Instagram: Please Fix the Problem of the Followers Game

If you have an Instagram account and are like Scott Kelby, you too will have over 119,700 followers while you yourself are following only 157 people. All this would be accomplished with only 510 posts. He can achieve these numbers because he is a prolific and best-selling author, a fine photographer, and gives great seminars throughout North America and Europe. He's a famous, friendly and engaging guy who travels a lot, and posts beautiful images from his travels.

Unfortunately, many Instagram users try to achieve a similar high followers to following ratio in an attempt to make themselves look good. This is accomplished by following everyone they can, and they may even leave a nice comment about your work. If you do not follow them back they will unfollow you. If you do follow them back they will still unfollow you.

If a person follows me, I politely follow them back, but a high percentage will then unfollow me. To track this, there is a free app called Followers. I installed it and check it once a day for people who have unfollowed me. These are nearly always people who have a lot of followers, yet they themselves follow very few people. With a single click you can unfollow them back. This is a somewhat ridiculous waste of time, but is the only way for me to be sure I am following those who are likewise genuinely interested in my work.

Back when Instagram was in its infancy, having a lot of followers surely was a sign that you were important and/or great at your craft. Today, however, it is absolutely meaningless. LOTS of people are playing the Followers Game on Instagram. Plus, you can even buy followers! How big a problem is this? BIG! Since I reset the Followers app, I have gained 75 new followers, but 79 have unfollowed me.

So, if you get a follow from a guy named Joe Doaks, he has 8,200 followers, is following only 200 people, and you have never heard of him, you can be certain he is playing the Followers Game. It is a silly waste of time. Why? Because the followers/follow ratio is meaningless. What is meaningful is how many likes and comments you get. In other words, how well you can engage viewers, which is a reflection of quality content.

Hopefully Instagram will remedy this problem by simply deleting the Followers and Following counts from everyone's home page. Those numbers are now meaningless, and signify nothing. We should be interested in content - not followers/following ratios. Such an upgrade to their app would put a stop to this game, and thereby improve Instagram for everybody.

A Unique Semi-Black and White Glamour Composite

Presented here is a unique method for creating a black and white glamour composite that contains just a little color. Three MacPhun (Mac only - sorry!) Photoshop plugins are used. For this look, I chose this image of Andrelica, photographed in a studio environment on grey seamless paper. Please note the shadows around her feet:

The background is an HDR image taken at Clarke Quay, Singapore. Notice that the vertical lines are vertical, This is because it was photographed with a Nikon PC-E (perspective control - otherwise know as a tilt-shift) lens:

This technique uses two versions of this background, so duplicate it to get two identical copies. On one copy, run Intensify CK's Gloomy Day preset at full strength to achieve a "punchier" version:

Andrelica03.jpg

On the second copy, run Tonality CK and use your favorite preset. I used Barcelona from the Architecture presets:

Andrelica04.jpg

Naturally, the grey studio background must be masked away from the model. After creating this mask, I save the file as version one. On version two, combine the layers used to retouch the model by selecting them and hitting Command-E, resulting in two layers: the layer just created containing all the retouching, and the layer of the model with the background masked out. Insert the black and white version of the background in between these two layers:

Andrelica05.jpg

The bottom, unmasked layer of Andrelica, with the shadows, is completely hidden. Simply change the layer blending mode of the black and white background layer to Overlay to get back those shadows around her feet:

Andrelica06.jpg

Here is how the layers stack should look:

Screen Shot1.png

Shift drag the color version of the background over the black and white version. In Normal blending mode it will completely hide the black and white layer and the shadows. Set the layer opacity to 30% to drain most of the color, and also set the layer blending mode to Overlay. It should look something like this:

Andrelica07.jpg

At this point, you should be able to see where we are going with this technique. We now have a punchy, background drained of some of its color, whereas the model is still in full color. Next, create a stamped layer at the top of the layer stack (Option-Merge Visible from the Layer Panel's flyout menu). I used the Luminar plugin and its Noble Beauty preset to achieve this nice black and white look:

Andrelica09.jpg

To get that desired semi-black and white effect, simply reduce the layer opacity of the top layer. I went to 70% (= 30% color) but this is simply a matter of taste. Realize that when doing this, you are adding much less color to the background than to the model, because a lot of the color has already been drained from the background. Here is how the layer stack should look when done:

Screen Shot2.png

The final image:

Andrelica10.jpg

Masking Semi-Transparent Fabric

Here is another image of Laurel. I want to mask out the white seamless studio background so I can composite her into another scene. The tricky part will be to mask the background showing through the fabric at the bottom, middle part of her dress:

