4 Tips to Get You Out of Your Comfort Zone for Photographic Inspiration

The post 4 Tips to Get You Out of Your Comfort Zone for Photographic Inspiration appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

Are you feeling uninspired? Perhaps you’re stuck in your photography practice and feel like you’ve reached the best of your abilities? Don’t worry, we all feel like that sometimes. In most cases, all you need is to get out of your comfort zone to find new and exciting challenges. Here are some tips to get you out of your comfort zone for photographic inspiration.

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1. Change your focal length.

All of us have a preferred focal length either because it’s the only lens we have, or because it’s the fittest for the kind of photography that we do. So the problem is not that you have it, it is that it impacts a lot of your photographic behaviors as well. You might think it’s not a big deal, but it’s vastly different working with a fixed focal length than a zoom lens, or shooting with a wide angle lens than a telephoto lens.

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The focal length you use affects the physical distance you need between you and your subject. With a telephoto lens, you can be further away and still get close detail. A wide-angle lens allows you to fit in a bigger scene even if you are closer to your subject. Making this change means you walk around your subject to get the shot, which helps you find new perspectives and points of view. Sometimes you can’t get closer or further away as you may need, forcing you to reframe and rethink your entire image.

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Another thing that changes when you modify the distance between your camera and subject is the Depth of Field. Depth of Field depends on the Aperture (f/stop). If you take two images with the same aperture but one of them is with a wide-angle lens, and the other is with a telephoto, the latter will have a shallower depth of field. If you’d like to understand this concept in more depth, I recommend you read my article How to Use Still-Life to Understand Focal Lengths. In any case, the results of your images may be different to what you are used to, and this inevitably pushes you out of your comfort zone.

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2. Change the type of photography you do

One of the beauties about photography is how versatile it can be. You can photograph practically anything. I don’t mean that any photographer can do every kind of photography. Each one needs its own set of skills, and that’s why I recommend this exercise.

You can be a wedding photographer, a landscape photographer, or a food photographer – it doesn’t matter. There is always another type of photography you can try. For example, if you’re a portrait photographer, used to dealing with people, go and shoot some architecture photography or any subject you can’t move or control. If you usually do macro or abstract details, go wider and try to compose a scene from urban photography. You’ll be amazed at how changing what you see also changes the way you think. It opens your mind to new possibilities.

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As a photographer, no matter what your specialty, you are working with light. However, it most certainly different working with studio lights doing a still life than natural light while shooting a landscape. One is not better than the other, nor is it easier. They are just different and as a result, require different skills. Studio lighting means learning to set everything from scratch. You create the amount and type of light you want.

However, natural light means learning what time of the day is best, dealing with weather conditions and so on. It also means having the right equipment. I’m not suggesting that you go and spend a lot of money on something you may not use much as there’s always a way to adapt and improvise. This is also part of going out of the comfort zone.

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3. A small change can go a long way

Expanding your creativity can be done by changing a small thing from your photographic routine. Change the time of the day that you go out to shoot, go back to a place you visited in a different season, or walk the opposite way when you go out the door. New conditions or new places spark new ideas.

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4. Change equipment

I already mentioned focal length, but the lens is not the only thing you can change to challenge yourself. Try a different camera. I’m not suggesting that you go out and buy an extra camera. You can try renting for a day or exchange cameras with a friend. You can switch from your camera to your phone and vice-versa. The composition is different when shooting full-frame and crop-sensor. It’s challenging to photograph a maximum amount of photos with a film camera instead of the (almost) limitless and immediate result of digital. However, it doesn’t matter what you use (more or less professional than your regular equipment), what matters is that it’s different.

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Conclusion

There are many ways to push your photography and creativity further. Try some of these tips or come up with some of your own. See where it takes you. One last piece of advice: don’t be afraid of doing bad photos. There is a reason why your comfort zone IS your comfort zone. You’ve mastered it, you like it, and you create great images. Expect that you won’t achieve the same results when you change photographic genres – that’s all the more reason to try it!

The post 4 Tips to Get You Out of Your Comfort Zone for Photographic Inspiration appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

How to Mimic a Digital Cyanotype Using Photoshop with Ease

The post How to Mimic a Digital Cyanotype Using Photoshop with Ease appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

A Cyanotype was a popular film printing process that gave an appealing, beautiful cyan-colored tone to an image. Sounds nice right? Would you like to create one? Don’t worry – you don’t have to go back to the darkroom or become a chemist and waste tons of material to do it. I’ll show you how to create a digital Cyanotype using Photoshop.

EXTRA TIP: Because you achieved a Cyanotype by applying light-sensitive emulsion onto the paper (or surface) you were going to print on, the first thing you need is a background that mimics this effect. If you’re feeling crafty, you can buy yourself a brush, some paint and physically do your background. Then scan it and make it the size and resolution that better fits the image you’re going to use.

However, if doing so is a hassle, you can create your background digitally. Because I promised you digital Cyanotype, I’ll show you the latter.

