The opening image for this column was inspired by something that I try to do all the time in real life, with my photography and in the digital darkroom: have fun! The image looks as though my son and I are soaring at top speed high above beautiful blue water in a colorful biplane. It’s one of my favorites, which I created after a family trip to the Florida Keys, and it captures the speed, fun, excitement and togetherness of our experience.
STEP ONE The image was created in Adobe Photoshop Elements (but you can use the same techniques in Adobe Photoshop). I combined two shots, one of the ocean, which I took during our flight, and one of my son and I in the passenger seat before takeoff, taken with a point-and-shoot camera by the plane’s pilot. Not only did the picture of my son and I not capture the fun of the flight, but we were too dark, a result of the lighter tarmac “fooling” the camera’s meter into underexposing us. That was easy to fix.
STEP TWO I went to Enhance Lighting > Shadows/Highlights and opened up the shadow areas of the scene, namely, our faces. Shadows/Highlights is a cool control, letting you control the shadows and highlights of an image independently.
STEP FOUR Next, I needed to replace the tarmac with the water. That, too, was easy. I opened both images on my monitor and placed the picture of us over the image of the water, creating a two-layer file. Using the Magic Eraser tool on the toolbar, which erases by color, I started clicking on the tarmac.
When using the Magic Eraser tool, you need to access the Elements Options menu to control the Tolerance. I had it set to 32, which let me erase just the right amount of the tarmac without erasing any part of the plane or boats in the background (which have different colors).
Set the Tolerance too low, and not enough of the color area will be erased, causing you to click more times than necessary in an area. Set it too high, and too much of the color will be erased.
STEP SIX In looking at the image, I thought our faces were too red and still a bit too dark. I went to Enhance > Adjust Color > Adjust Color for Skin Tone. Then, to brighten up the entire scene, I used the Sunshine filter in Color Efex Pro 2.0, a Photoshop plug-in from Nik Software.
STEP SEVEN Here, you see a brighter, more colorful image. You also can see that my use of the Magic Eraser tool wasn’t perfect. I could have returned to work with that cool tool, used the standard Eraser tool to touch up the picture or used the Blur tool to blur the edges of the plane to hide the imperfections, but I had an easier solution, which I’ll share with you after the next step.
STEP EIGHT I wanted to create the effect that we were flying at an angle over the water, which helps to emphasize a sense of speed and action in an image. On land, I would have tilted the camera downward to the left or right. Here, I selected the Crop tool, moved my cursor outside of the image area and tilted the image.
STEP TEN Back to fine-tuning! This is how I hid the imperfections, which is the technique that made the image soar. First, I flattened the image. Then, I created a duplicate layer by going to Layer > Duplicate Layer. Now I had two identical images, one on top of the other. Next, with the top layer selected, I went to Filter > Blur > Radial Blur > Zoom and blurred the entire image. I used the Eraser tool on the toolbar and erased the area over our faces, which revealed the sharp area below. For the final touches, I added the drop shadow by going to Style > Effects > Drop Shadow and added the black frame line by selecting the entire image (Select > All) and going to Edit > Stroke Outline. Now it’s your turn to let your imagination take off with your images!
Rick Sammon’s recent books include Idea to Image, Rick Sammon’s Complete Guide to Digital Photography 2.0, Rick Sammon’s Travel and Nature Photography and Rick Sammon’s Digital Imaging Workshops. He has produced a DVD for Photoshop Elements users, 3-Minute Digital Makeover, and DVDs for Photoshop CS users, Awaken the Artist Within, Close Encounters with Camera Raw and Photoshop CS2 for the Outdoor and Travel Photographer. Visit www.ricksammon.com.