Getting creative with images can honestly be pretty challenging sometimes. If you don’t have a lot of experience with Photoshop or have trouble settling on a vision, the creative aspects of an interesting image might seem like too much. For me, it’s the most challenging trying to make my original vision come to life from what I see in my head. In this post, I’ll share two different ways you can get outside of the box.

Scanography Photography

Below I’ve attempted to stretch my creativity with a new photography technique called Scanography. Basically, you place items on a scanner with a box on top or all the lights off, and let the machine do its job. Photographer Stewart Nelson created some fascinating images by doing this.

Now here’s my interpretation of the technique. My vision spawned from another passion of mine, sustainability. I grew up learning that wasting food was bad. As I’ve grown up, I realize not everyone feels the same way, and I want to do something about that, and what better way than through expressive images? Since I wanted to symbolize how much food and plastic we waste on a daily basis, I started to collect trash for my images. Unfortunately, it wasn’t hard. The ironic part is that I ended up creating food waste in order to show people that wasting food is bad.

On a high-resolution scanner, I placed an extra piece of glass from a  dollar store picture frame on top — I was not going to risk getting nasty food scraps on expensive equipment, but if you’re planning on using normal items, the scanner’s glass works just fine. From there I placed my messy food items on top and, once it was the way I liked it, placed a cardboard box on top. Normally you can just turn off the lights and that works just as fine, but I was in a room full of other people. I also spray painted the inside of the box black so you wouldn’t see the ugly cardboard. I repeated the process of placing items on the scanner with everything I brought.

It took a few different tries with rearranging different materials, but when I was ok with each scan I took my images into photoshop.

For the messy food photo, I scanned four different images so each corner of the food would be seen — my piece of glass was a little larger than the scanner, therefore my food pile spilled over the edges. In Photoshop, I combine those four into one image. This took a lot of time and a LOT of layers. I created a separate background layer of the scanner scanning nothing so I could make the final image background crisper and without smudge marks. When I pieced everything together, I went around my image with the eraser tool to clean up the edges on the first layer. This revealed that crisp black background.

I love negative space, so I also shrunk my first layer to show more of the background. And tada! The final image:

Image of food taken with scanography photography skills and edits, by Merritt J. Jones

A pile of food scraps is symbolic of the 40 percent of food the average American throws away.

My process for these next few images was a little different. I chose a different technique since there was already so much negative space for these next few, it was easier to remove the background entirely rather than trying to get rid of the smudge marks with the spot healing brush tool. Let’s talk more about it with the banana image.

Image of Scanography Photography photo in the Photoshop process

Image of Scanography Photography photo in the Photoshop process

I used the lasso tool in Photoshop to make a selection as close to the banana peel as possible. Then I inversed the selection and deleted the background. You can see in my layers tab on the right that I sandwiched the crispy black background in between the original banana image and the new selection. From there, I went around the edge of the banana peel on the top layer with the eraser tool on a super low hardness, so the original background and the new layer would blend better. Finally, I changed the opacity of the straight black layer to about 75% so I could still get the texture of the scanner background without showing all the smudge marks. I repeated this same exact process with these other scanography images. All of them were pretty simple to do except for the ice — I spent a lot of time in photoshop erasing around the little markings that show the puddles of water.

A scanography image taken by Merritt J. Jones

Ice melts on top of a scanner, revealing many water puddles. A scene that makes for a creative scanography.

A scanography image taken by Merritt J. Jones

The image of a mask found on the ground makes for an interesting scanography.

A scanography image taken by Merritt J. Jones

Along with food, we waste a lot of plastic. This scanography image features a deep symbolism of our false need for plastics.

For the first food photo specifically, I wish I didn’t put as much on the scanner, there were certain aspects of the image — like the banana — I was hoping would stand out more than others. I also wish I would have made the shape of all the food waste into more of an oval instead of a rectangle. That being said, I’m still pretty proud of my first go at scanography.

If nothing else, this has given me more ideas for the future.

Yellowstone Photography and Photoshop

For this next technique, it took me longer to find the images I wanted to use than it did to edit. All of the pictures I took ended up being from a photography class trip to Yellowstone. Originally, the sky in the background image was blown out and not very pretty, so I took the sky from a different image and replaced the ugly sky.

I had a few pictures of my classmate, Ryan Doss, balancing on the edge of a railing blocking a geyser — don’t do this at home kids. I chose one where he had the most dramatic stance so it would look like he’s falling in later with photoshop. Once I selected just him from the image, I placed a few different layers of steam images on top. I erased the excess background from the steam images and placed a Camera Raw filter on a merged copy of everything. I love using Camera Raw for finalizing my colors and contrast just because it’s the program I’m most comfortable with at the moment. It’s very user friendly.

And now the final image:

A creative image of a man falling into a vat of steam in Yellowstone by Merritt J. Jones

This creative image features a man “falling” into a geyser at Yellowstone National Park. Created using Photoshop.

Follow along if you have any more questions about my process or if you want to collaborate. I love learning new things and working with new people. Everyone has an awesome perspective to share. Plus, through sharing our own creative processes, we become more creative ourselves.