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Before & After Photoshop: How I did the edit step by step (August 28th)

The photo a lot of people were curious to see a before and after comparison of. Especially if you notice that there’s actually only one flower in the photo! I worked with Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop to create this creative edit. Let me walk you through it!

This post is revealed to public 6 months after sharing it exclusively for my Patreon subscribers. As I am writing this post for my patrons on Patreon.com, I shared this photo just today. I posted this photo of three flowers arranged beautifully in the frame – each in its different color. Which actually is just one flower, duplicated and manipulated to look like three. Feel mind blown? 🤯

The process in Adobe Lightroom

I started with this photo that just seemed to have quite some potential for my current theme – the background seemed perfect to turn it more teal. And the yellow flower was perfect to make a transition to my upcoming, yellow theme.

After playing with presets and edits in Lightroom, this is the photo I ended up with: 

This felt like the time to switch to Adobe Photoshop for some background and foreground accents.

The process in Adobe Photoshop

After loading it in Photoshop, I always tweak something in the Camera RAW window before proceeding.

Camera RAW and calibration

Since I use Adobe Lightroom mobile and Lightroom CC – I do not have the access to calibration settings. The only way to get them in Lightroom is to save them as presets.

What are Calibration settings? – You might ask.

Calibration settings in Camera RAW

They’re a great way to alter the colors very beautifully and interestingly. And these alterations are considered as the main color in the Color mixer tool. That means if you change your greens to blues in the calibration settings, the color mixer will see those changed colors instead of the original ones. When you change the hue of the blue color, your color that originally was green – will be changed.

Cropping and expanding

After approving the Camera RAW settings, I removed the insect from the flower. It seemed too distracting. And I expanded the scenery: 

I used the Crop tool to expand the scenery.

Here’s a tip: If you post in 4:5 aspect ratio, like me, use the crop tool and set the aspect ratio to that. Then place your current scenery inside that crop, as you would like it to end up in. Then clear the crop ratio and expand all the sides so that nothing of the original part of the photo is cut off. Accept, and *Voilà*, you have expanded it on the sides that are needed for you to crop the final result in your chosen aspect ratio.

After expanding, I selected the expanded area and content-aware filled it. (It’s available from Edit -> Fill -> Choose “Content aware”). When this feature appeared in Photoshop, I was so amazed. And I still am – the feature is always improving.

Even after the Camera RAW changes, I like to tweak the tones more. I use adjustment layers for that.

An icon in the layer panel that creates a new adjustment layer

I like using adjustments such as Hue/Saturation, Brightness/Contrast, Selective Color as well as Curves.

It is advised to use Adjustment layers, so that the edit is non-destructive and you can always remove or make changes to those alterations.

Separating the flower from the background

Next I used the object selection tool to select the flower into a separate layer.

Object selection tool in Adobe Photoshop

I don’t use “Layer via Copy” to separate it. Instead I have an already duplicated background layer prepared. Bonus points if it is a smart object. Then with the selection active, I click on the “Add Vector mask” icon. This masks the flower so that the background is not visible. Such option is, once again, non destructive, and you can make changes to the selection or the base photo at any time.

I often blur the background in my photos. Sometimes just a little bit, and sometimes – only on elements that are too distracting in the background.

With the flower in a separate layer, we now have to make a background layer without the flower. I use a duplicated background layer, re-select the flower mask, expand the selection and content aware fill it to get rid of the flower. This can be turned into a smart object for non destructive adjustments. I use Filter -> Blur -> Gaussian Blur to add the blur to the background. I did not blur the background much in this edit though.

Where I used the Gaussian blur in this edit is the following. I copied the flower to a new layer and blurred it. This can then be placed in the background as an accent. As if there was another flower in the background far away. You might want to add an adjustment layer for this cutout to make it darker or brighter, or differently colored.

Here’s a tip for adjustment layers: place the layer above the layer you want it to affect. Right-click the layer and choose “Create clipping mask”. This way your adjustments will affect only the one layer below it.

I duplicated the blurred flower layer multiple times to add not only background accents, but also foreground. If you enlarge the blurred layer and place it in a bottom corner, you can make it look like as if there was a flower in front of the lens.

Bending a flower in Photoshop

How did you get three flowers, bent in different ways?” – you might also ask.

Once you have a mask of the flower that you are happy with, select the mask and use “Layer via Copy” to get the flower in a separate layer. Now that the flower is without the background, you can bend it, using Puppet warp. It’s available through Edit -> Puppet warp. Once the tool is active, click on the spots that you want to be joints of the flower. Then you can click and drag those spots to bend the flower in a way of your liking.

