Sunday, January 23, 2011

Photoshop is my friend

Something I've been meaning to get to for a very long time is a photography tutorial. I've had a few people compliment me on my images and fancifuldevices is always pestering me on how to replicate my look, which she calls 'softly faded, glowing from within'. Bless.

So here we go! (In nice easy to understand terms for newbies- photoshop veterans, be patient!)

First thing's first- the image above. it's dull. There's a tiredness to it and the colours don't look realistic. The quickest way to fix this is to work with the file in something called RAW mode. Now my tutorial is in Photoshop (cs3) but you should be able to do this in PS Elements as well.

Go to File>Open As... and choose your file. Before you hit open, click the drop down menu next to the words 'open as' and selected 'Camera RAW' from the selection. You'll now be looking at a very odd screen, taken up mostly by your photo and a whole bunch of sliders and coloured pointy things.

Practice with the sliders- drag them this way and that, taking note of what does what. To bump up the light on this one, I slid Fill Light over to 37 and upped the Blacks a little as well. You'll also notice there are little pictures above these sliders, click on them and investigate the sliders in there as well. Take note- if something doesn't look like it's doing something, check the little box in the bottom left- if it says 25% or similar, click it and select 100% - that way you can see all those details. I usually work on 50% but you can do whatever you like.

After raw processing. Improved- yes! Finished- no!

If you've made something you're happy with- click 'done' and your image is ready to go! If you'd like to tinker in more painterly ways, hit 'open image' and you'll find yourself in photoshop.

After RAW tinkering, the only other typical things I use to change my images are Colour Balance, layer effects, blur and sharpen. Let's start with colour balance.

When I opened the image in PS I noticed it was a little on the red side, so I went to Image>Adjustments>Colour Balance.

More sliders- hooray! Make sure your little 'preview' box is checked and play with the sliders- you'll notice pretty quickly what they do- they change colour! I've dragged the slider a tiny bit towards Cyan (and away from Red) only about -5 or so. I also slide toward Blue at a level of +6.

Then, being a fussy bunny, I clicked on the Shadows button and slid the blue up to +16. You're going to need different sliding combos depending on what your image looks like- just have fun sliding up and down. This colour balance slider is invaluable for those images where the red has come out too pink or the purple just looks blue. Even if you only learn one thing in this post, it ought to be that! It saves SO much re-shooting and hassle with light.

Sliders do their bit- still not finished? Too right!

Okay- now I'm done with that, I feel like the image could do with a little beefing up. So I go over to my layers palette which is on the right side- if there's no palette there, go to Window>Layers - and one should pop up. Right click on the layer called 'Background' and select 'duplicate layer' from the menu. (if it asks you any questions just click 'okay'.) You should now have this:

See that drop-down where it says 'normal'? Click that and select one of the following:

Multiply - for pale washed out images that need some shadow time
Screen - for a really dark image that needs the lights turning on
Soft Light - for pale and weak images that need some definition.

Mess around with the other layer style if you like, but I find these 3 to be the most relevant. I chose Multiply for my image, but it was a little strong, so I clicked where it says 'Opacity' and dropped it down to 49% - this makes the layer a little (or a lot) transparent and will lessen the effect.

Still a little dark, yeah? Yeah. So I right click on 'Background' layer again and select duplicate layer- now I have Layer 2 above Background. I go up to Normal again and select 'Screen'. That's flooded the second layer with light, and I just drop the opacity till I'm happy.

It might not look to different- but subtle changes can make all the difference!

I know this sounds complicated- I promise you it's not. Once you've spent a few minutes duplicating layers and setting different layer effects, you'll start to grasp what things do.

Now- here comes some fun. I like the overall tone of the image, but I think the left hand side is a teeny bit dark. So I go over to the side of the screen where my tools palette is and select the eraser tool- that's this one:

Now-the eraser is going to rub out section of the layers that are getting in the way. So for example- my Multiply layer is the one that's doing all the darkness vibes around here, so I'm going to make sure my layers palette has Layer 1 selected, then just erase the section you don't want.

