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This chapter is from the book

The Dance of Aesthetics

Directing the unconscious eye

  • Every act of creation has to start first with an act of destruction.
  • —Pablo Picasso

As I indicated in the previous chapter, the human eye is an amazing biological optical system. But this eye is by no means conscious. True, the eye evolved from migrated brain tissue, but it does not think. It sees what it sees and does so in a very specific, predictable manner.

But I believe that humans are in possession of another eye, the conscious one; the one that gives meaning to what we see. The unconscious eye records, while the conscious eye interprets what is recorded.

To this point, you have made decisions on how to manipulate an image so that it will speak to the conscious eye of the viewer. You have done that by causing the unconscious eye to go where you wanted it to go, so that the story would be seen the way you determined it should. You did this by using the alphabet of the photograph: contrast, saturation, and sharpness and by the recognition that the unconscious eye first recognizes light areas and then moves to dark ones, sees high contrast before low contrast areas, records areas of high sharpness before low sharpness, notices areas in focus before those that are blurred, and focuses on highly color-saturated areas before moving to less-saturated ones. Thus, you overrode the tendency of the unconscious eye to wander and sent it on a path of your own choosing.

By controlling the sequence of things that the unconscious eye sees is another facet of control by which you cause shape to become the unwitting ally of color. Previously, you created a pattern interrupted to control the unconscious eye. Now you will do that by working from dark-to-light to remove the light that does not belong and light-to-dark to add brightness where it should be. Also, you will further control the unconscious eye through use of contrast and several forms of "unsharp" sharpening.

At this point in the lesson, you realize that the image you now have was created from conscious decisions that were made at the time of capture. You did not fix this image in Photoshop; rather, you used Photoshop to re-create the vision that you had at moment of capture using fragments of the image itself. No tone mapping software was used to extend the exposure's dynamic range.

It is at this point in an image's workflow that you would probably do a color cast correction, as you have in the previous three chapters. You will not do that for this image, because here, the color cast works to your advantage. Remember, the cleanest file that exists, the one with the least amount of artifacts, is the original RAW file, and a non-destructive workflow endeavors to minimize artifacting, as well as assuring an exit strategy. The important lesson is that workflow is dynamic and image specific. You will never do the same things, and in the same order, all of the time.

Step 7: Setting Up for Things to Come

  1. If you have not already done so, close the SEATTLE_LILY_16bit.psb file. (If Photoshop asks you if you want you to save the file before closing, click OK.)
  2. Open the SEATTLE_LILY_MASTER_CNTRST_SHRP_16bit.psb file.
  3. Rename Layer 1 and call it MASTER_BASE.
  4. Save the file.
  5. Duplicate the file (Image > Duplicate) and name the new one SEATTLE_LILY_LAB_SAT_SHARPEN.
  6. Convert this file to LAB (Image > Mode > Lab color).
  7. Save the newly created LAB file and leave it open.
  8. Make SEATTLE_LILY_MASTER_16bit.psb the active file.
  9. Duplicate the MASTER_BASE layer twice.
  10. Make the MASTER_BASE copy 2 (the top-most layer in the layer stack) into a Smart Filter. Add a layer mask and duplicate this layer twice.
  11. Create a layer group and name it CONTRST/SHRPN.
  12. Inside the layer group that you just made (CONTRST/SHRPN), create a new layer group and name it CS_SHARPEN.
  13. Drag the MASTER_BASE copy and MASTER_BASE copy 2 layers into the CS_SHARPEN layer group. (MASTER_BASE copy 2 should be the top layer in the layer stack at this time.)
  14. Turn off the MASTER_BASE copy 2 layer and make the MASTER_BASE copy layer the active one.
  15. Save the file.

Part One: The Dance of Sharpness and Contrast

Step 8: Aesthetic Sharpening Using CS only

As I discussed in Chapter 3, each type of sharpening sharpens the image in a slightly different way and each has a benefit. By separating your sharpening steps into different layers and then using opacity and layer masks to blend them together, you get the benefits of the different types of sharpening without the cumulative effect of artifacting.

Sharpening Using the High Pass Filter

In this step, you will selectively enhance sharpness using High Pass sharpening. Look at the Image map (Figure 4.8.1).

