Surrealistic Photography

Kusoku ze shiki
Ku soku ze shiki

I re-invented a new photographing technique. The technique is new in the digital domain but, in fact, the phenomenon itself was known since the early era of digital photography.

I don’t remember the name of the camera but I heard that digital cameras could not capture colours before the Bayer filter was invented so you had to take three shots—one for red, one for green and one for blue—and then they were merged into one photograph. However, if there was moving elements such as clouds, waves, cars, pedestrians, cats in the picture, you get unnatural colours.

Although people tried to avoid this effect to capture natural photographs, I thought it would be interesting to create such colours on purpose as a new way of artistic expression, and so I devised this technique. Let me tell you how to do it in details.

To do this, obviously you need a tripod. Fix your camera on the tripod and take three shots. To get radical effects, the exposure time should be long and there should be some time gaps between each shot. But I use three shots taken in a row as example:

shot#1 shot#2 shot#3

As you see, they’re almost identical except for the clouds and water. I export them from Light Room to Photo Shop as layers.

Screen Shot open as layers


Once they’ve been imported into Photo Shop, you open the Color Channel to use only R, G and B channel of each shot.


Specifically, for the first shot, set the Red to 100% and Green and Blue to 0%, for the second shot, set Green to 100% and Red and Blue to 0%, and for the third shot set Blue to 100% and Red and Green to 0%.


Then merge them by setting the opacity of the first shot to 33% and the second shot to 50%, Then, flatten the image and hit Command (CTRL) + S. The resulting image is imported back to Light Room.

The brightness of the image will be darker because only one of the three colour channels is used in each shot so I adjusted the image.

lr adjustment

The resulting image is like this. You see moving elements became iridescent colour.


I created the following images using this technique. They’re currently exhibited at Island Gallery in Tokyo. The exhibition is going to end on Feb 26.



A3_3-2 優しい荒波(黒額)tif

A3_3-2横 秘宝(黒額)



A4_SQ 変幻自在(黒額)

Many friends advised me to not show how to do it but I’d rather want to see how other people use this technique. So I uploaded this post. Good luck with exploring your creativity.

P.S. After uploading this post,  someone kindly let me know that some people used a similar technique back in the days of film cameras. So I replaced the word “invent” with “re-invent.” They typically captured waterfalls with shorter exposure time using colour filters to get sparkling effects.

P.S. (2) I came back from Tokyo and now can access my photos in my HDD. So I upload some more examples that demonstrate the effects of this technique better.

ISO 1600, 4 sec at f/2.8
1st shot: ISO 1600, 4 sec at f/2.8
2nd shot: ISO 160, 300 sec at f/9.0
2nd shot: ISO 160, 300 sec at f/9.0
3rd shot: ISO 125, 600 sec at f/9.0
3rd shot: ISO 125, 600 sec at f/9.0
Adjustment on the resulting image in LightRoom
Adjustment on the resulting image in LightRoom


14 thoughts on “Surrealistic Photography”

  1. I’d like to say a big “Thank You” for sharing your knowledge. I read somewhere that it is a responsibility of a person with professional skills to teach their skills to other people. It is of course our privilege to learn such skills.


  2. Yuga San
    You mention in your article that you would like to see how other people use this technique but I do not see a function here how to upload images to show you my results. Unfortunately I do not have either facebook or twitter.

  3. Cool! I’ve been using this technique for almost 2 years now… to create color image out of my bw medium format shots on film. I use 4 shots though: 3 for RGB and one to have a consistent high frequency layer (luminance)

    If interested there is an article about my way of processing available online on another well known photography blog…

    1. Thanks for the comment itnok. Please feel free to put a link to the blog page. I also use four shots at times as this technique often creates images that are too colorful to use. I typically make the 4th image less saturated sometimes monochrome and blend it with the resulting colorful image.

  4. I am unable to replicate your example because i don’t understand how you are setting up the Channel Mixer: what is the ‘output channel’ each time you make the rgb adjustment? Could you better break-down the steps for each image?
    for example:
    layer 3: image/adjustment/channel mixer:
    output channel=RED, r=100 g=0 b=0
    output channel=GREEN, etc etc …

    1. By default all output channels (R,G and B) are set to 100% but you just output to 1 channel. Set the output of the red channel of the first shot to 100% and green and blue channels to 0%, and do similarly to the 2nd (green only) and 3rd (blue only) shots. Hope it helps!

  5. Hi and thank you for sharing your technique!

    I find this very interesting for my work, but I´m unable to replicate your steps. All images are loaded into PS as separate layers in .nef. Selecting my channel mixer and enter the 100 and 0 values, leaves the layer pretty much unchanged (at least far from a red, green or blue result). Any ideas of what I´m missing?

    1. You have to repeat the same process again to Green and Blue channels by clicking the “v” symbol at the pull-down menu at the top of the Channel Mixer.

  6. Hi Yuga,

    Thank you very much for sharing your “reinvented” technique. I just love the effects you have created. I am having trouble recreating it and I was wondering whether you could help me. I upload my photos in Photoshop and put them into layers. When I click on the Channel Mixer I can’t make it apply Red, Blue and Green to the three separate layers. How do you apply the Channel Mixer to your three different layers. Thanks very much in advance :) Rgds Helen

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