Find out how this surreal self-portrait was created!

The first challenge of the year in the 52 frames project was to create a self-portrait. I could have gone down my usual route of trying to capture an image in my home environment. Alternatively, I could have created a shy photographer’s image of my shadow! Instead, I decided to play with a technique I had seen others use, that I had not tried for myself. I attempted to create a surreal self-portrait.

Facing this way and that

A surreal self portrait for the first image in January 23

I have seen these surreal self-portraits dotted around the internet and found them fascinating. That weird first impression where you think the person is looking straight at you. Then you look closer and think they are looking to the side. I was not sure how to create this sort of image, so I set about looking up the technique on the internet.

When I posted this image to the 52 frames project I had many enquiries asking me how it was done. So today I thought I would share this information with you!

Creating a surreal self-portrait

First I had to get some self-portraits. I photographed myself looking straight at the camera, then I took a second image looking to one side. (really not the most flattering of images!)

Next, I flipped my profile shot as the light was coming down on my face in a way that wouldn’t have worked in that direction. I needed the light to fall to the left of the image (as in my front-on shot).

The next step was to create a mask around my head in both images. I added a white layer behind both layers to create my background. Then copied the profile mask to a mask layer over my face on the image. This created the profile outline but revealed my forward-facing image. I lined up the mask so that my lips were aligned with the lip profile on the mask. (I also had to rotate the image slightly as my head was tilted).

Finally, I used another layer mask to reveal my nose.

Photoshop layers used to create the surreal image

Finishing touches

Lastly, I added my own style to the image. I removed some blemishes and thought it would look in a high-key black-and-white style. A few tweaks with levels and I was done.

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