Exercise files: If you purchased the SLR Lounge Cloud Pack, the cloud we are working with is in the following location: 00_SLR_Lounge_Cloud_Pack -> Clouds – Sunset – No Sun -> SLR-Lounge-Cloud-Pack-317.jpg
The sample image we are working with is in the following location:
00_SLR_Lounge_Cloud_Pack -> 02_Cloud_Pack_Samples -> 17-SLR-Lounge-Cloud-Pack-Samples.PSD
In previous tutorials, we taught you how to blend your images using the Quick Selection Method and the “Blend If” method. We then reviewed color and hue adjustments using the “Color Balance” and “Selective Color” methods as well. In this tutorial will practice more advanced color correction by adjusting cloud and foreground layers separately, and then adjusting the combined image to create a very seamless appearance.
Before reading this tutorial, be sure to read/watch all of the previous tutorials, as we are going to pick up after we’ve already made the initial blend of the two layers. When you’re ready, open the PSD file (17) in Photoshop.
Note: While the SLR Lounge premium membership includes the exercise file(s) pertaining each particular tutorial in the Cloud Pack, it does NOT include full download to the Cloud Pack. This addon can be purchased in our store here.
MAKING ADJUSTMENTS IN CAMERA RAW
Important Reminder: Use Smart Objects and/or Adjustment Layers when necessary. As often as possible, maintain the integrity of original layers by editing them as Smart Objects in Photoshop. This provides non-destructive editing options for both RAW and JPG images, plus the familiar editing environment of Adobe Lightroom / Bridge.
If you’re editing the photo as a smart object, simply double-click the layer icon itself in the Layers panel to edit a Smart Object layer in the Adobe Camera Raw interface. You can do this as many times as you want, and the Camera Raw interface will save all actual editing for when you decide to save the file as a JPG for print.
As you can see, there are a number of adjustments already applied to this raw NEF image. So, you may only need to apply subtle adjustments to the Temperature or Tint.
MAKING ADJUSTMENTS USING A PHOTOSHOP ADJUSTMENT LAYER
To edit a layer in Photoshop with more advanced color adjustments, use an Adjustment Layer. We are going to use the “Color Balance” adjustment that we covered in a previous tutorial, to fist adjust the main cloud layer.
However, if you simply add a Color Balance Adjustment Layer in between the top two layers, your adjustments will also affect the layer below, the foreground layer. To make sure the adjustment layer affects only the one layer beneath it, instead of your whole image, hold down ALT/Option and hover your mouse over the line in between the cloud layer and the adjustment layer. When your mouse cursor turns into a down-arrow next to a box, click. This will lock the adjustment layer to the layer below, this is also known as a Clipping Mask.
For the Color Balance Adjustment Layer, you may tweak the sliders to your own taste, or to enhance the pink-purple colors in the cloud layer so that it matches the foreground more, adjust the following:
MAKING BRIGHTENING ADJUSTMENTS USING A CURVES LAYER
If you need to adjust the brightness of a layer, you can simply create another Adjustment Layers as a Clipping Mask. With the “Color Balance” layer selected, click the icon for “Create new fill or adjustment layer” again, and select Curves. You will also need to ALT-click / Option-click on the border between the two layers, to turn it into a clipping mask just like the Color Balance Adjustment Layer.
This cloud layer is already nearly perfectly balanced with the foreground, so it should only need a slight boost to the curves:
Now, both the sky and earth should appear to go together very seamlessly.
MAKING ADJUSTMENTS TO THE ENTIRE IMAGE
To give any composite image a final sense of continuity and togetherness, you may want to create an adjustment layer for the entire image, for both color balance and curves / contrast as necessary. For this reason, we often leave our original layers just ever-so-slightly flat in pre-production, and then apply subtle curves, levels, and/or color adjustments as a final pass.
Sometimes this is easier to do with the PSD back in Lightroom, for example if all you need is a faint boost to contrast, however for more advanced adjustments to color, an Adjustment Layer in Photoshop is very useful.
To do this, click on the very top layer of the PSD file, and then click the Adjustments Layers icon again. Select any adjustment you want, whether it be Brightness/Contrast, Curves, Selective Color or Color Balance.
WATCH FOR REFLECTIONS
Always pay attention to reflections in an image when adding something to an image! If there is a body of water, as you see in our example, be sure to duplicate the cloud layer, flip it vertically, and then use a layer mask to hide all but a faint, subtle view of the reflection.
We have already done this in the sample PSD file, however it might be good practice to try it yourself. So, delete the upside-down cloud layer and start over!
To do this, first select the main cloud layer and hit CMD/CTRL-J to duplicate the layer. Next, flip the layer vertically by going to Edit -> Transform -> Flip Vertical. Then, hit V to access the Move tool, and click-and-drag the upside-down layer to line up its horizon with the horizon in your final photo. Finally, create a totally black layer mask and gently brush in the cloud reflection where desired. To do this, select the existing layer mask and hit CMD/CTRL-A to “Select All”, then hit delete. If the mask turned to white instead of black, just hit CMD/CTRL-I to invert the mask. Then brush (B) using white to reveal the reflection cloud layer. A very, very low opacity or flow is advised, somewhere from 10-20%.
Once you’ve completed that last step, the image is done!