How to Use Photoshop Blending Modes for Fine Art Portraiture

The post How to Use Photoshop Blending Modes for Fine Art Portraiture appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.


Layering images experimentally in photoshop can be an exciting way to bring a fine art feel to your photography. It is spontaneous and unpredictable, with different outcomes each time.

The layering technique I talk about in this article is a way you can explore and get inspired by the work of Victorian art photographers like Julia Margaret Cameron. They would have used long exposures because of the limitation of their cameras, which added a dream-like quality to their images.

Instead of long exposures, I have used multiple images shot of the same subject, layering them and using Photoshop blending modes. It gives a different kind of ethereal feeling to the images which you can use on any subject, not just portraits.

Start with a portrait

Your portrait doesn’t have to be sophisticated, but it should be able to be repeated over a dozen shots or so. I opted for simple natural window light, but there’s no reason why you couldn’t use flash instead.


The image I found worked best was one with strong colors and features with a simple background. I opted to take inspiration from Julia Margaret Cameron’s photography by using simple historical clothes, and an instantly recognizable prop.

You want to try to end up with a dozen or so slightly different images of your subject. Take far more images than you need so that you have lots of choices when it comes to selecting images for your layering effect.

Between each shot, ask your subject to move just a small amount – perhaps their head or their hands, but just a fraction. Try to avoid any dramatic pose changes.

Layering the images in Photoshop

When it comes to selecting images and editing them, there are many different software packages and options. I’m going to talk about how I use Lightroom Classic and Photoshop to achieve this effect. Even within these two software packages, there are other ways you can accomplish the same effect. As long as you end up with a photograph that you love, then you haven’t done anything wrong!

I start by importing my images into Lightroom Classic and then selecting the ten or so images that will make up the layers of my final image. At this point, I try to choose a ‘base’ image that will be at the bottom of the layer stack in Photoshop and will show through the strongest. Generally, this is my favorite image out of the set.

How to Use Photoshop Blending Modes for Fine Art Portraiture

When you’ve got your images selected in Lightroom Classic in the Develop module, open the ‘Photo’ menu and select ‘Open as Layers in Photoshop.’

This will save you having to manually stack all of the images together. You’ll end up with a single file open in Photoshop with all of your selected images placed on layers.

How to Use Photoshop Blending Modes for Fine Art Portraiture

The next stage is to place your ‘hero’ image (the one that you want to show through the most) at the bottom of the layer stack by dragging and dropping it. Then select all the layers above and reduce their opacity.

Playing with Photoshop Blending Modes

This is when it starts to get interesting. Playing with the different photoshop blending modes for the layers will give you all kinds of different results. Dark images will suit different blending modes to lighter images. You can check out a comprehensive guide to photoshop blending modes here!

You’ll want to turn down the opacity of the layers quite far so that the original ‘hero’ image shows though. The other layers should then become more of a fuzzy halo rather than a focal point for the shot.


Once you’ve found a blending mode and opacity that looks good, you can start to fine-tune the image.

Begin by identifying parts of the images that don’t really work, and work out which layer they’re on. Then create layer masks and use a black paintbrush to gently fade those unwanted parts away.

I decided to remove almost all of the layers from the face of my subject since it was a portrait, and I wanted to be able to see her clearly. I also took away some distracting echos of hands, which I felt made the final image stronger. Since you’re working using layer masks, you can always undo any of your choices at this stage – just simply paint over the bits you want to see again on the layer mask with a white paintbrush!

How to Use Photoshop Blending Modes for Fine Art Portraiture

As you can see from my layer masks, they don’t have to be neat. Just use a fairly large brush with soft edges and a low opacity and you won’t be able to see the brushstrokes of your mask in the final image.

Finishing your image

Once you’re happy with the basic image you’ve achieved through layering, I’d suggest saving a copy of your work. Then you can experiment further with different techniques.


Once I’d saved my image in Photoshop, I closed it and went back to Lightroom Classic to work on the shot further. Here, I simply changed the toning of the image slightly with a preset and applied some sharpening to key areas of the picture.

The result was a warmth that always makes me think of Old Masters paintings in galleries. Together with the effect of the layers, it creates a rather painterly fine art image.


But, of course, there’s absolutely no harm in processing the same image in a different way. This is one of the reasons I love Lightroom Classic – you can create virtual copies of a single shot and work on them all differently!


This variation I processed in Nik Analog Efex Pro 2, which you can use straight from the Lightroom Classic interface in the same way that you can take photos to Photoshop. The software itself is very similar to Lightroom Classic with its adjustment panels on each side but instead specializes in replicating old film effects.

