The images straight out of the camera were nice, but not really more than snapshots. Although I liked them, I wanted to find a way make them more interesting. My solution was to pull the focus in each imaging using a Photoshop technique that simulates the effect of a tilt-shift lens.
In each of these photos, only the main subject area is in focus and sharp. The rest of the photo is blurred with the blur feathered into the main subject area. When combined with a little creative color work and a mild vignette, these images have a wonder antique or old camera look to them.
All the images below were taken with a Canon 40D and a Canon EF 70-200mm f2.8L IS lens. They were shot as Raw and initially processed using Lightroom 3. From there, each was pulled into Photoshop CS5 to apply the tilt-shift, pulled focus effect and to creatively work their color. The images were then brought back into Lightroom to apply the vignette. Enjoy!!
This exploration begins with the resulting final image from my previous post. As way of review, this image began as a wonderful snapshot with me cropping the image for composition, removing a few unwanted elements, and generally adding some “pop” and “depth” to create the final.
The images below are variations of the final image above. They were created by using plugins and presets in Adobe’s Lightroom and Photoshop. The black and white image, Variation 9, was created using Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro plugin for Photoshop. The other variations, Variation 1 thru 7, were created using a mix of purchased, tweaked, and custom presets in Lightroom. I added a vignette to some while others not. All images ended with a final pass through Photoshop for sharpening.
Each of the images below have a different look and invoke a different felling. As variations on a theme, they each represent a different interpretation of a common subject. The range and palette of expression and creativity is limitless. There are no rights or wrongs. There is only process. Enjoy!!
With the above in mind, I thought it would be fun to walk though an example of my process and detail my thoughts and some of the tools I use. For an image, I wanted to use one that I did not capture myself. My neighbor just happened to have a wonderful snapshot of his daughter laying on the beach. This image is a typical snapshot but, to my eye, there was more to it than just a nice family snapshot.
The subject matter of this image is wonderfully playful and there is a lot of separation between the subject and both the foreground and the background. The main issues for me with the image and the ones that make it “just” a snapshot are as follows:
- The subject is dead center frame.
- There is a foot in the sand to the left.
- There is a purple beach towel in the sand on the right.
- There is a general lack of contrast in the image.
- The subjects eyes are a little dark.
- The image is soft and the subject slightly out of focus.
With these issues in mind, the first stop in my the digital darkroom is Adobe’s Lightroom. Normally, I use Lightroom to process RAW images. Lightroom, however, can also be used with JPEG images and, in fact, contains tools that make certain tasks easier to perform than in other applications.
For this image, I ran it through Lightroom to do two things. The first and easiest was to crop the image keeping the same aspect ratio as the original. When cropping the image, though, I did not keep the subject dead center. I cropped the image with the subject further to the left. This makes for a more interesting composition. Cropping the image also had the benefit of removing the foot in the sand to the left of the subject. The second task I used Lightroom for was to brighten the subject’s eyes. For this, I used a local adjustment brush to both brighten and add clarity to the eyes.
From Lightroom, I took the image into Adobe’s Photoshop. This is where the rubber meets the road. I performed the bulk of the work in Photoshop beginning with cleaning up a few unwanted elements in the image. The Photoshop tool used for this is healing tool. What did I remove? I got rid of the purple beach towel in the sand on the right of the subject, as well as a few large gains of sand around the subjects mouth.
The image is really starting to come along. Still, there is a general lack of contrast and definition. To address this, I used a Photoshop filter called Viveza 2 from Nik Software. Viveza 2 allows one to add control points in an image to selectively affect elements for any pixels of a similar color, hue, or brightness. For this image, I laid in five control points, as follows:
- Point 1 (Sky): Darkened the sky. Added saturation.
- Point 2 (Sand): Brightened the sand. Added contrast and structure.
- Point 3 (Skin): Brightened the subjects skin.
- Point 4 (Bathing Suit): Brightened the pink. Added saturation.
- Point 5 (Hair): Brightened the hair. Added structure.
The image is almost there. Playing around with the sky and the subject’s skin, however, created a halo effect around the subjects foot. The fix for that, was a quick pass in Photoshop using the smudge tool to blur and blend the halo effect into the surrounding pixels.
The final step is to sharpen the image. This is probably the most subjective aspect of working an image (along with color) and is dependent on how it will be output. For this example, I sharpened the image for the screen only. The tool I used was Photoshop’s smart sharpen filter.
Forget what the original image looked like? Here it is below. The final image is no longer flat. The final image pops and has greater structure, while the subject’s eyes draw your focus. With the subject off center, the image’s composition is much more interesting.
There it is... From original to final, my process for working an image creatively. As I said above, though, there are no rights or wrongs. There is only the process. This is just my interpretation for this image. If I have done my job well, others will find this image appealing as well.
This image was shot in the Olympus RAW format. Although I had converted and processed it years ago, I wanted to see what Adobe’s recent Lightroom 3 update could do for the image. The original version is a straight conversion that really only tweaked the basics like exposure, contrast, clarity, and shadow detail. The enhanced version was also run through Adobe’s Photoshop and tweaked using Nik Software’s Viveza 2 filter. As you can see in the enhanced version, I used the Viveza 2 filter to play with the color and tone of the image. I also used the Viveza 2 filter to add some structure and detail to the waves and water. In both versions, Lightroom 3 did a great job with managing the noise in the image.
As I was sitting on the beach watching my kids play in the sand and at the waters edge, I started to take some photos of others around me. This photo opportunity turned into this subject exploration, Backs to the Beach. Once the idea came to me, I grabbed my gear and took several walks up and down the shoreline to capture the images here.
Shooting conditions were not the greatest. The skies, for most of the time, were grey and overcast with the sun only peaking through every now and then. In those moments, I was there and ready to grab that golden light. These images were all taken with a Canon 40D DSLR and a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS Lens. The images were processed using Lightroom and enhanced in Photoshop using the Nik Software’s Viveza 2 filter. All images are presented here in a 16:9 letterbox format.
The following images were taken on the last real weekend of summer for my kids. It was the last weekend before school started in late August. I took these with my oldest son in tow as we walked the beach that Saturday morning. All are black and white, digital infrared images captured with a converted Nikon CoolPix 990. I boosted the contrast and cropped them to a 16:9 letterbox format.