Figure 4.8.1

Figure 4.8.1 High Pass Sharpening image map

  1. Rename the MASTER_BASE copy layer HIGHPASS.
  2. De-saturate the HIGHPASS layer (Command + Shift + U / Control + Shift + U).
  3. Make the HIGHPASS layer into a Smart Filter and add a layer mask.
  4. Go to Filter > Other > High Pass.
  5. If it is not already there, move the Radius slider all the way to the left, or to a radius of 0.1. You should see nothing but gray.
  6. Move the Radius slider to the right until you start to see just the edges of the image structures (in this case the veins in the lily) at 13.5 pixels for this image (Figure 4.8.2).
    Figure 4.8.2

    Figure 4.8.2 High Pass Sharpening set to a radius of 13.5 pixels

  7. Click OK and change the HIGHPASS layer blend mode to Softlight. Compare the image before High Pass (Figure 4.8.3) and after High Pass sharpening (Figure 4.8.4).
    Figure 4.8.3

    Figure 4.8.3 Before High Pass sharpening

    Figure 4.8.4

    Figure 4.8.4 After High Passs sharpening

  8. Make the layer mask active, fill it with black, select the Brush tool, and set its opacity to 100% with a width of 500 pixels. Brush in the front lily area. View the layer mask (Figure 4.8.5).
  9. Set the brush opacity to 50% and brush in the back part of the lily. Then, reduce your brush size to 70 pixels and brush in the tip of the lily. View the layer mask (Figure 4.8.6).
  10. Set the brush opacity to 50% and the width to 400 pixels, and brush in the lower stem of the lily. Bring up the Fade effect dialog box and reduce the opacity to 34%. Brush in the long stem around which the lily tip wraps. Bring up the Fade effect dialog box and reduce the opacity to 44%. Brush in the lower left corner stem. Bring up the Fade effect dialog box and reduce the opacity to 24%. View the resulting layer mask (Figure 4.8.7) and the image after the brushwork (Figure 4.8.8).
  11. Save the file.

Sharpening in LAB

  1. Make the SEATTLE_LILY_LAB_SAT_SHARPEN.psb file the active one.
  2. Duplicate the layer, destaturate the layer you just duplicated, name it LAB_SHARP_WORKING, and make it into a Smart Filter.
  3. Go to Filter > Sharpen and select Smart Sharpen.
  4. In the Smart Sharpen dialog box, select Gaussian Blur from the Remove pull-down menu, and set the amount to 500% and the radius to 0.1.
  5. Zoom in on the veins of the lily.
  6. Now, move the radius first to the desired range of sharpening (2.6 pixels for this image).
  7. Lower the amount until you remove the crispiness or hardness and the halos around the edges of the image. I chose 258%.
  8. Click OK.
  9. Do "the Move" and name this layer LAB_SHARPEN. Set the layer blend mode to Luminosity. Compare the image before (Figure 4.8.9) and after LAB sharpening (Figure 4.8.10).
  10. Turn off the LAB_SHARP_WORKING layer.
  11. Save the file.
  12. Holding down the Shift key, drag the LAB_SHARPEN layer to the CS_SHARPEN layer set folder (so that it is above the HIGHPASS layer) in the SEATTLE_LILY_MASTER_16bit.psb file. Add a layer mask and fill it with black.
  13. Select the Brush tool and set its opacity to 50% and its width to 400 pixels. Brush in the sharp area of the lily and the back part of the lily including the tip. Do not brush in the blurred areas of the lily. View the image map (Figure 4.8.11), the image after the brushwork (Figure 4.8.12), and the layer mask after the brushwork (Figure 4.8.13).
  14. Save the file.

Sharpening Using the Smart Sharpen Lens Blur Filter

  1. Turn on the MASTER_BASE copy2 and make it the active layer. Change the blend mode to Luminosity. (This layer should be the top layer in the CS_SHARPEN layer set folder.) Name this layer SMART_SHARP_LENS.
  2. Go to Filter > Sharpen and select Smart Sharpen.
  3. In the Smart Sharpen dialog box, select Lens Blur from the Remove pull-down menu and set the amount to 500% and the radius to 0.1.
  4. Move the radius to 1.7 and the amount to 258%. Click OK.
  5. Copy the layer mask from the LAB_SHARP layer.
  6. Make a master layer and name it CS_SHARP.
  7. Turn off the CS_SHARPEN layer group.
  8. Save the file.

