Photoshop Tutorial: How to Create Fairytale Images

Here’s a suggestion: Why don’t we take a page from Goldilocks and the Three Bears and learn successful editing by processing our images three times to create the “not too hot, not too cold, but ahh, this is just right” version of our images. For anyone growing up in suburbia, taking Little Red Riding Hood or Hansel & Gretel too literally may not seem relevant; but as an adult, the more images I process, the more the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears rings true.

If Goldilocks used Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, she would process her images at least three times to _ nd the “just-right” version. I can hear her saying, “This image is too _ at, this image is too contrasty, and this image is just right.” Using the Goldilocks image-editing method of processing your images several times will result in more interpretations and discoveries as you explore and wander off the beaten path.

The Goldilocks method

Using the Goldilocks method to create the just-right image requires you to process the image at least twice in Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom and then create additional interpretations in Photoshop. I call the first version “natural” and use it to render the scene as I remember it with either Camera Raw or as in this example, Lightroom, with white balance, exposure, and optical enhancements, such as input sharpening and chromatic aberration removal.

Because of the late afternoon/early evening winter light, white balancing the image on the white stripes of the created the beautiful blue sky. The long exposures allowed the American to portray the cool evening breeze while framing the Empire State Building. This gave me the inspiration to continue experimenting and exploring with Photoshop to combine variations of the “natural” and the “interpreted” versions to create the image (bottom of the page). This image, in my opinion, is “just right,” as it best portrays the motion, light, and layers of the New York skyline at dusk.

As a teacher, I’m always trying to create relevant and exciting homework assignments that promote learning and experimentation. Using the Goldilocks method encourages students to push themselves and not simply the assignment with what they think the instructor wants to see.

For each assignment, students have to produce multiple interpretations, which in turn persuades them to explore a contemporary aesthetic and develop a look and style they’ll call their own.

The ower image series shows the work of HeaYeon Yoon, who is beginning to explore the technical and aesthetic methodology of her graduate thesis work. The initial image is as the camera captured it. For the second image, HeaYeon used Lightroom to correct the white balance and remove lens vignetting and dust. In the _ nal image, she opened up the shadows of the stems ever so delicately.