Topaz ReMask 5 has the proper tool to accomplish this task. Start by creating a "trimap" where you paint a blue line over the edges where you want ReMask to compute the edges of the mask, and fill the areas to be masked out with red. Notice that I have done nothing to the area of semi-transparent fabric in her dress:

Screen Shot 2017-02-15 at 1.06.09 PM.png

After I pressed the Compute button, ReMask created a nice mask. To mask the area of transparent fabric, we need to see it better. I choose a split screen view, and changed the version on the right to "Keep" and set the background color to red to better show any unwanted white background:

Screen Shot 2017-02-15 at 1.07.43 PM.png

Select the Transparency Brush. It used to be called the Dual Color Selection Tool because you choose two colors: what to keep and what to mask out. You are presented with a green eyedropper. What you do is on the right version of the image you click on a solid black area of the dress, in this case the fabric over her leg. This represents the color in the transparent area you want to keep. The eyedropper changes to red. Click on an area of solid white background. I clicked on the area of white seamless just under her dress, between the legs. This represents the color you want masked from the transparent area. The red eyedropper changes to a brush. Paint on the area of transparent fabric. You will now see a little black showing through on the left (Mask) version, and a little red showing through on the right (Keep) version:

Screen Shot 2017-02-15 at 1.12.22 PM.png

Back in Photoshop, Option (Alt)-click on the layer mast to see it in black and white. Paint over the hard edges (with no hair) of the mask with a white brush set to Overlay. Stay away from the transparent fabric:

Screen Shot 2017-02-15 at 1.16.05 PM.png

Here is a closeup of the area of transparent fabric created by ReMask:

Screen Shot 2017-02-15 at 1.19.25 PM.png

It is masked, but the mask is somewhat weak. Set the foreground color to black, and with the brush still set to Overlay, brush over the area of transparent fabric to get this:

Screen Shot 2017-02-15 at 1.20.08 PM.png

Brush over the same area again:

Screen Shot 2017-02-15 at 1.20.35 PM.png

Brush over the area a third time:

Screen Shot 2017-02-15 at 1.20.55 PM.png

Now that the transparent area of the mask is stronger, we should be able to actually see through the fabric a little. Here is the final image, using a scene from Singapore's Little India district:

Laurel2.jpg

Two Easy Tricks to Regain Masked Hair in Photoshop

Here is a photograph of Laurel, taken against a white seamless background in a studio environment:

I wanted to replace the white background with this spotlight background:

GraphicLoot Spotlight Background.jpg

To do so, I of course needed to mask out the white background which I did with ReMask from Topaz. The Layers Panel in Photoshop looks like this:

Screen Shot 2017-01-03 at 7.27.05 AM.png

Next I placed the spotlight background under the Extract layer, transformed it to fit the frame, then I combined the bottom three layers into one layer. For trick #2 to work, this Background layer of the retouched model at the bottom of the Layers Panel is needed. The Layers Panel now looks like this:

Screen Shot 2017-01-03 at 7.33.36 AM.png

Here is what the image looks like at this point:

Laurel2.jpg

Some of Laurel's beautiful hair is definitely missing. Here is trick #1 to get it back: Make sure the top layer is active, and click on the layer thumbnail to select it. Go to Layer -> Matting -> Color Decontaminate... and drag the Amount: slider to 100%. Here is the result of this one move:

Laurel3.jpg

This looks better already. But wait, there is more - trick #2: Select the background layer (in this case the Spotlight Background layer) and set its layer blend mode to Multiply. Now there is even more hair:

Laurel4.jpg

I hope these two simple tricks will make you look like a masking guru!

How to Mix Glamour and Water - Part 10

In this final instalment of the series, some ideas for different effects will be shown. First, you can texturize the background to get the effect of an old Maxfield Parrish painting. A texture from Photomorphis was used here:

Model: Andrelica.

Model: Andrelica.

Splashes in the water can also be added. The Image Manipulation Store sells a series of these on a black background, which disappears when you set the layer blend mode to Screen:

Model: Laurel Hervert.

Model: Laurel Hervert.

Here's is another example of a splash with rougher water:

Model: Marketa Havlinova.

Model: Marketa Havlinova.

The "flinging hair" pose, though commonly seen, really shows off the model's hair:

Model: Jatoya Gallo-Stubblefield.

Model: Jatoya Gallo-Stubblefield.

The model can pose with lanterns, crystal balls and such, with can be "lit up" in post processing. Note that I painted in some mountains on the horizon using a black Brush. This should be done before generating the water:

Model: Marcela Zuniga.

Model: Marcela Zuniga.

Model: Marcela Zuniga.

Model: Marcela Zuniga.

