Words & Pictures Barry Beckham/David Rowley
Railways and steam trains always attract us photographers, but sometimes the shots need something to give them some impact. Try injecting some colour into your shots using Photoshop 5 layers and the colour blend.
Click here to download the full resolution image before you begin (336KB)
1 While this shot has some appeal it does need something to lift it. Subjects like this steam engine can take a degree of sharpening using Photoshop's unsharp mask so have a go at that first.
Call up the filter from the filter menu and try a setting of threshold 0, a radius of 0.6 and an amount of 200% and you will notice the increase in sharpness.
This image does not require any remedial work such as dealing with high-lights of cloning out unwanted parts, but if you are working with your own image, do any work that needs doing at this stage.
2 Call up your layers palette by hitting the F7 key and make a copy of your image. Drag the thumbnail down the layers palette and over the copy icon at the centre and Photoshop will make another layer for you as shown below.
Next open the hue and saturation palette from the menu bar or via the shortcut keys of ctrl+U. With your upper most layer selected slide the saturation slider way over to 100% and hit OK as we have below.
3 Selectfilter>noise and then median from the menu bar and choose a setting of 15.
You will notice from the example above that the image has become very smooth and soft, but the next stage will change the appearance.
From within the layers palette select colour from the blending modes and your image will be transformed into colour while retaining the sharpness.
4 You can now merge these two layers using the shortcut keys ctrl+shift+E. At this stage we should be looking to darken the edges of our image down a little to focus attention on the main subject. Often we use a feathered oval selection and the levels command, but with a colourful image like this another approach is required.
5 Create a new blank layer by clicking the centre icon at the base of the layers palette.
Select your oval marquee tool and starting at the top left draw an oval shape out over the image leaving about a quarter of an inch from the edge of the selection and the edge of theimage.Inversethatselection,select>inverse, or via the shortcut keys ctrl+shift+I as shown below.
Feather the edge of that selection by 50 pixels. The feather command is found in the select menu. Make sure you have the new blank layer selected and choose black as your foreground colour. Hit alt+del to flood the selection with this colour. Reduce the opacity of the layer to around 50% so that the corners of your image are darker than the centre. Merge these two layers when you are happy with the result as shown below.
6 You will see at this stage that this manipulation process has not done an awful lot for the large connecting rod in the centre of the image. Make a selection of the connecting rod using the polygonal lasso tool from the tool bar and feather the selection by 3 pixels.
Call up the hue and saturation palette (ctrl+U) and tick the little colorize box bottom right. Dial in a hue setting of about 214 and a saturation setting of about 75 to inject some colour into the steel.
This colour blend mode in the layers palette can be very useful for injecting colour back into your image. In many of the manipulation processes colour saturation can be lost. If you retain an original image in the layer stack you will always have the opportunity to inject colour back into your subject. Try this same technique on some other subjects and see what you can come up with.