Responding to a question from Tom, Chris follows up on the last episode with a deep dive into the clone and healing brush tool. He explains the differences between cloning and healing, talks about ways of modifying your selection and points out some mind-boggling shortcuts that make you a pro healer.
This episode explores if there’s such a thing as “photoshopped to death” – Chris opens up his top secret before and after comparisons, the Nepal fundraiser has made over $10k and that’s just because of you (THANK YOU!!!) Chris will also do an unplanned surprise visit to the kingdom of Bhutan, the fundraiser ebook will … Continue reading tfttf681 – Photoshopped To Death
Before you can begin editing your photos you need to get them safely off your camera and onto your computer. Unfortunately this process is often hijacked by (well-meaning if misguided) software which purports to do the work for you but leaves you wondering just where your photos really are! So, to help you understand your options for getting your photos onto your computer, here’s what I recommend.
First of all: Take Charge!
The first thing to understand about getting photos from your camera card or camera onto your computer is that you’re in charge. Any application that opens and tries to grab your photos for you can be closed down. If it is not the application you want to use then do just that – close it.
Now you can take charge and manage the process in a way that makes sense for you.
Choose your application
If you’re using Photoshop then you can use Bridge to import your photos. If you are using Lightroom then you can launch Lightroom and import your photos using it. If you don’t have either program, or if you prefer to manage the process yourself, you can do so using Finder on the Mac or Windows Explorer on a PC. I’ll cover this process first, then look at Bridge and Lightroom.
Importing using Finder or Windows Explorer
When attached to your computer, a camera or memory card works like any drive, so you can view its contents. You can also copy photos from the memory card onto your computer’s hard drive manually using Explorer or Finder.
On a PC, if the AutoPlay dialog appears when you insert your camera card or attach your camera, choose the Open Folder to View Files option.
If the dialog doesn’t appear, simply launch Windows Explorer and select the drive that represents your camera or memory card.
Navigate to the folder that contains your photos – there may be multiple folders depending on how your camera stores images on the card. You can select the photos, then drag and drop them to the folder of your choice. It’s often easier if you first open the target folder in a second Windows Explorer window so you can drag from one to the other.
The process is similar using Finder on the Mac. If iPhoto launches – stop it from downloading any photos and close it. Then you can drag photos from your camera card open in one Finder window, to a folder of your choice open in a second window.
Importing Photos using Bridge
If you are using Photoshop, launch Adobe Bridge and choose File > Get Photos from Camera. Click the button to open the Advanced Dialog.
From the “Get Photos from” drop down list select the drive letter that corresponds to your camera or card.
You can now see and select the photos to import. This is one benefit of using Bridge over Windows Explorer – you will see thumbnail images of your raw files so you can see what you are importing.
On the right of the dialog select the folder in which to place the images. Typically this will be inside your My Pictures folder on your computer but you can choose any location that makes sense to you. However, if you want to find your photos later, on it is essential that you pay attention to the choices you make here.
Once you have selected the folder to import the images into, you can, if desired, select a subfolder. In this way you can group photos by shoot, date or something that makes sense to you. Bridge will create the folder for you if it doesn’t exist, so choose an option from the Create Subfolder(s) list and, if required, type a name for it or choose the date to use – either the capture date or today’s date. If you don’t want to organize photos in a subfolder then click None.
You can also select to rename files on import, or not. Choose Do not rename files if you don’t want them renamed or alternatively select a naming convention from the list.
If you have advanced naming requirements for which the dialog does not provide an appropriate choice, scroll to the bottom of the list and click Advanced Rename to open the Advanced Rename dialog where you can create quite complex naming conventions. Whatever choice you make check the entry just below the dialog where Bridge shows you an example of the naming convention in place so you can check to see if it is what you want.
In the Advanced Options area you can choose other options including Convert to DNG – which is handy if your camera captures in a manufacturer specific format such as CRW, NEF, PEF and so on, but you prefer to work with DNG files. Select this option and Bridge will do the conversion for you.
You can also select Delete Original Files although this is not recommended. It’s best to make sure that the images are correctly copied onto your computer before the originals are deleted so I suggest you leave this option disabled.
Bridge offers a backup option so it will make a copy of your photos on import. To do this, click the “Save Copies To:” checkbox and select an alternate location (such as an external drive) in which to save a copy of your photos.
If you have a metadata template already created you can select this from the Apply Metadata drop down list.
In future you can create such a metadata template in Bridge by selecting Tools > Create Metadata Template. I suggest that you complete the IPTC Core Data for Creator as well as Copyright Notice, Copyright Status and Rights Usage Terms. Also complete the Type Of Source entry in the IPTC Extension group. When completed this will give you a good all round metadata preset to apply to all your images. For more information on IPTC Copyright Metadata check out this article: Lightroom: Add your IPTC metadata on Import.
When you have your import settings selected and configured to meet your needs click Get Media to import the images.
You will see a dialog showing you the progress of the import process.
Importing Photos using Lightroom
If you’re using Lightroom then it is the obvious choice for managing the process of importing photos from your camera or memory card. From the Library module click Import, then select the source in the top left corner of the Import dialog.
