Posts Tagged ‘Using’

How to Stylize Your Images Using Complementary Colors in Lightroom

17 Nov

In this tutorial, I’m going to show you a process that uses complementary colors to stylize your images and create a consistent theme in your collections.

I recently embarked on an 1,800-mile road trip through the dusty outback of Western Australia. After two days on the road, I arrived at Karijini – a national park famous for its iron-rich earth, icy-cold gorges and sheer remoteness from absolutely anything.

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The Middle of Nowhere – Karijini National Park, Western Australia

Karijini is awash with complementary characteristics; hot deserts, icy-cold gorges, warm days and freezing nights. Nothing quite compares, however, to the daily occurrence of Karijini’s natural complementary colors. Each night, my eyes were treated to a beautiful blend of golden earthy tones and cool shadows. And each night, they couldn’t get enough.

You may find yourself getting a little trigger happy when you’re on a holiday. Perhaps you are trying out a new lens, maybe practicing new techniques or just getting carried away with the shutter button – we’ve all been there! If so, you’re likely to return home with a mixed bag of great shots and perhaps some images that aren’t particularly strong enough in their own right to add to your portfolio, blog, or Instagram feed.

Here’s a collection of images from my trip to Karijini that don’t combine very well as a collection in their current form. They each have a different color palette, there are multiple different techniques going on, and they don’t really share the same style. There’s no cohesiveness, no harmony.

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Individually, these images are not particularly strong. However, as a collection, they have potential to pull together to form a great storyboard.

To help this image set convey that story, I’m going to show you a coloring process to stylize this collection. By using complementary colors I will create a consistent look, feel, and style that will run through the entire collection. This process is something that you can adapt to your own collections, time and time again.

Complementary Colors

If you’re thinking, “What on earth is a complementary color?” don’t worry, it’s quite easy to understand. Put simply, they are colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel. Here’s a screenshot with some examples:

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Complementary color examples.

Complementary colors appear everywhere, particularly in nature. Think of a beautiful sunset, the beach, or even Finding Nemo – each of them is jammed packed with complementary colors. They are called complementary because they do exactly what they say on the tin – complement each other.

You can use complementary colors in your photography to create a consistent look, feel, and style to a collection of images. This can be achieved while capturing your shots (i.e. by asking your subjects to wear a particular color) or by applying subtle adjustments to colors in post-processing. I am going to show you precisely how to achieve the latter using Adobe Lightroom.

Step #1: Create a Color Palette

Before you jump into Lightroom and begin to adjust your colors, you need to be clear about which colors you want your images to include.

A great way to do this is to create a simple color palette that you can refer to while editing your images. This color palette could be a collection of images you have cut out of magazines, perhaps some color swatches from a paint store or even a bunch of squares on your computer filled with your desired colors.

Here I opted for the bunch of squares, filling the color palette with complementary warm earthy tones and cool murky shadows that capture the landscape of Karijini.

Complementary colors Lightroom 04

Step #2: Align and Subtract using Hue, Saturation, and Luminance (HSL)

When you sit down to edit a photograph, you typically approach it with the mindset of adding something. For example, you tend to add contrast, sharpness, or perhaps you add a gradient.

When you are working with color, particularly when you have a color palette in mind, you need to alter your approach and instead think about subtracting. You need to subtract the colors from your images that don’t align with your color palette, because working with color is as much about the colors you can’t see as it is about the ones you can see.

Once you are happy with your colors, and they sit within the boundaries of your color palette, you can then go forth and add, enhance, and beautify.

In this step, I will show you how to use the HSL (Hue, Saturation and Luminance) panel in Lightroom to subtract and align the colors of an image to reflect those of your color palette.

Align with Hue

Start off inside the Hue section of the HSL tab. The Hue sliders allow you to replace your existing colors with neighboring colors on the color wheel.

For example, you are able to replace all red tones in your image with magenta by adjusting the Red Hue slider to -100. Moving this slider to +100 will replace all the Reds with Oranges. This is because magenta and orange sit on either side of red on the color wheel.

At this point, it’s worth taking a moment to study the color in your image and start to think about what colors you can push and pull to align your image with your color palette.

Let’s do this with an example image. At the moment, this image is a bit off from the desired color palette. It appears to have an aqua/green color cast, particularly in the sky.

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Original image.

To remove the aqua/green color cast, you can push the aqua tones up to replace them with blue. In this example, a value of +81 works well. In addition, you can push the Blue slider up a little, to around +36. This will deepen the blue tones and remove what was left of the aqua/green color cast.

Finally, to align the orange/yellow tones to the color palette, you can pull the Orange and Yellow sliders to -26 and -15 respectively. This subtle adjustment pushes the orange tones towards red and the yellow tones towards orange – essentially warming up those earthy tones.

While editing, it’s always a good idea to view your image alongside your color palette, to ensure you are working along the same lines for each photo. This will help you pull the collection together at the end.

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Hue adjustments in the HSL panel of Lightroom.

Here, you can already see that the Hue adjustments have aligned the color of the sky and earth to the desired color palette. However, there are still plenty of green tones roaming around in the shrubbery and navigation system that are wreaking havoc with the color palette. You can remove the green tones with the Saturation sliders.

Subtract with Saturation

The Saturation sliders within the HSL tab allow you to control the intensity of your colors. By increasing the saturation, your colors will become stronger and more vibrant. Decreasing the saturation sliders will make your colors less intense.

Have another look at your image and take note of any distracting colors that do not align with your color palette. Adjust the corresponding sliders to desaturate those colors. This will leave you with only the colors that align with your color palette. Once you have these base colors in place, you can then give them a little saturation boost to strengthen the image.

Let’s jump back to the example image to demonstrate.

While the example image is a lot closer to the desired palette, it still contains distracting colors that don’t align – notably, the green tones and strong yellows. You can subtract these colors from the image by desaturating the Green and Yellow sliders. In this case, values of -100 (Green) and -78 (Yellow) worked nicely.

To finish up with the Saturation sliders, you can increase the saturation of the colors that align to your complementary color scheme. In the example image, boosting the red, orange, aqua and blue colors worked a charm.

Time for another review of the example image against the color palette.

Complementary colors Lightroom 07

Saturation adjustments.

Lighten with Luminance

The Luminance sliders in the HSL tab allow you to control how bright or dark you want a particular color to look. Increasing the Luminance adds brightness to your colors, whereas decreasing the Luminance darkens your colors.

Compare your image to your color palette. How does it look? Are the colors a little too dark or too light? If so, adjust the corresponding Luminance slider to lighten or darken your colors.

In the example image, the oranges are appearing a little too dark and perhaps the blues could do with a little brightening as well. To achieve this, you can increase the luminance of the Orange, Yellow and Blue sliders until you are happy with the brightness. In this case, moving the Orange slider to +28, Yellow to +21 and Blue to +11 did the trick.

Complementary colors Lightroom 08

Luminance adjustments.

Try to get into the habit of regularly comparing your image to your color palette, particularly after you have made any adjustments to the HSL sliders. At this point, if you think that your colors need a little more work, run through each of the HSL sliders again and tweak them accordingly.

Step #3: Adding Character with Curves

Creating a consistent style and applying this to every image in your collection can be the difference between a good collection and a great one.

If you have a particular editing style, now is the perfect time to apply it to your images. If you’re at a stage where you’re perhaps trying to create or establish your own style and you’re not sure what to do, it’s a great idea to use your subject or environment as a style guide. Let’s take a look at doing precisely that with an example.

Karijini is awash with complementary colors, iron-rich earth, warm dusty air, and murky shadows. To help inject some of these characteristics into the image you can use the Tone Curve.

The Tone Curve is essentially a square graph that consists of a Histogram and a linear line running from the bottom left to the top right. Much like the Histogram, the left side of the Tone Curve represents the shadows, the middle represents mid-tones and the right side represents the image highlights.

Complementary colors Lightroom 09

Tone Curve – Basic

By clicking on the “Point Curve” Icon (in the lower-right corner of the Tone Curve window) you’re now able to click on the Tone Curve graph to create control points. You can then drag these control points up or down to alter the value of the corresponding tones.

Complementary colors Lightroom 10

Point Curve icon for adding adjustment points.

