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How to Make Riveting Photographic Illusions—in 20 Seconds

Let photographer Erik Johannson teach you to be a photo manipulation master.

by Beckett Mufson
Jul 30 2015, 4:35pm

Gorgeous, surreal landscapes that fool the eye are Swedish photographer Erik Johannson's specialty, and now he's teaching you how to make them yourself in hyper-quick YouTube tutorials. With his focus on practical effects and minimal Photoshop compositing, he's developed a look and feel that distinguishes his work from fellow accomplished photo manipulators Thomas Dagg, Mike Campau, and Renaud Marion.

"It takes just as much time to do something in real life as it does trying to 'fake it' in Photoshop, so I just thought it would be more fun to do it for real," Johannson told The Creators Project in an interview last year. In his latest tutorial, he walks us through the process of fusing a phonograph with waveform-like trees reflected in a lake for his photo, Soundscapes.

"It's basically just problem solving when I’m trying to make a picture," he continues. "It always starts with an idea and then I just have to sort of figure out how to translate that idea into an image. Every image consists of different parts and because I always want my work to look as realistic as possible, I shoot all of those parts individually with my camera and never use CGI. So in my work, I’m constantly trying to find out where and how I can capture all the various elements that make up a work."

Check out more of Johannson's tutorials below, including how to unzip a highway, unbox a building, and turn a meadow into a waterfall.

Check out more of Erik Johannson's photography on his website.

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Erik Johannson