When it comes to personal photographs, some of the most important images are those taken on a wedding day. That puts pros, as well as weekend wedding photographers, under a lot of pressure to get the shot.
In all the excitement of the day, pros and weekend shooters can make an in-camera mistake. What’s more, these photographers, in looking back at the event, may wish that they had applied a creative technique to a shot, changing the light being one example. That’s where digital darkroom techniques come in—saving shots and turning snapshots into more creative images.
In this article, I’ll share a few digital darkroom techniques for wedding shooters. I’ll use Photoshop CS4, but you can create most of these effects or similar effects in other digital image-editing programs. To illustrate the techniques, I’ve used images from istockphoto.com. Let’s go!
Great Black-And-White And Beyond
Black-and-white automatically adds a classic—and classy—look and is especially appropriate for wedding shots. Practically everyone is dressed in black and white, anyway! Here’s how to make great black-and-white from a color shot.
As an alternative to traditional flash units, the Litepanels Micro offers continuous lighting with adjustable brightness. The big benefit is that you can see right away the effects of the light you’re adding and adjust its intensity accordingly—perfect for event photography when you have to work fast. Estimated Street Price: $297. Contact: Bogen Imaging, www.bogenimaging.us. Open your image and go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Black & White. In the Layer panel under Adjustments, you’ll see your tone controls, along with a hand/double arrow icon. Click that icon.
Move your cursor (now the hand/double arrow icon) into your image and place it on a tone you want to change. Move your cursor from left to right to change that tone. This is an awesome control because you make your adjustments live while working on the image—not in the Adjustments panel.
Want more fun? Click the Tint box to create beautiful sepia-tone images.
Blur The Background And Direct The Focus To The Subject
Pro portrait photographers love fast-aperture lenses for their ability to achieve a shallow depth of field, producing a soft, dreamlike background. We can simulate this effect in Photoshop, too.
Go to Filter > Convert For Smart Filters, then select Blur > Gaussian Blur.
Blur the image until you’re pleased with the background blur. Don’t be concerned with the blurred main subject.
In the Layers panel, click on the Layer mask and, with black selected as the foreground color and with a soft-edged brush selected, mask out (paint out) the area over the main subject.
For a smooth transition from the sharp to the blurred part of your image, reduce the Brush Opacity as you move from the sharp to the blurred parts of the image.
Start with the Opacity set at 100% when painting over the main subject and end with the Opacity set at 10% or even 5%. Cropping the picture tight also will help to draw more attention to the main subject.
Soften Skin In An Instant
Few are born with perfect skin. Fewer still are able to avoid the effects of sun and age. Nearly everyone can use some softening for a more flattering portrait. Start this technique by creating a duplicate layer of your background (Layer > Duplicate Layer). Change the Blending mode to Overlay. Then go to Filter > Other > High Pass.
Don’t panic. Your image will look a bit wacky after you apply this filter. Also, experiment with the Radius slider. The higher the resolution, the higher you should set your radius. After you click OK, press Cmd/Ctrl+I to invert the image. This is very important. After you press Cmd+I, your image should have the desired soft touch. If it looks too soft, reduce the opacity of the layer in the Layers panel.
Next, add a Layer mask by clicking on the Add Layer Mask icon at the bottom of the Layers panel.
With black selected as your fore-ground color and using a soft-edged brush, with the Opacity of the brush set to around 25%, carefully mask out the soft areas over the eyes and mouth.
Rick Sammon has published 31 books, including his latest, Rick Sammon’s Digital Photography Secrets, Exploring the Light: Making the Very Best In-Camera Exposures and Face to Face: Rick Sammon’s Complete Guide to Photographing People. Visit www.ricksammon.com.