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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.
Now that we have created this black and white Sepia toned effect, one of the things that I noticed is that the background is much too bright. So let's explore how we can darken the background and we'll do that by creating two different adjustment layers. First what we're going to do is click on to the details layer. We want to create these adjustment layers above the details layer so that these other layers which are already here will affect them, and so that the color will be cohesive and consistent. So the first step will be to click on the Black & White adjustment layer icon.
Now while we've already applied one of these adjustments we're now going to apply another, but this time we're going to decrease those reds and those yellows and maybe even some of the blues. Now I'm aware that this doesn't look very good, the subject looks kind of strange, but I like the way that this affects the background. So if we click to the Mask panel we can then press the Invert button which will change our mask to black, and then we can paint in those adjustments exactly where we want them. Another way to invert a mask is to press Command+I on a Mac or Ctrl+I on Windows.
The next step is to select the Brush tool, press the B key to do that. Then we want to decrease our Opacity here, so I'll go ahead and decrease the Opacity and turn on the pressure sensitivity if we're using a tablet. Then I'm going to increase my brush size by pressing the right or left bracket key. Right bracket key the brush goes up, left it goes down. Or on a Mac press Ctrl+Option, on Windows press Ctrl+Alt and click and drag to the left or to the right to increase or decrease your brush size.
Next we're going to go ahead and just start to paint in and we want to paint in with white so we want to choose white as our foreground color. Increase my Opacity a little bit more, looks like we can use pretty high Opacity here as we start to paint over these different areas of our picture, and just look to try to bring down the brightness there in the background and just paint back and forth over the areas where you think this will help out most. And by doing this, again, it just allows us to bring more focus to the subject, because the eye goes to these areas of brightness, it also goes to areas of focus.
We want this to be about the subject, not about the background. So here we're just looking to try to darken that up a bit. If we click on the eye icon you can see here is our before and then now here is our after. Whenever you're painting something in even if you aren't using a stylus, you'll want to increase the Feather. So whether you're using a stylus or mouse, just increase the Feather because it will soften those edges. Well now that we've done that let's take this even further. But this time let's use a Curves Adjustment and then mask in the Curves Adjustment into exactly where we want it.
So here we'll click on the icon for curves, and in the RGB composite view, we're going to darken our whites by clicking on the white point and dragging that down. We can also click and drag down the curve a little bit to darken up some other areas. If you're worried about the darker tones down here, well you can click and drag those up to kind of save some of those as well. Next, let's do the same thing as before, invert the mask. Do you remember the shortcut? It's Command+I on a Mac or Ctrl+I on Windows.
And then here once again we'll use our brush, we want to paint with white. This time I'm going to increase my Opacity. I'm actually going to remove the pressure sensitivity because I want to apply this pretty significantly. I want to apply it all over these different areas of the photograph so I have a really high opacity value here. This allows me to take down those really bright whites. As you're doing this, if you're concerned that you might be going too far, well just keep in mind we can always work with the layer to decrease the Opacity of that layer, or we can feather the edges, or we can do a lot here to customize exactly how we want this.
Well now that we've done that and we've started to kind of bring down the brightness of some of these areas here in the background, we click on the eye icon for that before and after. We can modify how dark we want that to go or how bright, and we can also control the Feather. Increase the Feather to smooth out those brushstrokes, this will make more even transition with the way that we've darkened that. And here you can see that overall before and after. We're getting it to a better place.
Now we don't want to go too dark with the background because we're going to be increasing contrast with one of the steps that we'll be taking next, and that's a step where we're going to be adding some film grain. So we still want a pretty bright image. So again as you're making these adjustments if you've gone too far with any of these, we'll click in through the layer and then decrease the Opacity. Again, just so that you have an image where the background is darker but not too dark.
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