Photo Illusions: Creating Mind-Bending Photographs | Kevin Lu | Skillshare

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Photo Illusions: Creating Mind-Bending Photographs

teacher avatar Kevin Lu, Freelance Photographer, Frametasy

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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.

      Sway Shooting


    • 3.

      Sway Editing


    • 4.

      Blur Shooting


    • 5.

      Blur Editing


    • 6.

      Low Light Shooting


    • 7.

      Low Light Editing


    • 8.

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About This Class

Capture photos as you've never seen them before. In this 30-minute class, photographer and storyteller Kevin Lu (@sweatengine) shares his secrets for capturing unique and interesting photos of places and structures. He photographs swaying structures, light trails, and low-light photos and creates unexpected, fun images for sharing. His enthusiasm and on-location approach to photography will inspire you to get out and take photos, finding unique angles and exciting shots. There is no limit to what you can create from a photograph, and Kevin invites you to try it all!

Meet Your Teacher

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Kevin Lu

Freelance Photographer, Frametasy


Kevin Lu is a travel, lifestyle, portrait and commercial photographer. He is a visual storyteller and a social influencer.

Kevin has been featured on Instagram, Huffpost, CNN, Travel & Leisure and many more.

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1. Introduction: Hi. My name is Kevin Lu. I'm a freelance Photographer based in New York New Jersey. Today I'll be teaching a few tricks on iPhone; Sway structures, light trails, and low light shooting on the iPhone. When I upgraded my Blackberry to an iPhone, and I found out about this little app called instagram, as soon as I got on that platform, boom, it flipped my world upside down. Last year I quit my job to go on a road trip to pursue photography full-time. I went on a road trip around the country for two months, just taking photos of the country, documenting on my little iPhone. I started building up, a following on Instagram, and I've met a lot of people around the country, and I just continue to do it more and more and I really enjoyed taking photos on my camera. We're going to start off into flat end district. We shoot the flat building, we're going to bend that building. The next shot we're going to have, it's going to be on Manhattan Bridge. We're going to shoot the FDR traffic, and we're going to blur it. And we're going to end on the Westside Highway, we're going to shoot sunsets with an iPhone, and we're going to get some low-light shots from there. I will also be teaching you how to post-process, and create beautiful photos that your friends will be wondering how you do it. You know to me photography especially Instagram in the whole social movements, it's really more than photography, it's lifestyle and it compliments how I want to see the world, and it compliments my life, and it connected me in a way that I did not foresee. Now, I continue to meet people. I continue to see things that I don't normally see. I hope you guys enjoy. 2. Sway Shooting: Behind me is the Fire Building and we're going to start off with a little swaying structures. We will be bending that building, and your resulting photo will have a unique looking Fire Building. I learned about the swaying structure technique from a guy named Rene Ritchie. I found him through Instagram. He was using panorama function on the iPhone, but he messed up so he ended up with a building that's crooked. But, then he thought, "Oh, this is kind of cool. Let me do more," and then he started catching on and became a thing. So, today I'm going to show you how to do it. When I photograph something, I look for three things: number one, light; number two, subject; number three, composition. So, without any of these three elements, I cannot have a good photo. Now, light, I prefer to shoot it when it's not so contrasty. Right now, this is afternoon five O'clockish. This is perfect for me because I love to work in diffused soft light. When I stand in front of a scene I scattered out, I determine what a shot is going to look like, and then I go right into my iPhone. From the native camera app, you can swipe twice to left to go to panner, but instead of how people usually pan from left and right, we're going to pan vertically up, and this is how we do it. When I see a scene like this I evaluate it by just practicing panning. If you're pointing your camera this way, the building is completely black, but if you point it this way, the background is completely overexposed, it's blown out. Now, you cannot get both completely, but I suggest that you make your picture a little darker than you think you need, because once you overexpose a certain shot, you cannot bring it back later. So, always make