It is a great way to create an image that pays homage to the great Victorian art photographers.

You could get a similar effect by layering wet plate textures and dust and scratch layers in Photoshop before adding a black and white conversion.

There are many ways to get all these different effects – please try some and post your results in the comments. I’d love to see what you did with this technique and how you achieved it!

The post How to Use Photoshop Blending Modes for Fine Art Portraiture appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

Your Comprehensive Guide to Photography Post-Processing Software

The post Your Comprehensive Guide to Photography Post-Processing Software appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Herb Paynter.

My recent article, 3 Alternative Post-Processing Applications that Challenge the Adobe Throne, presented just three of the many post-processing software packages available (both free and paid) that provide excellent post-processing capabilities. In this article, I’ll give you a much longer list of post-processing software. To be impartial, I’ll list the titles in alphabetical order.

Your Comprehensive Guide to Photography Post-Processing Software

DXO Photolab 2

A few of the titles added by readers in the Comments section of the “3 Alternatives” article impressed me with their power and innovative design. I’ve been editing digital images with every software package available since late 1986, and I thought I’d seen most of them. However, it seems that the list of capable editing software grows weekly.

As you will notice, I do not mention ALL the software available for download or online use. Those that made the cut will be actual production titles with a minimum set of well-designed editing functions.

To be honest, I’ve looked at a significant number of offerings that are little more than public domain routines. They are not fully implemented or even adequately defined. These were considered but not listed.

Listed below is a wide variety of packages on both mobile and laptop/desktop platforms; a true variety pack that covers the field from hobbyist to professional users. No matter what your preference, you’ll find something here to tickle your fancy and meet your demands.

Your Comprehensive Guide to Photography Post-Processing Software

ACDSee Photo Studio Professional

As was welcomed in my first article, additional post-processing software titles should be added to this list by readers who have discovered (and used) them.

It is important to recognize all such products in a desire for fairness and sharing information. Because this list includes many more titles, I will not mention individual features of these titles, only a brief mention of the product’s most notable features.

This is where you can really contribute…

I’ll rely on you to describe your favorite features and benefits of your favorite titles. Let’s make this a very collaborative group effort BUT with one important request: please be brief and succinct with your comments. Limit your comments to one or two of the features that make your favorite app stand out from all others. That way, we learn from each other without monopolizing the mutual pulpit.

Image: Skylum Luminar 3

Skylum Luminar 3

List of photography post-processing software

ACDSee Photo Studio

Publisher: ACDSee Systems International


Trial: Free/30 days

Price: $60 Mac/Win/Mobile

Afterlight 2

Publisher: Afterlight Collective

Android Website:

Apple Website: 

Trial: Free/30 days

Price: $60 Mac/Win/Mobile

Affinity Photo

Publisher: Serif


Trial: Free/30 days

Price: $50 Mac/Win/iPad

Capture One

Publisher: Phase One


Trial: Free/30 days

Price: $299 or $20/month Mac/Win



Price: Free

Exposure X4.5

Publisher: Alien Skin


Trial: Free/30 days

Price: $119 Mac/Win Computer


Publisher: Fotor

Android Website:

Apple Website:

Price: Free


Publisher: Gimp


Price: Free Mac/Win Computers

Google Photos

Publisher: Google


Price: Free online

Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic

Publisher: Adobe Systems


Trial: Free/30 days

Price: $10/mo Mac/Win

Your Comprehensive Guide to Photography Post-Processing Software

Adobe Lightroom Tablet/Computer/Mobile

Online Photo Editor

Publisher: PicMonkey


Trial: Free/7 days

Price: Starts at $7.99/month

Photo RAW

Publisher: ON1


Trial: Free/30 days

Price: $80

PhotoLab 2

Publisher: DxO


Trial: Free/30 days

Price: $129 Mac/Win Mobile/Computer

Paint Shop Pro X9

Publisher: Corel


Trial: Free/30 days

Price: $80 Mac/Win

Anthropics Portrait Pro 2 post-processing software

Anthropics Portrait Pro 2

Photoshop/Camera RAW

Publisher: Adobe Systems


Trial: Free/30 days

Price: $10/mo Mac/Win

Photoshop Elements

Publisher: Adobe Systems


Trial: Free/30 days

Price: $59.99 Mac/Win

Photoshop Express

Publisher: Adobe Systems

Android Website:

Apple Website:

Price: Free


Publisher: NCH Software


Trial: Free/30 days

Price: $40


Publisher: PicsArt

Android Website:

Apple Website:

Price: Free

Pixlr Editor

Publisher: Pixlr

Android Website:

