Posted on July 2, 2011
This is what I hope to be the first of a new feature here on the EJP photoblog: a step by step tutorial of how I can take your good shot and make it fabulous with the wonders of Photoshop. (Please note that the steps I’m using here can also be done in Photoshop Elements.)
Our Facebook fan, Sheila Hardie, submitted some great shots of her daughter for me to use for this tutorial. My goal for this tutorial was to use a really good shot that didn’t need a Hail Mary of repair work to save it. Instead I hope to show you how a few tweaks can give your SOOC (straight out of the camera) shot more pizzazz.
Of the ones that Sheila sent, I chose this photo to work with because I loved the composition with the leading lines. I also love the innocent expression on her daughter’s face.
Straight out of the camera (SOOC) this is a nice shot. It is a tad underexposed, but overall it is great for our purposes here.
The first thing I did was to bring it into Camera Raw. This is the interface with Photoshop that allows you to make some basic tweaks.
For now let’s ignore the red blinkies in the hat for the moment. The first thing we want to do here is to correct the photo’s white balance. Since light has different temperatures, if your camera’s automatic settings for capturing the light temperature are off, the white balance will be off. Things that are supposed to look white aren’t and colors tend to be less like what you saw with your eyes.
In this next screenshot, I’ve used the white balance tool (circled) to pick a point in the photo that is most neutral/near a 12% gray. Clicking here changed the temperature of the light. You can see the subtle but real difference after this change.
The color was changed just a fraction. I was tempted to use the white part of the hat as a place to measure but the result was way too yellow. And I thought the stairs might be good, but I see now that they aren’t gray marble. The tone is yellowish, so that would have thrown things off as well.
I then raised the exposure a half stop to brighten the underexposure.
This moved our histogram to the right a bit (you can see the histogram in the top right part of the screenshot) and the circled area got clipped (meaning the pixels are brighter than what can be registered by the camera). We want to avoid clipping if possible, but in this case we needed to brighten the photo. To correct the clipping, we will use the recovery slider. This slider helps bring the clipped highlights (red in the photo) back into a normal range.
The red blinkies are gone and our histogram looks a little better.
Now it is time to open the image in Photoshop.
When I open a photo into Photoshop, especially with an underexposed photo such as this, I always zoom to 100% so that I can see what the picture looks like up close and personal. Here we can see that as is common with underexposure, there is a lot of grain/noise to the photo. It can look great when looked at from a distance, but up close or with more enlargement, we see this noise that results from our brightening.
So what do we do about it? Well my preference is to use a noise reduction program. I use Noiseware, one of the best there are out there. Here’s a screenshot of Noiseware’s before and after processing of this photo:
It can’t make it perfect, but it helps it an awful lot, right?
Now we still see the photo is underexposed a bit. So we’re going to do a little trick to brighten it. The first thing I do is to make a copy of the background layer. I’ll change the name of this copy to “lightening layer.” And this is where we will use some of the blending modes that you see in the layers panel in the lower right of the screenshot. I’m choosing the one called “Screen.” Screen blend mode helps lighten shadows. At 100% it was too much, but I lowered it to 50% and this is the result:
The exposure looks much better, but the photo lacks oomph…otherwise known as contrast. So I add this by using a levels adjustment layer:
I moved the left slider in the histogram at the right toward where the pixels actually start. (The slider was all the way at the left on 0 and I moved it to about 45. See the arrow.) This helped balance the photo and gave it more contrast.
The last thing I did was all about more presence. I used a funky filter called the high pass filter:
When you go to use this filter, it will look a little scary, like this:
The goal is to adjust the radius enough to give the image a little more 3D quality. Now the best guidance I was given for selecting one’s radius is to start at 0 and increase the radius until you start to see colors come through in the photo. I’ve never asked why that point is the best, but I’ve continued to use that guidance. And in the screenshot above, you can just start to see the orange dots in the hat starting to show their color. I stopped there.
When you use this filter, you have to select a blend mode for blending it to the layer below. I went back and forth between overlay and soft light…both of these blend modes lighten your lights and darken your darks thus giving the photo more presence, yet soft light is more subtle than overlay. I went with soft light.