Your Tone Curve works in four distinct channels – RGB, Red, Green, and Blue. For now, ensure the channel of your Tone Curve is set to RGB. This allows you to control the overall tone of your image by manipulating the Red, Green and Blue tones simultaneously. You’ll get to know the other channels shortly.

Creating Atmospheric Shadows

Before incorporating atmospheric shadows into your image, you want to ensure that any adjustments you make only apply to the shadows. So, to safeguard your mid-tones, you can place a control point in the middle of your Tone Curve (as seen below).

Complementary colors Lightroom 11

Now you can add some control points on the left side of your Tone Curve. These will allow you to manipulate your shadows.

Complementary colors Lightroom 12

Dragging these control points downwards will darken your shadows. However, to create flat, murky looking shadows, you can drag these control points upwards – essentially lightening your shadows. While doing so, pay close attention to the darker areas of your image to ensure you don’t overdo it.

To complete this murky atmospheric look, you can darken the highlights by dragging the control point on the extreme right of your Tone Curve down a little.

In the example, you can see that this subtle adjustment has lightened the shadows, darkened the highlights, reduced the contrast, and introduced that murky atmospheric style to the image.

Complementary colors Lightroom 13

Tone Curve applied.

Color Stylizing

Every pixel in your photo is made up of a mix of Reds, Greens, and Blues. The Tone Curve isolates these individual color channels so you can adjust how much or how little of that color channel is present in your shadows, mid-tones, and highlights.

Studying the example image, the base colors of the image are looking good. It’s full of complementary colors, and it aligns nicely with the color palette. So then, why bother with these individual tone curve channels?

It goes back to infusing your photos with a style reminiscent of your subject or the environment. Perhaps there was a particular feeling or emotion during the shoot. Was it lively? Happy? Bright? Melancholic? Hot? Cold? Is there a color tone within your color palette that you feel best represents these?

Perhaps there was a lot of earthy red dust and cool shadows floating around? If so, you could add a subtle warm tone to your image and cool down those shadows to help enhance the look, feel and style of your images. Let’s take a look at how to achieve precisely that by using the Tone Curve with the example image.

Start off by selecting the Red Channel inside your Tone Curve. If you can’t see the “Channel” option, be sure to click on the “Points Curve” icon.

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Working on the Red Channel of the Tone Curve.

Any adjustments you make to this Tone Curve will only affect the Reds in your image. If you create a control point in the shadows and drag this upwards, it will increase the Reds in your shadows. If you were to do the opposite and drag this control point downwards, it will remove the Reds from your shadows.

It’s worth noting here that when you remove a primary color using the Tone Curve, you will introduce its opposite color. Here’s a list of the primary colors and their corresponding opposite colors.

  • The opposite color to Red is Cyan.
  • The opposite color to Blue is Yellow.
  • The opposite color to Green is Magenta.

To add a subtle warm underlying tone to an image, simply click and drag the control point on the extreme left of the Red channel upwards slightly. You’ll notice that it doesn’t take a lot of adjusting to achieve the desired look.

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Red Tone Curve adjustments.

To cool down your shadows, switch your Tone Curve channel over to Blue. This will enable you to increase the amount of Blue in the darker areas of your image. To do this, click and drag the control point on the extreme left of the Blue channel upwards. Pay attention to the darker areas of your image to ensure you don’t overdo it.

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Working on the Blue Channel of the Tone Curve.

You may find that while this adjustment cools down the shadows, it also cools down the mid-tones and highlights. To counter this, you can click and drag the control point on the extreme right of the Blue Channel downwards. This will remove the blue tones from your highlights and introduce a little of Blue’s opposing color (Yellow) to warm your highlights back up.

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Blue Tone Curve adjustments.

Step #4: Split toning (Optional)

The final step in the complementary color stylizing process is to apply a subtle split toning adjustment using Lightroom’s Split Toning tab.

By now, you may feel that your image is already perfectly aligned to your color palette and perhaps there is nothing more that needs to be adjusted. If so, congratulations! I encourage you to go forth, infuse your collections with your style and inspire others to do the same.

If you are looking at your images thinking “there’s something not quite right” or “they still need a little work”, head to the Split Toning tab. This is a very simple tool that can add a final layer of polish to your images.

Split Toning enables you to apply a specific color tone to your highlights and shadows. It’s a good idea to refer to your color palette and select the exact Hue that you want to be present in the highlights and likewise for the shadows. You can then dial back the intensity of this look using the saturation sliders until you are happy with the result.

For the example image, selecting complementary warm hues of 45 for the highlights and 240 for the shadows aligned perfectly with the color palette. Adjusting the Saturation of each to 10 and 6 respectively, applies just the right amount of toning and completes the stylizing process.

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Split Toning adjustments added.


Let’s take a few seconds to do a recap of the coloring and stylizing process before taking a peek at the before and after.

  1. Start off by creating a complementary color palette.
  2. Using your complementary color palette as a guide, align the existing colors in your image and subtract those that don’t quite fit. Use the HSL panel for this step.
  3. Gently boost the saturation and luminance of your complementary colors, again using the HSL panel
  4. Use the Tone Curve to stylise your image and incorporate atmospheric shadows and subtle underlying tones.
  5. Pull all of your adjustments together with a subtle Split Toning adjustment, by adding complementary warm and cool tones to your highlights and shadows.

Before and After

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Complementary colors Lightroom 20


Below, you can see an example of what this process looks like when I applied it to the remaining images in my collection.

This collection now has a great level of consistency. It has a beautiful complementary color palette and a similar style running throughout the collection. As a result, there is a togetherness about the collection that wasn’t present before. It shares the same message and comes together to tell a lovely little story.

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Collection – before.

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Collection – after.


Working with color is a process, it’s not an exact science. While the exact values of the sliders and curve adjustments used for the example image will not necessarily work on every image, this overarching process will.

I hope this tutorial gets you thinking about how you apply color in your photography. It’s a great skill to develop, so try not to rely on presets and instead get thinking about defining a color palette of your own that you can use to stylize your collections. It’s much more fun that way!

PS. Do you have a color palette that you stylize your images with? If so please share in the comments below, I’d love to see your collections.

The post How to Stylize Your Images Using Complementary Colors in Lightroom by William Palfrey appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Shooting an Olympic sailor in action using remote high speed sync

12 Nov

This article was originally published on Luminous Landscapes, and is being republished in full on DPReview with express permission from Terry McDonagh.

In January of last year, I was commissioned to shoot some dramatic action shots of an Olympic sailor; however, I did some image research and wasn’t overly impressed by any images I found, so I decided that a good approach would be to try and light the subject and by doing so I could afford to underexpose the available light.

This would help add to the drama, plus in doing so I would be able to get some light into the water spray coming off the boat. In order to get this shot, I needed to freeze the action using a high shutter speed and combine that with flash, so how was I going to achieve all that?

Obviously, I needed to use flash, but I knew I would be shooting at a high shutter speed, so it had to be high-speed sync (HSS). The beauty of HSS is that it allows you to shoot at a high shutter speed whilst still syncing the flash, which was unheard of a few years ago.

I decided that I would use two flashes, both for the extra power and to avoid any redundancy due to the high risk of this particular situation. I was attaching a flash to a boat which could easily capsize, and I was doing it in January when, due to it being 3°C, the batteries weren’t going to last too long. In other words: I was only getting one chance to nail this job, so I had to minimize the chances of anything going wrong.

Flashes facing Starboard

I had used HSS before, but never remotely and not on the water, which was all a bit daunting.

To prepare, I did a bit of research on trigger systems and decided on a Phottix Laso trigger for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it would trigger my Canon 600EX-RT directly, via the built-in radio on the flash. Second, it came with a separate receiver for my Canon 580 EX-ll, which meant I could control both units remotely from one base unit. And finally, the receiver had a metal hot-shoe mount, which I wanted, as I knew that the gear was going to get bounced around out there so I wasn’t risking any plastic hot-shoe mounts.

Flying along flashes pointing to starboard

The next part of the jigsaw puzzle was the batteries, as HSS is really hard on batteries and the faster the shutter speed, the higher the power drain. I did some more research and came across some ‘Panasonic Eneloop pro rechargeable’s’, apparently the best. I purchased a few sets of them, tested them in the cold, and found they were amazing.