Step 8.1: Aesthetic Sharpening Using the Nik Software Sharpener Pro 3.0 Filter

These next steps require that you have Nik Software Sharpener Pro 3.0 or that you have downloaded the free 15-day demo. For this image, you will use control points to define the sharpening. When I use control points for sharpening, I zoom in to the area of most importance and use the global sliders to get the look I want. Then, I drop the control points to either sharpen the areas I want or to define those I do not want sharpened. Below is the workflow I employed for this image.

  1. Make the MASTER_BASE copy3 layer active, duplicate this layer, and name it NIK_SHARPEN.
  2. Set the layer blend mode to Luminosity.
  3. Place this new layer above the CS_SHARPEN layer. (Set it so that it is outside of the layer set.)
  4. Go to Filter > Nik Software > Sharpener Pro 3.0. (2) : Output Sharpening.
  5. In the Output method pull-down menu, select Inkjet.
  6. For the sharpening type you selected, leave the viewing distance set to Auto and the paper dimensions to what comes up in the dialog box. You are creating a fine-art print, so select Texture & Fine Art. Set the printer resolution to 2880 x1440.
  7. Zoom in to the center part of the lily (Figure 4.9.1).
    Figure 4.9.1

    Figure 4.9.1 Zoomed in on the center of the lily in Sharpener Pro 3.0

  8. In the Creative Sharpening dialog box, start with Structure and move the slider to a little more than you think you need. I chose 44%.
  9. Next, move the Local Contrast slider to little more than you think you need. I chose 21%.
  10. Next, move the Focus to little more than you think you need. I chose 21%.
  11. Zoom out of from the center of the image (Command + 0 / Control + 0).
  12. Select the Select tool (located next to the Magnify Glass tool) in the upper left of the dialog box. Make sure that Selective Sharpening is checked on and Control Points is selected in the pull-down menu (Figure 4.9.2).
    Figure 4.9.2

    Figure 4.9.2 Selecting Control Points in the Selective Sharpening pull-down menu

  13. Click on Control Points and find the place in which you want to drop the control point. (I put this first one in the center part of the lily.) When you click, the Control Point is placed. Then, click directly on the Control point to make all of the handles visible (Figure 4.9.3).
    Figure 4.9.3

    Figure 4.9.3 Making the Control Point active

  14. Click on the S (Structure) handle and move it to 44%, then click on the LC (Local Contrast) handle and move it to 21%, and then click on the F (Focus) handle and move it to 21% (Figure 4.9.4).
    Figure 4.9.4

    Figure 4.9.4 Adjusting the sliders for the control point

  15. Click on Control Points and place the second point. (I dropped the second one in the upper right corner on the red area between the two stems.) You will see the sharpness that was applied from the first control point disappear, but the sharpness in the lily remains (Figure 4.9.5).
    Figure 4.9.5

    Figure 4.9.5 Placing the second control point

  16. Click on Control Points and place the third point in the lower right corner on the red area between the two stems (Figure 4.9.6).
    Figure 4.9.6

    Figure 4.9.6 Placing the third control point

  17. Click OK. Compare the image before (Figure 4.9.7) and after (Figure 4.9.8).
  18. Make the layer mask active and fill it with black. Select the Brush tool, and with the foreground color set to white, the brush opacity set to 50%, the brush width set to 400 pixels, brush in the center part of the lily (using the image map diagram as your guide). Leaving the brush opacity set to 50%, reduce your brush size to 250 pixels, and brush in the upper part and back of the lily. Again, leaving the brush opacity set to 50% reduce the brush width to 80 pixels, and brush over the flower tip. Increase the brush width to 400 pixels, brush in the stem of the lily, bring up the Fade effect dialog box, and move the slider to 35%. Brush in the lower stem to the right of the lily, bring up the Fade effect dialog box, and move the slider to 20%. Brush in the upper stems to the right of the lily, bring up the Fade effect dialog box, and move the slider to 20%. Brush in the long stem to the left of the lily, bring up the Fade effect dialog box, and move the slider to 10%.

