I found my pilot and I found my aircraft for the cover, but they would look atrocious together if I just put them on the cover as-is.
The model is definitely my protagonist, but his lighting is all wrong and his red shirt is distracting. This plane looks awesome, I adore the perspective and sense of drama, but it's too bad it's monochromatic. I have other images of planes with color. I decide maybe I can make the plane image look less monochromatic with some painting and effects.
The first thing I did was pull Paul (that's my protagonist's name) into some software by OnOne called PhotoTools, and because I'm so organized, I even wrote myself a note as to which filters I used, because chances are I'll want to use more photos from this very brightly lit shoot in the future. My note to self says, "layer has OnOne "just enough darkness" and "golden haze??" applied so he looks less marzipan." This is the first time I've used the Photoshop note tool in years.
So, here he is extracted from his background, with those two filters applied. I like the midtones in his face a lot better now. And he looks less marzipan.
Unfortunately, even with my darkening, his edges are still not wonderful when he's composited with the background. It's not the fault of my selection either. The selection is pretty good. It's that the way the original shot is lit, his edges are just very bright. On the left you can see the edge of his hair looking too bright.
My solution is to create an adjustment layer to make him really, really dark, but to mask that adjustment layer so it only affects his edges. Here is the mask, and also his hair blending better with his background. Edges are really fussy, and I think the reason why most bad Photoshop compositing looks bad is that the designer doesn't understand how to handle edges.
Moving on...gotta do something about that red shirt because it doesn't look very pilot-like to me at all, plus it will draw the eye down to the lower left hand corner of the cover.
It's easy enough to make an adjustment layer to desaturate it and brighten it so it looks like a medium bluish green-gray shirt. I decide that's fairly pilot-like.
I also add some First Officer's wings, and a shadow over those so they don't look stuck-on.
Then I begin adding some greenish gradient overlays to the entire composition and decide I like the way the overlays greenify the shirt. It seems to be pulling the composition together in a way that makes the Paul layer work with the airplane layer (which, you will recall, is too blue and monochromatic, so I've still got to deal with that....
It's time for lighting effects (right), probably my favorite thing in the world lately. The effects on the Into the Bermuda Triangle cover feature a large flare behind the title. I got that from a stock art site...I collect abstract elements that catch my eye. It's also got some bokeh, which are the round, hazy dot-things that look like ghost orbs. I painted those with a paintbrush set to a green I picked up inside the composition to start unifying things. I'm not so great with Photoshop paintbrushes quite yet. I plan on exploring them more this year. I also noticed that I was really loving some of the oranges and peaches in the flare, so I picked those up and painted the orange bokeh in the upper right.
What's awesome about incorporating oranges and peach tones was that it gave the illusion of color to my overly-monochromatic jet photo. Yay! I also picked up the peach tones in my lettering.
I could have used a preset style on my typography, but I find they always look wrong to me. Canned. This particular effect on my last name is only three styles: a gradient overlay, an inner glow, and a soft drop shadow to make it stand out from the airplane layer. There's a kickass course at Lynda.com by Nigel French on using layer effects if you want to be an effect ninja.
And now, here's my final cover, with unifying color effects applied and typography in place.
Watch out for Turbulence 1: Into the Bermuda Triangle officially being released with my May newsletter!