Another possibility is putting a second version of the model inside a jar. See my blog posts dated March 16 and April 2, 2014, Putting the Model Inside A Jar - Parts 1 & 2, for information on how to do this:

Model: Sara Bartfai.

Model: Sara Bartfai.

Model: Sara Bartfai.

Model: Sara Bartfai.

If lightning is added, add it before the water is generated so you can get a reflection in the water:

Model: Kaela Isa.

Model: Kaela Isa.

Water can be added to scenes such as this:

Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Gardens, Claremont, California.

Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Gardens, Claremont, California.

Simply add water as high in the scene as you want, then mask out the parts where you do not want water:

Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Gardens, Claremont, California.

Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Gardens, Claremont, California.

Model: Andrelica.

Model: Andrelica.

There is no rule that says the color of the water must match the color of the sky:

Model: Simone Knight.

Model: Simone Knight.

Try experimenting with rougher, more turbulent water. Do this by hitting the Complex button in Flood 2 and playing with the sliders:

Model: Tiffany Felisha.

Model: Tiffany Felisha.

Simulating a full moon backlighting the model at night is another interesting look:

Model: Kaela Isa.

Model: Kaela Isa.

There is no rule that says the model must wear a swimsuit, and there is no rule that says she must be in or near water. Experiment and have fun!

Model: Sara Bartfai.

Model: Sara Bartfai.

I hope these examples stimulate your creativity, and you have a lot of fun exploring this most interesting technique.

How to Mix Glamour and Water - Part 9

As a finishing touch, you may wish to convert to a black and white image. In this example, I used Nik's Silver Efex Pro 2 to get all of the 15 zones of Ansel Adams, from pure white to pure black, represented in the image:

Model: Jenn duBois.

Model: Jenn duBois.

For a color image, I typically will make three modifications. Here is the image, ready for the final touches:

Model: Tiffany Felisha.

Model: Tiffany Felisha.

At the top of the layer stack, create a merged composite layer (Option-Merge Visible from the Layer Panel's flyout menu), then activate Nik's Color Efex Pro 4 plugin from Photoshop's filter menu. I start with the Darken/Lighten preset. For an image like this, I set the Center Size to 85%, place the Center point on the model, cheating a little more toward her head, and adjust the Center and Border Luminosity sliders to taste. Next click the + Add Filter button and add a Brilliance/Warmth layer. I will usually drag the Warmth slider to the left to cool the image. This enhances the blues in the skies and water and helps to blend the model into the background. I do not worry too much about cooling the model's skin, because I will usually warm it using the plugin I will describe next. On a third layer, try adding the White Neutralizer. This renders a pinkish color cast on the image. I often will drag the Adjust Whole Image slider to the left to reduce it to around 10% or so. Lastly, I will add Pro Contrast to a fourth layer, with the Dynamic Contrast slider set to around 15%:

Model: Tiffany Felisha.

Model: Tiffany Felisha.

Next I will create another merged, composite layer (Option-Merge Visible from the Layer Panel's flyout menu) at the top of the layer stack and activate MacPhun's Intensify CK filter and run the Dreamy preset. See my blog posts on May 29, 2016 (Warming A Glamour Retouch) and October 7, 2016 (How to Warm with the Dreamy Preset of Intensify CK) for more information on this plugin. The Dreamy preset warms the image, but the Amount slider must be lowered considerably in most cases:

Model: Tiffany Felisha.

Model: Tiffany Felisha.

Finally, at the top of the layer stack, I usually add a Curves adjustment layer set to the layer blend mode of Multiply to further vignette the image. Of the various ways to vignette an image, this is the best for two reasons:

  • It uses an adjustment layer instead of a pixel layer, so it adds very little to the overall file size.
  • The placement of the vignette can be exactly where you want it.

On the white Curves mask, simply paint over the model with a large, 0% hard black Brush. Adjust the opacity of the Curves layer so that the brush strokes cannot be seen. This is often around 20%:

Model: Tiffany Felisha.

Model: Tiffany Felisha.

In Part 10, the final instalment of this series, a few special effects will be shown to hopefully spur your creativity.

