Saturday, January 1, 2011

Fix it Friday #81 - I Heart Faces

Another Fix-it-Friday, another late entry.

This week's Fix-it-Friday challenge over at iHeartFaces was this lovely couple, enjoying each other's company in a nice woodsy setting. I have to admit, I'm a little jealous of them as I'd much rather be hanging out with them instead of suffering through this New Year's Day cold, staring out the window at the windblown rain. However, since my terrible plight won't help anyone learn any Photoshop tricks, let's move on to the photo...

The original image looked a little cold to me. She looks as though she's clinging to him not in affection, but instead she's looking for a little warmth since she decided to opt for the light-weight but pretty jacket instead of the sensible and warm wool jacket that he's wearing. Let's see if we can take her chill away and perhaps impart more of a sense of passion instead of a slight chill.

Here's the "fixed" image. Now, instead of "I feel so cold. Hold me to the end," it imparts more of a "I'm sorry Steve, I should have realized that it was your last beer before I drank it. I can't afford to lose you. Please forgive me. I'll never do it again." (I figure that it has to be an apology, since she's clinging to passionately to him while he's apparently weighing his options.)

Now, to take the goose bumps out of the equation and let Steve decide if she's worth keeping, or if the beer was the last straw.

First and foremost, copy the background into a new layer by dragging the "background" layer onto the "new layer" icon in the layers panel and hide the bottom-most layer. This will protect your original image in case you really screw things up, or if you need an un-doctored copy for a new layer later on. I consider this step number one for every image that I work with. If I could make Photoshop automatically do this every time I start a new project, I would. Now that I think about it, I'm not even going to consider this "step one" since it should be required.

Keeping that in mind, the first thing I did was create a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to desaturate the image some and give it a sepia overtone. I set the Hue at 44 (for a light brown color) the Saturation at 25 and left the lightness at 0. I took the opacity of the adjustment layer down to 62% to bring some of the original colors back into the image since I wanted more of a colorization instead of a monotone.

Desaturating the image took away some of the contrast between the subjects and the background as it was the green of the foliage that separated the two in the original. To counteract that, I added a Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer and set the Brightness to -21 and the Contrast too 100. This layer was then put between the image and the Hue/Sat layer.

The background seemed to be a little too distracting with all the busy branches and leaves, so I gaussian blurred the entire image with a radius of 10 pixels. "Wait, the entire image?" you ask. Yep. "Doesn't that give you blurry people too?" Yep. Remember how we're working on a copy of the image, and how we saved the untouched original background image? Something like that would come in pretty handy right about now, wouldn't it? See where I'm going with this..?

I made another copy of the bottom-most (hidden) layer and dragged it to the top of the layer stack. Presto, un-blurred people. Now to cut them out so we can see the magic that I previously worked on the background. Knowing that I was going to reduce the image size by 80% after I was done, I wasn't too worried about the absolute precision of the cut-out since any roughness would be lost when I shrunk the image. I used the pen tool to outline the couple, switched from the "Layers" panel to the "Paths" panel by clicking the tab at the top of the panel, then right clicked "Work Path" thumbnail and chose "Make Selection." Switching back to the "Layers" panel, I clicked the "Add Layer Mask" icon at the bottom of the panel. This hid the background and left our subjects, un-blurred and untouched by the adjustment layers below them. I renamed this layer "people" by double clicking the layer name.

Unfortunately, we now have a cold couple, sticking out like sore thumbs on a nice background. To remedy this, I added another Hue/Saturation adjustment layer on top of the couple and clicking "Ok." Since I didn't want this adjustment to effect the background layers, I linked it to the "people" layer by Alt-Clicking the line between the adjustment layer and the "people" layer. Double clicking the black and white circle on the newest Hue/Sat layer will bring up the adjustment options. I set the Hue at 44 to bring the couple into the color range of the background and left Saturation at 50 and Lightness at 0.

