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An environmental portrait—one photographed in a setting that tells a story about the subject—has the potential to reveal something unique and interesting about the person in focus.
In this course, photographer, teacher, and author Chris Orwig explores a variety of Adobe Photoshop postproduction techniques that enhance the authenticity and mood of an environmental portrait. Working with a photograph of world-champion surfer Kelly Slater, Chris steps through each technique, from black-and-white conversion and toning to retouching and more, explaining his creative process along the way.
I'm really excited about this movie because here we are going to explore how we can take a photograph of an old fence and then blend it into our picture, so that it adds a different mood or feeling, and this is a technique that can really help out on a number of different projects. Well let's go ahead and turn on the visibility of our top most layers, this old fence layer, and let's click into that layer. Well this is a pretty uninteresting picture of a fence, I have desaturated it. Yet what I want to do is I want to make this interesting. I want to use all of these lines and textures here.
So to do that, we are going to change the Layer blending mode. Now there are two ways to do that, you can either click on the blending mode pulldown menu and then choose the mode that you want to try, let's say like Soft Light, or you can always use a different blending mode shortcuts. I want share those with you here because they are a bit more of an advanced way to work with blending. On a Mac you press Shift+Option+F for Soft Light, on Windows you press Shift+Alt+F. Well either way, change this layer's blending mode to Soft Light either by using the menu or by the shortcut.
Next what we see is that all of a sudden this adds this interesting kind of dimension or textured look to our photograph. And you know one of the problems with adding something like this is that the texture is everywhere. What I've found when you're using textures is you almost always want to mask them off, important areas say like the face, so let's do that. Here we'll click into the mask, next we'll press the B key to select our Brush tool, and in regards to our brush, we want to brush without any Hardness, and a pretty big size brush.
We also want to have a relatively low Opacity, so we'll bring our Opacity down and turn on pressure sensitivity if we have access to a Wacom tablet or a pressure sensitive tablet. Then we are going to paint with black, which we have here in our foreground color. We just want to start to paint this away and what this can do is kind of hide this texture so that we don't really know where this texture is coming from. I am going to paint across the shirt as well and some of these other areas. I'm just trying to make this almost fall back so that we don't know if this were perhaps an old photograph that was distressed or we can't quite pick out what happened.
And you really want to look at the different connection points of the lines, like this one is connecting a little bit too much on the shoulder there to this upper line so I am painting that back. Back there in the wall that's okay, the top of the shirt I wan to fade it back a little bit, and again, all of these little brushstrokes just help to kind of disguise how we're bringing in this texture. And here with this photograph, I think this effect works really well, but it works well with all sorts of types of textures, whether subtle or really dramatic, with all sorts of types of images.
Sometimes it helps to just add a little bit of mood or expression or feeling to your photographs. Well next if we Option+Click on a Mac or Alt+ Click on Windows, we can see all of these different brushstrokes, just nice smooth brushstrokes here, and what does allow us to do is again just to have the subtlety of that blending in. Now one of the things you may want to experiment with is duplicating this layer, so that you have it kind of painted away, but you also have it perhaps a little bit more intense.
To do that, press Command+J on a Mac or Ctrl+J on Windows. Now here we obviously have a lot more of the texture, in my opinion too much of the texture. Yet if we decrease the Opacity way down, let's say we bring it up maybe just to 10%, sometimes it can help just to give it a little bit more bite or fight. And again here we may want to click into the mask and mask a way where we don't want it or where we find it a little bit distracting. So I am just going to go ahead and go through that and make sure that this adjustment layer is helping out my overall project.
Last but not least we want to click in the original layer and just experiment too with what would happen if we were to take the texture out. You know just because we can add something doesn't necessarily always mean that we should. Yet for this photograph because I have this idea or this creative vision for this picture to have this kind of look and feel I think it works well. The only thing that I want to do is just mask off a few of these lines so they're not quite so dramatic there and I think we're now good to go.
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