How to Mix Glamour and Water - Part 8

The next goal is to add a reflection of the model onto the water. Presently, the model consists of three layers: Curves to darken the underwater part, Underwater and the layer of the model herself. We need a layer which is a composite of these three layers. Select all three layers by clicking on the Curves layer then Shift-clicking on the model layer. Hit Option-Command-E. Name the resulting layer Reflection:

With the Reflection layer active, go back to the Flood 2 plugin, Filter -> Flaming Pear -> Flood 2. Leave all the sliders alone except Offset. Drag it to the right to set the highest point of the reflection. Our goal is to have it begin above to waterline so we can precisely cut it back in the next step. I brought it to the area of her left elbow, which is clearly above the waterline:

Andrelica1.jpg

Next we want to mask out the part of the reflection that is above the waterline. This is easy to do. First, add a mask to the Reflection layer. With this mask selected, click on the thumbnail of the Underwater layer to get the marching ants around the part of her that is underwater. We can modify what is inside this selection, but we want to modify what is outside the selected area. Inverse the selection by hitting Shift-Command-I. Take a black Brush and paint away the part of the reflection above the waterline. The part of the reflection below the waterline is protected by being outside the selection. Deselect by hitting Command-D. The result should look something like this:

The reflection should fade further away from the model. With the mask of the Reflection layer still selected and black as the foreground color, hit G to select the linear Gradient tool and draw a black to transparent gradient by Shift-dragging from the bottom of the reflection to the top of the waterline:

Andrelica3.jpg

The reflection is too bright; I would like to see some of her legs under the water. Do this by reducing the opacity of the Refection layer itself. I took the opacity down to 30% to achieve this:

Andrelica4.jpg

That completes this project. Part 9 of this series will cover some optional finishing touches.

How to Mix Glamour and Water - Part 7

Since I am not using the methods presented in Part 6, our file still consists of just two layers: BG (the bottom background layer of sky and water) and Andrelica (the top layer with no mask). Let's submerge her in some water. Make sure the top layer with the model is active. Hit Command-R to show Photoshop's rulers. From the top ruler, pull down a guide to approximately where you want the waterline to be. Remember that Snap had been turned on to help position the sky image. It must now be toggled off, View -> Snap. If we do not do this, the waterline we will be drawing will snap to the guide, and we do not want that.

The key to drawing a waterline is to remember that parts of the model further away from the camera will have a higher waterline. Those parts closer will have a lower waterline. Activate the Pen tool (P). You may want to zoom in a little on the guide and the part of her lower than the guide. We are simply going to create a path by using the Pen tool in a "connect the dots" fashion. Start by placing a point out in the water above the guide, then go across the model, guessing where the waterline would be. Once you have gone across the model, click out into the water, and go around her all the way to the beginning dot. Click on the first dot to close the path. It should look something like this:

Hit Command-Return to convert the path to a selection. Hit Command-J to put the selection on its own layer. Name this new layer Underwater. Get rid of the guide View -> Clear Guides. At this point, the Layers Panel should look like this:

Screen Shot2.png

Next we want to modify the Underwater layer to make it look under the water. Before we can do that, we must mask out the under water part on the Andrelica layer. Add a mask to the middle layer of the model. Command-click on the layer thumbnail of the Underwater layer to get the marching ants. Notice that the marching ants do not include area where there is water - they snap to her. Fill the selected area with black. Since black is the foreground color, that would be Option-Delete (Control-Backspace). Command-D to deselect the marching ants. Turn off the visibility of the Underwater layer by clicking on its eyeball in the Layers Panel.

You will probably see an undesirable light outline. Paint over it on the mask with a black Brush. If your Brush doesn't seem to work, it is because it is still set to Overlay, from when we used it to "firm up" the edges of the background mask. Set it back to Normal in the Options Bar.

Water absorbs light, so we want to darken the Underwater layer a bit. Add a Curves adjustment layer about the Underwater layer, hit the clipping button (the icon on the lower left side of the Curves Panel) so that the darkening will only apply to the Underwater layer. Pull down the midpoint of the curve, and you should see something like this:

Andrelica1.jpg

Water also blurs, so activate the Underwater layer, and go to Filter -> Blur -> Gaussian Blur... and run a blur. I used a Radius of 13.4 pixels. Use less if you have a smaller file:

Andrelica2.jpg

The next task is to fade the underwater part. We should be able to see less of the model where she is deeper. Add a layer mask onto the Underwater layer. With black as the foreground color, hit G to activate the Gradient tool. With the linear gradient selected in the Options bar (the first of the five icons), run a black to transparent gradient on the mask by Shift-drgging from the lowest part of the model to highest portion of the waterline:

Andrelica3.jpg

This has the effect of fading the "deeper" parts of the model. Next, we want to fade the entire Underwater layer a little. Do this by lowering the opacity of the Underwater layer. I lowered it to 40%:

Andrelica4.jpg

I suggest lowering the opacity of the Underwater layer to show a little less than you want. This is because the next step, where we add a reflection of the model in Part 8, will bring some of the opacity of the Underwater layer back.