Which brought me to my next major problem: waterproofing the flash units. There was a strong chance that they would be submerged if the boat capsized, and having sailed a Lazer, the boat that I would be shooting, a few times, I knew that these boats flip over very easily. To counter this issue, I developed a triple bagging system using some freezer bags.

When I submerged the flash in a bucket of water to test, it stayed watertight: Happy Days!

The trick was to place one bag over the complete unit and then mount it to the hot-shoe. Then I placed another bag over this, but upside down, and a third one over the spigot so that it was completely sealed.

Flashes bagged up and tethered.

Then it was just a matter of pushing the spigot into the Manfrotto clamp which was attached to the boom of the boat.

Flashes pointing to port.

I headed down to the yacht club to do a technical recce and try to attach the gear to the boat and figure out all my settings.

I settled on mounting the units upside down, firstly so that the sail would not damage them, and also because I was afraid they might rotate with any impacts, plus I reckoned there would be fewer forces on them if they were not top heavy. I used a Manfrotto super clamp as it has a secondary safety lock, so I was able to instruct Annalise how to open the clamp and rotate the speed-lights.—every time she did a tack she rotated the units so they were always facing her, and she was brilliant at doing it. Her sailing wasn’t too shabby either.

Total control

So, I had designed a system that I could remotely fire, adjust exposure and rotate, and it was waterproof… pretty cool! Next thing was to get out there and see how it all worked.

On the day of the shoot, conditions were perfect: overcast, but with some nice contrast. I was getting a light reading of around 1/640 @ F3.2 iso 500. I underexposed by around two stops to try and get some drama into the images but without making it look too much like nighttime.

We headed out to sea about 4 km out as that’s where the wind was and I wanted little or no background buildings etc. in the images. To preserve the batteries I left the units off until we reached our destination, This proved to be a bit of a mistake as the boats were dancing around a lot, so much so that I almost fell in trying to locate the switches on both speed-lights and the receiver, and through the Ziploc bags it proved very tricky.

Luckily my very quick-witted boatman spotted this and grabbed me at the last moment, otherwise I honestly would have gone into the water with a 5DSr and a 70-200mm lens plus my phone etc. Thank god is all I can say.

We shot for approximately an hour, as that was long enough for both Annalise and me, and the batteries were getting very low on energy. I reckoned I had the images I needed in the bag.

Annalise loving the conditions.

I was shooting on a Canon 5DSr with a 70-200mm lens. Final settings were 1/640 @F3.2 and iso160. I had considered using a faster camera but the flash wouldn’t have kept up with it so I just stuck with the higher 50MP camera, which was important as we were using the image on billboards etc. so the higher the quality the better.

The shoot worked out brilliantly. The hardest bit was trying to maintain focus on Annalise, and trying to keep the horizon level; plus, watching all the other elements meant that after an hour of this type of thing you’re pretty burnt out.

When we finished, Annalise nearly fainted when she heard that there was approximately €2k worth of gear attached to her boat. She said had she known she wouldn’t have sailed so hard! I didn’t believe that for one minute.

Wind just died, time for home.

Based in Dublin, Terry works for leading advertising, design and architectural agencies throughout Ireland and often abroad in the areas of industry, architecture, products, people and food.

He provides a fast and reliable digital retouching and manipulation when required, and shoots live action commercials too. Feel free to contact Terry for more information.

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Two Ways to Create a Snowstorm Using Photoshop

11 Nov

The holidays are upon us and you want to have the perfect photo but it’s just too cold, slippery, or you missed the snow all together? There are times that regardless of your will, the weather won’t allow you to go outside to shoot the photos you want. Fortunately, it’s easy to recreate a snowstorm using Photoshop to give that final touch to your image.

Two Ways to Create a Snowstorm using Photoshop

Select an appropriate image

First, you have to choose an image that will be believable as having been shot during a snowfall. It can be a snowed-in landscape or a holiday view like the ones I’ll use here to show you the technique. However, you can get as creative as you like. In this tutorial, I’ll teach you two different techniques to make it snow in Photoshop so you can choose which suits you best.

#1 – Snowstorm with layers

With your image open in Photoshop, duplicate it as a layer by going to Menu > Layers > Duplicate Layer. An exact copy of your image will be created on top of the original and as a default will be called Background copy. However, if you want to rename it “snow” for organization purposes just double-click the layer name.

With this new layer selected, go to Menu > Filter > Pixelate > Pointillize. In the pop-up window, you can choose how big or small you want the snowflakes to be by dragging the slider and when you’re happy click OK.

Note: Your background color should be set to white.

Pointillize - Two Ways to Create a Snowstorm using Photoshop

While on the same layer, go to Menu > Image > Adjustments > Threshold to make it monochrome. The higher the number, the less dense the snow will be and therefore it will look more real.

Threshold - Two Ways to Create a Snowstorm using Photoshop

Layer blend mode

Once you click ok you will only see a black canvas with white spots. So to merge it with your image you need to change the layer blend to Screen; you can do this in the drop-down menu of the layers tab.

Now you need to give the snow some movement to make it look like it’s falling. For this you can go to Menu > Filter > Blur > Motion Blur. When you adjust the angle you will change the direction in which the snow will appear to be coming down. The Distance setting changes the space between the “snowflakes”. When you’re happy with it click OK.

Two Ways to Create a Snowstorm using Photoshop

There you have it, a digitally created snowstorm! You can adjust the opacity of the layer if you want the effect to be less intense. You can also repeat the process to create more layers and change the values of the Motion Blur to make it less homogeneous and therefore more realistic.

Snowstorm Two Ways to Make it Snow in Photoshop

However, this will always be a bulk effect, if you want to do it more precisely and more controlled then follow the next set of steps in method two.

#2 – Snowfall with brush strokes

First, you need to create a personalized brush for the snow. To do that, open a new canvas with a white background and then paint some uneven circles (with a black brush) that will be your snowflakes. Make two or three in different sizes, remember that you can adjust the size of the brush in the top left menu. It’s also good to use a soft brush to avoid any hard edges.

To turn this canvas into a brush, you need to go to Menu > Edit > Define Brush Preset. In the pop-up window, you can rename it as Snow. Now you can close this document without saving it because it was already saved as a brush that you can now use on any image. Now you can open the photo in which you want to make it snow.

Brush Two Ways to Make it Snow in Photoshop

Paint in the snow

Having your desired scene as the background, you need to create a new layer by going to Menu > Layer > New Layer. This is where you are going to paint the snow using the new brush you just created, but first, you need to set the properties of the brush.

First click on the brush tool, choose the snow brush from the pop-up menu and set your foreground color to white. Then open the Properties window by going to Menu > Window > Brush or by pressing F5. Here you can change many things to adjust the brush to suit your needs, in this case, I did the Scattering, the Shape Dynamics and the spacing of the Brush Tip Shape, but you can play around until you’re happy.

You will always see the applied effect of what you’re doing in the preview window at the bottom right-hand side of the screen. You can also activate or turn off each of the settings with the check sign to the left of the brush preset name.

Brush Properties - Two Ways to Make it Snow in Photoshop

Refine the snow

To make it more realistic, go to Menu > Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. In the pop-up window, you can change the radius to soften the snowflakes.

Now you can create more layers to give the impression of depth. The snowflakes you did before form the base, think of those as being the farthest away. Then repeat the process on another layer in which the flakes are going to be closer, for that they need to be bigger, which is controlled by the brush size. You also need to show motion, so instead of the Gaussian Blur, this time, use a Motion Blur.

Snowfall - Two Ways to Make it Snow in Photoshop

You can add and paint snow on as many layers as you want. Of course, you can always colorize it with some hue if your scene has a different tonal palette, adjust the layer opacity, and mix the two techniques described here in order to make your image look just right, as shown below.

Both - Two Ways to Make it Snow in Photoshop


Please give this a go, and share your before and after snowstorm images in the comments below.

The post Two Ways to Create a Snowstorm Using Photoshop by Ana Mireles appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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5 Lighting Setups You Can Do Using an Octabox

06 Nov

Choosing a lighting modifier is always tough because it’s inherently limiting. Do you go for a large soft source or something with a little more contrast? Or something that plays well with the modifiers you already own? One modifier that appears limiting is the Octabox, because generally, they’re a pretty large source.