Across the top of the screen you will see only two choices, Copy as DNG and Copy. This reflects the fact that you’re importing images from a camera card or camera – the options Move and Add are not available for this process(if you do see Move and Add as available options, it appears that Lightroom isn’t recognizing your camera or camera card correctly and even though they may be available you should not use either of these choices).
Next, open the File Handling panel on the right of the screen and select the kind of preview to create – Standard is a good choice. You can choose Build Smart Previews or not (if you’re unsure, check Build Smart Previews).
Checking Don’t Import Suspected Duplicates will ensure that Lightroom doesn’t import images again, that you’ve already previously imported. This is one feature available in Lightroom which is not also available in Bridge.
In Lightroom you can also choose to make a backup by making a second copy of your photos to an alternate location as you import them.
File Renaming panel allows you to rename images on import – you can select from a range of naming templates and even create your own. Here I’ve chosen to use the Custom Name – Sequence template so I’ve typed the Custom name and the sequence is set to start at 1:
The Apply During Import panel has an option for applying metadata to the image upon import. Unlike Bridge the drop down list for Metadata presets also includes an option New which you can use to create your own metadata preset. I suggest you complete the IPTC Copyright and IPTC Creator details, and in the IPTC Extension Administrative select Original digital capture from a real live scene from the Digital Source Type drop down list. Type a name for the preset and from the Present drop down list click Save current settings as new preset.
In the Destination panel you’ll need to select the location into which the images are to be copied. If you’re copying them to your hard drive then typically you’ll select your C drive, then your My Pictures folder which should be in your Users area.
If you save your images to an external drive then select the external drive and the folder into which the images should be imported.
If the folder does not exist you can create a subfolder on import by selecting the Into Subfolder checkbox and type a name for the folder that Lightroom should create to import the images into.
From the Organize drop down list you can select to put the images into this folder (Into one Folder) or to organize them by date. Whichever choice you make you can see a preview of what’s going to happen in the folder list, allowing you to check and make sure that everything is going to be imported and arranged to your requirements before you go ahead and complete the import process.
When you’re ready to import the images click Import.
Whatever process you choose to use for getting images off your camera card onto your computer the acid test for whether it is a good system or not will be if you can find your images later on. Also be aware that it’s advisable to make a backup copy of your images in case your computer is stolen, damaged or your hard disk crashes. For this reason a backup on a removable external drive is a sensible choice.
Having an import routine that you understand, and can reliably execute, is a necessary first step for any photographer. The worst possible scenario is to have copied your images from your camera card to your computer and erased them from your card, only to discover that you cannot find the images. It’s a scenario that way too many users have encountered – don’t let it happen to you!
Find a video version of this blog post here:
Do you have any other copy and import tips? Please share in the comments below.
Notice the difference some quick adjustments using the Levels tool can make
Image editing is an important part of making your good images look spectacular. Photoshop and Lightroom are packed with tools to help you get your images to look great after you have downloaded them on to your computer. While there are many different tools in Photoshop to enhance your image, there are really only a handful of tools that you will use on just about every image; one of those is the levels tool. Photoshop has a levels tool, Lightroom doesn’t unfortunately. Each photographer has a different workflow when editing images, my suggestion is to follow a process that is the same for each image. When you open up an image in Photoshop or Lightroom, the first step is to look at the exposure. Is the image over or underexposed? At this stage of the workflow, you could be looking at a tool like the Shadow and Highlights adjustment, the next one to use would be Levels.
What is the Levels tool?
Levels tool in Photoshop
Levels does two things in one tool, it corrects the tonal range in an image and it corrects the colour balance. Adjustments made using the Levels tool are not only about getting the exposure on your image correct; it also has a second function and that is, it can correct for colour too. Yes, there are other tools within Photoshop that can do this, but the Levels tool can make it really quick and easy.
The Levels tool uses a histogram to show a visual representation of the tonal range in your image. There is a lot to be said about a histogram, but the most important thing to remember is that there is no right or wrong histogram. If you are unsure about how a histogram works, check out: How to read and use Histograms. On the histogram in the Levels tool, you will see a numerical range starting at zero on the left hand side of the graph, and 255 on the right. In the Levels function, zero represents black and if you have pixels that are at zero, that means there is no detail, they are totally black. The right hand side at 255 represents total white. If you have pixels at 255 that means they are totally white, with no detail. If the shape of your histogram is leaning to the left hand side, that means you have a lot of dark pixels in your image and your image is possibly underexposed. If the histogram is more on the right hand side that means you have a lot of bright highlights in your image and it is possibly overexposed. The middle slider is the mid-tone or gamma adjustment. All the pixels that are not highlights or shadows, fall into this category.
How does the Levels tool work?
When you open the Levels tool, very often your first instinct is to push the sliders into a position that makes the image look brighter. That can work, but I suggest that you do the following: Before you make any adjustments, take a look at your image and see if you can pick up a colour cast. This is a tint or colour that affects the whole image, and is often unwanted. For example, if you have a wedding photo of a bride shot on an overcast day and while everything looks okay, there may be a slight blue hue in the image from the overcast light. This means that her dress looks a little blue instead of white. In a case like this, a colour cast is something you want to get rid of. If however you have shot a summer sunset and the whole scene is bathed in warm orange light, this could also be seen as a colour cast, but in that case you would probably not want change it. One way to find colour casts in your images is to look at an area of the image that should be white and see if it has a tint. A colour cast will vary depending on the light you shot under; it could be green, magenta, blue, yellow, orange, or anything in between.
