Step One: Photograph Selection
I have hundreds of pictures sitting on my hard drive, waiting to be modified/captioned. There are pictures that I know will be very complicated and time-consuming to modify (group shots, weird angles, etc.). There are some that will be quite easy to modify (usually a traditional frontal view). Some don't need any modification, and others need only a little "flattening" in the chest area. The point, of course, is that you need to have an idea what sort of story you want to tell when you start looking for that perfect photograph. Ideally, you will see a picture, and immediately start weaving an idea of a story in the back of your mind.
Either way, the best advice I can give you (in the realm of photograph modification) is do not hesitate to bite off more than you chew. This stuff takes hours and hours of practice to achieve even moderate results. Even if the photograph is unpublishable when you get done, you will have at least gotten a little bit better. And that's worth it by itself.
So for this little tutorial, I picked the following set of pictures:
I don't even remember where I found them, but I loved the shy look on her face in the first picture. I figured it would make a nice short story.
Step Two: Modification
I'm not going to go step-by-step on how to modify a picture. Mostly, it's because I have absolutely no doubt that, results aside, I'm doing it wrong. I'm certain that my way is far more time-consuming than it has to be. Either way, there are hundreds of tutorials online that can teach you about blending textures and colors and such.
One thing I would like to note, however, is that the primary reason modified pictures don't look real has to do with the shadows. Often, and you can see this in a lot of my earlier work, the source picture's light source doesn't really match whatever I've added.
As I've said before, I use Adobe Photoshop to modify my pictures. I've never used anything else, so I can't really say it's the best. But it's what I'm used to.
Anyway, once I've picked my picture, I have to find a suitable...erm...appendage to add. This is the one I chose:
It's small, and the angle works. The big problem, though, is that the color, saturation, and lighting are very, very different from the other photographs. Either way, after a little screwing around, I came up with:
Step Three: The Framing
I really enjoy framing my captions. It doesn't really take very long (most of the time), but I think it adds to the overall quality of the piece.
This is what I ended up with:
Something I've been working on lately is drawing the focus even more toward the figure by putting the "box" behind them (spatially). It's a fun way to vary the caption's layout, and I think it really affects the overall effect of the caption.
Step Four: Writing
I usually use a very basic font (Tahoma, Times New Roman, or Impact). It's always tempting to get fancy, but I want the focus to be on the words when you're reading, not the font. Besides, in this format, sometimes the more elaborate fonts are hard to read.
The actual writing is usually the easiest part for me. Most of the time, I already have the basics of a story in mind, so half of my work is already done. With this one, I wanted to go with a first-person perspective, and have the character talk directly to the reader. It just felt better than trying to tell a story in a more traditional way.
Anyway, this is what I came up with:
I have a hard time explaining where my stories come from...always have, and I suspect I always will. Either way, I hope you've all enjoyed this little peek into my process. One day, I might post a video of how I actually manipulate photographs. But not today!