Pink Mallow

Flowers, Lightroom, Macro, Photoshop

(1/250, f/7.1, ISO 100)

I was given a pink mallow not knowing when I planted it what it is was or would eventually look like. It started to bloom in July and instantly became a bee magnet. When it wasn’t full of insects seeking its pollen, it became a great model for test photography. I used it to learn more about aperture settings, flash use, Lightroom adjustments, and Photoshop editing.

(1/125, f/32, ISO 400)

The mallow produces many clusters of four- or five-petal flowers. It looks decent from distance but the closeups of the individual flowers were more interesting.

(1/125, f/13, ISO 250)

(1/320, f/2.8, ISO 100)

They don’t all unfold like this. In fact this was the only flower I saw that opened up this symmetrically. You probably wouldn’t recognize it as a mallow. I returned later to take more shots but it had already completed its debut.

(1/250, f/5, ISO 100)

(1/250, f/5, ISO 100)

Presence > Clarity > -60

I usually move the clarity to a positive number (20-30), but in the negative numbers, it softens the image and makes it sort of misty.

(1/320, f/5.6, ISO 100)

The shape of the flower and the way the light caught it made this one stand out.

(1/200, f/4, ISO 160)

(1/200, f/22, ISO 4000)

A light rain created small water drops, the ideal effect for the subject. Additional extra effects were produced in Photoshop by Gaussian Blur on the background plus Layer Effects on the flowers to make the glow. ISO 4000 was an issue, so the flowers were rephotographed three hours later using a flash.

(1/200, f/25, ISO 200)

Soft drop shadow and new background color in Photoshop, followed by editing in Lightroom to brighten the center and replace brown spots with off white.

Cluster of three with water drops (1/200, f/22, ISO 200)

The flash on the camera didn’t create very bad shadows of the central parts. One of the advantages of flash besides making the subject brighter is making the background darker. Flash exposure had to be maxed out at 2 on my T5i for the higher apertures (f/22 and f/25); it struggled to get enough light at f/32.

Some of the drop shots were taken in the rain. If you wait too long after it has started raining, the water gets absorbed into the petals, and leaves a dark mark there that weakens the image. Several were removed in Lightroom.

Depth-of-Field Editing Post Capture: Isolating and Blurring a Flower’s Background in Photoshop

Flowers, Irises, Photoshop, Software, Tips

1/320 f/5.6 ISO 100

The background of this image isn’t terrible, but it’s not great, either. After a recent post-capture edit of a background to isolate the subject and make a pure, one-color or block color background, I decided to try the other most popular look, i.e., blurring. This is typically done to make it appear as if the photographer used a high depth of field (DOF).

It’s a common problem in garden photography to have a ‘junk yard’ behind flowers. Sometimes you can take the picture with the right settings so it’s not an issue, but this will often require blurring on part of the image. Your choice then it to either blur when you shoot or afterwards.

When the subject has edges with high contrast beside the background, that is a decent invitation to blur the background, because you can be confident it will be quick and easy to select the entire area in Photoshop.

Wand > 50 selected most of the area instantly. Quick Mask Mode showed a few spots it missed. Lasso finished the job. Note: QMM missed a few small areas. It was necessary to inspect the entire photo at 100% size to see what was omitted.

Gaussian Blur 100

Without feathering, using just what the wand and lasso had selected, a high-level Gaussian blur cleaned up the background, making the flower stand out more, and enhanced it with a soft glow around the edges.

Gaussian Blur x 12

Taking this a step further as an experiment, the background that had just been blurred once with Gaussian Blur 100, got the filter effect 12 times. (Each additional time increased the glow a little.) This extra step takes the image from a photo to fine art. It no longer looks like a realistic context.

(There were a few minor tweaks such as growing the selection +1, +2, and then +2 with a feather of +1 to deal with the fringe around part of the iris).

A dozen more shots of the same filter on a copied layer applying GB in the last dozen applications, after continuation of the same approach, and most all the fringe along the edge of the top white part of the iris has been removed. Furthermore, more of the green stems have been replaced with purple from the flower, accentuating the subject.