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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.
Whenever you've been working on an image for a while, you almost always need to take a break. You need to walk away and then walk back or look away and then look back. And when I did that or when I do that here with this photograph, one of the things that I notice is that the background is still too bright. I want the face in a sense to almost glow and I want the background to become darker. I also think the surfboard down blow is much too bright as well. So let's take a look at how we can start to make some final tonal adjustments to this image to change brightness value and also a little bit of color.
The first thing we'll do is create a new layer, change the blending mode to Soft Light and then Burn or Dodge with a color. So let's click on the New Layer icon and then from the pulldown menu choose Soft Light. This is the perfect blending mode for darkening something, especially if you want to add a little bit of a tint or hue in a certain area. Next press the B key to select the Brush tool, then hover the Brush tool over your image. Here on a Mac if you press Option, on Windows if you press Alt, the tool will temporarily turn into the eyedropper.
Now we can click around our photograph and try to click to sample on a really deep dark brown. We want to use a color which is in our image for this technique. Then we want to increase the brush size, so you can do that either by pressing or tapping the right bracket key, or by holding down Ctrl+ Option on Mac or Ctrl+Alt on Windows and clicking and dragging to the left or the right in order to increase or decrease that brush size. Then we want to decrease the Opacity here and next we're just going to start to paint over the background with this darker color.
What's great about this is it's not only going to darken, but it's also going to add a little bit of color, which I find when you're burning and dodging, whether it's a fashion photograph or a picture like this can really help out. It can really help to make the burning and dodging feel and look cohesive. I'll tap the left bracket key to make that brush smaller and then continue to paint and I just want to build this up in a few different ways. I'm trying to think about how the eye is going to travel through this frame. And what I want the eye to do is to kind of travel through it in a way that it's almost getting lost in the photograph, rather than getting hung up on any one area.
You know as I'm working on this image, you or your eye may see things that you want to change. Pay attention to that. Trust your gut as you're making these final adjustments. All right, well next we'll create one more adjustment layer here, click on the Curves icon. Here I just want to darken everything up just a little bit more. Then I'm going to mask away the face, so with our Brush tool we'll paint with black with a higher Opacity here, the face. So I want to have nice brightness there. I mentioned previously that I want to have a little bit, almost like a sense of a glow around the subject so that he's illuminated.
Again, just kind of have a little bit of this, I don't know, drama or presence or feeling with this picture. I'm trying to hide my tracks a little bit with the light so you can't quite figure out how it was created, but I'm just painting back and forth in a few areas and here you can see these last few adjustments. Now click into the mask and in the Mask panel, blur or feather out your brush stroke so that the light is really smooth. Again, before and after, again some nice needed adjustments.
All right, well that's a pretty good stopping point for now. Let's go ahead and finish off and review this image in the next movie.
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