How to use the Levels tool
Make and adjustment layer for Levels
You can use the Levels tool on any image that needs the colour or contrast corrected. If you have an image that needs to have the colour cast corrected, like my shot of the Star Wars Stormtrooper does, then do the following:
Open your image in Photoshop.
Click on the adjustment layer icon at the bottom of the Layer panel and create a Levels adjustment layer, or click on the Levels tool icon in the adjustments panel which is directly above the layers panel.
Step 1 – If you need to do colour correction
If your image has a colour cast (the example image does, as there is a slight blue colour because it was overcast weather that day), follow these steps. Not all images need to have the colour corrected, if you are happy with the colour in your image you won’t need to do this. If you do have a colour cast in your image, then do the following:
Bring the white and black sliders to the point where the graph starts moving upward
Part 1: In the levels tool, click on the drop down box above the histogram that says RGB. This will open up the three channels individually. Click on RED and bring the white slider and black slider in to part of the histogram where it starts to move upwards. Click on the the RGB drop down box again and click on GREEN and do the same, and finally click on BLUE and repeat one more time. This step will only work if there is a colour cast in your image. If there is no colour cast, the histogram will spread to the edges of the graph. In this image, there was a colour cast and this was how the GREEN channel histogram looked.
The red areas in the screenshot above show you where there was no colour information. By sliding the sliders inward to the edge of the graph, you will start to neutralize the colour cast.
Part 2: You will notice that as you make these adjustments, your image may have a very strong colour cast of the channel you are adjusting. Don’t be alarmed, this will all work out once you make the final adjustments.
Part 3: Once you have adjusted for the colour correction in all three colors, you can now adjust the exposure and contrast
Don’t be alarmed at the crazy colours you might see during the colour cast adjustments, they will work out in the end.
Step 2 – Adjusting for exposure and contrast
The Levels tool can also adjust your image’s exposure and contrast. In other words, you can use it to make the highlights, shadows and mid-tones brighter or darker – an all-in-one tool. The levels tool is really great to make some quick adjustments to your image, here is how:
Part 1: In the RGB channel, move the white slider in from the right to the edge of the histogram. Do the same for the black slider, adjusting it in to the edge of the histogram on the left. The important tip here is to make sure that you don’t overexpose the highlights and underexpose the shadows. This is called clipping and the best way to see if you are clipping any pixels is to hold down the ALT key when you are adjusting the white and black sliders.
2. Once you have those two sliders adjusted, you can slide the mid tone slider to add some contrast to the scene and this will be the final touch to your levels adjustment.
The final adjustment showing colour correction and contrast correction
Some final tips to remember
1. Like any tool in Photoshop, if levels is overdone, you will be able to see it in the image. So, be aware of over adjusting your image.
2. Small adjustments always work better than one big adjustment. Make small changes first and see if that works.
3. Use the ALT key to make sure you aren’t losing detail in the shadows and the highlights by clipping your pixels.
4. Add some contrast to your images in levels, that will give your image a bit more pop and will enrich the tones.
The levels tool is a powerful ally to have in your image editing workflow. I use this tool on just about every image I edit. It can really add some contrast and punch to your images so try and use it as often as needed. These techniques take practice, but once you know what to do, the levels tool is quick and easy to use.
Compare the images side by side, there is a subtle but real difference
There are many articles that discuss the overuse of skin smoothing in portrait photography. Photographers strive to find a balance between realistic skin and fixing the imperfections. Obviously, one way to minimize the use of Photoshop for skin issues is to hire a phenomenal makeup artist who can make the skin look realistic and flawless all at the same time. For the times when there are issues with a client’s skin I try to not go overboard and fix every little thing. I want my client to still look like themselves when I am done editing.
Some photographers use the spot healing brush religiously. I never use it. Instead I use the patch tool. My reasoning is that the Patch tool actually takes samples of the pixels and closely matches them to what you are trying to fix. If the results are not quite right, you can tweak them to suit your needs.
Step 1. Open your image
As you can see my model is absolutely beautiful, but she does have a few blemishes on her skin and we are going to fix those before we give the image to her.
Step 2. Select an area and apply a path
Hit Ctrl or Command + J to duplicate your layer. You can add a Layer Mask in case you want to undo anything later. Then select the Patch tool and draw around the part of the skin that you want to replace (make sure the “Source” setting is selected to patch the source from the destination so it will use information from the area you drag to fix the blemish). Once selected, keep holding your mouse down and move it over to better spot of brighter skin. The skin does not have to be in the same area where you are working. You can use skin from the neck, shoulder, hand, or wherever you find better, smooth skin.
Step 3. Repeat and refine
Repeat the process for any other skin issues. Just keep circling the area you want to replace and dragging the circle over to a clean area. If you change something you did not want to or it doesn’t look right you can use your layer mask to hide it or you can click undo (Cmmd/Ctrl+Z).