    Look at how the image evolved by looking at the image map (Figure 4.9.9) the layer mask after the brushwork (Figure 4.9.10) the image before brushwork (Figures 4.9.11 and 4.9.12), the image after the brushwork (Figures 4.9.13 and 4.9.14), and the image after the brushwork is combined with the CS_SHARPEN layer (Figures 4.9.15 and 4.9.16).

    Figure 4.9.9

    Figure 4.9.9 The image map

    Figure 4.9.10

    Figure 4.9.10 The layer mask

    Figure 4.9.11

    Figures 4.9.11 And 4.9.12 Before brushwork and detail

    Figures 4.9.13

    Figures 4.9.13 And 4.9.14 After brushwork and detail

    Figures 4.9.15

    Figures 4.9.15 And 4.9.16 After brushwork and combined with CS_SHARPEN and detail

  19. Save the file.

Step 9: Selective Contrast

In this next series of steps, you will create two contrast layers: a Tonal Contrast layer and a Contrast Only layer.

Adding Tonal Contrast with the Nik Software Tonal Contrast Filter

  1. Create a new layer set (above the NIK_SHARPEN or CS_SHARP layer depending on which way you went with the aesthetic sharpening of this image) and name this new layer set CONTRAST.
  2. Turn off the Sharpen layer(s).
  3. Drag the MASTER_BASE copy 3 layer into the CONTRAST folder. Set this layer to the Luminosity blend mode and duplicate it. (This newest layer should be MASTER_BASE_copy 4.) Name this layer CONTRAST_ONLY and turn it off.
  4. Make the MASTER_BASE_copy 3 layer active (turn it on if it is not already) and rename it TONAL_CONTRAST.
  5. Select Filter > Nik Software > Color Efex Pro 3.0 Versace Edition. When the Nik Software filter dialog box comes up, select Tonal Contrast.
  6. If you have not already, select Split view.
  7. Zoom in so that you have the upper middle part of the lily in the preview screen.
  8. First, set the Mid Contrast slider (I chose +56), and then the Shadow slider (I chose +17). Set the Highlight at +29. Set both the Protect Shadows and Protect Highlights to 15% (Figure 4.10.1).
    Figure 4.10.1

    Figure 4.10.1 Setting the Protect Shadows and Highlights to 15%

  9. Click OK. Compare the image before (Figures 4.10.2) and after (Figures 4.10.3).
  10. Select the Brush tool. With the foreground color set to white, the brush opacity set to 50%, and the brush width set to 400 pixels, brush in the center part of the lily using the image map diagram as your guide. Leaving the slider set to 50%, reduce the brush size to 250 pixels, and brush in the upper part and back of the lily. Again, leaving the slider set to 50%, reduce the brush size to 175 pixels, and brush over the blurred part of the lily. Bring up the Fade effect dialog box and move the slider to 27%. View the image map (Figure 4.10.4), the resulting layer mask (Figure 4.10.5), and the image after the brushwork (Figure 4.10.6).
    Figure 4.10.4

    Figure 4.10.4 Image map

    Figure 4.10.5

    Figure 4.10.5 Layer mask

    Figure 4.10.6

    Figure 4.10.6 Image after brushwork

  11. Lower the layer opacity to 57%.

Adding Contrast Using the Nik Software Contrast only Filter

  1. Turn on and make the CONTRAST_ONLY layer active.
  2. Select Filter > Nik Software > Color Efex Pro 3.0 Versace Edition. When the Nik filter dialog box comes up, select Contrast Only. Zoom in to approximately the same area that you used for the Tonal Contrast adjustments.
  3. From the default setting of 50%, move the Brightness slider to 40%. Open up the Protect Shadows and Highlights dialog box. Set Protect Highlights to 34% and Protect Shadows to 27%. Lower the Contrast to 40%. Lastly, adjust the Saturation slider to about 50% (Figure 4.10.7).
    Figure 4.10.7

    Figure 4.10.7 Setting the Tonal Contrast sliders

  4. Click OK.
  5. Holding down the Option / Alt key, click on the layer mask of the TONAL_CONTRAST layer, and drag it to the CONTRAST_ONLY layer.
  6. Reduce the opacity to 57%.
  7. If they are not already, turn on the sharpen layer group(s) and/or layers.
  8. Make the CONTRST/SHARPN layer set active.
  9. Create a master layer and name it CONTRAST/SHARP.
  10. Turn off the CONTRST/SHARPN layer.
  11. Save the file.
  12. Go to Save As (Command + Shift + S / Control + Shift + S) and, when the dialog box comes up, rename the file SEATTLE_LILY_MASTER_COLOR_16bit. Click off the Layers radial button and save the file in the Large Document file format (.psb).

