Join Chris Orwig for an in-depth discussion in this video From ordinary to extraordinary: Using Photoshop to elevate your frames, part of Photo Tools Weekly.
- Hello, and welcome to another episode of Photo Tools Weekly. Now we all know that Lightroom and Adobe Camera are incredibly powerful tools, but sometimes they're not powerful enough. Sometimes, we need to go over to Photoshop, not just to finish off a photograph, but to really elevate the frame. Well that's what we're gonna do in this week's episode. Here, we'll explore how we can finish off an image and how we can add a little bit of a look to the photograph. We'll explore how we can work with Black & White, Hue/Saturation, Color Balance Adjustment Layers.
We'll also add a bit of high-pass sharpening as well. Now this is gonna be a really fun project, and I think you'll enjoy this one. So if you're ready, let's dive in. In this episode, we'll be working on this photograph of one of my best friends' sons, and here he is out in the desert in Joshua Tree. And before we begin, I wanna give you a bit of a road map of where we're going. Here, you can see I've created some layers. We're gonna be creating four different adjustment layers, and these are currently empty, I haven't done anything here. But just to give you a sense, we're gonna work with Black & White, Curves, Color Balance, and Hue/Saturation.
Then at the very end, we'll merge everything to the top to apply a sharpening effect. Alright, well now that we know what we have ahead of us, let me delete those layers and let's start from scratch. So here, I'll click on the Adjustment Layer icon for Black & White. And with Black & White, what we're gonna do is take our blending mode to Soft Light. This will give us this interesting contrast. Then you wanna drag the sliders around a little bit just to see if you can't brighten or darken any areas of the photograph. This one, it isn't huge, so we'll leave it as is. Next, we will wanna drop the opacity just to dial in just the right look that we want for our starting point.
After we've done this, the next step is gonna be to start to bring in a little bit of color. We're gonna bring in that color using Curves. So here, I'll click on my Curves Adjustment Layer icon. In Curves, I'm gonna go into my Red channel. In the Red channel, we'll drag down, add a little bit of cyan. Next, the Blue channel, let's go there and drag up. We'll bring in some blues. And what's interesting is if you wanna bring in more blue into the shadows, you wanna use this endpoint. I'll exaggerate for a second, but check this out. If I bring it up, can you see how all the darker tones are becoming blue? I wanna bring that up just a little bit.
It brings in nice cool tones in this area. Alright, well that adjustment looks kinda fine. What I'm trying to do here is create sort of a modern edgy type of look, and I want an interesting color palette. So we have the blues in, but I need the warm of the sun, so I need to mask the blue out from that area. So I'll grab my brush, and paint with black 'cause black conceals, it hides, I wanna hide this effect that I have here. Make my brush probably pretty big here, let me see. Yeah, that looks pretty good. Drop the opacity down, and I'm just gonna start to paint it away from a few areas.
So hey, you know what, blue is great and everything, but I don't want it on this part of the image. Tap the left bracket key to make it smaller and drop my opacity down even further, and just paint it a little bit away from a couple other areas, too. So I want it to have a real natural nice feel, and that's why I'm painting it different opacities. Another thing you may wanna do whenever you're working with masking is go to the mask, and in the Properties panel, increase the Feather, that just softens your brush strokes out.
And what that means is that they become less noticeable, and it becomes more of a natural look. Alright, well that was step two in our road map. Do you remember what step three was? Well that one was all about working with color balance. So here, we'll click on the Color Balance Adjustment Layer icon. Let me move our friend Trevor over a little bit here. And with Color Balance, we're gonna go through all three of these different areas. Let's start off in shadows. We're gonna bring in some reds and a little bit of yellow. Midtones, same thing, let's bring up some reds there, and I'm just looking at the subject, I'm not too worried about the background because we're gonna do some masking.
And then our highlights, as well, bring up yellow and red, and just try to find the right mix. We can always change this later, too, if we didn't get it right. And there, once we have that, we need to do something about our mask, right? Because currently, this mask is revealing this color everywhere, we lost all of our blues. So let's invert the mask. Let's do that by way of a keyboard shortcut, 'cause this is a great shortcut, you gotta learn it, you'll use it all the time. It's Command+I on a Mac, Control+I on Windows. Boom, it's all black, it's gone.
