bellanut (bellanut) wrote in spnroundtable,

Ask the Artist - Bellanut

Hi, everyone! I'm Steph, and I'm extremely flattered (and nervous!) to have been asked to post at spnroundtable this month. I guess it's like Ask the Artist, or Ask the Vidder, but with picspamming instead. Thanks to missyjack for thinking of me!

No one's ever really asked me to talk about picspamming before, and I realize it isn't something a lot of people think about much, so I picked a couple of the things I love most about it and put together a little post in hopes of generating discussion, or maybe just provoking a few passing thoughts. It's sort of a picspam about picspamming. 'Cause visuals are my comfort blanket.


Most of my picspams are just flaily chaos, but I do sometimes try for more. I love the challenge of representing moments of film in still form. Of taking an entire scene and summarizing it with just a couple of images. And I love being able to freeze-frame on details more than anything. Honestly, most of the time it's no deeper than ogling Jared and Jensen, but I do happen to believe (quiet strongly, actually) that on occasion it's possible to really express something emotional just by carefully choosing and arranging images and text. And this show has inspired me more, and for a heck of a lot longer than any other show. Sometimes all I want to do in the whole world is express even just a smidgen of what I feel for this stupid little show, and picspamming is my way of... well, trying.


I have very strong (and possibly over-the-top) opinions about screencaps. To me, a picspam is only as personal or unique as it's caps. You can only post the images you have, and if you don't have the images that best express what you'd like to convey then the picspam won't be as effective as it could be. Of course, beyond the basics of making a technically correct screencap it's all subjective. I don't make the best screencaps, I make the ones that best suit my own personal needs. But I think the point still stands.

Also there's the experience of going through an episode as carefully as capping requires. It's tedious and way time-consuming, but I always feel like I know episodes on a whole other level after capping them. Stopping and starting, going through frame by frame, rewatching tiny moments multiple times just to catch that one split-second facial expression. It reveals so many details and I always love SPN episodes more after capping them. For me, the absolute best part is finding those hidden jewel caps. That one frame where someone's face is inexplicably more heart-breaking than the frame right before or after. Or the exact moment in the middle of a fight sequence when a gorgeous shot blips in to perfect focus. Or that one split second when the camera flares in to a rainbow in the corner of the screen.

Suffice it to say, I'm firmly against auto-capping. It's right up there with incorrect aspect ratio on my list of picspam pet peeves.

See? Strong and over-the-top.


For a long time I lost interest in episode review picspams (why not just re-watch the episode, right?), but recently I've become fascinated with purposeful, and even manipulative organization of caps within episodic picspams. So, this is the part of the post where I embarrass myself on the internet about over-thinking organization.

The Alternate Universe:

I used to think it was sacrilegious to mess with the order of caps, it was all about showing exactly what happened as it happened, nothing added, nothing lost. Not so much any more. I realized it can be fun to reorganize caps to tell a slightly different story (top right, bottom left), or to use the characters themselves to convey my own reactions to a scene (top left), or to just... put two things next to each other to express that I think those two people would look way hot doin' it hardcore (bottom right). You get the gist.

The Comparison of Like Things

Continuity! Our show has it! I'm a huge nerd for continuity and visual call-backs, and love weaving those moments together. The symmetry to the visuals of the Sam and Ruby diner sequences still makes my heart race.

The Weird Crop:

Crazy cropping! I don't know. I guess it's all about drawing attention to small details. A wrist. A curly tuft of hair. Two differently sized adorable sets of legs. I seem to have a thing for cropping Jared and Jensen's heads off, which has everything to do with their ridiculous necks and jaw lines.

The Emphasis Through Contrast:

Dean unable to eat after Sam's death compared to, you know, usual Dean eating. Things necessary for survival compared to porn. The contrast between Sam on two very different Halloween nights. The comparison between how Sam and Dean each fared against Alistair.

The Inner Dialogue:

I'm having trouble coming up with an explanation for this one because that moment where Sam is laying in to Dean about how selfish his deal is, and Dean looks so angry and distant still really chokes me up. But, I guess this ones all about showing what I imagine a character is thinking at a given moment. For the Sam on the anniversary of Jessica's death one I went with caps where Sam wasn't acknowledging her to give her a ghost-like quality. Well, that was the idea, at least.

The Sense of Movement:

I do believe less is more even though I fail at following that rule myself. Which is why I created capspam as a place to force myself to work with no more than one or two caps at a time. I love the way you can create a sense of movement, and highlight one very specific moment with a smaller number of caps.

The Side by Side Comparison:

So freaking much of our show is close-ups (not complaining! What up, freckles?). One reaction. And then the other. So I very much enjoy putting certain reactions next to each other to show how they would have played out in real time. The way those boys look at each other is often as (more?) revealing than what's being said. Or it's just entertaining.

The Visual Patterns:

This post must make me look so OCD. I'm really not, like, breaking out in a cold sweat if my clothes aren't perfectly organized in my closet or anything. But I do like when things are organized. I find it visually pleasing, and more and more this year I've been organizing caps so they create a patterns. Most often it's just alternating between two angles. Other times it's much, much, much more geeky (the top right set was very purposefully organized).

