Digital Fashion 

How we did it

In a world where supermodels are frequently considered larger than life, this year's Fashion issue presents our models a unique condition: actually larger than life. By weaving 200-foot tall people into the skyscape around Nashville landmarks, photographer Jeff Frazier has given our models big shoes to fill — size 48, we think.

"Without Photoshop, I couldn't have done it," Frazier says. "It was the only program I utilized."

Photoshop is a computer program which lets artists take control of each individual pixel of their photographs. By displaying the picture on his monitor and letting Frazier edit his pictures with special electronic tools, the program allowed him to do something on his own which would cost Hollywood millions: digitally edit a person into a picture. What comes across so gracefully on the screen and in print takes quite a bit of work behind the scenes.

"It took me nearly 4 days non-stop to complete everything," Frazier claims. "Normally, I would have asked for 2 weeks —minimum — but this time I was working on an editorial deadline, which is different."

Frazier began to create these pictures by photographing his models. After observing how the light and shadows fell in those photographs, he then visited various Music City landmarks, hoping to catch similar lighting conditions. It's a time-consuming process, but one that paid off with spectacular results.

"I guess I could have saved a little trouble by taking pictures of the backdrops first, and then lighting the models," he admits, "But hindsight is just a little too late for that."

Frazier says he captured the way light and shadows mix by using a feature of the software called "alpha channels". The program normally allows a photographer to edit an image in the three primary colors: Red, Green, and Blue. These three colors are called "channels" and treated as separate layers by Photoshop.

However, an "alpha channel" allows a fourth channel — consisting of whatever you select — to be added. This fourth channel allowed Frazier to adjust color levels and balances until the two photographs (one of a model against a blank backdrop, and the other of a Nashville landmark) began to mix properly. It required trial and error to hit a combination which was fit to print.

Where a leg crosses a sign, a small shadow was added. Where a man towers over the Bell building, the ground beneath his feet is darkened by an electronic shadow — just as it would be in real life, if models this huge actually existed. These effects were created by something called "masks" which allow the computer program to edit only a selected part of an image without affecting other parts.

"If it felt right," says Frazier, "and if it looked right, then it was right. I just had to keep playing around with it until I felt good about it."

Frazier says his favorite photo is of a model walking across a girder. "She looks like a tightrope walker," he says. "I like it because it's simple. The best images are always simple."

Digital imaging has helped photographers keep their images simple, stark, direct... but those simple images, in these days of high-tech art, are often the hardest to produce. However, when striving for a beautiful picture, it seems to make sense to combine two beautiful pictures into one strikingly beautiful one — especially when beauty is what the was trying to capture.

Jeff Frazier is a Nashville-area photographer. He can be reached at (615)320-7191.

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