Friday 29 August 2014

You Want a Photograph of Audrey Hepburn with Mick Hucknall’s Hair, Skydiving with Adolf Hitler

The situation: perfect image in your mind; no such image on screen or paper.

You feel: frustration; disappointment.

You’ve just finished your novel about a ginger Holly Golightly on an extreme sport holiday with Adolf Hitler. You know that the most appealing moment is the scene where they go skydiving; it has intrigue, drama, fear... It’s perfect for a cover. Unfortunately, your cover designer does not agree.

“Are you sure you don’t want a drawing of Audrey Hepburn with Mick Hucknall’s hair skydiving with Adolf Hitler?” she asks, optimistically.

“No, I want a photo-realistic portrait.”

Whilst Photoshop can do some incredible things, it is extremely difficult to create a photographic representation by splicing components that either don’t mesh or, worse still, don’t exist.

If you think that capturing Mick Hucknall’s hair and simply pasting it on top of a photo of Audrey will work, then you are mistaken. There’s lighting, angles and complexion to consider.

If Mick is lit from the left and Audrey from the right, the resulting image will look fake. Similarly, you can’t just paste Hucknall’s hair taken from the front onto a picture of Audrey in slight profile.

Then there’s Mick Hucknall’s complexion. Audrey’s skin tone and eyebrows are suited to dark hair and a sudden ginger replacement will not look natural.

As for Adolf Hitler skydiving, there are a finite number of photos of Hitler available, and none with an expression commonly associated with skydiving. Yes, expressions can be altered but to do it realistically, your illustrator might have to spend hours with warps and brushes.

If you want a ridiculously complex image then it’s better to commission original artwork such as a painting or ink drawing than to expect an illustrator to piece together a monstrosity from unsuitable photographs. Short of dressing models as Audrey and Hitler then sending them on a skydive, a photo-realistic image is likely to be beyond your grasp.

If you insist on going ahead with the bad idea and end up with something that doesn’t look good, your illustrator’s reputation might take a hit for no fault of her own.

Added to which, does your illustrator really wants to be associated with a depiction of a foul dictator having fun with a highly regarded movie character? You might know that your book is a hilarious satire that ultimately challenges dictatorship but people who glance at the cover might see it as an affectionate homage to Hitler. Does your illustrator want her name beside something that could be so easily misunderstood?

I’m not saying don’t write about bizarre or risqué topics, but do spare a thought for your cover designer.

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