Step 1:

First, pick the Brush tool from the Toolbox. Here, you’ll be able to pick the size and type of brush. From the Options Bar that is now active, choose your color. Select a brush with a wide tip, like a fan, so that the effect emulates brushstrokes and not a pen or a marker. The brush size depends on the size of your document.

It’s okay to make it uneven. Remember, the original method used hand-made techniques, so uneven gives it a nice unique look. For now, use black because the tone is applied later. Since we’re discussing color, I’ll use this space to tell you that, in my experience, any photo with a black or dark background blends easily. However, it’s possible to use any image.

Step 2:

Open the image you are turning into a Cyanotype and desaturate it. To achieve this, you need to go to Menu -> Adjustments -> Image -> Hue/Saturation. Move the Saturation slider all the way down to the left.

Once you have your image, drag it into the canvas where you created the brushstroke background. It gets pasted as a new layer in that document. Drag the corners to make it the right size for your background and click on the check mark to apply.

Step 3:

Select the layer with the brushstrokes and add an Adjustment layer of Levels. Move the black and the middle tones to lighten the color so that your black becomes dark grey.

Step 4:

Next, select the top layer – the one with your image, and add another Adjustment layer. This time choose Color Balance. Here you can make a combination to find the right tone of blue you want. As a starting point, use the ones I’m using: Cyan -62 and Blue +95.

Step 5:

Once you’re satisfied with the color of your image, you can choose to make it less intense by adding another Adjustment layer. Always keep the layer on top selected so that the new Adjustment layer covers all layers. Add a Hue/Saturation Adjustment layer and move the Saturation slider a little bit to the left. Be careful not to go too much into the gray because it may no longer resemble a Cyanotype.

Step 6:

If you can see the borders of the image you pasted, the balance isn’t right. It’s not incorporating well with the background. To fix this issue,  change the layer Blending Mode. Select the image layer and open the Blending Mode menu. Choose Lighten or Screen to achieve a better result.

However, if there is still some evidence of the border, choose the Eraser tool from the Tool Box and lower the opacity. Choose a brush with soft borders and erase so that you can defuse the border and make it a smoother transition.

Your finished Cyanotype

You should now have your finished Cyanotype. I hope you enjoyed the tutorial and gave it a go. Please share your results in the comment section below.

More retro photography techniques

If you like retro photography techniques, you may also find these articles useful:

How to Create a Lithography Effect Using Photoshop

How to Duotone a Photograph in Photoshop

How To Mimic a Cross-Processing Effect in Photoshop

How to Mimic Lomography in Photoshop with Ease

The post How to Mimic a Digital Cyanotype Using Photoshop with Ease appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

How to Create a Lithography Effect Using Photoshop

The post How to Create a Lithography Effect Using Photoshop appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

1- How to Create a Lithography Effect Using Photoshop

I love getting inspiration from darkroom techniques and applying original effects to digital photos. If you’re like me and want to give your images a vintage look, this tutorial is for you. I’ll show you how to get a beautiful creamy-caramel tone that mimics Lithography (or Lith for short) printing.

Lith printing is a monochrome technique that consists of overexposing the paper and then underdeveloping it. By doing this, your photograph gets warm colors with strong shadows but with aerial highlights. That explained, now let’s get into Photoshop.

1.  Choose Your Image and Create a Black and White Adjustment Layer

To create a Lithography Effect Using Photoshop, choose the image you want to work with and open it in Photoshop. There’s no need to duplicate it or save an extra copy as you’re not going to touch this original image. Everything is done using layers and adjustment layers. Working this way not only protects your original image, but it also allows you to go back and adjust or modify every step if you wish to.

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The first step is to create an adjustment Black and White Adjustment layer. To do this, click on the ‘Add Adjustment Layer’ button from the bottom of the layers panel. It’s the one with the symbol of a half dark – half light circle. A pop-up menu appears with all your choices. Choose the Black and White one. Now the properties panel allows you to adjust it through the use of sliders. You can move the green and the yellow sliders to lighten it a little bit like I’m doing. However, this depends on the photo you’re using.

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2. Create a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer

Next, add another adjustment layer. This time choose ‘Hue/Saturation’ from the menu to achieve the tones you want. Ensure the ‘Colorize’ box is checked and move the ‘Hue’ slider. In the original technique, the tone depended on the type of paper, the specific blend of developer and the time you left it to process, so you can also be flexible here. In any case aim for a soft brown or caramel, For my taste, something between 20 or 30 on the slider works well.

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3. Create a Brightness/Contrast Adjustment Layer

Create another adjustment layer and choose ‘Brightness/Contrast’ from the menu. Click the ‘Legacy’ box and drag the contrast slider to the left to flatten your mid-tones.

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4. Create a Curves Adjustment Layer

The last adjustment layer is meant to adjust the shadows. Add a ‘Curves’ adjustment layer and anchor the lightest part by clicking on the top right corner. Drag the darkest one (on the bottom left) to the right until you reach the first quadrant. Finally, create an anchor point in the middle and drag it upwards for the mid-tones. It may sound complicated, but you can see it in the screenshot below. There is also no need to replicate exactly. It also depends on your image and your liking.

