How to Edit Fireworks Photos Creatively

The post How to Edit Fireworks Photos Creatively appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

I hope you had a chance to read my previous article, “Eight Tips for Better Fireworks Photos” before going out to make your fireworks images and found that helpful.  If so, you should have some good shots to work with here.  If not, these techniques will still work for you if you have some other good fireworks photos.  Either way, let’s see if I can teach you how to do the basic editing on your fireworks images. Then, how to creatively composite your shots and take the “wow factor” up another notch.

How to Edit Fireworks Photos

You shot in Raw, yes?

I realize that beginning photographers may be making their images with their camera set to save only the .jpg file, perhaps not having the editing tools or having learned to edit a Raw file.  While that’s not a deal-breaker, you will find doing so causes the camera to do much of the editing itself, using the camera’s built-in .jpg algorithm to “cook” the final image for you.  Perhaps while you are still a novice image editor, (cook), editing raw files can seem intimidating, and you may feel the camera is a better cook than you are.

The trouble is, with something like your fireworks photos, you will want as much latitude for creative editing as possible as well as much file information as the camera originally captured.  Letting the camera create a .jpg image lets it make the creative decisions and also throws away information you might have needed.

You will still be able to use the steps outlined here to edit a .jpg file.  Just understand things might not work as well.  One final plug for shooting Raw files before moving on – Almost all pros do, and that’s the level of work you want to create, right?  ‘Nuff said.

2 - How to Edit Fireworks Photos

This effect is what I call the “boom-zoom-bloom.” You’ll have to read Part One of this series if you missed how to create it.

Editing tools

The workflow described here assumes you will be using the editing programs I use for working with my images; Adobe Lightroom Classic and Photoshop.  Other editing programs may work equally well such as Photoshop Elements or another favorite of mine, Corel Paintshop Pro.  Use what you have and know; just understand the steps here are using the Adobe programs.  I will also sometimes use plug-in filters such as those in the Nik suite, Topaz Labs or Aurora.

Basic editing of a fireworks photo with Lightroom

This is my workflow with an image in Lightroom.  Much of the work simply involves moving each adjustment slider up and down to see what you like.  Playing is encouraged.

  • White Balance – You shot in Raw, right? Good, because if so, you can take the white balance wherever you like. Play with the Temperature and Tint sliders and get the colors you like.  Because fireworks have no “correct” color your viewer expects, you can pretty much adjust white balance however you like.  Although, if you’ve included foreground objects, you may want to use those as a reference in determining what is realistic.
  • Basic Controls – Play with the Exposure, Contrast, and other sliders to bring the image to your liking. If your highlights are a little bright, (but still not blown out), you can bring them back with the Highlights slider. You might also want to bring down the Blacks if the sky needs darkening
  • Adjust colors with the HSL/Color sliders. You can play with the Hue, Saturation, and Luminance sliders to tweak colors to your liking. Don’t forget to try the Targeted Adjustment Tool to pick and adjust specific colors in your image.
  • 3 - How to Edit Fireworks Photos
  • Dehaze – The Dehaze tool could be your friend and help reduce smoke in the shot if it became a problem.
  • Clarity and Texture  – These controls can give your fireworks images extra sharpness and pop.  Also, try sliding these controls toward the left for different looks.
  • Vibrance and Saturation – With standard photography, these two are typically used conservatively, particularly Saturation which is a bit of a sledgehammer. With firework images, however, often you are going for “pow,” so go ahead and play… it’s your shot.  Oversaturation will blow out details.  Watch each histogram RGB channel.  A histogram off the right edge means you’ve oversaturated that color.
  • Detail – Some sharpening can be good. The two best tools in this group for fireworks images are the Masking Tool and Noise Reduction/Luminance. Sharpen your image as desired.  Then, hold down the Alt key, (Option on Mac), and drag the Masking slider to the right.  What appears white will be sharpened, what is black will not.  The idea to allow the fireworks to be sharpened, but not the dark sky. As for Noise Reduction, if you shot at a low ISO you probably won’t need much. Use as little as needed here.
  • Consider saving settings as a Preset.  If you’ve used the sliders to get your image just right, you might want to apply the same settings to some of your other fireworks photos.  Saving the settings as a preset will allow you to apply the same look with a single click.

Other tools

I mentioned using plugins as options in your editing.  The sky really is the limit here.  Here are a few I have and sometimes find useful with fireworks photos:

Nik – Color Efex Pro, Viveza

Topaz Labs – Adjust, Denoise, (probably others too, I just I don’t have them).