How to Mix Glamour and Water - Part 6

We still have only two layers: the top Extract layer with the mask to block out the seamless background, and the bottom background layer with the sky and water. For this technique to work, we need a layer of just Andrelica with no mask. Before doing that, it really helps to select the pixel part of the Extract layer and run a Layer -> Matting... -> Color Decontaminate at 100%. Once done, click on the pixel thumbnail to select it, but Command-click on the mask to get the marching ants, then get the selection on its own layer with a Command-J. The Extract layer with the mask can now be deleted - remember, we have it saved in version 1. I name this layer according to the name of the model, in this case Andrelica. She actually has a bit more hair after running Color Decontaminate:

The following two tips are optional. I seldom use them any longer, but they are worth knowing about.

First, if a person is outside, they will typically be lighter around their head, and darker towards the feet. To do this, add a Curves adjustment layer, clip it to the layer of the model (click on the clipping button at the bottom of the Curves Panel) and pull the midpoint of the curve down a little. This darkens all of her equally. Select the layer mask, and draw a linear, black to transparent gradient by Shift-dragging from the top of her head to the bottom of her feet:

Andrelica2.jpg

Second, she can be colorized so she looks more like she belongs in the scene. Select the background layer, but Command-click on the pixel thumbnail of the model (Andrelica) layer to get the marching ants. Make a new layer via a Command-J. Run a Filter -> Blur -> Average. Drag this layer to the top of the layer stack and name it Light on Andrelica:

Andrelica3.jpg

This is the color of the light bouncing around the scene, reflecting off the sky and water, and landing on the model. Set this layer's blend mode to Color, and reduce its opacity to around 20%:

Andrelica4.jpg

The layer stack should look like this:

Screen Shot1.png

I am only going to use the bottom two layers in this demonstration. If using all four layers, select the top three layers and the choose Option -> Merge Layers from the Layer Panel's flyout menu. I would name the resulting layer Andrelica Adjusted.

In Part 7 I will put part of Andrelica underwater.

How to Mix Glamour and Water - Part 5

The problem with the background is that the water is to bright. Because water absorbs light, the water should be darker than the sky. This is easy to fix, however. Add a Curves adjustment layer above the background layer, use a Rectangular Marquee tool to select the sky all the way to the horizon, and fill the selection (on the Curves mask) with black. Drag the midpoint of the curve down:

The water looks better, but another problem was created: the horizon is too hard. Adding a bit of haze to the horizon is easy. Simply click on the layer mask of the Curves layer and drag the Feather slider to the right to soften that horizon:

Andrelica02.jpg

The water in the foreground has black streaks which do not look right to me. To further modify the water, add a Solid Color layer from the bottom of the Laters Panel. Position it above the Curves layer. Select a nice color, and remember that a Solid Color layer allows you to change the color on the fly. Option-drag a copy of the Curves mask up to the Color Fill (Solid Color) layer to replace its mask:

Andrelica03.jpg

Next I want to thin out the blue color near the horizon and leave more blue at the bottom so as to cover those black areas of water. With black as the foreground color, select the mask of the Color Fill layer. Select the Gradient tool, choose Linear, black to transparent, and Shift-drag the gradient from the horizon to the bottom of the frame. I adjusted the layer opacity to 53%. Those black streaks in the foreground water are now reduced:

I should mention MacPhun has a great preset in their Intensify CK plugin called Gloomy Day. It is very powerful, and will darken and add punch to the background. See my May 30, 2016 blog post: The Gloomy Day Preset of MacPhun's Intensify CK. To use it, I selected all three background layers, did a Command-E to flatten just those layers, then invoked the plugin. Since the background was already rather dark and punchy, I used it at only 26%. Each Intensify preset has its own Amount slider, right within the plugin:

Andrelica05.jpg

In Part 6 I will shift my focus back to Andrelica and demonstrate a couple things we can do to her to add a bit of realism before submerging her in Part 7.

How to Mix Glamour and Water - Part 4

My goal in assembling these images is to add an interesting sky - one that would be difficult or impossible to get on a location shoot. When adding the model, I want some of her to show through the water. I also would like a reflection of the model in the water.

The sky sets the mood for the entire image. Should it be dark and stormy, or bright and cheerful? Let's use one somewhere in the middle. Before opening this file in Photoshop, I set Lightroom's Clarity slider to 100% to add some definition to the clouds:

All the layers except the Extract layer should be deleted in the file, which will become version 2. Activate the Move tool (V) and Shift-drag the sky file over the Extract layer of the model. Make sure Snap is active (View -> Snap) and Shift-drag the sky layer up until it snaps to the top of the frame. Next we need to bring in the sides of the sky layer, because we are overlaying a horizontal layer over a vertical layer. Command-T to enter free transform, then Command-0 (zero) to see the handles, then Shift-drag each lower corner up and inwards. Snap will not work when adjusting the corners, so get close then pull in the sides in until they snap to the frame. Drag the sky layer under the Extract layer. I then moved the Extract layer down a little to better position the model in the frame. It should look like this - note that the white is really checkerboard in Photoshop:

