Distress your shots

Ben Brain shows how to transform still-life shots by adding textures and removing colour.Have you ever felt that photos viewed straight out of the camera look and feel a little flat, and lacking in emotion? It s often the case that no matter how well crafted your  in-camera  technique, most images can benefit from some tinkering here and there in the digital darkroom. Here, we ll show you how to capture a stunning and simple still life using just natural light. Then we ll combine it with a texture before converting it to black and white —quickly transforming your shot from ordinary to extraordinary. Using textures is a great way to rough-up your images and give them a cool, grungy finish. It s a look that s very popular at the moment, with apps such as Instagram adding distressed effects to your images in an instant. However, there s nothing more satisfying than creating the effect yourself.

Collect textures

Keep an eye open for interesting textures that you can photograph —anything from peeling paint to old wallpaper, or even a rusty tin, as we ve used here. Start a collection and incorporate the textures into your work using layer blending in Photoshop. Here s how we did it with our simple asparagus shot... How to... Use homemade textures and a mono conversion to get tasty food shots Use natural light Set up your mini daylight studio near a window that s flooded with lots of natural light. The window in this lean-to worked a treat, and an old wooden chopping board made a perfect, rustic background. Always aim to keep the composition simple and shoot using an aperture of around f/8.

Distress your shotsAdd some texture

Open the image in Photoshop (Elements or CS) and make some basic tweaks to the tones and contrast. Next, open a suitable texture, select and copy it (Ctrl+A, Ctrl+C), and then paste it as a new layer onto your original (Ctrl+V). Using the top drop-down, change the Blending Mode to Vivid Light. Experiment with mono You can use Photoshop to convert your image to black and white, but here we used a specialist plug-in made by Nik called Silver Efex Pro 2 (download a free 15-day free trial from www.niksoftware.com/silverefexpro). We used it to add a sepia tint, heavy vignette and a border with just a few simple sliders.

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