Wednesday, June 25, 2008

PHOTOSHOP : Opinions needed...

If it were up to you, how would you improve the image?

Retouching will be based on your critique. Feel free to leave comments.

Courteousness and politeness is very much appreciated. Don't leave ugly comments directed against the subject. Be friendly. :)

Sunday, June 22, 2008

PHOTOSHOP : II. Simple Tutorial on " Making a Perfect Photo"

The saga continues....

This is the second installment of my two-part series tutorial of "Making a Perfect Photo". On the first part, we made adjustments on the background, stretching it to give eyesight room and popping the subject out.

Today, we will be making subtle retouching on the subject to make the perfect bride photo.

Duplicate your background layer if you have just started on this tutorial. For the people who have been following the series from the beginning, make a new group by clicking the "Create a New Group" icon located at the lower part of the layers pallet. Rename the new group "Retouch".

We'll start on removing the blue cast on the veil. Select "Hue/Saturation" from the "Create New Fill or Adjustment Layer". On the Hue/Saturation dialog box "Edit" option, click the drop down menu and choose blue. Lower the "Saturation" by dragging the slider to the left or directly input -30 on the saturation value box.

Since the adjustment affected the whole image, we will apply masking. Adjustment layers via the layers pallet automatically add layer mask thumbnail. All we have to do is use the brush tool and make sure the foreground color is black. Carefully brush the veil and adjust brush size and opacity as you go near the edges.

With the layer mask thumbnail selected, Press/Hold Ctrl+I to invert the masking. Got ya! :)

Select "Levels" from the New Adjustment Layer icon and change the midtone value to 1.28 or as desired. Pay attention to the shadowed eye part while changing values and then press "Ok" button.

Activate the levels layer mask thumbnail by clicking it and then press Ctrl+I on your keyboard to invert from white to black. Choose a white foreground color and carefully brush the areas indicated below. Lessen the opacity and brush size as you go near the lighter part of the shadowed areas.

Create new layer and rename it "Shadows" so you can track your edits. With the brush tool selected, change the brush mode to "Luminosity" and set opacity to 3%. Select your source by Press/Hold Alt key and click the lighter area where you intend to lighten the shadows. Don't overdo the lightening, if you do your image will look dull and flat. Remember shadows are the ones defining the contours making an image three dimensional.

As I have indicated on the first tutorial, there overexposure on the highlights most specially the foreground shoulder and the gown strap. Do the following steps I provided below.

Bring out the highlights of the hairs near the nape by using "Shadow/Highlights" from the Image menu>Adjustments options. Change shadow amount as indicated below.

Mask the surroundings to reveal only the areas we intend to be affected.

A light touch of dodge and burn can make the eyes more sultry and captivating.

Hang on we're almost there. Bump up the contrast by tweaking with curves. Select curves from the "New Adjustment Layer" icon from the layers pallet and drag the diagonal line a tad upwards.

Now for the last part, choose crop tool and change the values of width and height with 8" & 10" respectively. I like the 4x5 ratio so it is really a personal preference. You can sized to your taste.

Drag the window selection as shown and move as desired.

Congratulations! We are done!


Thursday, June 19, 2008

PHOTOSHOP : I. Simple Tutorial on " Making a Perfect Photo"

A few months ago, I was invited to a friend's wedding and this was one of the pictures I took that I really like. Except for the fact that I was shooting down the subject (I was shooting behind and over the shoulder of the official photographer), with a beautiful bride and an excellent natural lighting I felt I cannot do more to improve the image.

I am a member of a group called Critique in Flickr and I submitted this photo for a critique. And found out that there are some editing and adjustments needed to make this a perfect photo.

I'd recommend you to join this group. These guys are sharp and you'll learn A LOT!

To make the story short, here is the discussion made on behalf of this photo and I suggest you read it because this tutorial is based on that.

I made the decision to make this a two part tutorial. This is because I hate long tutorials and also to give you a reason to come back and learn some more. hehe

The first installment will be the adjustments on the background and the latter will be about the final retouch. As with any of my tutorials, this will be a start to finish task.

I encourage you to try to think of improvements and formulate your own solutions.

Let's roll up our sleeves and go to work!

Duplicate your background layer by Press/Hold Ctrl+J or drag the layer to the "Create New Layer" icon below the layers pallet.

