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Posts Tagged ‘Enhance’

How to Enhance Colors Using Photoshop’s Color Range Tool

08 Dec

Luminosity Masks have become a go-to technique for many photographers wanting to make selective adjustments on their images. While it’s a great way to create precise masks, it’s a mask solely based on the luminosity of a pixel and it may not be ideal when you only want to make adjustments to a specific color. Perhaps you want to enhance that beautiful sunset you photographed last night or maybe you want to change the color of your subject’s eyes. Regardless of what color based adjustment you want to make, there’s a simple and quick method of creating a precise selection based on the color value using Photoshop’s Color Range Tool.

Why Use Selective Adjustments

Before we jump into how you can create a precise selection based on a color, I quickly want to talk about why you should be using selective adjustments in your post-processing.

My area of expertise is landscape photography but this topic is important no matter what type of images you capture or your ambitions. If you have a desire to make your images look better, you need to be making some selective (local) adjustments to them.

It doesn’t need to be anything super-advanced, but start by at least making some selective color adjustments. The main reason you’d want to do this is to get rid of the unwanted color cast. The color cast can come as a result of your previous post-processing or it can come straight from the camera and it’s something that sticks out as a negative when viewing the image (the exception is when it’s a deliberate color cast that serves a purpose).

How to Enhance Colors Using Photoshop's Color Range Tool

I used Selective Adjustments to keep the shadows cold in this image.

It’s also quite common that you’ll want to make an adjustment only to a specific area of an image (known as a local adjustment). A normal adjustment will affect the entire image (known as a global adjustment). Instead, create a mask that selects only the part of the image you want to affect (for example the highlights, a color, or maybe just a specific subject) and make your adjustment. Now, you’ve kept the majority of the image untouched but have made a visible adjustment to that particular area – no global color cast and no unwanted effects.

Create a Mask Based on Color

Okay, let’s jump into it and start making a few adjustments based on a color. In the example below, I want to increase the saturation and brightness of the yellow flowers in the foreground. A typical way of making a similar adjustment would be to use the Hue/Saturation adjustment and increase the saturation of the yellows. Yes, the flowers are saturated and brighter now but so are the cliffs, areas in the sky, and even some of the water.

How to Enhance Colors Using Photoshop's Color Range Tool

First of all, make sure that you’re on a Stamp layer – in other words, one which is all the layers below it merged into one (you can delete this layer later but you’ll need it for the next step). Now, go to Select > Color Range… A new box should now appear and it’s here that you’re going to create the mask.

How to Enhance Colors Using Photoshop's Color Range Tool

For the best results, make sure that Sampled Colors is selected in the top drop-down menu. It’s possible to work with the other options as well but I find the mask to be much more accurate by manually sampling the colors you want. Next, with the Eyedropper Tool selected, click on the color in your image that you want to select. For me, that’s one of the yellow flowers in the foreground. Notice that the image within the Color Range box now has changed and it’s mostly black. This represents the selection we’re making (only the white parts of the mask will be affected).

Refine the mask

The Fuzziness slider is a useful tool to make the selection more or less refined. By pulling the slider towards the left, you’re creating a more restricted mask and it affects less of the similar colors to what you’ve selected. Pulling it towards the right has the opposite effect and the mask starts including similar colors. I prefer to use a fuzziness of approximately 70-80 but I recommend you play around with it for each shot.

How to Enhance Colors Using Photoshop's Color Range Tool

That’s it! Click OK and you’ve created a precise mask based on that color. Now, you choose the adjustment you want to use – I’ll use the Hue/Saturation slider for now.

Adding Colors to the Selection

Before we continue and start enhancing the image, I want to show you how you can add more colors to the mask. Let’s say that I also wanted to make the same adjustment to the bright parts of the sky. Before clicking OK and creating the selection, I would simply hold shift (or select the second Eyedropper Tool named “Add to Sample) and click on the sun. You’ll see that the mask has changed and the area around the setting sun is also whited out.

How to Enhance Colors Using Photoshop's Color Range Tool

Unfortunately, this step also included some of the cliffs in the lower right corner which I don’t want to be affected. The best way to remove that from your mask is to paint directly on the mask with a black brush after creating an adjustment layer.

Making the Adjustment

The last thing I’m going to do is to increase the saturation and brightness of the flowers. With the mask we created active (you know it’s an active mask when you see the marching ants around your selection), create a new Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer. Since we’ve already created a mask that targets only the yellow flowers, we don’t need to go into the yellow channel, instead, we continue using the Master channel.

Now just drag the Saturation slider towards the left until the colors are saturated to your taste. I also increased the Lightness slightly to make the flowers pop even more.

Before

How to Enhance Colors Using Photoshop's Color Range Tool

After

This technique of creating a precise mask can be used with any adjustment layer that you want. I often combine it with any color-based adjustments such as Hue/Saturation, the Photo Filter, and Color Balance. For adjustments that affect the brightness and contrast of the image, I prefer using Luminosity Masks.

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How to Enhance your Black and White images with Infrared Photography

09 Mar

This article will give you some tips on how you can enhance your black and white images by using infrared photography.

Enhancing your Black and White images with Infrared Photography

Infrared photography for something different

Are you a fan of black and white photography? Like many, I love a good black and white image. The mood you can exude from the shadows and light always fascinates me.

