Join Chris Orwig for an in-depth discussion in this video Retouching a portrait of a wolf, part of Photo Tools Weekly.
- Hi, my name is Chris Orwig, and welcome to another episode of Photo Tools Weekly. Thanks so much for joining me. A couple of weeks ago, I had this profound experience of meeting a wolf. If you've ever had the chance to be in the presence of an animal like this, it really is something kind of unique and special. So of course I was there capturing some photographs. Now this wolf had been rescued and had a handler. What that means is the wolf was on a leash and someone was holding that leash just outside of the frame.
Well of course I captured some photographs, but what I want to do next is I want to remove the leash, and clean up some of the other details as well, so that we can take an image which is good from the get go, but make it much, much more, much better. In order to do this we'll be working with Photoshop, so without further delay, let's go ahead and dive right in. All right well here in Photoshop you can see the photograph that we are going to work on, and the first thing I want to do is some basic retouching, so I will duplicate the background layer, and that way in case we make a mistake, we have this all in a separate layer.
I'll go ahead and name this new layer retouching. Next I'll zoom in on this beautiful wolf. I mean, look at her, it was quite an experience to see her. Then I'll grab my spot healing brush and I'm just going to retouch away a little thing there, a couple little, any little variations that I notice that I want to diminish a bit. Up in here I notice there's some blue in this area. It was in a shade environment. Sometimes blue can show up when you're in the shade, so I'll need to fix that. I'll do that later. Then next down here with the leash which the handler was holding just outside of frame, I need to retouch that away.
We're going to use a couple tools. One is the Clone Stamp tool. Now with the Clone Stamp tool what we can do is Option or Alt + Click to set our source area, and just start to kind of chip away at this. We're not going to be able to get this all at once. If we were to try to use a healing brush or something like that, it actually wouldn't work very well, and the reason is is because that, I mean it's fur, and with fur the blending would look a little bit strange. And so here I'm just going at this little bit at a time with the Clone Stamp tool. Try to make this quick for you so you don't have to watch all of these details here.
Although, you know how it goes in Photoshop. When you work too quickly that's when everything, doesn't work very well. Okay, well what about this part here? Well let me zoom in on this so you can see this, because this is an interesting little moment for a lesson. If I Option + Click right there and bring this over, what we're going to see is that I can just sort of bring that on top of there. It looks really nice. This area got a little too choppy so I will decrease my opacity and just kind of cover that up a little bit. What I mean by that is it just was becoming a little bit too noticeable, that area.
All right down in here, we're zoomed in really close. We're going to go from the top down, and then the bottom up. Now I know that there's a shadow in this area. I'm not too worried about the shadow because I'm going to fix that with curves in a little bit. You will notice that I am retouching at a lower opacity. That means I need to click multiple times to kind of have it fully cover. If you want to go a little more quickly, of course you could go, you could change that value. But here I want this to look really soft, really nice and natural, not over the top, not drawing too much attention to this area.
Just a nice clean removal of the leash. All right well I mentioned there's the shadow down there, and you kind of see that, it's like sort of a dark yellow area. What we'll do for that is we will create a curves adjustment. Click on the Adjustment Layer icon for curves, and it will be impossible to know how far to go with this, so I'm just going to go really far. And I want to do something which is exaggerated to make a point. You'll see what I mean in a second, but if I go to the tab for the mask and click Invert, it will hide that adjustment, it's gone.
Then I grab my brush, paint with white, so here I have white as a color. I have a nice soft edge brush, no hardness there, take that all the way down. And opacity, let's drop that down just a little bit. So what I can do is I can start to paint over this and brighten it up. Now right now, let me exaggerate a little bit more here. What you're going to see is that it is brightening it up, sure, but it's just really noticeable so if we look at this before and after, it's too strong, right? Let me exaggerate this even more so you can really see what I'm talking about.
So there it is. Too strong of an adjustment everywhere. Well here is a great little trick or tip. If you go to the mask tab and increase the feather, it will soften the edges at first, but then eventually it's actually going to soften the whole adjustment. Notice how it actually almost works right there, right? So know that you can use that Feather slide. Now, you don't need to be that exaggerated. You want it to be pretty close, right? If you're brightening something up, you want it to be right in the range. Then go to the tab for the feather, feather that out, soften it up so that you have a nice look there.
I want to bring up the black point too. I think that will look even better. I don't want to draw attention to that area either by way of its shadow or its brightness, so that's why I'm kind of being careful with all of this. And, do something right around there. Okay well great, curves, masking. We got rid of the leash, awesome, right? We are going from ordinary to extraordinary because all of a sudden, it's starting to look more like this wolf out in the wild, and we're connecting with the image more because the distracting elements are gone, and that's always what happens in photography, is when you remove distractions, you create stronger, more meaningful, more interesting photographs.