We will fix the background tilt by selecting "Lens Correction" filter from the Filter menu>Distort. A dialog box will appear.

On the Lens Correction dialog box, change the "Angle" value to 3.0 and click Ok button.

We will then mask the subject. Do this by Press/Hold Alt key and click the "Add Layer Mask" icon below the layers pallet. Make sure to select "White" foreground color and use the "Brush" tool. With the "Opacity" set to 100%, carefully brush the background and adjust brush size and hardness as you go near the subject's edges.

Add a transparent layer by clicking the "Create New Layer" icon on the layers pallet. Clone out whatever excess masking remains. Be sure to set sample to "All Layers" and check the "Align" option.

Press/Hold Ctrl+Shft+Alt+E to merge the layers to a new layer. Select the "Rectangular Marguee Tool" or press M, and make a selection on the yellow area to get the right size. Then move selection down to select the source. Copy selection to a new layer by going to Layer menu>New>Layer via Copy or simply Press/Hold Ctrl+J. Drag the copied object to patch the yellow area.

To blend the copied object to the new location, Select "Levels" from the Image menu to localize the adjustment. On the Levels dialog box, set the values as shown.

Mask the edges of the copied object. Make it a habit of grouping and renaming your layers.

Merge layers by Press/Hold Ctrl+Shft+Alt+E. Select "Canvas Size" from the Image menu and set the width to 10.0 inches.

Move the image to the left using "Move Tool" then click and drag. Select "Rectangular Marquee Tool" and make a selection as shown. Press/Hold Ctrl+J to copy the selection to a new layer.

Press/Hold Ctrl+T to "Transform" mode. Click and drag the transform gizmo (as shown) to the right.

To pop out the subject, we will darken the background by using "Levels" on the "Create New Fill or Adjustment Layer" icon below the layers pallet. Change the Shadow and midtone values accordingly.

By using Levels via Create New Fill or Adjustment Layer, Photoshop automatically add a mask layer thumbnail. Set foreground color to white and brush carefully the subject to isolate the adjustment only on the background.

Walah! This looks good already.

We will leave the final dimensions after all the editing is done. So don't you go nowhere! :)


I took this picture with a entry level Canon 400D DSLR and a cheapo 80-200mm zoom lens that I got from a friend. To people new to photography don't let your camera hinder your creativity. Practice, experiment and learn through reading articles on photography. Afterall your camera is just a tool.


Sunday, June 8, 2008

PHOTOSHOP : Simple Tutorial on "Retouching an Image"

This is the final installment of my "Three Part Series" tutorial. On the first part, we applied the technique of the Rule of Thirds to improve our composition. On the second part, we made adjustments on level, curves, gaussian blur and made a selective masking to draw out the subject.

In this tutorial, we are going to finalize our image with a little retouching.

As usual, duplicate your background layer by going to Layer Menu>Duplicate Layer or by Press/Hold CTRL+J or you can drag the background layer to the Create New Layer icon on the layer pallet.

Below are some notes on how we are going to do the retouching process. Take time to study and try to formulate your own approach.

As we go on, allow me to explain to you what we are trying to do.

First, take out the leaves by using the clone tool. Why? Because when you look at the picture, the leaves immediately in the right side of the face draw your eyes out from the subject then leading you to the white leaf then out of the frame.

Using cloning tool, adjust your opacity, hardness and size accordingly. Zoom in when needed and use space bar for panning.

Don't worry if you go beyond the edges, we are going to mask whatever excess cloning remains. (Click here and here for more masking techniques)

Create a new layer by clicking the New Layer icon and name it remove blemish. Make it a practice to group and name your edits. That way, you can always go back and reedit when you want to.

Clone all blemishes marked in the picture.

To make it more natural, lighten the harsh shadow below the jawline. Using Luminosity Blend mode does not affect the color of the image instead, it only affects the tonality of the image by combining the hue and saturation of the base color with the luminance of the blend color. (whatever that is...)

Widen the catchlights by dodging and burn the dark areas of the eyes to give them a shiny and watery look. Be sparing when using these tools, my suggestion is to limit exposure to 7-15%. And please don't go overboard, make it realistic.

Use Selective Color to bring back the color of the skin.