Now let's bring it back. Grab our brush, paint with white. Brush has no hardness, it's really big, we have a relatively low opacity, and I'm gonna start to paint it in. Bring in the sunshine, there we go, that warm sun. And having these warm and cool tones together help to make for an interesting combination or look. Drop the opacity down even more, and just paint around. Again, trying to craft the way that this is coming in.
And you want it to have this really nice kinda feel as far as the flow of the light. Then invariably what you'll need to do is to double-click your adjustment and go back. Maybe you decided, "You know what, I need more yellow, "it's like it was too red, or maybe I need "a lot more red because I want that." So almost every time I do that, I think I have to go and just fine-tune the way that appears. Alright, remember the trick with masking. When you're painting or painting in light or color, it's almost always a good idea to go to that mask and just increase the feather, and do it until it looks like your brushstrokes just look really smooth, really soft, really natural.
Alright, that was step number three. Do you remember what step number four was? That one was Hue/Saturation. This is our final adjustment before we sharpen. So here, I'll click on the Adjustment Layer icon for Hue/Saturation. This time, we're gonna use Colorize to work on the sky a little bit. With Colorize, I'm gonna look to try to find a nice blue that I can bring in across the sky, kind of a slate blue there. Once we have that, we'll go to the Masks tab. Another way to invert is to click on the Invert button. That conceals all of our blue.
Now we'll grab our brush, paint with white, and what I wanna do is just paint with white to bring in a little bit of this uniform blue over this area, affecting our sky color up there. I want it to customize the way that the sky was appearing. It's like I brought a little bit of blue on his hat, so I have to mask that off, either paint with black or white to be able to do that. Alright, we've crafted this pretty cool look with this photograph, take a look, here it is.
So here's the image, we applied our Black & White layer, Soft Light, step one. Step two, Curves, that's when we brought in those blues, which gave it, for me, it feels like this modern interesting look. And then we have our Color Balance, bring back some sunshine, warm and cool together. Now that I see that, I feel like it's a little bit too strong. I'm gonna drop that opacity back. And then we worked on the colors in the sky. Alright, well this crafts the look of the photograph. Now, the finishing touch, the icing. We're gonna apply sharpening, and in order to do that, we'll work on our background layer and copy it.
So I'll click and drag this to the New Layer icon. I'll name this one HP for high-pass. Next step, go to the Filter pull-down menu. Here, we're going to Other, and then we'll choose High Pass. So again, separate layer, a duplicate layer, Filter > Other > High Pass. Let me just do this for a second. Let me turn off my color layers. What we're looking for inside of High Pass is we're looking to be able to identify the picture, but in a way that it isn't showing through the actual photograph. If you go this high and you can see the image, not gonna work.
If you go so low that you can't see anything, not gonna work. So it's somewhere right in the middle, where it almost looks like a little foil stamp of the photograph. So we apply the radius there. It's also okay if it's a little too high because you can drop your layer opacity. So if you went too far, don't worry about it. Click OK. Next step, we need to change this to a blending mode of either Soft Light or Hard Light, I'll choose Hard Light. Gonna turn on my color layers now, and what we're gonna see is that this is gonna give us just this nice little snap of vividness to the image.
And take a look at how you can see the rocks, hopefully you can see that down here, they just kinda snap and come to life. And with this, we may wanna mask this out in certain areas, or customize it by dropping our opacity. Like up here on the guy, I don't think we really need to sharpen him. He has the sun wrapping around his shoulders. So I'll add a layer mask, and here I'm gonna paint with black, and just say, "Hey, you know what, this guy does not need to be sharp." It's kinda the mystery or the softness of him which is cool. But his environment, I like that being sharp.
So again, we're trying to think about that as we're crafting the look in the photograph. And with that, it wraps up our workflow. Here it is, so that we can see it, we did Black & White, Curves, Color Balance, Hue/Saturation on Colorize, and last but not least, a little bit of sharpening to finish off this project. Well hey, thanks for joining me in this episode of Photo Tools Weekly. I look forward to seeing you next time. Bye for now.