Behind The Retouching | John Ross Architecture
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Running Time: 33 minutes
Welcome, readers! In this Behind the Retouching, I was commissioned for Advanced Photoshop Magazine for issue #128 to create this Architectural image. If you’ve always wondered what goes on behind the scenes during an actual photo retouching session, you’ve come to the right place.
As with my previous feature in Advanced Photoshop Magazine #126, I worked to satisfy the requirements of the client with this image. I chose this photo for the two-page spread knowing that I would need a lot of dead space for the graphic designers to work with, and there was an opportunity to play around with lens flare and various other visual techniques. To show you exactly how I arrived at the final image, let’s get down to business.
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- Know what your end goal is. This photo was going to be used for a two-page spread, so I knew that I would have to move the building in the background. In the original image, the side of the building landed smack in the middle of the spread, right there in the gutter. A gutter is the middle of a magazine that separates one page with the other.
- Be ready to rise to the challenge. Working for a magazine, you have to satisfy the design requirements, as well as those needed for printing. For instance, I knew I had to make the image fit into the size of the spread, so I needed to extend the building and the sky to fit those measurements. It can be a bit of a challenge, so make sure you are up to the task.
- Be aware of sizing standards. Because I knew the size of the magazine, the first thing I did was go to Image – Canvas Size, and adjust the values. I work with inches in the United States, but since my client’s requirements come from Europe, I converted the measurements to millimeters. Then, I set the Anchor Point of the image to the right, in order to add extra dead space over to the left.
- Always start off with a clean image first. Because this photo was from stock photography, I had no access to its original raw file. While it’s tempting to jump right in to color corrections and additional effects, it’s important to first make sure that the image is clean and complete. In this case, adding back lost textures and details in blown out areas., and a ton of cloning.
- Take note of the elements inside the photo. As mentioned, I knew I needed to extend the building to the left in order to fit the size of the spread, so I found just enough information in the image to figure out how to clone the building and extend the image. To help with image depth, I pushed the background structure downwards so that it’s clear that there is a separation between the foreground building and the background building I just cloned. Details like this can help make your image more believable.
- When cloning complex structures, take it in small steps. To take out the car in the lower left portion of the image, I had to use some complex cloning. To accomplish this properly, just go from the left, from the right, from the top, from the bottom, piece by piece, until you work your way towards a solid and believable pattern or texture that you’re trying to mimic.
- Content Aware Scale can be useful when stretching an image. I’m not normally a fan of this tool as it won’t work on Smart Objects, but for certain cases, it can come in pretty handy. Using the Lasso tool, you can select a particular portion of the sky, then head on over to Edit – Content Aware Scale. The difference between this and Free Transform is that Free Transform simply stretches out all pixels of your image. What Content Aware does is try to retain the original shape of clear objects, while stretching out other parts of the image that are fairly irrelevant like sky, grass, sand, etc. This results in a smartly stretched, non-distorted image without warping the photo.
- Always work with Smart Objects. Because I didn’t have a raw file, I had to create one that I can start off with. Taking all the layers together, I selected them all, right-clicked the layers, and chose Convert to Smart Object. This creates a single layer that still contains all the original information so that we can go back and forth as needed. Also, you can now add Smart Filters to the combined object, as opposed to static group folders. You can learn more about Smart Objects in my other videos at The Art of Retouching.
- Camera Raw Filter works wonders. Now that we have something that mimics an actual raw file, you can select this new layer that you’ve converted to a Smart Object, and go to Filter – Camera Raw Filter. Here, you can make tonal changes and other adjustments that can help you create a good, clean “raw” image that you can start off with. You can also add Smart Filters to your Smart Object which you can come back and make changes to at any point in time.
- Masking helps you control your adjustments. Even after all the changes I made in Camera Raw, I only wanted to apply all these to the sky, and not to the building. This prompted me to create a new layer with mask around the buildings so that the tonal effects in Camera Raw are only applied to the sky. For the building itself, the mask helps me create a separate batch of adjustments in Camera Raw that I can apply to just the building itself.
- Smart Filters can make cloned objects more realistic. Coming back to the windows on the structure we cloned over at the left side of the image, you can see that the glass looks a bit too flat and obviously cloned out. The beauty of Smart Filters is that it allows me to apply a different filter to every element until I end up with a more realistic glass. In this case, I used Ripple, Facet, Clouds, and Fibers. This eventually broke the repeating pattern of the cloned area. Remember that you can play along with the different tools at your disposal until you find something that works.
- Contrast gives your image a definitive punch. For the tall back building, I added some depth to it as well as used Selective Color to add a sunset hue to certain parts of the image. This just helps the photo have some kick. Another thing I did was to create a Smart Object with just a random pattern of Filter – Render – Clouds — this is simply to allow the effects I want to apply to have something to grab onto. Then, I applied a mask over the entire thing so that only the back tower is visible. The end result is the sky effect that I wanted, applied only to the glass of the back tower just to give it a little bit more depth.
- Be wary of any inconsistencies in the image. Upon a closer look, I noticed that the railings on top of the foreground structure are cut off, almost like the sky was replaced right over top of the railings of the original image. To remedy this, I simply added them back to make everything look realistic.
- Use effects conservatively. Any effect, no matter how helpful, can be in poor taste when overused. I normally avoid Lens Flare, but in this case, it does give an extra oomph to the image. Creating a new blank layer, go to Edit – Fill and fill the layer with black. Right click on the layer and choose Convert to Smart Object. Then, change the blend mode of this layer to Screen so that it disappears. Afterwards, go to Filter – Render – Lens Flare. You can play with the options here to find what works. I would recommend a better plug-in that gives you more control over your lens flare though, and it’s called Knoll Light Factory from Red Giant Software.
- Again, be mindful of your client’s requirements. Finally, I selected all the layers and converted them all into a single Smart Object. This is for recropping for the magazine’s final print size. And, as mentioned, I also relocated and resized the background tower building so that it doesn’t land right into the gutter for the two-page spread. This way, the image is properly sized yet still has enough space for text or other icons that the editors might need to add in.
There you have it. Thank you for taking the time to watch how I work behind the scenes. As always, I’ll be more than happy to share comprehensive, easy-to-follow, and bite-sized tutorials with you at The Art of Retouching Studio. Simply click on the link to get access to a vast collection of lessons on Photoshop basics, advanced techniques, and insider tips and tricks to help you become a master photo retoucher.