On Sunday I received a lot of positive feedback about my ‘Sights in Flight’ photograph and I had a number of people asking me how I did it so, today, I thought I would show you how in a tutorial.
First of all you need Photoshop. I pay a monthly subscription of £8.57. This is a photographers package which includes Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom and Bridge (Bridge is great for quick edits when you shoot in RAW).
Ensure that the layers panel in Photoshop is showing on the right hand side. To do this, go to window at the top of the screen and in the dropdown menu select ‘layers’.
Open the images you would like to work on in Photoshop. You then need to copy the image you would like to use for the background and paste this into the main photo. Do this by using the shortcut keys – CTRL and a to select – a dotted line will show around the image – see image 1, CTRL and c to copy, CTRL and w to close the image down. Return to the main image and paste in the background by using CTRL and v.
Next, you will want to blend the pictures together. Make sure that the top layer is selected on the layers panel – you will know as it will be highlighted – then, click the dropdown menu which says ‘normal’ and select ‘soft light’ – see image 2. This will blend the images together.
If you find that the background image is too small or you would like to move it then you need free transform tool. Simply click CTRL and T. This will bring up a box around the layer. Pull out the corner handles to match the portrait. You can then double click inside the box to set the changes. If you want to move any of the main image then use the same process but make sure that you have clicked back onto the bottom layer image in the layers panel first to highlight it (make sure you click on the little padlock in this layer to make it active to work on too!) and ensure you are working on that image. If you do decide to work on the bottom layer, don’t forget to click back onto the top one once you’re done.
You might find that the background image is too strong and, in order to tone it down a little, select the opacity and take the arrow down from 100% to anywhere around 50-70% – where you feel happiest. See image 3.
You may then want to remove some of the background image from the main picture. For example, in my photo you can see some of the background through the body of the seagull. If you would like to zoom in to the part of the photo a bit tighter to enable you to see what you are doing, then hold down the CTRL key and hit the + key. To drag the image into place, hold down the space bar as you drag the photo across with your mouse. Then select the polygonal lasso. See image 4. Click the lasso working your way around the image – don’t forget to use the space bar if you want to move the image. Once you have clicked your way around the image and are back at the start, then a flashing dotted line – or marching ants(!) – will appear. See image 5.
In order to soften the edge of the image you have just chosen, click on the refine edge icon at the top of the screen (this should appear as you are using the lasso too). Apply feathering by selecting overlay view and then increase the feather setting to 8 pixels. The overlay will help you see how much softness you have applied to the edge of your image. See image 6. Click OK.
Next, go to the layer section at the top of your screen, choose layer mask and click hide selection. This will remove the background image from your main photo. See image 7.
You now may want to tone down some of the background image. In order to do this, select the brush tool on the left hand side. See image 8. Set the size to 500 pixels (see top left hand side of image 8). Simply tap the square brackets keys to take the brush size up or down – left to reduce, right to increase. Make sure it is the softest brush by holding shift and hitting the left square bracket key to take it as far as it will go. Make sure that black is the foreground colour and simply ‘paint’ over the areas you would like to tone down. If you have gone too far and want to bring some of the background back then click the brush over to white and paint again over the area.
To add a more ‘dreamy’ hue to the image, make sure that the top layer is highlighted and click to add another adjustment box. Click on the adjustment icon and choose curves. See image 9 – the arrow shows you where to click to get the adjustment box selection pane. When the panel shows up, select red from the colours drop down section – see image 10 – and bend the curve into a subtle S shape. This means negative ride in the shadows and positive red in the highlights.
Then, in the same box, select blue and do the opposite of an S shape. This will give a colour a bit like a cross-processed look. See image 11.
If you find the colours are a bit too strong, you can again use the opacity command. Click on it with the curves layer highlighted and drag the arrow to the left a bit to make the colouring more subtle.
Finally, when you have an image you are happy with, to make the layers combine into one photo, click layers at the top of the screen and go down to select flatten image. See image 12.
Your end result is ready to save!
If you have any questions about this tutorial, please feel free to ask them in the comments below and I will get back to you.