'The Concert,' a painting by the famous artist Johannes Vermeer, is one of the masterpieces of the Dutch painter. Unfortunately it was stolen in 1990. All his paintings are so skillfully created with quite remarkable understanding of light as intensity, shape, direction, size, and color. It's exciting to see what would happen if a photography master is asked to recreate this painting using Photoshop, images from a stock library, and his extensive knowledge of light and color.
The man who accepted the challenge was Erik Almas. He is a famous commercial photographer who has the unique ability to express his vision in such a way, so it's hard to tell if the image is real or a composite. Having watched his tutorials, I know Almas is quite good at both creating an image in-camera and making a very convincing composite. This time, he had to use images he hadn't photographed. Adobe approached him with the project requiring the use images only from the Adobe Stock website. Although he had been reluctant to accept, he finally decided to give it a try.
His initial estimate of one week turned out to be very optimistic. Three weeks later, he had a result which he still called a "work in progress." Still, it is quite close to what the original painting looked like.
If you look closely, you will see why Erik calls it a work in progress. But even at that stage, the result is impressive. In case you are wondering, the image on the right is the composite by Erik Almas.
The process of implementing the result starts with a photo of the original painting as the background layer. Then, Almas finds the stock images for every single part of the painting, aligning it over the original background plate. He then matches them to the original painting, paying close attention to light intensity, color, and contrast. Finding the exact part is not always possible, so Almas often uses several images from different perspectives to build the object altogether.
Almas extensively uses Curves in Photoshop to match light levels, contrast, and colors. In the screenshot above, you can see stock images have been masked and subsequently matched using clipped adjustment layers.
According to Almas, the most difficult part has been the faces. Unless you have a few months to search or a face-matching software, you can't really match the facial features from the original painting. But as long as light and color tonality are matched, the result is convincing.
After having 898 layers in the file, Almas decided to call it "done." I feel him, as I also think 900 would be too much. If you look closely to the screenshots, you will find the layers are diligently named. It's not just for the purpose of the BTS, I am sure. Imagine if he had to fix something in the right stool leg which may have been named as "Layer 641, Curves 9."
Would you recognize the original from the composite if you had been shown just one of them? I would not.
To watch the full behind-the-scenes video together with an interview with Erik Almas, head over to Complex.com.
All images are used with permission of Erik Almas and Complex.com