Andrelica01.jpg

The white cloud and her left are form an interesting arc. Now let us add some water. For this we use a plugin from Flaming Pear called Flood 2. Note that for this plugin to function properly, there should be no sky outside the frame. If there is, perform an Image -> Trim to get rid of it. In Flood 2, make sure the Offset slider is set to zero, and adjust the Horizon slider until the water touches the sky. The settings in Flood 2 were as follows:

  • Horizon - will vary
  • Offset - 0
  • Perspective - 24
  • Altitude - 72
  • Spin - 0
  • Style - Simple
  • Waviness - 17
  • Complexity - 38
  • Brilliance - 43
  • Blur - 65
  • Size - 19
  • Height - 12
  • Undulation - 13
  • Glue - normal
Andrelica02.jpg

In the next instalment, I will discuss some modifications that should be made to the background.

How to Mix Glamour and Water - Part 3

It is most helpful if you chose an image with a pose that is graphically interesting. Those images stand on their own! For this demonstration, I chose this image of Andrelica. I am also fond of inscrutable facial expressions, and this is one of her signature looks:

The first step is to simply retouch the image, resulting in something like this:

Andrelica02.jpg

Here is how the Layers Panel in Photoshop looks:

I used the Lasso tool to lasso the eyes and put that selection on it's own layer, named it Eyes Lighten, set it to the Screen blending mode and set the layer opacity set to 30% or so. The pupils and area surrounding the sclera were masked out. The Eyes Dimension is simply painting 50% gray on the iris, setting the layer blend mode Color Dodge, and reducing the layer opacity to 40% or less. I then used a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to add a little more color to her lips. The layer opacity was set at 40%. The plug-in Portraiture (by Imagenomic) was used to smooth out the skin. I use the Medium setting for big files taken with a 36 MP sensor and the Normal setting for smaller images taken with a 12 MP sensor. Though Portraiture has its own mask, it is not perfect. Her eyes, lips, hair and swimsuit were then masked so they would stay sharp.

A composite layer was created by holding down Option and selecting Merge Visible from the Layer Panel's flyout menu. This was labeled Extract because it will receive the mask to eliminate the background. There is not much contrast between her hair and the seamless background though, so here is a simple trick. Duplicate the Extract layer, then Command-M to get a Curves adjustment. Raise the midpoint up to lighten the entire image:

Andrelica03.jpg

This looks terrible, but now there is more contrast between the gray background and her hair. This is a temporary layer for use in getting the mask. Here is how the Layer Panel appears:

Screen Shot02.png

At this point I activate the Topaz Remask plugin. I discussed Tips On Using Topaz ReMask 5 To Mask Models in this blog on September 30, 2015. Once I am done, ReMask 5 returns a mask on the Extract copy layer. Drag the mask to the Extract layer and delete the Extract copy layer:

Screen Shot03.png

I then will Option-click on the mask to see a black and white version. Take a white Brush set to the Overlay blend mode (in the Options Bar) and paint over the hard edges, staying away from the hair. This will "firm up" the white edges of the mask by filling in any gray areas with solid white. A black Brush set to Overlay will eliminate any gray areas in the black part of the mask. This is especially useful in acute corner areas. Save the file as version one. I like to keep a file with the original mask untouched. In the next instalment I will discuss the goals of what we are trying to accomplish and how to add the sky and water.

How to Mix Glamour and Water - Part 2

It all starts with the background. However, a background is not always necessary. Here is an image where nothing other than pure white was used as a background:

Model: Simone Knight.

Model: Simone Knight.

The resulting mixture of a black-and-white background and the model in full color yields somewhat of a fine art look. An artificial background can be made in Photoshop as well:

Model: Marcela Zuniga.

Model: Marcela Zuniga.

You should already see what I mean when I claim it all starts with the background, because the background is reflected in the water. Another type of background is bokeh shots. I get mine by shooting Christmas lights downtown at f/1.4 with a 50mm lens, but with the lights slightly out of focus:

Model: Priscilla Martin.

Model: Priscilla Martin.

Be on the lookout for scenes that already contain water. They can make great backgrounds:

Gardens by the Bay, Singapore.

Gardens by the Bay, Singapore.

Model: Andrelica.

Model: Andrelica.

Moreover, a great many scenes that do not contain water can be used. Here is one from Copper Canyon, at the southern end of the Huachuca Mountains, Arizona. It was taken on a dirt road: 

Model: Andrelica.

Model: Andrelica.

