Create a calm photo manipulation in Photoshop

Final result

Source materials:

STEP 1. Let’s start the lesson with creating a new document.
Copy and paste the image of Mountain Lake onto our document by downloading the image from the link at the beginning of this lesson. Arrange and scale to fit your document as shown in the screenshot below:

Let’s go Filter– Transform for smart– of filters(filter> convert for smart filters). This will allow us to apply filters to the background without losing image quality.

Let’s go Filter – Blur – Gaussian Blur (filter> blur> gaussian blur) and apply a blur radius of 3.0 px. This will give depth to your image, making the background defocused:

Next, apply adjustment layers. Hue / Saturation (hue / saturation) and Color balance (Color Balance). Make sure that each adjustment layer is used as a clipping mask, so the adjustment layer will affect only the underlying layer, not the entire image:

Settings for the adjustment layer Hue / Saturation (hue / saturation):

Color tone (Hue): 0
Saturation (Saturation): -15
Brightness(Lightness): 0

Settings for the adjustment layer Color balance (Color Balance):

Sveta (Highlights): -11 / -8 / -11
Mid tones (Midtones): -15 / -2 / +12
Shadows (Shadows): -12 / -4 / +2

STEP 2. Open and copy / paste the water ripple image onto our document, placing it at the bottom of the image.

In fact, I reduced the height of this image to make the perspective more correct.

Apply to water ripple layer layer mask and using a big soft black brush, paint over the top edge of the image with a ripple to create a smooth transition with the background:

Next, apply adjustment layers. Hue / Saturation (hue / saturation) and Color balance (Color Balance). Ensure that each adjustment layer is used as a clipping mask.

Settings for the adjustment layer Hue / Saturation (hue / saturation):

Color tone (Hue): 0
Saturation (Saturation): -100
Brightness(Lightness): 0

Settings for the adjustment layer Color balance (Color Balance):

Sveta (Highlights): -11 / -2 / +9
Mid tones (Midtones): -21 / +11 / +26
Shadows (Shadows): -8 / -1 / +5

STEP 3. You probably noticed that our water ripples look good, but it is focused, which seems a bit odd when the background is out of focus, and the water ripples are not. Let’s fix it!

Select a layer with water ripples, including adjustment layers, and press Ctrl + G to group all layers into one group.

Next, right-click on the layer with the group in the layers palette and in the appeared window select the option Duplicate group (duplicate layer group).

Inside the duplicated group, select a duplicate of the layer with water ripples and apply Gaussian blur (gaussian blur) with a blur radius of 3.0 px.

After applying the blur, add a layer mask. Next, using a soft black brush, paint over the central part to remove the blur of water ripples, in order to show the original clear image of the water below. Basically, I want the water area to be blurred at the bottom of the document and at the top where it connects to the mountain background. On the other hand, I want the image to be focused in the central part:

You can see the effect of this technique in the screenshot below:

STEP 4. Cut out the girl’s face by downloading the image of the girl following the link at the beginning of the lesson.
Copy and paste the image of the girl’s face onto our document:

Next, scale and position the face so that it fits better with our composition. I want to create the feeling that my face is a little submerged in water. To achieve this, remove part of the female face with the tool. Pen (pen tool). Create a slightly wavy edge at the bottom of the female face to create the illusion that water surrounds the face:

Next, apply adjustment layers. Hue / Saturation (hue / saturation) and Color balance (Color Balance). Make sure that each adjustment layer is used as a clipping mask:

Settings for the adjustment layer Hue / Saturation (hue / saturation):

Color tone (Hue): 0
Saturation (Saturation): -75
Brightness(Lightness): 0

Settings for the adjustment layer Levels (Level):

77 / 0.91 / 240

Settings for the adjustment layer Color balance (Color Balance):

Sveta (Highlights): -12 / -2 / +4
Mid tones (Midtones): -22 / +5 / +11
Shadows (Shadows): -15 / +2 / +8

STEP 5. Make sure that the female face layer and all adjustment layers related to it are placed within the same group.

