Photoshop Tip: Eye Movement

I recently attended a Photography Workshop in Jackson Hole, WY.  The teachers were Vincent Versace, Moose Peterson and David Black.  During the course of the workshop, Vincent provided demostration of how he moves a viewer’s eye around his image.   Earlier, Vincent had presented a slideshow of his images and they were compelling.  However without Vincent’s explanation, I would have been clueless to his technique.

The technique of moving the viewer’s eye provides a subtle but powerful improvement to your image.

Grand Tetons 1_origl

Note: Roll mouse over image to see final results.

To move the viewer’s eye, you must know what attracts the eye.

  1. Patterns it recognizes.  This is individual based on the viewer’s experience.
  2. Light to dark areas
  3. High contrast to low contrast
  4. Sharp to less sharp
  5. Saturated to less saturated
  6. Focused to less focused
  7. Warmer to cooler.

What can be controlled within Photoshop?  Everything except patterns.  Where to start in Photoshop?

    1. Start with big problems first.  Address color balance and
      contrast.  Remove distractions.  For my case, this image was converted
      from raw without further tweaking and provides a good starting point.

Grand Tetons 1_orig

    1. Next, I like to try the Nik Polarizer filter.  This filter is a Photoshop plugin and part of a set from Nik Multimedia.  Notice, the the blues are a little deeper and yellow trees have a little more pop.

 

Grand Tetons 3_polarize

Note: Roll mouse over image to compare to original.
    1. Once the big issues are complete, you can start the eye movement optimization.  The first step is to decide the first, second, and third focal points in your image.  You may not agree with my selection of focal.  Feel free ry out different combinations and see which you like better.

 

Grand Tetons 2_focus

    1. Since the eye is initially drawn to areas of light over dark, add a curves adjustment layer that darkens the midtones (could use level adjustment layer as well).  Make sure that the curve’s blending mode is Luminosity to not introduce a color shift.  Make the adjustment as subtle or strong as you need.  In the mask of the curve adjustment layer, leave it filled with white so that it is initially applied everywhere in the image.Select the curve’s mask and pick a black, soft-edged brush.  For the first focal point, set the brush’s opacity to 50%.  Carefully, paint the face of the barn and some of its roof.  This is our first focal point.  Next, change the brushes opacity to 20%.   Paint the yellow trees to the left of the barn for our second focal point.  Finally, change the brushes opacity to 10% and paint along the fence points for our third focal points.Notice, that the brush opacity starts with 50% reduces to 20% and finally ends at 10%.  You want the effect to decrease by roughly half between each focal point.  The decreasing intensity moves the eye through your focal points in order.  You would add confusion if you treated each focal point equally.  As an example if you want a stronger effect, you could use opacities of 80% to 40% to 20%.  Just remember that the effect should be subtle and will build as we keep applying the technique in later steps.  The following image shows the quick mask for the selective lightening.

Grand Tetons 4_darken_midtones_mask

    1. This is the result of selectively lightening the image at the focal points and slightly darkening the rest of the image.

Grand Tetons 4_darken_midtones

Note: Roll mouse over image to compare.
    1. Next, we are going to add contrast to our focal points.  Again, we use a Nik filter called Pro Contrast.  Since I got up very early for pretty light with a color cast, I will only add contrast without color correction.  As a bonus, adding contrast also adds perceived sharpness to our focal points.  Again, mask the contrast so that only the focal points have added contrast in the 50% to 20% to 10% amounts.

Grand Tetons 5_contrast

Note: Roll mouse over image to compare.
    1. Next, we are going to add warm our focal points.  Again, we use a Nik filter called Brilliance/Warmth.  Adding warmth is another way to subtly draw the viewer’s eye to the focal points.  Like before, mask the effect so that only the focal points have added warmth in the 50% to 20% to 10% amounts.

Grand Tetons 6_warming

Note: Roll mouse over image to compare.
    1. For the final step, we are going to selectively sharpen the focal points.  Again, we use a Nik sharpening filter called Sharpener Pro.  When you are ready to print, you will still need to sharpen.  At this point, you may think heresy.  You cannot sharpen an image twice.  Actually, the Nik Sharpener is smart enough not to oversharpen.  (Surprise to me as well)  Like the previous steps, mask the sharpening so that only the focal points have added details in the 50% to 20% to 10% amounts.  Sorry, this change is not really visible in the web but definitely noticeable in a print.

Grand Tetons 7_final

Note: Roll mouse over image to compare.
    1. We are complete.  Surprising how much of an improvement can be made.

Grand Tetons 7_final

Note: Roll mouse over image to compare to original.
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