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In this workshop Tim Grey looks back at one of his most treasured images and how it came to be, explaining the story behind this particular photograph, what his creative vision for it was, and how he achieved this vision. See how Tim applied adjustments like converting to black-and-white, adding a color tint, and enhancing contrast, and how he cleaned up the image to make it look the way he wanted it to. And more importantly, gain insights into the artistic decisions that were made at every step along the way.
When I'm evaluating the results as I apply adjustments to an image, one of the things that I try to pay a lot of attention to is distractions. And in this photo, there are a couple of things that I feel are a little bit distracting. The image is coming along very well. I'm happy with the direction it's going. But I do find that, for example, the staining down here or these dark spots on one of the boards were actually two of the boards it look like, are a little bit distracting. It sort of pulls my eye down into this portion of the photo, and I'd like to compensate for that just a little bit. In essence I just want to brighten up selectively those particular portions of the photo.
To do that I'm going to use a dodging and burning technique. So I'll start off by adding a new layer. I'll hold the Alt key on Windows or the Option key on Macintosh while clicking on the Create New Layer button, the blank sheet of paper icon at the bottom of the Layers panel. Because I'm holding the Alt or Option key when I click that button, the New Layer dialog will appear. I can therefore adjust the properties for the layer I'm creating. And in this case I'm not going to call the layer dodging and burning even though that's essentially what I'm doing, but instead I'm going to call this brighten spots.
Since the aim of this layer is to brighten up some of the spots in the image that I find a bit distracting. I'll then change the blend mode for this layer from the default of normal to Overlay. That's one of the contrast blend modes which enables me to lighten or darken specific areas of the image. I'll then turn on the fill with overlay neutral color, in other words, fill this layer with 50% gray, and mostly that just makes it easier to evaluate the layer if I need to look at where I had painted to brighten or darken the photo. I'll go ahead and click OK in order to create that new layer. And then I'll go to the toolbox and choose the Brush tool. And on the Options bar, I'll make sure that the hardness for the brush is set to 0%.
So I'm working with a Soft Edge brush. I'll make sure that the blend mode is set to Normal. The overlay blend mode is being used for the layer itself. For the brush, I want to use the normal blend mode. And I'm going to reduce the opacity down to 10%. I could click the popup and use the slider to adjust that value, but I can also use a keyboard shortcut. I'll just press 1 for 10%. 2 would give me 20%. If I wanted 15%, I could just press 1 5 relatively quickly, but in this case I want a 10% value, so I'll just press 1. I can then move my mouse out over the image, and use the Left and Right Square Bracket keys to reduce or enlarge the size of the brush. The Left Square Bracket key will reduce the brush size, and the Right Square Bracket key will increase the brush size.
I'm going to zoom in on these spots so that I can get a closer look. I don't even mind if those spots remain, I just want them to be brightened up enough that they're not distracting. So I'll further adjust the size of the brush here, and then I'll press the letter D on the keyboard to get the default colors of black and white. In this case, I want to brighten, so I'm going to paint with white. So I'll switch the foreground and background colors, so that white is my foreground color, by pressing the letter X to exchange foreground and background colors. So now I'm ready to paint with the brush tool with a Soft Edge brush at a 10% opacity, painting with white to lighten. I'll go ahead and click and paint across these areas of the photo. You'll notice the effect is quite subtle as I'm painting, but that's okay. I can take multiple passes on these areas in order to lighten up those spots. And again, not really trying to remove the spots, just trying to brighten them up so that things blend in a little bit better.
And so we don't have quite as much of a distraction in that portion of the photo. I'll go ahead and zoom out to get a broader view. And then I'll turn off my Brighten Spots layer so that I can see the before version, and then I'll turn that layer back on to see the after version. And I think that's a big improvement. I still have that weathering, that texture in the boards, but they're not as distracting as they had been so I think that would work out very nicely.
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