QuickTip Tutorial – Photoshop: Light post-production techniques.

We’ll have a look on how to use Black&White adjustment layer to rework light on stock image plus some general tips on postproduction.

For this example we’ll use three images – thou this more about the technique then the images used I will try to follow standard tutorial fashion so that any one who wants to execute all the steps still can.

Step 1.

Using the PenTool (P) I’ve separated the crown (iStock_000010603416), wedding rings (iStock_000011198576) from the background.

Step 2.

For the background I’ve used clean silk image (iStock_000014776280), but for the final shot I wanted to get some perspective – as the crown is shot on the side view I wanted to match the silk base. Using a PenTool I followed natural flow of the fabric and used both top and bottom selection to create lower angel shot. Set the background layer to warm grey (#c5c5c8).

Step 3.

Place the crown in centre of the composition and add one more layer of silk to create an illusion of perspective, to add more glamour look to the shot I’ve added light grey gradient just above the background layer from #f9f9f8 to #cdcdd0. This will add ambient light and give an impression that the silk and crown where shot in a studio environment.

Crown Lights

Step 4.

Right – it’s time to work on the crown light. Create new adjustment layer Hue/Saturation and set the Saturation to -64 and Lightness: +5, now paint a mask so that the desaturated part is more on the sides of the crown. (black part of the mask – where white part of the mask will keep the colours intact). Set this layer to be a clipping mask of the crown.

Step 5.

Add new Black&White adjustment layer to the mix – this will me our little magic maker – set this layer to Screen blending mode and in the Adjustment palette set it to “Lighter”. Set this layer to be a clipping mask of the crown, make sure that the mask is filled with black colour and using soft brush start painting in “lights” – try to use the silk and soft background colour as the guideline of where in the room the lights are placed. Remember that different elements will reflect and react on the on the light differently – try to paint the pearls on the crown with more central rounded light.

Step 6.

We need to retrieve some of that yellowish from the crown and we’ll do that by adding Adjustment Layer – Color Balance and setting the value: Shadow: -5/-3/+22, Midtones: -12/-15/-40 and Highlights: -1/-3/-10. Set the layer to be a clipping mask of the crown as the previous two layers – this will make sure that the color adjustment affects only the crown.

Colour correction applied.

Step 7.

Using Multiply layer and medium soft brush (hardness set to 50%) I’ve painted few shadows at the base of the crown – don’t go too dark on these, try to use natural shades from the fabric.

Step 8.

Let’s work on the base light as the whole image is way too bright. Create Curves Adjustment Layer and set the value to: Output: 72; Input: 103 and mask affecting only the bottom section of the image.

Step 9.

Add another Color balance layer – Shadows: -3/-13/+5, Midtones: +3/-2/-16 and Highlights: +1/0/-3. Let’s us darken the whole image a bit more and add more contrast – Add Curves Adjustment Layer and set the value to: Point1 – Output: 51; Input: 66 for Point2 – Output: 134; Input: 160.

Step 10.

Using the same techniques (Step5) applied to the crown I’ve added the rings, making sure that the shadows follow natural curvature of the fabric.

Step 11.

Almost there – let’s work on the global flow of the light a bit. Add new layer – set the Blending to Overlay and use the natural grey as fill – using Dodge/Burn tool add some highlights and shadows to the fabric and crown. Use a soft medium size brush and take your time – try to bring the lights closer to the centre of the image.

Applied overlay light.

Step 12.

Create new layer and set the Blending to Linear Dodge (Add), using soft brush pick some of the image colours (like warm browns for silk) and re-apply them again in places that are missing the extra “glow”. In my case it was the left hand side of the crown and bottom parts of the silk.

Step 13.

Tiny small touch for the end – create a new layer, set the Blending to Overlay and we’ll use it to add soft yellow reflection of the crown in the glossy part of the silk – just at the bottom of the crown. This is a subtle change will add more to the final product.

Grand finale

We’re done – a quick cut through before and after. Hope you guys find this useful – as i’m a huge fond of using B&W to re-light stock (and not only stock – but also 3D renders) images. I go more in detail about this in a tutorial for Advanced Photoshop Issue#83 (should be out next month in UK). If you like it – we can chat more about this.



Take care and have a nice long weekend :)

Adam Spizak

Adam is an illustrator and designer with almost 13 years of experience in both online and print design. His main inspiration comes from music and books. You can find more information at www.spizak.com and by following his @adamspizak.

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