I get asked allot "Did you do something to these photos?" or "How do you edit your Photos?" so here is somewhat of a breakdown on what I do in Photoshop to get this look.
(Click on Photo to view large)
I like my photos to take on a sort of “Painted” or “Cartoonish” look so I edit them using what I call “Hyper Editing” A lot of folks, Purists mostly, don’t like this type of editing and some will even say it goes beyond being a photograph and becomes an illustration, I say, Whoop-dee friggin do, So What! Photography is an art form; an illustration is also an art form, what’s your point? Besides you need a good photo to start with. I took it with a camera, there for it is a photo.
But as it seems, it is starting to become more and more popular thanks to pros like Dave Hill and Jill “The Manipulator” Greenberg, They have been at this for some time, in fact, a lot of folks mistakenly call this the “Dave Hill” or “Jill Greenberg” look, they couldn't be more wrong, They are using a lot of expensive lighting and helpers, I use the resources I have at hand, I have to… I'm broke!
Shooting for Effect
It helps to have some type of Idea before you shoot... Sometimes its off the cuff but most times I know what I want and how I will go about getting it, you could say I have a plan... at least I try to, I cant tell you how many hours or gallons of liquid gold I have used, driving around looking for that perfect subject.. BORING!! So try to envision the shot before you take it, after awhile, you will be able to “See” the finished Photo in your head well before the scene is captured.
Now, onto the actual shooting, Most times, I try to shoot in RAW capture mode only, on my Canon 30D. A lot of times I will shoot in brackets of three shots for effect in HDR (one shot at -2 stops, one shot at 0 and the last shot at +2 stops), knowing full well I will be manipulating the files later in HDR Software and Photoshop to get what I envisioned before the shutter button was ever pressed. Sometimes I will “Force” an HDR by using only 1 RAW file instead of three RAW files, this way if I don’t have a tripod or monopod with me I can still “shoot for effect” sometimes I will also shoot in RAW + Large / Fine JPEG mode so I will have both a JPEG and RAW file to work with and not have to deal with camera shake or lens blur. Shooting this way is always best for People, moving subjects or windy days, But, I try to carry my tripod and monopod in my truck at all times because you’ll never know when you might need it.
Processing for Effect
Ok, now that all that’s out of the way, we can roll up our sleeves and dig into the sweet, juicy innards of Processing for Effect with digital photography. Now, how the pros go about getting their images I can’t say for sure, I do know they shoot using some serious lighting, great equipment and maybe even do some of the stuff I do, they are pretty tight lipped about this style so, who knows!
Be that as it may, this is how I do it and besides, most of my subjects aren’t human thus, I can’t use big lights.
After running the RAW files through my HDR Software to get a nicely blended and tone mapped HDR Image, I will save the file then import it into Photoshop which is where I can really dig in and have fun... I do a few things... First, I will adjust the over all contrast by running a Curves adjustment layer, after that, I will make a new hue / Saturation layer and try to even out any rough spots in the colors.. Then I flatten the layers and make a new, duplicate layer. I then go to Image>adjust>black and white.. (The new black and white conversion tool in Photoshop CS3 is amazing and gives you greater control than ever in manipulating in black and whites..) Now I have two layers, one in color and one above it in Black and white.. next on the list is to hit the black and white layer with a bit of Noise reduction, you can use what ever Noise ware program you have at this point but I like to just use the Reduce noise filter in Photoshop… I just find it easier to use, that’s all.. Now I go to my filters palette and choose “Lucis Arts” this is the meat and potatoes’ of the whole process.. I run the photo through the filter in “Wyeth” mode and adjust to taste, sometimes I will mix Wyeth with Sculpter or some of the other modes, don’t be a slave to just one, I will usually use somewhere between 50% and 100% depending on the photo.. Most times, a little is all you need. After the “Lucis” layer is applied I will use blend mode “Luminosity” to bring the color back into the shot from the original layer below the top layer and then I adjust the opacity of the top layer until I am satisfied. Easy see?
But that's not all, Now that I have my basic photo down, its time to fine tune… Lets see, there’s noise grain, slightly over exposed areas, way to black shadow areas, colors are kinda iffy, some contrast missing or maybe even too much contrast, the trees now look funny, the grass in strange looking.. There could be a whole host of things wrong with the photo at this point.. Fun time is over, time to get to work, I wont go into it in too much detail as every photo is different but, I will use anything from the blur tool, the eraser (to expose parts of the original file below) Hand painting, to selective softening, dodging and burning layers, skin tone fixes, skin smoothing, add painterly effects, color gradient layers to all of the above... It’s all in the name of the game.
Here are a few examples.
(Click on Photo to view large)