Add impact to autumn portraits in 6 steps

Make the most of autumn colours to create a special portrait

Autumn is a great time to shoot attractive, romantic-looking portraits – the low angle of the sun adds dramatic lighting to your subject. To complement the sun’s golden glow, falling leaves in oranges and reds can also add extra detail and a dreamy feel to an autumn portrait. In this tutorial we’ll show you how to use adjustment layers to warm up layers to boost the autumnal colour palette as well as learning how to reduce clipping and restore contrast and detail.

Step 1 – Open the source file

Open Portrait_Before.dng in the Camera Raw editor. For a warmer looking shot, drag Temperature to 6050. Press O to view the shot’s clipped highlights as patches of red. Drag Recovery to 39 to restore some detail. Hit Open Image to take it into Photoshop’s standard editor.

Step 2 – Adjust the leaf hue

Click the Create New Adjustment Layer icon and choose Hue/Saturation. Set Edit to Yellows. Change Hue to -21 and click OK. Click the adjustment layer’s mask to a target it. Use a soft black brush with 29% Opacity over the model to make her look less orange.

Step 3 – Brighten the midtones

Create a Levels adjustment layer. Drag the grey midtone (gamma) input level slider left to 1.30 to brighten the detail on the model’s face. To stop the orange leaves from being lightened, target the levels adjustment layer mask. Use a 100% Opacity black brush over the leaves.

Step 4 – Improve the contrast

Click on the More button and chose Flatten Image. Drag the background layer thumbnail onto the Create New Layer icon. Choose Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur. Set Radius to 14. Click OK. Set the layer’s blending mode to Soft Light. Control+E to merge the layers.

Step 5 – Add the leaves

Open Leaf01.jpg. Use the Magic Wand [W] to select the white background. Choose Select>Inverse>Edit>Copy. Edit>Paste the leaf onto the portrait. Use Control-T to scale and rotate the leaf. Shift-click on the leaf layers and choose Merge Layers. Go to Filter>Blur>Motion Blur.

Step 6 – Make a mask

Temporarily turn off the top leaf layer. Shift-click the Magic Wand to select the orange leaves on the background layer. Turn the falling leaf layer back on and add a layer mask to it. Target the layer’s mask and press Control-I. The leaves now fall ‘behind’ the foreground leaves.