Sunday, 3 February 2013

A few Photoshop tricks: Instagram inspiration

Ok, so I won't pretend I am an expert on Photoshop. However, I read a lot. The same way I like to know a bit about coding for the web (html, css basics) I like to know my way around making pictures that little bit more interesting. So I thought I should share the last insight of Photoshop I learnt.


I love Instagram. I know I don't post pictures as much as I would like to, but that doesn't stop me from loving the idea of a bunch of filters that make a sometimes average picture, taken with a mobile phone, a super edgy image.

I have a terribly old version of Photoshop, so I am sorry if this looks outdated. I also don't know if this is "old news" for most of you, but I want to write about using layers as "masks" to achieve an "Instagram like" look. I know you're probably thinking Instagram has a x amount of different filters/looks to choose. Well, if you know the principles behind it, you can double or triple those to fit your needs.

Original picture I took yesterday in Brighton...
... and after I played around with it in Photoshop.
This might be a bit of an extreme example, but I was inspired by the 1977 filter. 

Basic principles:

Layer dominance - The top layer is always dominant, so if you want to create a filter, that "new layer" should be placed above the one with your main image.

Blending and opacity - You probably guessed by now that for you to be able to see through that top dominant layer you will have to change its opacity to something below 100%. When thinking of Instagram, there are two elements that repeat in pretty much every filter: the light varies from the centre to the edge of the pictures (usually a lighter centre and a darkened edge) and some filters have a yellowy twang to it whilst others have a blueish twist. When talking about colours and light, we say some are a warmer filter, some are colder. (Again, I am not trying to be a specialist, far from it, just sharing some pretty basic information I learnt with time).

Click on the image to see it bigger

Getting started - First thing I did was to create a new layer, then tint it with that pink colour you can see (rgb: #EF4277).  Under the layer blending properties, I changed its opacity to 40%. I also disabled the green channel by unticking the box. 


Next step - I added another layer, a white one now. I also changed it's opacity to 40%, but under the gradient overlay option, I chose Radial for style and ticked the box for Reverse, so the brighter part was the centre, and not the edges. I raised the scale to 110%, but I could be bolder if I wanted, by reducing it, or make it softer, by increasing it to up to 150%.


Last but not least - I selected my main image layer again and played a bit with the Brightness/Contrast. In the end, I chose to keep the contrast as it was, but reduced the brightness to -20.

That's it. Well, my point is not to show you how to create this particular effect, but how you can add as many layers to achieve the effect your want on your chosen image. The secret is playing around, finding out what you like and what makes your picture stand out. I learnt it by trying many tutorials like this in photos I took and, after being extremely frustrated for not achieving the look I wanted, despite following the exact steps, I realised I had to learn the principles and make my own choices... I guess it's a bit like life, isn't it? You live, you learn... Said Alanis :)

Photo & Effects by Zaira Brilhante

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