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Miss Aniela: How I created Catsup, a levitation self-portrait

Be inspired by one of today’s most exciting professional portrait photographers, Natalie Dybisz a.k.a Miss Aniela, as she reveals her creative and technical process behind this stunning image

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Catsup © Natalie Dybisz. A levitation self-portrait shot with ambient light and a desk lamp. I used a chair to achieve the height for the effect of this trick image.


How I created Catsup

Catsup was shot in my bedroom using the blank white environment of the bed and wall, and using only the available natural and ambient light. I used my bedroom lamp, positioned at the bottom left corner of the frame, to light the scene. This proved to be a little tricky in terms the number of resulting shadows that I had to perform my compositing on, but it helped to clean up the image by increasing the brightness in Levels and Curves and desaturating the image slightly.
My intention was to create a simple levitation-style pose above my bed, which I achieved by first posing the top half of my body as I wanted it, and then my lower half. I brought both pieces of my body together in Photoshop, and after some careful cleaning up of the wall and matching the contrast and brightness in each component part, I found myself with a completed levitation image.
However, I found that the overall composition was a little uninteresting: dead-ended, in terms of providing a full experience for the eye and some kind of extra stimulation for its narrative. I had the sudden idea to incorporate a prop, my cat BB, into the image.
Taking a shot of BB against a white rug, I cut roughly around his black outline, moved it into the main image, and set the layer to the Darken blending mode. This instantly made the edges invisible, saving a lot of work that would have required erasing meticulously around the outline of his fur. I applied a layer mask to take away any excess, then reshaped him slightly by using the Warp tool to manipulate him into the undulating position I wanted. I added a shadow, as well as a longer tail with a more effective shape from another image, making sure the curve made by his body swept in the opposite direction to the curve made by my legs. It was this piece of tail that completed the composition for me, the crowning detail that made the whole frame come alive. Similarly, I felt that the slight shadow that I added to the skirt behind BB’s tail drastically improved the image, due to the depth added by this tiny but important detail.
The image was no longer flat. More than that, it was now more interesting in terms of narrative. Coming down more on the side of amusing rather than profoundly conceptual, I gave it a lighthearted title to match. Catsup became a memorable portrait of myself and my cat holed up together in my overpriced bedroom in London, taking part in a sublime oblivious reverie.

Offering an extensive behind-the-scenes look at the creative process of one of today’s most exciting and popular professional portrait photographers, Creative Portrait Photography gives you everything you need to step up your portrait photography to take photos that express the style and personalities of both you and your subjects. With over 150 portraits and a showcase chapter featuring work from five top portrait photographers explaining how each shot was achieved, you’ll be inspired to take your portrait photography to a whole new level of creativity.

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Creative Portrait Photography by Natalie ‘Miss Aniela’ Dybisz
£6.99, Download the PDF now!
This PDF version retains the styling of the original print book.
RRP for print edition: £17.99
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