    View the image with the Contrast Only adustment only (Figure 4.10.8), the image with the Tonal Contrast and Contrast Only combined (Figure 4.10.9), and the Sharpening, Tonal Contrast, and Contrast Only combined (Figure 4.10.10).

    Figure 4.10.8

    Figure 4.10.8 Contrast Only adjustment

    Figure 4.10.9

    Figure 4.10.9 Tonal Contrast and Contrast Only

    Figure 4.10.10

    Figure 4.10.10 Sharpening, Tonal Contrast and Contrast Only

Step 10: enhancing Warmth

Using the Nik Software Skylight Filter

  1. Close the SEATTLE_LILY_MASTER_CNTRST_SHRP_16bit.psb.
  2. Open the SEATTLE_LILY_MASTER_COLOR_16bit.psb.
  3. Rename Layer 1 SHRP/CNTRST_BASE.
  4. Duplicate the SHRP/CNTRST_BASE layer and make it into a Smart Filter.
  5. Add a layer mask.
  6. Create a new layer set and name it SKYLGHT/WHT_NTRL/LABSAT.
  7. Drag the SHRP/CNTRST_BASE copy layer into the SKYLGHT/WHT_NTRL/LABSAT layer set.
  8. Rename this layer SKYLIGHT.
  9. Go to Filter >Nik Software > Color Efex Pro 3.0 Versace Edition. Select Skylight from the three plug-in options and click OK. For this image, I thought the default of 25% appeared to be the best choice.
  10. Change the layer blend mode to Color.
  11. Select the Brush tool. With the foreground color black, set the brush opacity to 50% and its width to 400 pixels, and brush in the center part of the stem and the upper part of the lily using the image map diagram as your guide. Bring up the Fade effect dialog box and move the slider to 24%. Now, rebrush the top part of the lily and just left of its yellow center. Leave the amount set to 50%, reduce the brush size to 250 pixels, and brush in the upper part and back of the lily. Bring up the Fade effect dialog box and move the slider to 27%. View the image map (Figure 4.11.1), the layer mask (Figure 4.11.2), and the image after the brushwork (Figure 4.11.3)
    Figure 4.11.1

    Figure 4.11.1 Image map

    Figure 4.11.2

    Figure 4.11.2 Layer mask

    Figure 4.11.3

    Figure 4.11.3 After brushwork

Step 11: Neutralizing Whites

In this step, you will visually neutralize the whites using a Hue and Saturation adjustment layer that will specifically target the yellows of the image. First, you will reduce the saturation, then you will add some blue with the Hue slider, and finally, you will lighten everything without removing all the color.

  1. Create a Hue and Saturation adjustment layer and rename it NTRLIZE_WHITES.
  2. Select Yellows from the Colors pull-down menu (Figure 4.12.1).
    Figure 4.12.1

