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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Reality Vs. Imagination

How to use masking software to make the task of compositing more efficient

This Article Features Photo Zoom


2) This is a color image, flattened, with Photoshop’s Artistic Watercolor filter applied. 3) The inset shows the watercolor effect up close.
I used Capture NX 2 to edit and save my original NEF. I did a Save As to TIFF format for further editing with Adobe Photoshop CS3. For this project, I used onOne Software’s Mask Pro 4.1 to make masking the bird image an easier task. For the “gull on sunrise” composite image, I made the original sunrise image the background and placed the masked gull image on a layer, adjusting the layered image for position, and tweaked the size to complement the background.

I also decided to experiment with Photoshop’s Artistic Filters, with my final choice being the Watercolor filter. I also made other versions of the composite image using Nik Software’s Color Efex Pro and Silver Efex Pro plug-ins. After applying the selected Photoshop native and plug-in filters, I saved as a flattened TIFF. The flattened TIFF would be opened with Capture NX 2 and tweaked using Capture’s Control Points and other tools. I especially like NX 2’s new Control Point Selective Tool for selectively applying tools like unsharp mask, contrast, brightness and others. Finally, I saved as a NEF file for future editing opportunities and as a TIFF for publishing.

reality reality
4) Here’s the gull image being masked for the composite.
I experimented by applying a variety of filters and tools to the gull image in preparation for placing it on a layer over the sunrise. I liked the original sunrise image, but wanted to make it more dramatic and prepare the foreground for placement of the gull image. To do this I used Capture NX 2’s Control Points to identify and affect the black-to-white range. I placed the gull image over the sunrise in Photoshop CS3 and proceeded to use Mask Pro 4.1.

This final image illustrates the positioning of the gull over the sunrise. The darkened areas within the gull image layer show the beginning of applying Mask Pro 4.1. When masking is complete and applied, the water in the gull image will become invisible and transparent, and the background layer will be visible in all areas except the remaining gull.

Rendering Of Photoshop’s Artistic Filters And Nik Software

Following the masking process in Photoshop, the final image was saved as a TIFF. I proceeded to experiment with Photoshop’s Artistic Filter tools and Nik Software’s Color Efex Pro filters.

Digital photography’s quick evolution of features, performance and technology is a multi-edged sword. The technology is empowering, but to make use of it you must learn and study to harness the power. Such work may take lots of time, so you may find yourself stuck at a computer, and for photographers, that can be a drag. For me, it has become a pleasure and has influenced the way I think about pictures and, ultimately, allows me to make them with personal control and imagination. Images I used to dream about have become an accessible reality; hence, my feeling that the workflow of experimentation is a wonderful way to transform artistry and provides opportunities to make more great images.


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