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Learn How to Make Your Subject Stand Out With Color

Category: Color, Photoshop, Video
Jan 14

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Congratulations to Jason for winning this week’s contest! We’ll be editing his image and showing you how to make your subject stand out better from the background by using some simple coloring techniques.

Simplify Your Color Palette

To make our subject in between the trees stand out more, we’d like to make her surroundings more of a monotone rather than the variety of different colors it is now. To do this, we create a solid color layer and choose a green from the grass in the image. By changing the layer blending mode to Color, we can see the detail in the photo. Bringing down the layer’s opacity makes the effect look more natural while still bringing the background towards the green side of the color spectrum. We don’t want this layer to affect our subject, so we simply create a layer mask and paint on the subject where we don’t want the green to be visible.

Adding a Vignette

To add a vignette we use a combination of two different curves adjustment layers. Use a layer mask to select the part of your photograph you want brighter or darker.

Lensbaby Pro Effects Kit

We’ll be using our new Lensbaby Pro Effects Kit for an amazing photoshoot in the very near future, so stay tuned for some awesome blurred images. You can check out Lensbaby and their cool quirky optics HERE.

Lens Mugs

Don’t feel like spending the money on a brand new lens? Now you can buy one for way cheaper that you can drink out of! Check them out, available in multiple focal lengths. Nikon too!

  • Tsaqib Al-Hasawi

    OMG! I love this! I learn something new!

  • disqus_tGvtVnXQcC

    Blatant advertising…

  • Brycehughes

    I wanna see what Jamie was doing 2 seconds before her clip starts…

  • Aaron Nace

    You are totally right! The great thing is that we can now give away their products in contests as prizes. I am always in support of a great company that wants to help out the Phamily.

  • Aaron Nace

    Thanks Randell, looks great!

  • Adrian Clarke

    That was 20 minutes well spent. Cheers!
    (trying to post before and after – this is before…)

  • Adrian Clarke

    …and this is after…

  • Clairetweet

    Brilliant! Those are 3 great tips, so simple. Just had a quick practice with a foody photo from the Weekend. Before an after (need to be more subtle with my vignette though)

  • Clairetweet

    oops – my photos seem to have dropped off that comment…before & after.

Episode Transcript

Today I’m going to show you how a simple color can change your image completely.

Today we’re going to do some awesome stuff with color, but before we get into it, I want to show you guys this Lensbaby ProEffects Kit. We just got it in the studio. We’ve been playing around with this awesome one. They’re really great for creating out of focus areas and we decided we’re going to do an entire photo shoot based around shooting just with this Lens Babies. I cannot wait for these images. They’re going to be amazing. It’s going to be in two weeks so look forward to that. Really, really excited about these things, they’re actually way … they’re really nice. So, I’m really excited about it.

We’re going to do some great stuff with color today. We’re going to use one predominant color. Then mask it off to show you guys how you can really create a lot of interest in your photo while simplifying it at the same time. Let’s get into it.

This image that we’re using today is Jason’s image. It’s an awesome image. He won the PHLearn contest last week. If you guys want to enter it, be sure to search for the contest. It’s just one episode ago, and you can have your images edited on PHLearn as well and get a PHLearn Pro.

Very, very cool image here today. What we’re doing is looking at the image as a whole and maybe some things that we can do with it. Our subject is right here in the middle and she’s wearing this really nice like magenta colored dress here, and have a green throughout the rest of the image. Whenever you have this play with complimentary colors, we’ll just bring up a color wheel.  I use this color wheel all the time.  I really do. I have one here at my desk and we’re looking here at yellow, green and green and that is complimented with red, violent and red. Really looking at complimentary colors and how to play those back and forth and if you do have those in your images, I’m going to show you a great way to simplify it.

We already have that in this image. What we’re going to do, I’m going to create an adjustment layer and we’re going to go over here to solid color. We’ve got a solid color adjustment layer and I’m going to choose a green that’s relatively similar to the green that’s actually in the photo. Don’t worry about it if you don’t get it exactly right just now.

