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How To Turn an Ordinary Photo Into a Dreamy One

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Varina and I use a very simple trick to convert ordinary images to dreamy images.

Purakaunui Falls, Catlins, New ZelandEffect created by breathing on the lens

Purakaunui Falls, Catlins, New ZelandOriginal Scene

Look at the first photo – a beautiful waterfall scene in New Zealand. The image is natural-looking with perfect light and perfect colors. Despite the fact that it’s a gorgeous shot, sometimes an image needs something extra to bring out a deeper level of creativity. Here’s what we do…

We breathe on the lens. It’s as simple as that. Covering the lens with a soft layer of condensation spreads out the colors in the image and reduces the overall contrast. Look at the second picture below where I used this technique… it almost looks as if we’re staring through a frosty glass.

Although simple, this technique takes some experimentation to get exactly the right amount of condensation. Too much and the image looks flat and colorless – you’ll lose important details. Too little condensation and the effect simply won’t have a striking impact.

Take a look at the third image below where Varina used a variation of this same technique. This photo was shot on a very wet day in Iceland. Varina wiped her lens with a lens cloth that was soaked from the heavy rain. Similar to breathing on the lens, the cloth left a fine mist of condensation and created the same dreamy feel.

Singin' in the Rain

The technique of breathing on the lens was also used in the final image below. Varina shot one photo with condensation on the lens and another photo with a dry lens. During post-processing, she used Photoshop to combine these images and mask out certain areas to give the illusion of a fog-shrouded forest.

Banff National Park - Alberta, CanadaCombining Dreamy & Original Images together in Photoshop

Feel free to share your own tips and techniques and check out more photography over at Visual Wilderness.