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Achieving a realistic soft lighting effect in post processing (Photoshop)


stella89

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Hello!

I have a mystery I need help solving!

I am a photographer and have been using photoshop on and off for about 4 years! I just cannot figure out what is done to this photo that makes it look this way! I know its not too hard or anything I just cant figure it out!

IMG_5884.PNG
THIS IS NOT MY PHOTO - IT IS A EXAMPLE OF THE TYPE OF EDIT I WOULD LIKE TO DO TO MY FRESH 48 SESSIONS!

can anyone please solve this mystery for me?!?!?
 

Tom Mann

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Specifically, what aspect of the photo are u referring to? The brightness of the background? It being slightly out of focus? The low contrast of the mom? The colors? Something else?

Tom M
 

stella89

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Specifically, what aspect of the photo are u referring to? The brightness of the background? It being slightly out of focus? The low contrast of the mom? The colors? Something else?

Tom M
I am referring to the coloring of the photo and how it looks "creamy" I understand how to get the blur effect but the lighting looks so creamy.
I am not sure if "soft light" would be a good description but it looks soft to me.

The coloring and lighting is what I am trying to accomplish.

I did a selective color layer and reduced the black and that sort of helped but still have not achieved this look.
 

Tom Mann

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Hi Stella -

Thanks for the info. It clarifies what you are looking for.

I've know that some wedding and engagement photographers use PS actions that produce efx like this, but since you can search those for yourself, I tried to at least get close using nothing but native PS tools.

I started with this shot of our daughter and her cousin taken in the mid-1990's . I used a Nikon F100 loaded with one of the Fuji pro negative films, and got around to scanning the negative back in 2009. I probably used nothing more exotic than my good old Nikon 50 f1.4 stopped down to somewhere around f/2 to f/2.8. The shot was taken in an attic that was painted with white walls and had nothing but the bed in it, so light was bouncing around like crazy, making for nice soft available lighting.

1999-v750scaned-2009_04_05-AAM_and_little_Richards_son01-ps03a-01_orig_700px_wide.jpg

Since I wasn't trying to obtain the desired look in a minimum number of steps, I used a successive approximation approach (ie, separate steps to control contrast, steps to soften the image, use of PS's lens flare filter to simulate overexposure, steps to adjust the tonal balance, steps to add a bit of grain in the shadows, etc. etc.), and came up with this:

1999-v750scaned-2009_04_05-AAM_and_little_Richards_son01-ps03a-02_after_700px_wide.jpg

To be honest, I'm not wild about it ... especially, my use of PS's lens flare filter to quickly simulate overexposure in one area of the image. I should have done that step manually and simulated overexposure of the sheets in more areas than just the one area that I selected. IMHO, my overall result is not super close to the goal image you posted, but hopefully it at least moved the image in the right direction. For easy comparison, here's the goal image, also reduced to 700px wide.

GOAL-IMG_5884-tjm01-ps01a-01_698px_wide.jpg

Someone else may be able to get closer in fewer steps or point you toward one of the commercial PS actions that produce looks like you want (PROVIDING you feed their action with the right starting image).

If we wait a bit and nobody else chimes in, and you are interested in my approach, let me know and I'll write down the exact sequence of all the steps I used, but to be honest, it takes vastly longer to do that than it did to do the actual work, so if I can avoid doing so, that would be nice, LOL.

Also, simply overexposing in the camera and adding an old-fashioned optical diffusion filter in front of the lens would make your starting image much closer to the final result, and save you PS work. Unfortunately, I didn't have an overexposed image in this series to demonstrate the overexposure aspect of this approach.

HTH,

Tom M

PS - Why don't you post some of your results or try your methods on my starting image (so we are all on the same page).
 

stella89

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here is an example of what I did to come close to the effect I am trying to achieve!

IMG_0694-2.jpg

This is a shot of my daughter in our bathtub, its a very well lite room but no windows really.

Does this look like i have achieved the look?

I did this very quickly with some curves adjustments, levels adjustment and selective color adjustments!
 

Tom Mann

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They look great Stella, but I'm only looking at them on my phone, so I'll comment at more length when I get on my desktop computer.

In the interim, would you mind posting the originals, before processing, so we can see what you were starting from.

Thanks,

Tom M
 

Tom Mann

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Thank you. That's a very nice comparison, but I think that a before-after comparison of the 2nd image, the infant, would be even more telling because it's a more complicated image in terms of variety of tones, colors, etc.

Tom M
 

stella89

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Thank you. That's a very nice comparison, but I think that a before-after comparison of the 2nd image, the infant, would be even more telling because it's a more complicated image in terms of variety of tones, colors, etc.

Tom M
The second image is not mine it's just another image I found with the look I like, I am trying to find as many as I can to show as an example.
 