Step 4. Reduce dark circles under eyes
Most of the time you will find that some dark circles under the eyes are showing. While it’s actually normal, we want our clients or models to look bright eyed. If you want to decrease these, simply use the patch tool and circle the under eye area. Drag that circled area over to better skin. The result will be very harsh if left like that, so fade the technique. Go to Edit > Fade Patch Selection and a pop up window will appear. Lower the slider until the fade looks like it will blend in. Repeat the process for the other eye. The percentage of fade you use may not be the same on both sides, depending on the lighting.
Step 5. Review and merge layers
Once you finish, you will see that the skin looks much better and smoother, but the details of the skin are still there without being overly fake looking. If you are satisfied, merge your layers. If you are going to do any further edits, go to your History in the Layers Palette and make a snapshot of the image so you can always come back to it.
Step 6. Brighten eyes optional
Optionally, you can brighten up the eyes a bit. Duplicate your layer again using Ctrl or Command + J. Again, add a Layer Mask in case you might want to change anything later. Select the Dodge Tool and make sure your exposure is set to around 30%. Take a big brush that covers the eye and the brow and in one motion with your mouse sweep over the eye and the brow. You can adjust the layer if it’s too bright or use your Layer Mask and remove the parts that might be too overdone.
The Patch Tool can be one of the easiest and quickest ways to clean up skin and still retain the overall look of your client without making the image seem overdone. After a few times, using the Patch Tool can become like a second nature and skin edits will go quicker. Here is the before and after showing that with just a few motions with the patch tool you can achieve an overall better image where skin looks smoother, brighter, and still looks natural.
When it comes to taking pictures of the fairground or amusement park, you’ll be amazed at just how easy it is to get super colourful, vibrant, and bright images of those awesome rides. Twilight is the best time to shoot, when all those mega-joules of artificial lights burst into action to give you amazing effects that aren’t possible during the day time.
The optimum time is about 30 minutes after the sun has set. If you’re lucky, there will be a beautiful colourful afterglow in the clouds, but it will still be dark enough for all the artificial light to be the brightest parts of your image. When it gets fully dark you can still get stunning shots, but the sky may just be a dark blanket if there is cloud cover.
Harness the power of higher ISO
By increasing your ISO settings to around 400, you’re increasing the light sensitivity of your camera. You can try higher settings (larger ISO numbers) but your goal here is to achieve an exposure time of around one to two seconds so that you capture some motion blur in the people and in the rides. Using a higher ISO than 400 will speed up your exposure time and you don’t necessarily want that, unless you want to totally freeze all of the motion in your shot. There’s some trial and error involved, depending on the available light of your scene, so my number of 400 is approximate.
When the rides are static, you won’t capture any motion blur but as soon as they start to move (and they usually move fast), you’ll find that the one to two second exposure time is ideal for capturing a lot of movement.
Shoot in time-lapse mode
By taking pictures every four seconds, you’ll end up with a huge variation of different motion blur as the rides progress through their cycle. It’s almost like shooting video, but by shooting time-lapse, you’ll ensure that every frame is a full resolution image – video can’t compete with that. This technique ensures that you capture lots of images at different stages of the ride. Here’s a one minute time-lapse movie I made while shooting stills at the fair using this technique.
If your camera has a built-in intervalometer or time-lapse app, you’re in luck. Set your interval at four seconds, and your camera will take a picture every four seconds. If you’ve set your exposure time to two seconds that gives you a two second gap after your shot has finished before the next shot will be triggered. Make your time-lapse last for about a five minute duration, and you should be able to capture images of the rides while they are static and while they are moving – it depends on how busy the rides are and how long the ride cycle lasts.
You can then overlay those blurred images with the static images in Photoshop to create the ultimate composite of sharp static scenes, and motion blurred scenes.
Don’t worry if your camera doesn’t have a time-lapse function, you’ll just need to take as many pictures as you think will capture your desired motion blur and static states. Alternatively you could buy an intervalometer which will connect to your camera and trigger the shutter for time lapse shooting.
Top Tip: Be sure to switch off your built-in noise reduction as this will slow down your write times to the memory card, and will mess up your intervals.
Choose the right white balance
It’s important to set the right white balance on your camera for this type of shooting. Don’t trust the auto setting because there are so many different light sources that your camera won’t know which setting to choose. For all of the shots I took with the Sony A7R, I used the Fluorescent Warm setting.
Experiment to get the most pleasing looking white balance for your scene, try to avoid everything looking super orange. Look at the scene with your eyes, then look at your shot to try and get the most accurate colour temperature.
It’s full of stars!
In shots like the one above, you can see a very pleasing looking blue star on the lamp post. All lenses produce their own characteristic stars, some are better than others. One thing you can do to get the best star out of your lens is to select a very narrow aperture like f/16 or f/22. This will also have the added benefit of forcing your shutter speed to be slower which gets you closer to the two second exposure time I mentioned earlier.
Get up close
Remember that wide angle lens I mentioned at the start? That lens will allow you to fill your frame with all the fun of the fair. Wide angle lenses create a pleasing looking distortion that adds drama and intensity to your shot. A 14-16mm shot on a full frame camera can cram in a LOT of action. By getting close to your subject and positioning yourself at a point that creates a nice looking distortion effect, you’ll really make your images POP!
