I recently ran across an article on how to get a nice depth-of-field effect using the localized tools (Graduated Filter, Adjustment Brush and/or Radial Filter) in Lightroom (or Adobe Camera Raw) without going into Photoshop to apply a Gaussian Blur or Field Blur. This technique is so basic, but it is easy to forget that you can do this quickly to your image without the use of Photoshop! The image above of the Scott Monument as taken from Edinburgh Castle in Scotland is a good example of how you can drive the focus of your image very easily by just using Lightroom or ACR.
I was reminded of this little trick in a short Martin Evening Peachpit article where he explained that by stacking the Sharpness and Clarity settings, you can increase or decrease your depth of field in an image. First do your regular Lightroom or ACR changes. To get the soft localized blurring as shown in the background and the foreground above, a Graduated Filter was opened using these settings – Sharpness set to -100 and Clarity to -30. By applying the Graduated Filter three times to the sky area, twice to left bottom corner of the image, and twice to right side of the image, a pretty nice blur was created leaving the center sharp. Since the spire of the monument was too blurred, the Adjustment Brush was opened up and the spire painted over with the Brush sharpness set to +100 and the Clarity to +30 using two different points to add the sharpness back to that area. Also some more localized blur was added with a new Brush mask to the background around the monument and the left foreground trees. All in all a pretty easy way to accentuate the focus point in an image. Martin does mention that after so many applications of the settings, there will be no change. Also he recommends viewing your image at 1:1 view to see the results accurately. After using the Graduated Filter on this image, it was opened in Photoshop and Topaz (see sidebar at Tidbits Blog for website link) ReStyle’s Dutch White Smog preset was selected to finish up the post-processing – thought it gave a pretty close representation to what Scotland looked like to me.
Hogwarts School at Universal Studios Orlando in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is the image shown above. It used exactly the same principal as the first image with blurring the foreground area but sharpening the school to draw focus to that area. I am finding this technique seems to work best on landscape images. I tried it on a portrait and had trouble keeping the skin looking smooth – other techniques would work better in that case. In Lightroom some basic straightening and sliders were applied. Then 6 Graduated Filters were used on the trees in the image. Next Seim Effects PW4 Sampler Tint 81A Warming preset was applied before taking the image into Photoshop. Seim offers this preset sampler free at his website – I really like the presets he has created. This may seem counter-intuitive, but Topaz Detail 3 was used to sharpen up the the image – a black mask was added and only the school was painted back, therefore leaving the trees still slightly blurred. This step could have been done in Lightroom with an Adjustment Brush set to a large amount of sharpening. A Camera Raw Radial filter was added so the eye is further drawn up to the school, which could also have been done in Lightroom. Last step was adding my SJ Thin Double Edge Frame – this is the only step that would need to be done in Photoshop. The above is an interesting castle-like old building in the countryside of Belarus – I can’t help but wonder what this structure was years ago! This building drove me crazy trying to get it to look straight – I just don’t think it is a straight building but I did my best with the Adaptive Wide Angle filter (see my blog How to Use the Adaptive Wide Angle Filter). Clouds were added using my free Cloud Brushes 1 and 11 set to 32% layer opacity. Last step involved applying Topaz ReStyle Cream and Plum preset (my favorite preset for this plug-in).
This blurring effect is a great technique to use if you do not want to go into Photoshop to finish up the image. I believe the best way to do this is by applying the Gradient Tool several times and then going back in with an Adjustment Brush set to the opposite settings to remove the effect in localized areas, also several times if needed. And don’t forget the same settings can also be used with the Radial Filter and several areas can be selected. This is a great quick trick to add to your Lightroom (ACR)-Photoshop arsenal of tools to speed up your workflow. The same principles apply when using any of the localized tool settings. Give this a try and see what you think!…..Digital Lady Syd
Since I have reached this major milestone, I decided this week I would show a few examples of what I use the most in Photoshop and what is the most fun for me when using Photoshop. In some of these cases, I will be mentioning certain products or people but that is mainly because I really like what they do – they do not know me. Also, no external plug-ins will be discussed here.
- Photoshop’s Merge to HDR 32-bit ability that can be adjusted in Lightroom 4.1 (see my blog New Lightroom and Photoshop 32-bit Processing Capability)
- Photoshop’s Puppet Warp magic (see Straightening with Puppet Warp!)
Several things were done in Photoshop to process this image of a sailboat model of the USS Constitution located at The Casements in Ormond Beach, Florida. The most important is that a 32-bit tone-mapped image was created in Photoshop’s Merge to HDR, saved as a TIFF file, and then brought into Lightroom 4.1’s Develop module using the sliders to bring out all the details. This now makes Photoshop’s HDR processing on par with several of the other HDR software programs. The TIFF image goes back into Photoshop to finish up using another one of my favorite tools – Puppet Warp – to straighten out the extreme warping in the original image (it was actually applied twice). It was a difficult image to work on since it has a square glass encasement and the horizontal louvered blinds in the background. Just using the arrow keys is sometimes enough to push and pull the image pins the correct amount and Puppet Warp works much better than Lens Correction or the new Adaptive Wide Angle filters for me. Puppet Warp can be used in a Smart Object for readjusting later if needed.
