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Spring Cherry Blossoms, a Quick Photoshop Tutorial

soft dreamy gold pink spring cherry blossom photography by Tara Fly

I shared some new images on Facebook, of cherry blossoms, that I photographed when my daughter and I walked through our Funkstown neighborhood taking pictures.
I edited them quickly in Photoshop before posting them online, and promised everyone I’d write a tutorial explaining my simple process.

I began with this image, which was 4672 x 3104 pixels (at 300 dpi)… For anyone interested, I used a Pentax K-7, with a manual focus 28-70 mm zoom lens, set at 30 mm… f/4, ISO 100, yadda yadda… :)

pink cherry blossoms, original photograph by Tara Fly

Anyway, it’s just a typical shot of cherry blossoms taken in afternoon sunlight. You probably have hundreds of photographs just like this, as everybody takes pictures of flowers blooming; it’s like licking the cream inside Oreos… and while it’s a pretty image, I was itching to play around in Photoshop to make it special.

I started by cropping it into a square, 3100 x 3100 px, which gives me a print measuring roughly 10″x10″ at 300 dpi.
Then I adjusted the Levels to brighten the photo and increase the contrast slightly.

adjusting levels in photoshop

I created a duplicate layer – something I always do, so that I can play around with various color shades. I decreased the “blueness” of the second image using Color Variations. This gave the image a lovely greenish gold tint. :)

decreasing blue with Color Variations in Photoshop

I set the Blending Mode of the duplicate image to Screen – 100% Opacity – and merged the two together into one layer. (Sorry, I forgot to take a screenshot of that).

But here is the result….

selecting background of image using magic wand in photoshop

The background wasn’t fuzzy enough for my taste, so I used the Magic Wand tool to highlight the areas I wanted to Blur a bit more. I copied that area, Blurred using the Gaussian Blur filter, and once it was nice and blurry… merged it back together with the bottom image.

Here is the same photo, slightly Blurrier. LOL!

Photograph of pink cherry blossoms by Tara Fly

See the difference??
No?

Alrighty then. Moving along….

Next, I began experimenting with gradients on a separate layer. My usual “go to” for floral photography is a dark purple/golden yellow combination, so I tried that first using a diamond gradient:

Using purple and gold gradient in Photoshop

However, I wasn’t too impressed with the results this time around. I tried a few other pairings: pink/gold, orange/yellow, blue/gold… before testing out a forest green and yellow combination:

Forest green and yellow gradient filter in Photoshop

(I usually have the lighter hue – yellow or gold – coming from the direction of the light source)

I really liked the effect of these colors, blended at Soft Light (82% Opacity).

But my photo was still missing “something”… It seemed a bit flat and lifeless.
I do have to be careful, as I tend to overwork my images, but I couldn’t resist dusting off my favorite bokeh filter:

Gold, orange, and white bokeh effect, filter for Photoshop

A gift for you ~ Click bokeh image to download full-size, 2480x2000 px

This is a photograph I took a couple of years ago in our backyard ~ an intentionally blurry image, aimed at our tree canopy. The dark orange parts were originally the tree’s branches, the golden parts were its leaves, and the white area was the sky peeking through. When I unfocused my lens and blurred the image, the reflections of sunlight created thousands of these “bokeh lights”.
The colors were edited, of course, in Photoshop ~ where I added the orange/yellow gradient (my original bokeh image was green!), so that I could use this as a warm, glowing filter for bokeh effects. :)

Back to the Photoshop tutorial:

I took my bokeh design, cut-n-pasted it over my floral photo… and had to stretch it to cover the entire area, because my bokeh photo is only 2480 px (at 72 dpi) across. Then set the Blending Mode for Soft Light, 65%.

Adding bokeh filter to a flower photo in Photoshop

There was already some bokeh visible in the original photo, but I think this additional filter warms the background and makes it “sparkle”… for lack of a better word. :)

At this point, I considered it finished.

soft dreamy gold pink spring cherry blossom photography by Tara Fly

Looking through all the pictures we took (over 700 of them combined)… I had quite a few, nearly identical, close up shots of these blossoms. So I decided to create a four-part series using the same technique.

After my first image was complete, I used the same forest green/yellow gradient and bokeh filter on each additional photo, and spent only 10-15 minutes in Photoshop per image. (A couple of them did need slight adjustments in order to match).

Series of four cherry blossom spring photos, by Tara Fly

Click to view larger...

Go ahead and download my favorite homemade bokeh filter, and play around with your own flower photographs. Remember: Photoshop can be very addictive!

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