Blending modes: Tools for post-processing
1 Blending modes: Tools for post-processing
In previous articles, we've covered setting up and capturing an image - location lighting, studio lighting and rules of composition - both interpreting and breaking them. In this article, we will touch on some tools to help you deal with your images after the capture.
This article takes a look at a couple of the 'blending modes' available in Adobe Photoshop. Blending modes present us with easy-to-use but powerful tools for image manipulation. Best of all, they don't cost anything, beyond the purchase price of the software itself!
Blending modes dictate how the pixels of a given layer are mixed with those of the layers beneath it. Although this article deals with Photoshop specifically, there may be equivalent techniques available in other photo editing software packages.
Throughout this article, we will be discussing images with multiple layers. To keep our terms unambiguous, I will refer to the original layer as the 'base' layer and any layers added to adjust or retouch the image as 'blend' layers.
'Color' Blending Mode
To start our exploration of digital blending modes, I will first present an example based in in analog photography. I was always fond of technical experimentation in the darkroom; this image was made on an enlarger by laying tissue paper over unexposed photographic paper and blotting it with water. The tissue paper diffused the enlarger's image, while the water on the print's surface retarded the action of the developer, creating the light-colored blotches. I then toned the print with a copper / sepia toning agent.
|Early work, an image from my days as an art student. The print has become
discolored from pollutants after being framed with a non-archival mat.
Industrial strength stain remover
Over the years, this print started to become discolored from being in a frame with a non-archival mat. The chemicals in the mat caused portions of the image to turn yellowish. How might we use our digital toolkit to restore the image?
One might attempt to use the healing brush or clone stamp tools to touch up the discolored areas. However, doing this in a way that preserves the texture of the image would be very tedious. Alternately, we could generate one or more complicated hue / saturation adjustment layers to return the colors to their original values. This would require quite a bit of careful tweaking and masking.
Fortunately, there's an easier way. Since the discoloration has not affected the luminance of the image, we can simply use a 'color' blend layer to fix the image. The 'color' blending mode is straightforward - it applies the colors of the blend layer to the pixels in the base layer, but preserves the luminosity and saturation of pixels in the base layer.
|'New layer' dialogue (Ctrl + shift + n / Command + shift + n). Here, we create a new layer and set its blending mode to 'color'.|
The easiest fix would be to use the eyedropper tool to sample a 'good' color and use the brush tool to paint on our 'color' blend layer where the discolored areas are. This produces perfectly acceptable results:
However, the original image does have a range of tones - some of the colors are ochre while others are more greyish-brown. Using a single color to retouch our image removes some of the dimensionality of the original. To address this, we can sample multiple colors and paint semi-overlapping strokes with a large, soft brush set to moderate opacity (for example, 50%).
|This blend layer has a range of colors, sampled from different parts of the source image.||The result is a slightly richer image that is more faithful to the original print.|
The difference between the two treatments is extremely subtle; for some images, the extra work may not be worth the effort.
Pro tip: when using the brush tool, you can sample a color by holding down alt / option and clicking on the desired color. There is no need to switch to the eyedropper tool.
Like digital mittens
Another application of the color blending mode is to adjust skin tone; this is useful in cooler climates such as Seattle, where I live. Models' extremities can often take on a purplish or reddish hue in cold weather.
|Her legs and face look normal, but note the skintone of the model's hands; they have a slightly pink or magenta tone from her sitting on the chilly concrete floor.|
Again, the technique is the same as what we used above - brush (or clone) areas with normal skintone onto the areas of the body whose color has been affected by the cold.
This is a situation where finesse and restraint is required; creating a correction layer by painting with a single color can leave the subject looking very unnatural and clay-like. The blend layer below was created by painting multiple sampled colors with the brush tool.
Click here to go to page 2 of our article 'Blending Modes: Tools for Post-processing'
|Devil Rock (Stuttgart, Germany) by cornissimo|
from Neon Signs
|Carla... by lickity split|
from Beautiful caucasian female faces
|Lunar New Year Fireworks by Michael L NYC 99|
|Vatican Basilica by wam7|
from Street lights
Go behind the scenes with National Geographic photographer Renan Ozturk and see what it takes to capture a dangerous, harrowing, stunning Nat Geo photo essay.
