This is part three in our huge smoke video series. In creating the Smoke Texture Pack, SLR Lounge has created the foremost resource for smoke and fog textures. Within it, you’ll find over 400 smoke and fog textures, and 6 video tutorials specifically tailored to guide and help you gain mastery in everything from photographing smoke, to processing and creating your own custom smoke brushes.
In the first video of the series, we gave you 10 Tips On How To Photograph Smoke & Fog, where you learned how to light, shape, and photograph smoke texture. In the second, we show you 3 Simple Steps On How To RAW Process that smoke texture to be able to drop it into any image, and get a really nice, clean smoke texture, that you can then use to blend and make a realistic smoke look. Here, in the third installment, we’ll be giving a fine art look to these textures that we can use to create canvases and wall murals and anything for your fine art needs – some great photos to take and post produce. If you want to learn how to photograph these textures, then check out video one. Then, if you want to know how to prepare them for later use for compositing, check out video 2.
Note: While the SLR Lounge premium membership includes the exercise file(s) pertaining each particular tutorial in Smoke Textures Pack, it does NOT include full download to the Smoke Texture Pack. This addon can be purchased in our store here.
GETTING STARTED – SHOOTING IN HIGH RESOLUTION
Getting started, we will be working inside Lightroom. These are the three textures we will be creating, and we’ll be doing it from this single source image. You’ll want to create a virtual copy of the image, and reset it out, hit ‘D’ to jump into the Develop Module.
This is the RAW file shot at 1/160 at f/7.1 at ISO 100. You’ll notice in this particular image, there’s a lot of wasted space in the shot. Smoke as a subject is very unpredictable. This quickly becomes apparent when you begin to shoot it, so we have to have a larger frame for the area we are shooting because we don’t necessarily know when the smoke is going to ripple, where it will travel, so we shoot a little bit larger, a little more zoomed out, so we have a little more room in the frame for the smoke to do its thing and for us to capture it.
This means that to get a great look you’ll be better off (especially when doing rather drastic cropping), shooting at high resolution. We’re shooting the Canon 5DMK III which has 24MP and we’re shooting in RAW, but if you can go beyond that and you can get even higher, perhaps with something like an A7R, D810 with extremely high resolution will create much more detailed images when you begin cropping in.
PREPARING THE IMAGE FOR COLORING
At this point and for this example, we’ll change out function to crop by hitting the ‘R’ key, and change our crop to 1:1. Using a square crop lends well to fine art photos, but it’s entirely your preference. For the purpose of this tutorial, we’ll use the square crop and make a triptych with each of the smoke pieces having a different color, as you can see a little earlier in the video.
If your crop aspect ratio is locked, you’re fine, but if not, hold ‘Shift’ as you drag the edge of the crop box to constrain the set proportions. The crop we’re looking for, in this example, is one that will have the smoke beginning in the bottom right corner, trailing up to the left.
We’ll be brightening up the exposure and highlights, and I suggest turning on the clipping highlights by hitting ‘J’ because we want to see what the highlights and shadows are all really doing. We do want some pure white in this image so having a some blown out bits is alright, and we also want deep dark blacks, and to have a fair amount of contrast.
With the clipping option, you can zoom in to see if there are any black flecks, and those dark areas you can paint over to completely black out your desired areas. To do this we are grabbing a brush using the Burn++ preset from the SLR Lounge Preset System, but if you don’t have it, you can see the settings here and just manually dial it in, and then paint away. To can hit ‘O’ as you paint to turn on ‘Overlay’ to see precisely where the lines of your brush are, enabling you to cover only what you want and with precision. If you notice any overlap that may be ok since you are generally using a feathered brush, but it is to your preference.
Then hit ‘O’ again to turn off the Overlay and the hit ‘J’ to see the clipping mask in place and ensure there is no detail where you want solid black. When you’re satisfied, turn the clipping mask off and hit ‘I’ to bring up Information, and you’ll notice a significant drop in pixels from the original due to the crop. This is why we stress to shoot at the highest resolution possible since there’s been an almost 80% reduction in this scenario. What you are left with should still be plenty for what you need, especially should you be printing on canvas where resolution tends to be lower anyway.
However, if you zoom in, to around 3:1, you will likely notice some un-smooth fine detail which we want to fix. The trick to doing this lays in a few simple steps; head over to the Clarity Slider, which adjusts mid-tone contrast to make it pop a little, then go down to Detail where you’ll adjust Noise Reduction. Atypically, we are pushing noise reduction and color noise reduction to the max because we’re going for a silky smooth look. You could, at this point, do some sharpening, but our suggestion is to get a greater sharpening result by doing it outside of Lightroom, perhaps in Photoshop, where you haven’t used a noise reduction process.
This concludes basic processing. Adjusted out base tones and made the contrast really pop, smoothed it out and cleaned it up. At this point, we’ll be using the flexibility of ‘Curves’ adjustments and Split Toning to get the different looks. Again, if you don’t have the SLR Lounge Presets just hit pause where you need to in the tutorial and dial in the settings, and you’ll be on your way.
COLORIZING YOUR TEXTURES
Our goal now is to match RGB with red, green, and blue smoke. We’ll begin with the Red and go into the Warming Curves (02-20 Curves – Warm) and select 23c. Neutral Punch Crimson. This will add a little contrast kick to it as well as adding the color. Next we’ll go to SFX Color Schemes (04-00 SFX – Color Schemes) and select 02d.Orange/Red which will give us orange in the highlights and red in the shadows. You can always go into Split Toning and make adjustments as you wish. This pretty much completes the red version.
To create the Green version, you’ll need to create a virtual copy, then go up to Cool Curves (02-10 Curves – Cool) and select 13a. Neutral Punch – Teal, then add an SFX Color Scheme to match it, and select 02a. Yellow/Green. You can see the effect each of these presets has on the image in more detail by inspecting the different channels within the curves, and all along the way, keep in mind you can make fine tuning adjustments as you wish.
Now to create the last image of the triptych, the Blue version, create another virtual copy, and go back to the Cool Curves and we’ll be selecting 13b. Neutral Punch – Azure. Then back down to SFX and select 03e. Blue/Blue. The speed at which all these different looks can be tried out really is some of the power of the Preset System, but remember to pause the video at any point to dial in the specific settings should you not be using the Preset system.
At this point, you should have your finished set of three fine art smoke images ready for your triptych. We hope you’ve enjoyed and learned a lot from the video, and if you did, please share and like it and subscribe for much more great content to come. You’ll help us do what we love to do, which is to make you a better photographer.
If you are interested in learning more about the SLR Lounge Smoke Textures smoke pack as well, be sure to check it out on SLRLounge.com, where you’ll find 400 amazing textures prepped and in full resolution ready to use.