When I was new to photography, I mostly avoided black and white landscapes. I used it mainly a handy way to hide the sporadically bizarre white balance my old Olympus EPL1 used to occasionally surprise me with.

Infrared photography (IR) also took a while to attract my attention. I wasn’t a huge fan of the typical false colour images, but quite liked the black and white IR photos, particularly the work of Simon Marsden. If you haven’t explored his portfolio of dark and atmospheric infrared film photography, you are missing something unique.

Anyway, after a while, I started doing more black and white landscape images, and eventually followed the urge to get into IR images purely for their unique monochrome potential.

Enhancing your Black and White images with Infrared Photography

I went down the path of buying a modified camera off Ebay. You can buy anything from a point and shoot to a full frame DSLR, and everything in between. If you have an old body you can always get it converted, but it’s worth checking the cost against buying one that’s already been modified.

I picked up an Olympus EPM1 for around AUD $ 300 ($ 230 USD). The advantage for me was being able use the same lenses and batteries I already had for the EPL1.

Why buy a modified camera rather than use IR filters?

Filters are a great and relatively inexpensive way to get into IR photography, but they have their limitations.

The main attraction of a modified camera is that you are not limited to the long exposures needed for an IR filter. You can capture sharp images in any conditions, and can be more creative with your exposures (e.g. pick the perfect shutter speed for moving water). You can shoot handheld from any point of view without being limited by a tripod.

Enhancing your Black and White images with Infrared Photography

It is also much quicker. When using filters, you need set your focus before attaching the filter which can become tiresome.

I used to take my IR camera with me for a run along the river. Without the need for a tripod, I could travel light and take quick photos whenever an interesting composition presented itself.

Enhancing your Black and White images with Infrared Photography

What can infrared photography bring do for a landscape photographer?

Perhaps the most striking characteristics of infrared photography are the typical white vegetation, black water, and dark skies. You can create punchy, high contrast images. The middle of the day works best for these type of shots. Perfect for those landscape photographers that hate early mornings!

If you like capturing the complex patterns in clouds, you’ll find that the black skies really allow the clouds to stand out.

Enhancing your Black and White images with Infrared Photography

IR also gives you clarity. Any haze visible to the eye tends to disappear in infrared photography. So you can achieve a very crisp and contrasty look.

Enhancing your Black and White images with Infrared Photography

The deciding factor for me was tone. I found the infrared monos gave me a wonderful palette of greys and blacks to work with, particularly for trees and vegetation. The balance between light and dark just seems easier to manage in infrared and really lets you produce some unique images.

Enhancing your Black and White images with Infrared Photography Enhancing your Black and White images with Infrared Photography

Processing

So what processing should you use for infrared photography? The short answer is not much really. Experiment to find out what works for you.

Myself, I don’t normally use Lightroom or Photoshop, so my workflow may be a little different than yours. But the principles will be the same.

I import my raw images into Corel’s AfterShot Pro, which is a handy little raw file editor. Here I’ll straighten the image, adjust the exposure, and maybe increase the contrast if required. My infrared raw files come into AfterShot Pro displaying blue-grey hues, which is a good starting point for me. From here I export them as TIFFs into PaintShop Pro.

PaintShop Pro has a “Black and White Film” effect that lets you apply a colour filter to your image. Changing your filter between blue, red, and green gives a different result.

From here it is a matter of personal taste adjusting the light and dark of your image, the white and black points to suite the image, and maybe applying curves as appropriate.

Enhancing your Black and White images with Infrared Photography Enhancing your Black and White images with Infrared Photography

What is the Secret Sauce?

Infrared photography is wonderfully clean and crisp. But what if you love that IR film look with a ghostly flare?
Don’t worry. PaintShop Pro has it in the bag. They have an “Infrared Film” effect that was probably created to make ordinary images look a bit infrared-ish.

But when you apply it to a proper infrared image as a starting point, you get a wonderful controlled flare effect. It doesn’t quite match the often spooky and surreal results Simon Marsden achieved with IR film, but it does get you a lot closer than anything else.

Enhancing your Black and White images with Infrared Photography

Enhancing your Black and White images with Infrared Photography

The flare can be applied to give a sense of mystery, mood, and surrealness that is hard to replicate any other way.
Enhancing your Black and White images with Infrared Photography

Are there any downsides to infrared photography?

Not really. The only big drawback you’ll find is that you cannot use your favourite filters. Standard neutral density and polarizers do not work in the IR spectrum. If you sky is very bright and your subject is dark, you’ll just have to blend a few different exposures. Shooting in RAW of course gives you more leeway, but my Olympus files are not as forgiving as my Nikon files when recovering blown highlights.

Enhancing your Black and White images with Infrared Photography

The only other thing I notice is that some people get so enamoured by the white leaves and black sky effect that they forget to put their attention on the composition. Yes, everything looks cool in IR, but don’t take pictures of everything. Aim for strong compositions and uncluttered images. IR really shines with a minimalist approach.

Enhancing your Black and White images with Infrared Photography

Many dismiss infrared photography as an oddity; a strange niche that is a bit too left of centre for them. Others just think it is too hard and expensive to get into.

But if you like creating black and white images that stand out from the crowd, I’d suggest you have a crack at it. You’ll find it a challenge but also quite rewarding.