When you're doing this, I highly recommend a brush with 0% hardness, which you can select by right clicking anywhere on the picture. You can also change your brush size there as well- make sure your caps lock isn't on or you'll just have a plus sign for a brush! Not fun. I also recommend dropping the opacity to about 40% - you can do that above your image, just under the task command bar. When you've finished toying with things, go up to Layer>flatten image; this puts all the layers into one and unites the image, enabling it to be saved as a jpeg.

Pretty sexy huh? Not done yet!

Now- for more gorgeousness, I'm going to use the blur tool to bring out sections and fade other parts away. The blur tool looks like a teardrop and is two tools down from the eraser. It might look like a triangle, if it does, just click and hold for a second and a little menu will pop out, and you can choose the blur from there.

Now we use the blur like we did the eraser, 'painting' various parts of the image to make them lose focus. There's an art to blurring- it's fantastic for losing background detail and when you blur something, what's in focus around it will look even more in focus. See here on the left- ordinary photo. On the right- hello dolly!

Blurring the background has made Trinny stand out more- I also used the sharpen tool on her eyes (that's the triangle shape confusing you before) - you can see how these two simple brushes can inflict some serious coolness.

After brushing on some blur and sharpen, my image is now at the point where I'm happy.

You might want to tinker with the colour balance again (I did), or put another Screen layer on or some such. One other thing I did was to dip the saturation, which you do by going to Edit>Adjustments> Hue/Saturation - and just slide that slider till you lose or increase the colour in your image. This can be a big help when things turn out a little too wishy-washy or overly strong. There's a brush that does this too- it's below the blur/sharpen and looks like a little oval sponge. Wether it saturates or de-saturates depends on what you have it set to on the top of the screen.

So there you are! That's virtually what I do to every image I make, and as you get used to it you will develop your own preferences and end up being really quick at it. It used to take me 1/2 an hour to do my 5 shots for Etsy, now it takes me 2 minutes! Bookmark this entry on your browser so you can go over it whenever you have some time to kill (it's more fun than facebook). Please let me know if you need any help with anything, I'll gladly amend this post with the answers. The important thing is to have fun and at the end of a little work, you will have a pretty picture.


stregata said...

Thank you so much for this - I have needed someone to show me what Photoshop can do (and bless Fanci for pestering you to do it)!
Very helpful.
I happen to love your photos too!

fancylinda said...

Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge with us. I can't wait to start working on some of my photos!

dandelionlady said...

So very helpful. Thank you! Also you have beautiful work. I love your new more lighthearted look.

fanciful devices said...

oh i didnt know you'd put this up. im gonna have to find the raw thang.

Lucie said...

I've been following your tutorial about photoshop, thank you :) I've understood everything - always pleasant to feel not too stupid ;P and I began practicing the layers thing...I need some more practicing the layers thing!

Sidereal Day said...

Thanks so much for posting this! This is the first chance I've had to sit down and read through it, hopefully tomorrow I can find the time to sit down and play with the information. Do you use all natural light? You always have such lovely light to your photos.

Little Brown Sparrow said...

Yay, I'm so glad it's helpful to people!

@sidereal Day - yes, always always natural light! I've tried artificial and I just can't get the hang of it, the sun is number one choice. Although with this info under your belt on photoshop, you should be able to get a good pic from artificial light if Mr.Sun is nowhere to be seen!

R2artstudio said...

First I must tell you I am huge fan and follower of your art work, ever since I saw your dyed writscuffs. And I am including the photography and PS work. Sometimes it is so hard to get a photo of something, and give it a real mood. I think you have found a perfect combination. I am struggling with that.
Second, thank you soooo much for sharing and explaining your process. It will be so helpful to have some techniques to try. I have always wondered how you got your look and have studied each of your photos. Thank you again.

Pretty Things said...

Wow. I'm bookmarking this. Not sure I can DO this correctly, but will try!

Morna Crites-Moore ~Wicked Waif ~ said...

Excellent tutorial and so generous of you - lots of time and effort in describing all this. I have used most of the features you discuss here, but in different ways. Also, I've only tried RAW once - I think I really need to get used to doing things in RAW. I absolutely love your photographs. THANK YOU!