Next, duplicate the group by moving the duplicate below the original layer. Select the duplicate face layer and then go Editing – Transformation – Flip Vertically (edit> transform> flip vertical). Slide down the face, reflected vertically, below the original face, creating a reflection effect:

It can be seen that due to the curved edge of the female face, two faces do not fit together completely when aligned. To fix this, let’s go Editing – Transformation – Deformation (edit> transform> warp) and apply the deformation to eliminate any spaces between two persons:

Reduce the opacity of the face layer, which is a water reflection, to 50%, and then on the layer mask that you applied earlier, using a soft black brush, hide the reflection edges of the face, creating a smooth transition with the main background:

STEP 6. Download the Smoke / Ink brushes from the link at the beginning of this tutorial.
Apply one of the brushes, set the brush color to white. Draw smoke just above the girl’s nose and mouth.

Reduce the opacity of the smoke layer to 30% to make the effect more subtle:

STEP 7. It’s time to work on lighting, so that the image takes integrity!

It is important that the lighting is very gentle in order to create as natural an atmosphere as possible.

First create a new layer, name this layer ‘face shadow’. Change the blending mode for this layer to Overlap (overlay).

Choose a soft black brush (about 20% opacity) and begin to draw under the face, just where the water touches the edge of the female face. The idea is the creation of the shadow that is created here. The shadow is created not only by the female face, which covers the main background light source, but also by the submerged part of the face under water:

STEP 8. I also want that the blue shades of water are slightly reflected on the female face. This is all part of the natural light.

To achieve this, create a new layer, name this layer “blue reflection on the face”. Using tool Pipette (eye dropper tool), choose one of the shades of blue from the water surface. Then, select a soft brush with an opacity of 20% to paint over the bottom of the female face:

Next, change the blending mode to Overlap (overlay) and reduce the layer opacity to 50%:

STEP 9. Obviously, the main source of light comes from the center of the picture between the rock formations.

Create a new layer, name this layer ‘central light’. Choose a tool Lasso (lasso tool), apply a 30 px feather. Next, select the area covered by the light and fill the selected area with white:

Change the blending mode to Overlap (overlay) and reduce the layer opacity to 8%. This should create a really gentle light effect pouring from the central part:

STEP 10. You can see slightly yellow shades along the upper edge of the face from the main light source, therefore, create a new layer, name this layer “yellow light”. Choose a medium-sized soft yellow brush, set the opacity to 5%, and paint over the top edge of the female face.

We want to create the impression that the light touched the girl’s face.

STEP 11. It is felt that the fog makes the scene mysterious, so I want to focus on this.

Let’s start by creating a new layer, name this layer ‘cloud’. Let’s go Filter – Rendering – Clouds (filter> render> clouds) and create black / white clouds on top of your image:

Change the blending mode for this layer to Overlap (overlay) and reduce the layer opacity to 15%. This should give the fog effect more tenderness:

STEP 12. Finally, create a new layer, name this layer “fog”.
Set a large soft white brush with an opacity of 5% and start randomly drawing fog on your image. This is an important part of this step so that the fog remains barely noticeable, but enough to make its presence felt:

STEP 13. Next, create a new layer, name this layer “bleaching / darkening”. Let’s go Editing – Fill (edit> fill) and fill the layer with 50% gray. Then, change the blending mode to Overlap (overlay). This mode will hide your fill with 50% gray, but will allow you to make light correction without harming your image.

Usually use a soft black low opacity brush to create shadows and a soft white low opacity brush to brighten. For this layer, simply lighten / darken the rough areas of the light in your image.

I reduced the opacity of this layer to 50% to make the effect more subtle.

In the screenshots below, you can see the ‘bleaching / darkening’ layer under the normal blending mode, with the layer opacity 100% and with the blending mode Overlap (overlay), with a layer opacity of 50%.

STEP 14. Create a new layer, name this layer “lighten / darken details”. Repeat Step 13, this time concentrate on the details of bleaching / darkening your image.

The screenshots below show this layer under blending mode. Normal (normal), the layer opacity is 100%, as well as under the mode Overlap (overlay) 50% layer opacity:

STEP 15. Create final adjustment layers Curves / Levels (levels / curves). These adjustment layers do NOT use as a clipping mask, as we want them to affect the whole image.

Settings for the adjustment layer Levels (Level):

9 / 0.96 / 247

Settings for the adjustment layer Curves (Curves):

(see screenshots below):

And we finished the lesson!

You can view the final result below. I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and would love to hear your opinion on the technique of performance and the result.

Final result

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