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… :)
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.
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. :)
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….
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!
See the difference??
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:
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:
(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:
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%.
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.
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).
Go ahead and download my favorite homemade bokeh filter, and play around with your own flower photographs. Remember: Photoshop can be very addictive!
Joe was digging through some of our older folders of digital photography, looking for pretty pictures of flowers and trees… and he opened one folder from April 2008, containing pictures I’d taken at the City Park on a very dreary day. All of the images were dull and deeply shadowed, because I didn’t realize that by adjusting the aperture, I could allow more light into the camera. Some of them even used flash ~ on an outdoor nature photo! Eeek gads!
Standing over his shoulder, watching as he clicked through each failed shot, I defended the pitiful images by hinting that Photoshop might cheer them up.
“There might be diamonds in the rough”, I whined.
“Wait!!” I squealed. “Go back!”
I knew this photograph had potential… and told him to give me 20 minutes with it. As he waited and watched, perched my drafting chair, I sat down at the computer and opened Photoshop.
I wanted to use a soft gradient filter to bring out the colors (perhaps a gold, pink, and purple) … and I also decided to produce a bokeh effect in the background for added warmth and light.
Beginning with Levels to brighten the photo:
Next, I made a copy layer of the photo. On the background (bottom) image, I increased the redness of the mid-tones. On the duplicate layer, I increased the blueness of the shadows.
For the bokeh texture, I raided my “stock” folder where I keep various photographic textures I’ve scanned, photographed, or found online. In this case, I’d created some bokeh textures last summer by photographing leafy tree branches out of focus.
If you shoot fuzzy trees intentionally, you’ll get this:
I added my bokeh texture layer over the reddish background image, and set the blending mode to Screen, with 69% Opacity.
Lastly, I moved the blue-tinted copy of my flower image to the very top of the layered heap. I set the blending mode to Overlay, with a 39% Opacity, making the shadows and edges more pronounced.
This is the point where I turned to Joe and said, “See?! It looks much better now… right?”
And he conceded that it did look very nice. Because he is a well-trained husband who knows not to disagree with me. ;)
But I decided it still needed a little something more, especially as the Velvet fine art paper gave it the appearance of a watercolor painting on paper.
To do this, add a white layer over the image, and “erase” it with a wet or dry media style brush to expose the photo underneath…. I used Heavy Scattered Flow, in the eraser mode.
Ultimately, I erased most of the image, just leaving a thin ragged border that looks sort-of like paint daubs on watercolor paper.
And now it’s finished! :)
This exercise has inspired me to take a second look at some of my discarded photographs, to see whether any of them can be transformed in the same manner. I might wind up with an entire series. ;)
Try this yourself! I’d love to see how you rescued a lifeless print by uncovering its hidden beauty. ♥