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Creative Post-Processing for Portraiture

Lesson 5 of 7

Create Drama in the Sky

Jackie Jean Acosta

Creative Post-Processing for Portraiture

Jackie Jean Acosta

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Lesson Info

5. Create Drama in the Sky

Lesson Info

Create Drama in the Sky

This is from the same shoot, you can kinda see how over cast it was there, and I'm gonna crop one of my skies. And again, okay, alright guys, if you are gonna add a sky to an image please, please, please, please, please, please, make sure that it matches. As far as the light goes, you want to make sure that, everything I do, you wanna make it look as natural as possible, so if it's a really stormy kinda feeling day, you don't wanna add like, this bright sunny sky overlay to it cos then it doesn't, its kinda off. Ya know, you don't wanna bright midday sun, with an evening sky, again you wanna make sure that those light sources match. So, I'm using a stormy one with this one. Like, kinda just drag and drop it. And, we had an innocent bystander, over here that we are gonna get rid of with the clone tool. So I'm gonna go ahead and, alt click, and I just totally did that wrong, cos I had my... well that didn't work, okay. I'm like, I'm a try not to be anal over this part considering we are ...

doing skies and not cloning. (laughs) alright, okay so we got that person out I'm gonna go ahead and just drag and drop this sky on. So, I basically, when I'm adding a sky first of all I wanna make sure that the horizontal line, you know I kinda, wanna drop it right above the line where it meets, so we've got that line right here of where the ocean is, I'm gonna drag it right underneath, and I'm gonna go ahead and select my multiply tool, and what that does is it's really good at blending. It's great for blending with trees. So I know you are thinking, oh that's great you're doing, like a beach overlay and you're adding that sky. That's really easy, well we're gonna do trees in a minute too, like cos I think this is the biggest hang up I think with people is like the trees. The tree line, and people are just like, how do you do it? But again, just blending it in too. I'm just gonna mask, actually I'm not masking I'm erasing right now, but normally I mask. I'm gonna back out of here just for a minute, so you can see a little bit more what I'm doing. I'm all about blending, and naturally if you look at the sky its always a little bit brighter on the bottom, so its okay if you like, erase a little bit of that bottom sky, and make it bright, because then it kinda blends a little bit more. Alright so, I'm gonna go to my edit free transform right here, So when you add this sky to edit free transform and you can change the sky to kinda manipulate and fit where you want it. So I'm actually gonna bring that down just a little bit. And, we will do about 63%, and I'm gonna go ahead and I'm gonna duplicate this layer, because we are at the coast I wanna create, I wanna make it look a little bit more realistic and we've got this nice reflection of water, so basically what I did is that I duplicated the layer, and I just flipped it so we've got that. Wait let me go back down here. So I had it like this I'm just flipping it in the opposite direction, creating a mirror. Bring that up (mouse clicks) and let reduce that opacity want to make sure that's off her (mouse clicks) do it a little bit more. and as you noticed I don't have the sky on full scale because I'm planning on adding a little bit more oomph to it you know with pro processing so we're going to enhance the sky a little bit more as well. Alright, and edit free transform bring it up just a little bit want to make sure those two points meet, I don't want to keep it completely white right in between. Again always making sure that it's blending as best as you can, alright so I'm going to bring that down about 60%. (mouse clicks) and we're going a new adjustment layer of curves and bring that layer on the very top and this wind I'm actually not going to raise the brightness I want to just keep it really moody so I'm gonna actually bring down that exposure a little bit with the mid-point; bring it down and bring the shadows down just a little bit more creating more just a richness, more contrast, yep and there we go so, (mouse clicks) alright, now what I should have done; was I should have masked; actually erased 'cause I was talking too much. So I'm going to bring that down there we go again I want to make sure that it matches and that its kind of fluent throughout. (mouse clicks) I'm going to do a color balance because, I just want to make sure that the overall picture kind of flows really well. Want to make it a little bit cooler so like that one image we did before; we did the yellow and the red to warm it up; now we're just going to cool this one off by selecting cyan in the mid-tones and blue and sometimes when you're adding blue and cyan you want to make sure to add a little bit of green so that the skin tone isn't like over powering on the magenta side. So we cooled it off a little bit you can see right there and ill show you before and after so before, after we got a little bit of a difference there right? (mumbling) (mouse clicks) yeah I know afterwards I showed her the picture, she's like what it didn't look like that before (laughter) I was like no, it didn't. So that's super fun one thing you can do like this one; I actually didnt adjust the blur level on the sky cause sometimes I like to blur the sky out a little bit. This one, I kind of kept it as is just because I, everything is pretty much in focus so to me its not like the sky is throwing it off that much. So if you're like shooting super wide and you've got this incredibly blurry background and your subjects are really in focus and then you have this really incredibly in focus sky that gonna kind of throw it off, you wanna make sure that you add that blur to blend it in. Which we're going to do that next too. (mouse clicks) alright any questions on this one? just before I go on cause I know that was yeah? Hi, thank you I was just wondering if you could talk about your work flow? Kind of in the beginning at what point did you know this was going to be how you would post process the image? Did you know before you went to the location, or as you were shooting the image, or after? Okay, so normally most of the time I have a vision of what I want before hand, so people so in and what ever happens, but I tend to go in with a plan however this shoot totally through