To merge layers into a single layer on top of all layers, Press/Hold CTRL+ALT+SHFT+E on your keyboard. Sharpen the image to show more detail and texture with Unsharp Mask filter and adjust the values that I have set below.

Now we will soften the whole image by using my favorite tool, High Pass filter. To do so, merge layers, set it to Soft Light mode, invert layer by Press/Hold CTRL+I then go to Filter menu>Others and select High Pass.

Create new mask and apply radial gradient fill. This is to limit the effect only to the parts we want softened.

We're done!

A lot of you, specially to those new to Photoshop, might not notice the difference between the unedited and the finished work.

Let me show you why or how can this be a successful edit so you can understand.

Remember the first tutorial, we placed one of the imaginary intersection on the Rule of Thirds on the left eye of the subject to be the focal point. Retaining a space on the left side of the image, give balance to the whole image.

Removing the leaves is pretty obvious. We want to lessen all distractions as much as possible. We even darkened it to pop the subject out from the background (second tutorial).

The softening or blurring of the surrounding area of the subject gives it a shallower depth of field. And the sharpening helps too in leading the viewers eye to focus on the subject. The idea is to make the viewer glued to the subject.

Try and observe yourself looking both pictures again. Ever wondered why you are drawn to portraits of
some great artists? Now you know... :)

Subtle isn't it?

Till next time....

Thursday, June 5, 2008

PHOTOSHOP: A Simple Tutorial on "What to do if You Forgot to Bring Your Polarizer"

Have you ever been in a situation where you forgot to bring a "polarizer filter" (see below for a description)? It happened to my friend bomicks recently, and I have asked permission if I can use his lovely photo for this tutorial. You can check out his photostream here.

Before we continue, a little background reading. Below are descriptions on blending modes we are going to use.

Source: Wikipedia
Is a device that converts an unpolarized or mixed-polarization beam of electromagnetic waves (e.g., light) into a beam with a single polarization state (usually, a single linear polarization). Polarizers are used in many optical techniques and instruments, and polarizing filters find applications in photography and liquid crystal display technology.

Source: Photoshop Help
Hard Light
Multiplies or screens the colors, depending on the blend color. The effect is similar to shining a harsh spotlight on the image. If the blend color (light source) is lighter than 50% gray, the image is lightened, as if it were screened. This is useful for adding highlights to an image. If the blend color is darker than 50% gray, the image is darkened, as if it were multiplied. This is useful for adding shadows to an image. Painting with pure black or white results in pure black or white.

Vivid Light
Burns or dodges the colors by increasing or decreasing the contrast, depending on the blend color. If the blend color (light source) is lighter than 50% gray, the image is lightened by decreasing the contrast. If the blend color is darker than 50% gray, the image is darkened by increasing the contrast.

Looks at the color information in each channel and multiplies the base color by the blend color. The result color is always a darker color. Multiplying any color with black produces black. Multiplying any color with white leaves the color unchanged. When you’re painting with a color other than black or white, successive strokes with a painting tool produce progressively darker colors. The effect is similar to drawing on the image with multiple marking pens.

Got it? ......right. Leave the mumbo jumbo to the anal geeks. We, the real creative people just blunder our way and love the element of surprise.:)

To start, open the document (Please ask permission if you can download bomick's photo to follow my tutorial.) As usual duplicate background layer first by press/hold Ctrl+J on your keyboard. We will go through each blending modes mentioned above in this order, 1) Hard light 2) Vivid light 3) Multiply.

Let us take time to study the various blending modes we are going to employ. (Click on a picture to enlarge and see how to change blending modes.)

Let us try Hard Light first.

Oooh. The water is more clearer removing the glare/reflection present in the original. The rocks look wetter! But we do have overblown highlights on the water and the background tree leaves. We'll keep that in mind.

How about Vivid light.

I like it even better. You can basically see the bottom of the stream. Hmmm. Again, it overblown the highlights and made the shadows more darker.

Let's try Multiply.

We have now more contrast on the tree leaves and a more defined waterfall near the trees but made the rest of our image darker.

(Photography Tip: You might want to stop down your exposure compensation value in this kind of scenario. It is easier to salvage detail of an image stopped down than over exposed highlights.)

What we are going to do is use a selective masking. We will pick some bits and pieces from each of the blend modes to achieve our goal.

Let's roll up our sleeves and have some fun!

This is how we do it.