I still wasn't happy with how distracting the background was, so I added a vignette. "Adding a vignette" sounds difficult, but in reality, it's just darkening the edges of an image. Sounds fancy, looks good and easy to do. Nice. I selected the blurred background image, clicked the "Filter" menu at the top of the screen, and went to Distort>Lens Correction. I set the Vignette amount to about -74 and the Midpoint to about +34. Wanting to pull the background just a bit farther in to the, well, background, I added a linked Hue/Saturation layer to the background image and set the Saturation to -72. Now, I know that I could have probably tweaked the other Hue/Sat layer for a while to get the same look, but I found it easier to just add this additional adjustment layer to focus on getting the background saturation just right.

Since the final use of this image was for the web, I wanted to save space and speed up the loading for my viewers. I reduced the image size to 20% and made sure that it was at 72 dpi. This is a step that I notice that a lot of bloggers don't consider when they upload their pictures. Unfortunately, this leads to extremely long load-times for their pages as they're usually pretty picture-heavy. Leaving pictures at full size and full resolution can easily lead to pictured that are 3 megabytes or larger. Multiply that times however many pictures there are per page and all the sudden it takes a blog post several minutes to load instead of just a few seconds. For example, the original image that I downloaded, at full size was over 5 megabytes which could take up to seven minutes to download over an average internet connection like you might have at your home. Resizing the image brought that down to just under 2Mb, instantly cutting that download time in half.

Reducing the image size also hid the cruddy job I did when I cut out the subjects to separate them from the background. This was pre-planned and intentional.

To save the image for posting to the web, I went to File>Save for Web and Devices and used the following compression settings: JPEG, Optimized, High and Quality 60. Looking at the side-by side comparison of the original and compressed images, the compressed image didn't show enough artifacting to degrade the image, even though it reduced the file size to 68kb and download time to about six seconds.

Now with the chill gone, focus brought back to our couple and everything shrunk down to a more manageable size, our buddy Steve has been able to make his decision. After all, even though she drank his last good beer, she was wise enough to check the weather and see that the weather would warm up enough that she didn't need a heavy wool jacket to keep comfortable. Besides, he's never found a girl that's willing to put up with his buddies and let him watch football without complaining. Who knew that a little Photoshopping could save a relationship?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Fix It Friday #71

Back again with another Fix-It-Friday from iheartfaces.

Today's subject: a guy and his truck.

First, the original:

And here's the "There, I fixed it" version:

To fake the depth of field, I used two masks to blend two blurred layers into the original image. All three layers got a yellow-orange color overlay adjustment layer set to "color burn" which added contrast while pulling out the reds to warm the image some. For a top layer, I added a photo filter adjustment layer to warm things up even more.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Fix-It-Friday (Honestly! It was still Friday when I fixed it!)

I found out about Fix-It-Friday on I Heart Faces tonight while reading a friend's FaceBook post and decided to go check it out. All in all, it's pretty simple. They provide a picture, you "fix" it, post it in your blog then link back to their site. It sounded fun and I'm always looking for a way to stay in touch with Photoshop.

Not wanting to taint any creative juices, I opted to not view anyone else's submissions until mine was complete. The few I've had a chance to look through since all seemed to trend toward the vintage, desaturated look and honestly, that was the direction I headed at first too. Apparently this photo says "make me vintage-esque." In the end however, I went the other direction and pushed the saturation, added some glow and warmed the whole thing up a touch.

Original image:

My "fixed" version:

I opted to just stick with the tools native to CS3 since they suggested including a tutorial. Photoshop has so much available right within the program, I think that a lot of people overlook what is possible without the use of third party plugins. This was just a couple copies of the original image and a couple quick blending mode and transparency changes with a free brush texture over top of it to created the vignette. In total, there are three image layers and three adjustment layers.

On the bottom of the layer stack is the untouched original image. (It's always best to keep the original and screw up... I mean "work on" copies.)

Above that is a copy of the image that I added a gaussian blur to, with a radius of 3.9 pixels (different values will be needed for different pictures). This will be the base of our glow effect. The blending mode was changed to "Overlay" and the transparency set at 70% (again, different picture, different settings. the technique is the same though).