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5. Create a New Layer

That is all for the adjustment layers. Now create a new layer. This button is also on the bottom of the panel; however, the symbol is a square with one corner bent. Color this layer by going to Menu -> Edit -> Fill, choose 50% Gray and apply. This layer should completely cover your image but don’t worry; you’ll fix that later.

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6. Add Noise

While still in this layer, go to Menu -> Filter -> Noise -> Add Noise. In the pop-up window, choose ‘Monochrome’ and slide up to about 140% because you need to distress the image.

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6. Add Blur and Soft Light

Next, go to Menu -> Filter -> Blur -> Gaussian Blur and set it to ‘4.’ This softens the noise.

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Now change the Blending Mode from the drop-down menu that you’ll see on the top of the panel, and choose ‘Soft Light.’

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7. Add a Layer Mask

Now your image is distressed as desired, but the effect needs to be contained only into the darkest areas because Lithography prints are characteristic for their grittiness within the shadows. To achieve this effect, you need to add a layer mask to it. Go to Menu -> Select -> Color Range and sample the darkest areas by clicking on one of them. You can fine-tune this selection by dragging the fuzziness slider.

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Now click on the Layer Mask button and see the results or your finished digital Lith. Please give it a try and share your results in the comment section.

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The post How to Create a Lithography Effect Using Photoshop appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

How To Mimic a Cross-Processing Effect in Photoshop

How To Mimic a Cross-Processing Effect in Photoshop

Cross-processing is a technique that comes from the darkroom days. You would purposely develop film in the wrong chemicals to achieve special color effects. When no film or chemicals are involved in digital processing, it is possible to mimic a cross-processing effect in Photoshop. I’ll show you how in a few easy steps.

The technique is called cross-processing because it referred to the processing of negative film with a chemical developer designed for reversal film. Or vice versa. You will also find it under the name ‘x-pro’ or ‘Xpro.’

Of course, replicating this effect directly in camera isn’t possible, but you can reproduce the results with Photoshop. You can make your image look like it’s the result of cross-processing.

In Photoshop there’s often a preset that solves your problems. Cross-processing is no exception. I will show you a step-by-step way to do it so that you can have more control over the end result. There is no right or wrong. One is no better than the other. It’s about giving you a choice so you can decide what works best for you.

So, let’s get started.

The Cross-Processing  Preset

To find the ‘Cross-processing’ preset add an ‘Adjustment’ layer. Click the button at the bottom of the layers panel and choose ‘Curves’ from the pop-up menu.

Curves - How To Mimic a Cross-Processing Effect in Photoshop

From the ‘Properties’ panel open the ‘Preset’ menu. Change it from ‘Default’ to ‘Cross-Process (RGB).’

Cross Process RGB - How To Mimic a Cross-Processing Effect in Photoshop

Notice the colors of the image are very saturated and have a definite green color cast. The graph now has three colored lines: Red, Green and Blue. Each line has a different shape.

Graph - How To Mimic a Cross-Processing Effect in Photoshop

Those three colored lines represent the three channels (Red, Blue and Green) adjusted by the Preset to create the effect. Therefore, you may create this effect manually without using the preset. You can achieve this manually by tampering with each color channel separately.

Using Curve Properties to Achieve the Cross-Processing Effect

For this, instead of changing the preset menu, open the ‘RGB menu.’ Go into each color and move the curve in the graph.

Curves - How To Mimic a Cross-Processing Effect in Photoshop

However, many people don’t find the ‘Curves’ tool very comfortable. So I’ll show you a tool to work with sliders to achieve similar results.

Discard the ‘Curves’ layer or hide it by clicking the ‘Eye’ symbol to the left of the layer. That way you can work with the original image. Now add an ‘Adjustment’ Layer with a ‘Channel Mixer.’

Channel Mixer - How To Mimic a Cross-Processing Effect in Photoshop

In the Properties panel, find the ‘Output Channel.’ Here, open the drop-down menu to change from one color channel to another.

Output Channels - How To Mimic a Cross-Processing Effect in Photoshop

In each color output channel, you can see the corresponding color slider will be at 100%, while the other two are set to ‘0.’ So, in the ‘Red’ channel, the Red slider is set at ‘100’ while Green and Blue are at ‘0.’ In the ‘Green’ channel, the green is set at ‘100’ and the Red and Blue are at ‘0.’ In the ‘Blue’ channel, the blue is set at ‘100’ with Red and Green at ‘0.’

Move the sliders to create your own cross-processed image. Move all three channels sliders around until you’re satisfied.

Red color cast - How To Mimic a Cross-Processing Effect in Photoshop

Remember, you don’t need to duplicate the result that the Preset proposed. But if that is your objective, you don’t need to go into moving any setting individually.

To reiterate, to achieve an image that suggests cross-processing, more than one formula exists.

