Your Back-up Light: the Screen Blend Mode in Photoshop

"Bride's Wedding Bouquet", © 2013 Jenn Lin Photography

Pictured here is a before and after shot of an image of mine. Although I like the first image just as well, the second image provides a clear illustration of what you can do in photoshop with a few adjustments; the second image looks as if I had more than one light source (the window).

© 2013 Jenn Lin Photography

The photo was taken at my cousin’s house on the morning of her wedding. I placed the bouquet on the window seat knowing that the window would provide a nice side light. Since I didn’t quite like how short the ledge was, I extended it in post-production using the Patch tool, then I quickly used the Dodge tool to lighten the areas that were noticeably darker than the rest of the ledge.

Next, I added a new curves adjustment layer and selected “screen” for the blend mode. You’ll notice that it’s a bit overpowering at 100% opacity, but you can scale this down to your liking. In this photo, because of the difference of light and dark areas, I also used a Mask to hide the areas I didn’t want to be affected by the Screen adjustment layer. Using the colour black at 50% opacity, I painted over the left side of the image while leaving the right side affected by the Screen.

I then added another adjustment layer to increase the overall highlights a tiny bit, as well as an “S” curve adjustment layer at 50% opacity to quickly add some contrast back into the image.

Finally, since I wanted the eye to focus on the bouquet and not other parts of the image, I created a new layer, which merged all my visible work up to that point, and added a Smart Sharpen filter, using the Masking tool to make it apply only to the bouquet. I was careful not to exceed 0.3 pixels so as to avoid over-sharpening this particular image, but if you ever overdo it you can always scale down the effect by adjusting the layer’s opacity, or, just simply undo the effect and do it again.

The key to pulling off this technique is being careful not to overexpose the image; this means leaving detail in the areas with the strongest highlights; this prevents the image from looking excessively photoshopped. One thing to also keep in mind is that this technique will not work for images with shadow areas that are too extreme in comparison to the highlights you’re trying to bring them up to.

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Until next time,


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