, all light sources in a photo should appear real. That is why the boy is lit from the left with a warming gel, it mimics the light from a street lamp. In this case the flashlight he is holding is on, we just added the beam of light to it. To make it a bit more believable we added some fog into the photo and lowered the contrast. You can’t normally see beams of light, but in this case it added to the overall mystery of the photo and created a point of interest.

Creating light from scratch in Photoshop is not very easy and we go over the many steps necessary in order to make light look more believable.

Combining Exposures

During this photo shoot, we watched the sun go down and the sky get very dark. What we wanted in the end was much less contrast between the sky and the buildings to add to the dream like feeling of the image. We show you how to take multiple exposures of the background and combine them in a way that will give you details from the sky and the buildings without sacrificing contrast. The techniques involve a lot of Apply Image and are very advanced.

Creating a Focal Point

Creating a focal point in your images is an important part of the viewing experience. Giving the person who is looking at your image cues as to what they should be looking at first, second and last is important because it lets them know of your intentions as an image maker. In this image we wanted the viewer to look at the boy first and only if they stayed for a little while would they see Bakster. It is a game of hide-and-seek in the photo but also in the viewing experience. The end composition supports the idea of the photo itself. Synergy!

  • Aladdin Eid


  • Federico Meuli

    What does it mean that SALE ENDS? It means that this tutorial won’t be available after the countdown?

  • Pablo Rodriguez

    Just means it’ll go to the regular price after the countdown ($24.99)

  • JIm

    Nice. I started a project a little while ago with my daughter of what she dreams about.

  • Carrie Tucci

    Amazing how so many different photos, with different light, can so seamlessly be put together. This tutorial addressed the hardest part of composting – different light, color, hue, saturation, and making all fit together. Most impressive, taking different photos of the sky taken as the sun is setting and making it all look the same.
    I love the check layers, and am determined to figure out how to use them. Brilliant.

  • Theshape

    This will be my next pro purchase….

  • David

    Brilliant. I love that this is shot in Chicago. The telltale alleys and garbage cans clued me in before i saw the Pulaski sign above I 90/94

  • echolore

    Getting this as a get well gift, Aaron.

  • Jim Berton

    just downloaded the zip file and i get an error message when i unzip. I get everything but the images. the 2 videos are awesome. you guys are great. better check out that zip file. i would like to get the images

  • Don Fadel

    So let me get this straight – “on sale” the bundle is $29.95, but if I buy them separately it is only $24.98?

  • Neil Bonnar

    Guys, I love this tutorial, I learnt more from this then all the PS books I have bought over the years – be warned though I had to find a deep pit of patience as some of the blending techniques are incredibly complex but once grasped are amazingly easy to use. I found myself rewinding certain sections upwards of 20 times until things stuck – go buy one of these tutorials and I guarantee you won’t look back in disappointment.

  • aaron williams

    so after my try at dj dolo i stepped it up to bakster… definitely an advanced tutorial but nothing that can’t be done with a little determination and patience… buyer beware: bakster’s feet need some serious patience and skill. aaron you did a great job explaining some of the more complicated steps like “apply image.”

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