In this tutorial, I'm going to show you how to adjust the contrast and saturation of an image using the Soft Light Layer
mode. This is a quick and easy alternative from using our traditional Levels or Curves adjustments.
Tags:How to Use the Soft Light Layer Mode,blending,Photoshop tutorial,soft light layer mode,softlight,yaniks photo school
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Hello everybody, Yanik Chauvin here once again for a video tutorial on Yanik’s Photo Blog. And we’re going to be looking today at a variation, an alternative if you wish, to using adjustment layers like levels or curves and we’re going to do that using a layer blending mode called soft light. And it’s just another way of doing it. I actually find that it reduces more of the grayness of the image than the traditional curves can do or it will a little bit harder with curves to find that adjustment.
So let’s go ahead and look at the first shot here. This is a, actually this is my favorite canoe shot of all time. Looking to take a better one, one day, but for now this is my fetish shot, I took this in Quebec Park called la Hautes Gorges and it was about 8 o’clock in the morning there and I was on my way to basically where the vanishing point is at the X, the middle of the X and I was, I had my 8400 lens on my Nikon 200 at the time. I wanted to spot some birds and/or some elk or deer, so that’s why I had my big zoom on. So, I was focusing on getting animals and I wasn’t really looking at the scenery until I lifted my head up and went “Woh! Wait a minute. This is beautiful.” Actually beautiful is an understatement, this is gorgeous. So I quickly changed my lenses, put my Sigma 1020 on to get a really nice wide view and with my left hand I guided the canoe with my paddle and with my right hand I took my shots once the canoe was properly centered. So I took about 5 or 6 shots, vertical and horizontal, and this is the shot for me.
Now, all I’ve done up to now in this image is clean up the canoe and some spots in the water, using the cloning tool and the healing brush. And now we’re at the point where we need to give this image a bit of a pop. And we could do this the traditional way using curves or levels but I want to show you another way that we can do contrast adjustments and/or saturation adjustments. And that is with a blending mode, a layer mode called soft light. Now many, many nature photographers will use soft light to boost up their images and I just wanted to let you in on their little secret. So the first thing we need to do is duplicate our current layer and we do that by using control and J as a shortcut. Let me get into my image here, so control J and you can see here the layers duplicated. Now right here you have a paddle, and if you click down on it, you’ll have different blending modes.
Now with this recording software, its shift them over on to the image, so we’re going to just go here, and you’ll see all the different blending types that you can use for this layer. And what we’re interested in is the soft light, which is right here and you just click on that. And wala! You no need to do some S curves or anything else like that with the soft light, and it adjust also a bit of saturation in there. It kind of removes the grayness of the image, the flatness, the gamma of the image. It enhances the gamma of the image as well. I’m not sure what the formula is for this, but I just do it and I love to use it. Now if you find that a little too strong, it’s really simple to adjust it. You just go into the opacity slider here, and you can adjust it to whatever you think fits your needs. In this case, I like a 100%. Now if you ever want to do even more, all you would need to do is duplicate the layer once again by control J. And then you would have an even higher contrast and you could adjust that level, that layer to your desired level. And that’s it. And that’s how we would enhance an image using soft light in a nature setting.
Now I want to show you how to use this technique as well, when you’re shooting stock photography on a white background. So let’s close this image, I will not save it. And I’ll bring up my second image here. There’s a wonderful image of two dancers, this is before we actually started dancing shot at my friend Mathai’s Studio in Montreal. Of course I wanted a pure white background and that’s what I got. And we can see that the image is a little bit washed out from the bounds of the studio. Now that can happen a lot if you have a closed in space, and you have white walls all around and a white ceiling. Light will just bounce off everywhere from your white background. And you might get this type of low contrasty, kind of a little white film over your image, really, really bad contrast. So of course, again, you can use levels or curves to help bring out that image. But I’ll show you how to do it with soft light, same principle. Duplicate your layer, control J, change your layer style, soft light, and that’s it. It’s that simple. Now if you find that the image again is too contrasty, just go into your opacity slider and bring it down. In this case, probably around 80% would work well. You can see the before and after. Wow, in just a couple of clicks, you did it, before and after.
I can give you another tip here with human beings, especially people that have a reddish tone to their skin which isn’t really the case here. What you might want to do to that blending layer, that soft light layer, is to add or actually just go into adjustments, hue/saturation, and here you’ll select the reds, and you can bring the slider down to get the orange tones of the skin as well. And you just need to desaturate them. Now you won’t see a big change here, actually you can see some of it, but with people that have really, really red skin, using a soft light layer will bring out that red in the skin, and you don’t really want that, so by just desaturating either the whole image, the whole layer, or just the reds, and the oranges in that layer. It’ll bring the skin tone back to some normal values. All right, I won’t do it here.
And there you go, that’s it. That’s the tutorial for today. I hope you enjoyed it. If you have any comments or other techniques of this sort that you like to share, please post them in the comments here on the blog, and stay tuned for more tutorials to come. Thanks! Bye-bye.