Softening Contrast

n this recipe, we're going to apply lots of blur-more than you'd ever use if you wanted a simple soft-focus effect. There's a sandwich of two such layers, one with the Darken mode and the other using the Screen blending mode. This combination increases the image contrast, and, if we want, we can then reintroduce a bit more realism with a semitransparent layer containing the original.

1 In the Layers palette, duplicate the original image by dragging the background layer onto the "Create a new layer" icon. Alternatively, just use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl/Cmd-J Name this layer "Darken "

2 With the Darken layer selected, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set the radius to about

3 Still on the Darken layer, select Darken from the blending mode pull-down menu

4 Return to the original layer Make another copy of the background image and call it "Normal"

5 Drag the Normal layer to the top of the Layers palette and experiment with reducing the fill opacity until you've arrived at a subtle line-drawing effect

Soft touch

With this subject, a less high-key approach seemed more suitable, so I wanted to reduce the Screen layer's opacity to increase the opacity of the top layer With a picture like this, the Screen layer might be said to control the "dreaminess" factor

Blown away

The technique can also be applied to even lower key images but this image illustrates something to watch out for The contrast range was already very high and the Screen layer resulted in unacceptably blown highlights on the preacher's nose and cheeks Once the opacity of the Screen layer was reduced, the Darken layer gave the low-contrast, brooding tone I wanted to express

Original image.

Normal

Original image.

Normal

Darken

Background

1 Layers ' Channels 1 Paths

Screen V | Opacity: j 40% |0

Lock: Q J <J* Q Fi 100% ■ |0

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Screen + blur 40

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Darken + blur 40

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original pic

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0 A Screen Q Darken

0 Normal

Q A Screen 0 A Darken

Blurred edges

Soft glow

Radiant glow

Now let's try applying the same technique to a very different subject What's most noticeable here is how the blurred Darken layer bleeds into the surrounding sky Here, it's strong, and leaving off the top layer has produced an almost posterized effect The bleeding "shadows" hint at an early morning mist, and we can obviously reduce the layer's opacity if that seems to suit the image

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Original image.

1& 1

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Screen

, Background

Q Screen 100 100

0 A Darken B 100 I 100

Here the sandwich is very simple The darken and screen layers were blurred using a Gaussian amount of and were then placed below a 50% opaque copy of the original image

Layers

* Channels 1 Paths .

Normal

Opacity: | 50%

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| Lock: □ J Q Fill: 100%

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Normal

9

Screen + blur 46

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Darken + blur 46

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| Background

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Normal

B

50

c

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Screen

B

100

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Darken

B

100

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100

The same method can be the basis for a more high-key treatment when you duplicate the Darken layer and change the new layer's blending mode to Screen With the more high-key effect, you may have to increase the opacity of the top layer so that more detail remains in the image

0 Normal 0 A Darken

B 100 B 100

0 0

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