Enhancing your Black and White images with Infrared Photography

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5 Tips for Shooting Glass to Enhance Your Street Photographs

20 Dec

As any studio photographer will tell you, photographing translucent and reflective objects like glass for product work can be an ordeal. It’s not impossible, but it sure isn’t easy, with plenty of variables and tricky reflections to minimize and avoid.

Naturally, you can imagine my foray into street photography was both a welcome change and a culture shock. Stepping out of the studio and into the realm of street photography, I went from an incredibly controlled environment to anything but! That’s when I began to view glass in a different light. Yes, the very bane of many a studio photographer’s existence can actually be a street photographer’s blessing.

Shooting through glass

Photographing through glass lends unique perspectives, like this photo of a gecko hanging upside down on a glass enclosure.

There aren’t many fixed objects that pose opportunities as readily to a street photographer as glass. As photographers, we all (mostly) use glass in our lenses as its inherent properties focus light and correct optical aberrations, allowing us to record sharp images. Glass surfaces in the street, however, present a variable and volatile abundance of opportunity. It can soften, reflect, highlight, disguise, frame, and transpose. Glass constantly changes with the environment yet it behaves as a physical barrier between the photographer and subject, allowing for a degree of ease between the two.

For the sake of this article, I’ve narrowed the benefits of glass to only the most obvious and dramatic – color, pattern and texture, reflections and depth, glass as a physical barrier, framing and finally, distortion and perspective. Okay, so I combined a few points, but you’ll soon see that glass isn’t just for selfies and reflections. Shooting through glass can actually change up your practice and give you a whole new perspective on street photography.

1 – Color

photography-through-glass05

The saturated red of the glass between the subject and I adds a sense of voyeurism.

Color greatly influences how a viewer reads an image. Shooting through colored glass is a great way of adding atmosphere to your photographs without post-production. Red glass, like that found on decals or nightclubs, suggests a sense of intimacy or passion, whereas blue could suggest an aquatic or daylight setting. Color eludes to the time of day a photograph was taken and a highly saturated image can also take on a surreal appearance, distancing the viewer from the photograph and creating a feeling of voyeurism. Try photographing subjects through tinted feature walls at late-night shopping malls or through the aged glass of old windows.

photography-through-glass06

2 – Pattern and texture

Using pattern and texture in a photograph explores how an image feels as well as how it looks. Textural images appeal to our sense of touch and it allows photographers to form greater connections with an audience. Photographing textured, semi-opaque and reinforced glass divides an image into smaller sections. This prompts a viewer to dissect an image in pieces to gain a greater understanding of the whole.

Different textures are great for images with organic and inorganic subject matter too. Creating juxtapositions that draw attention to subjects that are usually discounted creates engaging subject matter. Texture also affects the way light interacts with glass, softening the subject matter behind it and emphasizing form and shape over content.

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The rough, reinforced glass in the foreground of this image highlights the soft, organic form of the plant in the background.

photography-through-glass07

3 – Reflections and depth

Want to add context to a portrait but running low on legroom? Reflective glass windows are a great way to add depth to a photograph. Reflections in glass create a greater sense of atmosphere and give the viewer more information about an image. The characteristics of reflected light add tonal variety to a photograph, drawing a viewer in for a closer look. The closer you are to a glass surface, the less it will reflect, try stepping back or shifting the camera angle. Stepping back also has the added bonus of minimizing your chances of disturbing a potential subject.

photography-through-glass02

This photograph features a woman inspecting an eel in a shop window, but also includes a reflection of the street, adding depth and a greater sense of context.

4 – The invisible wall

In my time as a street photographer, I’ve noticed an interesting psychological phenomenon. When I’m photographing subjects through transparent panes of glass – people are much more at ease. Photographing people through a glass window or panel seems to add a degree of separation. My theory is that when there is a physical barrier between you and the subject, people subconsciously feel more comfortable. Glass reduces noise and light, creating a physical partition that lures people into a sense of security.

I find that when separated by a pane glass people are more likely to look directly into the lens too, allowing their curiosity to run a little freer behind a physical partition. Some of the most natural street portraits I have taken have been through glass partitions and windows. Train rides offer an excellent opportunity for unencumbered street photography.

photography-through-glass12

Taken from a train window, the subject and I had a bit of a stare-off before I took this shot.

Also taken from a train window, this child was watching my train leave the station. I was quick enough to place my camera against the glass to capture her looking back at me.

5 – Framing and perspective

Emphasizing the photographer’s point of view can lend a voyeuristic atmosphere to an image. Framing is the use of shapes in the environment to guide the viewer’s eye to a point in a photograph. Photographing through glass partitions or windows emphasizes that you have captured a moment without prompting a subject, like looking through a keyhole.

Viewing a subject photographed from above feels different to viewing a photograph taken from below. One great way to take advantage of glass’s transparent nature is to focus on various animals’ attraction to transparent surfaces. Inhabitants of urban landscapes such as lizards, frogs, spiders, snails and insects all negotiate glass surfaces with ease.

A photographer with a keen eye can exploit these opportunities to capture unique perspectives of our fellow city-dwellers. Like humans, animals seem more at ease with a wall of glass to separate them from potential predators, allowing you the chance to capture a more natural photograph.

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photography-through-glass11

photography-through-glass03

Distortion

Light traveling through glass often behaves in surprising and interesting ways. If light touches even the most minute curved surface it refracts, distorting anything viewed through it. Planning a shot in front of a pane of glass can yield fascinating and surrealistic photographs.