- Russell Brown’s Paper Texture Panel for Photoshop CS5 and CS6 (see Russell Brown’s Paper Texture Panel Updated!)
I am slowly really getting into textures – they just do so much for a boring image. The texture above was created using one of the best panels you can apply to Photoshop and that is Dr. Brown’s (may be the top Photoshop guru of all time and works for Adobe) Paper Texture Panel – biggest time saver for anyone that likes to experiment with textures! This is one feature I use all the time and can’t believe I used to go through my textures individually to try them out. To really enhance this process, create a folder on your desktop that contains several sub-folders to place copies of your favorite textures. He recommends keeping these folders to around 20 textures as it takes a while to load if it is much bigger. I have sub-folder on textures I created, my favorite textures I use all the time, and a few on textures I have downloaded or bought. You can switch folders very quickly in the panel. This image used Paul Grand’s Scratches Texture and Gavin Hoey’s beautiful grunge frame 1. I am also putting a plug in here for my favorite texture guy, ShadowHouse Creations, who offers all kinds of beautiful textures for free, and I use them all the time. I reference his textures in many of my older blogs.
- Photoshop Brushes including the wonderful Mixer Brushes! (see Adobe Photoshop CS5′s Mixer Brushes)
Those wonderful brushes in Photoshop! My very first blog featured the above image where I actually used a Photoshop Mixer Brush to paint in the petals of the flowers. This is still one of my favorite painted images – the Oleander flowers in the original were not near as pretty. The background was a Karen Sperling texture called 08Sperling (I believe this now has to be purchased – not sure how I got it) that added was a very delicate complement to the image. She is actually a Corel Painter Master and does some wonderful things in that program.
- The Curves Adjustment Layer (see I Didn’t Know That! Curves Adjustment Layers)
Totally indispensable! The last step I always do before I save an image. A few months ago I viewed a short video tutorial at Kelby Training called Mastering Curves: Adjusting Tonality by Ben Wilmore, another great Photoshop guru, who teaches how to use Curves correctly. (I have found the Kelby Training tutorials to be the best you can find on every aspect of photography and photoshop.) The basic thing to know about Curves is that by selecting the hand tool in the top left of the adjustment panel and dragging straight up in the image it lightens it up, and down darkens it. If you get two dots close and rather flat on a Curve line, you will lose detail. A black layer mask can be created to target just the areas you want changed. It is a pretty simple technique but can improve an image quickly. Also you can save Curve settings if you want to apply them again. The image above of the beautiful birds in the Spring at the Rookery used several Curves Adjustment Layers to match the tones for the composite.
- Layer Styles to create simple framing effect (see Digital Lady Syd’s Free Layer Style Frames).
I have been using this Double Edge Frame layer style a lot on my images – gives a nice clean look with colors that can be sampled from the image. Also plain black borders can easily be created. To download this layer style for free or directions on how to create it, see my blog referenced above. There are many other uses for layer styles that I love, but I use the frames the most. Also a couple textures were added here with Dr. Brown’s Paper Texture Panel.
- Smart Objects (see Black and White Photo or Not? Give It a Try on That Difficult Image)
I love the way you can go back in and fix your settings if you do not like the way they look. Most of the plug-ins I use have Smart Object capability and this is why I use them. I can’t tell you how many times I have gone back into Nik’s Viveza 2 and adjusted my control points! Just another great Photoshop feature. The image above of the Hilton Time Share swimming pool on the Big Island in Hawaii used Smart Objects for both the Nik HDR Efex Pro using Granny’s Attic preset and Viveza 2. Also two Curves Adjustment Layers were used.
I could go on and on about all my favorite features I love. The above are some of the ones I use the most. I thought about writing on the new Defringe section in Lightroom 4.1 and Adobe Camera Raw that works wonders on this problem – better than any of the noiseware software available for controlling the ugly fringe problem. The new sliders in both are much improved and both now do a great job on reducing noise too. Also the Graduated Filter is much improved. Back in Photoshop I love being able to use LAB mode to sharpen some of my images selectively. Content-Aware tools cannot be beat but I still use the plain old Clone Tool the most. And the improved Sharpen Tool is fabulous for those little areas that need a detail boost. I even love the Color Replacement Tool that hardly no one uses! And all the blend modes just add so much to an image. Needless to say, there is a lot to like about Photoshop and so many ways to do things. I guess the real fun is learning new ways to use it and that is why I blog! Hope you have enjoyed some of what I have learned these past couple years!…..Digital Lady Syd