bikeracer 11:06pm, 6 November 2006
After reviewing the photos from a headshot shoot I did for a friend, I took a stab at playing with some of them. My photoshop skills aren't refined enough to aim for "improving reality" so I never really tried. Here's the unreality I came up with:

Mindreader Spellbinding / Spellbound Mermaid

Basic shot and camera setup:
* shot outside in nice, overcast light

* simple, unobtrusive background

* reflector for fill light and catchlights (I used a 20" x 30" foam board. It also came in handy for white balance)

* wide aperture, on a normal lens (these shots are all f/4 on a 50mm)
Photoshop steps: (I am by no means a PS guru, this is just the way I've worked on these photos - Feel free to suggest improvements and/or shortcuts.)
* Start with a very high key conversion from RAW, pushing highlights to just below clipping, and allow shadows to block pretty far.

* Duplicate the background and apply a healthy gaussian blur - no particular radius, but the image should look pretty blurred.

* Change the blending of that new layer to multiply and reduce opacity to 50-75%.

* Add a reveal all mask to the blurred layer and carefully paint out the eyes. This allows more of the underlying original layer to show through, lightening and sharpening the eyes in one step. Merge visible layers to create a new working layer.

* Apply USM for local contrast at about 10-20% but over a wide radius (25 - 75 is a good starting point)

* Curves to play with contrast, punching mids mostly.

* Resize, sharpen to taste, done. =]
First result:

I especially like what the reflecting card did for this one; both filling her face with even light, and creating interesting catchlights in her eyes.

For the second shot:
* I did everything pretty much the same as shot 1, but all in smaller proportions.

* not such a high-key conversion
* smaller radius on the blur
* less opacity on the new layer
* less painting of the layer mask for the eyes

* but, I picked a good face color with the eyedropper and painted out some highlights and shadows with the paintbrush at about 10% opacity.
Second result:
Spellbinding / Spellbound

So, while still obviously PSed, I'd like to think this shot looks a bit more realistic in its dreaminess.

Finally, in the last shot:
* all the steps in the first two

* but, I didn't like the brightness or color of the background, so select the entire photo with the rectangular marquee tool with the feather set to something like 100-200 px and then invert that selection.

* create a curve layer and a color balance layer and use that selection to create layer masks on both layers.

* adjust to taste - the selection keeps the curves or color play away from her face, but allows for some pretty dramatic vignetting.
Final result:

I hope you enjoyed this how-to. Feel free to add to it.
emmanuelmota 9 years ago
Awesome work man thanks for the tips
mykl mabalay 9 years ago
thanks for sharing this!
acmebuggywhips 9 years ago
Nice job ..... the eyes are dazzling!
H@shim A ™ 9 years ago
good stuff... and yes, the eyes really do stand out.
lolay 9 years ago
whew! I'm a beginner using PS, i'll try exploring this technique...
thanks a lot for sharing...your work inspires me....
Escapista 9 years ago
thanks for the nice job!
@kevinv033 PRO 9 years ago
great work! thanks for taking the time to share :)
Capture Queen ™ 9 years ago
what is USM
Steve.Korn 9 years ago
USM= UnSharp Mask.

Click Filters/Sharpen/Unsharp Mask
ashwinmudigonda 9 years ago
This happens to work very well under well-lit conditions. Under intentionally dark conditions, you might want to consider not using the Multiply step. At least, it doesn't work for me. Thanks for the tutorial. It lays a nice foundation
Finoseco [deleted] 9 years ago
Great tips, thank you ! Could anyone however explain "add a reveal all mask" ? Thanks !
Prozac74 PRO 9 years ago
Thanks for posting the technique. I like the idea of multiplying with a blurred image. Nice multifunctional move. I usually fail in blending over from sharp areas(eyes) to blurried areas skin. It always looks odd. But you made this transformation perfect.
blazink 9 years ago
I love the green background played against her red hair. Beautiful!
Frank Salle 9 years ago
Nice work... Change the blending mode from multiply to overlay and
you might see a slight diff.
bikeracer 9 years ago
Thanks guys, glad you liked it!