So with these few tweaks, we went from this:
I like it. The change isn’t drastic. It’s just got a bit more oomph. What do you think, Sheila?
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial. If anything was too technical or you need more information about any of the steps, please don’t hesitate to ask in the comments.
Thanks for reading Pimp My Pic #1!
Posted on December 30, 2010
Goodness, but it’s been a bit since I last updated the EJP blog! But today I’ve a got a fun little treat for those of you still checking in here. This will be my first demonstration of photo plays, something I hope to do more of in the upcoming year.
The subject of today’s play is not (surprise, surprise) my own kidlet. I’ll be showing you a great photo, and plays, of another adorable munchkin girl. I had the pleasure of striking up an online friendship with Munchkin Girl’s daddy through my other blog. And since he began asking me about photography, my favorite subject ever, we hit it right off. To my delight, he shared with me one of his favorite recent photos of Munchkin Girl.
I fell madly in love with this shot. I loved the composition and her expression, but most of all, I loved her eyes. Such incredible dark pools they are.
I felt that familiar pull to play with the image. It wasn’t with the goal of making it look weird or dramatic, but instead to add a few tweaks to push the oomph factor a tad. Just a teensy bit. So I asked Dad if he would let me play with the shot to see what I came up with. He was a great sport and allowed me to have at it.
The first edit is my simple “clean up” edit. Dad had already nailed exposure and white balance, so my tweaks there were miniscule. Her color balancing just needed a touch more cyan than she had. (I need Dad to help ME with color balance as the balance on my captures are all over the place still!) I then used the patch tool to remove a few ditzels from her face and nose.
After that, I turned to my workhorse actions from MCP Actions: Magic Skin and the Eye Doctor. I decreased the Magic Skin to 50% and turned the iris and catchlight portions of the Eye Doctor down under 50% so as not to create that alien eye look. I also used an action someone on I Love Photography developed to sharpen eyes when their focus is just short of tack sharp. It give the appearance of sharpness for when you just miss the focus by a touch.
The end result was this:
Very nice, no?
In most situations I probably would have stopped there. But hey, I wanted to play and see what small dose of punch I could give this great capture. That’s when I turned to Florabella. I love me some Florabella actions! I have so many of these actions that I can’t even remember what they all look like! I just run them all and see how they turn out. Yet I do have my favorites, so I started with these.
Cosmopolitan is my utter favorite. It creates a richness and drama. In this photo, however, I had to dial it back because I didn’t want too much drama. So I decreased the intensity to about 50%.
Oh man, I’m digging it. I really am.
Even still, I decided to try my newly discovered second favorite, London. I have been using London so much, lately. It gives a kind of urban feel to the photo, but not quite. It seems to have a blue/green punch. Again, I turned it down to about 50%, but it is still magical.
How pretty is that? Yet even as gorgeous as that edit was, I still thought I might just bring it a little more. But instead of another action, I opted for a trial of texture.
Texture has become my new playtoy. I’ve always been a tad scared of it in portraiture, but my last client melted when she saw the textured edits of her favorite photos. So not one to back away from experimenting, I turned again to Florabella, but this time it was the textures. (And I used MCP Actions’ texture applicator to make life easier.)
Starting with the London edit above, I worked to find just the right texture. I found what appeared at first to be a crazy choice for this photo in Collection II, a texture called Mai Tai:
I expected it to give the picture a you must be nuts to think this would work appearance, but was I ever wrong! I masked back the texture at about 60% over Munchkin Girl and used the color blend mode at 40%. Et voila:
Too much gorgeousness! This was my absolute favorite play! I’m ready to put that on a gallery wrap myself!
Of course, no playing would be complete without a black and white of some ilk. Even though I had the London/Mai Tai perfection already ordered in my head, it still made sense to try the absence of color. Naturally I was back with Florabella. I tried my usual B&W fav, Vintage Chocolate, but didn’t dig it so much. To my surprise it was Platinum that really was hitting and holding for this image (again decreased to about 70%).
So there you have it, folks! A great photo taken by a doting daddy and some fun plays by yours truly!
Do you like? Any questions? I’m all ears.