your picture a little bit darker than you need to, and now let's do a few pans. Let me semi-exposure, so that I don't overexpose the sky, and now I start from the bottom of my shot. Keep in mind your final photo is going to be from here to here, and I want to line up the building right in the middle, and there you go, you press this button, you start panning upwards, and as you get to the top, make sure you turn your camera just a little bit, and keep going, keep going, keep going, and then stop. Now, you can take a look at your photo to see if you you like it. Oh, it's pretty good. When you're panning like this, you want to keep your hands steady, and you don't want to move your hands up and down. What you want to do is you just want to rotate your wrist, so the pivot point is right in the middle of your phone. So, what you want to do is just turn your wrist. I usually hold my phone with both hands and anchor my arms, my elbows against my body, so that I don't introduce any camera movement. Now, what I learned from Rene is that, he doesn't really turn his phone. What he does is, he anchors his phone against his body, as he pans. He tilts his body sideways, so that will give you more stability and the final resulting photo will have less jagged edge and less artifact. Also, you want to keep in mind that you don't want to bend other buildings, so only tilt your phone where you get to a clean spot. Let's do another one. Here we go, we pan, we pan, we pan, slow and steady, and now we'll just turn right, turn right, turn right, turn right, turn right. Stop. That's much better, I think I can work with this. 3. Sway Editing: I quickly go over the shots to see if anything jumps out. This one looks great. I really like this. The exposure is nice. So, for this photo, the apps of my choice will be Snapseed, Afterlight and Instagram. What I usually do is, I go to details, and I bring sharpening just a tap, and the next thing I do sometimes I crop before I do any further processing. Now, if we want this photo be longer, you can actually press this button. So, this is the portrait view, this is the landscape view. Let's drag this box around. You can click on tune image, and again, if you hold onto the screen and swipe up and down, you have an array of options and usually they are listed in order of importance. I go right into ambience. First, it gives your photo more punch. To swipe it to your left or right, you can adjust the value. As you can see, the more you drag to the right when you increase the value, the brighter more saturated your photo becomes. But keep in mind, you also introduce this halo effect around the building which looks super stupid. Now, the next thing I do is I fix the shadows. If you go to shadows, and strike it out, you can open up the shadows a lot, like this. You have a lot of latitude actually in terms of shadows recovery. But, keep in mind there's no option for highlights recovery. That's why I underexpose my photos when I take on. There's another reason I use Snapseed a lot and it's called selective adjust. This tool allows you to locally adjust whatever you want in terms of exposure, contrast and brightness. If you go to here, you have a new menu, if you tap on the plus sign, it lets you create a point anywhere on the screen. When you do that, you introduce a radio point where you can drag around the screen. You can also pinpoint where you want to adjust. If you see the cross here, it's right in the middle of the taxi and we move that around. The ring on the radio menu tells you which color you're targeting. As you can see the rings changing colors. I actually want to brighten up the taxi. So, let's make sure our target is here. Now, the next thing you do is you can pinch and adjust the size of the radio array. Selective adjust, lets you target one color. Even if you drag a circle all the way out and open it all the way out, you're only going to affect the color that you choose. In this case, it's the orange tone. You can introduce as many as I think 10 difference points. Let's do another one. This time let's do it on this building, and then I can drag my area of selection and picks up the brown beige tone. You don't really bright in the sky. This is why selective adjust is very powerful. Now we have that selected. I will brighten that part, maybe to five and add a little contrast. I like to decrease overall saturation to make it some sort of a color splash effect where only one thing pops out. So, in this case, we want everything to be desaturated but we want a yellow taxi part. So let's decrease everything around this and make everything desaturated. Let's create a few different points. I want to reduce this blue. So lets desaturate it to maybe 15. So, let's do that everywhere. Make sure we don't get the yellow taxi. Great. This image looks a lot like what I want. Good. Now, at this point, I want to save this image. So I press on this button and save to photo library. The