By far the most useful backgrounds are cloudy skies. Most often, I use only a cloudy sky for the initial background. They are also useful in other ways. In this image, taken on Skopelos Island, Greece, a sky taken in Claremont, California was used:

Model: Marketa Havlinova.

Model: Marketa Havlinova.

I strongly recommend shooting all your backgrounds in a bracketed 3-shot HDR series, using an exposure sequence of -2, 0, and +2. If you are shooting skies with big white clouds, set the exposure compensation on your camera to -1.0. This will give an exposure sequence of -3, -1 and +1. The exposure compensation of -1 results in a darker image, and helps to avoid blown highlights (pure white areas with no detail) in the clouds. By far, the most versatile format for shooting skies is the the horizontal landscape format. It is used in all portrait mode (vertical) images of the model, as well a those taken in the horizontal landscape mode, such as this:

Model: Tiffany Felisha.

Model: Tiffany Felisha.

My blog post Placing Skies in Glamour Composites, dated June 29, 2015 may be of interest. In Part 3 I shall discuss how to get the image of the model ready.

How to Mix Glamour and Water - Part 1

Welcome to a 10-part series about ways to composite swimsuit models into scenes with water. An image of a model wearing a swimsuit that was captured in a studio environment can lead to many exciting possibilities during post processing. Once the seamless studio background has been masked out, a number of different backgrounds that have no water in them can be placed behind the model. These types of composites are outside the scope of this series, however. Generally speaking, swimsuits are near water. A scene with water in it can be placed behind the model:

Model: Marketa Havlinova.

Model: Marketa Havlinova.

These can be great, but are relatively easy to do. Once the difficult part of masking out the studio background has been done, it is often a simple matter of adjusting the coloration to make the model appear as she was really there in the scene.

A different challenge is to put the model in water - or something that looks like water. The goal here is to achieve some degree of realism, but not complete realism, as complete realism can be somewhat boring:

Model: Anecia Jones.

Model: Anecia Jones.

If a realistic image is desired, then I suggest a location shoot with the model actually in water. But through the magic of compositing with Photoshop, we can achieve dramatic, unusual, and even surreal results.

Part 2 will be a discussion all about backgrounds.

How to Warm with the Dreamy Preset of Intensify CK

I have come up with an intriguing way to warm a photo. Let us start with a very slightly retouched photo of Andrelica. Note that no skin smoothing has been applied:

Andrelica with no skin smoothing applied.

Andrelica with no skin smoothing applied.

Next I take the image into the Nik Color Efex Pro 4 plugin. I always start with a Darken/Lighten Center layer, then a Brilliance/Warmth Layer. Here is how the Brilliance/Warmth layer looks when the Warmth is set to 33: 

Warmth set to 33 in Nik's Color Efex Pro 4.

Warmth set to 33 in Nik's Color Efex Pro 4.

What I do not like about the above image is everything in the image has been equally warmed. Sometimes this is nice, but in this case, I am am not fond of the effect. So, instead, I use the Brilliance/Warmth layer to actually cool the image. Next, I added a White Neutralizer layer which added a pinkish cast. I left it at the default setting of 30, but often I will take it down to 10 or not use it at all. Finally, I used a Pro Contrast layer set at 15. I exited Color Efex Pro and ended up with this:

Andrelica still looks good, and everything else has been cooled.

Andrelica still looks good, and everything else has been cooled.

Next MacPhun's Intensify CK plugin is invoked, and the Dreamy preset is selected:

The Dreamy preset reduced to 38% opacity.

The Dreamy preset reduced to 38% opacity.

The Dreamy preset always looks terrible at 100% opacity, so I reduce it in the plugin before exiting. Another problem is that it will often put blotches on the skin. So, after exiting Intensify CK, I will do the skin smoothing, followed by a little sharpening of the lips, eyes and eyebrows:

Final.

Final.

I love how this technique allows us to cool the image, yet warm the model, all without the use of layer masks.

Using A Photo Filter to Vignette

Vignetting is often used to darken parts of an image (usually the edges), thereby drawing attention to the middle which remains brighter. The classic way to vignette is to simply add a Levels or Curves adjustment layer set to the layer blending mode of Multiply, and then paint on the layer mask with a large, soft black brush where the darkening is not wanted.

Another way to accomplish this is to instead use a Photo Filter, and paint black on its mask. Here is the starting image of Laurel:

A Photo Filter was added, set to Deep Blue with the Density at 68%. On the mask, a black brush was used to paint away the blue over Laurel and the lamp on the left:

There is nothing that says color cannot be used to vignette an image. In this instance I like how the bluish edges of the image contrast with the warmth of the lamp and Laurel.

