This came about somewhat by accident.
I was about to purchase a set of Photoshop actions that would create the dispersion effect. Spending $6 is not something that I would normally think twice about when it comes to a good Photoshop resource. However, it bothered me that I would be relying on an action set to achieve a certain effect without knowing how to do it myself.
Sure, the actions save a lot of time, but I want to know how to complete every single step. This goes back to the core of learning Photoshop. Whenever asked about the best way to learn Photoshop, my answer has always been to grab some tutorials and follow them. It doesn’t matter if you care about the image in the tutorial. Do it anyway. What you learn is how to navigate within the application, shortcuts, menus, and tools. Eventually, you remove this limitation and can work freely.
I shot this image of Anthony (Owner & coach at CrossFit Bluegrass) with a Nikon D700 + Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8. I have more going on in the shot than I would like. There are 2 other people in the photo and the crop could be tighter. Shooting in raw, I have a great base to work with and zooming in wouldn’t be an issue.
I knew that I would have to pull the background out and that I would also want to change up the colors. That was not a big deal. What I did not know how to pull off was the dispersion effect.
I stumbled across this Photoshop tutorial the other day on how to accomplish the effect.
Once I had Anthony extracted from the background, I followed the tutorial above to apply the dispersion effect. Looking back, I see a few areas that I would change and improve. This was my first time through the hopper doing an image like this so I mainly wanted to get my feet wet.
At this point, I was happy that I did not spend $6 on the action. Not only did I learn how to achieve this effect on my own, but I also picked up a couple of shortcuts and tricks within Photoshop that I had not known before. Can’t beat that!
I did not want to over do it with the effects on the weights. Just enough. I was comfortable with where I was but wanted to pull in some more of the environment. To give the image a little more dynamic impact and to enhance the feeling of movement, I applied a motion blur to the background.
I wanted to make the ground a little darker so that it did not blend too much with the background. I accomplished this by copying a layer of the ground and then masking out parts of the background so that only the ground would show. I also added a shadow under him to call more attention to him being in the air. I worked on some additional effects, such as extra particles coming off the weights, color effects coming off the weights, and subtle texturing and color shifting to the overall image.
The first 2 color effects applied were the Gary Vaynerchuck FG3 Matte Look, which is available for free from Filter Grade. After that, I applied the Coachelle action from Seasalt & Co.
I was happy with how this turned out and then went to bed feeling accomplished.
The next day, I opened it back up because I was not 100% satisfied with it. It just felt lacking to me. I didn’t like how cramped the image felt.
I extended the image to give it some more room to breathe, as well as add room for copy just in case.
Since I already had masked out Anthony from the background, I saved that selection as a new channel, then used the Content-Aware Scale tool to extend the background to the new width. If you want a great tutorial on how to do this, Phlearn has an awesome one here.
Once I had the image extended, it just felt like a Nike ad to me. With the copy in place, it finally felt complete. If you are curious, here is a screenshot of my layers as well as the final image. I tossed in some variations for good measure.
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