next thing I do usually is Afterlight. Let's go over there. We open up, actually you can tap on this button and open your camera roll. Let's open that photo from our previous edit. I want to make the sky a little bit more yellow. So, this is the highlight part of the sky. Let's press use. So, what I do a lot in Afterlight is this, I press on this button, the second button to left and it opens up a lot of options for editing. If you scroll to the right, you'll see there are three different color buttons, H and S. Its highlights, shadows, and midtones. Midtones and shadows. So, highlights lets you adjust whatever the brightest part is and it lets you tone the colors of that part. I think this region of the photo is going to be in a highlight area. Let's press highlight. As you can see, it adds a red to that region. We don't want that. We want the photo to be more balanced with the daylight. Let's keep it at negative 50 from the red adjustment. Press okay. Now, let's go to Midtones. So, the Midtones will target this region, I like a little red, it's just more interesting. It just doesn't look like a snapshot if you introduce a few different colors and tones in your photos. So, let's do a little red maybe 10 and that's it. Let's go to Instagram and I'm ready to share. 4. Blur Shooting: All right, so this is the Manhattan Bridge. Looking over the South side of New York City, that's Brooklyn Bridge and this is FDR. I'm going to show you a technique where you can blur the movement of the cars and it's going to look great because this is one of the best scenes in New York City. Hope you guys like it. I brought a few items with me that I usually use. This is a clip for my iPhone, which attaches to a table top mini tripod that I carry everywhere. I really don't carry a huge tripod because it's heavy and it limits my movement. This little thing is great because I can put it on anything pretty much and also, I use a roll of gaffer's tape. I want to put my camera right behind the fence, right here. So, what I'm going to do is, I'm going to secure this tripod right behind this. So, I stick this onto my tripod like that. Now, I have a tripod. The app I'm going to use is called Slow Shutter Cam. I lock my head on the tripod and I secure my tripod again just so that there's no movement whatsoever. Now, let's set our exposure in focus. I'm going to focus somewhere in the middle of the photo. Now, when you tap on the screen, you're going to see two icons. You're going to see a square, and a circle. If you separate that, you can separate them with your fingers. Now, the square tells you where you want to focus. So, what I usually do is I focus somewhere in the middle and I tap on this icon right here on the top right, 'auto-focus', so once I lock, that focus won't change anymore because I don't want to be changing my focus because there are cars moving by, driving underneath the bridge and you don't want the camera to refocus as you're taking the photo. Now, let's expose for the scene. You can drag the circle somewhere anywhere on the screen. You want to expose for the highlight. So, I like to expose right when I see some definitions in the cloud. So, move it along around the screen and lock it when you see enough details on the clouds, and then press on the circle. Next thing we're trying to do is that we are trying to set our exposure time. Let's press on this icon on the bottom right, the aperture icon and then you can select, 'light trail', 'motion blur', or 'low-light'. I'm going to try to do it in 'light rail' because it's more sensitive and in 'light trail' mode, let's turn on the sensitivity to 'full' and open it up for eight seconds and see what that looks like. There we go. Now, that looks really good. Let's save that. I don't exactly like how the trails are going because it's kind of broken, so I'm going to increase the length. Let's set it for 15 seconds this time. Let's re-expose for the photo, move our focus, lock it, move our exposure somewhere. That looks pretty good, let's lock it and fire. This time it goes for 15 seconds. You can stop anytime you want by the way. I think that looks pretty good. Let's save that and move on. 5. Blur Editing: For this portion, we're going to take a look at how I edit our motion blur photo. Now the first thing I'd like to do in Snapseed is that, sharpen image by going to details and slide right to about 10, and then I hold onto the screen swipe up and bring up structure to around again 10. The next thing I do is I straighten the image by going to this straightening tool, what I look for is I want to either the horizon be straight or the building the vertical lines in the buildings in the center to be straight. Looks pretty good, and let's keep it that way, then press check. Now the next thing I do is I go to tune image and I hold on to the screen, swipe up to ambiance, this gives my photo an overall look, that has more punch and livelihood. So, let me adjust ambiance