Bigger, Better, Different: Creative Photo Editing | Sam Morrison | Skillshare

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Bigger, Better, Different: Creative Photo Editing

teacher avatar Sam Morrison, Photographer

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Project: Make 1 Photo Bigger, Better, or Different


    • 3.

      Asessing Your Photos


    • 4.

      Making it Bigger


    • 5.

      Making it Better


    • 6.

      Editing it Better


    • 7.

      Making it Different


    • 8.

      Editing it Different


    • 9.

      Wrap Up


    • 10.

      Explore Photo Classes on Skillshare


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About This Class

Join photographer Sam Morrison for a 30-minute, behind-the-camera look at how to create photos in his signature "Bigger, Better, and Different" style. You'll work with existing images and learn how to improve each one using a variety of techniques. 

This class challenges you to question and improve aspects of your work that you may have never considered, but that are key to creating your most creative images.

In the video lessons, you'll follow Sam to one of his favorite NYC spots and learn valuable insider tips as he manipulates 3 images from his own portfolio. Key techniques including altering lighting in Photoshop, ways to re-shoot an image to switch up your composition, using props to change a photo's concept, and more.

This class is great for amateur and aspiring photographers alike. Challenging yourself in the creative process is critical for every level of gear, skill, and style!

Note: These videos involve fire and hazardous situations, all executed by professionals. Please always act responsibly.

Meet Your Teacher

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Sam Morrison



Sam creates things that make people think and feel. In 2013, after graduating from Syracuse University's iSchool, Sam moved to Brooklyn, NY and delved into the just-forming Instagram community. Now he's pursuing a greater understanding of native advertising and social engagement by reading a lot of books, taking advertising courses, and experimenting with his own social channels.