Aurora HDR – You can work with a single image here not needing multiple shots as with traditional HDR work and can get some interesting looks.

Compositing for drama

Sometimes the best fireworks photo is a composite of several photos.  You can layer multiple images and create your own grand finale.  You can also put fireworks over places where they weren’t, but to your thinking should have been.

Confession time.

The image of the Boise (Idaho) Depot I used in the previous article, (and repeated above), is a composite.

They do have fireworks shows over this iconic landmark in our city; I’ve just never been there for a show.  I did, however, have nice nighttime images of the depot and also fireworks photos from another time and place.  With compositing, I created the image I wished I could have captured live but wasn’t there for.  What can I say, creative license, right?

So, you have a great fireworks photo.  You have a great night shot of a landmark or scene where you’d have liked to have captured a fireworks show.  Here’s how you make those come together.

Time for layers

If you only edit with Lightroom, this will be the end of the road for you.  Lightroom doesn’t do layers and they are a must for this technique.  Photoshop does layers, as does Photoshop Elements, Corel Paintshop Pro, and probably a few other editing programs.  Layers capabilities are a must for compositing. So, your editing tool of choice must have them.

Compositing images is a pretty advanced technique in some cases. However, because the background of your fireworks photo is likely to be black or very dark, things become much easier.  Learning compositing using fireworks images can be a great way to begin learning about layers, masks, and compositing in general.

Step-by-step compositing

  1. Open your fireworks image in Photoshop (or your editing program of choice).  You can open Photoshop first and then open the image or send it from Lightroom – (Photo/Edit In/Edit in Adobe Photoshop)

    How to send an image from Lightroom to Photoshop for editing. You can also send multiple images as layers in Photoshop, useful when doing the “Grand Finale” composites described later in this article.

  2. Open your other location photo, also in Photoshop.  You will have the fireworks photo and the scene photo each on separate tabs at this point. Just a note when selecting the scene photo: Select one that has a logical view, angle, and lighting that it will seem consistent with having fireworks in the shot.  Obviously, a daytime image or an image without much sky is just going to look weird.
  3. Go to the image of the fireworks.  Crop it to include just the fireworks section you want if you didn’t do this in Lightroom first.  Then Select All (Ctrl-A, Cmd-A on a Mac), Copy (Ctrl/Cmd-C)
  4. Go to the other tab with the Scene and hit Ctrl/Cmd-V for Paste.  The firework image will be placed as a layer on top of the scene image.
  5. With the fireworks layer selected, select the Screen blending mode.  The dark parts of the sky will become transparent and the fireworks will be superimposed over the underlying Scene image.

    Use the Screen blending mode and the black in the fireworks photo will become transparent showing the underlying image.

  6. You will need to place and size the fireworks where you want them over the Scene shot.  Use Free Transform for that.  With the fireworks layer still the one selected, Ctrl/Cmd-T.  Then hold down Shift and drag from a corner handle to resize while maintaining the aspect ratio of the fireworks image.  Click, hold and drag in the middle of the shot to move the overlying fireworks where you like.  Don’t worry about some of the fireworks perhaps appearing in front of things.  You’ll handle that in the next step.

    The fireworks moved and sized to put them where desired. Note: leaving a little overlap will add depth and make the composite look more realistic. You’ll clean-up in the next step.

  7. To touch up areas where the fireworks might overlap an area they should be behind, (note the fireworks overlapping the tower in my shot and the roof at the bottom), you will create a Layer Mask. Click the icon that looks like a rectangle with the dark circle in the center  A mask will be added to your fireworks layer.
  8.  With Black selected as your foreground color and the mask selected, use the brush tool to paint out areas where the fireworks overlap the foreground.  You want the fireworks to look like they are behind any foreground objects.
  9.  You may find areas in the fireworks layer weren’t black enough that the Screen blending mode eliminated them.  This might work for you –  With the fireworks layer selected, (not the mask, the layer itself), open the Camera Raw Filter (Ctrl-Shift-A).  Just the fireworks layer will appear in Camera Raw.  Take the Blacks slider down (left) to see if you can darken the problem areas.  Also, try the Shadows and Exposure sliders, but pay attention to how the fireworks are affected.  When you click OK, you will be returned to the Photoshop main window.  See if the problem is gone.  If not, use the brush on the mask as you did in step 8 to clean up any remaining areas.
How to Edit Fireworks Photos

This grand finale was captured in one 6-second shot and is not a composite.

