Here we are, back for the third and final part in this series. If you haven’t seen parts 1 and 2, they are here and here. So far, we have used photomerge to generate a panorama, composited in some cliffs and a sky, and cleaned everything up a little. There are still a couple more steps to be done before the image is complete, and they are recreation of the original depth of field I desired, and giving the image its final colour using VSCO Film 03.
Let’s start with depth of field. I shot the original images on the beach at f/4.5 to keep the depth of field relatively narrow. However, the cliff images were shot at f/11 with a much wider lens, and so have sharpness throughout the frame. Also, I didn’t have a panoramic tripod head and these were all shot hand held. This causes a little paralax error when the stitch is made, and aside from some of the lines not really matching up, the in focus region doesn’t really match up on the ground. To fix this, I used the lens blur filter in Photoshop.
Step one here was to stamp the layers again, giving me a single layer to apply blur to. Next was to create a layer mask and fill it with black. Then I could paint with white the areas I wanted to be blurred by the filter. Because the transition from in-focus to out-of-focus is gradual, I used the gradient tool to create a gradual fall off ending just below Nahrae’s feet, and another just above her ankles. This would approximate the blur that my lens would give if this scene had ever existed. However, the gradient at the top of the image also covered Nahrae, and I didn’t want her to be blurry. So, I used a black brush to mask her out of the layer mask again. Below is the layer mask I created.
The next step here was to open the lens blur dialog by going to filter->blur->lens blur. The reasons behind using the lens blur filter over any of the others were two fold. First, it does the best job of simulating the blur created by lenses, hence the name. Second, it allows us to use a layer mask as a “depth map,” allowing us to create the natural blur “fall off” we see as in-focus transitions to out-of-focus. By selecting ‘layer mask’ from the depth map drop down in the dialog, the mask above will be used to create the blur. For everything else, it was just a case of playing with the amounts (and making a cup of coffee each time I made a change – this filter can be time consuming) until I was happy with the blur. In this crop you can see the difference in detail levels. At this size, it seems subtle – but once printed large it will be significant.
Now the image was ready for final processing. A great way to make everything seemlessly blend in when doing a compositing job is to add some final contrast and colour layers over the top of everything to bring it all into uniformity. At this point, I had two choices. I knew I wanted milky, low contrast colours and a bit of a dreamlike feel. I could do the rest of the work in Photoshop or Lightroom. A couple of adjustment layers and another hour of so of work getting it all right. In Lightroom, I could test a few different looks really quickly. If none of them looked like I wanted, I would head back into Photoshop and do it by hand. Lightroom it was.
Earlier this year, I picked up VSCO Film Pack 03 in all its instamatic glory, and I knew something in there would probably get close to the look I wanted. That something was ‘PX-70 Warm –‘ in the end. Then it was a few basic additions in Lightroom: a little contrast, a small post crop vignette, some clarity added to Nahrae to help her stand out, some negative clarity on the ground to make sure the contrast adjustment didn’t bring out any of the dark tones in the beach, and a slight cooling of the white balance.
That was it, all of the processing was done. Thanks for getting this far, and I hope you’ve learned a couple of techniques for producing an image like this one.