Digimagine: Creative Digital Imaging

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    Can you picture a snapshot of splashes of colored liquid turning into flaring magma emerging out of a volcano? Or exploding baby powder turning into gray smoke amidst a havoc-stricken city? These seemingly difficult-to-produce ideas come to life, all with just a camera, post-processing software, loads of creativity, and boundless use of imagination.

    Print ads are everywhere-from the attention-seizing billboards you see along EDSA and the glossy, colorful pictures in magazines, to the persistent promotional images on the Internet. Have you ever wondered how a seemingly improbable scene—say, a model atop a ferocious lion—was captured? This is among the many images that would make us stop and stare-the ones for which we have to do a double take to see if they’re real. It is not all thanks to amazing photography; it’s mostly the work of what we call creative digital imaging or image manipulation.

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    There are times when we want to take pictures that contain certain elements or deliver a specific message, but can’t, because of circumstances such as the unavailability of locations, subjects that are hard to shoot, subjects that must be shot separately to achieve the desired look, and budget constraints. Although a lot of cameras today are equipped with more advanced creative features, such as Double Exposure, sometimes it just isn’t enough to convey the exact image you have in mind. In such cases creative digital imaging is a go-to option.

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    Creative digital imaging allows complex enhancements and alterations to be made and executed through the use of dedicated software such as Adobe Photoshop. The process enables versatility, especially in a field like advertising where being unique, outrageous, and show stopping is the goal.

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    “Creative digital imaging starts with a concept;’ said Carlo Sardes of Mooo Digital Productions. Noted cosplay photographer Jay Tablante was also present during our visit, and they gladly ushered us into the workstation to show us just what image manipulation can do.

    Jinri 2Using pictures from Tablante’s ZsaZsa Zaturnnah shoot featuring Jinri Park, Sardes demonstrated how image manipulation basically works. If you grabbed a copy of our previous issue, you’ll see a step-by-step walkthrough. In Tablante’s photos, Park tried to emulate the poster that was shown to her (and to Sardes as well). Of course, no single photo was able to fully mimic the poster, which is why Sardes had to do his magic.

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    What he did to achieve the desired look had in mind was to take the good parts of each photo and combine them to make a new one that looked just like the poster Tablante provided.

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    That’s essentially what creative digital imaging is: putting together different images to form a single image that is not, for whatever reason, achievable solely by photography, and also to better convey a creative concept.

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    We then tagged along with Sardes and Tablante to one of their stock image shoots. Basically, what they did was shoot ordinary objects to sell to other people-advertisers, in particular-and to use for themselves whenever they might need them instead of purchasing those found in stock libraries like Getty Images. One of the subjects for the shoot that day was a leaf with water droplets on it.

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    Few photographers, according to Tablante, have invested time and effort to learn the art of stock photography. “It seems pretty boring to some people because what we’re shooting are just mundane objects,” he said. He noted, however, that it is actually an interesting side of photography because they are shooting what one would call the ‘ingredients’ used in digital image manipulation. He and Sardes showed us how they managed to turn a picture of a tiny blob of cotton into a buzzing whirlwind.

    This type of workflow-shooting objects then editing them later via image manipulation to convey a concept or appear as another object-comes in handy, especially when working on special effects in stills.

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    In creative digital imaging, there is no limit as long as you have the resources for the concept you want to deliver, but there comes a point where one might ask: How much manipulation should be done to an image?

    This question has been a recurring topic of debate over the years, zeroing in on the advertising and magazine industries and most especially pertaining to the manipulation of the human body in images. Remember Dove’s public service announcement about the picture of the girl on the billboard that underwent severe digital manipulation? It’s true; there are exaggeratedly manipulated magazine covers in which you could no longer recognize the person you’re looking at.

    Again, image manipulation occurs when you modify and alter what was there in the original picture. It is taboo in certain fields such as the journalistic realm, but in the advertising world, as long as there are no unwanted compromises, there are significantly fewer limits when it comes to manipulation. For images of people that are used in advertising, as long as the person is still recognizable-unless, of course, the concept requires him or her to appear otherwise-and it serves the creative purpose, then it is acceptable, and mostly encouraged. It is important to remember that the concept is the central element in creative digital imaging that drives the output, not necessarily how good or bad the person in the image looks.

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    As mentioned, digital image manipulation is a handy production process in fields that require a distinct concept, uniqueness, and occasional shock value, like advertising.

    Advertisements are getting more and more interesting, thanks to creative digital imaging. Sardes himself has worked behind-the-scenes in creating international ads. He shared that whenever he takes on a project, he encourages and assures the art director that they will be able to “level-up” the concept with the help of creative digital imaging.

    He described the use of creative digital imaging in the advertising landscape in the Philippines as a bit more”conservative”than that of other countries. “Kasi sa Philippines, minsan ayaw nilang mag-explore ng kumplikado, tutal bumebenta naman yung produkto nila sa mga simpleng concepts lang. (In the Philippines, sometimes [companies] prefer not to explore more complicated concepts-anyway, their products are generating sales even with the use of simple concepts.)” Sardes cited the use of celebrities as a common trend in Philippine outdoor ads, where celebrities are simply modeling the product, instead of being part of an image with a concept.

    True, there are a lot of digital production services in the country, but local advertisers often prefer the shoot-on-site type of ads. Sardes showed us an example of a car ad where he simply took a picture of the car in the show room and composed a background for it to make it appear as if it were in the rainforest. This saves a lot of cost, time and effort, plus it gives more room to wiggle in creatively conveying the desired concept.

    True, there are a lot of digital production services in the country, but local advertisers often prefer the shoot-on-site type of ads. Sardes showed us an example of a car ad where he simply took a picture of the car in the show room and composed a background for it to make it appear as if it were in the rainforest. This saves a lot of cost, time and effort, plus it gives more room to wiggle in creatively conveying the desired concept.

    Let’s take print ads of liquor as another example. In local ads, we normally see curvy female or hunky male models flaunting their assets while holding bottles of liquor instead of highlighting the selling points of the product or brand—a low calorie count, an apple-flavored taste, for example.

    Although the use of creative digital imaging has yet to bloom in the Philippine advertising scene, a lot of advertisers are beginning to acknowledge its benefits. It saves cost, is less complicated, and more risk-free than bringing the whole production team on-site, a brand new car, putting a celebrity in it, submerging it under the sea, asking the celebrity to drive it until it rises to the shore, all the while capturing everything on-camera. Chances are you might not get the shot you want and you’d possibly be responsible for putting someone’s life in danger and damaging a car. What creative digital imaging does to the advertising landscape is to make everything simpler and more achievable. At the same time, it offers more control over the output, making sure that it is cohesive with the concept. Just a photo of the car and the model, a picture of the sea plus image files of other elements put together in one stunning photo using post-processing software, technical know-how, and imagination will give you exactly what you want.

    With the power of creative digital imaging, all you need to turn a seemingly simple photographs into mind-blowing, surreal and captivating images are a concept, software and technical knowledge—plus passion and imagination. Creative digital imaging heralds the limitless potential of artistic power, bringing infinite possibilities to life with the help of technology.


    Words by Mia Carisse Barrientos
    Photos provided by Carlo Sardes of Mooo Digital Productions
    First published in Gadgets Magazine, August 2013


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