Try experimenting with different thicknesses of glass at varying degrees of curvature. Aquariums and aquatic displays are good for honing this technique because the water inside the glass containers amplifies the distortion. Holding variously shaped prisms over the front of your lens can yield some surprisingly effective and interesting results too.

photography-through-glass08

Conclusion

Transparent, opaque, tinted, laminated, textured, reinforced… there are endless varieties of glass and each presents a unique opportunity for you as a photographer. Although I’ve tried to list a few of the more dramatic ways to use glass in street photography, the potential is limitless and exciting.

photography-through-glass14

They key to taking great street photographs is to be open to opportunity and quick on the shutter button. With limited time to capitalize on the moments that are presented to you, focusing on surfaces like glass that can yield fascinating results quickly and is a fool-proof way of enhancing your craft.

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3 Photoshop Elements Tutorials to Help You Correct and Enhance Your Images

14 Dec

We’ve noticed on our current reader survey (if you haven’t filled it out already, please do so here) that many of you are using Photoshop Elements. So I rounded up some video tutorials to help you use Elements (15 or any older version) to help you make corrections and enhancements to your images.

#1 How to brighten and improve a dull photo

George Peirson from How To Gurus walks you through several steps you can apply to make a dull photo more exciting. He covers things like working with adjustment layers so you can work non-destructively, adding more color in certain areas, layer blending modes, and more.

#2 How to remove people using the clone stamp tool

Sometimes you can get unwanted people in your shots. In this video you can learn how to remove them using just the clone stamp tool in Photoshop Elements.

#3 How to create a motion blur effect using Elements

In this final video learn the steps to add motion to an image using different blur effects in Photoshop Elements. The example used is a race car that was frozen with a fast shutter speed.

If you use Photoshop Elements I hope these videos have helped you out, and you have learned a couple new things. Many things that you can do in Photoshop, can also be done in Elements. Some of the tools and menus are a bit different but many of the features are similar. Elements also offers a “guided” user experience to help you walk through doing some common things.

If you want to learn more try the Adobe website where they have more tutorials and articles on Elements.

For more Photoshop help try these dPS articles:

  • How to Add a Sun Flare to Your Images Using Photoshop
  • How to do Non-Destructive Editing in Photoshop
  • An Introduction to Photoshop Layers Possibilities and Properties
  • Tips for Using the Blur Filters in Photoshop
  • 2 Simple Methods for Adding Color to Your Images Using Photoshop
  • A Guide to Black and White Conversion in Photoshop

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How to Use Photoshop to Enhance Details in Your Photos

24 Jul

Do you think that your images lack details? Here is the way to extract the extra details that are already present in your photos, but are not visible, using Photoshop. Some methods like high pass sharpening will either give you a way too crunchy look or create halos around the edges of the different elements in your image. However, this Continue Reading

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How to Enhance Portraits Using Gray Layers to Dodge and Burn in Photoshop

24 Jul

What is dodging and burning?

The techniques of dodging and burning are hand-me-downs from the days of the darkroom. The idea was to manipulate parts of an image while the paper was being exposed to light from the enlarger, where the negative was fitted. In order to decrease the exposure (lighten) on parts of an image, the paper had to be exposed for less time, which was dodging. To increase exposure (darken) it needed to be exposed for more time, which was burning.

Before dodging and burning

Before dodging and burning

After dodging and burning (it’s subtle, look at her hair and cheeks – don’t overdo it with this technique)

One way of doing this, was by holding bits of paper or card over the parts of the image that didn’t require manipulation. Because these adjustments only applied to certain parts of an image, it required a certain amount of dexterity (as well as a lot of paper) to get right. Because of this complexity and precariousness, dodging was used primarily to lighten dark areas. Burning was then used to darken highlight areas.

The Photoshop version of the technique; however, is far more forgiving. Photoshop allows very fine control over an image and even allows pixel by pixel retouching. The versatility this provides turns the traditional darkroom method on its head. It allows you to use small brush strokes to brighten and exaggerate small areas of highlights, or darken shadows, instead of applying to only broad areas.

This technique is very easy to learn, but it does require some practice to get down, as it’s very easy to go overboard with it, and overcook your images.

Why dodge and burn?

Tools like curves and levels give you control over the tonality and contrast of an entire image (excluding the use of layer masks). This is called a global adjustment, but they aren’t always effective for most images.

Dodging and burning allows you fine control over the tonality of your images in small, concentrated areas. These are called local adjustments. This allows you to pick out small parts of an image to work on, while leaving areas that need no work untouched.

While useful in all genres of photography, the use of local adjustments comes into its own in portraiture. If you think in terms of contrast alone; hair, eyes, skin, and clothes all require very different treatments in order to look their best. For example, if you pump up the contrast in an image to make a pair of jeans look punchy, that will wind up destroying the skin tones in your portrait. One of the easiest ways to overcome this is using a local adjustment technique like dodging and burning.

This tutorial will get you started with a two layer dodging and burning technique, that will give you far more control over your images than you would have with global adjustment tools alone. This is an intermediate technique and you need to have a basic understanding of how to use layers in Photoshop.

For this demonstration, I am going to go beyond what I would normally consider acceptable and overcook the image, to ensure that it is visibly clear what is happening at various stages of the process.

Setting up the layers

Before you start this technique, I suggest that you first finish any blemish removal in your image.