You could literally point them anywhere in the region of your subject and get an acceptable photo. I’ve even heard them referred to as “idiot lighting” because they work so well, you don’t have to be clever to use them. It’s not really an insult, it’s more of a reflection of how easy they are to use.

But that doesn’t mean that you can’t use them more subtly though. That’s what we’re going to look at in this article. Your first setup will be the default one most beginners use with lighting. This is a good thing. It gives you a good handle on what the light looks like. But before you begin, let’s talk about the quality of light.

Quality of Light

Generally, when you refer to the quality of light, you’re referring to how hard or soft is the light source.

There are two parts to it though. First, there’s the actual size of the light. A large source is softer, like your typical 4-5 foot Octabox, while a small source, like a 7″ reflector is quite hard.

Soft light

Second, you have the distance to the source. An Octabox placed far from your subject will appear as a smaller source, and become quite hard looking. It’ll also need more power to reach the subject because the light will fall off. This brings us to the concept the f relative size of the light source.

Relative Size of a Light Source

The larger the source of light is in relation to your subject (you may be lighting a still life), the softer your light will appear. A medium source close to your subject will appear softer than a large one further away. So how do you make a larger source softer? Easy, bring it as close to your subject as you can without it appearing in the frame.

Which Octabox?

I currently own three Octaboxes. An Elinchrom 135cm (53″), a Godox 120cm (47″) and an Elinchrom Deep Octa 70cm. For this article, I’m using the more expensive, but really versatile 135cm. You could use the much cheaper Godox. It’s not as soft, but still more than useable.

Setup #1: Light Position to the Front and Side

How to do 5 Lighting Setups Using an Octabox

The Octabox lights both the face and the background in this position.

This is the basic one-light setup. It’s the typical light at 45º to your subject arrangement. Put the light in front of your subject and off to the side (either side, though I opted for the right side for my example).

Your subject can be straight on, or face either direction and still be lit acceptably. You could use a meter aimed towards the light to determine your aperture, but as it’s one light, you could just look at the back of the camera to determine your preferred exposure.

Depending on your preference, anywhere from f/4 to f/11 will work fine, just set the light power to match what you want. The larger aperture of f/4 will give you a softer look overall, while f/11 will have much more in focus.

It should go without saying, but you should always focus on the eye that’s nearest the camera for the most pleasing look.

How to do 5 Lighting Setups Using an Octabox

A behind the scenes image, shot from the side.

How to do 5 Lighting Setups Using an Octabox

Setup #2: Light Position to the Back and Side

How to do 5 Lighting Setups Using an Octabox

With the octabox moved around, the light on the subject is more dramatic. Because it’s no longer aimed at the background, the background goes dark.

For this setup, you just move the light 90º towards the background. This time you have to be more careful about your subject position. They’ll need to be turned towards the light more.

This gives us a short lighting pattern, which is more dramatic. You’ve seen this look before if you’ve read my article about lighting positions. It’s a really slimming look that adds more drama to a portrait.

You’ll also notice that compared to the previous setup, the background is much darker. Because the light is now angled away from the back wall, less of it is lit by your light, rendering it much darker. In the case of these two shots, the subject hasn’t moved, just the light.

How to do 5 Lighting Setups Using an Octabox

How to do 5 Lighting Setups Using an Octabox

Setup #3: Lighting From Behind (Backlight)

How to do 5 Lighting Setups Using an Octabox
This a little more exotic, as you’re letting the light wrap around the subject. Your subject will need to be right against the Octabox for this. Allow the light to wrap around and expose for the subject’s face.

How to do 5 Lighting Setups Using an Octabox

Behind the scenes shot.

How to do 5 Lighting Setups Using an Octabox

Bonus Tip:

You can also add a second light to create a high-key portrait here. Technically high-key has all tones above middle grey, so really, you’re just using the Octabox to create a white background.

Move the subject away from the Octabox a little bit. Make sure that the light from the back isn’t flaring over the shoulders to lose definition. If you use a light meter, make sure the aperture reading aimed at the Octabox is the same or lower than the one aimed at your front light.

How to do 5 Lighting Setups Using an Octabox

Adding a second light will create the white background look that’s currently popular. Technically with high-key, all the elements are above zero, so the black in the dress means this isn’t actually a high key shot, though this lighting can provide that look.

How to do 5 Lighting Setups Using an Octabox

How to do 5 Lighting Setups Using an Octabox

Two lights and one reflector used here.

Setup #4: The Tabletop

How to do 5 Lighting Setups Using an Octabox

This is a very popular look with fashion and editorial portraits. The front of the Octabox should be parallel to the floor above your subject.

The subject should be placed at the edge of the octa, even back from it slightly. This allows the light to wrap down and around the body. A reflector should be used to aim light back into the face as well to fill in shadows.

How to do 5 Lighting Setups Using an Octabox

How to do 5 Lighting Setups Using an Octabox

Setup #5: Lighting From the Front with No Diffuser

For a much edgier look, pull off the front diffusion panel. As I’m using an Elinchrom, I’ve swapped my inner diffusion panel for the white deflector that comes with the 135cm. You can just use the inner diffusion panel. With the Godox, just remove the diffusion panel.

How to do 5 Lighting Setups Using an Octabox

Stand in front of the Octabox and make sure your body or head is blocking the center of the light to minimize any hotspots from the light. Because you’ve allowed the silver part of the Octa to be visible, you get way more contrast in the light.

It’s still a large light source, but you get more highlights on the skin from this look. It also acts like a huge ring light, so you get diffuse shadows all around the subject, for a very cool look.


How to do 5 Lighting Setups Using an Octabox

Get Shooting

Even if you’re just running with a speedlight and a Godox, you’ll still be able to get more options from your light using these five setups.

Remember to keep the center of your light above the subject’s face where possible. Have fun and feel free to post your octabox shots in the comments below!

An Octabox can be used on location as well.

The post 5 Lighting Setups You Can Do Using an Octabox by Sean McCormack appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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How to Make Your Photos More Creative Using Camera Angles

10 Oct

A creative use of camera angles is one of the quickest ways to add interest and variety to your photos.

Even if you don’t know how to use your camera very well, angles are easy! All you have to do is move your camera higher or lower to dramatically change the angle of your photo. It doesn’t matter what camera or what lens you’re using (even your smartphone), you can always make more creative photos by changing the camera or shooting angle.

Five Different Camera Angles

You have five main camera angles to choose from. Each one will add a different perspective, giving your photo the mood or feeling that you want it to have.

#1 – Bird’s Eye View

The highest camera angle is “bird’s eye view.” This is when you get up above the scene and look straight down. This angle is great for looking down and seeing all the details of a scene from above.

A bird’s eye view is an unusual angle because you’re not normally up high looking down on a scene. Any angle that is beyond your usual daily experience will make your photo more interesting to look at.

Bird Eye View How to Make Your Photos More Creative With Angles

I chose a bird’s eye view for this photo of our sleeping baby. By choosing this angle, I was able to look down and frame him with blueberry branches.

Bird Eye View - How to Make Your Photos More Creative With Angles

A bird’s eye view is great for food photography, allowing you to see everything on the dish.

#2 – High Angle

A “high angle” is not quite as extreme as the bird’s eye view. You just need to be a little bit higher than the person or thing that you are photographing.

Think of a high angle as a very normal view of the world for most adults. This is especially true for parents who are always looking down toward their kids.

Even though you experience this angle or perspective a lot throughout the day, it can still be perfect for some of your photos. A high angle is useful for making your subject look smaller or more vulnerable and perhaps making the viewer seem more dominant.

High Angle How to Make Your Photos More Creative With Angles

This high angle allowed me to look down at my son and also work in some interesting background elements.

How to Make Your Photos More Creative With Angles

Since this is a photo of “little sister,” a high angle gives her a smaller more vulnerable appearance.

#3 – Face-to-Face

A face-to-face angle is taken at eye level to your subject. This is a very engaging angle and helps to establish a personal connection between the person in your photo and the person viewing it.

This is a great angle for portraits, though a slightly higher than eye level angle is great for portraits too.

Face to Face How to Make Your Photos More Creative With Angles

When she came in from playtime covered in mud, I knew I had to use an engaging face to face angle.