@ finoseco - layer masks allow you to hide and reveal different areas of a layer without making any changes to the layer itself. a reveal all layer mask means you start with the mask allowing all of the layer it's controlling to show through.
Extra Medium PRO 9 years ago
I'm with Finoseco. I found the Reveal All Mask, and applied it, but what icon/wand/brush do I use to 'reveal' the eyes, and how do I know when that's done?
bikeracer 9 years ago
I like to use the brush tool, painting black, on the mask. This will "hide" the current layer, where you paint, and allow lower layers to show through. You'll know it's done because you will see the effects real time.
Extra Medium PRO 9 years ago
So after I've added the Reveal All Mask, then click the brush... do i chose a color or any other option (besides the size?). I did this, and painted and there was no black mark. I just did a couple laps around the eyes, but it didn't come across as any sharper.

thanks for the help, after I did the blend, multiply and reduced opacity I really saw the potential here. I just love really, really crisp eyes (aka seseme_elis ( Just love how eyes pop, with everything else soft.
These are great! I think the only thing I would do differently, for a more realistic look, is retain more sharpness in hair. Movement blur is one thing, but gaussian blue (or similar) makes it a bit "soft filter glam" for my taste. It's definitely dreamy :) but if you want to find a balance between the dreamy and more realistic, try masking the hair, brows, & lips back in on your blur layer(s).

Really nice work, racer!
thekeithhall PRO 9 years ago
Looks like you've been dugg.

Nice tutorial.
bikeracer 9 years ago
Thanks Sara! And, thanks for the tips, I'll try playing around with them.

I've been dugg?!

I don't think that's ever happened before. I've been away from my computers since early yesterday morning, and when I checked in with Flickr today, I noticed that these three shots had jumped by about 2000 views each - so, only a minor digg effect. =]

Thanks for the heads-up, pyrator! I wouldn't have thought to look there to explain the views jump.

Here's a link to the digg discussion - it has a few good tips in it too.
matthewblakepowers 9 years ago
yes! congrats on being "dugg." as a member of both, its awesome! plus, i learned some tips on how to produce some stunning images for my advanced photography portrait semester project... thank you!
akimera Posted 9 years ago. Edited by akimera (member) 9 years ago
One of my friend asked me to correct her portrait and after I read your technique I used it on her pic. Actually I use PSP and I used quite the same steps you described.

This is the original potrai. As you can see it was quite blured and colors were quite washed out. As well I corrected a bit her nose (she doesn't like her):

Michela, Original Potrait

and this is the result I got after applying your technique:

Michela, Dreamy Potrait technique
Extra Medium PRO 9 years ago
I tried this myself, and even though I don't have an original here to compare it to, i think overall I like the feel of it, but it might be a bit too sofe.

Evening Glow

I know these sort of shots aren't suppose to look 100% realistic, and I think it's best geared towards bridal portraits where that soft look is desired. At least it's a good look for that.

Anyway, thanks for the help and inspiration on this.
Darny 9 years ago
using a very similar treatment, but also removed the blur from the lips, clothes, and hair (which i feel is KEY):

Emily in Central Park
passant 9 years ago
Great job, and thanks for the tutorial!

Here's what I came up with using your steps, though next time, I should probably try using smaller proportions like your second example.



too photoshopped?

John Edward 9 years ago
very cool enjoyed doing this!
This was my result:

Though I think I like these results better in B&W

I also used a 2 second exposure after the flash fired.
adedip 9 years ago
I mean...we should also say that this girl is beautiful by herself :D it's easy to achieve a good result! : )
freakdog 9 years ago
The technique here sounds very much like the 'orton technique' which is traditionally used with slide film - taking a blurred overexposed slide and layering a sharp overexposed slide to create a perfectly exposed 'orton' image.
I've used this effect on non-portrait photography to good effect too..
Those first few rays

Read more about orton here:
Fantastic thread. I will definitely try this asap :)
Prozac74 PRO 9 years ago
This is so nice...
Third Eye in Color
WelshMcSpicy 9 years ago
@freakdog - trying to achieve this effect in PS, how do you proceed?

