Duplicate your subject layer (Cmd/Ctrl+J) and select the Burn tool, set to 50% Exposure. Carefully apply this to the right side of the subject, from top to bottom, in and around the subject’s features to the right side, with Range set to Midtones to achieve more contrast. Apply to the shadows of the cheek line, beneath the jaw and in the crevice of the eye socket. See the step image as a visual reference. To achieve a subtle shadow, set Range to Highlights, applying between 30% and 60% Opacity.
We want to make our image to look more dramatic and the best way to achieve this is to give it a dynamic orientation. So let’s go ahead and change the background perspective. Duplicate your merged background layer and click on Edit>Transform>Rotate to the right and stop whenever you think it looks good for you. If you have problems on the edges after rotating it, apply a soft-edged round Eraser Brush to work these problem areas out and match up with the background layer in behind. When done, merge all background layers.
We know there are several other ways to create vignettes in Photoshop, however when doing it by hand you can get more control. Create a new layer and open your Color Picker, selecting a dark red colour. Add around the image edges with a large Soft Round brush and make it darker. Do that just around the background image, not your subject layer. Pass over one more time with a black brush. Select the background layer and go to Image>Adjustments>Curves, applying a RGB Curve with an Output: 150 and Input: 170.
We want to improve the subject’s skin but not so smoothly it looks synthetic. Zoom in at 200% to scrutinise details. Her mouth looks too glittery, so we add some lipstick here. Take a Soft Round brush and select a dark red from the Color Picker. Create a new layer for your make-up, setting the blending mode to Multiply. With your brush at 30%, carefully add colour to the mouth. Do the same to the eyes, adding a black shadow on a Multiply blending mode layer. Also paint in some hair strands using a hard brush at 50% Opacity.
Copy and paste the ‘12821.psd’ file supplied, placing it on top of the background layer, beneath the subject. Water and sky were carefully cut out with Lasso and Magic Wand tools – only in bright and uniform parts of the sky. Add a Warming Filter at 50% Density. Choose Select>Image>Adjustments>Color Balance, setting Midtones at +60, -25 -25, Highlights Yellow slider only at -30.Duplicate the cityscape layer, applying Filter>Blur>Motion Blur, Angle 80-degrees and the Distance is up to you. To add reflections on the water, duplicate the city layer again, rotate 180-degrees and decrease layer Opacity to 50%.
Open the ‘RS9790_CampFire2.psd’ supplied file, paste and layer it over the sword. Apply a Screen blending mode and change the Opacity to 60%. Harmonise fire tones with Color Balance. You can integrate visuals with a soft-edged Erasure at 40% Opacity. Applying a Multiply mode brush at 30% Opacity can also help in mixing and fading fire edges. Select the sword metal with the Lasso tool and add a glow on the top edge, using a Soft Round brush with a bright orange tone to achieve a warm look.
We’ve decided to apply more red and clouds to our image, starting by copy and pasting in the ‘God light2.psd’ file we’ve supplied. Apply Color Balance on this new cloud layer, setting Midtones at +100,-30,-83, Highlights at +70,-40 and -80. Next add Photo Filter>Warming Filter (85) at 40% Density. Achieve stronger shadows, adding Brightness/Contrast, setting Contrast to +100 and Brightness to -15. Erase the bottom of the image (water and rocks) with a Soft Round brush between 50% and 70% Opacity, until the clouds finally match with the previous sky layer beneath.
After merging all layers, duplicate (Cmd/Ctrl+J), select the second layer and go to Filter>Other>High Pass, setting Radius at 3px. Set this layer’s blending mode to Overlay, Opacity at 30%. To add more exposure and contrast go to Image>Adjustments>Exposure and add the following setting – Exposure +0,40, Gamma Correction 0,90. Use the Dodge tool with Protect Tones selected to highlight edges and add some glow around the subject. Add more contrast by applying Image>Adjustments>Brightness/Contrast, Brightness set at -12 and Contrast at +15.
Our sun seems a bit dull. We’ll bring it back in by copy and pasting in the ‘RS9862_SunsetFishing.psd’ file supplied. Apply a Lighten blending mode, erase and integrate edges with a soft-edged Eraser Brush. Clean edges until they look totally uniform and integrated with the background. Drop layer Opacity to 60%. To add more light, use a 100px Soft Round brush and apply over the sun. At the very end, you can make minor tweaks to the movement of the subject’s hair and facial features, clothing and flames using Filter>Liquify.