Face to Face How to Make Your Photos More Creative With Angles

I love this captivating perspective.

#4 – Low Angle

For a low angle, you need to be below eye level. As you get down lower, you make the subject of your photo appear a larger. This may add a larger than life feeling to your photos and is great for emphasizing toughn s, or making things look scary or epic.

Low Angle How to Make Your Photos More Creative With Angles

A low angle is absolutely necessary when photographing sharks. It’s the only way to see their most frightening feature; teeth!

Low Angle 2

This moment was exploding with energy as the kids ran from the bus stop. Dropping down to a lower angle helps to emphasize the energy of the moment as well as bring the buses in the background in line with the kids.

#5 – Bug’s Eye View

Also known as “worm’s eye view,” this angle is just like it sounds. You get down as low as you can and look straight up toward your subject.

Again, this is a very unusual angle. You rarely experience this point of view, so it will add an interesting or creative perspective to your photo.

Bug Eye View How to Make Your Photos More Creative With Angles

I had to lay down on the ground and look up for this photo. It seemed like the perfect angle to capture my son’s first major climb!

Bug Eye View How to Make Your Photos More Creative With Angles

It’s easy to get a bug’s eye view at a playground. Just wait for your kids to start climbing and then look straight up at them.

One Scene – Three Angles

It’s a great idea to capture more than one angle every time you take photos of a moment. It will push your creativity, help you to explore new perspectives and provide you with more views to tell the story.

These next photos demonstrate how I captured one scene from three different angles.

How to Make Your Photos More Creative With Angles

In this first photo a higher angle was used to look down on the scene and see the puddle.

Three 2

A face to face angle is perfect for a muddy faced portrait.

Three How to Make Your Photos More Creative With Angles

This lower angle perspective makes the moment feel a little bigger and emphasizes the excitement she felt after having fun in the mud puddle.

Beyond Everyday Perspectives

Knowing these five camera angles, and practicing them will help you get unstuck anytime you’re uninspired or find that your photos are turning out boring or predictable. To spice up your photos, simply choose the most unusual angle. Once you’ve done that try at least two more angles and figure out which one has best captured the moment.

As you experiment with angles you’ll boost your creativity by breaking out of everyday perspectives. Try capturing a few different angles right now. I would love to see your photos in the comment section below.

The post How to Make Your Photos More Creative Using Camera Angles by Mat Coker appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Benefits of Using a Large Aperture and Tips for Shooting Wide Open

04 Oct

Upon first glance of one of my most prized lenses, the Canon 50mm f/1.2L USM, a bewildered remark typically arises from professionals and hobbyists alike. Though absolutely spectacular photographers in the industry love working with a wide open aperture, there are equally as many who wouldn’t touch anything lower than a f/4.0 with a ten foot pole.

I’d never shoot as wide as f/1.2” is a common comment I’ve encountered over the years of working as a professional photographer.

Stylistic choices aside, upon further inquiry as to why the response to a f/1.2, f/1.8, or f/ 2.0 f-stop yielded such results the truth came out. There are common misunderstandings of how to use and work with a wide open aperture! If your artistic aesthetic drools over soft, dreamy photographs and creamy bokeh, then you better get ready to play with some low, low, low numbers.

Tips for Overcoming Common Misunderstanding of Shooting Wide Open

Before we get to the “how”, let’s discuss the “why”. There are several beneficial reasons to shoot with a wide open aperture, aside from simply liking the result.

Benefit #1 – Working with a Difficult Location

Depending on the type of photography that you do, you may not always have the option of utilizing an ideal location. Maybe your client is only able to commute to one place? Maybe the location of a shoot that was booked months prior has changed for the worse upon your arrival on site? Or maybe you just have to get a specific photo done pronto and you aren’t able to find a new spot?

Whatever the reason for your woes, a wide open aperture is here to help! With the depth-of-field being so shallow, whatever troubles you about the background can easily melt into a beautiful creamy bokeh. Utilizing an f-stop of f/2.0 or lower helps you work with a less than immaculate location, as the extremely shallow depth of field allows you to mask the flaws.

Tips for Overcoming Common Misunderstanding of Shooting Wide Open

Benefit #2 – Excellent for Detail Shots

A shallow depth of field can make for very beautiful detail shots. If you look through current wedding photography trends, you may find that several heavy-hitters in the industry are turning to wide open apertures to capture photographs of the bouquets, rings, and table settings. This is because photographs taken with a large aperture allow all of the focus to lie on the subject, and the background ceases to remain a distraction.

With events such as weddings, where the arrangements can appear cluttered if you only want to focus on one little aspect of the set-up, a shallow depth of field will keep the interest solely on your single subject. Music photography adores wide apertures for the same exact reason. If you want to bring out a detail while photographing behind-the-scenes of a recording session, f/1.2 is wonderful.

Tips for Overcoming Common Misunderstanding of Shooting Wide Open

Benefit #3 – Create a Dreamy Photographs without Post-Processing

With all of the technology available for photo editing, almost anything is possible with the right knowledge. However, rather than spending countless hours in the editing room creating a specific look artificially, why not get it right in the camera?

For those who adore dreamy, ethereal, or soft photographs, a wide aperture will quickly become your most trusted friend. Filmmakers consistently utilize wide open apertures in order to create a soft focus with a shallow depth of field to give the viewer the illusion of a dream-like state. When we dream, it is often hard to clearly and sharply recollect some of those thoughts when we wake. So the idea of soft and not perfectly in focus images came to mind.

We can replicate this using an aperture of f/1.2 easily, especially if you have objects in the foreground which are just as out of focus as the objects in the background.

Tips for Overcoming Common Misunderstanding of Shooting Wide Open

Benefit #4 – Makes Low Light Photography a Breeze

Possibly one of the most dreaded phrases in photography is “low light”. Two very short, simple words that cause some of the biggest photographer headaches. This is because there isn’t a lot of available light to play with, and as such, getting the right exposure can be hard.

However, if you want to take a well exposed photo in low light, you need a lens with a wide enough aperture to let in more light. Using a lens that goes down to f/1.8, for example, is a great way to let enough light in and make the frame bright. Remember, the aperture is the hole the light passes through in your lens. The wider the aperture, the more light that enters the camera.

Tips for Overcoming Common Misunderstanding of Shooting Wide Open

Now that we’ve covered some of the “why”, let’s have a nice chat about the “how.” Many of the challenges associated with a wide aperture revolve around the focus and photographing in bright light. From a recent poll I took, here are the primary issues troubling photographers about low f-stops, and some solutions to help you solve them.

Tip #1 – Shooting in Bright Sunlight Without Overexposing

With the aperture being the opening that lets light in through the lens, and a wide aperture which lets in a lot of light, one may think that shooting in the bright sunlight is off-limits. The solution to this dilemma is taking advantage of tinted filters that darken your lens, such as a neutral-density (or ND) filter. The purpose (and benefit) of an ND filter is to reduce the amount of light entering the lens. Doing so allows you to utilize a wide aperture that would otherwise produce overexposed pictures.

Benefits of Using a Large Aperture and Tips for Shooting Wide Open

Tip #2 – Getting Critical Focus

To quickly refresh you of the basics, when you focus your camera on a subject, it establishes a focal plane. To get your subject in focus, it has to be on the focal plane. Focal planes happen on an x (horizontal) and y (vertical) axis. This means anything along either of those axes will be in focus, and anything not on them will be out of focus.

Simple, right? Well, the difficulty with a wide open aperture is that your focal plane is quite small. As you decrease your aperture number and make the opening wider, the invisible area in front and behind the plane of focus will get smaller and smaller, leaving you with much less wiggle-room. As such, distance from the subject plays a key role in your focus.

When shooting wide open, even the smallest diversion from either of the focal plane axes will cause your subject to be out-of-focus photo. You cannot take a step forward or back without the need to refocus when shooting at a wide aperture. But by keeping this in mind, you can adjust your photography technique to better accommodate the small focal plane.

Benefits of Using a Large Aperture and Tips for Shooting Wide Open
A trick to help make sure that what you want in focus is indeed sharp, is to use single point autofocus. By default, your camera will probably select either the object that’s closest to the camera or what’s in the center of the frame. By using single point autofocus, you tell the camera exactly where to focus, which is extremely helpful with low aperture numbers. Refer to your camera model’s manual to find how to change the focus setting!

