Recently I have been having dreams of great flying jellyfish. I decided to photoshop up a concept for what became the first piece in a collection of a 9 conceptual compositing pieces around the idea of giant jellyfish and other sea creatures living in the skies of our world. In this tutorial I am going to explain the general tools I used, and the logic behind why I chose each processing technique. I am going to assume a basic familiarity with Photoshop and masking.
Starting with a photo of San Francisco from several years ago, I brought the image into Adobe Photoshop CC and combined it with another photo of some moon jellyfish from one of my favorite haunts, the Aquarium of the Bay, using masks and adjustment layers.
Step 1: Compositing the two images together
In Photoshop I composited the jellyfish onto the city by making a new layer and removing the background lock on the image. I then made a color selection on the blue in the background of the jellyfish image, with a high level of like pixels. After deleting the blue background (much like the technique for dealing with greenscreen images) I brought the rest of the image into the city image as a new layer. I then made a layer mask, and masked out anything else with the paintbrush that was irrelevant to the single jellyfish I wanted as a subject. I also softened the edges a bit to match the focus of the area in which I wanted the jellyfish to be placed.
Next, I added tentacles wrapped around 555 California for some image story narrative. I really phoned the tentacles in, technique-wise, but as I was planning on altering the image still further in Lightroom I knew it would good enough once the color transformations were added. To create the tentacles, I drew lines on the image based on the logic of how I wanted the tentacles to be wrapped, and I used the "Bevel and Emboss" layer style to make the tentacles appear more 3d. The next step was to do a color adjustment to bring them away from the look of the layer style towards a more natural look. Lastly, I blurred the tentacles by hand to match the focal length of that area of the image.