That said, the first step in Photoshop is to create a new layer by going to Layer>New Layer or by pressing ctrl+shift-n. Rename this layer, “Highlights”.

dodging-and-burning-with-grey-layers-newlayer

With this new layer selected, go to Edit>Fill or shift+f5 and choose 50% gray from the menu. Press OK. Your image should now be entirely gray.

dodging-and-burning-with-grey-layers-fill

dodging-and-burning-with-grey-layers

The next step is to change the blending mode of your gray layer. From the drop down menu in the layers palette, choose Overlay or Soft Light. Either choice is fine, but using Overlay will result in a far more pronounced effect than Soft Light. Experiment with both, see how it works for you, and which you prefer. Once the blending mode is changed, you should be able to see your image again.

dodging-and-burning-with-grey-layers-softlight

Next, create another new layer. Layer>New Layer or ctrl+shift+n and rename it to “Shadows”. Again, fill it with 50% gray. Edit>Fill>50% Gray or shift+f5

dodging-and-burning-with-grey-layers-layers

Set this layer’s blending mode to the same as the one you chose for your Highlight layer.

That’s the preparation work done. Once you’re used to it, this whole process only takes a few seconds. It’s also possible to set it up as an action, so Photoshop will do it for you at the press of a button.

Dodging

To start, select your Highlight layer and choose the brush tool. Pick a large, soft brush (Hardness number is low and edges are fuzzy). You can change the brush settings by right clicking within your image.

dodging-and-burning-with-grey-layers-brush

With the brush selected, look for the tool settings at the top of your screen. You’re looking for a pair of sliders labeled opacity and flow. Set your brush’s opacity to 15% and the flow to 10% (see below circled in red). You can change them later, but this is a good starting point.

dodging-and-burning-with-grey-layers-brushopacity

Make sure that your brush colors are set to white and black. You can press D (default) on your keyboard to do this. Also, you can press X to swap between them. Knowing these shortcuts will save you an incredible amount of time.

Now you’re ready to dodge.

Assuming you’re working on a portrait, find a highlight area on your subject’s skin that you would like to emphasize. With white set as your foreground color, paint into that area (make sure you are on the Highlight layer not your image). Because the brush’s opacity is so low, you may not notice a difference at first. Just keep brushing into it, and build up strokes until you have the desired effect. Do this for all of your highlight areas.

With the blending mode set to normal, your highlight layer may look something like this.

Note: If you decide that you’ve gone too far, just fill the layer with 50% gray again and start over.

Burning

With your highlights done, select your Shadow layer by clicking on it in the layer palette. Select black as your foreground color and paint into the shadows in the same manner you did for your highlights (make sure you are painting on the Shadow layer not your image).

With the blending mode set to normal, your shadow layer may look something like this.

After dodging and burning is complete, you may have something that looks like this.

Add Gaussian Blur

The next step is to smooth out your brush strokes. Select your Highlight layer and select Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur. Choose an amount between 20 and 40 pixels, and press okay.

dodging-and-burning-with-grey-layers-gaussian

After the Gaussian Blur filter is applied.

Do the same for your shadow layer.

Final Steps

The last thing to do is is change the opacity of your layers. It may not seem like it, but at this point the effect is probably way too strong.

Select one of your painted layers. Find the opacity slider in the layer palette, and drag it to the left. Watch your image as you move the slider and stop once you’ve reached the desired effect.

dodging-and-burning-with-grey-layers-layeropacity

Do this for the second layer, and that’s it! You have dodged and burned.

The final image after the opacity of the dodge and burn layers has been reduced.

It's really easy to overcook an image with this technique. Use low opacity brush strokes and take your time to avoid having your images look like this one.

It’s really easy to overcook an image with this technique. Use low opacity brush strokes and take your time to avoid having your images look like this one.

From Left to right: 1) Before 2) Dodge and burn with no blur. 3) Gaussian Blur filter applied. 4) Opacity of dodge and burn layers reduced.

Tips and Notes

  • Like most retouching techniques, subtlety is key. At first, overcooking your images with this technique is inevitable. Keep practicing and you’ll figure it out in no time.
  • Always zoom in to 100% or closer when working on small areas like eyes.
  • A graphics tablet will help with smooth, natural brush strokes. If you can only use a mouse or trackpad, experiment with more liberal use of Gaussian Blur to mask the brush strokes.
  • When painting shadows or highlights, try to match the light in the image. You can paint white (dodge) into your shadows, but this will probably look very strange in the end.
  • Change the brush size often, and appropriately, to the area you are working on. Keyboard shortcuts make this a breeze (use [ and ] to increase and decrease brush size).
  • Experiment with different brushes until you find one that suits your taste.
Before dodging and burning

Before dodging and burning

After dodging and burning

More Tips and Notes

  • It’s all too easy to concentrate on the face, but try not to forget other parts of the image like your subject’s hair, clothes, and the rest of their body.
  • Both dodging and burning can be done on a single gray layer. Feel free to do this, but the two layer technique grants you even more control, without much extra effort.
  • Consider setting up a keyboard shortcut for Gaussian Blur. This saves a lot of time.
  • You can create as many sets of gray layers as you want. For example, if you want to use very small brushes to dodge and burn the eyes, you might choose to do this on a separate set of layers in order to use less blur at the end. If you use a lot of layers sets like this, consider using layer groups to keep them organized and don’t forget to name your layers.
  • If the shadows and highlights you are working with have very hard edges, try using a harder brush and a lower amount of Gaussian Blur.
  • Consider watching and trying some digital painting and sketching tutorials for Photoshop. These can really help to increase your brush control and lend to more natural results.