What happens to your image quality when you use higher ISO settings? Noise, that’s what. We don’t like noise do we? No, so lets get rid of it using the brilliant noise reduction of Adobe Camera Raw. Your specific settings will depend on your camera’s sensor, as not all sensors are made equal. Here are the settings that I found gave me the best results for my pictures. Experiment with these sliders to get rid of as much noise as you can while still retaining image detail.
Fix the shadows
You’ll probably want to brighten up your shadows and blacks a little but don’t overdo it. We actually need those dark areas in our image to contrast with the bright lights, that’s what gives our image its PUNCH!
Fix the highlights
If the brightest parts of your image look a little blown out, pull them down a little with the whites and highlights sliders. Again, don’t overdo it or you’ll run the risk of ending up with a totally fake looking image.
Increase the clarity a little to introduce some contrast to the mid tones.
Increase the vibrance a little to make the colours pop and give a subtle blue hue to the sky area.
Use graduated filters in Adobe Camera RAW
The graduated filter simulator is a really powerful tool, but did you know it’s not just for making a part of your sky darker? You can use multiple graduated filters to selectively brighten or darken large parts of your image. If you want to brighten just your foreground, simply add a graduated filter and increase its exposure value like in the image below. You can further tweak just that selected area with the other powerful ACR tools like shadows, clarity, contrast etc.
Combine your images to make the ultimate composite
Once you’ve finished tweaking your images in Adobe Camera Raw, it’s time to open them in Photoshop to make a composite image that captures the motion blur and the static state of your fairground ride. It’s worth pointing out that this is just a creative choice, if you’re happy with just a single image, that’s cool too.
Step 1 – Choose and open your Images
From your images, choose one that shows your ride in its static state. This could either be while it’s not moving or perhaps you took a super fast, high ISO shot while the ride was moving and managed to freeze the motion nicely. Either way, pick an image that you like, and open that in Photoshop.
Step 2 – Copy and paste your images
Next you’ll choose an image, or images, that perfectly capture the motion blur of the ride; maybe it’s a roller-coaster ride and you want to catch the long streaking lights of the carriage. Open this in Photoshop so that you’ve now got two tabs, each with their own image.
With the motion blur image open, hit ctrl+a (or Cmd+A for Mac) on your keyboard to select the entire image. You should see the marching ants around the image. Next hit ctrl+c (Cmd+c) to copy that image on to your clipboard.
Now click on the other tab to switch to your first image which shows the static or frozen motion shot, and hit ctrl+v (Cmd+v) to paste your clipboard image on to a new layer above the default (Background) layer. Photoshop will call your new pasted layer “Layer 1″.
Step 3 – Blend your images
Assuming that you used the exact same ACR develop settings for both images, just go ahead and change the blend mode of the motion blurred image (Layer 1) that you just pasted on to the new layer to “Lighten”. The blend mode lives in your Layers panel and defaults to Normal, so change Normal to Lighten.
Now you should see both images combined to give you a lovely composite of both moments in time. If the effect is too pronounced, try turning down the opacity of the second layer to around 50%. For fun you could also try the Overlay blend mode or Screen, for a more intense effect. Remember to play with the layer opacity to get the look you want.
Step 4 – Erase the parts you don’t like
It’s likely that when you’ve blended both layers together by choosing the Lighten blend mode, you’ll want to erase certain parts of Layer 1 if the image gets too complicated. You can do that easily by choosing the Eraser tool and selecting a soft brush size, appropriate to the area you’d like to erase. Simply click on Layer 1 where you’d like to erase and bam – it’s gone (or use a layer mask for non-destructive editing).
That’s it! You’ve now learned how to shoot and process your amazing images of those mind blowing fairground rides. Go out and have some fun with this, just don’t overdo it on the cotton candy and doughnuts like I did, ugh.
If you have another other tips for photographing fairground rides, please share in the comments.
Opening Photoshop for the first time is kind of like going on your first date; your hands sweat, your eyes glaze over, you completely lose all sense of direction and time. At least that was the scenario for me.
Photoshop is an incredibly complex program that can be used as an artistic tool for positive enhancement, or gross distortion when it comes to portraiture. It’s all too easy to over-edit, get carried away with the sheer number of the tools at your fingertips, or attempt elaborate cover-up schemes for poorly shot images when first starting out. There are certain tools I grasped at the beginning of my learning curve, however, that were essential for editing clean and simple portrait images. Three years after my initial dumb-struck encounter, and countless hours of reading and practicing later, there are three tools that I still use in almost every photo I push through Photoshop. I’ve since discovered that users at every stage continually apply these tools to their photography workflow, as well.
Everyone has to start somewhere, so if you know nothing else about it yet, start by familiarizing yourself with these three Photoshop tools and you’ll build a solid foundation for taking your portrait photography editing to the next level.
The “S-curve” is one of the most common techniques in editing that packs an instant punch. I guarantee that a large majority of photographers working on everything from landscapes, to boudoir images, use this tool at some step in their Photoshop workflow. There are many different effects that you can achieve using the Curves tool, so the trick is to just play around with it a little to see what works best per image; there’s no specific settings within the tool that will always achieve great results. Much of it is about preference. You can achieve bold, colorful, contrast or a soft matte finish, simply by just readjusting the points on the curve. Extreme curves will give some strange discolorations, though, so for clean portrait editing, stick to small adjustments.
