Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Retouching Tutorial

Today's Blog is about retouching photos in Photoshop.

First, if you're not a NAPP member, you should be. Not only do you get a subscription to Photoshop User magazine, but you also get access to the member's area on the NAPP site, an opportunity to post a small portfolio there and have other knowledgeable photographers comment on your work. And you get a discount on NAPP/Kelby-sponsored courses and products.

NAPP is the "National Association of Photoshop Professionals" and their website is at Membership information is here.

Zooming In:
If you're using Internet Explorer, did you know you can easily zoom in to the page? I find it a lot easier to read when it's a bit bigger. In the lower right corner of your screen, you'll see a little "+" sign and it probably says "100%". Click there. It goes to 125%. Click again. Now it's 150%. A third click and you're back to 100%. Try it. You'll like it!

I got the idea for how to do this retouch by watching a tutorial by Scott Kelby on the NAPP site yesterday. I didn't do everything his way: for one thing, I missed how to do some stuff and found my own way (I plan to go back and watch it again: there are some things with masks I still don't know how to do and he made it look so easy!). Also, I wanted to put my own spin on some things.
After watching the tutorial, I looked for an image to play with and found one that I had shot last week. Here it is:

Not a terribly exciting picture but the element I was looking for, to practice with, was the water. Like the image in Scott's tutorial, it's not very interesting. What I wanted to do was to put a reflection of the trees in the water, but I also wanted to retain some of the texture, rather than just having a mirror-like reflection.

I'm sort of going to take you step-by-step through the exercise. I'll give you the basics, that way you can experiment on your own and find your own way of doing things like I did.

The first thing I did was to make a selection of the water. I used the Quick Selection tool and then cleaned it up using the lasso and other tools. I used the rocks sticking out on the right as the limit of the selection. What I wanted to do was paste a reflection of the trees into the water area only. Scott said to "save selection" but I must have done it wrong because I couldn't retrieve it later so I had to go back and do something else. What I did was to proceed to the next step: I selected inverse, in other words, everything else, then pasted it into a new layer and copied that new layer to a fresh file. But before I did that, I used the Transform tool to flip the image upside down.

Now I went back in the history to where I had selected the water. I selected the other document, and used a little trick to select only the active area -- I did a "select all" then used an arrow key to nudge the selection -- it automatically changes the selection to active pixels only -- try it -- then the reverse arrow key to negate the nudge and put it back where it was. OK now Ctrl-C to copy, return to the original document, and select "paste inside" from the menu. That put the inverted picture of the trees in the water only. Now I could move it around to where I wanted it.

But that made a mirror-like reflection with sharp edges. So the first thing I did was to reduce the opacity of the new layer to about 65%, so a little of the texture of the original water showed through. Not enough for me, though, so I had a brainstorm and went into the Filter Gallery and found the "ocean ripple" filter. Bingo! I changed some of the parameters until it looked right to me then applied. the filter.

I didn't like the hard edges along the shoreline, so I created a layer mask, then I got a soft, rough brush (I like the chalk brush), changed the opacity to about 30% and started painting ON THE MASK along the edges. If you look at the mask (alt-click it) you can see that you're painting grey on it. Remember, the mask blocks when it's black and is transparent when it's white.

Starting to look good. Now I repeated the process, but with a lot less detail on the water in the distance. Here the selection was just the hillside and I actually pasted the inverted reflection right into the background layer (well on a new layer, of course). I reduced the opacity again, transformed the image by scaling it up so that it overlapped the trees in the foreground and the edge of the frame, then changed the blending mode to "darken" so it would only affect the water.

Finally, I wanted to increase the contrast of the image, and the saturation, so I duplicated the background layer, set the duplicate layer to "Multiply" and then played with the levels until I was happy.

The whole process took me about 15 minutes. It took longer to write this! And here's the result:

Blow it up to see what it really looks like. Finally, I decided to try to crop the image better, so the finished product looks like this:

It's a keeper! I wish the sky were nicer, but that's a job for another day.

So what did you think? Was it a worthwhile topic? Did I give you enough detail, or too much? Did you get some ideas by reading this? Please give me some feedback and let me know if I should continue to do this kind of tutorials. Either click "comments" below, or just send me an email!