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How to Use Photoshop to Enhance Details in Your Photos

29 Jun

Do you think that your images lack details? Here is the way to extract the extra details that are already present in your photos, but are not visible, using Photoshop. Some methods like high pass sharpening will either give you a way too crunchy look or create halos around the edges of the different elements in your image. However, this Continue Reading

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How to Use a Reflector and Diffuser to Enhance Flower Photographs

26 Jun

Photograph Flowers 2016-05-11at15-41-06

cover-fill-card

Learning to see and use light is one of the most important steps to creating great photographs. As you become more aware of what nice light really looks like, you can start to manipulate even the harshest conditions with some simple tools. The photo above was shot in bright sunshine using both a diffuser and a reflector.

full-sun-overview

Practice

To practice this exercise, find some flowers in bright sun. You can photograph flowers that are planted in your garden, or in pots.

Photograph-Flowers-in-sun-3

Photograph-Flowers-in-sun-2

Notice the quality of light on the flowers. In bright sun, there are strong highlights and deep shadows. There is lot of contrast, which comes through in the image.

Photograph-Flowers-2016-05-11at15-34-44

Notice how you lose detail in the highlights. The bright spots caused by the sun don’t add anything to the photograph, in fact, they are very distracting. Our eyes tend to go toward the brightest spots in a photograph and in this situation, the highlights are drawing our eyes away from the center of interest – the flower.

Photograph-Flowers-2016-05-11at15-09-23

Add a reflector

Now, try using a reflector. Light bounces just like a billiard ball. By placing a light colored, reflective surface opposite the light source, you can bounce light back into the subject. In this instance, our light source is the sun, so I placed the reflector under the leaves to bounce the light back into the shadows. You can use almost anything as a reflector. In this example, I’m using a piece of white poster board.

Read DIY How to Build and Use a Reflector to Take Better Portraits and 10 Ways to Use a 5-in-1 Reflector for more help on using reflectors.

Just-below-full-sun-using-fill-cards

Notice the difference in the image above, compared to the one without the reflector. Can you see how bouncing the light back in brightens up the flower? The exposure settings haven’t changed. The only difference is the reflector (also called a fill card) in the second shot.

Photograph-Flowers-2016-05-11at15-08-06

Diffuse the light

Now, we are going to use a diffuser to soften the light.

Photograph-Flowers-reflector-above-better2

Here we are starting to see some really beautiful, soft light. Notice how even the light is and how much softer the flowers feel. The highlights and shadows are not as severe and harsh, and more detail is retained in both areas.

Photograph-Flowers-reflector-above

Use a reflector and diffuser

Take it a step further.

Photograph-Flowers-2016-05-11at15-09-41

Let’s use a diffuser with a reflector, and see how that looks. Here’s a tip for you: If you can’t prop up your reflectors and diffuser and press the shutter button, you can use the 2-second self-timer on your camera to free up an extra hand.

Photograph-Flowers-reflector-above-and-below

With the diffuser above and a reflector below, the flowers start to take on a magical feel.

Photograph-Flowers-2016-05-11at15-12-20

fill-card-reflector-top-and-bottom

cover-fill-card

Now you can see how using a reflector and diffuser can drastically improve your flower photographs. I also want to add that none of these photographs were manipulated in Lightroom or Photoshop in any way, other than a little sharpening. The dramatic difference in the photographs was created entirely by manipulating light.

Please share you comments and questions below, then try this exercise at home and post your photos in the comments below. I’d love to see them!

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How to Enhance Urban Night Photographs Using Luminosity Masks in Photoshop

19 Jun

As the sun sets on a city’s skyline, thousands of lights come flooding the concrete jungle, turning every urban scene into a photographer’s paradise. Every corner around the city suddenly seems too irresistible not to be photographed.

Image 01

Urban night shots is probably one of the most common photos taken at night. The way most people shoot cityscapes at night is to keep the camera still, press the trigger, and snap the shot. The result is often an uninspired image, with overexposed highlights due to the long exposure. This problem can be fixed by blending multiple exposures, to recover details in the highlights with luminosity masks.

Image 02

Overexposure of highlights circles in red.

Using Luminosity Masks is a way of making a selection based on the luminosity (or brightness) value of the pixels. The main advantage of luminosity masks over other selection tools is its ability to feather the edges, which makes the transition seamless. One of the earliest articles detailing how luminosity masks works was published by Tony Kuyper. You can learn more about luminosity masks here.

In this tutorial, I will show you step by step, how you can recover detail in the highlights of your urban night shots, using luminosity masks in Photoshop. There are two parts to this: taking the multiple exposure, and editing them in Photoshop with luminosity masks.

Part one: How to take multiple exposures

  • Step 1: You need a tripod, and a camera that has aperture priority and manual mode.
  • Step 2: Mount your camera on the tripod and compose your image. In aperture priority mode, set the aperture and ISO settings you want, and take a shot with the default metering mode (usually matrix metering).
  • Step 3: Review the image on the LCD screen and take note of the shutter speed. Switch your camera to manual mode and dial in the ISO, aperture, and shutter speed that you used for the first shot.
  • Step 4: Speed up your shutter speed by one stop and take a shot again. For example, if the initial shutter speed was 30 seconds, stopping up by one stop would be 15 seconds (the shutter speed halves).
  • Step 5: Repeat step 4 until you can see details in the highlights by zooming in on the LCD screen on your camera, and checking the histogram for clipped highlights (blinks).