slide it up to maybe between 30-40, you don't want to go over too much because it just doesn't look real. We can add a little bit, thinner contrast to give your photo more punch, right, so let's press okay. You can press and hold onto the photo to see the before and after, it looks a lot better to me. Now, I want the sky to pop out more, I want to see more details in the clouds, how do I do that? I don't want to adjust anything else but I want the sky to pop. So, I want to see those clouds, so let's go to this tool that I use a lot. So for Snapseed I use it mainly for this tool, select adjust, in this option you can choose, you can add different points to your photo. So in this case if you tap the screen you're going to have a little dot appears, but if you hold onto that dot drag it around you can see that the radius, the circle around the dot is changing colors as you drag it across here around the screen, so, that's telling you where you're targeting your colors, right. So, I want this blue to be darker. So I'll drag it there, and you can pinch to zoom the size of your selection. So in this case it's going to select only the blues that you choose and then you can expand that or reduce it. So let's pick this region, and reduce the brightness just to not so much otherwise it's not going to look real. Let's do negative five, I how this looks so I'm going to save this, press on this button to save. Now let's go to the next app, if you zoom into your photo you can see that there's actually a dot in the river, I think that's distracting, there's an app that I use is called RetouchRetouch. So let's open it up. Now, you can pinch to zoom and let us zoom in all the way to this little dot that we don't want. Now if you click on the brush icon it gives you a little brush, tap it again you can adjust the size of it, all right let's make it about that size, and just paint it with your finger just enough so that it covers that area, you don't want it too big, let's press this to go back, I think that looks a little too much. Zoom in closer let's paint over that, and once we're done with that press this triangle button, and boom it's gone. You might be able to tell there's a little difference but, honestly if you zoom out you can't even tell, and that looks really good to me, and I think I'm done, so press the button here on the bottom right and save to library and we're ready to share. 6. Low Light Shooting: Here we are at the Westside Highway on the Hudson River. A lot of the times people use their iPhones in places where the light is very dim, and the resulting photos are not that great because they tend out to be pretty grainy. There's an app that I use it's called the Cortex Cam. We can eliminate a lot of grain in the photo, and the resulting photos is going to be very spectacular. Now let's open that app, Cortex Cam, and what this app does is that, it takes a 100 photos I believe, and it averages them out, and gets rid of all the grain in those photos, and then the resulting photo is very clear and sharp, and compose. Once I locate my subject, which is the water center. Once I've located the subject, I hold on to where I want to focus. I tap on the screen and hold it there for a second, and once that's set in place, I tap on another area to expose. When you do that, a red square will appear, and that tells you where the exposure is going to be. So, if you tap on a light area, obviously it's going to make the entire screen bright, and you don't want to overexpose the whole scene. I want the sky to be in it, and I think it's important to capture the spire, and look, we can also get the moon, so let's do that. So, once you press that button, don't move for a couple of seconds. Now, let's take a look. Oh, it looks pretty sharp. I really love this photo. If you zoom in, you can see that you get pretty much. You have a lot of detail in this photo. You can see individual windows, and there's literally no grain. Very few. Okay. It's very good. I like this. But you have to be really careful. As you can see with this app, if you photograph moving subjects, for example water, you will run into the problem of artifact, because like I said before, this app takes 100 photos and averages them up. So, if there is a lot of movement in the sea, you're going to see something crazy. For example, I don't particularly like this water. So, I'm going to take another photo, and hopefully I can crop that water out in the next shot. Let's do another one. Sunset it's got an hour, but I like to shoot right after that when the sky is deeply blue and purple, because our eyes cannot see that, but if you if you do it right, on your camera you're going see photos that are just very surreal. So, I love to photograph right after sunset within 20-30 minutes. Let me do another one. Let's focus on your subject, re-expose, let's expose again. It's so bright because the light is changing so quickly, and when I run to situation like