Green Color Cast - How To Mimic a Cross-Processing Effect in Photoshop

A few things to keep in mind:

  • Cross-processing was initially a ‘mistake’ (even if done on purpose) causing unpredictable results. Thus, feel free to experiment and be creative because there is no wrong answer.
  • Cross-processed images look oversaturated with a distinct color cast.
  • Using the wrong chemical would often distress the image, to mimic this you can introduce some noise.

Adding Noise to Your Image

To add noise to your image, select your image layer and go to Menu -> Filters -> Noise -> Add Noise. A pop-up window will open giving you a preview of the filter you are applying and the sliders to adjust it. Make adjustments to your preference.

Adding Noise - How To Mimic a Cross-Processing Effect in Photoshop

Keep experimenting and have fun!

If you have you experimented with cross-processing effects in Photoshop, please share with us in the comments below.

The post How To Mimic a Cross-Processing Effect in Photoshop appeared first on Digital Photography School.

How to Mimic Lomography in Photoshop with Ease

Ever wondered what Lomography is?

Have you seen Lomo images and wanted to know how to do it? Do you know what Lomo photography is but don’t want to go back to film or buy more cameras?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, read on to learn about Lomo, and how to achieve a hassle-free, totally digital image like it.

What is Lomo?

You’ve probably heard of this term or its more colloquial name Lomography. It became very trendy over the last decade, and there are even workshops, contests and more dedicated to it.

It refers to a style of photography made with a particular brand of camera from Austria called Lomo. Thus, the name of the technique comes from the camera brand. Different models create a different kind of image.

How to Mimic Lomography in Photoshop with Ease 1

What is Lomography?

Regardless of the model of camera, the make is mostly plastic including the lens.

Sometimes they have light leaks and allow very little control over the settings. Therefore, the results are fun and unpredictable. While technically they have photographic ‘flaws,’ it creates a particular style that created an entire visual culture around it – Lomography.

How to Mimic the Lomo Effect in Photoshop

As I’ve explained, Lomo photography can be unpredictable, and also includes different models of camera that create a different kind of photograph. Therefore there’s no specific set of rules.

I’ll mention some of the most common and characteristic effects of the Lomo cameras and how to achieve them using Photoshop. These are not set in stone. The fun part about real Lomo or digital Lomo effect is that you can be as creative as you want.

1. Vignette

Most of the images created with a Lomo camera, especially if made with long exposures, have a vignette.

To create a Lomo image in Photoshop, you need to duplicate the background layer by dragging the existing one to the bottom into the New Layer button, or by going to Menu-> Layer-> Duplicate Layer.

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Next, go to Filter-> Lens Correction (If you don’t immediately see it in your version of Photoshop, go inside ‘Distort’ to find it). In the ‘Custom’ tab, move the slider called ‘Vignette.’ Once satisfied, apply the filter.

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Duplicate this ‘Vignette’ layer. Go to Menu -> Blur -> Gaussian Blur. I’ll set it to 3 pixels, but this is entirely up to you.

Now use the ‘Eraser’ tool. Start to delete the center and slowly widen your moves towards the outside. We do this process because the edges are not super sharp in Lomo photography, due to the lenses often being made of plastic.

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2. Grain

Since Lomo cameras use film, you can give the illusion of analog photography by adding a little grain to the image. To do this, select the first Vignette layer and go to Menu -> Filter -> Filter Gallery- > Artistic -> Film Grain.

Again, the quantity is for you to decide as it’s an authors choice and not an exact recipe to follow. I’ll do 4 with an intensity of 3.

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3. Color Saturation

Finally, Lomo’s characteristic colors are overly saturated. To achieve this, while there are many ways in Photoshop, I like to do it channel by channel with the ‘Curves’ tool. Firstly, add an adjustment layer.

To do this, click on the button at the bottom of the Layer panel with the circle symbol, and choose ‘Curves’ from its pop-up menu. You can move around the settings in each channel separately by opening the ‘Preset’ drop-down menu as per the picture below:

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You may continue adding some adjustment layers to keep modifying the effect. I added a ‘Gradient Map’ with an ‘Overlay’ blending mode. I also added a ‘Vibrance’ and ‘Saturation’ layer where I pushed the vibrancy up a bit more. Experiment until you are satisfied with your adjustments.

Remember that you can double-click any adjustment layer to open its properties and move the settings as many times as you want.

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Once your adjusts are set, go to Layer -> Flatten Image which will compact all the layers you created into one. If however, you’d like to keep your layered file first, save a copy of it before you flatten. Once your image is flattened, go to Menu -> Filter -> Sharpen -> Unsharp Mask and apply it to your image.

Be careful not to exaggerate this because it will enhance the film grain from before. Just move the sliders while keeping an eye on the preview window.

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That’s it! Take a look at the before and after images below.

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Before

How to Mimic Lomography in Photoshop with Ease 10

After

Try out this technique for yourself, and show us what you come up with in the comments section below.

The post How to Mimic Lomography in Photoshop with Ease appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Balance Exposure in Adobe Camera Raw to Improve Your Photographs

Want to know how to balance exposure in Adobe Camera Raw to improve your photographs without causing white or black clippings?