Benefits of Using a Large Aperture and Tips for Shooting Wide Open

Tip #3 – Getting Multiple Subjects Sharp

Keeping in mind how the focal plane works, there are several things you can do to ensure your multiple subjects are all in focus. First, try to set up all of your subjects on the same axis. Keep everything you want perfectly in focus the same distance from the camera.

Secondly, the farther away you are from the subject, the easier it is to get the subjects all in focus. If you have a large group of subjects you’d like in focus, move further away from them!

Benefits of Using a Large Aperture and Tips for Shooting Wide Open

Tip #4 – Getting Sharp Images Generally

Sharpness is an interesting concept. How sharp a subject appears is a matter of two things: the focus the camera captures and the amount of contrast on your subject. The term “sharpness” is, in fact, an illusion. You see, for an image to be considered sharp, it needs to have contrast. If the there is little contrast in the image, the subject will not look three-dimensional regardless of whether the focus is perfect or not.

Biologically, the way that our eyes work, our vision naturally detects edges to register sharpness, and shadows and highlights in order to record the depth in a subject. This is a very important concept to understand when answering the question of how to make images look sharp.

With this now in your knowledge arsenal, proper lighting aids significantly in making your images look sharp. The other factor in an image being sharp is, of course, the focus. Ensuring that your subject is in focus using the aforementioned techniques, combined with great lighting, will make certain that your images come out sharp.

Benefits of Using a Large Aperture and Tips for Shooting Wide Open

Now that you know how to take advantage of those low numbers and wide openings, go forth, and create!

Benefits of Using a Large Aperture and Tips for Shooting Wide Open

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How to Find More Creativity Through Using Less Gear

03 Oct

In this article,

A few weeks ago, I was packing for an 8-day photo workshop I was leading in the Alaska Range. It was autumn, which meant we’d be concentrating on the landscape, but there would likely be ample opportunities to photograph wildlife and create macros. That diversity meant that I would need to pack for every opportunity.

How to Find More Creativity Through Using Less Gear

A year ago, or heck, three months ago, that would have meant my bag would have included: two DSLRs, a 500mm f/4 with a 1.4x teleconverter, a 70-200mm f/2.8, a 24-105mm f/4, a 17-40mm, a fixed 14mm, a polarizer, a variable neutral density filter, a big Gitzo tripod to hold that heavy kit, and a monster camera bag to hold it all. The total weight of all my camera gear would probably come in around 50 pounds, maybe more.

So there I was, packing my camera gear for more than a week of shooting the grand landscapes and wildlife of Alaska. I loaded my small daypack, topped it off with a rain jacket and a sweater, threw it over my shoulder and walked out the door. Total camera gear weight was under 8lbs.

How to Find More Creativity Through Using Less Gear

What happened?

I realized that all my gear, lenses, filters, and the enormous DSLR bodies; none of them were actually improving my photography. Plus, I was being hindered by all that stuff. I’d be out shooting and find I was more concerned about selecting the right lens or filter than I was about the actual composition.

And that, right there, is where creative photography goes to die.

How to Find More Creativity Through Using Less Gear

Cutting back and using less gear

So I cut back. I adopted the Lumix mirrorless system and acquired three lenses for the trip: a 12-32mm, a 45-150mm, and a 300mm f/4 (the only sizeable piece of glass in the kit). Since the Lumix system is micro four-thirds, all those lengths are doubled when compared to a full-frame camera. I can cover almost anything from 24-600mm in a kit that weighs a small fraction of my DSLRs. I could, quite literally, fit it all in my pockets.

When in the field, I can switch from one lens to another quickly and without fuss. I learned to keep the most likely lens set on the camera. If wildlife was a possibility, then the 300mm lived on the camera. When we were hiking and I was looking for wide landscapes, then the 12-32mm was the go-to lens. On gray days with patchy sun, the mid-range 45-150mm zoom was always ready.

How to Find More Creativity Through Using Less Gear

Time to be more creative

When I saw a composition,  I would raise my camera and shoot, re-compose, shoot again, and so on for several minutes, while other photographers were still working out the best lens, camera body, or filter for the situation.

I also found I had more time and energy to simply sit on the tundra, look, and wait. I wasn’t fiddling with my gear so I had long moments to experience the places where I was photographing.

Come to think of it, that may actually be why I feel my photography improved so much. I had the time to be creative.

How to Find More Creativity Through Using Less Gear

As any photographer worth their salt knows, making images is not formulaic, it is creative. In order to be creative, we have to be open to the situation, not distracted. And we have to be ready when the light or action is happening. My gear, or lack of it, gave me that time and flexibility.

How to Find More Creativity Through Using Less Gear

Did I ever miss all my equipment?

I’d like to say no, but there were times, that yes, I did miss my old kit. Cutting back my camera gear meant some sacrifices. Occasionally those sacrifices involved a particular focal length or filter that I hadn’t brought along. Once or twice I wished for the clean bokeh of my 500mm f/4 to separate a bird from a tangled background and on one occasion, the 24mm equivalent wasn’t wide enough to capture the expanse of the sky I was after.

How to Find More Creativity Through Using Less Gear

Comparison rears its ugly head

But the sacrifice I remember most clearly (and I feel like an idiot for even mentioning this one) was my vanity. At one point, I was among a good size group of serious photographers not related to the workshop I was leading. There were more 500mm and 600mm f/4s hanging off sturdy carbon tripods than you could shake a stick at. Meanwhile, I stood there, an actual bonafide professional photographer, with a tiny point-and-shoot sized mirrorless camera and a couple of itty-bitty lenses in the pocket of my jacket.

I wanted to justify my compact gear, defend my decision by bragging about how good my kit actually was, even compared to their monstrous cameras – but I didn’t. Instead, I kept my silence, listened to their discussions of lenses, f-stops, and autofocus speeds, and thought instead about my next composition.

How to Find More Creativity Through Using Less Gear

I bring up this somewhat uncomfortable subject because I think that this sense of inadequacy, in the lives of photographers, is very, very real. We want to be taken seriously. And when we are in the field, (when no one can see the images we are actually creating) we are usually judged by the gear we are carrying and using. There is a hierarchy in which those with the biggest, most expensive glass and bodies rise to the top, as though their investment is somehow reflective of their skills or knowledge as photographers.

How to Find More Creativity Through Using Less Gear

Gear doesn’t make you a good photographer

There is a lot of pressure to BE one of those people with the huge camera bag and big lenses. But the reality is that your gear has nothing to do with how good you are as a photographer. Gear helps, it’s even necessary to a certain extent, but its presence or price tag is not reflective of you, the photographer. It’s the images that matter.

In the future, I’m going to try to let my photographs, not my gear, be the source of my pride (or inadequacy).

How to Find More Creativity Through Using Less Gear

Though not the Alaska Range, I continue to embrace the minimal gear mentality. I made this image the night before I wrote this article, on the beach in Homer, Alaska.

The post How to Find More Creativity Through Using Less Gear by David Shaw appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Using Lightroom Alongside Photoshop: Working with Smart Objects

19 Sep

What software do you use to process your digital images? As of the writing of this article, Adobe Lightroom sports over 1.4 million Likes on their official Facebook page. And Photoshop? That Facebook page is pushing 7.7 million Likes. If those numbers are any indication of the overall use of the editing software, then it’s safe to say that you are likely using one of the two programs right now (you’re reading this after all). Lightroom and Photoshop arguably set the standard for all other post-processing software platforms.

If you’re like me you use both of them, in tandem, to edit and process your photos. There are literally limitless possibilities when it comes to using Lightroom and Photoshop together. Out of those possibilities comes the idea of “Smart Objects”.

Do you know about Smart Objects? Have you ever used them before in your workflow? If not, I’m going to show you exactly how useful (or not) working with Smart Objects between Lightroom and Photoshop can be. Don’t worry, it’s all easy to understand. Let’s have a look at what Smart Objects can do for you and your photography when it comes to working with both Lightroom and Photoshop.

What are Smart Objects?

