Monday, February 1, 2010

Playing With Post Production Lighting Effects

If today's image looks somewhat familiar, not only do you have a good eye, but you've been reading this blog since the wee small numbers. A similar shot (same flower, different pose) was used back in May '09, more the one hundred posts ago. I was flipping through the files, looking for something to build a topic around and came across the session where the shots of this flower lay. I wondered if I could figure out how to resurrect an image that had been passed over before. The problems with today's raw shot were many. The flower was tilted toward about ten o'clock, the stem came directly out of the southeast corner, there was too much negative space above the stamen and on and on. It looked sort of bleak. I didn't want to spend a lot of time on it, so I gave myself a limit of five minutes to make it look promising and no more than a half hour to complete the transformation. As soon as I did a Select All (CRTL A) and Free Transform (CTRL T) I thought I had something. Turning the flower from the thirty degree angle to the near vertical did a couple good things, and several bad things. The good included giving the flower a much more pleasing appearance while bringing the stem out from the absolute corner to a more manageable location. Since the shot was reasonably tight, it also gave blank white triangles of non-image in each but the northeast corner. To find out what trickery I used to fill in the corners and "light" the flower, hit the "read more".

The upper left corner was no problem, just grab any totally black area with the Marquee Tool (M), set the feathering to one or two pixels, do a Copy (CTRL C) and Paste (CTRL V) [it'll automatically create a new layer] and use the Move Tool (V) to slide the "patch" over the blank space.

The bottom corners looked like they might be quite a bit more intense. Turns out they weren't. Same procedure, different feathering amounts. The southwest corner was a triangle with the length about three times its height. With the feathering on the Marquee Tool (M) set to about five percent of the resolution of the image, an area just above the apex of the triangle to slightly past the base and thicker than the blank area was selected. It was move onto its own layer (CTRL C, CTRL V) [big thing to remember is too make the selection on the Background Layer]. Presto-changeo, do a little Free Transform (CRTL T) action with a Flip Horizontal and Flip Vertical tossed in, slide the feathered selection into place matching up the light streaks and we're home free. The southeast corner was a tall, thin triangle and was handled the same way . At this point we were back to having a full, rectangular shot.

There wasn't really enough light on the stamen so it was time to do a little "post production" lighting. Adobe Photoshop just happens to have an entire array of lighting effects. The first thing to do was to merge the visible layers. There was no need to have the individual corner fixes. I never wanted to see them again anyway. I made a copy of the merged layers (CTRL J) and turned it into a Smart Object (Several ways to do it. Easiest to me is go to the Filters menu and choose Convert To Smart Object). That means we'd be using Smart Filters. (Always, always, always use Smart Filters. IMHO) Select Filter, Render, Lighting Effects and a fairly elaborate dialog box opens. You're presented with enough switches and slides to run a small aircraft. Two different lights were used to "focus" (sorry, bad pun) the viewer's attention. A larger light on the petals, with special deference paid to the stamen and a second light on the stem, highlighting the small offshoot as a counterbalance. The key is using Smart Filters. A quick double click on the filters icon brings you back to the dialog box and settings for that specific filter, allowing you to play, check how it looks, play, check how it looks , etc. Great tool to have.

Only thing left was the typical High Pass sharpening (discussed previously in earlier posts) and applying a Vignette and it was done. Came in under the deadline of half an hour's time.