Have you ever faced a scene so contrasted that it’s impossible to achieve balance in the exposure?

If you shoot in Auto mode, you may have seen this quite a bit. If you were not able to solve this problem while shooting, this is the tutorial for you. I’ll show you how to balance exposure in Adobe Camera Raw using helpful post-processing techniques.

For this exercise, I’m using a photo with extreme problems to really highlight the adjustments I’m making. Images with less-obvious exposure problems can still be improved using this same technique.

Balance Exposure in Adobe Camera Raw to Improve Your Photographs - Before and After Comparison

Firstly, let’s clarify that this works best with a RAW file, but even if you shoot in JPG format this tutorial can help – so keep reading!

A RAW file is a ‘digital negative’ that contains all the information without being processed, so it won’t open directly in Photoshop. Instead, it opens in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR), which is where the editing is done for this tutorial.

Balance Exposure in Adobe Camera Raw to Improve Your Photographs - Open File

If you are working with a JPG file, open the ACR manually. To do this, go to Photoshop ->Menu -> File -> Open. From the browser window choose your JPG file and select ‘Camera Raw’ from the ‘Format’ drop-down menu. Click ‘OK’ to open in ACR.

If you are not sure whether to shoot with RAW files or JPG Files, read this interesting article.

Balance Exposure in Adobe Camera Raw to Improve Your Photographs - Open JPG File

*From this point, you can follow the same steps for both RAW and JPG files.

Activate your clipping warnings

To help balance your image, activate the clipping warning in ACR.

To do this, go to the top corners of the histogram where you have a white and black clipping alert. Click on the one you want to view first.

Once activated, this highlights any pixels that exceed the intensity represented.

Balance Exposure in Adobe Camera Raw to Improve Your Photographs - Activate Warnings

The Shadow Slider

The order in which you decide to tackle different problems doesn’t matter. You have to go back and forward through the adjustments until you reach the balance that works for you anyway.

In this case, I’m going to start brightening up the bottom, so my first instinct would be to lighten the shadows.

Adjust the ‘shadows’ slider until you achieve the desired look.

Look at the changes to the histogram as well.

Balance Exposure in Adobe Camera Raw to Improve Your Photographs - Shadows

The Black Slider

Now we can see much more detail in the lower part of the photo, but now the contrast has lowered so much that the image has become quite flat. You can correct this by moving the ‘Black’ slider, which determines the darkest black of your image.

Adjust the ‘Black’ slider and see how the darkest areas are now being highlighted in blue to show you the clipping areas because you’re exceeding the range.

Be careful not to exaggerate.

Balance Exposure in Adobe Camera Raw to Improve Your Photographs - Blacks

The White Slider

Now it’s time to fix the lightest parts. The sky is completely blown out and has little detail; therefore I’ll lower the brightest white possible by moving the ‘White’ slider.

Adjust the ‘White’ slider until you achieve the desired look.

Notice how the red spot in the sky that represented the clippings is getting smaller.

Balance Exposure in Adobe Camera Raw to Improve Your Photographs - Whites

The Highlights Slider

The image looks better but it hasn’t completely solved the problem.

The next step is the ‘Highlights’ slider to add more detail to it. Be careful not to render the image too dark now.

Adjust the ‘Highlights’ slider until you achieve the look you want.

You’ll need to go back to the Shadows and Blacks to balance them according to the new sky. You can go back and forth through these until you find a balance you are happy with.

Notice how all the clippings have gone:

Balance Exposure in Adobe Camera Raw to Improve Your Photographs - Histogram

Before and After Previews

Apart from the clippings you canals keep an eye on the histogram, look how the original had very high points in both ends and was very flat in the middle while the current one is much more balanced.

To view before and after previews, press the P on your keyboard, allowing you to make comparisons without losing any of your adjustments.

Balance Exposure in Adobe Camera Raw to Improve Your Photographs - Before Preview

Balance is not necessarily all there is to it.

In this case, it resulted in a flat and muted image.

To give it that extra punch you can boost areas such as contrast or saturation.

Keep in mind that these can create clippings again, so always keep checking the entire image.

Balance Exposure in Adobe Camera Raw to Improve Your Photographs - Preview

If you worked through this process with a RAW file, it is non-destructive, so you can keep editing until you’re satisfied without losing any pixels or lowering the image quality.

Due to the JPG file being a destructive process, I advise you to save it as a copy to always keep your original intact.

If you want to learn more about the basics of ACR, I invite you to read my tutorial ‘Quick Beginner’s Guide to Processing RAW Files in Photoshop Adobe Camera Raw‘.

The post Balance Exposure in Adobe Camera Raw to Improve Your Photographs appeared first on Digital Photography School.

How to Customize and Use the Photoshop Gradient Tool

Despite its straightforward name, the gradient tool is incredibly flexible. You can customize practically every settings, and use it in many different ways.

In this article I’ll show you how to use it to its full potential.