2. Clone (stamp) Tool
This is especially helpful for fixing blemishes or small imperfections on skin, but has countless other applications as well. To use, just hover your mouse over the area you want to copy, press the Option key for Mac (Alt for Windows) and click. This “clones” the area you want to replicate. Release the option/alt key, navigate your cursor over the area you wish to fix, then click again. This will replace the “bad” area with the “good” area.
Lesson learned: don’t try to do all your skin smoothing with the clone tool. It will look way over-done and it’s far too time-consuming to match up every pixel. This was clearly not my smartest idea, I admit. Save yourself the trouble—there are better ways!
As I got better with my precision of this tool, I was able to use it for things like removing stray hairs, filling in patches of sand or grass, and other little pesky details as well. It really is a crucial tool to master.
3. Dodge and Burn
Dodge and Burn are technically two different tools but are often used in conjunction with each other. They are a power duo with subtle but impressive impact. I use it most commonly on eyes to give them that extra sparkle. To understand the function of each, think of it this way: when you “dodge,” you’re dodging the shadows in order to brighten your highlights and when you “burn,” you’re burning in the shadows and making them darker.
When I use these tools for eyes, I decrease the opacity to about 30% and “dodge” the iris, then I “burn” the shadows in the ring around it as well as the eyelashes. Again, make sure you don’t go overboard and give your client ghostly bright eyes, but a little adjustment goes a long way in those close-up shots! You can also use these tools to add color and contrast to skies, or add interesting light to specific areas of your image.
As with all the Photoshop tools, the successful edit hinges on the user knowing what to use when, and how to use in moderation. If you are a beginner, I hope this helps give you some direction about where to begin and rid you of the deer-in-the-headlights look for good!
If you use filters in Photoshop CS6, Creative Cloud (CC) or CC2014 you may notice that some of your old favorites are missing. Some (sadly) are gone forever, and others are just less easy to find. So, here’s what you need to know about the filters that are gone, how to make those that are hidden more accessible and why that might be important.
First to Photoshop CC 2014. Gone from this version is the Oil Paint Filter. This was the sole remaining filter left when support for the Pixel Bender plug-in was removed from Photoshop CS6.
Also gone from this version is the Kuler Extension which you could get to by choosing Window > Extension > Kuler, and Mini Bridge too. In addition, any older Flash based extension panels are also no longer supported. That said there is a new html based Kuler extension with a different feature set that you can download from Adobe here.
Missing but not gone…
In Photoshop CS6, CC and CC2014 some filters groups are missing from the Filter menu. Those missing are the Artistic, Brush Strokes, Distort, Sketch, and Texture groups. The filters themselves are still available from the Filter Gallery but the actual menu options for those filters are no longer visible by default.
Luckily you can restore those filters to the Filter menu. To do this, go to your Preferences dialog on Mac by choosing Photoshop > Preferences (on PC select Edit > Preferences). Click the Plug-Ins group of preferences and locate and select the checkbox for” Show all Filter Gallery groups and names” and click Ok.
If the filter groups don’t appear on the Filter menu immediately, close and reopen Photoshop.
You may be wondering if there is any real reason to return these filters to the Filter menu when they are all still accessible via the Filter Gallery. The answer is that there is a difference in how the filter is referred to in the Layers palette depending on whether you select it from the menu, or the Filter Gallery.
In the image below I first selected the image layer and chose Filter > Convert for Smart Filters to make the layer a Smart Object. I then applied the Diffuse Glow filter to the photo by choosing Filter > Filter Gallery. I selected the Distort group of filters and applied the Diffuse Glow filter and clicked OK.
The Layers palette entry for this filter simply reads Filter Gallery, there is nothing to say what filter was applied to the image. Worse still if I were to apply multiple filters this way the entries in the Layers palette will each read Filter Gallery so I have no visible indication of what filters have been applied or in what order.
Contrast this to the image below where I applied the Palette Knife filter by choosing Filter > Artistic > Palette Knife > OK and the Layers palette shows the filter name. So, even though the settings for the filter are applied using the Filter Gallery dialog, the very fact that the filter was initially selected from the Filter menu results in the filter’s name appearing below the Smart Object layer in place of the less helpful “Filter Gallery”.
This is the case if you apply multiple filters from the Filter menu, and also if you select one filter from the menu and then change your mind and apply a different one when the Filter Gallery appears. The trigger seems to be that you start the process of applying a filter in the menus and not via the Filter Gallery.
If you use filters a lot then it’s best to have them appear on the Filters menu and to use them from that menu rather than the Filter Gallery.
An Oil Paint Filter option
If you’re bemoaning the demise of the Oil Paint Filter in Photoshop CC 2014 there are some options available. One option is to keep an older version of Photoshop on your computer so you can use that version when you need to use that filter.
If you are using Windows, there is a Windows only plug-in called GREYCstoration which you can find more details about here. This is an open source filter typically used for noise reduction that will double as an Oil Paint filter which installs inside Photoshop. Make sure you download the correct version for your version of Windows (there are x86 and x64 versions), unzip the file and copy the 8bf and bin files into your Plug-ins folder. Then you will find the filter in your Filters > Noise category. To date there is no Mac equivalent for this filter.
