Photo editing and manipulation opens up a whole world of creative possibilities once you know how.
Before and After Montage
You can turn an ordinary image into something sensational with the right adjustments.
I will be sharing a few of the techniques I use on my own images to help you both see the possibilities and understand how they were achieved.
No matter how skilled you become using Photoshop or other photo editing software it is important to remember that capturing a great composition and using the best lighting are still the most important steps to a great photo.
This first image I captured at a public park in the city. It was overcast in the late afternoon. Although it was autumn, the bluish tones of shade made the autumn leaves appear greener than they actually were.
I always start with a Raw file and use Adobe Camera Raw to bring out the shadows and highlights, maximise the dynamic range, enhance colours and so forth. This is beyond the scope of this article and I will be covering Camera Raw in more detail at a later date.
Original Image After Camera Raw Adjustments
For now I took the image from Camera Raw into Photoshop. I really liked the composition but felt it could do with a little tweaking.
There was a little too much ground below the tree and it would look more striking being a larger feature within the frame. I wanted the outer leaves to create their own natural frame. I therefore cropped the image for a tighter composition of the tree.
The real magic happens next. I have a secret weapon I sometimes like to use to easily create specific effects. It’s called The Google Nik Collection. It is a suite of Nik photo editing software tools that come as a package and are installed into Photoshop as plug in adjustments and filters.
Many of their effects could be created in Photoshop alone, but the Nik plug ins make them so much simpler and quicker to create.
I wanted to create a foggy appearance. Foggy days do not always occur when it’s convenient for photographers and even when they do, capturing them at just the right time to create the look you want is really tricky.
The fog doesn’t play nice and sit where you want it or create the thickness you are after.
Graduated Fog Filter Nik Software Plugin Screenshot
So to create the right amount of fog placed where I wanted it I used ‘Nik Color Efex Pro’ and selected the ‘Graduated Fog’ filter. This is located under the ‘Landscape’ tab in the top left corner, where you will find some useful effects for landscape images.
This filter, like all Nik filters has adjustable settings. My advice is to play around with these settings and watch what they do. It is really something you need to spend time doing as there is no set recipe for each filter that will suit each different image.
In the settings you can raise or lower the positioning of the fog as to how high or low it sits above the ground. This is achieved with the ‘Vertical Shift’ slider.
There is also a ‘Rotate’ slider to play around with positioning of the fog in and around your subject to look realistic.
The ‘Blend’ slider adjusts how much the fog sits like a solid mass or blends with the background.
“Opacity” dictates how thick the fog will be. I wanted a thin layer of fog to be visible in the distance through the trees, but not too overpowering.
Next I wanted to give the whole image a warm autumn tone, especially the leaves. Still under the ‘Landscape’ tab I selected ‘Indian Summer’ filter. There are 5 colour presets to choose from and a slider to determine how strong the effect will be.
Indian Summer Nik Plugin Screenshot
I also played around with the ‘Brilliance/warmth[‘ and ‘Sunlight filters, to achieve the look I had in my mind. Once again you need to experiment and try different things. You can always remove options if you don’t like one.
Once I had the leaves and tone looking right I chose the ‘Vignette Lens’ filter and played around with a bright lighter vignette to soften the outer leaves and give them that foggy appearance.
I hit Ok when i was happy with the filter combination and these changes were added to my image.
I always work on a duplicated layer of the original image so that any adjustments can be altered and no damage is done to the original.
I still wasn’t happy with the realistic nature of the fog. Although the outer leaves were softened and lightened nicely I felt that it looked too overdone and artificial as fog generally sits in the distance, while close up elements are more clear and crisp.
To give the image a more realistic feel, I chose the ‘Burn’ tool in Photoshop and selected a large soft edged brush and changed the opacity to 20%. I slowly and carefully burned in the details to many of the foreground areas, including a little on the leaves.
Final Result Autumn Foggy Day
This removed the artificial look and gave the image a more natural, and realistic appearance.
The final step was to sharpen the whole image using the ‘Unsharp Mask’ found under the filters menu in Photoshop. I will do a detailed article on the Unsharp Mask in a later article.
Satisfied with my image I flattened the image and saved as a Tiff file.