The Gradient tool shares the same toolbar space as the Paint Bucket tool, so you may not see it at first glance. Click and hold the Paint Bucket tool to reveal the fly-out menu, then select the Gradient tool.

You use the Gradient tool to make a smooth transition between multiple colors. And one of the first things you can customize is the colors you want to transition between.

With the Gradient tool active, you’ll see a sample on the left-hand side of the options bar. Clicking the small arrow next to it will reveal the gradient picker that includes a number of preset gradients. And clicking the gear icon to the right of that will bring up the settings menu where you can:

  • load more presets
  • add new presets
  • customize the display window.

If none of the presets suit your needs, you can customize a new gradient by double-clicking the sample to bring up the Gradient Editor window. Here you’ll see a bar with the current gradient, along with a set of sliders you can use to create the gradient you want. The top sliders control the opacity, while the bottom sliders control the color. If you need more colors, simply click on the gradient where you’d like them to go.

As well as choosing the colors, you can also choose the start and end points of your gradient.

Next to the sample you’ll see five icons representing the five different types of gradients you can apply: Linear, Radial, Angle, Reflected and Diamond.

The Linear gradient will gradually transition your colors in a straight line from the start point to the end point.

The Radial gradient radiates out from the start point in the shape of a circle.

The Angle gradient will transition clockwise in the direction of the angle created by the line uniting the start and end points.

The Reflected gradient creates a mirror effect using the start point as the center.

Finally the Diamond gradient radiates out from the start point in the shape of a diamond.

Next to the gradient icons are two dropdown menus. The first lets you set the bending mode (how your gradient will affect whatever’s below it). The second reveals a slider that lets you control the gradient’s opacity.

If you continue towards the right of the option bar you’ll find a set of check-boxes that will finalize your choices. First you have the option to Reverse the colors which is pretty much what you’d expect: it will invert the order of the colors of your gradient. Then you have Dither to make the transition smoother. And finally the transparency box applies the opacity from the gradient, see the difference in this example where the top half has the transparency checked and the bottom half unchecked:

Ok now you know how the gradient tool works and how to customize it, great for graphic work, but how can you apply it to a photo? Let me give you an example to achieve a trendy look on your images.

First choose the photo you want to modify. While there are no right or wrongs here, there are some photos that fit better for this kind of effect than others, for example something that looks vintage, or an artsy portrait.  Now turn it black and white by applying an Adjustment layer clicking on the bottom of the Layers panel and choose Black and White, this way it won’t be a destructive process.

On top of this Adjustment layer you just did, add a New Layer by going to Menu > Layer > New Layer, or by clicking in the New Layer button at the bottom of the panel. And in this one you’ll create your gradient using the Gradient Tool that I explained before by choosing the colors and angles you prefer. Finally set the Blending Mode to screen and your image is ready.

Have fun experimenting with the many many possibilities this offers you!

The post How to Customize and Use the Photoshop Gradient Tool appeared first on Digital Photography School.

How to do Focus Stacking in Photoshop for a Seemingly Infinite Depth of Field

Whenever you do macro or close-up photography you usually have to choose very carefully what you want to keep in focus. This can also happen when you want to shoot a landscape and you want to include an element close to you but you end up with a blurry background.

So it seems that doesn’t matter if you go big or small you always have to make compromises regarding the depth of field. However, there is a post-production way around it, stay with me and I’ll show you how to do focus stacking!

Focus Stacking for an Infinite Depth of Field

First, what is depth of field?

Depth of field, commonly referred to as DoF, refers to the distance between the first and last object that appears in focus or sharp within an image. It covers the space in front of and behind the focal plane, in other words where you put your focus.

How broad this space or distance is can be determined by different factors: the aperture, the focal length of your lens and the physical distance between the camera and the subject.

Even if you have these three factors to move around in order to expand your depth of field, there are certain conditions that just won’t allow you to get as much DoF as you need. This is where Photoshop comes in, when you need to achieve an impossible or seemingly infinite depth of field.

While this is a post-production process, you need to consider and get it at the shooting stage as it’s not something you can achieve by fixing your photo later. You need to prepare several photos that you’ll stack together in order to create one fully focused image.

So basically what you need to do is shoot the image with different parts in focus. Everything else needs to remain the same, this means the same framing and settings and you ONLY adjust your focus in each shot.

Focus Stacking for an Infinite Depth of Field - source images

A few tricks for shooting images for focus stacking

  • For best results in the post-production, it’s better to have good material to work with so I recommend using a tripod so that the framing is exactly the same in each image.
  • Adjust the focus manually and in order (like from closest to farthest) so that you don’t lose track and have a shot where every area of the photo wasn’t sharp at some point during the shooting. Think of it as bracketing the focus.
  • The more photos you take the better so that Photoshop will have enough information to form your final image.

Getting Started

Okay once you’re back at home base, download your photos to the computer. The first thing you need to do is open them all into the same file in Photoshop. You can do this by going to Menu > File > Scripts > Load Files into Stacks.