You can find more information about him, as well as client work on his website

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1. Introduction: Hi my name is Sam Morrison, I am a digital production artist, and creative strategist. I work with brands to design, conceptualize, and execute Instagram native advertising campaigns on my social channels. Some of the brands I've worked with include Amazon, AT&T, Jordan, Lift, LG. I like to push my own boundaries, and I have a set of guidelines that I like to include when I'm creating new work. That is I'd like to make my work bigger, better, and different than the work I've previously made. When you make work that's bigger, better, or different than the work you've previously made, you're progressing, and when you make work that is bigger, better, or different than those around you, you are rising above the noise. In this class, I'm going to show you the process I take when I make my photos bigger, better, or different. So, we're going to discuss what makes a photo bigger, what makes a photo better, and what makes a photo different. So, to give you an example of what your project will be, I'll be taking three of my old photos, and making one bigger, making one better, and making one different. Obviously, these overlap a lot, but that's okay. If you can get them to be bigger, better, and different, that's when you hit the crux, and that's when you can create something that you're trully proud of. 2. Project: Make 1 Photo Bigger, Better, or Different: So, what we're going to do is, we're going to take your old work, and you're going to make it bigger, better or different. So, to give you an example of what your project will be, I will be taking three of my old photos and making one bigger, making one better and making one different. We're going to walk you through the process of that by dissecting the original image, and showing you how it can be improved. Then editing it, reshooting it, or combining it with other ideas to make it bigger better or different. As a student of this class, you're going to take your own work and you're going to follow along with my processes and examples, and try to make it bigger, better or different. This class project is an exercise in creativity. While a lot of people think that creativity is an unattainable, unlearnable trait, it's actually not. It's really just an exercise of connecting the dots. Your surroundings can be broken down into two sections, the people you hang out with, and the places you go. The more people you meet, the more places you explore, the greater understanding of your surroundings you'll have. So, having more dots to choose from in your pool, will give you a greater variation, and having a greater variation, will allow you to make things that are bigger, better and different from your previous work. When you make things that are bigger, better and different than your previous work, you're progressing. When you make things that are bigger, better and different than those around you, you're rising above the noise. 3. Asessing Your Photos: Getting started, I tried to pick photos that will challenge me, and make me a better photographer and a better creative by trying to make them bigger, better, or different. The worst thing I could do here is picking an image that would be too easy to improve, because that's not obviously challenging me. I try to look at two different things when I'm evaluating one of my old images. I look for the technical proficiency of it, and I look for the message that it's sending. The technical proficiency of it can include a number of different things, such as the lighting, or the composition, or the line, or the color, and the depth of a photo. All of those can easily be improved on. But when it comes to the message of the photo, that's where we can really push our work and challenge ourselves to do better, in order to create a new and more powerful piece of work. 4. Making it Bigger: So, I picked this image and I decided to make it bigger. First, we're going to talk about what it means to be bigger and also, we're going to talk about how this image can be improved and what it means to be bigger. I really like this image, but I think it can be better than it already is. For example, there's good light, but there's a lot of distracting elements in the sky and it doesn't feel as grandiose as I want it to feel. Making it bigger doesn't necessarily refer to the size of the image, it refers to the grandioseness or the epicness of the photo. For this image, I really wanted to edit it in a way that made it seem bigger than it actually was. So, the first thing in making an image bigger is trying to change the perspective. So, a simple thing I did here was, I flipped the image horizontally and then started from there. So, I wanted to clean up a lot of the distractions in an image. So, I took out a lot of the things that were bothering me, like this boat, fixed up the fence a little bit and I widened it here. So, you can see already, that's a big difference. Next, I wanted to get rid of this upper part because I thought it didn't really add to the image, it's distracting. So, I painted that out with a couple layer adjustments. So, here's our image and it looks a lot better already, but it still doesn't seem as grand or epic as it could be. So, we took out all the distracting items, but now, we're going to add something. So, I wanted to add some clouds to give it a little boost. So, I took a sunset from a different picture and put it over and warped it and then, I put a layer mask to blend it in. Then, using a curves adjustment, I mask that to match the tones in the original image. So, that was good, but it doesn't really have enough pop. It doesn't have as much pop as I want it to have, so I added a local curves adjustment. That gave it the pop I was looking for, in a more epic feeling to the lighting that's surrounding the subject here. So here's the sky added in, here's the the bridge added in and here's the fence taken out. Some techniques you can use to make an image bigger are keeping the same composition and subject matter, but improving it in a way that makes it feel more grand, more epic, and ways you can do that are by taking out distracting elements, like you saw me do here, and adding in more epic elements in a realistic way as you can see here. The thing about sunsets is that it's a simple way to make an image a moment in time and not just a place. When you make something a moment in time, it really captures something more than just simply a setting. So, the difference between this image, the starting original image, and the final product is pretty staggering and pretty different. 