Thursday, June 19, 2008

Off Topic: Photoshop Filters

Just a fun post today.

I use Adobe Photoshop less and less these days as I become more reliant on using Abode Lightroom to handle my RAW files and work flow. Of course I am also trying to get a better picture in camera rather than hoping that I will be able to enhance it later in Photoshop - which I used to do a lot!

However, I recently took some photos of staff from our local church and decided I would use Photoshop to enhance the portraits as well as creating a fun group photo.

This is the original group photo I took:
The next photo is a simple Gaussian blur with the faces of each person masked off. The layer was then changed to overlay and given about a 50% opacity. I also added in a saturation adjustment layer with +10 saturation.
The next photo was a fun photo. I have never had a reason or seen a need to use the Stained Glass filter in Photoshop, but I thought that it would be appropriate to use for a group picture of people who worked for the Church. I had to play around with the settings a lot to get the balance between the size of the glass and the thickness of the black lines. I also used a saturation adjustment layer to enhance the stain glass colours by adjusting the saturation to +100!

The image by itself may not be spectacular but I feel that, shown with the original photo and in the context of the nature of the photo, the filter worked well in this instance.

For the portrait shots I also decided to give the typical soft look using the Gaussian blur filter. The first photo below shows the original shot, which is very clear and crisp, as I was using my Canon 70-200mm F/4 L USM IS lens (which is totally awesome!). This crispness and clarity is normally exactly what I am looking for, but for portraits it reveals every and any blemish in the skin.

This original portrait of Herminia is very nice and reveals a beautiful face and smile with gorgeous eyes. However when I zoomed to 100% I discovered on each of the portraits I had taken the skin was just too crisp and needed a bit of assistance in smoothing it out (which is why models in shoots where make-up).
To enhance the photo I basically focussed on working with the skin. I started by duplicating the layer and applying a typical Gaussian blur filter using a radius of 9 (due to the large size of the image) and then gave it a 45% opacity. I then added a mask layer to this and masked the eyes and mouth to keep them crisp.

Once I had completed the masking I added in a saturation adjustment layer set to +10, and then a levels adjustment layer to make it slightly brighter.

In the end this little project has rekindled my relationship with Photoshop, which had kind of died down since I purchased Lightroom. Recently I have focused on trying to improve my photography by getting the best picture possible out of the camera, and have been enjoying the results of my effort. I realize now though that Photoshop, when used appropriately, is still a very useful tool which can help change a good image into an even better one.

NOTE: 99.99% of the time Photoshop will not be able to help change a bad photo into a better one. User be warned :-)

Please feel free to leave comments or questions below or email them to me.

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