this, where I cannot expose properly, sometimes I point it to another light source when it is so bright, and I expose for that, and then I move back. Now that I have that, I am going to take another shot. This one let's take a look, and you can see there's almost no grain. It's just incredible. What you can do on iPhone handheld, no tripod. Okay. I'm very happy with this one. I think we're going to post-process this one. People ask me how to shoot in low light. I tell them to avoid them, because it's just not the best situations to use your iPhone. Because you're going to introduce motion blur, you'd introduce a lot of grain. You can try turning on your flash, if you're photographing people, or food item, stuff like that. But for a sea like this, only option is pretty much limited to longer exposure. But a lot of times when you expose for a long time, you blow out the highlights of the building. So, it's hard to see both the foreground and background. so its better that you pick your light then to pick your app. Because when you're photographing under the right light, diffused, soft, beautiful colorful light, your photos are just going to be better, and you don't really have to maybe 30 minutes before this, you're going to have a crazy sunset even without using any of these fancy apps. So, like I said earlier, I look for three things when I make a photo: light, subject, and composition. So, light is the most important part, and then subject, and then you can go ahead and compose. So, look for those three things and you're on the right track. 7. Low Light Editing: Let's go right into post-processing. First, let's open up Snapseed. The first thing I want to do is I want to sharpen the image, so I go to details and I drag the slider to the right to bring up sharpening to 10. Since it's night time, I want it to emphasize, to get more sharpening done further so that it looks sharp. So, I can tap the screen and hold onto and swipe up to structure and drag it up, swipe to the right to maybe 15. Let's go with this, that's okay. Let's press tune image, this little wrench, bring up a different set of adjustments. You can tap the screen and hold onto it and drag it up and down. Let's go to ambience first and let's swipe to the right to bring up ambiance. As you can see, if you move the slider, it makes your photo a lot more saturated and bright and even sharper. You don't want to do too much because you will introduce crazy halo effects and other artifacts like noise and other stuff that you don't want. So, let's keep it around 40. Now, let's strike our slider up to warmth, make it a little warmer, so it doesn't look like winter night. Maybe to five. Now, I don't want the buildings to be completely black, I want to be able to make out some details of those buildings. So, I'm going to do selective adjust and tap on the circle icon and at a local adjustment radal button to here, to the bottom of the buildings. What I want to do is open it a little bit, just so that I have my building selected and I will open a brightness just to 10, maybe 10, that is good to me and press okay. So, let's save it here. Now, let's go to another app. This time we're going to use after light. So, first thing we're going to do, is we open this tab, swipe to the right and find these three buttons; highlights, shadows mid tones. Let's press H. Now, you can see that you can adjust the highlights of the buildings, I want to make it more red. So, let's go to 40, press okay. Let's see what we can do to mid tones. So, the mid tones allows you to adjust these clouds in the sky. Let's hit green and decrease it to make it more magenta, that looks more like nighttime. That's fantastic. I think this photo looks better when it's a little red in the shadows area at maybe 5 to 10, just a little bit, press okay. See it before and after. Since I was shooting this photo from the ground level, the buildings were warping in to the center portion of the photo. So, I'm going to correct that. Let's open up an app that I use a lot called Skrwt. Let's go right in there. Now press art from gallery, select your photo, the forest body from left allows you to adjust vertical perspective. So, let's press that, a new screen appears with a grid. So, if you slide on the bottom, you can actually adjust your perspective. So, I look for lines that are near the center of screen because those lines should be fairly straight, I mean vertical lines. So, let's look for those lines. I think on the right side of this black block of building that I think that's pretty close to the center and that should be straight. So, let's slide a slider so that this is going to be straight. I'm going to save it and I'm done with this photo. Now, I'm ready to share. I'm glad I'm able to share this with you guys. If you have any questions leave a comment, ask me anything. I want to see what you can come up with. I'm very excited and thanks for watching. 8. Explore Photo Classes on Skillshare: