Today I thought I would give you a glimpse into my usual work flow. Numerous times I have been asked about how I achieve the color tones I gravitate towards or my particular "soft contrast" look, along with the textures used. The only way to answer that is to say "it is a process". Labor intensive?.....definitely. But one that works for me. These steps developed each time I learned something new or purchased some new software. Rather than eliminating something, I just keep adding it to the mix as I like what it was adds to the overall outcome. So....here goes.
I took this picture while driving from Texas to Colorado where I live. It was taken while driving through the Texas panhandle region, an obviously very flat and treeless expanse. This image is actually a combination of three images I joined together in PS CS4. I then cropped it to the 16x9 dimensions you see here.
In order to gain more contrast and definition in the clouds and foreground, using PS Bridge, I created two additional exposures (a +1 and -1 full stop exposure) to combine with the earlier image. Using Photomatix HDR software, I layered the three images to create the subtle HDR image you see here. Notice the improved clarity and highlights in the sky? I wasn't completely satisfied with the crop, so I cropped it a little more with the same 16x9 dimensions.
Using one of the actions I acquired from Apples and Sisters, I softened the contrast and warmed the coloring to begin reflecting the feeling of age I wanted to get from the scene. I used to rely only on the textures used to gain coloring changes, but I have found this method to work better for me.
Now I begin texturing the image. I believe I ended up with 7 different texture layers to create the effect you see here....3 old paper textures and 4 images of various concrete and plaster walls. Choosing textures, for me, has as much to do with maintaining the "direction" I want the image to have as it does the feeling of character I want the image to have. This is an obviously horizontal piece. If I were to add textures and turn textures so all the lines of character were running horizontally as well, the image would start taking on an elongated effect and start looking "stringy". Also, all the horizontals in the image between fence, horizon, sky and textures would then become a distraction. By adding a few vertical textural lines in such a long image, it helps to counter act the elongation of the image and maintain the lofty relationship between land and sky. Also, some of the paper textures add some more softness and brightness to the scene as well.
The last step is my use of yet another bit of software called Tiffen Dfx. Choosing from an array of over 300 different filters, I then bumped up the contrast and then added a black and white filter called "silver gelatin" at 12% opacity. This pulls out the over saturated look the colors can take on when you bump up the contrast. I believe it also keeps the coloring more accurate for an image that has aged naturally.
And that is how I went from this....
I hope this helps.