Sunday, August 25, 2013

Beautiful Bokeh - Part 4

 Light Dance
(My camera settings were:  100 mm, 1/640 sec, f/2.8, -2/3 exposure)

In my last post I talked about how to look at your composition, the background, the quality of light,  and your camera and lens settings to capture and enhance bokeh in your images.  Today, I'm going to talk about using technology to really get your artistic juices flowing. Specifically, I'm going to talk about using layers, textures, and brushes to create interesting backgrounds.  I can't show you HOW to actually do this in a short blog post, but I hope to get you excited about adding a new dimension to your photography.

Here is the SOOTC shot.  As you can see, it has some soft bokeh, movement and interest in the background.  It is ok, but seemed a bit underexposed and lifeless.

This is a texture I added as a second layer to the original image and then blended the two layers.  The result is the top photo.  I also tried just boosting the saturation and exposure on the original which improved the image, but I like this effect better.  Maybe you are wondering where I got the above picture.  That same morning I walked by a pool of water and noticed the pretty pattern made by the reflections on the water, so I took a picture of it! Yes, you can make your own textures and add them to your photos to create interesting effects.

I am always looking for scenes that would make for interesting backgrounds or textures.  In the same garden I saw this mass of flowers and knew it would be a beautiful background.  I put my camera lens on manual focus, and purposely blurred the image by taking several different shots in various stages of focus.  I'll keep these for future use.

Just to show you how it is possible to totally change the look of a photo to match your vision, here is that same flower photo with a new background.  But what if you are too lazy to make your own backgrounds, or you can't find the type of background you want?  You can download tons of texture backgrounds for free.  Just Google, 'Free textures for Photoshop', then browse, download and have fun. 

This is another SOOTC shot.  It was taken in broad daylight and is obviously back lit.  I loved the rim light on the sunflower and the soft streaks of light on the stems and leaves, but I wanted to give it a bit more interest.

 Light My Fire

(My camera settings were: 100mm, 1/640 sec, f/2.8, -2/3 exposure)

Here is a bit of tweaking.  I brought out a little of the detail in the sunflower center, then added some bokeh.  Yes, I added all of the bokeh, one light globe at a time, with a bokeh brush.  This way you can put the size, shape, color, intensity where ever you want. You can download bokeh brushes for Photoshop for free.  Just Google, 'free bokeh brushes for Photoshop' then browse, download and have fun.

But what if you want a bokeh texture all over.  Well, you can create your own, as shown above, or you can download free bokeh textures.   Google, "Free bokeh textures for Photoshop". 

Call it what you will:  photo fakery, magic, photo art, editing, photography, artistic impression, post processing enhancement, the digital darkroom, or just plain amazing..... photography has made revolutionary changes since the invention of digital cameras, the computer and photo editing programs.  And whether you love it or hate it, we photographers have to adapt one way or the other.  IMHO, (however), photographers who do not take advantage of what technology has to offer will become increasingly dissatisfied and discouraged with their own photography.  Why you ask?  Because photographers who only shoot SOOTC images, will not produce nearly the number of 'keepers' or great quality images,  as the photographers who take advantage of current technology to enhance good images, compensate for the limitations of what our cameras cannot do, or to edit photos as part of artistic or creative interpretation.  I can't help but think that if Ansel were alive today, (a master of photography and darkroom editing), he would embrace all the creative tools available to help him produce his imagery.

So, the first step is to learn about the amazing photo editing programs available, decide which ones are right for you, then take to time to learn how to use them.  The ones I use regularly are: Lightroom; Photoshop; OnOne Perfect Photo Suite; Nik Color Efex; Photomatix.  Don't get discouraged, you don't need all these programs.  I've just added them gradually over many years.  And I might add, I've never taken a class on how to use them.  They come with tutorials, and there are dozens of online classes, (many free), and books.  I only know a small part of what these programs are capable of doing and yet, I've managed to learn what I need to know.

You must, however, choose a program that allows you to work on 'layers' such as Photoshop or Photoshop Elements, and learn and understand how to use this 'magical' feature.  After that, the sky is the limit!

I love taking photos.  And I equally love taking those photos and seeing how they can be improved.  Almost always, I tweak the exposure, and maybe add a bit of vibrancy for nature shots.  Many times, I'll crop, remove sensor spots,  remove distracting objects.  Once in a while, I'll add an interesting texture, change to sepia, B&W, or add a color tone.  Rarely but sometimes, I'll change an entire background, swap a head, or do something 'other worldly'.  The point is, one can choose to edit a little or a lot.  There is no right or wrong despite what some diehards may say.  You as the artist get to decide.

Oh, and in case you are interested,  the original photo in Part I of this tutorial had a soft, blurred, boring pink background.  I blended in a pink bokeh texture.  The backgrounds in the photos in Part 2 and 3 are all natural with bokeh created from my camera settings and composition.