Friday, March 2, 2012

Backlit Photos: How to brighten up the person using Layer Masks

girls 181girls 181 fin

I am not a huge fan of flash photography, therefore I barely ever pull out my flash. This will sometimes leave faces in my pictures a little dark and dreary when I am taking pictures with backlighting. It’s almost unavoidable. However it is some of my favorite pictures after the editing process is all finished.

To start, lets talk about tips during the shoot. If you are wanting to attempt to get backlit photos, you will want to have it so that the light, or in the case the sun, is being covered somewhat by something. Whether it be trees, the subjects, or in this picture the post and also the trees a little bit….it doesn’t really matter what its behind as long as it isnt direct light right into your lens.

The first picture above is SOOC (straight out of the camera), no editing what-so-ever. Even without editing it is a pretty picture. But when you see what a little editing can do in the second picture, you will definitely want to do the editing. The little bit of editing that this takes will make all of the difference.

If you arent familiar with layer masks, this will be such an eye opener for you. The minute I realized the benefits of layer masks, life using photoshop has never been the same. It is an amazing feature that you will want to become familiar with.

ok so lets get to it. Start off by opening your picture in photoshop.

Just as I went over in the last post, we are going to use the adjustment layer “Levels”.

layers palette adjustment

Click the adjustment layer button which is the half white-half black circle shown above. A list of choices will pop open. Choose Levels.


This levels box will pop up. You will want to drag the white arrow in to brighten the picture. This is something that will change for each picture, so you will have to use your judgement as to what settings it will end up at. Keep your eye on the face of the subject. don’t worry about what the rest of the picture looks like because we are going to mask it out.

layers levels layer mask

Your layers palette will end up looking like this. Do you see the white box that the red arrow is pointing at in the above picture?? Well that is your layer mask. Sometimes things will automatically have a layer mask already on it.  Levels is one of them that does. The white color of the layer mask means that we can see everything that we just did when we adjusted the levels. And obviously we don’t want that. We only want the adjustment of the light to show on her face.
So what you need to do is “hide” the levels adjustment by filling that white layer mask box with black. Black will hide it. Click on the layer mask. Then click on Edit at the top of the screen. And choose Fill. Choose black and click OK.

layer mask fill

This is what it should look like after you fill the layer mask with black. Your picture should look like the original photo again.

Next step is to “paint” the layer mask with white where we want the light adjustment to show through. Make sure your layer mask is selected. Choose your paint brush tool. Using a soft brush and the color white, paint any area of the picture that you want the light to show on. I painted her face, neck, shirt, and hand.

SOOC                                               Adjusted Levels                          Adjusted Levels, Masked with black, Subject Painted with White

girls 181girls 181 brightengirls 181 face

Now you could probably stop there if you wanted to, however I still thought she needed a bit more.  The colors in her face still looked a bit dull.

So what I did was click on the adjustment layer button in the layers palette (that black and white circle), and chose Hue/Saturation. I upped the Hue/Saturation by 12%.

Then because it should have a very warm tone due to the sun shining through, I added one more thing, a photo filter. Click the adjustment layer button, choose photo filter. I chose the color deep yellow at 20%.

layer masks final

My layers palette after all of that looks like this. And below is the finished product, before and after.

girls 181girls 181 fin

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