The Quotes:

Playing with quotes is my absolute favourite thing right now, especially when it involves taking a quote from one place and pairing something different that relates in an interesting way. Dean's quote about the emptiness of his life along with images of the family he'll never have. A season of morally questionable acts from Sam along with the Trickster's frightening insight. Hot doctor's comment about hating the ones we love as Sam and Dean face off. Dean physically beat to a pulp as Alistair delivers his most powerful verbal blow.

The Details in Still Form:

But really, most often, it's just about showing little details in still form.


I never have a simple answer when it comes to colouring. I love doing it. There's something incredibly dorky cathartic about playing with the settings of an image for hours on end. Of taking something that's already pretty and trying to make it even prettier. But the general process I do sort of follow involves a lot of small steps that probably barely make a difference anyway, and it varies a lot depending on each cap or set of caps. I'm not sure it's much with the making of sense, and I am sure there are easier ways. I usually like the way I manage to make things look, but I don't actually know what I'm doing. See? No simple answer here. Though if anyone has any specific colouring comments or questions I'll definitely do my best to come up with something more succinct.

The following tutorials are the ones that have shaped my colouring the most. That and completely random experimentation:

5. Curves, the wonders of Photoshop by herdestiny.

4. Curves 2 by typicrobots.

3. Curves 1by typicrobots.

2. Icon Makers Guide, especially the Image Prep section, by dtissagirl.

1. Adventures in Colour Correction: Miscolours by awmp.

The Ones I'm Most Proud of

5. Jeans! Jackets! Hair!
Any of the crazy themed picspams from early on. They remind me of that initial falling in love period when everything was brand new. That first realization that Jared and Jensen are kind of entertaining. And not bad looking. The sudden awareness that Sam and Dean wear the hottest jeans known to man. The moment when Jensen got an extra special hair cut for Playthings and everything shifted in a good way.

4. It Ends Bloody or Sad
We know how it's going to end. THEY HAVE SPELLED IT OUT MANY TIMES. And yet I still want the happy ending so bad I can barely stand it. And then Sam and Dean go and flat out DISCUSS IT. ON THE SHOW. ALL CANON AND ON THE RECORD AND EVERYTHING. My reactions to that stewed for a long time, and then one day I happened to be listening to Johnny Cash and this post happened.

3. The Season 3 Recap: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
This was my first full season watching Show in real time, and ended up being the most I've ever stuck with weekly episodic picspams, which felt like a huge accomplishment considering how bad my fandom ADD usually is. So I ended up having those old picspams as a resource to pull together a full season recap. Honestly, even with the caps already coloured it took an ridiculous amount of time to complete, but I'm extremely happy with how it turned out. The formatting and organization of that post significantly changed the way I approach episodic picspams. And it was the one and only time I've ever had someone beta a picspam for me (what up, ignited?). Which was a really enlightening (in a good way!) experience, even though editing picspams a serious pain in the ass.

2. 20 Favourite Dean Winchester Faces
Because I had this picspam in mind the entire time I was capping S2, which, as anyone whose ever capped an entire season of television knows, is a long time. It was such a joy to go through those episodes in pretty DVD form and come across all these little Dean faces that I'd never really noticed before along with amazing examples classic favourites. I mean, the guy makes some really out there faces that are so freaking endearing! This one was so much fun to put together, and although I'd really like to reorganize and recode the whole damn thing, I still love it to bits, and love how much fun other people have had with it as well. I really appreciate that people still comment on it even though it's all old and stuff.

1. The SPN Motel Picspams: S1, S2 & S3
I'm extremely proud of how the most recent one turned out. It's one of the few picspams that looks pretty much exactly how I wanted it to. Well, I would have preferred to work with high res behind the scenes type shots of the rooms, but given the available resources I think it came out pretty close!

SPN Picspam Recs

5. Dean's Stubble by nutkin
The cropping is amazing.

4. Monster Movie by animotus
I only recently (finally!) woke up and latched on to picspams from animotus, and I could live happily in any one of them. She makes me want to be a better picspammer. Less is more, less is more, less is more.

3. Castiel in Lazarus Rising by typicrobots
ANY OF HERS (typicrobots is my picspamming soulmate), but I especially love the way this one is coloured. And the way it makes me love Castiel more than I naturally do.

2. Sam + Hoodies by valiant
SELF EXPLANATORY. I also love the soft colouring and the cropping.

1. Jared and Jensen are in Love by speakfree. Really, any picspams from speakfree, but especially this one. It's a regularly frequented happy place for me. The choice is quotes is amazing. If I had to choose a full on favourite, it'd be this.

Other Potentially Relevant Links

1. Bella Caps: My screencap gallery (very generously hosted by _jems_).

2. fandom_picspams. The fandom picspam community.

3. capspam. My aforementioned place for SPN image spamming. Not at that active during the regular season, but sure to pick up in the summer.

4. My SPN picspam memories

5. spn_picspam. The SPN picspam community.

In Conclusion...

Okay, now that I've managed to make another too-big post, does anyone have any questions or comments? About me, or picspamming in general, or Show in general, or ANYTHING? Anyone? Bueller?
Tags: ask the artist
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