Some sites have also suggested you try the Pixel Bender Accelerator for Photoshop that allows you to run Pixel Bender files in Photoshop CS6 and later. This will be of use to you if you want access to Pixel Bender filters that are available as .pbk files. Unfortunately the Oil Paint Filter was never distributed as a .pbk file so it appears that, inspite of suggestions to the contrary, this application won’t be of use for getting access to the Oil Paint filter.
That said, this application is great for running Pixel Bender filters in later versions of Photoshop so, if that’s what you’re seeking to do it is worth a look.
If you’re looking to use some creative enhancements on your photos in Photoshop CS6 or CC then the new Color Lookup adjustment is one to consider. The Color Lookup adjustment is used to remap the colors in an image to a set of colors that comes pre-configured and stored inside a color table file. Color Tables are used primarily with film but they are also useful for applying creative coloring to photos.
You don’t need to know anything about color tables to use this feature, as is a default set of color tables in Photoshop that you can use. Better still, if you like the effects and you subscribe to the Creative Cloud you can grab more color tables from the Adobe Speed Grade application, store them in the Photoshop Preset\3DLUTs folder, and use them inside Photoshop.
To see the Color Lookup adjustment at work open a photo and choose Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Color Lookup. This opens the Color Lookup dialog where you will find three settings; 3DLUT File, Abstract and Device Link. Select one of the options from one of the dropdown lists to see it at work. When you do this, the colors in the photo will be remapped.
For example the Soft_Warming.Look in the 3DLUT collection warms up the image.
The Moonlight.3DL option gives the image the look of being shot on a moonlit night.
You can experiment to see which of the options you like.
Some of the options open up additional Data Order and Table Order settings which let you create different effects. The Device Link collection on a Mac includes some additional options which are not available on a PC.
Like any other Adjustment Layer the Color Lookup option has a mask you can use to mask out the effect on selected areas of the image. You do this by selecting the mask and then paint on the image with black or grey to remove the effect from that area of the image. Paint with white to bring it back.
You can also use a blend mode to blend the Color Lookup adjustment into the image layer below and reduce its opacity if desired.
Here is a video tutorial for the Color Table Adjustment Layer. It includes details of how to find and use the .Look files shipped with Speed Grade in Photoshop:
If you haven’t tried this technique before give it a go and show us what you come up with. For more Photoshop tutorials check these:
We hear it all the time, “That photo has been Photoshopped”. Sometimes it sounds like the photo has caught a disease or that Photoshop is some undesirable effect that has been added to the image. Photoshop is the KEY to making your good images look spectacular. Yes, I said “good” images. Photoshop is not about fixing mistakes or trying to rescue a bad shot. It is more about refining your images and making them look amazing without overdoing it. Photoshop is a fantastic tool when it is used effectively but can be your enemy when you overdo it. Depending on what you want to achieve with your photos, this quick guide to five Photoshop tools will help you adjust your exposure effectively and make the colour really pop out of your image.
NOTE: the examples in this article simply show you how to make the adjustments on a separate layer. You could also use an adjustment layer which gives you much more control over the adjustment. The only tool that can’t be used with an adjustment layer is Shadow and Highlights. I will go into more details about adjustment layers in upcoming articles, for now, if you follow these guidelines, your images will look compelling and rich without looking overdone.
1. Shadow and Highlights Tool
This tool will be used to get more detail in the shadow areas of your image. Modern cameras can capture lots of detail, but depending on the light in the scene you are shooting, the shadows may be a little dark. The Shadow and Highlights tool will bring back some of the details in those areas.
Open your image in Photoshop and go to: IMAGE > ADJUSTMENTS > SHADOW AND HIGHLIGHTS.
Finding the Shadow and Highlights tool
The tool will pop up and you will see this (as shown below), if you don’t see all these sliders, click “more options” to expand the box. You will use this tool to bring detail back into the shadows and you won’t be making any adjustments to the highlights. I find that the highlights part of this tool does not do a really good job, so I don’t use it at all.
Making adjustments to the Shadows in the image
The best way to work with the tool is to slide the Amount slider under the Shadows box to about one third across (33%). Then slide the Tonal Width slider to directly under the Amount slider. Lastly bring the radius slider to directly under it. In most cases, you will want to have these sliders directly under each other (see screenshot below right).
The important thing to remember here is to make the adjustments and take careful note of your image has been affected. Click on the preview button on the right hand side of the tool (you can do this with all the tools in this article) to see the “before and after”. You will be able to see at a glance how your changes are working. If you need to extract more detail from the shadows then slide the Amount slider to the right even more but make sure you line the other two sliders underneath it.
The amount that you decide to adjust the shadows is up to you. Be careful not to overdo it. Once you start seeing a “glow” around certain parts of your image, you may have gone too far. This glow is often referred to as a halo which can be avoided by watching carefully how your adjustments are affecting your image. If you see them appearing, simply drag the sliders back to the left until they disappear. Once you are happy, click OK.
2. Levels Tool
With your image open and the shadows adjusted, you will now adjust the overall exposure in the scene. If your image is a little over or under exposed, the levels tool can fix that. Go to: IMAGE > ADJUSTMENTS > LEVELS on the menu bar (or using the keyboard shortcut Command/Control+L). You will see the LEVELS dialogue box pop up and it will have a graph in it. This graph is called a histogram.
