Elephant reflection created artificially
Lens-Artists,  Photographic techniques,  Themed galleries

Gallery: creating the surreal in post-production

Surrealism is destructive, but it destroys only what it considers to be shackles limiting our vision.

Salvador Dali

It seems counter-intuitive to think of art as destructive, when it is such a creative process. Surely the purpose of art is to construct? And photography, as an art-form, creates or constructs a record of a moment in time. So perhaps to apply Dali’s definition of Surrealism to our photography, we need to partially destroy our images and distort that record in post-production?

That, in any case, is how I’m going to approach Tracey’s interesting theme for this week’s Lens Artists Challenge. Although interesting effects can be achieved to some degree with my usual go-to Photoshop Elements software, when I’m feeling experimental I usually turn to a couple of favourite apps on my tablet. Disappointingly my old favourite, Enlight, still isn’t available for Android, but many others are. Let me share some of my results in the hope that a few at least will be sufficiently surreal.


One of these is Lumii. I only have the free version but even that gives me access to some interesting effects. I especially like some of the slightly surreal dreamy images I can create. Here are a couple of flower shots edited with this app.

Delicate flower shot with butterfly light spots
Tavira poppy
Blue and green edit of a flower photo
California poppies

ToolWiz is a particular favourite app, as it has far more options and effects. The only problem is, once I start fiddling with an image there I can spend hours trying different ideas! I especially like its ‘blend’ double exposure function, although the results can be a bit hit and miss. This shot of a fisherman in Kerala blended with some palm trees from the state’s backwaters is one of my more successful attempts.

Man in a turban superimposed on shot of palm trees
Fisherman in Kerala

You can also use it to create pictures within pictures as I’ve done with this shot from the Torres del Paine in Chile. The centre circle is a simple cut-out from the original shot, while the background is a heavily dramatised version of the same shot.

Dramatic edit of a lake and mountain landscape
Laguna Azul in the Torres del Paine

Another favourite is MirrorLab, which allows you to create the illusion of water where none exists. I used this for my feature photo. And surely a view of Angkor Wat reflected in a non-existent lake qualifies as surreal?

Ruin reflected in lake created through photo editing
Angkor Wat at dawn

And what about a toucan admiring himself in a non-existent mirror?

Two toucans facing on a bare branch
Yellow-throated toucan

But it’s not all about mirrors; you can also create interesting kaleidoscope effects. This one started life as a shot of a jellyfish in an aquarium in Osaka.

Abstract dark blue and cream star pattern
Osaka jellyfish

And fractals; this is just about discernible as the Costa Rica hibiscus flower it once was. I can happily play around with this app for hours!

Abstract shot created from multiple images of a red flower on green
Red hibiscus
And there’s more …

I’ll finish with a couple of edits using other apps. One is Blend which is purely about double exposure, allowing you to combine one of your own shots with some provided effects. Unfortunately the choice is rather limited unless you want to splurge on the Pro version (I don’t) so I can’t use it too often or all my experiments would start to look the same! But I do rather like this colourful elephant.

Elephant portrait in rainbow colours
Elephant in Botswana

And the name of the PicsArt app is self-explanatory. You can give any photo a painting effect. There are lots of styles to choose from, none of which is Surrealism, unfortunately. But the Abstract filter comes close, especially if you use the app’s other features to add some distortion, as I did with this macaw.

Scarlet macaw

Thank you Tracey for the excuse to spend some fun hours playing with these favourite apps. I’m looking forward to next week when it’s my turn to act as guest host for the Lens Artists Challenge. I hope you’ll all join me in sharing three favourite images!


Do share your thoughts, I'd love to hear from you!