    Figure 4.12.1 Selecting Yellows from the Colors pull-down

  3. Lower the Saturation to -72 (Figure 4.12.2).
    Figure 4.12.2

    Figure 4.12.2 Lower Saturation slider

  4. Lower the Hue to -6 (Figure 4.12.3).
    Figure 4.12.3

    Figure 4.12.3 Lower Hue slider

  5. Increase the Lightness to +6 (Figure 4.12.4).
    Figure 4.12.4

    Figure 4.12.4 Increasing Lightness to +6

  6. Select the Brush tool and fill the layer mask with black. With the foreground color white, set the brush opacity to 50% and the width to 400 pixels. Using the image map diagram as your guide, brush in the center part of the lily, the upper blurred part of the lily, and the upper part of the lily to the right of the stem that separates the back and front of the lily. Bring up the Fade effect dialog box and reduce the amount to 19%. Next, rebrush the top of the lily, just to the left of its yellow center. Bring up the Fade effect dialog box and reduce the amount to 19%. Just brush the center top and blurred background. Bring up the Fade effect dialog box and reduce the amount to 27%.
  7. Leaving the opacity at 50%, reduce the brush size to 250 pixels, and brush in the upper part and upper blurred back of the lily. Bring up the Fade effect dialog box and move the slider to 27%. Brush the top and back part (to the left of the main stem). Bring up the Fade effect dialog box and move the slider to 27%. View the image map (Figure 4.12.5), the resulting layer mask (Figure 4.12.6), and the image after the brushwork (Figure 4.12.7).
    Figure 4.12.5

    Figure 4.12.5 The image map

    Figure 4.12.6

    Figure 4.12.6 Layer mask

    Figure 4.12.7

    Figure 4.12.7 The image after the brushwork

  8. Do "the Move."
  9. Save the file.

Step 12: Increasing Saturation in the LAB Color Space

  1. Holding down the Shift key, click and drag the newly merged layer (Layer 1) to the SEATTLE_LILY_LAB_SAT_SHARPEN.psb file. (This file should still be open.) Make sure this layer is at the very top of the layer heap.
  2. Rename this layer TEMP_COLOR.
  3. Create a Curves adjustment layer and name it LAB_BOOST. (Make sure that you are in fine grid mode. To do this, Option / Alt click on the grid in the Curves dialog box.)
  4. Select the "a" channel from the Channel pull-down menu.
  5. Click on the top point of the Curve line and move it two grid lines left. Then, click on the bottom point on the Curve line, and move it two grid lines right (Figure 4.13.1).
    Figure 4.13.1

    Figure 4.13.1 Clipping the "a" Curve at the bottom point

  6. Select the "b" channel from the Channel pull-down menu.
  7. Click on the top point of the Curve line and move it one grid line left. Then, click on the bottom point of the Curve line and move it one grid line right (Figure 4.13.2).
    Figure 4.13.2

    Figure 4.13.2 Clipping the "b" Curve at the top point

  8. Do "the Move" and rename this layer LAB_SAT.
  9. Save the file.
  10. Holding down the Shift key, drag the LAB_SAT layer into the SKYLGHT/WHT_NTRL/LABSAT layer set.
  11. Drag the Layer 1 layer to the trash.
  12. Add a layer mask to the LAB_SAT layer and change the blend mode to Color.
  13. Fill the layer mask with black.
  14. Select the Brush tool. With the foreground color white, set the brush opacity to 50% and the width to 400 pixels. Using the image map diagram as your guide, brush in the red area in the lower, left corner between the two stems. Leave the opacity at 50% and brush in the red area at the lower right corner of the image. Bring up the Fade effect dialog box and move the slider to 69%. Brush in the red area midway to the right corner. Leave the opacity at 50% and brush the red area at the top right corner between the two stems.
  15. Brush in the lily stems in the upper, left corner. Bring up the Fade effect dialog box and move the slider to 28%. Brush in the yellow parts of the area that you just brushed, both at 50%. Brush the long stem below the front of the flower in the lower right corner. Bring up the Fade effect dialog box and move the slider to 28%. Brush the stem of the main lily (the stem that is at the base of the flower in the bottom middle). Leave the opacity at 50% and brush in the upper part of the lily next to the stem following the yellow to the base and including all of the yellow area in the base. Bring up the Fade effect dialog box and move the slider to 17%. Brush just the yellow parts of the lily's base and move the slider to 27%.
  16. Reduce your brush to 80 pixels and brush the tip of the lily. Bring up the Fade effect dialog box and move the slider to 77%. Brush in the top part of the lily and leave the opacity at 50%.
  17. Reduce the layer opacity to 57%.

    View the image map for the planned work (Figure 4.13.3), the resulting layer mask (Figure 4.13.4), and the image after the brushwork (Figure 4.13.5).

    Figure 4.13.3

    Figure 4.13.3 The image map

    Figure 4.13.4

    Figure 4.13.4 The layer mask

    Figure 4.13.5

    Figure 4.13.5 The image after brushwork

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