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Project: Colored Faces

Published by Diana Tula · July 17th 2012

This blog is a place to promote the talented photographers in our community, any stories they have to share, or any exciting photo projects they may be working on. Today we're featuring Bo Lelewel and his recent photo series 'Colored Faces', who is sharing his creative process and post-processing tips.

‘Colored Faces’ is a series of twelve photographs. Each photograph a portrait of a person from different nation, aged between 20 to 45 years old. The people from these series are from Germany, USA, Ivory Coast, Japan, South Africa, Guinea and other countries. Every individual is expressing his or her vulnerability being shot up-close in a portrait format, seemingly naked with no lines of a tee-shirt or dress showing. Their vulnerability hidden behind a pattern which expresses one’s hobby or interest, with a big wide smile that shines through. This project was created for College admission portfolio. Wish me luck!

I shot all of the photos in my room in front of a white wall, because I knew that I would change the background later in Photoshop. I used one off camera flash with a shoot through umbrella to light them. I wanted to have a pretty evenly illuminated face, but still have some shadows to give the photo some depth. After the shoot I started reviewing them and picked my favorites. I did some basic adjustments like contrast, brightness and converting them to black and white, so the color wouldn’t distract me while choosing the winning photo. I then cropped the photo to a square, because I really liked the look of them when they are all square.

At first I thought I would go for different expressions but during the process I saw that a big smile with an open mouth looks best, because it breaks up the pattern and you don’t lose the person in the background. The pattern represents something that the person  loves, so a serious face wouldn’t really make sense.

I created a form with questions about the person’s interests, passions, and also information about the person such as their age, home country, favorite color, etc. Everyone had to fill that form, before or after the shoot.This really helped me to keep track of all the information they gave me. Then I started thinking, how I could transform the data into a two dimensional, visually pleasing pattern that fits to the person. This process took up most time. I created the pattern in Adobe Illustrator.

When I was happy with the result I brought the photo and the pattern into Photoshop. I then did some minor retouching on the skin and started with cutting out the person from the background. Once that was done I copied the layer with the pattern and put one above the cut out person. I used a filter called “displace” to give the illusion that the pattern is actually wrapping around the person’s face. I had to play with the settings until it looked the way I wanted. I then changed the blend mode to overlay and lowered the opacity to about 75 %. It also helped to blur the layer with the pattern a little bit to sell the effect. Then I adjusted the Background. I didn’t want the person to blend in too much with the Background so I moved it around a little bit, or rotated it. I also blurred the background so it looks like a shallow depth of field to make the photograph more three dimensional. I also added a dark vignette to lead the viewer’s eye into the center. Then I brought a colored version of the original photo of the person into Photoshop and used a mask to only reveal the mouth and eyes in color. Then I finished it off by some final color and contrast adjustments and sharpened it a little.

Thanks to Bo for sharing his project and to you for reading! If you have comments or questions to Bo Lelewel about his project please leave them below.


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Nacho C.  about 2 years ago
amazing portraits. Congratulations! :)
Daniele Lembo  over 2 years ago
Really a great work!
Bo Lelewel  over 2 years ago
thank you so much for featuring my work! I got accepted at the college I wanted to get in to :) greetings to Debbie and the whole team at 500px... Bo

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