Think of Smart Objects as being a larger suitcase. All your edits in Lightroom are non-destructive. This is because you aren’t actually editing your original file in Lightroom. Rather, you are working with a virtual copy of your image. When you go from Lightroom to Photoshop, like this…

Using Lightroom Alongside Photoshop: Working with Smart Objects

You package everything into the suitcase and send it off to Photoshop Land. What do you put in your suitcase? You might put your Lightroom edits, the original file information, or a mix of the two. The key is that you don’t want to do anything to your photos that you can’t take back. While you can edit your images between Lightroom and Photoshop non-destructively, there are ways to remain more flexible than others. One of these is by using smart objects.

While you can edit your images between Lightroom and Photoshop non-destructively, there are ways to remain more flexible than others. One of these is by using smart objects.

Using Lightroom Alongside Photoshop: Working with Smart Objects

Smart Objects pack more into the suitcase when you move your editing between Lightroom and Photoshop. When your image opens as a Smart Object in Photoshop, you’ll notice a special little icon on the layer thumbnail.

Using Lightroom Alongside Photoshop: Working with Smart Objects

This lets you know that you are now working with a Smart Object layer. From here, work with your image in Photoshop as you do normally.

The benefits of using Smart Objects

The great thing about using Smart Objects when jumping from Lightroom to Photoshop is that you are taking an original version of your image with you so that editing becomes much more versatile once in Photoshop. Not only can you change the edits you made in Lightroom but you can also work more effectively when transforming or resizing your photo.

This all sounds a little complicated, but I can assure you it’s not. Let me show you some of the perks of using Smart Objects when working between Lightroom and Photoshop.

Real-time edits of Lightroom adjustments

Using Smart Objects, you can make dynamic changes to your Lightroom edits using Adobe Camera Raw just as you would in Lightroom itself. This lets you augment your Lightroom edits on the fly and when you save your image back to Lightroom there will be less need to make those final tweaks. Double click the Smart Object thumbnail and your photo will open in ACR.

Using Lightroom Alongside Photoshop: Working with Smart Objects

Apply any edits you want while in ACR and they will go back with you if/when you bring your photo back into Lightroom.

Smarter resizing and transforming

There’s a problem that plagues editors when it comes to downsizing and upsizing images in Photoshop. It’s pixelization. Because, spoiler alert, digital images are made up of pixels (except vector images). When you scale an image down in Photoshop, the program removes pixels to make the image smaller. This is all well and good until you decide you want to make the image larger again. Since you’re missing pixels, the photo can lose a lot of quality and look pixelated. Let me show you what I mean.

Here we have that same photo that we imported to Photoshop. I’ve duplicated the image with the one on the left being our regular “Pixel Image” and the one on the right is the same photo only converted to a Smart Object (select layer>layer menu>convert to Smart Object.).

Using Lightroom Alongside Photoshop: Working with Smart Objects

I scale both photos down to 10% of their original size.

Using Lightroom Alongside Photoshop: Working with Smart Objects

Then, being the hypothetical indecisive photographer that I am, I decide to then bring the photo back to its original 100% size. Which gives us this.

Using Lightroom Alongside Photoshop: Working with Smart Objects

Not much difference, right? Wrong. Let’s take a closer look. Here’s the regular image after scaling it back to its larger size.

And now look at our Smart Object…

The smart object image has kept its clarity and sharpness because Photoshop didn’t touch the pixels when it was downsized and used the additional information in the Smart Object to edit non-destructively. This is the power of working with Smart Objects when using Lightroom and Photoshop together.

The Downside

No, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows when working with Smart Objects. The biggest problem is that since you are including the RAW file information when you jump from Lightroom, the final file sizes can become rather large after you edit your image in Photoshop. Depending on the size of your original image file this can make for a lot of hard drive real estate being consumed resulting in poor performance during your processing.

Final thoughts on Smart Objects

Using Lightroom alongside Photoshop essentially gives you the best of both editing worlds. You have the simplistic adjustment capacity Lightroom while being able to perform more intricate edits using Photoshop. Smart Objects simply sweeten the pot. Using Smart Objects allows you to edit your images more efficiently and completely non-destructively.

Resizing images from Smart Objects means no loss of quality when you upscale or downscale. Throw in the fact that you have the fluidity of accessing and changing your Lightroom edits while in Photoshop using ACR and you quickly begin to run out of reasons not to incorporate this into your editing workflow. The increased file size, in my opinion, will be well worth the added benefits Smart Objects will bring you.

Have some of your own processing tricks while using Lightroom and Photoshop together? Please share them in the comments below.

The post Using Lightroom Alongside Photoshop: Working with Smart Objects by Adam Welch appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Photographer caught using someone else’s public domain photo to win awards

06 Sep

Swiss photographer Madeleine Josephine Fierz has been stripped of two photography awards after it was revealed that she’d won them using someone else’s photo.

The contest-winning image, seen above, was taken by Thai photographer Sasin Tipchai, who had uploaded it under a CC0 license to stock photography website Pixabay. Fierz submitted the image as her own, ultimately receiving first place in the Moscow International Foto Awards (MIFA) and second place in the Fine Art Photo Awards.

The deception was discovered after Sasin posted on Facebook about Fierz’s use of his images, and someone else shared it with the Moscow International Foto Awards’ Facebook page. That brought it to the attention of officials who, after looking into the matter, revoked Fierz’s award and removed the image from its website. The image has also been removed from the Fine Art Photo Awards website.

In a statement to Khaosod English, MIFA jury member Hossein Farmani commented on the matter, saying:

[Fierz] claimed since she bought these photos, she thought that she could manipulate it a little and claim it as her art. As a jury of MIFA we take these allegation very seriously and we investigate and delete images in question as soon as we can verify the facts. It’s almost impossible for us to know which images belong to whom unless photographers let us know, like you did.

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How to do Color Correction Using the Photoshop Curves Tool

05 Sep

One of the most powerful Photoshop tools at your disposal is Curves. Though it’s often only used to tweak contrast, the curves tool is also hugely effective in correcting color. What’s more, learning how to use it gives you a greater knowledge of image editing in general. It’ll enhance your understanding of the histogram and teach you how to edit photos by numbers.

The idea of correct color

Correcting color in images is about removing unwanted color casts. The “unwanted” part is important because some color casts are desirable. For instance, you wouldn’t want to neutralize the warm hue of a sunset. However, you might want to remove the blue color cast that sometimes pervades photos taken on overcast days or in hazy conditions. By removing an unwanted color cast, you’ll reveal the true color of the objects and subjects in your photo and make the image “pop”.

The content of a photo will dictate how you edit it, so you shouldn’t obsess over correcting color in every photo. Many times, you’ll want to do little or nothing to the color. An appreciation of the curves tool and the numbers around it will help you decide what each photo needs.

A neutral histogram

When working with curves, histograms, and RGB numbers, it’s useful to know what the histogram is telling you. There’s no such thing as a right or wrong histogram, per se, since it only mirrors the pixel data of the image, but it will highlight potential problems.

By looking at all three RGB (red, green and blue) histograms at once, you can immediately get an idea of whether or not the image has a color cast. If there’s no color cast, the three histograms will look very similar. A black and white RGB image illustrates this perfectly because it’s completely neutral. In that case, the three RGB values will be equal in every part of the image and the histograms are identical.

Black and white photo with RGB histograms. How to do Color Correction Using the Photoshop Curves Tool

In this black and white RGB image, you can see that the red, green and blue histograms are identical. You won’t get this in a color photo, but if the histograms look similar, especially from the middle to the right-hand side, there is unlikely to be a noticeable color cast.

Getting ready

Before you start in curves, there are a couple of things you’ll need to prepare in Photoshop:

  • Be sure that the “Layers” and “Info” windows are open.
  • Select a “3 by 3 Average” or “5 by 5 Average” sample size for the eyedropper tool.

Easy one-click color correction using mid-tones

Whenever a photo contains an area that should be neutral gray in your estimation, you can use the mid-tone eyedropper tool in either levels or curves to quickly correct any color cast. Simply clicking on the supposedly gray portion of the image will correct the color. It’s usually worth clicking a few times in different areas until you achieve a result that pleases you. There are ways of calculating precise mid-tones in an image to make this method more precise, but guessing often works well and is far quicker.

