Droste Effect Fractal Photography
The Droste Effect is a fascinating art technique that is used in drawing, painting, photography, and other arts. It's a fractal idea, where a recurring image or theme is repeated, smaller and smaller, into the depths of the image. This is also known as "mise en abyme" - placed into abyss. The technique has been around for centuries and centuries, and is seen in medieval art, for example. The name "Droste Effect" comes from a specific add for Droste Dutch cocoa where the cocoa container shows an image of a smaller cocoa container, which shows a picture of a smaller cocoa container, and so on.
While some people say you need high end software to do this effect, clearly you don't because people in medieval days were doing it :). All you need is patience and a creative spirit. I've done my Droste Effect work with Photoshop Elements 11, with no plug-ins. You can do this with any paint program, or, heck, any pencil or brush. It just takes some imagination and a sense of what image you wish to portray.
When I went web-surfing to find Droste Effect examples, so many of them seemed harsh or angry. Maybe that's a sign of the angsty times we live in. So I decided I wanted to do something compassionate. Something to remind ourselves to care for ourselves. We each deserve love and gentleness.
A key for the Droste Effect is that you need a "frame" or container to somehow separate the inner images from the other ones. In the cocoa example it was the tin itself. In many droste effect images it's a spiral or a picture frame. But in my case, here, I wanted an organic image. So I decided to use my own arms as the lower part of the frame, and to create the inner version as a sort of matryoshka doll. I'm Ukrainian and grew up with matryoshka nesting dolls. Those are the sort of egg-shaped wooden dolls that nest within each other - usually a loving family. I thought that doing a version where a person cares for themselves - their "inner child" as it were - would help express what I was feeling about the topic. So I needed to be able to have my arms on the bottom cradling "the inner me" and then my head to form that doll-head top.
I set up my EOS40D on a tripod in front of a blank curtain. I wore a soft, fuzzy robe so that the layers would gently blend in to each other. I set a 10-second timer on the camera, pressed the shutter, and then moved to stand before the curtain. I cradled my arms beneath where the "smaller me" would be held.
I brought that image into Photoshop Elements 11. But, again, you can do this in pretty much anything.
So that was my base image. I then made a second copy of the image and reduced its size. In Photoshop you do this with layers - in other packages you would do the work in its own window and then "paste" the new smaller version on top of the original. Either way, I carefully erased around the edges of my head to create that "doll head" effect. I also carefully worked with the lower area so that the cuffs of my "main body" sleeves overlapped the inner me, nestling the inner me within the outer me's arms. This is where you take your time and do it slowly. You want this to look natural together.
Then you repeat the process.
Here's the final version!
Post in my forums if you have any questions!
If you want to do a spiral version of a droste effect image, here's the instructions -
Drost Effect Photography
Droste Effect - Basics and Main Page
Droste Effect Spiral tutorial
Droste Effect Transparency Spiral tutorial
Droste Effect Dart Board Spiral tutorial
Droste Effect Medallion Spiral tutorial
Droste Effect Pantheon Spiral tutorial
Photography Basics and Tips - main page
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