In the pop-up window, set it to use Files and then with the Browse button choose the set of photos you took. Check off the option “Attempt to Automatically Align Source Images”, especially if you didn’t use a tripod. But even if you did it’s useful to keep it checked to compensate for the focus breathing which is the change in scale when you re-adjusted the focus for each photo.

Focus Stacking for an Infinite Depth of Field - load images into a stack

Once you have them all, just click Open and Photoshop will load them in the same file, each on a separate layer. The filenames will become the name of each of the layers.

Note: If you forgot to check the Attempt to Automatically Align Source Images in the step before, you can always do this by selecting the layers and going to Menu > Edit > Auto-Align.

Focus Stacking for an Infinite Depth of Field - layers

Blending the layers

Now, select all of your layers. You can do this by clicking on the first one, then holding Shift+Click and click on the last layer. That way everything in between will get selected too. Now go to Menu > Auto-Blend Layers. A pop-up window will appear, check the “Stack Images” option and leave the Seamless Tones and Colors checked as well.

Focus Stacking for an Infinite Depth of Field - auto blend

From there Photoshop will do all the work so you just have to be patient.

Focus Stacking for an Infinite Depth of Field

I recommend that you zoom in and check the edges as you can find some problem areas that may require you to copy paste from the original files for fine-tuning, like this:

Focus Stacking for an Infinite Depth of Field

Once Photoshop has your image pasted together, you can go to Menu > Layer > Flatten Image to compress all the layers into one. Finally, make any adjustments you need to the exposure or contrast to get your final result.

Focus Stacking for an Infinite Depth of Field

This is the best way of doing focus stacking in Photoshop. However, if you find yourself outside the studio, without a tripod and unprepared, you can still give it a go. Just try to stay as steady as possible or you won’t achieve the required result.

For example, I took two photos, one where the small sculpture of the head in the foreground was focused and one where the background was focused. It was done without a tripod or any care about it leaving all for Photoshop to fix and as you can see it wasn’t able to align them.

Focus Stacking for an Infinite Depth of Field

However, in these examples, I also used only two pictures and no tripod but I was very careful and did my best not to move at all except for my two fingers turning the focusing ring. Of course, it’s impossible to actually do that but it was good enough for Photoshop to do an acceptable result on my images.

So it’s not ideal but it can be done, never prevent yourself from trying!

Focus Stacking for an Infinite Depth of Field

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How to Create Custom Brushes in Photoshop

The Brush Tool in Photoshop is one of the most versatile and it can be used for many applications. It already comes with many useful brushes preloaded into the program and you can find even more online. But sometimes you just need to be more creative and have full control. Don’t you think?

Not to worry, another great thing about Photoshop is that you can create your own custom brushes. Let me show you how.

What is a Brush?

First things first, what exactly is a brush? It’s a tool used to draw strokes. You can find it in the toolbox or you can activate it by using its hotkey: B.

This tool is very flexible because you can adjust its shape, size, opacity and lots of other specs from the Presets panel. That multiplies the options far beyond the first array of choices that you see on the first menu.

Create custom Brushes Photoshop Tutorial Tool Options Presets

None the less, there are times that you need something you just can’t find pre-installed. For example, you can turn your signature or your logo into a brush, it doesn’t get more personal than that right? In just a few steps you can achieve this.

Make a Signature Brush

Open the image that contains your signature or logo, this can come from a scanned paper, for example, or the JPG version of a logo designed in a different program. Now that you have that opened, activate the Marquee tool to select the image. Just click and drag the selection around it and make sure you’re not grabbing anything else from the image.

How to Create a Custom Brushes in Photoshop

Then go to Menu > Edit > Define Brush Preset and a new window will pop up where you can name your brush. Type any name you want, preferably something that will help you identify it later, and click OK.

How to Create a Custom Brushes in Photoshop

Note: In the Brush Name window you’ll see a thumbnail with the preview of your brush, you’ll notice that the color (if it had any) is lost, that’s because brushes are grayscale, so it won’t register the colors of the original. You can, of course, apply any color when you use it though.

Now you have your new signature brush. Whenever you want to use it, just select the brush tool then open the drop-down menu from the options bar. You can also pick it from the Brush Presets panel which you can reach from the Window menu in case it’s not already opened.

How to Create a Custom Brushes in Photoshop

Using the Custom Brush

You may be wondering why you need to turn it into a brush instead of just placing it as an image. This is because it gives you access to all the settings and controls of the brush tool. Just open the Brush panel and you’ll be able to change from color to size to spacing – anything you need for you to create patterns, watermarks and more!

How to Create a Custom Brushes in Photoshop

How to Create a Custom Brushes in Photoshop

That’s just how easy you can turn any image into a custom brush. But how about creating one from scratch?

Create a New Custom Brush

First, open a white canvas and draw the shape you want to turn into a brush. To do this you can use any of the Shape tools or even other Brushes. For example, I’ll make a simple sparkle. For that, I just need four lines using the Line tool and a round brush with very soft edges in the center so that it has a glow effect.

