an experiment!

'in the round' technique, bandstand, Newark on TrentLast week I mentioned that I wanted to try a new technique, called ‘in the round’ where the photographer takes a series of pictures while moving 360 degrees round her subject and then combines them in post-processing to give an impressionist effect.  You can see an example of how it’s supposed to look here!

The image above is the result of my having a very casual and not very serious go at it (it’s just a detail of the whole as it was the only part that I felt was at all successful; you can see the whole image at the end of the post).  The result isn’t great and has lots wrong with it, but it’s good enough to let me see that it’s possible to produce something I’d actually be pleased with.  I got a lot of things wrong and I learned a lot from that, so here’s the benefit of my experience.

First off, you need more than nine shots, which is all I used.  Most photographers using this technique will use around 20-30 shots and I can see why.  The more shots you have to layer, the more the central subject stands out and the extra bits that you don’t want to emphasise disappear.

The next thing is that it’s important to line each shot up, as you take it, in exactly the same way, or at least as close as you can get.  When I saw each photo being layered over the previous one, I realised that my distance from the bandstand as I walked around it had obviously varied quite a bit, which increased or decreased the size of the bandstand in the frame and made it harder to align.  You need to keep the position of the subject in the frame constant, as well – I think a tripod might be the thing here.

I’m also a hopeless case when it comes to getting things straight.  I do try, because it would obviously be far better to get this right in-camera, but no matter how I try my verticals and horizontals are never straight and I have to straighten everything up afterwards – I’ve learned to add some space round the edge of the image to allow for this.  Obviously it’s important to do the straightening before you start layering each image over the others.

I am still a bit confused about how best to carry out the layering process.  The basic idea is that you start with the first image, then add each subsequent one as a Photoshop layer on top – think of piling several transparencies on top of one another.  If you were to leave the opacity of each layer at 100%, all you’d see would be the top one, so the transparency of each layer has to be increased to let the layers underneath show through.  The article I read suggested that the opacity of the first layer be set at 50%, then the next at 25%, then 12%, and so on.  However, even with only nine layers, by halving the opacity each time the final ones were down to less than 1%.  I’m not sure this can be right.  I need to both experiment and do a bit more research on how best to do it.

It’s fun to have tried this, although I didn’t get much out of taking the photographs themselves.  You end up with a batch of very ordinary images that aren’t very exciting to take and all the excitement comes purely from the post-processing.  Fortunately I really enjoy this part too, so I’m intrigued enough to give this technique at least a few more tries.

If you want to see the entire image, rather than the cropped section, here it is below.  You can see that the van has appeared three times and is quite obtrusive, and there are a lot more benches round the bandstand than exist in reality.  Although I’ve seen this successfully done with quite busy backgrounds, I feel that the simpler the background, the better the result is likely to be.

The originator of the ‘in the round’ technique is Pep Ventosa, and you can see on his website how it looks when it’s done really well.

'In the round' technique, bandstand, Newark on Trent