TRYING OUT SOME AARON NACE TECHNIQUES
I have become a big Aaron Nace fan ever since he appeared on Creative Live earlier this year. He is a Photoshop retoucher by trade, but he does a lot of You Tube videos through the website Phlearn. A while back I did a blog called How To Use the Apply Image Command for a Cross Processed Look that used one of his tips. This week I wanted to share some of his workflow and editing tips he uses for his images.
My image above is of a Bagpipe Player near Waverly Station in Edinburgh, Scotland – someone is always there throughout the day playing a bagpipe. Aaron’s 5-part Post Processing series (link shows all 5 videos) has some very good tips and ways of looking at your images. Originally this image was in color, but after watching Aaron’s short videos, I changed it to a black and white to better help direct focus to the subject. One of his workflow tips is to convert your image to a black and white version first – if it does not look good in black and white, it will not look good as a color image. He says that by converting it to a black and white, just a tonal representation without any color distraction is seen and a lot of the problems in the image can be located more easily. I used a Lightroom preset by for my black and white conversion using David duChemin’s Lightroom B+Yellow Filter Cool Duo preset. Cropping was also done in Lightroom as there were several distractions off to the right that were ruining the image. The background and the bright orange color in the benches were a big distraction from the bagpipe player, the focus of my image, so this was the main reason I selected a black and white version. In Photoshop the stones and person in the background were softened since they still were distracting, especially the big blob of shadow in the upper left corner. This was done by using a Curves Adjustment Layer to lighten the background and then bring back the subject by filling the layer mask with black (CTRL+I), selecting the Gradient Tool and with white as foreground color in the Color Swatch, use a white to transparent linear gradient on the layer mask to apply most of the Curve change to the background. Next a Gaussian Blur was added to the layer mask (highlight Layer Mask and go to Filter ->Blur->Gaussian Blur and a Radius of 8 was used although this size will depend on the effect you want). The subject had to be painted back in a little more on the mask. The image was sharpened using the High Pass method as discussed below. The last step was my idea and involved adding the bluish-green tint by taking the image into Topaz (see website link at my Tidbits Blog sidebar) ReStyle and using the Tiera Frost preset. I felt it showed off the plaid in the kilt nicely. Back in Photoshop the effect was dropped back to 80% layer opacity – Aaron says he usually does this as the special effects can be a bit overdone easily and I am finding this a useful tip. I was surprised how well the focus is centered on the bagpipe player. All these techniques are discussed in his videos and I would recommend your taking a look to get a feel for how easy it is to get a good workflow started. I found it refreshing to have someone discuss how to choose your image, how to find the focus of an image, and if distractions are taking away from the your subject, how to then get the focus back on the subject.
Another tip from Aaron was to walk away from you image when you think you are finished and then come back later – it helps you see distractions or effects that you may have missed or overdone. That is what happened in this case with the Cinderella Castle ornament from Disney World. I thought I was through but the next morning discovered several things I did not like. As a first step, this image was also turned to black and white which helped me decide that it would be a good choice to process as a color image. What attracted me to this shot was the beautiful bokeh that was created by the Christmas lights. In Lightroom the regular basic sliders were adjusted, then it was opened in Photoshop. Since I got the new OnOne Suite 8 (see my Tidbits Blog for website link), the image was opened in Perfect Effects 8 and several filters were applied to get a little better color in the image (Bleach Bypass, Detail Adjustment Brush over the castle, and Vigette filters were used). In Photoshop I added a light orange Solid Color Fill Adjustment Layer set to Color blend mode at 20% opacity from Aaron’s really short Make Your Images Stand Out video where he uses a Solid Color Fill Adjustment Layer to make the image pop. This evened out the colors a little bit. There were still many light distractions that had to be adjusted out. Distractions were painted and cloned out on another layer. I recognize that there is a bright green bulb at top, but since it is a Christmas Card with lettering, I decided to leave it as is since I love that color of holiday green. (Sometimes you just have to break the rules!) Aaron says that to get someone to look at your subject, you usually need to make it lighter than everything else – that is why you create a vignette. Aaron’s vignette was created to just add a little spotlight on the castle. To do this a Curves Adjustment Layer was added on top to lighten the image. Filled the layer mask with black, created an Elliptical Marquee selection over castle in image, and pressed SHIFT+BACKSPACE (or go to Edit -> Fill) and Use: White – then enter to create the spotlight effect. Finished by adding a Gaussian Blur with Radius set really high like 170 px to feather the edge of the spotlight nicely. Now it was time to sharpen the subject. A stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) was created on top of the Layer Panel and desaturated it using SHIFT+CTRL+U. Changed the blend mode to Overlay and went to Filters -> Other -> High Pass. Added a black layer mask and painted back with a 30% opacity brush the subject so only the areas I wanted were sharp were sharpened. This is a great technique that many well-known retouchers use, especially on portrait work. The text font is Bambino. So I looked at the photo in the Lightroom the next morning and this was when I tried some of my downloaded presets and found one by Jared Platt called DeSat Warm Tone. It essentially desaturated the colors and used a Split Tone and Tone Curve to create softer muted colors. I liked the look a lot so I took the image back into Photoshop and added a Camera Raw filter with some of the Lightroom preset’s settings. I did change some of the settings to get the blue and green colors I wanted. Once again Aaron says to experiment – you may be surprised at some of the results you get.
I hope I have not put everybody to sleep – I just wanted to show you how you can turn a pretty good image into a really good one using some of Aaron’s techniques. He also has some good videos on portrait retouching. A lot of what he says is probably obvious, but I like his workflow to actually look at the image, look at the tones, walk away from it, try some different effect and see what happens. It might help you find that little thing that will set your work apart from everyone else. It is also nice to see a younger person’s perspective on Photoshop editing. Anyway, I would recommend you take a look at some of his videos – he does use a slightly different approach for working on images, and I am adding them to my workflow and editing arsenal……Digital Lady Syd