Mad hatter's tea party

As Alice celebrates her 150th birthday in Wonderland, we disappear down the rabbit hole to create a multiplicity fantasy portrait

THE MISSION Shoot and edit a multiplicity portrait by duplicating the same person over and over again
Time needed One hour
Skill level Intermediate
Kit needed Tripod * Props and costumes * Home studio lighting kit * Photoshop CC


A multiplicity effect is an opportunity to create a playful scene by duplicating a subject several times. It's a fun technique, involving a clever combination of shooting and Photoshop skills. To celebrate the 150th anniversary of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, we've recreated the Mad Hatter's Tea Party, with the same person donning a variety of theatrical costumes to play each of Lewis Carroll's famous characters.
 Whether you want to go all-out and create a bonkers scene like this, or just fill your sofa with identical buddies, the same technique applies. We keep the camera fixed to a tripod, then take a series of shots while the subject moves into different positions around the frame. As long as the lighting and exposure stays the same, it's easy enough to bring everything together in Photoshop.
 We'll begin with the shooting part of the technique here, then show you how to piece the images together over the page. This is simple enough, even for those with very basic Photoshop skills. We bring the images together on separate layers, add layer masks, then paint to hide or reveal the areas that we want. Because everything surrounding each figure is aligned, we don't need to be too precise (unless there are points where figures overlap, then we need to be more accurate). It doesn't take long, and introduces fundamental Photoshop features like layers and masks.


STEP BY STEP SET UP YOUR SUBJECT

Discover how to prepare your camera and scene for a multiplicity portrait

LEWIS CARROLL: AUTHOR, POET & PHOTOGRAPHER  
Popular from the moment it was published in 1865, Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland continues to inspire with its imaginative cast of characters. Fascinatingly, as well as an author and poet, Carroll was an accomplished photographer who mastered the challenging wet-collodion process in the early days of photography. Carroll had his own studio and favorited taking portraits, many of children.

 

01 A STEADY CAMERA


Use a tripod to ensure your camera stays still and in the same spot for each shot. This makes it easier to combine the images in Photoshop later. Take care not to move props or furniture between shots, either.

02 COMPOSE THE FRAME


Compose with plenty of empty space for your 'clones'. If you're using props and costumes, it can be helpful to do a quick dry-run or mock up a sketch beforehand, like this, to plan poses and characters.

03 CONSISTENT EXPOSURE


Exposure and lighting should stay consistent throughout, so set Manual mode and take test shots to determine the correct exposure. After focusing, set the lens to manual focus to prevent it searching.

04 LIGHTING THE SCENE


Watch out for changes in lighting, especially if the sun dips in and out of clouds. To add a cinematic look we used a couple of home studio flash heads, one positioned for frontal light, the other to the left.

TOP TIPS SIMPLE TECHNIQUES TO ADD TO THE EFFECT

01 DRESS UP


Costumes are an optional extra. But they do make the whole process a lot more fun, and give you a theme to run with. We hired a range of outfits from the wonderful Bath Theatrical Costume Hire.

02 MULTIPLY PROPS


It's not just people that can be multiplied, props can be too. An object, such as our out-of-focus blue flower, can appear as many times as you like. Simply fire off a shot for each new position.

03 SOFT FOREGROUND


When composing, try including out-of-focus foreground details like plants or tree branches to add depth. The apple tree here provides a natural frame for the image that draws the eye in.

04 DRESS THE SCENE


Multiplicity is a surreal effect, so why not make the scene look extraordinary too? Once we'd settled on a Mad Hatter's Tea Party theme, lots of props immediately sprung to mind.

05 TRY USING FLASH


On dry days, flash can work wonders outdoors, especially under a dark tree like this. We used a home studio kit, with two heads fitted with umbrellas, powered from a nearby mains socket.

STEP BY STEP PIECE TOGETHER YOUR MONTAGE

How to merge all the characters into the scene with layers and masks in Photoshop CC

IT'S ALL BLACK AND WHITE
When painting on layer masks, a quick way to switch between foreground and background colours is to hit the X key, to swap between black or white and thus mask or reveal the layer below, respectively. For this to work the foreground and background colours need to be set to solid black and pure white - if not, simply hit D to reset them.

 

01 TONE AN IMAGE


Select the best poses by star-rating images in Bridge. Once done, right-click any image and 'Open in Camera Raw'. Use the Basic panel controls to improve tones, as shown. Click Done to exit back into Bridge,

02 COPY & PASTE ENHANCEMENTS


Right-click on the image. Choose Develop Settings> Copy Settings. Press Ctrl+A to select all, right-click and go Develop Settings>Paste Settings, then go to Tools>Photoshop>Load Files into Photoshop Layers.

03 ADD A MASK


Go to the Layers panel (Window>Layers) and give each layer a suitable name. Highlight the top layer and Alt-click the 'Add Layer Mask' icon in the Layers panel to add a black mask that completely hides the layer.

04 PAINT TO REVEAL


With the layer mask thumbnail highlighted, paint with white to reveal the hidden figure and blend them with the figure on the underlying layer. Grab the Brush tool, set colour to white, then paint over the hidden figure.

05 WORK DOWN THE LAYERS


Work down the layers using the same technique to firstly hide a layer, then reveal the part you want (leave the bottom layer unmasked). Swap layers around if you want one person in front of another.

06 FINE-TUNE THE MASKS


At points where figures overlap, identify which layer is on top, then highlight the mask thumbnail. Zoom in close, use a small brush tip and paint with black to hide parts of the layer until the edges look perfect.

TAKE IT FURTHER IT'S ALL IN THE DETAILS...

With layers and masking it's easy to add detailed effects that add to the story

01 INTERACTING CLONES


It takes a little planning to get your 'clones' interacting with one another. If a clone gestures one way, line up the next shot to match it. With a little digital trickery we can even add in extra details like the pouring tea here - to do this we copy in the tea image, then transform and mask.

02 STACKED CUPS


Precariously stacked cups can be created by shooting them in stages, holding each section of cups by hand. As long as you take care that the hands don't obscure the object, it's easy enough to blend the stack together with layer masks in the same way as everything else.

03 RABBIT'S HEAD


To give our rabbit more personality we can add proper eyes. An easy way to do this is to copy and paste eyes from a real person (in keeping with the theme, we used our model's eyes), then use masks to blend the edges. We also shaped the head with the liquify filter to make it more rabbit-like.

WHY NOT TRY? SUBTLE APPROACHES TO MULTIPLICITY

Rather than a complicated, crowded scene, set up a simpler portrait shot with fewer characters


ONE option when making a multiplicity portrait is to fill the scene with characters and props, or to put it another way, the 'chuck everything in bar the kitchen sink' approach. This what we did for our main image on the previous page. But why not try a subtler approach to the subject? Here, by using a long focal length to compress the angle of view and a wide aperture to keep depth of field shallow, we can create a more discreet effect that at first glance looks almost normal. We use the same technique as before, and make sure we lock off the focus by switching it to manual focus.

 

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