Let’s hit OK, and what we’re going to do is change that from normal down here to color. Alright, now I know it doesn’t look that great right now but what we’re going to do is change our opacity right here down to 20%. Hit V and hit the number 2 on your keyboard and that’s going to bring you down to about 20%. Let’s just turn this off and on and see if it’s what we like. If it’s not, you can just double click right over here and you can change your saturation. You can change your color a little bit and see how it’s coloring the background here. If we went up to reds and things like that, it would add a little bit more red.

Let’s go right over here towards green and I think that looks great. What we’re doing is bringing down the opacity of this and let me just turn this off and on so you can see. It really limits the kind of color in your image. It brings almost everything towards that green spectrum which it doesn’t look weird but it simplifies everything. Now what we’re going to do is let’s just go ahead and zoom in to or main subject. We’re going to go to our layer mask and I’m going to paint black on our layer mask where our subject is.

This is using … you can see … let me just zoom in a little bit so you actually can see. It’s making this green layer not visible where our subject is. It’s going to not really affect skin tones too much and it’s going to get this nice magenta color popping out a little bit better. I’m painting black on a layer mask which just makes this layer invisible wherever I’m painting. There we go. We’ll just hold alter option, you can see what from my layer mask looks like. It’s really not that great but it doesn’t matter for the most part but it gets the job done.

Let’s just zoom out and we can see now how well she really does standout of that background and you could crop this in any number of ways. Let’s just turn this layer off and on. You can see with it off, she does stand out but the tree color and the background color, they all … it creates a lot of not distraction, but it could be a little bit simplified. By bringing that one color throughout, it really does help to simplify the image and she does standout quite a bit more.

It’s something you guys can do in two seconds. Just pick the background color predominant and just mask that out wherever your subjects are. It’s going to make them really pop out a lot more. Now, because it’s PHLearn and I want to do a little bit more to this, what we’re going to do is we’re going to bring her out a little bit more using a really cool vignette technique.

Let’s grab an adjustment layer and I’m going to here to curves. We’re just going to click right here in the middle and just drag that guy up. Now, oftentimes when you’re creating curves layer and you bring this up, what happens is your highlights become too bright. They get blown out. So, I’m going to show you how to fix that.

We’re going to bring that up just right about there, and now we’re going to go click on your layer mask and go to image and then down here to Apply Image. All you have to do is it’s … by default it’s going to say ‘Merged’, ‘RGB’, ‘Multiply’. All that’s correct. By default, this ‘Invert’ is not going to be checked. What I want you to do is click on that invert and what it does is it makes anywhere that’s bright not visible on this layer mask and anywhere that’s dark visible.

We’ll hit okay and let’s just look at what our layer mask looks like. Hold alter-option to look at it. I know it looks really weird but basically it’s masking out the light areas and it’s making sure it’s visible where everything is darker. It’s taking all the darks and bringing those up in brightness. You’ve seen those great images where the shadows really aren’t that dark. This is how they do that.Let’s make that visible and not visible you can see you almost have like a painterly effect going on with your image which is great.

Let’s just lower the opacity to that a little bit. Then just to draw a little bit more attention to our subject, let’s drop our curves adjustment layer. There we go. I’m going to bring the mid-tone down a little bit and then we’re just going to choose a marquee tool, make a big selection, something like that, and this is going to be our vignette. Here on our layer, let’s just hit Shift+Delete and fill the middle of the selection with black. There we go. Command+D to deselect and then go to filter, blur and to Gaussian blur and just choose nice big Gaussian blur. If it’s too small, you can still see the edges so make sure you go really big and it’s going to look quite a bit more natural.

There you can see guys, it really didn’t take too long to get this effect done. Let’s just group those together. Shift click them all and hit Command+G to group them together. Here’s the before and the after. A really simple effect that can make your image look like a painting and really draw a lot of attention to your subject. You guys can do this in a couple of minutes. Awesome!

Guys, thanks so much for watching PHLearn. If you guys use this technique for one of your images, be sure to submit it in the comment down below. I would love to see how this can really help your bring subject out of your images.Hope you enjoy this tutorial. I’ll PHLearn you guys later.  Bye everyone

I want to introduce you guys to Jamie, our awesome hairstylist and producer.

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Random Tips

Pick up a Color Wheel and use it to create a color palette.