Monday, October 11, 2010

A Followup On The Color Infrared Technique Alluded To On Friday

It’s not unusual to use some part of one image to enhance another image.  Putting clouds into a dull white sky, switching a tarred road for a rutted dirt road or adding just about any element you can think of are all part of the game when using Photoshop.  On Friday, with the straight B&W Infrared image, I talked about shooting both B&W Infrared and color images in sequence for possibly combining them at some later point.  I received several questions asking for more details on “how” to do it and “what” it looks like.  Just as a quick experiment this morning I tried taken an Infrared image and its companion color image and did a Merge to HDR Pro (Tools/Photoshop/Merge to HDR Pro) out of Adobe Photoshop Bridge.  Let’s leave it to say it’s a totally different technique than we’ll be discussing today.  It wound up being a more pastel rendering of the scene and the Infrared effect really couldn’t be seen.  Today’s image comes from way back in the archives.  All the way back to last year.  My thought is that if you haven’t learned anything in Adobe Photoshop CS5 (or whatever version you’re currently using) in the past year, you really aren’t trying.  Every time I look at the program, or see some technique described or shown on the web, or view a class, or attend a seminar I pick up something new.  You have to be shark with Photoshop.  You just keep swimming and eating up knowledge about some new tidbit that you hadn’t looked at before.  I was at a seminar a couple weeks ago where the lecturer said: 1) he started with Photoshop in 1993 and 2) you must learn the Pen Tool (P).  What that said to me was that he started with Photoshop in 1993 and stopped learning new techniques in about 1995.  The guy makes a pretty good living using Photoshop, but could be quicker at making that money if he knew more current techniques, like the Quick Selection Tool (W) and the Refine Edge controls found in CS5.  Poke at the buttons, click on something you haven’t used yet just to see what it does.  Play, play, play.  To find out how to do something like today’s image, hit the “read more”.

If you haven’t read it yet, last Friday’s post would be a good intro into how the shots were taken. Once you’ve read that, come back and this portion will make more sense. Because this image was made before I get serious about creating masks using Channels and Alpha Masks, it was all done with hand drawn masks. A tedious and long process to be sure. The object was to leave the higher foliage as B&W Infrared and “enhance” the grass and non-foliage areas of the trees (trunks and branches) looking more natural.

The “Background Layer” is the B&W Infrared layer. It was laid down first to make masking easier. That layer was then sharpened using the High Pass Filter technique discussion in several previous posts. The color layer was then introduced. A Black Layer Mask (Rectangle with a Circle Icon) was added and the lower third of the image masked out. The Opacity was lower so as not to overpower the Infrared portion of the image. The, each tree trunk and major branch was added to the mask by painting with White to reveal the color.

Once all the branches and trunks were exposed, the “normal” saturation of each color (Red, Yellow, Green, Cyan, Blue, and Magenta) was raised just enough to produce a soft, almost pastel, image.

Am I the first to come up with this? Of course not. I ran into a guy who does beautiful work in this technique and it piqued my curiosity. A quick Google search showed that that fellow wasn’t making unique images and wasn’t the first to explore the technique. It’s not so much that you come up with a brand new, unique technique. It’s more important that you play with a new technique to get an understanding of it. Once you have the understanding you can be free to push and pull and try to see the limits of a technique.