Okay next up, I need to work with the fur. So I'll go to my retouching layer and use a tool like Quick Select. Make the brush a little bit bigger, even bigger than that, and I'm just going to start to build a selection here. So I'm going to click and drag around. I don't want to work on the eyes so no need to worry about that. Looks like I got the background too so just hold down the Option key on a Mac, Alt on Windows, and I'll go around the background. I don't need to work on any of those areas. Now for the selection it doesn't need to be super exact, meaning I don't need to have, I don't know, the little furs up here.
If I did, we could go into Select and Mask, and we could use this tool right here called Refine Edge, and just go over those edges. Let me zoom in on that. The wolf looks strange, right, without the eyes there, but hopefully you're seeing is that what I'm getting is a little bit of transparency around these edges. What I'm helping Photoshop to do is say, hey pay attention to this edge, and I want to have a little bit of transition there. Might as well do it. Again, we don't need to do this because I'm not removing the wolf from the background.
All I'm going to do is use this as a nice selection. You'll see that in a second. Okay, well once we've done that, I'll just output this to a selection and click OK. So, so far I haven't even done anything except made a selection. Step one, Quick Select. Step two, if needed go to Select and Mask. Then after that we can start to modify. What I want to modify is color, so I'll click on Hue/Saturation, and with Hue/Saturation what we can do, if we feel like there's a funky color in the image, like up here there's some blue, grab this tool right here, the Targeted Adjustment tool, and click, and it will sample the colors for us.
It's telling us, hey there are some blues there, let me show you this. See all the blues that were hidden in there? And looks like some purple too. So what I want to do is take that down because I want to go a little bit more for like this white wolf type of a look. We could target other colors too. I see these, these yellows and oranges and what not, and I could begin to take some of those down too. Again, going more for this white type of a wolf look, kind of cool, at least I'm kind of digging that. I like that myself. I think it's a little bit more, I don't know maybe mystical or majestic, or something like that.
All right great so we worked on our color a little bit. That also removed some of the blue from the nose there. I don't know if you can see that very well. Let me zoom in. But, blue will show up in strange places, especially if you're working in the shadows, but that is so much better. Next what I want to do is work on the eyes, so how are we going to do that? Well let's go to the top of the layer stack, and here I'll create a curves adjustment again, and this time I'm going to bring it up and then bring an S curve down really just focusing in on the eyes. I don't care about really anything else for that matter, so I'm just going to look at that.
I know the rest of the image isn't looking great. No biggy. Click on the Mask icon. You know the drill, right? Then click Invert. If you want a shortcut to do that, so you don't have to always go there, just press Command + I on a Mac, or Control + I on Windows. It does the same exact thing. All right, grab the Brush tool, we're going to paint with white. We're going to paint with a smaller brush, and opacity somewhere below 50. You can kind of rough it out because all that we're going to do is bring in a little more brightness into the eyes here. So I'm just painting around the eyes.
There should be more of this effect in the lower area, a little less above, because we have a little bit of the shadow from the eyelid there. What you're going to start to see is I'm just illuminating the eyes a very little bit. If you wanted to work with color you could do that. You could go into the different channels, say like the Red channel. We could add more red or more cyan. We could also bring in in the Blue channel, rather than blue we could bring in a little bit more yellow. So just kind of a little bit more fire or glow in the eyes. Really it's up to you. Now with this color that we have right here I feel like the eyes are, well they're pretty interesting if it was an illustration, but I want this to be a little more photorealistic.
So I need to take the opacity of this down, just drop it down probably to 50%. That's the trick with Photoshop, right, is you want to have an effect that is good but isn't drawing too much attention to itself, because you want the viewer to be drawn into the subject, which in this case is the wolf, not something I've done in Photoshop. So I'm trying to minimize anything like that as much as I can. I also want to keep the bright colors over here. Because there are some bright colors over here it's going to make the rest of my color palette work pretty well.
All right well there you have it. Ordinary to extraordinary in a few steps. Let's go through those again. Those steps were creating a new layer and doing some retouching. That was about working with our Clone Stamp tool mostly, and just getting in there close, doing some detail work. We worked on a shadow underneath, so we just brightened up that shadow just a little bit there. Then we worked on some color issues. Have more of a white wolf there which is really beautiful and then added some color to the eyes, and if I zoom out you can see the entire image.
All right well there it is, that before and after, and hey, thanks so much for joining me in this week's episode. I hope you have a fantastic day today. Get out there, be creative, have some fun. And I'll look forward to seeing you next week. Bye for now.
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