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Compositing a Then and Now

From: The Creative Spark: Brian Kaufman, Visual Journalist

Video: Compositing a Then and Now

We shot a bunch of images yesterday to try to compare to this old historical photo, for then and now. And we have two variations of this, because I'm not quite sure where this was exactly. So I shot it at two potential locations. Here's it's interesting, we have a 24 millimeter focal length, 27, and a 35. So let's start with a 24 millimeter image, and open it in Photoshop, and the process is basically just to drop one image on top of the other. And first thing we want to do is drop the Opacity on the new image down to about 50%.

Compositing a Then and Now

We shot a bunch of images yesterday to try to compare to this old historical photo, for then and now. And we have two variations of this, because I'm not quite sure where this was exactly. So I shot it at two potential locations. Here's it's interesting, we have a 24 millimeter focal length, 27, and a 35. So let's start with a 24 millimeter image, and open it in Photoshop, and the process is basically just to drop one image on top of the other. And first thing we want to do is drop the Opacity on the new image down to about 50%.

Alright, we want to be looking at both images, once it's at 50% we can kind of see where things might start lining up. Here's our big first column in this photograph. And so we know we need these columns to match up somewhat, that's the first thing. And so what we see here as I blow up into this. Here's the bottom of the column here. Here's the bottom of the column in the old one. We try to match those up here, which we've done. See how the top matches up. Okay, see that the top is quite a bit higher here, in the new image.

So, what I'll most likely have to do here, is, is physically shrink this image down, free transform it, and shrink it. Now, if we blow up into this, you can see that the two pillars come together about there. And in the bottom two I think we're probably still matching here. I'm scaling symmetrically, so as I scroll down to the deep image the perspective doesn't change. Alright, so we're fairly close here and so now I want to bring in one of these images to the other location.

The second image here, or second scene rather, is fairly close. Here's our window. That's not bad as well. See in the background here, here's our back wall, and it's blocked by cars here, so we can't really see where it falls. It's pretty close though. If you look at this back pillar here, that's essentially right where the back pillar is on our new image, so this one works out pretty well. Actually all four of these pillars line up, which is really what we were looking for yesterday when I was out shooting these is how do these pillars line up in the image. Now we're down to two options here.

That's our first, that's our second. So this was also the image where the pillars didn't line up. And so I'm probably going to end up turning that off. And going with this image as our final. Alright, so now that we have our image, I'm going to fine tune our chosen image here. To be exactly what we want it to be. Let's see where our door falls now. The door is still slightly off, there's nothing that we can do about that, because if we try to free transform now and pull the door up, everything else is going to slide. And I think the most important part about this is the pillars in this composition. There's half a line out there that's really going to look weird when you fade between the two.

So what we're not going to do with this image is really transform it so that the perspectives start to become skewed. it is journalism and we're already going to have to put a disclaimer that these two images are probably not precised where they are. So the last thing I want to is do is really try to tweak this image to make it look like it was exactly where it was. I'm not going to do that, we want to leave everything in proportion and just let our viewers see it how it is now. And the last thing to do now is to tone this image. I purposely shot it a little bit underexposed here, because I didn't want to blow out the right side of it too much.

So, in journalism you never want to manipulate an image, so what you wouldn't want to do, for instance, is say I'm not happy with this board here. I'm going to take a Clone Stamp tool and take out the image completely. When you start manipulating images, you change what your viewer would expect to see if they were there themselves. however, toning is acceptable because cameras don't replicate the human eye and so if you were in this situation this wouldn't look as dark as it is. Your eye can handle contrast better than some of this cameras. And so what we're going to do is just bring up these dark areas a little bit, so that the image appears more pleasing in some ways. And what I would do with this PSD file is now hand it to the graphics team. They would take this PSD file that has two images layered over it and they would bring it into whatever program they use.

To create the web environment where these images can be viewed with an Opacity slider, back and forth. This is probably my favorite, then and now comparison, and I did this as probably one of the first ones I did, because I knew exactly where this was. This is the main lobby. There's only one grand staircase here and so I could position myself exactly. And I knew exactly where it was, and as you start to fade here, we're at 50% Opacity now, and you start to see the older railings come into play.

And the steps are still where they are. They're still aligned but you start to see the marble up here. And as you keep going, things just get more and more polished. And you see these, this staircase as it was in many, many years ago. And then you start to pick out other elements like this table here this spittoon right here. And as you start to dissolve away from that the spittoon happens to fall on the shaft of light that's coming in through a hole in the window here. Kind of a happy accident but it's kind of interesting how that happened. And of course all of this beautiful plaster work.

Which today is pretty much crumbled and very deteriorated as you start to fade into it. You can see how beautiful it was at one time, all that plaster work was still there. So for something like this being able to really pick out different elements and allow the user to really discover for themselves how this building used to look. Rather than just seeing the two images side by side, you can really discover things as you just started sliding opacity. I mean, the feedback has been pretty positive. I think people really like looking at these, and we've only published six of them, and we have many more to publish in the future.

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