I'm guessing that you duplicate the in-focus layer, apply a Gaussian blur to the new layer, and then set a blend option...any particular one?

Adam Holte Posted 9 years ago. Edited by Adam Holte (member) 9 years ago
There is a whole group dedicated to this technique.

Background and instructions on how to achieve it are here:

That site uses it for landscapes. It's really easy. I created an action should I ever want to do it.
~Jennifer 9 years ago
Last post was two months ago but thought I'd try anyway.....I got all the other steps but am not sure what "pushing highlights to just below clipping, and allow shadows to block pretty far" means.

And my subject had brown eyes and when I used the paint brush with black as suggested, the eyes showed through the layer as blue! Maybe that has something to do with the highlights and shadows part I don't understand.

When I downloaded the Quick Orton Photoshop preset Action, it uses the eraser and not the paint brush to pop the eyes but it also doesn't change the blurred layer to Multiply. Too me, the Orton effect looks quite different.

Any ideas on the paint brush colour?
RastaRicanStudio 9 years ago
"but, I picked a good face color with the eyedropper and painted out some highlights and shadows with the paintbrush at about 10% opacity."
If you use raw you can do two different one almost blown out aka clipped and the other with shadows almost can merge both or do in one swoop in raw ob the bridge. You can sample with the eyedropper that reside in the tool palette above the magnify tool and take a color off the screen, lower the opacity of the brush to about 10%. If you have an example I might be able give a better explanation. I haven't seen bikracer in these parts for a while, ma'am.
pcavuoto 9 years ago
Wow! Great job. The final result looks really good! Thanks for the tips.
photomatico3000 Posted 9 years ago. Edited by photomatico3000 (member) 9 years ago
This is one of ours:
Saxo original
And this is some Orton and solarization:
Saxo Dye
We were aiming for a good picture, but we gave up and just did a crazy one. The Orton is done in PSP multiplying the gaussian blurred layer and protecting the saxo with a mask.
cmcluff PRO 9 years ago
This is a great technique. These would make a great action set!
Ash Little Posted 9 years ago. Edited by Ash Little (member) 9 years ago
Somewhere in Maine<

This is my eyes to work with though....
dmedri 9 years ago
anyone tried these effects with GIMP?
Arkku PRO Posted 9 years ago. Edited by Arkku (member) 9 years ago
Works just as well with the Gimp. Most of the multi-layer type effects can even be done quite nicely on the command line with ImageMagick (that's what I'm doing currently, since I abhor the Gimp user interface and don't have Photoshop).
Alan Neal Posted 9 years ago. Edited by Alan Neal (member) 9 years ago
I really love this technique! I have traditionally used overlay to diffuse which darkens darks and lightens lights (much like a hybrid between multiply and screen) but multiply really adds some great effect when bringing in a photo on the bright side! Great suggestions - here is my variation on a photo

Beautiful Smile

I underexposed more of the surroundings because in the original shot, the background was about a half stop darker than the subject.
_chrisflickr Posted 8 years ago. Edited by _chrisflickr (member) 8 years ago
awesome! thanks for sharing! i got motivated from this and applied some of your techniques to this photo. i used the darken blending mode in mine though.. thanks again!

liciniphotography 8 years ago
Very nice. I am anxious to give this a try.
Ganesh.D 8 years ago
THANKS A LOT ALL OF YOU GUYS. I will surly try this out.
PicMax PRO 8 years ago
Here is how to create the Orton Effect using Nikon Capture NX.

Dyvo 7 years ago
Do you have the originals so we can see a comparison, Bikeracer??
mmusicante PRO 7 years ago
my contribution: This is the original, from RAW to JPG, using RawTherapy;


Now, using an HDR filter for the Gimp, and some levels and retouching with picasa:


bikeracer 7 years ago
wow. this thread is still alive? cool! i kinda checked out a while back, and haven't been keeping up to date with all things Flickr.

i'll look for the originals and post them later.
KentuckyRanger PRO 7 years ago
Excellent article!
So simple yet so powerful, and I thought I'd explored Layering.
I can see in some of the examples in comments and can see that it's so simple but can be easily overdone.
I'll have to try this out and see what I can come up with.
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