Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Punching Up the Drama in Photos

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Today I want to show you how to go from the photo above....
To an edgy, contrasty more dramatic look like this:
I have photographed several senior boys this week
and I love that Chris is very laid back and
 wanted only outdoor, woodsy portraits.

He brought two T-shirts with him...
one white and the other blue because I told him
it would really bring out those hunkin' blue eyes!
I love casual senior pictures compared to
the stuffy, suited studio shots from my era.

He also brought along his SUV to pose with, which gave me
lots of creative photo options.
While I like this photo below...

I wanted to punch it up with some drama.

I especially like this simple editing technique for
It gives the photos a bit of edge and looks

I find that when I give the seniors an option between
the normal photo and the one with added drama...

They usually buy the one with drama.

I want to share this simple editing method that works with nature portraits...

or really any photo where you want to impose more edge and contrast.

It even works for Black and Whites:

I do this in Photoshop Elements 8, but it works in Photoshop, too.
Open your photo in Elements and click on Ctl-J to duplicate the layer.
See the duplicated layer by the yellow arrow in your layer's bin.

In the panel at the top of your on Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur

A control box will pop up.  Move the slider by the yellow arrow until the photo
is very blurry, but you can still make out the subject.
There is no perfect here...just move it until it's blurry.

At the top of your layers bin you will see a window that says NORMAL...
those are your blend modes.  It's by the pink arrow, but under that drop down menu
that is covering it in the photo.
Click on Overlay as seen by the yellow arrow.
(If you want less on soft light.  Play around and see
what you like best for your photo.)

With Overlay, the drama is often too intense, so lower the
opacity to your taste.  (See opacity to the right of the blend modes.)

This fast and simple technique really enhances photos!

I find myself using this often for senior boys.

It also works for girls...especially if they're wearing
bright colors or you want an edgy feel.

Play around with this method and I hope
it gives you an exciting new option for portrait photography.


  1. Wow! Nice work! Those senior photos have come a long way since I was in High School (late 80's)!!! I do prefer the less rigid outdoor photos than those 'stuffy' studio ones.

    P.S. Love that Photoshop trick!

  2. nice work on these senior portraits!! i haven't yet photographed any boys, but was just asked last evening if i would take a friend's son's senior pics. thanks for this tutorial! i'm still learning photoshop, so this was a great lesson!

  3. I returned to let you know you've been nominated for the Versatile Award! Congratulations! Check it out here

  4. Hi,
    Just wondering, what aperture do you find yourself using the majority of time for the portraits... I'm in the learning stages... :)

  5. Vicki, thanks so much for the nomination!

    Cathy, my aperature setting depends on the look I want. If I want a blurry,dreamy background...then I open the aperature wide...usually 1.4 to 2.8 on my 50mm 1.4 lens. That's my favorite way to shoot portraits.

    If I want to show a bit of the background, then I'll crank it shut a bit to 4.0 to 5.8.

    Check out this blog post for more

  6. what gorgeous models - thanks for the tips!

  7. Oh those came out so nice- I love the reflection in the car window.

  8. I love, interesting portraits, frames, lights and stunning colors, all with a delicious naturally. Greetings.

  9. Great portraits. Thanks for visiting.

  10. Such wonderful portraits, really stunning and I really like that extra edge you added. Thanks for the tip, so appreciated.

  11. Lovely photos! Thanks for sharing your tips.

  12. Thanks so much for the tips! Very nice portraits, I so love the b&w refection, just beautiful!

    Thanks for sharing with Foto Friday,
    I will try out your tips,

  13. Using this for Dustyn preschool photos now. Will post them later.

  14. great photos! Thank you for sharing. Wishing you a beautiful week Hugs

  15. Great photos, and what an easy tip. I'm off to play with it!

  16. wow, that´s a lot to take in. Nice work :)

  17. What a great, effective, and simple tip! Thanks for sharing!

  18. great tutorial! Perfect tip to share! and i love these portraits, especially the bright piercing blue eyes on that boy!

  19. You certainly understand lighting. These pictures are so well taken!
    Thanks so much linking up with the Photo Show at Tell at Here will be another challenge up and running tomorrow. This week's theme is "Family". I can't wait to see what you've got to share!


  20. love boh of your blogs. i invite you to visit mine. im your latest follower. thank you