Photoshop tricks: how to add reflections to pictures of water drops
Photoshop effects are often used to correct problems, but in this tutorial we’ll show you how you can use it for more creative endeavours as we improve a macro shot’s content and composition. In the start image, we can see a hint of the petals’ reflection in a water droplet. In theory, we could have positioned our camera to try to fill the droplet with background flowers, or even waited until the other droplets got larger to add more interest. In practice, we can take control over these elements more quickly and effectively using Photoshop to create reflections in pictures of water drops.
To make the shot look more interesting, we’ll show you how to place an entire flower into the droplet, as though a more distant flower is being refracted and distorted by the watery lens.
We’ll also replace the black background with an abstract organic alternative derived from a flower photo.
We’ll kick off by using standard selection tools to select the fibres on the stem of the main flower. These fine details are tricky to select, so we’ll show you how the Refine Edge command’s new Smart Radius tool can help.
Selections often look too sharp and jagged, so we’ll reveal how to smooth and soften them to make copied petals blend in.
We’ll then show you how to select, copy and transplant the largest droplet and create three water lenses, and use Transform tools to make the copied flower look different in each droplet.
To enhance the illusion of distortion, we’ll apply a filter and blend the flowers with existing colours and textures, making a realistic composite image that looks like a natural reflection in pictures of water drops.
How to recreate reflections in pictures of water drops
01 Open the image
Open your start image in Adobe Camera Raw. To maintain a high-quality picture, we’ll start by improving composition and tone here, before opening the shot in the standard Photoshop editor to make more complex and creative tweaks.
02 Crop it down
Note that only a narrow region of the shot is illuminated, and this is where the points of interest – the water droplets – are. To remove the darker areas and make the droplets look larger, select the Crop tool, and click and drag to crop the shot to the dimensions shown above.
03 Tweak colour and tone
Adjust the Exposure slider to +0.55 and lighten the mid-tones by sliding Fill Light to 24. Create a stronger contrast by pushing Blacks to 14. This will enable us to select the delicate white hairs on the stem when adding a new background. Meanwhile, push Vibrance to +49.
04 Modify the brush tip
Click Open Image to edit the modified shot in Photoshop’s standard editor. Double-click the Background Layer thumbnail to unlock it and make it editable. Then choose the Quick Selection tool from the Tool palette and set its Size to 45 and Hardness to 100.
05 Make your selection
Click the black background to select it. Use the Add To Selection option to include the section of background hiding inside the white hairs of the stem. You won’t be able to select the delicate white hairs overlapping the black background with this tool alone! Choose Select>Inverse.
06 Refine the edges
Click the Refine Edge button in the Options bar. In View Mode, hold down the mouse button on the View pop-up and choose On White. Unselected areas should now appear in white. As you can see, the selection edge is sharp and jagged and the delicate hairs have been excluded.
07 Get smart
To refine the selection, tick the Edge Detection command’s Smart Radius box. By dragging the Radius slider to 60 pixels, the edge expands to include the hairs. Fine-tune the edge by grabbing the Refine Radius brush tool. Spray over the hairs with a Size 35 brush tip.
08 Create layer mask
To make the selected edge blend more effectively with a new background, pop Smooth up to 9 in the Adjust Edge section. To enable us to modify the selection later, set the Output to New Layer with Layer Mask. Click OK. The black layer mask hides the background, but leaves the flower visible.
09 Create new background
Open Advanced_flower.CR2. Click Open Image. Choose Select>All, then Edit>Copy. Go to the main project and choose Edit>Paste. Drag the pasted layer (Layer 1) below the masked flower (Layer 0 copy). Press Ctrl+T. In the Options bar, set Width and Height to 200%. Hit Enter to apply the settings.
10 Blur and tint
Choose Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur to create a more abstract image. To make the background complement but contrast with the foreground flower, choose Image>Adjustments>Hue/Saturation. Set Master Hue to -146 and Saturation to -56. You now have a cool background and a warm foreground.
11 Clone the droplet
Click the Create New Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers palette and select the Clone Stamp tool. Choose a soft-edged tip from the Brush presets. Set Size to 125. Tick Aligned. Set sample to All Layers. Hold down Alt and click the biggest droplet to sample it, then click to clone it over the smaller one bit by bit.
12 Select flower
Go back to the Advanced_flower document we opened in step nine. Pick the Quick Selection tool and spray it over the petals to select them. Click Refine Edge. Tick Smart Radius and set Radius to 6.5. Set Smooth to 24 and Feather to 2.1. Enter -10% in the Shift Edge box to remove background pixels.
13 Copy and paste
In the Output section click Decontaminate colours to lose any remaining hints of the original background colour still clinging to the edge of the flower. Set Amount to 100% and Output to New Layer. Click OK. Choose Select>All, then Edit>Copy. Go to the main document and choose Edit>Paste.
14 Scale down
Press Ctrl+T to activate the Free Transform tool. In the Options bar set Width to 10%. Tick the Chain icon to maintain the layer’s aspect ratio and the height will scale down by 10% too, which preserves the flower’s proportions. Drag to position the flower over the right droplet and hit Enter.
15 Distort the flower
To make the flower look like it’s being refracted through the lens of the water droplet, choose the Elliptical marquee tool and draw a circular selection around the entire flower. Choose Filter>Distort>Polar Coordinates. Tick Rectangular To Polar and click OK to apply the distortion.
16 Blending mode
Change the flower layer’s blending mode to Screen. This enables it to take on some of the colours, tones and textures of the water droplet, helping mesh the separate elements together more realistically. Duplicate the flower layer by dragging it onto the Create New Layer icon.
17 Rotate the flower
Use the Move tool to drag the duplicated flower over the cloned water droplet and blend it in the same way as the previous flower in step 16. To make it look realistic, press Ctrl+T to activate the Free Transform tool. Set the Rotation to 155 and hit Enter to apply the transformation.
18 Apply finishing touches
You can duplicate the flower and water droplet layers to create a third droplet. Rotate the flower inside it to add variety. You can help each droplet merge with the background image by using the Eraser tool to tidy its base. Finally, clone out the bottle at the top right of each droplet!
This entry was posted on Friday, October 5th, 2012 at 8:00 am and is filed under Tutorials. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a comment. Pinging is currently not allowed.