And we are done!
If you want to, adjust the curves a little bit upwards to boost overall contrast.

Beautiful, isn't it?

So next time, don't forget to bring your polarizer. Much easier that way. heh

Sunday, June 1, 2008

PHOTOSHOP: II. A Simple Tutorial on How to Make Your Subject "Pop"!

In my previous tutorial, we learned how to recompose our image by using the "Rule of Thirds". Today, I will show you some pretty basic technique.

This is an overview on what tools we are going to use in this tutorial:

1. Levels
2. Masking
3. Gaussian Blur
4. Curves

These are very simple tools and a standard approach used in photo editing. A good foundation for beginners. Let's roll up our sleeves and go to work!

To start, I will use the same image in the previous tutorial, so you can see the progress of my workflow.

As usual we duplicate our image by going to Layer menu>Duplicate Layer or by dragging the background layer to the new layer icon below the Layers Pallet or simply press and hold Ctrl key then press J on your keyboard.

When you have duplicated your layer, let us darken our image by using Levels adjustment. Click "Create New Fill/Adjustment Layer" icon below the Layers Pallet and select "Levels".

In the "Levels" dialog box, we will adjust the "black/shadow and the gray/midtone slider". Adjust the black slider first then the gray slider. Sliding to the right will intensify shadow areas darkening the image, sliding to the left will do the opposite. While adjusting the sliders concentrate on the background not the subject. This is a matter of personal preference on how much you would want your subject to pop out of the image.

If you ever made a mistake or gone overboard, don't worry, just place the black slider full left and the gray slider in the middle. Alternatively, you can press and hold "Alt" key and click reset on the "Levels" dialog box.

Our "Levels" adjustment were applied to the whole image. Because all we want is to darken the background we will apply a mask to our subject. As you can see in the Levels layer (image above), photoshop has already made a layer mask for us (the white thumbnail).

Choose brush, set foreground color to black, and activate the layer mask thumbnail. To adjust the brush size and hardness, right click on the image and move the sliders.

Carefully brush the subject starting from the center. As you brush towards the edges, you may want to adjust your brush size and uhmmm hardness.

Sometimes accidents do happen and in your case, more often. If you ever made a mistake of brushing beyond the subjects edges, go back and start all over again from scratch.

Got ya! To fix the mistake, just set foreground color to white and brush the affected area. When done, set the foreground color to black and continue masking. Remember to adjust your brush size and hardness if needed.

Take a break and congratulate yourself for going this far. While having you're coffee break, you may want to click the Adobe icon somewhere on this page, and buy yourself a copy of Photoshop CS3.

That was quick...

Now we will apply a "Gussian Blur" to give it a, well, a blurred look. We have to merge our layers first. Press and hold Ctrl+Shift+Alt and press E. A new layer will appear on top of our Layers pallet. It is a good practice to name your layers so you'll know what effect you applied on a particular layer.

Go to Filter menu> Blur> select Gaussian Blur.

In the Gaussian Blur dialog box, move slider to the desired effect focusing on the background then click "Ok" button. Like in the "Levels" dialog box, you can always reset the effect by Press/Hold "Alt" key and click "Reset".

We have to mask our subject again to apply the effect only in the background. Instead of doing it, again, we will use our mask that we made previously. Activate the Layer Mask thumbnail and right click. Select "Add Layer Mask to Selection", marching ants will then appear. No kidding. The moving broken lines are called marching ants.

To apply our selection to a mask, first change foreground color to white, activate our Blur Layer then click "Add Layer Mask". A new layer mask will appear on our Blur Layer that looks like the previous mask.

Asses the result. If you think you blurred it too much, lessen the effect by decreasing the "Opacity" of our Blur Layer.

We're almost there. Boost the highlights contrast of our image by applying curves. Click "Create New Fill/Adjustment Layer" located at the bottom of the Layers Pallet and select "Curves". In the "Curves" dialog, click at the center of the diagonal line and drag it upwards.

Click of "Ok" button and we're done!

Show it to your wife and brag what you can do to all your photos so you can justify your purchase of Photoshop CS3...:)


1. We started with this raw photo.

2. Applied the Rule of Thirds.

3. Popping out the subject from the background.

Hope you have fun with this tutorial.

My next tutorial and last of the series will be about final retouching of our image.
So don't go nowhere!

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