me off like I had a drone, I had all this stuff prepared like we were prepared for sunshine and we got to our location and we got hit with a ton of fog. It was like well, I'm just going to get creative with it as best as I can. And so I just started playing with this one this was more of a I'm looking at it I feel like it needs something and I just started playing with it to see where I wanted to go with it. She has her gallery full of sunbursts as well as crazy storms, I don't usually do that I had a little bit more creative free reign with this shoot, but usually for clients I'm pretty consistent. I go in if I'm adding sun or if I'm adding sky, I'm very consistent with that too. Want to make sure to keep it consistent throughout (chuckle) (mouse clicks) you don't want to have like a family session online you're like wait are these all different days (chuckles) you're like no that was all the same session (chuckles) Are you purchasing the sky photos from stock or are you taking these? No, so I actually have these I offer them I actually take sky pictures all the time and I go on a lot of road trips too. Me and my husband pack our five kids they actually are great in the car which awesome, I love taking pictures of skis I kind of have this massive stock to pull from. There's definitely a lot of resources to pull from for them. We're going to actually add a sky and a sunburst in this all together. (mouse clicks) lets grab a good sky to match it. Lets go with this light blue one (mouse clicks) alright this was evening time this was towards like the golden hour time of day that we we're shooting. I am all for adding that sun in here. Okay so we're going to kind of add that moodiness as well so lets go ahead and add that sky in first. So I'm going to go ahead and just drag it on top edit, free transform; I'm going to make sure to cover it all I'm going go again just slightly underneath that tree line and select my multiply layer. just the multiply already takes out a lot of that dreaded halo effect that you can get when you add to it so I'm going to go ahead and mask this and I'm going to mask in just that line, you want to get rid of that for sure. And I'm kind of just staying under right now I got it 100% now I'm reducing my opacity to about a 60%. I'm blending it I'm just kind of blending everything in. Now I'm going to go down to 30%, 28% make sure my brush is a little bit bigger. Now I'm brushing over the trees and into a little bit of that skyline. Now you can see where the sun is coming right in that little spot right there. I'm just going to take out a little bit of sky right there. You know, blend it in a little bit better. Okay the trees are a little bit more out of focus, so I feel like the clouds are a little to in focus here. I want to make sure to blur that out a little bit, so we're going to go to filter, blur, gaussian blur. Just kind of eyeballing it right now, I got it up about 9/10 on the blur. Just trying to match it up with the background there we've got before and after with the sky (mouse clicks) (student clears throat) let go ahead and add that sunburst next. We're gonna do that again creating that new blank layer. Going to go to out gradient right there I've already got those colors set so I'm not going to do that again and I'm just going to take point my spot, drag it, drop it; actually want to make it a little bit bigger burst right there. There we go. Now I'm going to grab my elliptical marquee tool right there from my tool bar select it right over (mouse clicks) select my screen mode for the blend mode. Now my mask we're going to go to filter, blur, gaussian blur and lets blur that out to about 100% on the radius. I'm going to grab my masking tool right there, set my fore ground to white. Bring that in I'm doing it at about 28% opacity you want to make sure that it blends well. Adding it to the sky, adding it to the trees there. I feel like I'm painting, that's fun. I'm horrible at painting too. (laughter) not good at all I have no patience for it either but I have all the patience in the world for this. Alright so we've go this nice little sunburst right there. So now I want to tie all of it together so I want to all a little bit of richness too to it. We're going to layer, new adjustment layer, and curves. (mouse clicks) grab that mid-point down, add a little bit of contrast. When ever you do a contrast you want to make sure you're not losing any details in the blacks. I want to not go to far on the shadows there cause you always want to make sure you're keeping the details. Same goes for if they're wearing white right there, what you could easily blow it out and lose the details there you want to make sure you are always keeping those details. Bring that up and okay I've got two points down I brought the exposure added a little bit of contrast not too much now I'm just gonna mask in at a very low opacity (mouse double clicks) on them. Again enhancing that light coming on them you can see there alright last thing on this one; I want to change the tone of the sky. So the sky is really blue while it is pretty it still is not quite a sunset kind of shot, so I'm going to change it. I'm going to go to image, adjustments, color balance. So I don't want to do a new layer adjustment balance for this one because I'm just changing the color on the sky on the actual layer so I want to make sure that that layer is selected, and I'm only doing it on that one. I'm going to go ahead and lets add some yellow and red we're going to warm it up, add a little bit of green to it; her we go, alright so we've got before and after. (mouse clicks) kind of move this over that way you can actually see it, I feel like its hard to see the full thing there we go before and after, what do you guys think of that one. Yeah I was wondering about your work flow, so I see that you are bringing your shadows down in Photoshop; when you're in lightroom are you in lightroom first or do you typically just are you going straight to Photoshop? Okay so I typically go straight to Photoshop. Okay that makes sense okay I know this is going to like blow everybody's minds be like oh what kind of person are you but I shoot in jpeg. (laughter) Okay I've been doing this for so long I did this before raw was cool, I just never switched over. I'm like now I'm not with the cool kids but as much as the Photoshop that I do I still like to be fast about it too for me I already get a pretty consistent as far as my lighting, and how it comes out so that why I don't add the extra step of Lightroom and Raw Cool thank you!

