Photoshop King Erik Johansson Uses Photography to Capture Ideas, Not Moments

Erik Johansson, a Swedish photographer and retouch artist, spends hours and hours editing his images in Photoshop, adding layer upon layer ...



Erik Johansson, a Swedish photographer and retouch artist, spends hours and hours editing his images in Photoshop, adding layer upon layer mask, endlessly blending and adjusting until every one of his surreal masterpieces is completed-but there’s reasons why Johansson’s fantastical images seem plausible in support of modestly-edited. Johansson uses real photographs since the building blocks for creating each image that he dreams up. To help us better understand his process, Johansson filmed this behind-the-scenes video, which documents the method he followed to generate one of his newest images, “Drifting Away”:

In his keynote lecture with the Adobe MAX creativity conference in May, Johansson revealed that he creates his images by way of a structured, three-step process: planning, taking photographs, and blending photos together with layer masks and adjustment tools in Photoshop.

Being self-taught in photography and retouch, Johansson advises people that would use Photoshop to master the tools through patience and employ, just like he did, also to remember that Photoshop can never replace good photographs.


“Photoshop isn’t magic,” Johansson said, “or a minimum of not yet. It’s exactly about material you will need to work with, and achieving good material is all about planning.”

Ultimately, while extensive Photoshop skills and camera knowledge are essential to produce high-quality work, planning-that's, detailed sketches, problem-solving, location scouting, and even clever inventions to achieve just the right effect-is the most crucial stage of Johansson’s process, and the most crucial part of planning is imagination, ones Johansson is clearly king.


“It always starts with what you can imagine,” he said. “To me, which is about looking to see the world differently-not looking to see the issues that are not there, but rather wanting to see the things inside my daily life and the way they can be combined into something new… I think that what you are able imagine is what you are able create.”

erik johansson drifting away photoshop

“Drifting Away” by Erik Johansson. Click here to find out more of his personal work.

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