5. Making it Better: So, making a photo better is obviously kind of subjective. Making it better can refer to the technical aspects of it, like we spoke about before, the lighting or the elements of R in it, but we really want to focus on the message and the mood of the photo. So, I chose this photo because I actually really like the photo, but I think it lacks a sense of emotion or there's no real punch behind it. It doesn't really mean anything. While it's aesthetically pleasing to look at, there's no real end goal, there's no emotion, there's no call to action with this. So, originally, when I made this image, I wanted to portray the idea of control. My hand is out like this, and I'm trying to almost say that this is all in my control. But something gets lost because there's something missing. There's no element of actual control. It's just an open hand. So, I thought back to how new ideas are formed, copy, combining or transforming. It reminded me of, when I was a kid, my dad bought me this book called "Backyard Ballistics", and it was all these cool and unusual ways to make little pyrotechnics projects. It reminded me of this little project I made, where I had these little fireballs and you could hold them in your hand. So, I went to see the hardware store, and I actually got all the ingredients. I made this, and I think it would be a perfect application for this image if I recreated this same composition. But instead of holding nothing in my hand, I was actually holding fire and I was controlling fire. So, in order to help spark my inspiration, I think it's a good exercise to actually draw out what you want the image to look like, and that'll help you in the process of creating your new image because then, you have a blueprint to work off of. We just want the basic idea of the outline of what we want the image to look like. So, we're going to keep the composition the same. So, if you look at this image, compared to the original, it's basically the same. Now, we're going to add our fire element, and this is the element that's going to make this photo better because it's giving it an actual message. It's giving it more of an emotion, more of a message to the photo. So, from here, we're just going to sketch out what we want the image to look like and instead of my hand being empty, it's going to give it a little bit of fire. So, now we have a blueprint of what we want the image to look like and now when we're out shooting this image, we have something to reference. So, we're here at the Freedom Tunnel in New York City and Harlem. We're going to recreate this photo here. In my bag, we've got all the essentials; camera, extra lenses, shutter release, tripod. Next, we have some goodies, a little fire makers. It's much lighter fluid and a fire starter. So, basically, I used to make this when I was a kid, when I was a little bit more of a Pyro, and it basically allows you to hold fire in your hand relatively safely for a short period of time. So, we're going to use this, and we're going to make that into our effect of holding fire. So, we're just going to test this little bad boy out before we started shooting. Perfect. It works. So, I'm just doing a couple of test shots to see what the composition will be like. I'm trying to match the composition with the composition of the original photo before I breakout any of the fire. So, here's a preview of what we're looking at. So, here's a test shot of our new image and here's the original image. So, as you can see, we've matched the composition pretty well. We've got some leading lines from the train tracks that match these leading lines from the stadium seating. We have the hand in place in a relatively similar position. Now we're going to try to add our fire element to the image. Go. One more, and again, one more. Cool. So, we're going to try once more, and we're going to underexpose this set so we can get more of my hand properly exposed. Then, with the other ones, the fire was properly exposed. We can comp them together so that the whole image is equally exposed. Okay. Ready? Cool. I know it's all out. Hold on. So, we got a pretty well-exposed image of the fire and the smoke. Then we have a couple underexposed images of the hand. Then just for safe keeping, we're going to take couple of clean frames of the background, just so we have the background to use in case we want to comp the hand in and the fire in without any distractions from the stick or from anything else that may be bothering us. 6. Editing it Better: I chose this image and I chose to improve it by making it better than it already was. So here, I really like the design elements of the photo, the leading lines and the single-point focus on my hand. I thought what it was lacking was a clear message or point of view. The message I was trying to portray was a sense of control or a lack of control. Almost as if to say, look at all this space we have and my hand is out in a way that makes it seem like it's mine almost. So, I wanted to take the same idea and improve it and make it better. I wanted to replicate the same composition, so I shot this photo. Then in order to add something to make it better, I chose to add an element of fire. So, we went out and we shot some fire. So, let's see how the process comes along. So, I add it in this first shot, and I liquefied it, and I made it seem a little bit longer than it was because I only wanted the top half and the smoke of this flame. So, then I masked out the bottom part, and I cleaned up the middle a little bit, and then I took a flame from a different photo. You can see the lighter here actually, and I masked it out. Then I duplicated the layer twice so that I gave it a little bit more luminosity, which was cool. The blue part of the flame lines up pretty perfectly with my hand. But I didn't think it really sold the whole concept. So, I wanted to paint in a little bit more blue flame. So, I painted in blue flame here, and then masked a little bit to make it a little bit more pretty. That was good, but that didn't really add much. As you can see, it made it darker, so I added a curves layer to that to brighten it up a little bit. So, here's the before and after. So, that was good. Now, we have fire on the hand. But I don't think it really sold the idea and sold it perfectly. So, I wanted to add a curves layer to my hand to brighten it up a little bit and give it that Illusion that there's actually fire on my hand, and brightening it up here with a local curves adjustment. Really helps solve that. Then a slight curves adjustment overall. Now, we have the before and after of the edit. Then we have the better version of our original photo. Here's the original, and here's the better. Some things you can do to make a photo better: include adding concepts to it, reworking or flushing out the main message or emotion behind the concept of the photo. 