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Let's Be Real | by John Suler's PhotoPsychology
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Let's Be Real

As I browse photostreams in flickr, I find it very interesting to see images that at first glance seem “real,” but then as I examine them further, something about them doesn’t seem quite like normal reality. In fact, they seem a tiny bit surreal, or maybe “super-real” is a another way to describe it, in the sense that colors, contrasts, textures, or sensations of depth and space are a bit more intense than reality. I find it fascinating that the eye can be fooled by these images.

 

It reminds me of the numerous reports of drug-induced states of consciousness, most notably in psychedelic experiences, when people say that everything looks, sounds, and feels intensified. But people don’t always describe these experiences as being surreal or fantastical, but rather as a heightened sense of what reality really is.

 

Here’s another way to look at it (pun intended). If you’re the kind of person who enjoys image manipulation in programs like Photoshop, did you ever spend a lot of time altering an image, maybe even to a rather extreme extent, and eventually it starts to look normal to you? How you don’t even realize how unreal it is until you compare it to the real image?

 

It makes me wonder. What is “real” anyway?

 

Technical note: This effect included several layers in photoshop, most importantly, from the bottom up: high pass (82), vivid light empty adjustment layer (opacity 80%), hue/saturation layer to lower color intensity, gaussian blur layer with soft-light blend mode (? not sure I'm recalling that mode correctly) to smooth edges.

 

It seems to work best with front lighting on the subject. If there are shadows on the subject, the effect becomes too exaggerated.

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Taken on June 15, 2005