Erwin Blumenfeld Photoshop Inspiration

I just came across this amazing photographer, Erwin Blumenfeld, and wanted to share his fabulous work with you. Blumenfeld was a German-American whose work spanned from 1930 to 1969 but was at the height of his career in the '40s and '50s due to his fashion photography in Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. He has shot more Vogue covers than any other photographer ever.

If you happen to find yourself in Chalon-sur-Saône, France from now until 16 September 2012, you can check out an exhibition of his work titled, "Studio Blumenfeld, New York, 1941-1960" at Musée Nicéphore-Niépce.

Here are some examples of his work:

I was so inspired that I decided to try and recreate the effect of some of his images with a bit of Photoshop magic. I used some of the pictures from Ra Ra's summer photo shoot for this project.

{I would like to add a disclaimer that I'm self-taught in Photoshop and my skills are mediocre at best. If any graphic designers happen across this post and have some tips to add, I'm sure everyone would welcome them!}

Here is the inspiration for the first, and easiest, photo I tackled:

And here is my version:

To create this I first of all opened the image I wanted to work with. Then I used the polygonal lasso tool to draw a triangle on the part of the image I wanted to use. I tried to make my triangle an equilateral triangle so all the sides were the same size. Once the triangle was drawn I hit Control + Copy (or Edit....Copy) from the drop down menu.

Then I opened up a new document and pasted the triangle. Then I pasted a second and flipped it horizontally (to do this go Edit...Transform...Flip Horizontal). Then I wanted to rotate it so it aligned right next to the first one (to do so go Edit...Transform....Rotate).

I just carried on doing this until I had six triangles all next to each other creating a circle (and triangles 2, 4 and 6 were flipped horizontally).

After that I pasted a seventh (eighth and ninth) triangle and this time I flipped it vertically (Edit...Transform...Flip Vertically) and aligned them along the bottom of three of the triangles. Then I just filled in the gaps with other triangles using the same methods.

So that one was pretty easy right? Let's tackle another one. Here is the Blumenfeld inspiration:

And here is my Ra Ra version:

This one is also pretty straight forward.

To start, copy all the images you want into one new (extra long) document. Line them all up so they are the same size. Each image will be it's own layer in Photoshop. Then you want to add a new layer (make sure it is the top layer) and add your coloured columns. Use the rectangle marquee tool to draw the column and then select the colour you want in the swatches panel (or match the colour in the photograph using the eyedropper tool). Use the paint bucket to the pour the colour into the column you have created. I put the colour in at 55% opacity so that you could still see the photo behind it.

With the rectangle marquee column still there, I then went to that photo layer and added a motion blur to that portion of the photograph under the bar of colour (to do this go Filter...Blur...Motion Blur).

I then repeated those two steps until I had all the colour columns finished and the photographs blurred behind them.

The last thing I did was add a bit of texture to those coloured columns. While the top layer with the coloured bars is selected, use the rectangle marquee tool to draw around the coloured columns. To start, draw around the red column on the left. Then go Layer...New Fill Layer...Pattern. Then select 'none' for colour and 'soft light' for mode. Next select the crepe pattern under Greyscale Patterns. You can play around with different modes, colours, patterns and opacities to create different looks.

I continued to the next column but this time drew around the two orange columns together (and then the yellow/green together, green/blue, and purple on it's own) and repeated the exact same layer every time. That was it!

Now, here is the Blumenfeld that inspired the last one:

And here is my Ra Ra version:

{I wish I had a better quality image to start with for this one as I love how in the Blumenfeld version you can make out the individual strands of hair, but never mind, they were all just quick little exercises anyway.}

To start, open a new document. Now place the image you want to use. Crop it to the area you want to use (highlight with your rectangle marquee tool then go Image...Crop). If you want to increase the size of the reduced photo, go Image...Image Size and enter the desired dimensions.

Now, use the rectangle marquee tool and draw long columns over the photo starting at the left. Once you have selected the first one hit Control + Copy, then Control + Paste. It will paste that area right on top of the image so you might not even notice it is there (look in the layer box and you will see it). Continue on across the photo. The columns don't have to be exactly the same size and they can overlap each other.

Once you have columns in layers all across the photo, delete the original photo layer. Then start with the layers on the left and play around with the size making them wider or longer or don't need to keep them consistent, they can be stretched and skewed. To resize them go Edit...Transform...Scale and pull from the top or sides to resize.

Also play around moving the layers up and down so the facial features (i.e. hairline) do not align.

You may also want to play around with flipping certain layers on the horizontal or vertical lines (Edit...Transform...Flip Horizontal/Flip Vertical).

Once I had everything the way I wanted it, I saved the file as a JPEG and then reopened it. Now it is just one layer. I then added a grain effect by going Filter...Artistic...Film Grain. You can play around with the levels to get the look you desire.

Then I re-saved it as a JPEG and it was finished.

I hope you enjoyed this little tutorial and are inspired to try some of these ideas with your own photos!

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