Sunday, December 18, 2011

Photoshop Layers - To Flatten or not to Flatten?

Now there's a question that has been asked in Photoshop circles for as long as I can remember. The ultimate answer, though, is that it's really up to you. Everyone will choose one or the other for different reasons. In the past, I used to flatten everything. Why? Because in most of the videos and book tutorials I have seen for photography that's what was shown. So like most humans who initially learn by imitating others that's what I did.

A couple of advantages to flattening layers are 1) it keeps your file size smaller; and 2) it looks cleaner in your layers panel. However, I recently discovered a problem, at least for me, after I have flattened my layers, and I'm really putting myself out there with this so please go easy on me... I can't always remember what I have done to the image! There I said it, and I suspect that I'm not alone out there on this.

I'm finding that the combination of using a number of different plug ins and masking techniques for different parts of the image, I don't always remember which filter I used, or what I painted back in or removed etc. So if I flatten my layers all of the information is lost to me, unless I remember, which as I mentioned above was my issue.

There are a lot of ways to organize your layers such as merging them, naming them and creating layer groups, so I'm beginning to do that instead of flattening. I'm not worried about file size as I have a lot of storage space. But now I can at least see what I have done.

So there it is... my answer to the question is not to flatten. How about you?



Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Something with Potential Goes Grunge with Topaz Adjust

There are times when you're out shooting that you come across something with what I like to call "potential". I mean this is why we shoot, isn't it? It's that time when you see something and you know exactly what you are going to do with it. For me recently it was this tractor. When I saw it I instantly thought "grunge". I knew what I was going to do with it in post, all I needed to do was get a decent composition that I liked.

I spent probably around 20 minutes trying a few different angles for composition. I started with the Nikon 18-200 lens because that was what I currently had on camera. I moved around a fair bit, but couldn't get what I was looking for. It was then that I realized what I needed to do... get low, shoot wide and push in tight. So I switched to the 10-24mm and set to back to work.

Since I had already decided that I wanted to do something grungy (or close to other worldly) I knew that by shooting really wide that would only enhance the overall look... that is if it everything worked out as I was hoping.

My post processing started in Lightroom with some basic adjustments, and then over to Photoshop for little Lab colour move to boost the reds, yellows and greens. Next was over intoTopaz Adjust to get the grungy look (note: this would have been good HDR candidate, but I didn't have a tripod and didn't feel that I could handhold with any decent luck).  I started with the Spicify filter and then layered the Dramatic filter. 

Now, I know that some of you will think that this is just way over the top, and you would be absolutely right! But, this was the look that I was trying to achieve. The one inherent problem with pushing things this far are the halos around the trees and top front grill of the tractor, so I had to compromise a little. I minimized this (note that I said minimize and not eliminate) by using a layer mask and then the brush tool to blend as best I could between the tree line and the sky. I tripped over to Nik's Viveza 2 to bring some more colour back into the sky that was removed when blending the halos down.

Below is the original file so you can see how bland it really was. However, this thing had potential. It just took some time to bring it out to the way I wanted.