The Grand Finale

The most exciting part of a fireworks show is when they shoot off a flurry of fireworks in rapid-fire fashion.  It can also be one of the harder parts of the show to photograph.  Sometimes the intensity of so many fireworks bursting in the air can result in a blown-out, overexposed mess with the settings used for most of the show not right now.

What to do?  How about creating your own finale with the compositing technique we just explored but this time, layering several fireworks images to build-up your finale shot.

How to Edit Fireworks Photos

When things really got crazy during the grand finale, the same 6-seconds was too much and the image was blown out. Look at the histogram. There’s no recovering highlights when they are pushed off the right side of the histogram. Way too overexposed!

Use the same steps as with the composite image we just covered. Stack up several layers of fireworks shots each on its own Photoshop layer.  Then turn on the Screen blending mode on all layers but the bottom one.  Use the technique as before, blending and masking as necessary.

Here’s what that might look like.

Position and clean each layer with a mask as before where necessary.  Voila!  Your own grand finale.

How to Edit Fireworks Photos

Fun even when the smoke clears

For most spectators, the fun of a fireworks show is over when the last boom is heard, and the smoke clears. As a photographer with editing skills, however, you can continue to create all kinds of exciting images with the fireworks shots you captured.  Using the editing and compositing techniques here will not only help you produce some great fireworks images but grow your editing skills in general.

Now, go have a “blast.”

Feel free to share your fireworks images with us in the comments below.


How to Edit your Fireworks Photos Creatively


The post How to Edit Fireworks Photos Creatively appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

830 Healing Superpowers

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.

Photo by Peter Hershey



Photo tours with Chris Marquardt:
» May 2017: Svalbard — Arctic (sold out)
» Oct 2017: Bhutan — The Happiness Kingdom (only 1 spot open)
» May 2018: New York Tilt-Shift
» Aug 2018: Ireland — Giant's Causeway
» Sep 2018: Norway — Lofoten Fantastic Fjords
» Oct 2018: Morocco
» all photo tours

The post 830 Healing Superpowers appeared first on PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS FROM THE TOP FLOOR.

tfttf681 – Photoshopped To Death

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

The post tfttf681 – Photoshopped To Death appeared first on Photography Tips from the Top Floor.

Successfully Copy Photos from Your Memory Card to your Computer

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

import-photos-using-Windows-1When 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.

import-photos-using-bridge-3Once 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.

import-photos-using-bridge-4You 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.

The post Successfully Copy Photos from Your Memory Card to your Computer by Helen Bradley appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Using Levels in Photoshop to Image Correct Color and Contrast

Notice the difference some quick adjustments in the Levels tool can make

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 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

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:

  1. Open your image in Photoshop.
  2. 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 upwards

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.

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

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

Compare the images side by side, there is a subtle but real difference

The post Using Levels in Photoshop to Image Correct Color and Contrast by Barry J Brady appeared first on Digital Photography School.

How to Correct Skin Blemishes Using the Patch Tool in Photoshop

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.


The post How to Correct Skin Blemishes Using the Patch Tool in Photoshop by Lori Peterson appeared first on Digital Photography School.

How to Photograph Fairground Rides

Learn how to photograph the fairground at night

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.

Here’s what you’ll need:

When is the best time to shoot?

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.

How to Photograph Fairground Rides

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.

Photographing Amusement Parks

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!

Night time photography tutorial

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!

Wide Angle lens used for Night Photography


Noise reduction

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.

Noise Reduction Settings

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.

Using Grad Filters in Adobe Camera Raw

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).

Combine Layers in Photoshop

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.

The post How to Photograph Fairground Rides by Gavin Hardcastle appeared first on Digital Photography School.

3 Essential Photoshop Tools for New Portrait Photographers

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.

1. Curves

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.

Before after clone

3. Dodge and Burn

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.

Befor eafter dodge burn

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!

The post 3 Essential Photoshop Tools for New Portrait Photographers by Leah O'Connell appeared first on Digital Photography School.

The Mysterious Disappearing Filters in Photoshop

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.


The post The Mysterious Disappearing Filters in Photoshop by Helen Bradley appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Creatively Recolor Photos with Color Tables in Photoshop


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:

The post Creatively Recolor Photos with Color Tables in Photoshop by Helen Bradley appeared first on Digital Photography School.

1 2 3 4