Dramatic Landscape Photo Manipulation

In this tutorial you will learn how to transform flat images into some kind of a dramatic, dreamy effect out of it with the proper use of layer styles, filters, and other adjustments.

Here is the final result preview we’ll work with:

Stock photos used for this tutorial

The first image was taken at DigitalBasphemy and the other somewhere in the internet which, the exact source i forgot. You can always have your alternative images if you like, as there are plenty of sources to get from in the internet. Or, maybe you have stocks ready from your gallery already. That would be fine.

Step 1 – Open the landscape photo
To start, open your landscape photo into Photoshop (File>Open).

Step 2 – Open the photo of the storks
Just like what you did above, open your flying birds photo (not your birdie, lol!).

Step 3 – Create a selection of the birds
To make a selection, grab the Quick Selection tool (magic wand or pen tool, whichever you prefer) and start selecting the birds. Make it as accurate as possible for easier editing later. When done, copy and paste it onto the Landscape layer.

Step 4 – Resize and reposition the birds
The birds are too big you can’t see them in full (and out-of-bounds, of course) so we have to resize it and place them where we want to lie onto the background. To do this, we’ll use the Free Transform tool (Edit>Free Transform). Click Ok when done. Here’s what it looks like:

Step 5 – Fix the rough edges
Most likely, there are portions that are not exactly selected earlier before pasting thereby creating rough edges in it. We will fix these by using the Eraser.
Mode: Brush (soft)
Opacity: 100
Flow: 100

Use soft, small brushes to erase rough edges carefully and patiently. Yes, carefully because you might erase the whole bird and mess-up the whole thing!

Step 6 – Soften the edges
After that not-so tedious erasing act, we’ll get moving by softening the edges this time. Too sharp, isn’t it? It’s not realistic for a flying bird and don’t match with the background definitely. We’ll take the Soft Brush then and brush around the edges of the birds to blur them a bit and making that soft effect onto it. Don’t overdo it because we’ll still have to blur the whole birds. Lessen the opacity if necessary.

Step 7 – Blur the image
The birds are flying, right? They should be blurred a little bit then, ok? We have options here to choose from – Gaussian or Motion blur. Both will do but I prefer the Motion Blur. Select it and follow the settings below:

And here is the result:

Step 8 – Brighten the birds
We’ll have to brighten-up the birds a bit to blend with the succeeding step that we will do. To do this, we’ll have to create a Clipping Mask from the active layer then adjust the brightness/contrast (Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Brightness/Contrast).

Step 9 – Apply gradient to background
After finishing with the birds, we’ll make some tweaks on the background this time. To start with, go to Layer Styles and select Gradient Overlay (Click fx icon below the layer dialog box>Gradient Overlay..).On the dialog box that appears, apply the following settings:

Now click that gradient bar editor and apply the following (i.e., the Opacity should be set to 60, which will make the black color into gray).:

Step 10 – Blur the background
Time to blend the background with the flying storks. Go to Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur… Set the radius to about 0.5-1.5. Click Ok.

Step 11 – Create a warm effect and radiance
In creating a radiance with warmth to that dreamy background we’ve just created, there’s a unique effect, somewhat mystery behind after applying the said adjustments. The Lens Flare will do this… Filter>Render>Lens Flare…

And the result…

Step 12 – Merge Layers
Merge all visible layers now and we’re almost done. You can stop here actually.

Step 13 – Make more light and contrast adjustments
To continue, go to Image>Adjustments>Curves… Apply the following to obtain that more radiant look without losing the previous photo effect.

Yay, we’re done!

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