Tip: Use a remote release and/or enable mirror lockup (in a DSLR) to ensure the sharpness of your photos.

Part two: Recovering the highlights using luminosity masks in Photoshop

Step 1: If you use Adobe Lightroom, select all the images you want to blend. Right click on the mouse, choose Edit in > Open as layers in Photoshop. Otherwise, you can open them individually in Photoshop, use the move tool and drag each image into a single file as layers.

Step 2: Make sure the images are arranged such that the brightest exposure is at the bottom of the layers. To make sure all images are absolutely aligned, select all layers, then go to Edit > Auto-Align Layers. You may have to crop the image a bit after alignment.

Image 03

The layers are arranged so that the brightest image is at the bottom.

Step 3: Make sure you have luminosity masks Photoshop Actions to add and remove luminosity masks. If you don’t, you can download it here (the file is zipped, so make sure you unzip it first, then follow the instruction on how to install it here).

Step 4: To start off, make all layers invisible except the bottom two (layer 1 and 2). You can do so by unchecking the eye icon next to each layer. Next, create a mask for Layer 2 and fill it with black.

Image 04

Step 4: Next, generate luminosity masks based on Layer 1 (the brightest exposure). To do that, select Layer 1 on the layers panel, and generate the luminosity mask with the Photoshop Action.

Step 5: Go to Channels panel, select a Brights luminosity mask that targets just the highlights. In this case, Brights 2 seems like a good choice because it is not too restrictive and has good feathering on the edges.

Image 05

Step 6: Select Brights 2 luminosity mask by holding down CMD (Mac) or CTRL (Win) and left click on the mask. You should see marching ants appear on the image. Depending on your image, if you do see a pop-up window that says “Warning: No pixels are more than 50% selected…”, don’t worry about it and just click ok.

Step 7: Go back to the layers panel and click on the mask on layer 2. Select the brush tool, set the opacity to 50%, color to white, and paint over the layer mask to blend the darker exposure (Layer 2) into the brighter exposure (Layer 1 below). Depending on your image, you can choose to paint just the brightest highlights or all of them. In this example, I chose to paint all the highlights. If you find the marching ants annoying, hit CMD (Mac) or CTRL (Win) + H key to hide them.

Image 06

Details in the highlights are gradually recovered.

Step 8: Delete the luminosity masks generated previously because you now need luminosity masks based on the brightness of Layer 2, where you have just blended in the darker exposure. To do so, remove the current luminosity masks with the Photoshop Action.

Step 9: Now select Layer 2 and generate luminosity masks with the Photoshop Action.

Step 10: Select Layer 3, add a layer mask, and fill it with black.

Step 11: Go to the Channels panel, select a brights mask that targets the highlights. In most cases, selecting the same mask should do the job. In this example, I have chosen the Brights 2 mask again.

Image 07

Comparison of Brights mask for Layer 1 and Layer 2.

Step 12: Hold down CMD (Mac) or CTRL (Win) and click on Brights 2 mask to select once again. Go back to layers panel and click the mask on Layer 3, then use a white brush as before, and paint over the highlights again. You should see details being recovered gradually. At this stage, you should consider painting over the brightest highlights only instead of the whole image. In this example, I only painted the highlights as circles in the illustration below.

Image 02

Step 13: Repeat Steps 8 to 12 until you are done with all the layers. Your final image should have a more balanced exposure, with details in the highlights. You can then apply further tonal or color adjustments, and sharpening to your image.

Image 08

Final image.

Bonus: Adding a reflection and color to the lights

This involves a lot of editing, and may not be for everyone. For those of you who are into post-processing, you can clean up the image by removing unwanted objects, add a reflection, and change the color of the lights.

Adding a reflection

This only works if you have an empty foreground in your image like the example here.

  • Step 1: Use the rectangular marquee tool and make a selection of the city’s skyline. Then, copy and paste it as a new layer.
Image 09

Copy and paste the selection as a new layer.

  • Step 2: Select the layer of the copy, hold CMD (Mac) or CTRL (Win) + T to transform. Move your cursor to the image, right click and select > Flip Vertical. Use the move tool to position the flipped image lower to align the border.

Image 10

  • Step 3: You can add a ripple effect to the reflection by going to the top menu and selecting Filter > Distort > Ripple. Keep the size of the ripple to medium, set the amount you like, and press ok.
  • Step 4: Increase the contrast of the reflection by adding a curves adjustment layer, and clip it to the reflection layer only. To do that, right click on the curves layer and select Create Clipping Masks. You should see a little arrow on the curves layer pointing down at the layer below it. You can also reduce the opacity of the reflection layer if you like.
image-11

Clipping curves adjustment to the layer below.

Image 12
Final image with reflection.

Adding color to the lights

  • Step 1: You need a visible layer to begin with. If you don’t have one, you can go to the menu on the top and choose Layer > Merge Visible.
  • Step 2: Generate luminosity masks based on this layer. Remember to delete any luminosity masks you had before this.
  • Step 3: Select a brights luminosity masks that targets the highlights. In this example, I know from before that brights 2 mask works very well, so I’m going to choose it again. Select it by holding cmd (Mac) or ctrl (Win) + left click on your mouse.
Image 13

Brights 2 luminosity mask.

