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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.
Here we're going to take a look at how we can begin our project, and in particular, we're going to focus in on some small details. Well, this is the original image straight out of the camera and you'll notice that I've also added another layer here, it's the old fence layer; we'll be using this to add some texture later. Yet for now, go ahead and leave the visibility of that layer off, and you know, when you're evaluating your pictures often in Photoshop what you do is zoom in, so let's do that. Press Command++ on a Mac or Ctrl++ on Windows a few times then press the Spacebar key to access the Hand tool and then click and drag so that you can then view the photograph.
As we get a little bit closer, one of the things that I notice are a few details which I want to nudge or modify. So in order, to do that let's go ahead and copy the background layer so that we can then apply those corrections or those changes. To do that, we'll go ahead and use a shortcut on a Mac you can press Command+J on Windows you can press Ctrl+J; think J for jump. Next let's rename this layer, so I'm going to go ahead and rename this layer details. The next step is going to be to reach for a filter.
The filter that we'll be using is the Liquefy filter, so navigate to the Filter pull down menu and then choose Liquefy. The reason why I want to use liquefy is like I said before, I just want to nudge a few things around. So here let's go ahead and zoom in on the image using the same shortcut as before, that's Command++ on a Mac or Ctrl++ on Windows and let's get nice and close then press the Spacebar key and click and drag to reposition, and let's work on these areas around the face.
Now by default we've selected what's called the Forward Warp tool. You can see that here, and that's a tool that's selected by default when you open up the Liquefy filter. What I want to do is I want to use this filter just to push the ear in a little bit, but I can't use this high of a value for the brush pressure. It will be too dramatic and it'll look kind of fake. So what we need to do is we need to go to Advance mode, and in Advanced mode we're going to then decrease our Brush Pressure and we'll take this way down, perhaps around 25 or so.
Next what we're going to do is we're going to go ahead and just click and try to move the ear a little bit. So here as I do that, you can see that I'm slowly just nudging that in, and by nudging that in, what we can start to do is just kind of reposition this. The reason why I want to do this is the angle the way that I capture this frame this year at least for my taste is sticking out a little bit too much and the Liquefy tool can be used to make really dramatic adjustments, or it can be used to make really simple adjustments.
Now, why did we go to that Advance mode? Well, we did that because it opened up an option for showing backdrop. If you turn this option on and then increase the opacity to 100, here we can then see our before and after, so here's a before and then now here's the after. We're looking for a subtle yet significant adjustment to this part of the frame. Next, let's say we want to move the other ear a little bit. Here I'll decrease the brush size by pressing my left bracket key a couple of times and I'll just click and nudge this one in a little bit as well, and we can do this on other areas of the image as well. We can do this on the top of the photograph here, this part of the head, or if there are areas of the shirt that we just want to kind of tuck in a little bit we can do that by simply going around the image and just making those changes to the overall shape of the photograph.
And as you're making these types of small detail changes you want to be really careful, you want to be going back to turning this on and off to see if you're making adjustments that actually work. You also need to zoom out. To do that, press Command+- on a Mac or Ctrl+- on Windows and do that a few times, and what you want to do is look at this image in it's entirety. In other words, you want to step back and say do those adjustments work in regards to the overall frame, and in this case, I think they do. They're subtle yet significant.
In order to apply those adjustments we'll go ahead and simply click OK and in doing that we now have those details fixed up on this layer. Here they are. There's our before and now here is our after.
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