Rad A. Drew Photography: Transforming a Natural Shot to a Surreal One

Continental Divide at Dawn

Continental Divide at Dawn
Continental Divide at Dawn

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Transforming a Natural Shot to a Surreal One

This blog post is for my friend Donna Ulrich who asked to see a before and after of this image of the prairie at McCloud Nature Park in Hendricks County, Indiana.

This is the “straight,” unadulterated shot, taken with 645 Pro. 
"Straight" shot from 645 Pro
I like this camera app because it saves in TIFF and creates a larger file, which is important if you intend to print very large. This file is 10,619,712 total pixels. (TIP: Use the great free utility app, PhotoSize by Danny Goodman, to check the size of images.)

Next I took it through SnapSeed and applied Ambiance and Contrast from the Tune Menu and Sharpen and Structure from the Details Menu. Those adjustments left the image looking like this:
After SnapSeed Adjustments
You can see that the SnapSeed adjustments have added some contrast, clarity, and a little saturation. There's a tad more detail in the sky, too.

I wanted to create a somewhat surreal, moody image, so next I took it into Distressed FX and tried several texture overlays before settling on this one, leaving the image looking like this:
After Distressed FX 
The texture still wasn't all I was looking for, so I took the SnapSeed result (above) into Mextures. This is an incredibly powerful and rich app with lots of textures and control in using them. For this image, I wanted some grit in the sky, so I played with several options until I landed on this result:
After Mextures
This result, by itself, is not at all what I was looking for, but I knew if I blended it with the Distressed FX version, I'd get that grit I was looking for, as well as some of the richer tone from the bronze color. I used Image Blender in the Normal blend mode and achieved this result:
Blend of Distress FX and Mexture Versions
For the finishing touch, I wanted to add dreaminess to the image. There are some apps that can achieve this such as Photo FX or Dynamic Light, but I like to create my own Orton effect using a blur app.

If you are fortunate enough to have Blur FX from a previous purchase, I recommend using it. (See my blog post, Creating Your Own Orton Effect for details). 

Unfortunately, Blur FX is no longer available. As a substitute, you can use Tilt Shift Generator which is still available and works almost as well.

You’ll want to use one of these apps (Blur FX or Tilt Shift Generator) to create a blur of the blend of the Mextures and Distressed FX images. Your blurred image should look something like this:
Blurred in Blur FX or Tilt Shift Generator
Once you have the blurred image, blend it with the unblurred version using the app Image Blender. Blender allows you to control just how much softness you keep in your final image.

Here’s how this one ended up:
Final Result
I hope you found this tutorial useful, and Donna, thanks for asking to see a before and after. Got me to create this tutorial!

For those of you in the Indianapolis area, I'll be teaching an iPhoneography Workshop this Saturday, November 1, in Zionsville. Here's a link to more info and registration.

Whatever you do, keep on shooting!


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