The Daily Focal Point

November 30, 2008


Filed under: 2.0 Tutorial, Photoshop Tutorials — Tags: , — cabenelson @ 9:54 pm

Okay, so as I’ve stated before I’m not a Photoshop “Junkie”. To me Photoshop is a wonderful and helpful tool. But that’s just it, IT’S A TOOL. It’s where I spend about a fraction of the time on a photo. As I’ve also stated before I’ve been called a purist and feel that REAL photography is done in the dark room from start to finish. There’s nothing like working on the entire process from framing the subject, clicking the button, exposing the negatives, working with machinery hands on, all the way to having a finished product you can hold in your hands. There’s also nothing like having your hands smell like the developing chemicals either… weird I know but if you do it, you’ll see there is a HUGE sense of accomplishment. However, digital photography is ALWAYS going to be there and to be honest, even if I had my dream darkroom I would still be shooting the majority of my shots digitally.

Some of the drastic things that photographers do in Photoshop are beautiful and amazing to see, but it’s not what I would consider photography. It almost transcends it and enters a “Hyper-Realism” category. Most are still amazing and beautiful, just not what I would consider my style. I don’t know, maybe I’m just saying that because I can’t do half the stuff they can do!
The purpose of this post is to walk you through what I do to my photos in Photoshop. It’s pretty basic stuff and as long as you have a basic version of Photoshop you can follow along.

I would say that 90% of having a good photo comes from the photo itself (duh) I know it seems so obvious but a lot of people feel like they really need to rely heavily on a editing program to create a decent image. If you have a bad photo to begin with you’re going to have a semi improved bad photo when you finish with Photoshop. How I view Photoshop is simple, it’s there to bring the icing on the cake. But the cake still needs to be there… SO ONTO TO TUTORIAL!

This is our original photograph.

Select your image and open it up in Photoshop (see I told you this would be easy)
Before you do ANYTHING with your photo, you need to decide what DIRECTION you want to take it in. This will help determine your steps and is THE most important part of the process. If you don’t know, study the picture. Ask yourself what do you like? What catches your eye? Take a minute and figure it out. If you do not have a direction or a point you wanted to emphasize in your photos those viewing it will see that it is directionless. If you still don’t know, then go through the basic steps below but tinker around with it more until something comes to you.
Open Photo
For this photo, I’ve decided that I like the framing of the subject and the feel of the photo, but it’s just flat. I’m going to use shading, contrast and saturation to make the image pop. I’ve identified that I like the rock wall behind them, the dark details of the sand, and the waves. I’ve realized that we need to add something to the peeps in this pics to make them “pop”. And I’ve also realized that I’ve captured the ever typical San Francisco couple. Dude is in all black threads, wearing shades at dusk, and holding a Starbucks Coffee no doubt. While she’s a little bit bohemian hippie with her scarf and hemp knitted skirt. Typical…

One of the FIRST things I’ll do is go straight for the Brightness/Contrast tool- Once you change the contrast, you’ll be amazed at how flat your photo was before. Take it easy with the contrast for now. If you increase the contrast too much you’ll loose some of the shades that you might want to stand out. For example, if I went overboard with the contrast I would loose some of the detail in the dark sand. The whole point is to adjust it to get an idea of you what you’d like to accomplish. You can always increase it to be more than it is at a later time.
Brightness contrast

The second step after I’ve gotten the brightness/contrast down, I’ll mess with the variations tool. This is probably one of the coolest tools I mess around with in Photoshop.
What Variations does is provide you with 24 different variations of your photo. It’ll display the different colors you can add to the photo if the tone of your photo needs to be changed. It will also allow you to adjust your saturation, but more importantly you can control the intensity of everything. Or just apply extra color to the shadows, mid tones, or highlights. For this photo we’re going to add some blue on the mid tones category because I want the picture to have a “cooler” feel. I’m also going to add some more saturation (increase or decrease the amount of color) here.

Now onto the Shades of the Photo! Did you ever used to play with a Lite-Brite when you were a kid? Well, think of your photo only as thousands of lite-bright pegs stuck in a board. In order to get more detail out of your image, you’ll need to brighten and darken some of those pegs! This is probably where I spend the majority of my time with photos. This is where you can emphasis certain parts of a photo by lightening or darkening a specific part without applying it to the rest of the photo. For this, I’m going to lighten the sand in front of the people, lighten certain details of the people, and then give the photo a burned or tunneled look to it. I do this by working mainly with the doge and burn tools on your toolbar. Like variations, you can control the amount of intensity (or flow) and also if you want to apply it to the highlights, mid tones, or shadows.
lite brite technique

I also wanted to add a significant amount of detail to the waves. Using the Lite-Brite technique we’re going to dodge/burn some more detail into those waves.

Now onto the details! For me a photo is all about DETAILS. If there aren’t little details for your eyes to follow (especially with a bigger photo like this) then it falls through! FOCUS ON THE DETAILS! We’re going to get up and personal with our peeps in the picture. I’m going to use the Lite-Brite technique on our peeps clothing, face, etc. I’m going to saturate this lady’s hemp skirt and scarf.
I’ll also add more color (or take away the amount of color) by using the SPONGE tool on the toolbar. You can set the intensity or if you would like to desaturate instead of add color.

We’re going to add some color and depth by dodge/burning the rocks and using the sponge tool to bring out more of that natural rock color.
rocks detials

I’ll do a re-cap of the photo and try looking at it with a fresh eye. Sometimes, when you get so bogged down in the picture it’s easy to overdo it. Go take a break and come back to it. Or open up your orginal photo and look at them side by side. You’ll know by looking at the original if you’ve gone overboard or not. For this, I’ve decided to “Rubber Stamp” some of the trash in the sand out because I felt like it distracted your eyes.

I feel like this is as good of a shot as we’re going to get here.

So here’s the original:

And this is what we finished with:
San Fran Pees Done

Okay, so as a recap. This is what I primarily use for my photos:

  • Brightness and Contrast (Allows you to darken the darks and lighten the lights)
  • Levels (Allows you to adjust the intensity of the images shadows, midtones, & highlights
  • Variations (Allows you to adjust color and saturation to the image)
  • Hue/Saturation (Allows you to adjust the intensity of color in the image)
  • Dodge and Burn Tools (Allows you to lighten/darken certain parts of an image “LiteBrite”)
  • Sponge Tool (Allows you to increase/decrease color for a certain part of an image)

So I just threw out a lot of information and probably missed some details. So, what questions does everyone have? What do you want to know about Photoshop? What tools in Photoshop do you have questions about? – Now is the time to ask!

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