  • Step 4: Add a new layer, and change the blend mode to soft light. The selection should be automatically loaded onto this new layer already.
  • Step 5: Now fill the with the color of your choice by holding down Shift + Backspace, select a color, and press ok. You should now see the color of the lights have changed subtly.

Image 14

  • Step 5: If you want the effect to be stronger, duplicate the layer once or twice until you like it.
Image 15

Duplicate the layer for a stronger effect.

  • Step 6: The final step is what makes the lights glow. Double click on the top layer to bring up the layer style. Check the box for outer glow, and pick a color that is slightly darker than the one you have used before. Click ok and your done!
Image 16

Apply outer glow for the final touch.

Apply a few other tweaks and sharpening and you’ve got yourself a cool urban night cityscape!

Before

Before

Image 01

After

 

 

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How to Use Clouds to Enhance and Improve Your Images

07 Apr

Siberian Husky, 7 months old, male, white, lying on a hill with dramatic sky

Many photographers enjoy taking pictures of clouds, and it’s easy to see why. From the vivid patterns and brilliant sunset formations, to the storm clouds and unusual styles, there’s almost always something interesting happening in the sky. While there’s no doubt that clouds can make great subjects in their own right, I feel that they are most useful, photographically speaking when they’re used as backgrounds for other subjects. The proper use of clouds in an image can add texture, dimension, and drama to many photos, while enhancing or serving as an additional storytelling feature for your main subject.

Making clouds work for you in this way usually requires a little bit of planning, some location scouting (always fun!), the right subject, and, course, keeping a sharp eye on the sky for weather that will produce great clouds. Let’s get started!

Clouds = texture

First let’s examine how clouds can turn boring into brilliant. This image below of a Whippet was taken on a hill, on a clear day without any clouds at all. The plain blue background is striking, but the solid color perhaps lacks interest:

Whippet, portrait on hill

Now consider this shot, taken of the same dog back in the same location, but on a day with large summer clouds. The difference is immediately obvious – the clouds add some much-needed texture and drama, elevating this image above the plain blue version (and earned it a spot in an upcoming Whippet calendar).

Whippet, portrait on hill

A good landscape photo can also often benefit from some cloudy texture:

Farm fencing, fields, clouds

Reach for the sky

Finding a way to include clouds behind the subject is one of those photographic puzzles that we have to solve from time to time. Often, the key is to figure out how to raise the subject, or lower yourself. A great way to do this is to utilize a hill. Generally, the bigger the hill, the better, but even tiny knolls and rises can work.

Here’s a shot taken on a large hill, where I was able to get much lower than the horses.

Herd of horses grazing on hill, clouds

The hill blocks out anything distracting, and gives the photo a clean horizon line. But again, if this was just a blank, blue sky, the photo wouldn’t be as interesting, and wouldn’t pack as much of a punch. The clouds provide added texture, and help balance out the top of the photo.

Now here’s a photo where the subject was on just a tiny rise.

DJ-SM-20-159

Getting this shot required a little extra work on my part, as I had to get myself and my camera down close to ground and look up, but it worked. What you can’t see is that there were actually a lot of distracting elements all around the scene, that I was able to remove just by getting down low. A big part of photography is understanding what not to include in the viewfinder.

You can also take advantage of subjects that are already higher than you are.

Person pitching loose hay on haywagon with tractor, clouds in sky

Person pitching loose hay on wagon with tractor, clouds in sky.

Silhouettes optional

Remember, not all subjects against a sky have to be black silhouettes. Because the horses and clouds are being lit with the same light, from the same direction, detail and color remain consistent for both. In the case of the Whippet image, I used a large reflector board to illuminate her body, until her brightness matched the sky and clouds, preventing the Whippet from becoming underexposed.

Storytelling

It’s great to be able to use clouds as a storytelling device. Let’s look at a few examples of this:

Windmill on farm with clouds

I thought the big weathervane was an interesting subject, but the terrific approaching storm clouds were what really made me look twice. The weathervane says “weather,” but the subject combined with some actual weather maybe suggests the question, “What’s going to happen when the storm comes?”

How about this one?

Two cowgirls on hill with dramatic clouds and fencing

Again, even though the clouds aren’t the star, they’re still pulling their weight composition-wise, and add a lot of drama and balance to this shot. The cowgirls and their fence may be the main subject, but the clouds are adding some storytelling, too. It looks like rain, is that good? Do the cowgirls want rain, or not? It’s all up to the viewer to decide.

Girl on farm hill with clouds and stormy skies

Increase depth of field

If you’re using a telephoto lens, or if you’re close to your subject, you may want to stop your lens down a bit to increase your depth of field and keep your cloudy background looking distinct. If you would normally shoot a portrait at f/4 or f/5.6 for instance, try using f/11 or f/16 to help retain cloud detail.

Colorful clouds

One last takeaway, remember that clouds aren’t always white and grey. As with all types of outdoor photography, the golden hours can be your friend. In the case of clouds, a great sunrise or sunset can make the clouds turn red, pink, and orange. Don’t necessarily shoot towards the sun either, look on the opposite side of the sky to find more subtle, but still beautiful, colors.

Moon and clouds

Got a favorite image with a cloudy background?

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