RGB values of a magenta color cast - How to do Color Correction Using the Photoshop Curves Tool

By dragging the eyedropper tool over this gravestone, we can see that the green value is less than that of red or blue. We might reasonably expect this stone to have a neutral gray color, which would give roughly equal RGB values, but the green deficit (RGB 160, 149, 160) indicates a magenta (opposite of green) cast.

magenta cast color correction - How to do Color Correction Using the Photoshop Curves Tool

By opening curves or levels and clicking on the stone using the middle eyedropper, the magenta cast is corrected. As a result, the green in the photo is stronger.

Using curves and the info palette to correct color

By introducing the info palette into the equation, you can make far more precise color corrections. The technique you’re about to learn also teaches you to evaluate and edit photos by the numbers. Think about this – when you have nothing to compare an image to—no alternative version—it often looks “okay” at first glance. By studying the RGB values, you’ll get a clear idea of any potential problems in the photo.

Before you proceed, it’s important to note that an image always needs “neutral” areas for color correction to succeed. That’s because a neutral tone provides a known reference point that you can work from. Neutral pixels always have identical RGB values (e.g. 128, 128, 128). Any photo that doesn’t contain a neutral tone is difficult to accurately correct. This is true whether you’re adjusting color yourself or hitting an auto-color-correct button. Photographers often use gray cards to introduce a known neutral into the image for color correction later.

10 Steps to Color Correction with Curves

Here are the steps you might take to correct color using curves, the info panel, and histograms:

Step #1 – Select the eyedropper

With your image open, select the eyedropper tool from the Photoshop tools palette.

hotel in Switzerland - How to do Color Correction Using the Photoshop Curves Tool

This is a picture of a hotel in Switzerland before any color correction. There is no strong color cast, but you might detect its cool bias.

Step #2 – Check white RGB values

Hover the eyedropper tool over a diffuse white highlight in the photo with RGB values in the 230s or 240s (try to avoid high 250 values). Use the info palette to see these values.

How to do Color Correction Using the Photoshop Curves Tool

Hovering the eyedropper tool over diffuse white highlights, I can see the blue channel has consistently higher numbers than red or green. The difference isn’t drastic, but it does indicate a blue color cast.

Step #3 – Create a sample point

Hold down the Shift key and click to create a sample point from this white area, which will show in the info palette as #1. It’s possible to move a sample point after you’ve created it by holding down the Shift key and dragging.

Step #4 – Repeat with mid-tones

Repeat this procedure with a neutral gray mid-tone, if you can find one, with RGB values of around 120-140.

color correction info palette - How to do Color Correction Using the Photoshop Curves Tool

Here, we’re creating a mid-tone sample point. Again, you can see from the numbers (RGB 111, 120, 137) that there’s a strong blue presence. The highlight sample point that I’ve only just recorded is stored on the depicted info palette at the left, third down (marked as #1).

Step #5 – Repeat with shadows

Do the same thing with any black, shadow areas with values of about 10-30. After that, you’ll have created three sample points. Since color casts in shadows are inherently harder to see, this third sample point can often be skipped without ill effect.

color correction sample point shadow - How to do Color Correction Using the Photoshop Curves Tool

A shadow sample point from the trash bag records at RGB 20, 21, 29. We can see now that a cold color cast runs through the entire image from highlights to shadows. Once I’ve clicked on this, my three sample points are all stored and displayed in the info palette.

Step #6 – Analyze the three samples

Looking at the three RGB samples you’ve created, you should get an idea of any color casts that are present. You’ll typically see the same problem across all tones from highlights to shadows, though not always. Remember that a low RGB value in any of the three channels indicates an opposite color cast. Thus, a low red value indicates a cyan cast, low green is magenta, and low blue is yellow. This only applies in areas that should be neutral in color (i.e. white, gray, black).

Step #7 – Open a curves adjustment layer

Open a curves adjustment layer. Hold down the Ctrl and Shift (Cmd + Shift) keys and click once again exactly on the center of the second, mid-tone sample point you created (#2). This has the effect of placing a mid-tone point along each of the individual RGB curves.

How to do Color Correction Using the Photoshop Curves Tool

Holding down Ctrl + Shift (Cmd + Shift in Mac) and clicking with the eyedropper tool places a sample point on each of the three RGB curves. This is useful for adjusting specific mid-tones. Here, I’ve opened the red channel to illustrate this. To correct color, you have to adjust the individual red, green and blue channels until the corresponding output numbers on the info palette match.

Step #8 – Correct the color cast

Now it’s time to correct the color cast. On a curves graph, the top right point represents highlights and the lower left shadows. In between are any mid-tone points that you placed on the curve.

Starting with highlights (your #1 sample), open the individual red, green and blue curves channels one at a time and move the top right point either left or down along the outer edge of the graph so that, eventually, the three values match. As you move each point on the graph, the info palette gives you the updated output value.

Usually, it’s best to choose the lowest or middle of the three existing highlight values and match the other two to that (see “tip” below).

curves color correction - How to do Color Correction Using the Photoshop Curves Tool

This is an exaggerated example of a curves highlight adjustment in the blue channel. I’ve pulled the highlight point to the left, which has added blue to the image (far too much blue). Moving the point down the right-hand side of the graph would increase yellow. In reality, these edits will usually be very slight, moving only a small amount either way. The info palette will reflect these changes in the RGB output numbers.

Step #9 – Repeat for all three points

Repeat this process with the mid-tone and shadow points, so that all of the chosen neutral points in the image are in fact neutral. The bottom-left shadow point is also moved along the outer edge of the graph, either upwards or right. The mid-tone point you’ll drag either up or down. If the color looks wayward at the end of this process, it typically means that you’ve picked a sample point that wasn’t neutral. Ensure that your sample points contain no color noise or reflected color. Zoom in on the area you sample to make certain of this.

color correction curves info palette - How to do Color Correction Using the Photoshop Curves Tool

Here you’ll see that all three sets of RGB values have been equalized – for each point, you see the before (left) and after the (right) value (Red on point #1 went from 238 to 239, Blue from 244 to 239). 

Now all points are roughly similar, in other words, all the sample points I took that were estimated to be neutral have been made neutral. Note that the numbers don’t have to match perfectly like this as long as they’re close. In the curves graph, the red channel has been lifted and the blue channel pulled down slightly as a result of my edits. The green channel was untouched in this instance, so the corresponding line cuts straight through the middle.

Step #10 – Remove samples and save

Once the correction is complete, the sample points are removable by holding down Ctrl + Alt (Cmd + Option) keys and clicking on them. You should see the scissor icon when you hold these keys down. To finish, either save the image with its adjustment layer intact or flatten the layers, as required.

Before – uncorrected image.

color corrected image - How to do Color Correction Using the Photoshop Curves Tool

This is the color-corrected image. With the blue cast gone, other colors in the photo can breathe. In particular, the yellow color of the hotel and the green in the grass and trees are more prominent.

Tip: Since moving the endpoints of the curve line affects all highlights and shadows, you should edit conservatively. In particular, avoid choosing the highest of the three RGB values as the target when matching red, green and blue highlight channels. Otherwise, you may find that you blow out wanted detail in the brightest part of the image. Flaws in the shadows are generally less noticeable, but you still risk blocking detail if you adjust all the shadow RGB points to the lowest of the three values. In general, turn the numbers away from their extremes.

Mixed Lighting

The types of correction discussed in this article work best when there are naturally occurring color casts in the image. In mixed lighting, where the light sources are radically different (e.g. incandescent lighting and daylight), you’ll need to painstakingly address each affected area of the image using layers in Photoshop or the adjustment brush in Lightroom. Avoid this type of lighting wherever possible, since it’s difficult and time-consuming to correct in processing.


I don’t expect that you’ll use these techniques on every image, but I hope they’ll improve some of your pictures and that you’ll enjoy experimenting using curves in Photoshop. This type of mathematical editing gives you a good understanding of histograms and the meaning of RGB values.

Merely hovering the eyedropper tool over a picture while watching the numbers will tell you something about it. If there are no naturally occurring “neutrals” in the photo and you want consistent or accurate color, a high-quality gray card provides a solution.

Please don’t hesitate to fire questions my way if anything is unclear.

The post How to do Color Correction Using the Photoshop Curves Tool by Glenn Harper appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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