7. Making it Different: Making a photo different can be one of the hardest things you can do. I chose this photo because it's one of my favorite and one of the ones that I'm most proud of. So, it's going to be a huge challenge for me to make it different. By making a photo different, you're usually subsequently making it bigger and better. Making it different calls upon those three idea forming techniques that we talked about earlier, copying, combining and transforming. One of the ways to make this image different is to take the ideas and the concepts that make this image so great, and then tweak them, and then execute them in a slightly different way. So, some of the concepts I used in this image were using self timer to create a self portrait, the floating affect which is really cool, I shot myself in New York, in Brooklyn, and then I took a backdrop from Pennsylvania, and I composited them together. I think the strongest part of this image is the sense of wonderment you get from seeing it, and you almost wonder how it was created because it looks photorealistic in a way that it could have been created in camera, but it also leaves you interested in learning how it was actually created. So, I want to replicate that idea and that concept and that feeling you get when you see this image, and I want to take that and put a twist on it in a way that's different from the original image. So, here's the photo we're going to improve on, and we're going to make this one different. So, we're going to take the basic core concept of floating in a kind of wonderous mysterious way, and we're going to tweak it and twist it a little bit so that it's the same concept, but it's a different execution. So, I drew up a little rendition of what I want it to look like. So here's the perspective, the tracks. I will be floating in a kind of mysterious way and these light beams will be coming down on me almost as if to say, I'm being abducted or I'm being brought up to the light, it should just be kind of mysterious and make you interested to know what's going on and how the image was created, and for an added effect, we're going to have some debris flying through the light and see if that can really draw out some differences and make it pop. So, here's the general composition I'm looking for, we have the nice train tracks going through, we have the awesome beams of blue coming down from the sky. Unfortunately, they're not as visible as I'd like, so I brought some flour. Hopefully, if I clapped some of this up in the air, it will make a more opaque beam. So, I'm going to do a test shot, and I have pages of a book here, and I'm going to throw them up and see how the light catches them, I think it should make for a pretty interesting effect. So, we have some nice, so all of these different frames I can use to comp in certain pages of the book, except I'm going to also use some of the flour. So, hopefully, the pages of the book will interact with the light beams and the flour will make the light beams way more visible. Okay, ready? I just want to do that one, one more time and then I'm going to do the flower with me also. Okay. This one the beam was super opaque because the flour was still coming down, but the pages were already almost down. So, this time I'm going to throw the flour up a little bit earlier. So, it has a chance to kind of ruminate throughout the air and then as it's kind of evenly falling, then I'll throw up the pages and that will give me time to get my remote ready to fire. I've got a lot to work with here. So, all these different frames, you know, it's shot on a tripod. So, all these frames can be composited into each other which is kind of nice. Okay. So, now I am going to clean up the pages. So, we have a clean background and then I'm just going to do the flour and myself jumping. That's kind of what I'm going for. It just seems a little too forward straight now. Well, I give myself a lot to choose from which is good. So, if I like the light beams and one I can comp it in, if I like my pose in one, I can comp that in. If I like the book pages, I can comp those in. Yeah. So, overall, I think I've got a lot of good stuff. 8. Editing it Different: For my third image, I wanted to recreate this concept but make it different. So I really love the concept of me floating, I love being able to create image with a self timer or remote. So I wanted to take this exact concept, and do it again but do the execution and the general idea behind the concept a little bit different. So, I really love this tunnel and how the light beam show through. So, I shot some photos here, and the first thing I did to make it different was, flip it upside down. So, that's a good start and making it a little bit more surreal than it actually is, it flips your perspective on things and makes you question which way is up and which way is down. From there, I comped in some of the flour to make the light beams a little bit more opaque, as well as the pages of the book that I threw up in the air. Brighten it up a little bit, and then desaturated, and lowered the lightness of some of the distracting elements here. Since we flipped the image, I had to brighten these spots up here to make them seem as if they were the light source, instead of the bottom here which is where we know the light is actually coming from. So, by brightening this up and overexposing this areas, it gives the illusion that the light is coming from up here, and pointing down. A little bit more or less distraction from here to really sell that idea. Clean up a little bit of the debris and the clutter, and then brighten the image altogether. So, from here to here is some of our first round of adjustments. Then I wanted to make the light beams a little bit more apparent. So, I took a little bit of the fill here and extended it down, brighten it up to match the color, and added a little bit of texture, so I just extended it. Then I took an image of me from a different photo, and I comped it in right here. A couple of curves layers to match the toning, and that's it's in pretty nicely. So, as you can see the steps, we just did the background, and then the light, and then the subject. So you just going to see it before and after, before and after. 9. Wrap Up: So for your project, I challenge you to take one of your images that you've created in the past, and improve it by making it bigger, better, or different, or a combination of all three. One of the biggest problems we have in being creative is that we don't allow ourselves to struggle. Every moment of downtime, we usually find ourselves refreshing our Instagram feed, or checking emails, or text messages. One technique I use to combat this issue in my own life, is I set aside time to let myself struggle. So, I sit down with a problem I have and a paper and a pen, and I set aside 20 minutes for just thinking and writing. I don't allow myself to look at my phone. I don't allow myself to check my email. Just write and write and think. So, about ten minutes into this process is when I get a little bit impatient and frustrated. But that's part of the process, and if you allow yourself to struggle, and if you allow yourself to continue on with the process, you'll find that you begin to think more clearly and ideas will actually start flowing, if you don't give into the temptation to look at your phone or check your email. I went through the same process with these images for this class. Even though I had the idea, I worked on the process, and I found myself frustrated and struggling, and not coming up with exactly what I had planned or what I wanted. But I kept working at it, and I allowed myself to keep struggling. I had my deadline set, I kept working at it and iterating and iterating until I got to the point where I was actually proud of the work I was creating. For your projects, don't be afraid to mix and match your improvement techniques. I've found that when I make my photo bigger, better, and different, it usually results in work that I'm most proud of. Make sure to submit your original image as well as your bigger, better, or different improved image to the image gallery. I'm really excited to see your work, and I hope to be able to guess whether your work is bigger, better, or different, or a combination of all three. 10. Explore Photo Classes on Skillshare: