Imagecraft Bootcamp — Creepy

Hi, this is your host for the series, Mitch!  Who is up for doing a creepy image for All Hallows Eve (Halloween)?  You have just enough time to whip one together and post it before the kiddies come around begging for treats on Saturday night.

A couple of years ago, my wife and I drove to Centralia, Pennsylvania — a prosperous mining town that eventually was abandoned due to a 1962 underground fire in the coal seam (you can read all about it here, here, and here).  When we arrived in November 2013 (51 YEARS after the start of the fire), it was STILL burning — though significantly reduced from its peak of many years ago.

While we were there, we explored many of the areas that used to be like any other town — the roads and streets, the town center, businesses, home sites, etc.  But it was eerie because everything was abandoned, overgrown, and vandalized.  During the time we were there, we saw just two other guys (briefly), and some wild turkeys.  The rest of the time it was as if we were the only two people left existing on a dystopian planet.

The above image is as I originally shot it, with my feet in the bottom of the frame.  What is it?  I have no idea.  I stumbled across a metal door in the ground while exploring an old graveyard and pried it open to see what lay below.  It looks like pit with a door on top, which has some accumulated trash down at the bottom.  Nothing really interesting, right?

Well, that’s about to change…

First, I’ll flip it upside-down.  Why?  Because seeing the feet in this orientation makes people feel like they’re being held over something and it’s very disconcerting… and this image will be all about creating a heightened creepy factor.  I’ve also brightened the bottom of the pit (briefly) so you can see that there is truly nothing down there except for some leaves and an odd bit of trash.

Nothing scary to see here, folks.  Move along… move along…

Or is there?

Now that the image is oriented the way I want it, I apply all the normal things I do in post-processing with Lightroom — Auto Tone, lens corrections, basic sharpening (or not, depending on the image and my intended end result), color correction, etc.

As always, the Auto Tone blows the highlights by boosting the Exposure (look at what happened to the clouds), so I gamely reset it. Every. Single. Time.  And I repeat this with every new post because it’s so important to get the highlights right.

I want the trash at the bottom of the pit to vanish, so I create a Radial Filter and basically turn it to black.  This turns the short pit with trash in the bottom into one that looks bottomless, ominous, dark, and scary.

This is getting nice and dark and evil-looking, but it would look a lot better converted to Black & White.  After the conversion, I amp up the grittiness through changes in the Contrast and the Clarity.  Only once I’ve done that, the door on the left has become almost unrecognizable.

That’s okay — we’ll lighten it with another Radial Filter.

This is looking really creepy and ominous, but something is missing…  It needs something to jar you when you look at it.

Ah!  I know just the thing — crop and rotate.

So now it’s been rotated, and that helps make it look creepier because the human mind likes having things appear straight and true; anything that deviates from that will make us look at it and want to straighten it back up.  Is there anything else that can help the creep factor here?

Let me add some color in the form of a blue split-tone, and that should do it.

And voilà! — you have the finished image below.  Deliciously creepy… and looking like something is about to grab your feet and drag you shrieking down into the bottomless depths.

Longtime readers will know they have seen this image before… and you’re right!  Here is my original post, though I tossed all the old post-processing and created everything new from scratch.  And here’s the before-and-after comparison:

Here’s the challenge: find a suitably creepy image of your own (don’t “borrow” a photo from someone else off the Internet!), and go through the post-processing steps I’ve taught you over the past several weeks.

Once you’ve finished, be sure to include “#photo101rehab”, “#photorehab”, and “#imagecraftbootcamp” with your normal tags — and if you wish to submit it to our Flickr group, you’ll need to join us there prior to doing so.

Reminder:  If you want me to tackle one of your throw-away images, but you’re reluctant to comment or post publicly (I completely understand), or want to contact me (Mitch) directly, just go to my About page — which you can find here — and send me a message via the feedback form in the “Contact me” section.  That will launch an email directly to my personal Inbox (sorry, I don’t publish that in the clear due to all the spam I get as it is) and we can communicate and work out the details that way.

For those readers that want to review the older Imagecraft Bootcamp posts, just click here.

Good luck, and see you next Wednesday!

26 thoughts on “Imagecraft Bootcamp — Creepy

    1. Many of the early groundbreaking photographers and filmmakers discovered that you can do all sorts of things with post-processing to shape the viewing experience of a piece of work, and how it’s perceived afterward.

      Liked by 1 person

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