Serendipity Photography Technique: Partial Sepias

Sally Newell from Serendipity Photography talks about two fine printing partial sepia techniques.

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Final Partial Sepia image

Final Walking Sepia image

This is a first of a occasional series on Photoshop technique at Serendipity Photography. Have you ever wondered the photographs in Serendipity albums show many differences in colour tones, depth, shade, mood and atmosphere? A lot of this variety is from Serendipity Photography’s vast Photoshop experience: now nearly 2100 weddings, andover 600,000 album images. At Serendipity we source ideas from many arts related areas and we have 18 years of constant photoshop experimentation with colour technique under our belt. We continue to draw from the past, particularly Renaissance and Romantic portraiture, and remain inspired by classic and modern architecture. From last year’s Europe trip, of note were visits to the Prado (Velasquez and Goya) and catching Turner in an exhibition placed against influences and contemporaries, as well a 3 days in the Tate, mostly on Turner.

We’re delighted to bring you two final pieces from a recent wedding, and give you a little insight into the stages of how we got to the final result. To help understand these recipes, imagine rubbing through layers of screen printing pigment or oil paint .. many of our images have over 20 layers manually rubbed together, often with some preshaping with one or two channel masks (eg paler reds of a lighter underlayer show through the non reds of a darker top layer, the top layer has an anti red channel mask).

We start with two scenes from the Morell Bridge, featuring dense, strong, dark, blue skies and finely textured green native foliage. In this wedding album, it was important in this album to give a sense of variety to the sides devoted to the Morell Bridge, so we rummaged through our Serendipity photoshop kit bag and came up with two different but related sepia techniques. After basic colour grading, vignetting and local grading we arrive at two regular looking images, reality, but nice. However the aim is to create something special. For starters we can see the green foliage and bright blue sky as figure rather than ground when we would rather concentrate on looking at the couple in an atmospheric romantic surrounds. What can be done?

Lets take the first image, the couple kissing.

1. Firstly  we can rotate yellows in the green colours of the leaves towards red, sending the picture to a more Autumn-toned scene, followed further density adjustment — a much darker layer is placed on top, duplicated, and the second of these duplicated layers masked with an anti red layer channel mask, allowing the reds to the original lighter to poke through helped along with more brushing. Then the much darker top layer is masked, and then rubbed back around the figures and bridge and foliage. We go here from the first to second picture.

2. We create a sepia layer, set the layer at 80% opacity and rub down towards the regular colour, say, in the flesh tones. The colours in the regular layer are further focused towards red and blue and away from yellow and green.

3. Magenta was added into the shadow areas through a sandwiched inner layer using a channel mask. This was applied in a subtle way by masking the layer with an anti density channel mask, putting the layer as an inner layer in a three-part sandwich and rubbing the through the regular layer through to this channel masked layer.

4. The saturation of reds is adjusted in some local areas again by highly saturating the reds through a red channel mask and rubbing down onto that, again in using one of Serendipity Photography’s regulasr photoshop techniques, the sandwich (effects layer is in the middle of two normal layers allowing a channel mask, or two if you group the layer.

5. The results were further burnt in and dodged (using darkroom terms) by rubbing down to darker and lighter underlayers. I created a subtle vignette and by adjusted the focal points in the image by increasing contrast in areas such as the leaves and the reeds.

Now for the second image, with the autumn coloured foliage. Starting with the custom printed image in regular colours, leaving the flare for a late afternoon feel:

Similar procedures were followed to rotate yellows to red in the foliage, use the two darker overlayers with the inner one anti red channel masked, and again using the anti density channel masked magenta shading in the shadows layer. Then this time I placed a very warm saturated sepia layer under the image at 80% with further rubbing down to it on the road and foliage. The trees were given yet more red and contrast, by carefully rubbing down onto magenta and orange colorised layers in succession multiple times.

Final results, enjoy!

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