How to Create a Custom Brushes in Photoshop

Remember that color is not registered so it doesn’t matter which colors are you using to draw your shape. Just know that anything in white won’t be part of the brush as it will translate as transparent. Now to turn it into a brush just follow the steps that you did before. Menu> Edit > Define Brush Preset. Click name it.

How to Create a Custom Brushes in Photoshop

Now your custom brush is done, grab it from the menu like any other brush. It’s very easy to create but its use can be as elaborate as you need since it has a lot of possibilities. Let me give you some tips to make the most of it.

Tips and Tricks

You can quickly access some of your brush’s most used properties like size, hardness and opacity from the Options Bar or get a lot more control if you open the brush panel. Regardless of whether you created the brush or it came with Photoshop, you can adjust its presets in the brush panel.

A quick overview of the presets I find more useful:

Brush tip: Apart from the size and hardness that you can also find in the Options Bar, here you can also adjust the roundness and angle of the brush.

How to Create a Custom Brushes in Photoshop

Scattering: this is as straightforward as the name suggests. With this option, you can place the brush more randomly, thus, scattering it.

How to Create a Custom Brushes in Photoshop

You can also change the blending mode of the brush in the drop-down menu. This changes the way the brush stroke interacts with the object directly below, which could be an image or a previous brush stroke. However, I prefer to leave it as Normal and put the new brush strokes on their own layer and then alter the layer’s blending mode, that way I can always come back and change it later if need be.

Opacity and Flow: Both of these refer to the amount of paint that you are applying. However, with opacity, it won’t add more paint if you pass over the same area many times unless you release the click and start again. While flow will keep adding paint regardless.

Over to You

I hope you found the tutorial useful and give your creativity a go with some custom brushes of your own!

The post How to Create Custom Brushes in Photoshop appeared first on Digital Photography School.

How to Make Image-Filled Shapes in Photoshop

Photoshop may not be primarily a graphics program but it still comes with very useful tools for that kind of work. For example, making image-filled shapes.

It doesn’t matter if you’re doing some professional job like web design for your business or something personal like a birthday card, you’ll often need to constrain your photo to fit within a specific shape. In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to do that with just a few clicks.

image-filled shapes Photoshop tutorial Intro1

Create a Shape

First, you need your shape. You can easily create one with the Shape tool from the toolbox. You can click and hold to display the menu with your choices. In this first menu, you’ll have some basic shapes like rectangle, ellipse, line, polygon and a customize shape tool.

image-filled shapes Photoshop tutorial Shape Tool

If you choose the custom shape you’ll have a second menu with all your possibilities for that. You can access it in the options bar at the top. If you don’t see many choices, just click on the bracket on the right and click All from the menu that will open; this will load all the preset shapes. If you download any new shapes from the Internet you’ll also found them in this menu.

Image-filled shapes Photoshop tutorial Custom Shape

To draw the shape you chose on a blank canvas, just click and drag until it reaches the size you want, then let go. Whenever you draw a shape on your canvas you can choose to use Fill and Stroke from the options bar. In this case, the filling will be your photo, so set the Fill as black so that your image will be constrained to the shape that you chose.

Here’s how you can do it:

image-filled shapes Photoshop tutorial Draw Shape

Add Your Image

Now that you have your shape you need to bring in the image to fill it. Go to Menu > File > Place. This will open a browser window so you can choose the file from your computer. Choose the one you want and click OK. This photo will be imported into your project as a new layer.

image-filled shapes Photoshop tutorial Place Image

Clipping Mask

Now you just have to go to Menu > Layer > Create Clipping Mask. This can also be achieved by clicking Alt + Ctrl (PC) or Cmd (Mac) + G at the same time.

image-filled shapes Photoshop tutorial Clipping Mask

Note: If you were following my steps exactly then the image was placed as a layer at the top. However, if you are working with a complex project with many layers or if you followed the instructions in a different order this might not be the case.

If that happens, then you do need to take an extra step. Just drag and position the image layer on top of the shape layer in the Layers panel for the Clipping Mask to work as you want.

As a result, you’ll only see the photo through the shape and the best part is that the process is non-destructive. In other words, you did not cut out your photo, the rest of it is just hidden underneath which gives you two advantages.

First, you can reposition your photo to best fit the shape. If you click on the Move tool from the Toolbox you can just click and drag the image so that it gets placed in the best possible way. You can also use any of the transformation tools to resize or rotate it until you are happy with the result.

Second, you can work on the shape as well without worrying about damaging your photo or showing any empty canvas because the photo is complete and untouched underneath.

image-filled shapes Photoshop tutorial Free Transform

Extra tip

You can do as many image-filled shapes as you want in the same canvas, as they will just be stacked as additional layers. For example, you can add text to your project.

To do that, instead of using the Shape Tool go to the Type tool and select a font type broad enough to make the effect noticeable. Then repeat the process of placing an image (it can be a different photo than the one you used for the shape) and creating a clipping mask.

image-filled text Photoshop tutorial

And again, since the image is intact underneath, you can come back and edit the text anytime you want. Have fun!

image-filled text Photoshop tutorial edit type

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