Create speed with Photoshop

16/09/2009 - 15:56

You often shoot images where the subject looks stationary and there's nothing worse than a motorbike stuck in its tracks. Here Peter Bargh shows you how to make that static bike come to life using a few Photoshop tools

I happened to stumble upon an event near Sherwood Forest while out with my camera. As I wasn't prepared for such activity and didn't know where the best spot for photography was I ended up with several shots that didn't look all that exciting. For starters it was a bright, contrasty day so the shutter speeds were high resulting in a lack of action. Also track safety ropes and posts spoil the shot to. Here's a few Photoshop tricks to make the whole thing look a little more action packed.

Photoshop action 1


First thing to do is sort out the brightness and contrast. I'll use Levels - a feature which is in most image editing programs. In Photoshop it's Image > Adjustment s> Levels. This brings up a palette with a levels graph and shows that most of the tones are in the mid to shadow areas. By dragging the highlight triangle to the left to just where the black graph starts it's gradual climb to the peak brings some life into the photo. Moving the mid tome slider slightly to the left increases brightness in the mid tones. We are already starting to see a more dynamic image.

Photoshop action 2


The next thing to do is make the wheels look as though they are spinning.
First select the front wheel using the Elliptical Marquee tool (Shortcut key M using shift to toggle between Elliptical and Rectangular) or the Lasso tool (Shortcut key L) if the wheel is at such an angle that the marquee doesn't wrap around it well. Don't worry about the fact you've gone over the suspension bars or exhaust pipe. Feather the selection by about 10 pixels Select > Feather (Alt + Ctrl + D)
With the Add to Selection on repeat the process on the back wheel. You should now have marching ants around the front and back wheel. Apply Radial Blur Filter > Blur > Radial Blur and set to Spin method and Best quality. Drag the slider to about 13 and click okay.

Photoshop action 3


You will see that the wheel now appears to spin. If the spin is too strong, revert back to previous History state, Ctrl + Z is undo, and repeat the process using a different strength. Once you are happy, open the History palette and click in the clear square next to the History state that you applied the this case the Feather stage.The History Brush tool icon will appear. You can now use the History Brush tool (Shortcut key Y) to paint back the stage that the pixels were in before you applied the blur. We will use this to paint the exhaust pipe and bars to a sharp state. Select a brush size smaller than the area that you want to paint over and make sure the brush has a sift edge.

Photoshop Action 4


Next stage is to remove all the fencing and posts using the Clone tool (Shortcut key S) or Healing brush (Shortcut key J) Select a brush size slightly larger than the area that you intend to remove and sample from nearby. Do each area gradually using the zoom view so the smaller area is magnified on screen. If there is any patterns repeats (such as small rocks) reclone or heal over these areas so there is no duplicate patterns in the scene.

Photoshop action 5


With all the fencing out of the way the image is already starting to shape up but we can go further this time to concentrate the viewer on the subject. using the Crop tool (Shortcut key C) we can give the composition more impact by framing it to the side of the frame. Thus giving it a sense of moving over the frame from left to right. The Crop tool greys out unwanted areas so you can adjust it looking at the brighter are that represents what will be left when the crop is made. Click in the centre once you're happy to crop and commit the change.

Photoshop action 6


Now to apply the real action by blurring the background. Go to Filter > Blur > Motion blur and drag the slider to apply enough blur to make the background look as though it's moving without losing all the detail. This will blur the bike and rider too but we will use the History brush just like we did with the wheels to repaint the sharpness back once the filter is applied.

Photoshop action 7

Photoshop action 7If you set the brush to a lower opacity and don't paint all the areas back fully you can achieve a slow sync flash effect which is what I wanted from this example.  Notice there's still some blur around the back of the rider. This example was done quite quickly, spending more time on the blur settings and history brush will make the result look faster, slower, more slow sync or more panning. The choice is yours now you have the tools to play with.


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