Apple Website:

Price: Free online

Pixlr Mobile Android/IOS post-processing software

Pixlr Mobile Android/IOS

PortraitPro 18

Publisher: Anthropics


Trial: Free/30 days

Price: $45 Mac/Win

RAW Therapee

Publisher: Softpedia


Price: Free (but only offered on Windows)

Skylum Luminar 3

Publisher: Skylum


Trial: Free/30 days

Price: $70 Mac/Win Computer

Smart Photo Editor

Publisher: Anthropics


Trial: Free/30 days

Price: $30 Wind/Mac


Publisher: Google

Android Website:

Apple Website:

Price: Free

Sumo Paint

Publisher: Sumo


Trial: Free/30 days

Price: Free version, but Sumo Pro is $4/month

Topaz Studio 2

Publisher: Topaz Labs


Trial: Free/30 days

Price: $100 Mac/Win

Your Comprehensive Guide to Photography Post-Processing Software

Anthropics Smart Photo Editor


Some titles didn’t make this list’s cut simply because they are only marginally useful. Needless to say, in today’s market, there is an innumerable slew of entertainment-level phone/tablet-based image “editing” apps also available. There are way too many even to mention, let alone keep current information on.

Many of these apps are made for the amusement of the younger social media crowd who appreciate more unicorns and stickers than serious editing power. Not to sound judgmental, there is an app for everything and everyone, but this listing is “focused” on actual photo editing capabilities more than the social media aspect.



The post Your Comprehensive Guide to Photography Post-Processing Software appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Herb Paynter.

5 Basic Post-Processing Tips to Instantly Improve Your Photos

The post 5 Basic Post-Processing Tips to Instantly Improve Your Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Nisha Ramroop.

Are you a beginner looking to improve your post-processing skills?

That’s what this article is all about. In it, you’ll discover five post-processing tips that will immediately take your photos to the next level. Best of all, these tips aren’t even difficult to follow, and they require nothing more than the most basic image-editing program.

Let’s dive right in.

post-processing tips boats on water edited

1. Straighten your horizon for professional-looking photos

When the horizon isn’t straight, even the untrained eye picks up that something is off. They might not know exactly what’s wrong, but they’ll be aware that the scene seems out of order.

Which is why you absolutely must make sure your horizon is straight.

Fortunately, it’s very easy to correct the horizon; you can do it in any post-processing program.

Here are the instructions for straightening the horizon in Photoshop:

Step 1: Select the Crop tool

Step 2: Click the Straighten option at the top

Step 3: Click one side of your horizon and drag across the horizon line before you release

Your horizon will instantly straighten!

straightening boats in photoshop

2. Adjust the white balance for natural-looking images

White balance is a setting used to balance the color of the light you shoot, in order to get it close to a neutral white.

You see, when the color of your subject is distorted by the existing lighting conditions, you need to use the white balance setting to save the day.

Now, one way to set the white balance correctly is to get it right in-camera. However, some photographers prefer to shoot in RAW with an auto white balance setting, and then adjust the white balance afterward.

If that’s your preference, then you’ll need to choose your white balance in a post-processing program. It’s generally easy to select a white balance option that adjusts for the lighting of your shot. You’re also free to experiment with different white balance options so you can choose the one that most reflects your creative vision.

For instance, the scene below has a Fluorescent white balance applied to it using Adobe Camera Raw.

adobe camera raw white balance

And here’s the same scene but with a Shade white balance applied:

white balance adobe camera raw post-processing

3. Boost your contrast to create images that pop

Do your images look a little flat?

One of the simplest ways to make your photos pop is to adjust the contrast. A contrast adjustment further separates the darkest and brightest areas of your image. In other words, it makes the dark tones darker and the light tones lighter.

beach scene

Increased contrast, therefore, makes tones stand out and gives your photos a more three-dimensional feel. Compare the image above to the image below; I added contrast to the second image, which gives it a subtle pop.

beach scene with increased contrast

Pretty much every image editor has a contrast slider. And boosting the contrast is often as simple as pushing the slider to the right.

So just remember:

If you’re struggling to make your photos more lively, try increasing the contrast. It’s a simple post-processing tip, but one that really works!

4. Boost the saturation or vibrance sliders for better colors

The saturation and vibrance adjustment sliders usually sit next to each other and can be confusing. Both of these add an extra color punch to your image, but they do so in different ways.

You see, saturation adjusts the intensity of all the colors in your image at once. If you push the saturation slider, you’re going to see color saturation increase across the board. Therefore, it’s an adjustment you want to use sparingly.

