I’m not that tough, really!

Don’t try this effect on your mom (click to enlarge).

Part of being a photographer is finding ways to express your creativity. I thought I’d experiment with a “selfy” shot that I did a while back to give it some more character. Ok, those of you who know me are probably saying, “dude, you don’t need any more character.” But I digress. Let’s have a little fun.

The original shot was done using my Nikon D3s and 105mm f/2.8 AFS G VR Micro-Nikkor lens (a very good portrait lens). I used a single SB-900 Speedlight off-camera on a stand, controlled by the Nikon SU-800 commander. The out of camera result was this:

I used a single off-camera SB-900 speedlight for the original image.

I brought the image into Photoshop, where my goal was to apply plug-ins effects via layers for complete control. Now it was time to get down and dirty! I duplicated the background layer and I used single-image tone-mapping in Nik Software’s HDR Efex Pro 2.

Single-image tone-mapping in HDR Efex Pro 2 creates quite an extreme look.

Yes, this is extreme, but hang on…

Once I was back in Photoshop, I added a layer mask and used brush tools to subtly paint in the HDR tone-mapping effect. I started by filling the entire mask with black to remove the effect entirely, then used a white brush on the layer mask with the brush opacity set to 30% to add the effect back in.

By using a layer mask, I could paint in the effect just where I wanted it, and at a lower overall opacity than the original HDR image.

Ok, that’s cool, but I didn’t like the distracting background. I applied a strong black Vignette filter with Color Efex Pro 4 in a new layer. Not bad.

I added a vignette effect with Color Efex Pro 4.

My last step was to add film contrast and a little more structure effect, so I turned to Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro 2. I made some simple Structure slider effects with Silver Efex Pro 2, and I added Film Grain. Of course, doing so turned the entire image into a black and white one.

I used Silver Efex Pro 2 to add more local contrast and film grain.

I wanted to retain some color, though, so I went into the Layers palette and set the blending mode to Luminosity. This preserved the film grain and contrast enhancement and let the color image show through. I backed off the layer opacity slightly to get the look I wanted.

I set the SEP2 layer to Luminosity blending mode to let the color image show through while retaining the texture and grain effect.

While I don’t recommend this technique for portraits of your mom, it is a fun exercise and shows you what you can do when you use your plug-ins via layers. The end result is an effect that couldn’t be produced in any one plug-in alone, at least not easily.

Learn more about how to use plug-ins with layers with this training video workshop, Layers of Creativity.

Save 15% on all Nik Software plug-ins with code JODELL


One thought on “I’m not that tough, really!”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.