Create an Ethereal Landscape

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Creating a “soft glamour glow” is a popular Photoshop technique for portraiture. When applied to a landscape photograph, the same technique adds a sense of the ethereal and the fanciful. For this tutorial I will be using Adobe Photoshop CS6.

Here is the original photograph, taken in the red mountains of Sedona, Arizona.

(Click any photo to view the larger version.)

1. Open the image in Photoshop, then create a duplicate layer (Ctrl-J on a PC, Cmd-J on a Mac). Convert the new layer to a Smart Object by right-clicking near the layer’s name in the Layer Panel and clicking on “Convert To Smart Object”. The border around the layer will look like this:

2. Next, we apply a Gaussian Blur to the layer. To calculate how much blur to apply, take a look at your photo’s dimensions by going to Image/Image Size.

The largest dimension of my photo is 5184, which is the height in pixels. A rule of thumb is to apply a Gaussian Blur of about 1% of the largest pixel dimension. So, 1% of 5184 is 51.84, which I’m going to round up to 52. With the duplicate layer active, choose Filter/Blur/Gaussian Blur. Enter in your pixel calculation, in my case “52″, and click on “OK”.

Your image will now be quite blurred.

3. Now we change the layer’s blend mode. I’m trying “Overlay” first, by clicking on the layer’s blend mode drop-down box:

For a slightly different look, try applying the different blend modes until you find one you like. This is “Soft Light”:

4. I really like the color vibrancy of the “Overlay” blend mode, but I want to soften the effect just a little bit. To do this, I adjusted the Opacity of the layer to 80%.

5. Once you have achieved the look you want, save the image as a Photoshop Document (.psd) if you want to keep the layers for future adjustments (this is why we converted the layer to a Smart Object). Otherwise, flatten the image and save it in your chosen file format.

Here is before:

Here is after:

If you try out this technique, be sure to share your shots with us on our Facebook Page, the Weekend Project discussion thread in our Flickr Group, or in our Google+ community! Have fun!

Photos copyright Tiffany Joyce.

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  • clair estelle

    Great tutorial – thank you for sharing