So let’s begin!
Step 1. Open the original image and Duplicate the background layer. Set the resulting layer to Soft Light, 100%. Then go to Filter -> Blur -> Gaussian Blur and insert a value of 5.
Step 2. Duplicate the second layer and press Shift+Ctrl+U to desaturate it. You should now have something that looks like this:
I normally avoid using blurs in my artwork, but in this particular case this effect is very welcome because it gives the entire image a very soft, dreamy glow.
Step 3. To enhance the colorcast of the image, add a Selective color filter with the following settings:
Yellows: 0 0 0 +100
Whites: -25 -5 +100 -25
Neutrals: +10 +15 +20 0
Black: 0 +20 0 0
Then select all the layers, right click and choose Create new smart object, like this:
Step 4. Create a new layer and fill it with black, then move it (by clicking on it and dragging it) down below the smart object. Add a layer mask to the smart object you just created. Now with a very large soft brush, opacity: 35%, paint with black on the mask, around the edges of the canvas to create a dark vignette. It’s preferrable to zoom out to get some perspective over what you’re doing. Make sure you don’t overdo it, because this effect needs to be subtle.
The vignette will focus the viewers’ attention on the central part of the image, while also adding a slightly dark feeling to it.
Step 5. Go to Filter -> Sharpen -> Smart Sharpen… and enter the following settings: Amount: 40%, Radius: 1 pixel. A dialog box will appear asking whether you want to rasterize the smart object, choose Yes.
Duplicate the layer you just sharpened and go to Filter -> Blur -> Radial Blur… Choose Zoom as the Blur Method and 10 as the Amount.
Next add a layer mask to the blurred layer and paint with black on it using a large, soft brush. Make sure you leave the outer edges white. If you make any mistakes just brush over that area with white or black, according to whether you want it to be visible or not.
This will further draw the viewers’ attention towards the center of the image, especially to the bright patch of light visible in the higher left.
Step 6. To further enhance the image’s colours, add a Curves adjustment layer that looks like this:
Step 7. To give the gray background a cyan hue that will contrast with the yellow in the leaves, add a Selective color adjustment layer with the following settings:
Step 8. To add a finishing touch you may add some text of your choice. I chose a very simple message, but I encourage you to come up with something even more suggestive. The font I used for “Autumn Leaves” is Trajan Pro, 36 pts for the capital letters and 30 pts for the rest of the text. For the “by anja” part I used Vujahday Flourish, 30 pts.
I placed the text near the bright spot of light because it’s really aesthetically pleasing, since that part is the main focus of the entire image.
Step 9. Duplicate both text layers and for each resulting layer, go to Filter -> Blur -> Motion Blur (choose Yes when Photoshop asks you whether to rasterize the layer) and enter 150. Place these layers below the text layers.
Then select one of the text layers and add an Outer glow with the following settings:
Right click on the same text layer and choose Copy layer style. Then right click on the other text layer and choose Paste layer style.
The final result: