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Make It on Mobile: Brooke DiDonato’s Dreamlike Photographic Art

By Charles Purdy

In her work, fine art photographer Brooke DiDonato likes to blur the line between the quotidian and the surreal, twisting photos of people into emotionally charged images that make viewers do a double take. Here, she breaks down the steps involved in making one of these images—using Adobe Capture CC, Photoshop Lightroom CC for mobile, Photoshop Fix, and Photoshop Sketch to edit a photo she’d taken.

See more of DiDonato’s work on her Behance page.

Currently based in New York, DiDonato grew up in Ohio and studied photojournalism at Kent State University, graduating in 2012. Her work challenges perception and experiments with the limits of human forms. She explains, “I’m interested in making images that take the banality of the everyday and twist it into something unfamiliar.”

The inspiration for this image was a sweater that the model brought to DiDonato’s studio. DiDonato explains, “She had a pink sweater with her, and when she first put it on, the sweater’s neck enveloped her whole face. We took a few test shots with it like this, but it looked pretty silly, so she adjusted it and folded it down. I wanted to replicate a similar effect for the portrait, though—something less literal where it felt like the fabric absorbed the whole frame…. We didn’t have a giant turtleneck to use as a backdrop, so I decided to shoot with a gray curtain and change the colors to match in postproduction.”

Below, DiDonato shares the steps she followed to create this image.  

STEP 1: CREATE A COLOR PALETTE

DiDonato’s first step was to create use Capture to create a color palette based on the model’s clothing. She opened Capture, tapped the Colors menu option, tapped the plus-sign icon, and then pointed her camera at the model.

When you do this, you’ll see circles sourcing colors based on where you point your device. Tap the screen to freeze it and move the circles. When the desired color theme is sourced, just tap the capture button—as if you were taking a picture. You can also select an existing image from your camera roll by clicking the square icon next to the capture button. (Learn more Capture basics.)

She saved the palette she’d captured to use later when it was time to edit her photo in Photoshop Sketch.

STEP 2: OPTIMIZE THE PHOTO IN LIGHTROOM FOR MOBILE

Her next step was to open her photo in Lightroom, where she made some minor adjustments—adding detail in areas of shadow and softening highlights, for example, and cropping the photo.

(Learn more Lightroom basics.)

STEP 3: MAKE FURTHER ADJUSTMENTS IN PHOTOSHOP FIX

DiDonato used Photoshop Fix’s Spot Heal tool to clean up creases in the photo’s fabrics, and she used Fix’s Clone Stamp tool to remove some dark areas from the curtain. Then she saved the image to her camera roll.

(Learn Photoshop Fix basics.)

STEP 4: MODIFYING THE IMAGE IN PHOTOSHOP SKETCH

DiDonato created a new project in Sketch and then added her adjusted photo as an image layer (click on the plus-sign icon on the right side of the interface to add layers).

Click on the image to watch a brief video snippet of DiDonato working in Sketch.

Then she created a sketch layer, on which she began painting. To change a Blend Mode (which controls how colors on a layer interact with layers below it), simply tap on it. DiDonato changed the Blend Mode of her sketch layer to Color so her blend affected only the color and not exposure and other details.

(Learn more Photoshop Sketch basics.)

To finish, after previewing the image on her desktop monitor, DiDonato made one final Hue/Saturation adjustment in Adobe Photoshop CC.