Erez Marom tells the story behind this ominous photo of the sand 'reaching up' towards the mountains at Skagsanden beach in Norway. He calls this photo 'Torment.'
DPReview staffer Carey Rose has taken the Panasonic Leica DG 15mm F1.7 along for everything from a city-side boat ride to a bachelor party across the mountains. Find out how the little Leica fared.
Canon just unveiled the largest 12-ink printer on the market. The new imagePROGRAF PRO-6000 printer can make prints from 17 all the way up to 60 inches wide.
"Standing in one of the holiest places on earth, I felt uneasy," writes Wired's Jason Parham. "Most of my fellow visitors, I realized with a brief bloom of nausea, were taking selfies."
Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk has been receiving great reviews, but it's a challenge to see it in its full glory. This handy infographic reveals the aspect ratio chaos that is wrought as the industry retreats from film.
Anti-bullying organization Ditch the Label's Annual Bullying Survey 2017 reveals yet again that Instagram, more so than any other social network, has a the worst effect on youth mental health.
It's been a crazy day for innovative patent news. Apparently Sony is thinking of developing a medium format curved sensor camera.
An update to the Silkypix Raw converter fixes some bugs and adds support for several popular new cameras.
This crazy custom-built underwater camera shoots 8x10 large format film. It's supposedly "the first successful underwater 8x10 ever made," and it can be yours for $5,800... plus shipping.
Blackmagic just reveled a new accessory for their Cintel Film Scanner. The Cintel Audio and KeyKode Reader can capture KeyKode data and high-quality audio from film in real-time as it is being scanned.
A new Nikon patent shows a lens designed for a curved full-frame sensor. Could this be the high-end Nikon mirrorless camera people are hoping for?
The ability to shoot images at 1,000 fps first appeared in a Sony smartphone sensor. Now the Japanese manufacturer is using the same feature for industrial applications.
Astronomy expert and photographer Dr. Tyler Nordgren thinks you should "see your first eclipse, photograph your second." But if you do plan on taking photos this August, here are a few tips from someone who's been there.
How confident are you that you can spot a manipulated photo? A recent study at the University of Warwick shows that many people are pretty bad at it.
If you purchased a Leica TL2, do NOT attach Leica's Visoflex electronic viewfinder. Leica is working on a fix, but for now, it's possible the viewfinder will break your camera.
Google just released Motion Stills for Android. Unlike the iOS version, the Android app uses a redesigned video processing pipeline that processes each frame of a video as it is being recorded, creating instant results.
A huge copyright lawsuit between photography firm VHT and Zillow Group is heating up again, as both sides appeal a court ruling that granted VHT $4 million in damages.
European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet spent 6 months on board the International Space Station where he worked with Google capturing spheric panorama images that are now available in Street View.
It's official. PDN has confirmed with parent company Aurelius that 94-year-old lighting company Bowens is indeed going out of business.
The newly launched firmware version 1.06 fixes AF-issues that can occur with some lenses that are not officially compatible with the MC-11 converter.
Voyager is a waterproof smart light stick you can control entirely from your phone. The light has already blown past its $300K funding goal on Indiegogo.
2018 is the last year Photokina will take place during the traditional end-of-September dates. In 2019, Photokina will take place from the 8th to the 11th of May.
The Canon IXUS 50 (known as the SD400 Digital ELPH in North America) was one of a string of high-performing, pocketable PowerShots of the mid-2000s. In this week's throwback Thursday, Barney casts his mind back to 2005.
A close look at the EOS 6D II's Raw files suggest its dynamic range has taken a significant step backwards compared with the company's recent DSLRs. We look at how much difference this might make for your photos.
With a full-production review unit in our hands, we've got over 100 production samples from the new Canon EOS 6D Mark II to share.
Need a break from your day? Kick back and watch the making of a somewhat unconventional mojito filmed on Canon's new EOS 6D Mark II.
The Bonfoton Camera Obscura Room Lens can turn any room into a camera obscura, projecting the view from your window onto the walls of your room.
Adobe just released version 2015.12 of Lightroom CC, adding support for several new cameras and lenses, and baking in several important bug fixes while they were at it.
In this interview, Chiara Marinai, photo editor for VanityFair.com, explains exactly what she looks for in new photographers and photo submissions. Take notes.