Ah, alliteration. It’s good for the soul. Okay, so maybe it’s not great for the soul but it works for blog titles.
Years ago my Dad used to take pictures of bizarre things, so we thought, like his work truck after a new paint job and bushes that he planted and far off mountain vistas and well… stuff. Why we thought these pictures weren’t worth something I don’t know. Granted he probably didn’t use the best camera and the world had not yet given birth to Photoshop but if he had had those things, who knows… they may have been really wonderful photos instead of the pictures that we groaned about during a family slide show (Oh yes, we had family slideshow night now and then) because nobody but my Dad knew what the picture really meant. Children aren’t very forgiving during family slideshows when they are not featured in at least every other photo. Just mark that fact down in your little notebook of life facts to remember in case you ever need them.
But I am here to tell you today that though I really and truly love taking and editing photos of people — they are the most intriguing subjects after all, and God’s crowning creation I believe… but I am here to tell you that I love taking peopleless pictures. And I love making them look prettier in Photoshop.
Here are a couple of pictures I took not so recently. You can tell that they are from not so recently because they very notably involve colors other than white and brown.
A truck and some old tractors:
They are nice enough. But they have that very flat feeling about them that digital images tend to naturally come out of the camera with. Photoshop is great for just bringing out the color and the three dimensionality of your subjects. It is also great for adding some neat effects that give just a little more moodiness, emotion or whatever that little bit of something is that makes a person say, “Wow!” as opposed to, “Nice picture.”
An uninspiring flat peopleless picture might have someone looking at it and asking as we asked my Dad so many times, “So… uhh… what’s the story behind this picture?” A peopleless picture with that little extra sumthin’ sumthin’ has them maybe imagining or remembering instead of asking.
I played with the wagon picture in several different ways. I tried it in black and white. I tried it in sepia. I tried applying an antique action to it. I tried making it all black and white except for the red part of the wagon. None of those were workin’ for me. So what I ended up doing was giving it a bit of a vignette and applying a texture brush.
To do this I first cropped my original image and fixed the color and contrast. I duplicated my background layer then and chose hard light for the top layer’s blending mode and then I fiddled with the opacity of it until I was satisfied. As you can tell, I like the vibrant, high contrast look here. I then flattened the image once I was satisfied. I like flattening my image whenever I find that I am 100% happy with any changes I’ve made as it keeps my layers palette cleaner and slightly less confusing. If I’m even slightly unsure of my changes I will not flatten the image until I’m 100% sure.
To get the washed out look around the edge, I did a couple things. I made a square selection using the Rectangular Marquee Tool just inside the perimeter of the picture. I clicked select/select inverse. When I did this it made the outer edge of the picture my selection as opposed to everything inside of the rectangle. I then again clicked select/refine edge and moved the sliders so that the edge would be as smooth as possible, all the way to the right of the feather slider and almost all the way to the left of the contrast slider (and I can’t remember which way the smoothness slider goes but I moved it to super smooth whichever way that is!) This means that any effect or filter I apply to that area of the picture will be gradual and easy on the eyes rather than harsh lines.
After refining my selection I then went to filter/blur/gaussian blur and picked a blur level that I was happy with (this is a matter of personal preference).
My next step was to apply a white vignette (I used a black one in the truck picture below but otherwise, used much the same process). I kept the same selection and all of the same properties so that the fade of the vignette layer would match the fade of the blur in the background layer. I then clicked edit/fill/white/Okay. I then adjusted down the opacity of the vignette layer. Smiled whistfully and then flattened the image.
Lastly, for the wagon image I also decided to apply a textured brush. So I created another new layer (by clicking the little new layer icon at the bottom of the layers palette). I selected the brush tool, found the texture I liked (you can download hundreds and hundreds of free brushes from the internet by the way. Just do a Google search for “Free Photoshop Brushes” and if you are looking for a particular type, put that in your search criteria too, like “flowers” or “animals“) and selected white for the color of the brush. I went around the edge and painted the texture on as I saw fit, changing the orientation of the brush as I went so that it didn’t look too uniform. Then I went and grabbed my eraser tool and set the hardness to 0% and made sure that I had a soft round brush selected and gently erased the harsher edges and/or corners of the brush. Many texture brushes have a square edge that is quite noticeable but the eraser tool works wonders there. I once again changed the opacity of that layer to a level with which I was happy. For this layer I wanted to have the texture take on a slight 3D appearance so I clicked the “FX” button at the bottom of the layers palette and selected “bevel and emboss,” where I then fiddled with the bevel settings until I was satisfied, then clicked Okay.
Once all of that was done, I again flattened the image and then saved it.
I used similar techniques for the Tractor Truck picture except I used no brushes on this one. Instead I used a crackle or stucco like filter.
The same techniques that I used on the wagon image, I also used on the Double Delight (that’s the name of the rose) picture except I did not use a texture brush, I used a filigree type brush in the corners.
All of this to say that peopleless pictures can be just as wonderful as peopled pictures and are just as fun to work with in Photoshop. I repent in dust and ashes for the torment we used to give Dad when he would show us slide after slide of peopleless pictures, all of which got their own 15 minutes of fame, by way of explanation. Please forgive us Dad… we knew not what we were doing!