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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.
Because this project was pretty involved and complex, what I want to do here is review the steps that we've taken in order to add some clarity to this overall process. So here I'll press F to go to Full Screen mode and then I'll press the F7 key to bring up our Layers panel. If you hold down the Option key on a Mac, Alt on Windows and click on an eye icon, like on the Background Layer, it will turn off the visibility of all the other layers. And this is a good way to look at our overall before and then the after.
It's also a great way to be able to step through what we've done. Well this was the original image and as you remember I said that there is something about this one that caught my eye but I wasn't quite sure, so I began to experiment. And here we started off with working on some of the details. It's almost like we created a blank slate. We're trying to get to know the image. We're trying to figure out which way to take this file. Eventually, we decided that we are going to convert it to black and white, and to add these tones or these colors.
Well here was that original Black & White conversion, kind of dull, kind of uninteresting. But then as we started to bring in the color layers, they started to get a little bit more life, especially as we worked on different areas of tone like with the background and all of that interesting texture. Next step was to look at modifying the overall mood. This is where we blended in a few different textures and also added some film grain. You can see how those textures all of a sudden made this image feel like it'd been weathered or worn, like it had been around for a while; had a different presence to it.
Than we looked at working on some details, in particular, a really important detail up top here that I completely overlooked. And again, it look kind of walking away from the file and coming back to it in order to correct that and to fix that area of the frame. And then last but not least, we made some final tonal adjustments. And what's great about all of these different layers and the way that we've assembled them in this project is that we can always change what we've done. For example, if we don't like the intensity of all of this, we'll just click in that group and then lower the Opacity of all of those adjustments.
Or if in that tone group, if one of the adjustments, like this background darkening isn't quite to your taste, or if you print the image and it's too dark, well just decrease the Opacity a little bit more to make it a bit brighter, or darken it. Again, you can dial this in after the fact. And that's the advantage of working with so many different layers. And then, by grouping those layers together as we've done, in a sense it's like closing the chapter on a book. We've done that, we're ready to move to the next step.
Yet still we have flexibility if needed to go back in order to make any needed final adjustments. Well let's take a look at our overall before and after once more. Here I'm going to zoom in a little bit more on this photograph so we can see some nice detail here. Here it is our overall before and then now the after.
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