Hey all! So literally nobody asked for this; but I decided I’d try out my first “how-to” on one of my favorite photos. This is a photo of Paul’s car I took a while back on a really icky day. Like super icky. We were just about to give up for the day, when we found this little alley area. I liked how the edit of this photo turned out, so I though I’d share how I got there! We’re going for a f/2.8 look, black and white, with a little aged film/burnt look!
For this one, I used Photoshop CS5.
Step 1: Import el photo into Photoshop. Make sure you get the full resolution copy (i.e, don’t drag it in from Aperture, export it as “Full Quality,” then drag it in). Don’t do any touchup or brightening on the photo before importing, we’ll do it all within Photoshop.
Step 2: For this photo, I chose to go B&W. I just desaturated it by hitting Shift-Command-U (Mac). It’s not the fine-tuned “black and white” feature Photoshop possesses, but much like McDonalds on lunch break; it’ll do!
Step 3: Okay, now we brighten things up. Go to Image > Adjustments > Exposure. I brightened it up to where I wish I would have taken the photo; to where there wasn’t an over-abundance of black space, while making sure I didn’t over-expose too much of the white (clipping the white channels looks gross later on, make sure you balance it out nice). Once you’re happy with your levels, hit ok!
Step 4: I took this photo with a kit lens, meaning the Bokeh wasn’t anything to brag about, so I decided to add some in to make it look more professional. This is where it gets groovy. You may look at the image below and say, “Whoa, Jake, why’d you paint it red?” Well, because I wanted to. Just kidding. This is a really neat tool in Photoshop that allows you to create a custom, smooth mask out of any layer. Basically, you “paint on” what parts of the photo you want to be ignored later on by a filter, and erase parts to be left affected. So, what you paint is what will stay normal. The way I do this technique is weird; I paint the opposite of what I want to stay normal, then invert it later on. It makes it easier for my mind to visualize what the change will be. So, to activate this cool technique, hit the “Q” key. Nothing will seem to have changed. Use the brush tool to paint everything you want to add some blur to. WHOA! It paints it in red! That’s because you turned on the mask tool *high five*. Paint in all of the background like seen below.
Step 5: Now that we’ve got the base laid down, it’s time to define the blur. Using the eraser tool, try and cutout the focus of your image the best you can. I cut out the BMW around the edges pretty tight, because I wanted to make it look as natural as possible (when a lens causes blur, it doesn’t blur a soft edge around your focus). Try to get as tight as you can.
Step 6: Now you get to play “Camera Lens.” This is where you have to think about it. When a camera focuses, it does so on a flat plane. So, in the case of my photo, the focus is on the front of the car, but also on the pavement directly beneath that car. This is where you have to get detailed on the mask. Size your eraser up quite a bit (1000+) and make the softness 0% and the opacity around 25-45%. I eraser-ed the bottom part to soften it out, much like a lens would have. Depending on your photo, make sure it makes sense with where you took it, what angle, etc. Once you feel happy about where you’re at, go to el nexto stepo.
Step 7: Now we’re going to prepare to add the blur. Press “Q” again to disable this red masking mode. Your photo will go back to normal, but there will be these black and white dots flashing around your photo. It’s trying to show you where you selected the mask. Now, in Step 4 I was talking about which parts of the photo will be included in this mask. The part you paint is the part that the effect will ignore. By that standard, we’ve selected the opposite of what we need, so we need to invert it. When the little dashed blinking lines are on the outside, select the “Rectangular Marquee Tool,” the tool directly under the Move tool, or second down on the left tool panel (Or press “M“). Once this tool is selected, press the “Select Inverse” option. The dashed blinking outline will sometimes disappear… much like Bob Marley’s lyrics, everything is gonna be alright. You’ve now told Photoshop to select the outside of your subject.
Step 8: Now that you’ve got the right stuff selected, go to Filters > Blur > Lens Blur. Once. A popup window will appear, prompting you to select blur levels (much like the one below). I selected a blur radius of 12. This is usually the only adjustment you need to do to achieve the blur effect much like that of cameras. The key to this step is not overdoing it. I used the radius of 12, and after pressing okay, I decided to double the dose (Pressing Command-F as a Mac shortcut). Try comparing your artificial blur to the blur you’ve achieved on other photos naturally, and then try to match it. If you’re going to be displaying this photo with the rest of your portfolio, you don’t want it to stick out!
Step 9: Sweetness. Now you have a photo that looks mildly neat; a little more blur and all. Good job. Gold star for you! To wrap it up, I decided to make it look a little more vintage-filmy. I love the look of burnt film (with the overexposed red accents), and I think it needs a little more warmth. If you like it the way it is, or not, do a File > Save-As to make sure you have a copy pre-messing with colors. Save it as a jpeg.
Step 10: The first thing to do will be warming things up. Go to Image > Adjustments > Photo Filter. I chose “Warming Filter (81)” for my photo, but you should toy around and try them all; there are some pretty neat ones in there. I left the density at 25%, to not over-sepia it. Once you’re satisfied, hit that ok button like there’s no tomorrow!
Step 11: Finally, we’ll add some film-burn-red-stuff (if you have a technical name, leave it in the comments). Go to Layer > New > Layer (Shift-Command-N for you Mac users). On this layer, we’ll add the burn. Go to your color palette, and select a just off-red tone for the burn. Find whatever roughly is the tone you want, we’ll be fine-tuning it a couple steps later.
Step 12: BEFORE YOU GO ON! Remember we used the “Rectangular Marquee Tool back in Step 7 to get that blur going? Well, guess what’s still waiting around? If you try and brush on the burn while the selection is still there, it will ignore your focus point, which looks really bad with a burn. So, we have to deactivate it yo restore your photos awesomeness. Go back to the Rectangular Marquee Tool. Right click in the middle of your artwork, and choose the “Deselect” button. Alright, you’re ready to move on! Select your Brush tool. I think my brush was at about 1000 for size, and 0% hardness. I wanted the right-side burn, but you can really play with whatever you want! I’ve seen a few leaked in on both sides, but I really like the once sided look. Get the burn roughed in to your immense liking.
Step 13: Now, that burn looks a little strong right? Let’s change the blending mode. Right above the layer on the bottom right (Probably entitled “Layer 1″, there’s a drop-down menu that says “Normal”. Click on that, and change it to “Screen”. This changes the layer to a different mode of pass-through blending, rather than just sitting it up there and being like, boom, or whamo. I also didn’t really like the colors. Remember when I said we’d fine tune it later? Go to Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation (Command-U). I changed the Hue a bit to make it more yellow rather than bright red (the +12). I also desaturated it a little, to lower the intensity. Another way to “turn it down” is to adjust the opacity. Right next to “Screen”, is will say 100% Opacity. I changed mine to 50%, but again, you’ll want to play around with this.
Ba-hoo-ya: Good job! You totally nailed it. Cool beans, rockstar, you’re the bomb.com (thanks Drew for making me think that constantly).
Hopefully, you enjoyed learning a parcel of Photoshop. Maybe you know how to do this better, maybe this was incredible eye opening. Either way, I hope you enjoyed! Have an incredible Friday, everybody.