A histogram is simply a graphical representation of the pixels in the scene. If the graph is pushed over to the left side it means that your image has more darker tones in it, if the graph is over on the right side it means that your image has more brighter tones. There is no right or wrong histogram, it is simply a representation of the light in your scene. There are some great articles about histograms on the dPS site, so if you want to learn more about them, click on one of the links above.
Using the Levels tool to enhance the exposure and boost contrast
The important thing to remember when working with levels is to make sure you don’t adjust your image so much that it causes the image to become under or over exposed. Thankfully, Photoshop gave us a way to see if that is happening, which I will explain shortly. Firstly, you will notice there are three sliders on the bottom of the histogram. The slider on the right is white (adjusts highlights) the slider in the middle is grey (adjusts mid tones) and the slider on the left is black (adjusts shadows). The levels tools will help adjust contrast and colour in your image. You can start the process by clicking and dragging the white slider in (move it to the left) to touch the edge of the histogram. Do the same for the black slider (drag it to the right). Your image will already look better.
Using the ALT key to see where the highlights are being overexposed
Then you can move the middle slider to the right or the left to see which works better. Small changes always work best, so don’t make extreme changes on each slider. If you want to see how your adjustments are affecting your image, hold down the ALT key (PC) or OPTION key (Mac) while you click on the white or black slider. When you click ALT and hold down the white slider, the image will go black. As you slide to the left, you will see some red areas in your image (see above). When you see this, Photoshop is showing you which parts of the image will be overexposed, or clipped. The opposite is true for the the black slider. If you hold down ALT and click on the black slider, the screen will go white and as you slide to the right, the areas that come up on the screen will be underexposed, or clipped. It is a good idea to use this function if you are not sure if you have overdone your adjustments in Levels.
3. Colour Balance
This is a good tool to use to change the overall colour in the image. If your image is too blue and want you want it to be warmer, then you can do that by pulling up the red tones. Also, if your image has an undesirable colour cast, maybe the overall colour of the scene seems too green, then you can correct that by using this tool. The colour balance tool is found in the top menu bar under IMAGE > ADJUSTMENTS > COLOUR BALANCE (or using the keyboard shortcut Command/Control+B).
Once the dialogue box is open, you will see three sliders (as above). The sliders represent the visual colours in the image, and are set in the middle by default. By moving them to the left or the right you will be able to change the colour in the image. The top slider affects Cyan/Red, the middle slider works on Magenta/Green and the bottom slider is Yellow/Blue. The colour will change according to which slider you choose and how far left or right you move it.
Note: you can also choose which area of your image to affect as in the Shadows, Midtones or Highlights but selecting the appropriate button in the Tone Balance section below the sliders.
You will want make small adjustments here too. A big adjustment can make your image look over saturated with a particular colour and that will look unnatural. The idea is to enhance your image by boosting certain colours in the scene. So, if you have a sunset image (as below) you may want to boost the reds, yellows and magentas. That will make your image look warm and will give the scene some colour boost.
Using Colour Balance to boost the colours in the image
4. Hue and Saturation
One of the most powerful colour tools in Photoshop is the Hue and Saturation tool. To open it go to: IMAGE > ADJUSTMENTS > HUE/SATURATION (or using the keyboard shortcut Command/Control+U). This tool can be used very effectively to adjust all the colours in your image. When you open the tool, you will notice that there are three sliders again, namely Hue, Saturation and Lightness.
Hue means colour, this is not used very often as it will reassign the colours in your image, what you want to use this tool for is saturation. Saturation controls the richness or intensity of the colours in your image. Above the three sliders you will see a drop down box called Master. If you click on this, you can choose the colours that you want to saturate. This gives you very fine control over each colour in your image. You can select each colour individually and adjust it according to your preference. You may want to saturate the reds and yellows more than the blues, as an example, this tool allows you to do that. It is good to know that you are not adding colour to your image, you are saturating the colours that are there. Again, incremental adjustments are key. Don’t overdo it, small adjustments throughout this process will make your image look more natural and more dramatic
Getting the most out of the Hue and Saturation tool by saturating colours by channel
The vibrance tool is found under IMAGE > ADJUSTMENTS > VIBRANCE (no shortcut). It effectively saturates colours that are not completely saturated. This is a good finishing touch to your image editing to make sure your image gets a final boost. There is no real guideline as to how much you should adjust on this tool, but be aware of how it is affecting your image. Once this step is complete, your image should look remarkably different and if done correctly, the viewers won’t be saying those dreaded “Photoshopped” words.
The final step, boosting the vibrance to get that extra pop in the image
These five tools will help you make your good images spectacular. The important thing to remember in Photoshop is to make adjustments incrementally. As you can see from this process you slowly and incrementally make changes but the overall effect is dramatic without looking overdone. There are many other tools in Photoshop that can add even more enhancement to your images (I will be doing articles on those over the next few months) but start with these and get comfortable with how they work. To summarize, in Photoshop, slower is better and many small adjustments make a more dramatic impact on your image than a few large adjustments. Enjoy and experiment and as always, let me know what you think in the comments below.