Class Description

Post-processing offers a ton of ways for you to dramatically change, improve, and stylize your portraits. Unfortunately, most of us get into a post-processing rut, using the same tired techniques over and over again. Professional portrait photographer Jackie Jean Acosta will help you revitalize your image editing by demonstrating some of her most impressive tricks and inspiring ideas.

In this class, you’ll learn how to:

  • Use various techniques to enhance the mood and create drama.
  • Add sun flare, haze, and streams of light to your images.
  • Extract your subject from your background.

Join Jackie for this exciting journey through creative post-processing and learn to have more fun and be more experimental with the process of refining your images.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2018



This class was amazing. I loved it. I just thought she went a bit fast and sometimes didn’t say where she found the room she was using. If you have distractions around you like kids, this is something you will want to watch more than once. Or maybe clear the distractions before watching. I feel I learned a lot and it will help me bring my picture editing to the next level.


This was an excellent class. I really wanted some simple photoshop techniques to add to my portrait work and this was perfect. I learned more about masking, layers, creating extra light and balancing my images. Jackie has a great simple lesson on composite photography at the end for a beginner. If you are looking for easy and immediately applicable upgrades to your portraiture work, this is it.

Dre' Black

Shocking I'm impressed with her simple yet effective techniques. It almost makes me wonder how I didn't know all this single how simple it is, but she does a great job at teaching it and wrapping it up in a nice package.