Unleash Your Creativity and Add Magic to your Photographs.
Do you sometimes look at the images you have created and think
…I would love to add a little bit more magic?
…I think this would be even better with some sparkle?
…It’s almost there but I want to add some imagination?
Photographers have added extra sparkle to their images almost since the dawn of photography. They’ve used filters to produce flare, altered the darkroom processing and cut and paste to create an image they envisioned when they clicked the shutter. It was all part of the creative process, part of seeing as an Artist and bringing that unique insight to life.
Today’s photographers can do that without the mess and expense of a darkroom or relying on a lab by using any number of photo editing programmes.
This article will show you, step by step, how to create your own bokeh and add it to your images to bring sparkle and magic.
Creating a Bokeh File.
The first step is to create your own bokeh file. You can buy them or find them on the web given away free, but I like to make my own as it’s so simple and much more rewarding.
To do this, you’ll need to take a photograph of some points of light. A town or city from a high vantage point will work, but may favourite is Christmas decoration lights. The trick is to turn your camera to manual focus and take the shot with the lights out of focus. For the steps that follow you’ll need a dark background so take your shots after dark with all other light sources turned off. Take a few different shots with lights close together or further apart, zoomed in and out and various exposures. This will give you a good range of images to choose from.
This is the one I’ve chosen for this article as the diagonal line in the lower half suits the image I plan adding the bokeh to.
I don’t want the colour in this case so I want to make a mono version first.
In the Add an adjustment panel, click on the black and white adjustment as shown above or click Image > Adjustments >blackandwhite from the top line menu.
A dialogue box will pop up allowing you to adjust how each colour in your image is represented on the grey scale. Play with the sliders until you get the lights you want.
You can now add some colour if desired. I chose a muted golden hue to reflect the colour of the incident sunlight in my main image. To make this adjustment click on the tint box in the dialogue box. A square will appear to the right. Click on the square to change it’s colour….
….. and the colour picker box will appear. Move the white markers on the central slider to change the hue, then click on the large square to choose the exact shade. Click on OK when you are happy with the result.
Your bokeh image is now ready to use and can be saved. Save as a Tiff if you want to maintain all the layers information and make further adjustments.
Combining your Images.
Once you have both your images ready to work on, open them in your editor. You will see their names below the main menu. You can move from one to the other by clicking on the name.
Using the bokeh file, make sure the image is flattened by clicking on layers in the top line menu and choosing flatten image.
Press CTRL A on your keyboard to select the whole image then CTRL C to copy it. It is now ready to paste onto your main image.
With your main image open, press CTRL V and the bokeh pattern will cover the main image. You will see there are 2 images in the layers panel to the right so you know they are both there.
To make both visible, we need to change the blend mode. By default, this is normal. Click on Normal and a drop down box will list the available blend modes. Change this to Screen. You will now see the lights on top of your image.
To place the bokeh where you want it go, you can use the move and transform tool. Click on the arrow head at the top of the left hand tool menu to bring up the transform box. Change the size and shape by dragging on the handles round the edge. Move by pointing inside the box and dragging to the most pleasing location. Double click inside the box to complete.
To finish up, you may want to erase unwanted bokeh.
With the bokeh layer highlighted (click on it’s icon in the right hand layers palette) use the brush tool to paint out the unwanted areas. You can change the size of the brush in the attributes menu just below the main menu. Make sure that it is in the default colour setting of black and white by pressing D on your keyboard.
The two overlapping squares symbol in the tool bar needs to be showing black and white.
The Finished Image
At this stage, you may want to make final adjustments to your work such as Levels or Contrast.
To finish mine, I also added some text in a toning colour.
Over to You.
I hope you have fun with this technique. Why not try it with other light effects and different blend modes?
Take a look at your back catalogue and see if there any images to which you might be able to add some pizzazz.
I have a whole range of step by step guides to take the fear out of Photo Editing all perfect for beginners. If there is a technique you’d like covered, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll see what I can do.