Here’s a video where you can see the process:

I duplicated the flower two times and bent the flower to my liking. The flowers can also be resized to make the scenery more believable. Not all the flowers are the same size and distance from the camera. I used adjustment layer “Hue/Saturation” to change the color of the orange flower to red and yellow. I’ve also flipped some of the flowers horizontally to make the edit more believable. To make the stem longer on the flower highest in the photo, I used the “Content-Aware scale” feature.

Masking the flowers

One of the most challenging things in this edit was making the stems look good.

The stems before hiding the old background with masking

Since the cut-out of the stems was not perfect, there were parts of the original background left around the stems. I used the masking tool to hide parts of the stems that stood out against the new location of the flower on the background. Since the background has multiple different colors in it, moving a flower to a different spot makes the area around the stems more visible

This is how the scenery looks like after completing all the steps I have described.

Adding foreground accents as layers in Photoshop

Since three flower stems (that may not be with perfect masking) coming straight out of the lower part of the photo might look suspicious – I chose to add foreground accents. One option is to simply use a big brush on the softest setting to do it. But another – is to use the flowers itself. I took the already blurred flower layer and duplicated it. After enlarging it and placing it on the bottom of the photo, in front of the stems – it already looked better. But since the flowers are orange, an orange accent over the stems was too much. So I added an adjustment layer to change the hue of the blurred flower. I also had to play with the Saturation and Lightness sliders to make the flower match the background color.

Here is the scenery after adding all the foreground accents in the photo:

Adding bokeh accents in the background

For a lot of my edits I like to add bokeh accents in the background. Sometimes just a tiny bit, sometimes more than that. For this edit I used two bokeh overlays to add some magic in the scenery:

The bokeh overlays that I used for the edit

The black disappears for such overlays after setting the blending mode to “Screen” if you use Photoshop. I used the blue overlay twice (by duplicating the layer) and the yellow – once. I reduced the saturation of them with adjustment layers, so that they do not appear as as blue and yellow, rather than more white. Masking the overlays and changing their opacity helps to make the transitions on where they end – better.

If you want to download these overlays or learn such insights about lots of other photos of mine, head to my Patreon profile!

Take a look at how the scenery looks after adding the bokeh overlays:

Accenting the flowers more using Dodge and Burn

For this photo I felt like the flowers looked too meh in this scenery. I did multiple things to make them pop more. One was – sharpening them through Topaz Sharpen AI. Another was using burn and dodge tools (darkening and brightening). Let me tell you how you can burn and dodge in a non destructive way with Photoshop. Create a new layer. Choose Edit -> Fill -> 50% Gray. Finally choose “Overlay” as blending mode to that layer. Now it should look like nothing has changed, because it hasn’t – a 50% gray layer looks transparent in the Overlay blending mode. Now you can use the “Dodge” and “Burn” tools on this layer to make areas of the flower brighter or darker.

The location of Dodge and Burn tools

I like to do the dodging and burning corrections on two separate layers, just in case I want to duplicate one of them, or reduce the amount.

With these final adjustments the edit was finished. Well, almost. I did import it back into Lightroom and added some more clarity on the flowers from my phone. I try to edit the photos so that they look good on my phone’s screen. That also sometimes means reducing the saturation of the photo. Otherwise the colors might look way too vivid on the vivid OLED screens, such as mine.

Conclusion

If you are trying to create an edit like this as well, and have some questions about my process here, feel free to send me a message on Instagram. We can work it out 🙂

To read more articles like this, with detailed breakdown on my editing steps for my photos, visit my Patreon profile. By subscribing, you can also access my Adobe Lightroom presets, access my photos before I share them on Instagram, and even get shout-outs in my Instagram! It is worth it. And the best thing: you can cancel anytime!

Learn from me

If you wish to learn more from my edits and the way I edit – I offer editing videos of my Photoshop process! Both this edit, as well as more than 60 other edits have been recorded, and can be prepared as a purchase.

These

..are only some of all of the photos whose edits have been recorded. To get this collage in full size, send me a message on Instagram. You can choose the before/afters you are the most interested in, and I will prepare the videos for you.

These videos are also suited for Photoshop beginners as I offer to add subtitles with every off-screen keypress I make.

If you feel unsure about your skills even with such – I can also add texts with explanation on what I am achieving in every step for an additional price.

Everyone has an opportunity to learn Photoshop 🙂

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