They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. The French Impressionists should be very pleased because photographers have been borrowing from them for years. At the turn of the last century, a style of painting now called Fauvism came about in France that used bold colors along with stark outlines. Quite controversial in its time, this style of painting was made famous by Henri Matisse.
To achieve a derivative of a fauve scene before there were computers, you would copy a color slide onto graphics art film. After processing, you would combine the high-contrast black-and-white image with the original color slide. A slight offset would create a fauve-like scene where the color image would have a black outline.
Today, you can create this effect more easily with software to add an artistic effect to a favorite photograph. I’ve found this process works best when you use an image that has distinctive edges.
In my example, I used a photo taken of Nauset Lighthouse, located on Nauset Beach in Eastham, Cape Cod, Mass. The original image is a pretty straightforward shot; it’s the same shot everyone takes when visiting this famous beach on Cape Cod. After reviewing the images, I wanted something more—something that would give this image additional definition and punch.
1. If you haven’t done so already, make your basic corrections and enhancements to the original image as you would normally.
2. Next, create a copy of the background layer. To do this, drag the background layer to the New Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers palette. Rename the new layer “Color.” This is going to be your working layer.
3. To enhance the edge definition to your color layer, add a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer (Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Hue/Saturation). How much Hue, Saturation and Light-ness you’ll need will depend on how defined the edges of your image are. By using an Adjustment Layer, you can make changes later if you need additional color.
4. Select the Color layer and click Filter > Blur > Smart Blur. When the dialog box appears, adjust the Radius and Threshold sliders to smooth out the inside areas while still retaining the sharp edge. Click OK. The resulting layer should be missing its original textures with a simplified, well-defined set of edges that will be enhanced.
5. Duplicate the Color layer. Name this new layer “Outline.” Make sure the Outline layer is above the Color layer. To remove the color from the image and create contrast, use the Channel Mixer. Select the Outline layer and click Image > Adjustment > Channel Mixer. When the dialog box appears, click on the Monochrome check box in the bottom left-hand corner. This will make the image appear to be black-and-white. Adjust the sliders to suit your specific image. You want a stark black-and-white image with easy separations.
6. To create the black outline, use the Find Edges filter. Click Filter > Stylize > Find Edges.
7. To combine the color image with the black-and-white image, change the Outline layer’s Blend mode. For different images, I’ve used Multiply, Darken Color, Hard and Soft Light. If the outline edges are weak or too thick, try adding a Brightness/Contrast Adjustment Layer (Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Brightness/Contrast). The final image should retain the color while using a black outline to define the edges. The results definitely aren’t your standard postcard-type image.