Vibrance, by comparison, is a “smarter” saturation tool, one that adjusts only the duller colors in your image. Increasing the vibrance will boost the less-saturated colors, but won’t affect colors that are already saturated.

Look at these two photos:

lighthouse with increased colors

I boosted the saturation of the photo on the left, and I boosted the vibrance of the photo on the right.

Note that when you lower the saturation of your colors, your image takes on a more muted effect, like this:

reduced saturation lighthouse

In general, boosting the vibrance or the saturation will instantly improve your images.

5. Sharpen your photos for the best display on the web

Your images are most likely going to be displayed on the internet.

However, when you export your photos from most image-editing programs, you’re going to end up with blurry photos. Unless you sharpen for the web, that is.

There are a few ways to sharpen in Photoshop. Here is one you can try:

Step 1: Resize your image to the size you want it displayed. (If you sharpen your high resolution/original image and then resize it, the image will appear to lose its sharpness. Sharpening an image at your display resolution works better.)

resizing images post-processing tips

Step 2: Duplicate your layer.

Step 3: Desaturate your new layer (from Menu, Image > Adjustments > Desaturate).

sharpening your images

Step 4: Change your blend mode to Overlay. (Alternatively, you can use the Soft Light blend mode for a more subtle effect.)

Step 5: Now apply a High-Pass filter (from Menu, Filter > Other > High Pass) and choose a radius around 2.0 for an image of 730 pixels (on the long side). The Overlay option you chose above allows you to see how the radius affects the image so you can play around with it.

Note: The bigger your image, the larger your radius will be.

If the sharpness doesn’t look good on the entire image, you can use a layer mask and paint black over the areas where you want to hide the effect.

Step 6: Save for the web (from Menu, File > Save for Web). Check the Convert to sRGB box if unchecked.


If you’ve just begun your photography journey or if you’re looking to improve your basic editing skills, then these post-processing tips are a great place to start.

In fact, basic editing is often all you need to dramatically improve your photos.

So follow these tips, and watch as your images improve!

The post 5 Basic Post-Processing Tips to Instantly Improve Your Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Nisha Ramroop.

The Easiest Way to Achieve Rich Skin Tones in Photoshop!

The post The Easiest Way to Achieve Rich Skin Tones in Photoshop! appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

In this video by PiXimperfect, you’ll learn the easiest way to achieve rich and beautiful skin tones in Photoshop.

In this tutorial, advanced Photoshop masking tools are used to target only the skin tones in the image. After selecting the skin tones, adjustment layers are used to add color to it.

The easiest way to achieve rich skin tones in Photoshop:

  1. Open your image in Photoshop.
  2. To begin your selection of the skin, go to Menu->Select->Color Range.
  3. To select the skin correctly, be sure to select “Sample Colors” (not “Skin Tones” because this feature doesn’t capture the skin tones with accuracy).
  4. Firstly, decrease the Fuzziness value to around 15, and then select the first Eyedropper tool. Using the eyedropper tool, click on one part of the skin in your image. To see what your selection is, ensure that you mark Selection in the Color Range window.
  5. Now select the second Eyedropper with the + symbol to extend the selection of the skin range. To do this, click and drag your Eyedropper tool across all skin tones until you have selected them all. Make sure no area is left out.
  6. You don’t want to keep the selection harsh, so go to the Fuzziness Slider and change it to around 55, and then click OK.
  7. Now that you have a selection of your skin tones, or colors similar to your skin tones, click on the Adjustment Layer icon in the Layers Palette. Choose “Solid Color.” This opens up the color palette window. In the RGB section, put in the following numbers – R: 255, G: 46, B: 1, and click OK.
  8. Change the Blend Mode in your Layers Palette from “Normal” to “Linear Light.” Rather than lower the Layer opacity, you are going to lower the “Fill” to around 5-10%.
  9. Take a look at your image and see if any areas have turned out too harsh with the blend. If so, choose your mask, then select the Paintbrush tool and paint those areas (with your brush color set to White) to soften the transition. You can decrease your brush flow if you want to.

That’s it!

Do you have any other tips you’d like to share with us? Do so in the comments section!

You may also find the following helpful:

Basic Skin Smoothing in Photoshop

Understanding Masking in Photoshop

How to Blend in Adjustments Using Layer Masking in Photoshop

How to Use the Clone Stamp Tool in Photoshop to Make Clear Skin

How to Correct Skin Blemishes Using the Patch Tool in Photoshop

How to Replace Colors in Your Images Using Photoshop

How to Enhance Colors Using Photoshop’s Color Range Tool


The post The Easiest Way to Achieve Rich Skin Tones in Photoshop! appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

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.

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