Lots and lots of people have asked me how I do these, which I find extremely flattering, so I tried to write up a tutorial.
You sort of have to know your way around Photoshop a little, but not too much. I use CS1, so some Elements users and earlier versions users may not have all of the features, that doesn't mean you can't do this though. We just have to find a more "old school" way. If you'd like to try this and run into a stumbling block, let me know and I'll help work it out...
Thanks for all the good vibes on this series everyone!!!!!
1. Take a good photo. No amount of photoshop "fixes" a crap photo. It all starts with good composition.
2. Fiddle around with the image to get everything "just so". Beef up the contrast. Over the top contrast is pretty good here.
3. Add a gradient map adjustment layer (layer > new adjustment layer > gradient map). Click OK on the first box and on the second box, double click on the gradient bar to bring up the gradient editor. You can make any gradient you want here. Play around. My gradient has 100% black to the far left and 0% white on the far right. About 1/3 of the way in from the left I but in a nice warm brown color stop along the bottom. This gives me a real nice sepia effect. This is a good place to stop if you just want sepia, but what fun is that?
4. In the layers palate, select the layer mask on the gradient map layer.
5. In the toolbar, select the brush tool. Make sure the brush is set with soft edges. Vary the size using the bracket keys [ ] and vary the opacity using the number keys. On a 240 dpi image a radius of 500 and an opacity of 30% is a good place to start. Make sure your foreground color is set to black.
6. Now play. Be an artist. Gradually paint away parts of the image to reveal the color underneath. You can be very selective and only paint away small pieces for that selective color look or you can paint broadly for nice mute color throughout. It's up to you. Try different brush sizes. Different opacities. If you do something you don't like, switch the foreground color to white and paint back the sepia layer. Each image is different. You really just have to play and be patient.
7. Next is a "sometimes step". Add a vignette. Go to layer > new fill layer > gradient. Hit OK. In the gradient fill dialog, set a black to transparent gradient, choose radial, play with the angle and scale and check the reverse box.
8. In the layers palate, change the mode to overlay, move this layer below the gradient map layer to get the sepia effect and select the layer mask.
9. Using the same masking technique as above, paint away vignette until it feels right and isn't too heavy handed. Again, every image is different. Play around.
10. Now for the soft, dreamlike feel. This is really more to get soften some of the distracting parts. Like the high contrast in the grass and trees...
11. In the layers palate, link all of your layers together and from the drop down menu, choose new set from linked.
12. Duplicate this layer set then from the drop down menu, choose merge layer set. Now you should have a composite layer and have all of your other layers intact.
13. Make sure the composite layer is selected and choose filter > blur > gaussian blur. A radius of 20-25 on a 240dpi image works well.
14. In the layers palate, lower the opacity of the blur layer to about 40%. Ahhhhhh, nice and soft, but I still like parts of my image to be sharp to draw the eye. So I add another layer mask to show the original layers underneath.
15. With the blur layer selected, go to layer > add layer mask > reveal all or just click the add layer mask button on the layers palate. Repeat the drill we did above with black as the foreground and with a big fuzzy brush set to a low opacity. Brush away the parts you want sharp until it looks like you want...
16. Flatten, save and post to flickr!!!!
Hope this is helpful. I've never really done a tutorial before, so ya know....