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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Photo Tip: A better background - selective coloring

A few days ago I read a blog post about The Importance of Toning Your Images by my friend and photographer Mark Stagi author of the Digital Photo Buzz website. It inspired me to create an image using a black and white mask transparency and selective spot color. . . Say what? Read on, it's a handy tip that isn't nearly as confusing as it sounds :)

 A photo of an apple I took at a Panera Bread restaurant.

As you can see there wasn't enough contrast in the original image on the left. Converting to black and white looked really boring to me. But I loved the shallow depth of field with that blurred background so I wanted to find a way to make the image work.

Here I took the intensity out of the background. I like it. I think it works. It allows the vividness of the red apple to really pop against the more neutral backdrop. This way the apple doesn't have to compete with the very bright light fixture behind it.

You can see the two layers in the layers menu on the right above.

How I did this using Adobe Photoshop:
  • Opened the file in Adobe Photoshop
  • I made a copy of the image in black and white by creating a duplicate layer from the layer menu
  • Next I used the image menu and chose desaturate to turn the duplicate layer to black and white. If your editing program doesn't have a desaturation option but does allow layers, simply create a copy of your original image, convert to greyscale then drop the layer on top of the original color file and proceed.
  • I then used the erase tool to remove the black and white from over the apple. I chose a large brush for the expansive interior and a smaller soft brush for along the edge.
  • I then reduced the opacity of the black and white layer to 61% to allow muted tones of color to show through the B&W
  • I saved my original file as a PSD (Photoshop Document) file in layers and created a flattened .JPG file for the blog

Here is the same image with the black and white layer's opacity set to 100%. This traditional selective coloring version is dramatic but more harsh than I wanted so that's why I thought to decrease the opacity of the B&W layer, making it semi-transparent.

I hope you found this tip helpful. Beginning to understand both your camera and how to use an editing program to customize your pictures can definitely help you to create more artful images.

My thanks to Mark Stagi for sending me the correct terminology for the "selective coloring" technique. I knew there had to be a proper name, I just didn't know what it was.

Edited to Add: Reader Kate shared a great tutorial of her own in the comments about using a Layer Mask to erase the apple from the black and white image:

  • With the black and white layer selected in your list of layers, click the button at the bottom of the list that looks like a grey box with a white circle in it.
  • Now in your layers list, the black and white layer will have a white box next to it. When you click in that white box, the layer mask is active.
  • Select a brush and set your paint color to black and as you paint on your image, it will hide (or mask out) the sections of the layer where you're painting.
  • If you slip or change your mind, you can switch the paint color back to white and "paint" (that part of) the image back in.
This makes so much sense! With an erase tool the part you've erased is gone and even though you can "undo" your last action, it will undo everything the good and bad parts of your last action. With a layer mask you can follow through erasing the portions you wanted to get rid of then, with the white paint brush, add back in only the part where you over-erased. It's brilliant and will save me some extra time in the future on projects like this! Thanks so much for sharing this with us Kate.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome blog.. thanks for sharing such a great creativity.
    coloration photo


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