The process I ended up using was quite different, but I did consult this tutorial and this tutorial while making mine. Some suggestions I didn’t like, didn’t have the tech for, or I didn’t understand. Definitely great as reference points and could be quite helpful for you too.
Disclaimer: Bear with me, almost everything I’ve learned is self-taught through fiddling around or through tutorials that abound online through the glory of the internet.
Note: I used GIMP because I’m poor and it’s free. Some of the tools and processes will be slightly different from Photoshop. For basic photo editing, I’ve found GIMP to do just as well as Elements. However, I have heard that recent updates of GIMP have actually made the program worse.
Step 1- Take lots of photos
The more you take, the more you have to work with. Good lighting is helpful, especially if you have access to a key light on the face or a good flash. All wonderful tools we did not have. Tip for the photography: try to get full body shots (all the way around the body, but not necessarily all the way down to the feet). Play with some goofy and serious poses.
Step 2- Remove the photos from the background. There are lots of ways to do this and some great tutorials out there if you need assistance. I used a layer mask for mine. It needs to be pretty precise, so depending on your method, you may have to go in and manually clean up some of the edges. Any mistakes will be glaringly obvious against a blank background.
(Note: This is one area that I find GIMP sorely lacking in comparison to Photoshop. )
Cut, resized, and moved. Don’t mind the ugly yellow color. It helps for seeing the edges.
Step 3- The adjustments
First make a duplicate layer. I always like this to have to go back to in case I completely mess up and need to start from step 1.
Curves: Make a standard S curve, and then brighten up those lights even a little more. Also make use of levels for this. Lighten it past what makes sense to blow out some of the finer details especially in the face. Play up the master saturation, and the reds saturation. I found the reds helped my photos a lot. I also upped the contrast, more for basic photo enhancement than for this specific technique.
(Note: Mine Brightness (+21), master saturation (+10), reds (+21), levels)
(And yes, the background switched to blue. Not a fan of that yellow.)
I found I needed to sharpen mine up a little (Unsharp Mask .3). Most of the SNL bumpers have a slightly over-sharpened look.
Next, posterize. This decreases the amount of colors the program is allowed to work with, and gives some of that trademark flat quality and is another technique for getting rid of the fine details.
Next you have 2 choices. The SNL examples I looked at online either seemed oversaturated (excluding the skin) or had a more flat, muted quality. For type 1, leave as is except to bring up the lightness to blow out the photo a little more, and then skip to the next step.
For type 2 (I got this idea from the second tutorial mentioned). Create a duplicate layer of the edits. Desaturate this layer (I would suggest by luminosity if you have GIMP). Bring the opacity down to between 20-40 percent. I then upped the master saturation on the edits layer until the right amount of color peeked through. The best way to decide is to study examples and then try to match your own.
Step 4- Background and Type
Choose colors. I used some of the exact same colors used on SNL bumpers. The examples I saw tended to be bright and the two colors (background & font) highly contrasted with one another. Often, the background color picked up on some key color in the actual photograph.
Background: Choose a color for the foreground and then take that color and darken it slightly for the background color. Use the gradient tool and choose a radial shaped gradient.
You can use this SNL logo. Just copy and paste it into a new layer. Use the magic tool to select the letters, then select the inverse. Use the eraser to get rid of the background. Just swish it all over and it won’t touch the actual text (Photoshop’s tool will actually completely get rid of the background if you use the magic eraser tool) Then select the inverse again, and use the paint bucket to fill the letters with the selected color.
And it’s done! Make any final edits to the colors. I ended up changing the background color, so I needed to make a few adjustments to harmonize the colors a little better.