The instant accessibility of Instagram and its fabulous selection of pre-set filters can be a lot of fun to experiment with on the go. But what about those awesome pictures you want to spruce up from your photo library that are not on your phone? All Instagram filters are based on and modeled after some very stylish techniques that the pros often use to process high end photography. If you love photography like me, this is a great little tutorial to get you started with recreating one of Instagram’s most popular filters: Earlybird.
Here is my original image, some cute pink flowers I found a couple weeks ago.
Step 1: Crop into a square
The easiest way to crop your image into a square is to set your crop tool to the 1×1 (Square) mode. It automatically goes by the rule of thirds, where you can put one of those grid crosshairs over or around the focal point of the image. I choose the biggest flower. You don’t always have to use these guides, but it can often make for a more interesting composition.
Step 2: Add Tilt Shift (aka: blur)
Tilt shift is a great way to blur a portion of your image, which creates a sense of depth around your focal point. Make a duplicate layer of your original. Select your duplicate in the Layers palette and select Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur. Set the blur to a 4 pixel radius.
Select the Eliptical Marquee Tool and while holding down the shift key, drag a circle shaped selection around your focal point.
Press Alt+Ctrl+R or click on Select>Refine Edge to adjust the gradual fade of your selection. In the Refine Edge palette, set your Smooth to 20 and your Feather to 100. Feel free to adjust the Shift Edge to narrow in on your selection even further. Press delete to reveal a portion of the unblurred layer underneath, bringing back the crispness of that focal point.
Step 3: Lighting Effects
Merge the original layer with the blurred layer and duplicate the merged layer. Label the merged layer “1” and the duplicate layer “lighting effects” Select Filter>Render>Lighting Effects. Set the light source to Point in the drop down menu. Drag the edge of the green circle to the edge of the photo. Set the Intensity to 31 and Metallic to 59. Set the lighting effects layer to 40% opacity in the Layers palette.
Step 4: Levels
In the Layers palette, click on the adjustment layer icon (black and white half circle) to create a Levels adjustment layer. Set your black levels to 12, your midtones/grey to 1.38. Set your white Output Levels to 240.
Step 5: Photo Filters
Click on the adjustment layer icon and select Photo Filter. In the drop down menu, change the filter to Yellow. Adjust the density to 25%.
You might nail the results you want in one Photo Filter, but in my case I needed one more. We’re going to add one more Photo Filter, but this time with a specific color. Make another Photo Filter adjustment layer. In the Photo Filter palette, adjust the density to 48. Select “Color” instead of “Filter” and double click the color swatch. The Color Picker window will pop up. In the field labeled “#”, enter the value fdd846. In the Layers palette, adjust the Photo Filter layer opacity to 41%.
Step 6: Vignette
Make a new blank layer. Label it “Vignette.” With the Eliptical Marquee Tool, while holding down the shift key, start from the upper left corner and make a circular selection. The selection should come pretty close to the edges but not entirely. Go to Select>Inverse to invert the selection. Click on Refine Edge and set the Smooth to 20 and the Feather to 100.
In the tool palette, change the foreground color swatch to black. With the Paint Bucket Tool, click one of the selected corner areas. Change the Vignette layer state to Overlay and adjust the opacity to 80%.
Step 7: Screen Color
Create a Solid Color adjustment layer. Double click on the color swatch and in the “#” field, enter the color value 2f0015. Set the layer state to Screen and the Opacity to 53%.
Step 8: Spot Highlight
Make a new blank layer. Change the foreground swatch color to fdecfc or a complimentary tint of the focal point color. Select the brush tool and set it to 1600px or about half the width of the composition size, the Hardness to 0% and the Opacity to 42%. Tap the brush tool two or three times over the focal point of the image. Set the layer state to Lighten and the Opacity to 39%.
Step 9: Saturation
Create a new Hue/Saturation adjustment layer. Push the Saturation down to about -8. Presto. You have just made yourself an Earlybird Instagram photo!
The original image with no filters.
The final image: my version of Earlybird
Give these techniques a try using the recommended values. Every photo is different and results may vary, so experiment and make minor adjustments as you see fit. Above all else, have fun with it!
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