Today’s article will be short, but pretty powerful. Have you ever wondered how others create aged looks or background textures in their images? You may think this can only be achieved by purchasing plug-in tools. I know I thought there was some technical challenges to creating this effect without purchasing something. Well, it’s much simpler than you thought.
For today’s tutorial, I am going to present to images that were nice composition opportunities when I spotted them in the field, but for various reasons, I was not able to capture the moment. With both shots, I pretty much felt the opportunity was lost, but with the aid of concepts within this article, I created digital art worth printing.
Here is the trick
What you want to do is to go out with your camera and shoot boring flat surfaces. Specifically, photograph macadam roadway, dirt, concrete, stone faces, marble, woodgrain, even grass. These photos will become your texture library.
I know sounds a little lame. Here are a couple of textures from my library:
As you can see, they are everyday surfaces. Nothing special. The trick is to insert a copy of one of these textures into a separate layer when processing your images. Once you have the texture as a layer, you can adjust the opacity to create the desired effect. Normally I find an opacity from 10 to 35% is about right. A simple tutorial but it works. To make my point, I am going to use two really bad images by me.
Example 1: Two giraffes crossing
As you can see, I was shooting into the sun, so I have heavy mid-afternoon backlight. In processing the image, the first thing I attempted was to use shadows/highlights to attempt to recover some detail from the dark regions. While I had some success, I was not happy with the blown sky nor with the color cast on the animals so I decided to convert the image to black and white and vignette the edges:
As you can see, this helped, but the image is still not distinctive. Two choices, throw the image away or try creating digital art by adding a texture layer. Here is the texture I chose for this image:
Why did I pick this particular layer? It was really intuitive. I felt that the blown background needed something with a fine grain. I am sure other textures could have also been used. The opacity of the texture was lowered to about 25% and here is the final effect:
Example 2: Jousting Elephants
This shot was taken from a fast moving boat at dusk as we headed back to the lodge. I saw the scene and I snapped. In Photoshop (actually CS3), I tried to clone out distracting elephants and recover detail. I had limited luck, but I do like the composition. In this case, I converted the image to a sepia duotone:
Once more, I have the choice of throw away or try textures. I’ve applied this texture at an opacity of 12%:
The result is interesting. Not great, but interesting. I probably will never print this particular image, but I feel it is ‘good enough’ to used to make my point of this article.
- Textures can create interesting effects on your photography
- You do not have to buy plug-ins to get started with textures. Textures are all around you
- While good for adding effects such as age to great shots, textures can also be used to recover shots with mistakes.