Cinematic effect II
Add a moody cool tone to your action images
Further to yesterday’s cinematic Photoshop tutorial, here is an alternative processing method, that incorporates some of the same skills, but which produces a different, moodier look. Many film posters feature images with cool, dark tones that stir emotions in viewers. This action shot of cars speeding along a road is an image that benefits from this processing style.
Step 1 – Adjust Curves
The exposure is well balanced here, but this is an excellent example of when the ‘right’ exposure isn’t necessarily the best for a particular image function. To begin the moody processing, darken the image slightly to introduce a brooding tone. Here we used Curves to drag down the lower-midtones but keep the darkest shadows from ‘blocking-up’.
Step 2 – Add a cool tone
Create a new blank layer under the Curves layer, and fill it with a blue hue (Oc6ad4 was used here). Then change the Blend Mode of this colour layer to Soft Light to cause the blue pixels to interact with the image layer below.
Step 3 – Open in Camera Raw
Save the file as a PSD file to keep the layers intact, then save a Jpeg or Tiff to create a flattened image. Open this image in Camera Raw by following File > Open and choosing Camera Raw as the Format. Once in ACR we need to add some grit by increasing midtone contrast. We’ll do this using the Clarity slider, which in this case was moved all the way to the right for maximum effect. Exact settings may differ for your image – it’s a matter of taste.
Step 4 – Add a Vignette
Head to the Effects Panel and drag the Post-Crop Vignette Amount slider to the left to draw in a darkening effect from the image corners. Tweak the Midpoint to adjust the distance from the edges that the vignette extends.
Step 5 – Tailor lighting
We can further adjust how our viewer’s attention is directed by adding some extra lighting to the main subject. Call up the Adjustment Brush (K), increase the Exposure a little and select a large, medium-hardness Brush (see sliders). Then click once or twice over the subject (here this is the front car) to add some light spots. Due to the white colouration of the car the Highlights were drawn back slightly to avoid blown highlight detail, while allowing an overall brightening effect on the windscreen, wheels and road.
Step 6 – Add some headlights
The image is now fairly complete and we could probably stop at this stage. The photo now has a good range of colour and detail interest, with some dynamic lighting to suit the composition and camera angle.
However, to further the ‘film poster’ look we could add some artificial headlights to the front car for some added depth. To begin with, bring your image back into Photoshop and add a black Fill Layer above your Background layer.
Step 7 – Add some lens flares
Go Filter > Render > Lens Flare and choose the 105mm Prime flare option. Drag the flare in the preview window into roughly the location of the first headlight on the forward car.
Step 8 – Position the Flares
Change the Blend mode of the Black layer with the lens flares overlaid to Screen to remove the black background. Use the Move Tool (V) to drag the first flare into precise position over one headlight. Then duplicate the flare layer and move this over the second headlight. Go Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and use a medium Radius to remove any hard edges present on the generated flares.
Whilst the addition of flares will not be part of the average digital photographer’s workflow, in some instances it can add to the cinematic style of an image. However, the key difference is between the original shot and the second, processed image, which works to tell a story that keeps the viewer looking.