Rescuing Overdone HDR Images for Glamour Backgrounds

I photograph all different sorts of backgrounds for use in glamour composites, and nearly always shoot a bracketed series for HDR. These are then processed (usually in Photomatix) and imported into Lightroom.

Weeks, months or years later, when I revisit these HDR images, I often ask myself "What was I thinking?" What I see are images with over-saturated colors and too much contrast. On The Grid podcast, Scott Kelby explained how this happens. Our eyes get acclimated to intense color and contrast when we process a series of HDR images, so we tend to overdo the processing.

This renders such images useless as backgrounds for glamour composites: the vibrant colors and contrast draw too much of the viewer's attention and detract from the model.

There is an easy way around this problem, short of reprocessing the bracketed images. I will demonstrate using this studio image of Laurel:

Beginning image of Laurel against a white seamless background.

Beginning image of Laurel against a white seamless background.

Here is an HDR background taken at Singapore's Clarke Quay, and processed a few years ago. I like this background, but it is indeed overdone:

AN overdone, overcooked, over-processed HDR background image.

AN overdone, overcooked, over-processed HDR background image.

Simply add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer, and desaturate (I used -84) and darken (I used -20):

A less saturated, darker version of the HDR image.

A less saturated, darker version of the HDR image.

After adding Laurel we can see that she does not match the background very well:

Without any adjustments, Laurel appears to warm for the cool background.

Without any adjustments, Laurel appears to warm for the cool background.

Run the image through Nik Color Efex Pro 4 to blend her into the scene better. I used Darken/Lighten Center to begin the vignetting process, Brilliance/Warmth to cool everything down a bit and better match the model and background colors, then a small amount of Pro Contrast:

Laurel blends better with the scene, but the edges of the background are too bright.

Laurel blends better with the scene, but the edges of the background are too bright.

Finally, I added a Curves adjustment layer set to the Multiply blend mode, then painted over Laurel with a large soft black brush on the mask to further darken those bright edges, thus vignetting, and emphasizing Laurel even more:

Final.

Final.

This is such an easy, straightforward technique, and really draws our eyes to the model, which is our goal.

Another B & W Conversion

Here is a second example of a conversion to black and white using the process I described in the previous post. Here is the color image:

The initial color image of Andrelica.

The initial color image of Andrelica.

For this image, there was an intermediate conversion to Nik Analog Efex Pro 2, using the One Penny preset, just as before. When this intermediate conversion was run through MacPhun's Tonality CK, the Low Key preset was used. Also note that this time, I ran Tonality CK on the Analog Efex Pro 2 version - not the other way around as before. These were the only differences from the example in the previous post. Here is the conversion:

Final black-and-white conversion.

Final black-and-white conversion.

An Interesting B & W Conversion for Glamour

Here is an image of Tiffany I wanted to convert to black and white:

The initial color version.

The initial color version.

Quite often I will run the the One Penny preset (available from Flypaper Textures) in Nik's Analog Efex Pro 2 for a semi-black-and-white effect:

The color version processed with the One Penny preset.

The color version processed with the One Penny preset.

This interesting preset actually uses three Flypaper textures to get this look. But I was looking for a pure black and white, so I discarded the One Penny layer. Instead, I processed the color version into a black and white image using the Fashion Magazine 1 preset of MacPhun's Tonality CreativeKit:

The color version converted to black and white using the Fashion Magazine 1 preset of MacPhun's Tonality CreativeKit. 

The color version converted to black and white using the Fashion Magazine 1 preset of MacPhun's Tonality CreativeKit. 

Curiosity then got the best of me. What would happen if I ran the One Penny preset on this black and white version instead of the initial color version? Here is the result:

The One Penny preset run on the black-and-white version instead of the initial color version.

The One Penny preset run on the black-and-white version instead of the initial color version.

The final result is more appealing to me. Those three Flypaper textures applied by Analog Efex Pro 2 add a certain richness. This combination (Tonality CK followed by Analog Efex Pro 2) is a workflow worthy of further investigation.

The Gloomy Day Preset of MacPhun's Intensify CK

The Photoshop plugins from MacPhun are Mac only. I love running their Intensify CK (Creative Kit) plugin on backgrounds. I especially like the Gloomy Day preset. I will present two examples. First, here is an unretouched HDR image:

Here is the image with the Gloomy Day preset applied:

The sky was replaced, as I wanted a sky with more clouds and some yellow and oranges to complement the colors of the flowers in the foreground. Sara was then added for some interest:

Here is a second starting image:

With the Gloomy Day preset applied, we get this:

Some light was added streaming through the window, and Vivienne placed in front:

If you are a Mac user and want to darken and add interesting contrast to a background to make the composited model "pop," then this plugin is a must have.