In this tutorial, I will show you how to create a photo manipulation with a flying owl. For work, we will use stock photos: for the background, owls and foreground. You will learn how to create a complete composition from individual elements using adjustment layers, masks and brushes.
At the end of the lesson, I will show you how to create a lighting effect that you can use for other works.
Note: The author used paid materials. In the archive you will find an alternative version of the images to perform the lesson.
1. Add a background
Create a new document of 2000 x 1333 pixels with the following parameters:
Open in Photoshop picture with the forest. Using tool MoveTool (V) (Move) drag it to the working document.
On the detailed background, the main composition object will merge. Therefore, we will use the popular method that will allow to allocate an owl.
Move on Filter – Blur – GaussianBlur (Filter – Blur – Gaussian Blur) and customize Radius (Radius). The radius value depends on the sharpness of the background and the size of the image you are using. Move the slider until you get a similar result. In this case, the radius is set to 8 pixels.
Now the background looks too dark and contrasting, and we need a brighter one with a fog effect. Move on Layer – NewAdjustmentLayer – Curves (Layer – New adjustment layer – Curves) and increase the brightness.
Select the mask of the adjustment layer Curves (Curves), take a soft round brush (B) in black and work with it in the upper part of the document. We will add lighting in the center of the image and later make it a little brighter.
Add another adjustment layer Curves (Curves) and enhance the brightness on the sides. Use a soft black brush to edit the mask of the adjustment layer to hide the central part, as we did in the previous step.
2. Add a tree
Open the picture with the tree. Select it using PolygonalLassoTool (L) (Polygonal Lasso), the cut object is placed on the right side of the working canvas.
Flip the tree horizontally using the command Edit – Transform – FlipHorizontal (Editing – Transformation – Flip Horizontally) to create a beautiful frame for the composition.
There are extra details on the tree that we must get rid of. Hit Ctrl + Shift + N to create a new layer above the tree. Press Ctrl + Alt + G to transform it into a clipping mask and activate CloneStampTool (S) (stamp). Use the tool to remove the details noted in the screenshot below.
Please note that before working with a stamp, you must take a sample in the area that we want to clone. To do this, hold down the Alt key and click in the right place.
The right side of the tree looks empty, we need to fix it. To do this, select the branch on the left side of the original photo, using LassoTool (L) (Lasso), duplicate it (Ctrl + J) and transfer it to the working document.
At the bottom of the layers panel, click on the button. Addlayermask (Add layer mask) to add a mask to the layer with a branch. Black medium hard brush rule the edges to create a neat transition from branch to tree.
Create a new layer above the branch and transform it into a clipping mask (Ctrl + Alt + G). Use the Clone Stamp Tool (S) (Stamp) to remove the extra sheet on top of the branch.
Select the layers with the tree, branch and clipping masks, on which we used a stamp, press Ctrl + G to group them. Change the mix mode of the resulting group to Normal (Normal) with opacity 100%. Add an adjustment layer Hue/Saturation (Hue / Saturation) and set Saturation (Saturation) at -87.
Add an adjustment layer PhotoFilter (Photo filter), color set to # 8fc9eb.
Create an adjustment layer Curves (Curves) and reduce the brightness to enhance the shadow on the tree. Black soft brush edit the mask adjustment layer to remove its effect on the left side of the tree. Later we will make this part brighter.
Add another adjustment layer Curves (Curves) to lighten the left side of the tree. Edit the mask to remove the effect of the adjustment layer on the central and right part of the tree.
Some places on the tree are still insufficiently lit and look flat. To fix this, create a new layer above the layer on which we applied the stamp and transform it into a clipping mask (Ctrl + Alt + G), change the layer blending mode to Overlay (Overlap) with 100% opacity and gray 50% fill.
Take Dodge (Clarifier) and BurnTool (O) (Dimmer), set Range (Range) on Midtones (Mid Tones), Exposure (Impact) – by about 25%. We start working on the illuminated part of the tree with these tools in order to add more details. For the best result while working, adjust the size of the brush. Below you can see the result of work in the mode Normal (Normal) and Overlay (Overlap).
Apply dimming and brightening on the second branch.
3. Add an owl
Open the image with an owl. Since the picture has a white background, we take the tool MagicWandTool ( W) (Magic Wand), just click on the background and cut out the bird. We transfer it to the working paper and place it on the left side.
Create an adjustment layer Curves (Curves) and increase the brightness of the bird. Use a soft black brush to edit the mask in the shaded areas (on the lower part of the wings and body) and on the upper central part of the head (since it is already sufficiently lit). The effect of the adjustment layer should be visible only on the lighted areas of the owl.
Add an adjustment layer PhotoFilter (Photo filter) and select the color # 43bff2.
Create a new layer, change its blend mode to Overlay (Overlap) with opacity 100% and fill with 50% gray. We use Dodge (Clarifier) and BurnTool (O) (Dimmer) to detail the lighting on the wings, tail and claws.
4. Basic color correction
Above all previous layers add adjustment layer GradientMap (Gradient map). Choose colors # e10019 and # 00601b. Reduce the opacity of this layer to 20%.
Create another layer GradientMap (Gradient Map), this time we apply the colors # 052e3c and # 91c6e1. Change layer blend mode to SoftLight (Soft light) with 100% opacity.
Add an adjustment layer PhotoFilter (Photo filter) and select the blue color (# 00acec).
Create an adjustment layer Curves (Curves), with which we slightly increase the brightness. We edit the layer mask so that the effect acts only in the central part of the bird.
Add an adjustment layer Vibrance (Vibration) to increase saturation.
5. Create a light source
At this stage, using a simple technique, we will add a light source. It’s very simple, and I often use this effect in my projects.
We use two layers: the first in the blend mode Linear Dodge (Linear clarifier), and the second – Overlay (Overlap). On the first layer with a brush of dark color, as a rule, red, gold, purple or yellow shades, draw a large blurred spot. The choice of spot color depends on the color of the background – they can be combined or contrasting with each other. Do not use too dark shades, as in mode LinearDodge (Linear clarifier) effect will be almost invisible.
On the second layer with a light color we draw a highlight. If the background is too dark, you can make the highlights more saturated by using a lighter shade and leaving the blend mode. Normal (Normal) Either try switching to Overlay (Overlap).
In our case, the background has a bluish tint, so soft golden light will be well combined with it. We start by creating a new layer, on which color # 391508 we put a spot just above the owl, also with this color we lightly draw along the lit edge of the tree. Change layer blend mode to LinearDodge (Linear clarifier) with 100% opacity.
Add a new layer, in yellow (# f7c474) draw a large highlight over the owl and the reflected light on the illuminated part of the tree. To correct the effect of the effect, you can use the mask. Set the blending mode to Overlay (Overlap) with opacity 100%.
As a final touch we add an adjustment layer. Vibrance (Vibration).
Congratulations, we are done!
I hope you liked my lesson and you learned something useful for yourself. Feel free to leave comments and share your ideas below.