The Art of Darkness

Spooky Family Portraits

November 10th, 2015 by Cobwebs

Skull PortraitHere’s a fun little throwaway project, courtesy of the late, lamented Seeing Things blog: Creating creepy merged photos to tuck in amongst your family portraits on the mantel.

It’s a fairly automated process if you use a tool like Photoshop Elements, but if you don’t want to spend the money for PSE it’s not much more difficult with GIMP.

Start by finding a suitable photo to manipulate: It’s easiest if the subject is facing the camera straight-on, and if they don’t have anything like bushy whiskers obscuring their face. You can use real family photos if you have them, but searching for “Victorian portrait photography” will turn up plenty of good images (including some, like this postmortem photo [don’t click that link if you’re squeamish] and whatever the hell is going on here which don’t even need to be altered; they could be printed and used as-is*).

Next, search for creepy images to superimpose: Image searches for “skull,” “ghoul,” “ghost,” “witch,” and so forth should give you plenty to choose from.

If you’re using PSE:

  1. Select the two images that you want to merge.
  2. Click File, then New, then Photomerge Faces.
  3. Use the Alignment tool to mark each photo.
  4. Use the Pencil and Eraser tool to merge your selections.
  5. When you’re satisfied with the final result, click Done.

GIMP is a bit more complicated, since you have to resize and merge the images manually. There are numerous tutorials to help get you started; this and this are video demonstrations and this is a blending walkthrough. Searching for “blending photos with GIMP” will turn up plenty of others.

Here’s a few ideas for merges from the original site (click to embiggen):

Photo Merges

Once you’re satisfied with your freaky family, look for used picture frames at yard sales and thrift shops; a bit of wear-and-tear on the frames will add to the creepiness. Print your photos, frame, and enjoy.

If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, you can replace framed photos in your house with altered versions of the same images and see how long it takes anybody to notice.


*Images from here and here, respectively. Although the former is tagged as a post-mortem photo, I’m almost wondering if the subject was alive and the victim of some disfiguring accident. Her eyes look unusually intact; you’d figure if her decomposition was sufficiently advanced that flesh was falling off of her cheeks, those gooey little orbs would have at least deflated if not completely collapsed.

Posted in Bad Things | 1 Comment »

One Response

  1. xJane Says:

    Since I’m reading this today, I’m thinking of all the photos my family have posted of my grandparents in their dress uniforms and thinking morbidly of doing this to see if anyone really notices (maybe at a subtle transparency…)

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