I was on Google+ the other day responding to circle requests when I saw a photo linked to 500px that struck me as interesting. It was a photo called Beagle Dog by Steve Foster. What I liked most about it was the fact that it had that “Matrix” feel to it. Overall I thought it was a neat shot that looked like it belonged in a Tim Burton movie, so I told Steve how much I liked it on his post. I also responded that he should write about how he processed it on my blog, and he agreed. What follows is Steve, in his own words, about how he edited this shot.
How to get the Beagle Man Look by Steve Foster
The above photograph of my brother, Ian and his and his wife, Elaine's two beagles, Elsie and Buddy, was taken at Chapmore End, near Hertford, England at the end of March 2013. I tend to follow a very organic (chaotic, some would say!) workflow when processing my images and, additionally, this was also the first image I've processed using my newly purchased Nik Collection by Google (additionally discounted via the discount code on this excellent blog). I apologise, therefore for any repetitiveness and occasional lack of detail....
The photograph was taken with my Nikon D600 and Nikon 50mm f/1.8 lens. Following a couple of test shots, a manual exposure of 1/200s at f/9 was used in order to darken the background sky. As can be seen in the uncropped original photograph below, Elaine held my Nikon SB600 flash (now replaced by the SB-700) to Ian's right, pointed at him. The flash was also set to manual (at 1/1 if I remember rightly) and triggered via the D600's built in flash set to Commander mode. The camera's White Balance was set to Auto.
Original In-Camera Shot
The image was imported in to Adobe Lightroom 4 and cropped. Overall exposure was reduced by around a stop, whites and highlights were darkened, and shadows and blacks lightened. Clarity was set at +33. Here’s what the basic panel looked like:
Lightroom 4 Basic Adjustments
The sky was then darkened further using the Adjustment Brush, being careful to avoid, as far as possible, leaving bright halos around Ian. The same tool was also used to brighten Ian's face and coat and the two dogs a little.
After Lightroom Edits
Next, the image was opened in Nik Software Color Efex Pro 4. The built in Recipe, Super Cross Pop, was used as a starting point to move the image towards blue/green and increase impact/contrast. Each of the three individual filters in the Recipe were adjusted in turn (the effect of Dark Detail Extractor in the Dark Contrasts filter being, in particular, reduced) until I was happy with the way things were looking.
After Color Efex Recipe - Super Cross Pop
The image was then brought into Adobe Photoshop CS6 for further adjustments. Any halos of lighter sky made more pronounced by the previous step were reduced or eliminated using the Clone Stamp Tool set to Darken at low opacity. The Spot Healing Brush was used to clean up Ian's coat. The Colour Balance of the whole image was moved towards green. Selective adjustments were then made using Adjustment Layers and masks. The ground area was moved further towards green, the sky slightly back towards blue and the contrast in both areas increased. The dogs were lightened again using curves. Here’s a look at my layers in Photoshop:
Photoshop CS6 Layers for Beagle Man
Finally, the whole image was slightly desaturated and sharpened via Nik Software Sharpener Pro 3. Back in Lightroom, a vignette was added.
I am pretty pleased with the way the photograph turned out and the final version is quite close to the idea that I had in my head. Even the two dogs sat still for a few seconds!
Conclusion by Ron Martinsen
I’d like to thank Steve Foster for sharing his workflow for this image! I actually forgot about the Sample Recopies that come with Color Efex, so that was a great reminder for me to go try them out again – thanks Steve!
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