Tom Mann

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Unfortunately, I feel that the original photo of your daughter in the tub just doesn't provide a good test of methods that we might come up with. This is because the look of the original is already quite close to the desired goal, so, not much work needed to be done to the starting image.

This is why I asked about your second example image. I was hoping it might have been more like my example starting image, ie, sharp, contrasty, with saturated colors that are more on the cool side, etc.. Such qualities are typical of impromptu digital snaps & would provide a good test for any proposed method to reliably turn "sharp and contrasty" into "soft & creamy".

Pursuing this further might not be your cup of tea, but, to be honest, I'm quite interested in these sorts of problems (ie, giving modern clinically sharp digital photos a believable, not fake, soft organic look) and I would like to pursue it. If you have some time, I would love to see what you (or anyone else) would come up with if you applied your procedure to my example image.

Thoughts?

Tom M
 

stella89

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Unfortunately, I feel that the original photo of your daughter in the tub just doesn't provide a good test of methods that we might come up with. This is because the look of the original is already quite close to the desired goal, so, not much work needed to be done to the starting image.

This is why I asked about your second example image. I was hoping it might have been more like my example starting image, ie, sharp, contrasty, with saturated colors that are more on the cool side, etc.. Such qualities are typical of impromptu digital snaps & would provide a good test for any proposed method to reliably turn "sharp and contrasty" into "soft & creamy".

Pursuing this further might not be your cup of tea, but, to be honest, I'm quite interested in these sorts of problems (ie, giving modern clinically sharp digital photos a believable, not fake, soft organic look) and I would like to pursue it. If you have some time, I would love to see what you (or anyone else) would come up with if you applied your procedure to my example image.

Thoughts?

Tom M
I have been working a lot on it and I know it has something to do with removing the blacks from the photo, I have done around 15 more images of all different kinds to test my method. It is still not exactly how I want it but with more trials and errors I believe I will come up with a method that satisfies me. I will try my method on your example photo when I get to my computer.

Although it might not be my cup of tea right now I am a very determined person and when I set my mind on learning something I will learn it and make it happen.

I appreciate all the help and interest in this topic though it really is nice to speak with someone who is interested in the same things I am.
 

Tom Mann

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Great! I can't wait to see how your method(s) work on that image.

When I get access to my computer again (... I'm upgrading the OS to Win 10), I'll post the full Rez version of my starting image so u can work from that if u prefer.

It sounds like we are similar -- Like you, I've been playing around with this problem for years & never have been fully satisfied
with my results, either.

More later,

Tom M
 

Tom Mann

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I agree with you that one of them important tasks in achieving this look is to lift the blacks, but, in my experience, even though this is what some Interenet tutorials claim is "the answer", IMHO, doing only this is rarely enough. Usually, it just looks like a fog has descended on the scene, not that the lighting has become softer. In addition, in my experience, doing this also usually introduces unwanted and unrealistic changes in the color saturation.

Knowing that there actually is someone who is also interested in this problem, I'll probably start over and do some more work on my example image.

This should be fun!

Thanks,

Tom M
 
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stella89

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1999-v750scaned-2009_04_05-AAM_and_little_Richards_son01-ps03a-01_orig_700px_wide-1.jpgHere is an example of one of the methods I am working on right now.

I have done a selective color adjustment layer and went to red, blue, neutrals, black and yellow and put the blacks down to around -15 (but it is different on each photo depending on lighting and colors) I did a solid color adjustment layer in the color peach and made the opacity around 10% and adjusted the brightness. I didnt ad a blur to this because the DOF is already really nice.

I like the way it turned out and the more I work with this method the more I like it.
 

Tom Mann

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tjm02-ps12a_soft-02_690px_wide.jpg

This is my next attempt: I dodged (lightened) around the edges of the subjects and extending inwards a bit from the edges, then made some global tweaks using levels (to raise the level of the blacks slightly), reduced saturation in the darker areas, etc. More later. -- Tom
 

Tom Mann

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PS - I forgot that I also added a bit of fake film grain, and softened the harshness (especially, the deep blacks) with a couple of hits of anisotropic diffusion (lighten). I got so used to seeing the cold colors, I should have warmed it up like you did.

PPS - I'm still not happy with it because IMO, mine still looks "fake", not like it was done in-camera by overexposing film. More later.

T
 

stella89

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The new edit on your photo seems more like a white vignette but that white glow seems like it is part of look to the photo as well.

I looked at that older thread and the examples she shows were more of a dreamy bright look then the coloring I am thinking of, but combined with the coloring might give us the effect we have been looking for.

I have noticed that these example photos do look like the color has been changed but not too much.

I have asked a couple of people who had photos like these what they have done but I am not sure they will want to share as some people look at that as stealing or copying.
 

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