Tutorial: Playing with Fire (Revisited)

Laura Diliberto, who just won our latest photo contest, was kind enough to describe in great detail how she made her prize winning image. She put a ton of effort into it, from the conceptualization to pre-planning to execution to post processing. A young photographer just out of college, she’s bursting with ideas and you can probably learn a thing or two from her. Take a look over the image, and read on below…

Playing with Fire © Laura Marie Diliberto


“In terms of concept, I wanted to do something that crossed between dark/mysterious, but also light and playful. I knew that I wanted my body itself to represent a candle melting, and that I wanted to show the playfulness through movement in my hair and hand, almost as if the girl (me) is dancing, swooning…so, coming up with the title “Playing With Fire” was pretty easy :)”

Original Images 

“In terms of technicality, there were certainly a lot of steps. This is a composite of 4 different images:

Image 1 was just of my body holding the candle, image 2 was of my hair whipping back and forth (i literally stood there and flung my head about 10 times in a row to the point where I was dizzy). Then, after taking those shots, I went back to my camera on its tri-pod and took a shot slightly up of my wall, and down of my wall.”

Post Processing

“Panning the camera up and down allows me to expand the frame to a square in photoshop. I just brought in all of my main images onto a square canvas in PS and lined them up, then used a mask and fluffy brush to erase all the unnecessary parts…once it was all lined up to a square, I selected my head/hair from the separate image and just placed it on top of my body (so, believe it or not, my head/hair in this photo is from a totally different picture)! After that I just cleaned it all up a bit and fixed my hair with some clone stamping and brushes. I also pulled down on my skin with the “liquify” tool to give it the melting look.”


“After that comes my favorite part which is textures and colors. I almost always select textures by les brumes. I convert the texture to black & white to preserve my image color, and change the blend mode to “soft light” and erase the texture from my skin/body. I prefer to leave textures on the wall mostly.”

Final Touches

“Then finally I just made a bunch of adjustments with curves in order to get the color and extra light that I wanted. I usually prefer to make a bunch of individual selections with a mask + fluffy brush, rather than make a ton of curves adjustments to the entire image..I find that working on separate, individual parts of an image allows for more creative control!”

Thanks to Laura for providing this wonderful description of how she made the image.

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