Above the copy layer is where the glow magic really happens. I added a "Levels" layer style and linked it so that it affects only the blurred layer. On the adjustment layer, I tweaked only the right-most slider, pulling it down to 207 to bring in a bit of a glow to the highlights of the image. (To link the layers, I used a trick that I didn't learn until years into my Photoshopping forays. Make sure that the adjustment layer is directly above the layer that you want to be effected by it, then hold down ALT and click on the line in between those two layers in the layer window. Voila! The upper adjustment layer now ignores all the other layers in your project and only changes what's on the layer that it's linked to.)

Another "Levels" adjustment layer went on top of that, left unlinked so as to affect the entire image. The left-most slider (the black point) was brought up to 61, the mid-point was brought up to 0.48 and the right-most slider (the white point) was brought down to 250. This really richened the green of the grass and pushed the whites to be a bit brighter.

At this point, the image felt a little too cold. I added a "Photo Filter" adjustment layer (again, unlinked) with the Warming Filter 85 setting at a density of 82%. No more frostbite!

Finally, I added a vignette with a simple click of a paint brush. I a brush from the collection "Old Paper Brushes III" by lailomeiel over at I resized the brush to encompass the entire page, flipped it on the "Y" axis and clicked once. I set the opacity to 58% and called the whole thing done.

All in all, I'm pretty happy with my first Fix-It-Friday, even though the actual submission isn't happening until about 4am on Saturday. Maybe next week I'll have a chance to start sooner and make it all happen on Friday like it's supposed to!

Whoa, where have I been?

I just realized that it's been 14 months since I last posted. I've had little to say during that time, and less to write. I'm still unemployed and my unemployment has run out. Beth has joined me in the ranks, having been laid off two weeks ago now.

As bad as that is, we're looking for the silver lining on the grey cloud that's hanging over us. We've been talking off and on about moving out of the area, out of the state. We're now at the point that we have no obligations holding us here. Now's the time to do it, and why not? California's currently hanging at the bottom of the barrel as far as the unemployment rate is concerned and frankly, it's freaking expensive to live here in the Bay Area. If you ask me, that's just some bad math, no matter how you look at it.

Our solution? Let's look north. Way north. Portland, Oregon north. Maybe even farther, who knows? If all goes according to plan, I'll be heading to Oregon to look for employment and possibly a place to live.

Why Oregon? Ready for a random list?
It's not too far away so that Nick will still get to see his grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins on occasion.
Christmas visits with the families will still be very doable.
The cost of living is better than here.
We might actually be able to afford to buy a house some day.
Oregon has some really beautiful country.
Honestly, I'm a little tired of the Bay Area. I've been here all but a year of my life and I'd like to experience something new and different.

My biggest concern is how much Nick is going to miss going over to Grandma and Grandpa's house. Right now, he can (and does) invite himself over to spend the night at least once ever other week. We've started talking about moving, finding a new apartment, him getting a new room, meeting new friends... I've yet to bring up the fact that he'll have to leave things behind; the kids downstairs, weekly trips to Grandma's pool... That's going to be hard and frankly, I'm not looking forward to it.

Keep us in your prayers as we look for new jobs and a new place to live in a new part of the country.

We'll call it an adventure. That sounds more fun than "hauling all our junk a long ways away and trying to sort it out on the other side in hopes that something better is there waiting for us." :)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Zilch safe!

After many harrowing hours, Andrew Zilch has reported in safe and sound. Not willing to release any details, Zilch posted this on Twitter:

I'm happy to report, Rob, that I managed to live thru the night.

After several years of counseling, the terrible night may fade into a distant, even happy memory.

Unsubstantiated reports include a possible mission of mercy to rescue a tribe of Ewoks held captive by television host Stephen Colbert and a related favor being called in by Billy D. "Lando Calrissian" Williams and excessive use of a power known only as "the Force."