Photoshoppin' Fun -- More Indie Cover Art Creation

Photoshop — vb  , -shops , -shopping , -shopped
 ( tr ) to alter (a digital photograph or other image), using an image editing application, especially Adobe Photoshop
I don't own Adobe Photoshop, though I used it a little in previous jobs.  In 1999, when I gave up my Web-TV unit for a second-hand Windows 98 computer built by a small, local computer shop for use in their business, I was temporarily out of work and couldn't afford software for it, beyond the handful of utilities that had come bundled on it. (That was where I developed my affinity for writing on sweet, swift Wordpad, which is still what I write my book drafts and blog posts with today.)

The situation gave rise to investigating downloadable freebie software, and I still use a lot of freebie software today.  But one program came on disk with a scanner I bought in 2000 -- Adobe Photo Deluxe 2.0.  That is still my workhorse graphics editor to this day, and I've had to sometimes jump through hoops to make it compatible with OS system upgrades and new computers, like the XP laptop I'm typing on right now.  I sometimes use  other graphics programs -- mostly Ultimate Paint (freebie); less frequently (freebie), Gimp (freebie), and Serif's PhotoPlus (both free and purchased versions).

Since I first started writing Sweet Southern Boys, I've been on the lookout for stock photo models to portray them on the published cover of their story -- not merely a "working" cover. This hasn't been easy, particularly because I also wanted photos to use in videos about the series, where the characters would be portrayed at different ages -- but photos of the same stock photo model from preschool  years to manhood seemed unlikely to find.  Thus, different models would be used to portray these boys at different stages of their lives in promos and videos, and they need to look at least somewhat like the fellows on the cover.  The models on the cover had to represent them at age seventeen.  The ones I finally used are likely in their early twenties.

Fortunately, the standard license use by most micro-stock (i.e., basically "affordable") sites permits "adapting" the work -- such as cutting a person, or object like an animal, building or vehicle, from the existing background and overlaying it on another. Another reason for graphics editing would be to attempt to "match" models shot under different lighting conditions.  In the original downloads above, "Randy" was shot in three-point studio lighting.  "Shelby" and "John Mark" were shot in outdoor lighting -- the former in diffused cloudy-day lighting, the latter in open sunlight that creates sharp shadows.  I did the best I could make the lighting differences not so stark.

This is a "concept" image -- it is not supposed to portray them actually standing side by side. It's rather like the original cover of S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders, which was produced by a pre-digital age (1967) cover artist. In fact, a member of an e-book forum saw an earlier rendering of my cover and advised it reminded her of Hinton's cover  She liked that book and would possibly buy my novel based on the similarity of the cover alone.

I've never read The Outsiders -- never even heard of it until that e-book forum encounter -- but it's fascinating to think it was published the year I graduated from high school, and the author was 18 at the time.  She had begun writing the story at age 15. In any case, inspired by the forum commenter's remarks and Hinton's cover, I had fun doing a ripoff, though I never intended for this to be the actual cover. It's interesting that in such a concept, shadows on the "wrong" side of faces don't seem to matter. They were drawn that way purposely for the Hinton cover by Viking's cover artist....

The Outsiders entry at Wikipedia
It is most fortunate that stock photo licenses permit "adapting" (editing) the image, because few of them are suitable for books covers as downloaded, although you can find a plethora of $.99 ebooks with covers that have been created that way.  Just stick a title and author name on it (often with fancy fonts, sometimes unreadable) rather like this:

I dunno. I think stock photos used for book covers need a little more attention than that. I spent a lot of time doing graphic editing on the covers of both Southern Man and Sweet Southern Boys.  There's a short look at the images that went into the previous cover for Southern Man here. (Scroll down to bottom of screen).

As for these sweet Southern boys -- they sometimes had me pulling my hair out, trying to get their "lighting" to match...rather, my graphics editor did. Sometimes to darken, lighten, turn contrast up or down, mess with the color balance, can produce unexpected result -- not always good. In fact, almost never good.  Then, there are sometimes other considerations.,,,

I'll discuss those considerations, and more, when I take a look at each character's "fun with photoshoppin'" (and yes, I use "fun" facetiously) experience individually, in future posts.