The Basics of Simulating Vintage Film in Lightroom

The post The Basics of Simulating Vintage Film in Lightroom appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

Like all forms of art, photography can be a complex and contradictory medium. It’s straightforward yet complicated; personal but at the same time wholly based in exhibitionism. In recent years perhaps the weirdest and paradoxical event to happen in the world of photography is the idea of simulating film photographs with our digital photography. Think about it for a second or two. We’ve moved (for the majority) from using physical photographic film to digital sensors, and still, we are searching for the feel and aesthetic quality of the very process we left behind.

F:\DPS Images\Simulating Vintage Film\simulating-vintage-analog-film-in-lightroom-adam-welch-dps-8.png

A digital photo split toned for yellow in the shadows and blue in the highlights. Faded and then finally grain added to approximately simulate ISO 800 film.

We’ll leave the discussion of the currently popular “analog renaissance” for another day. For now, let’s talk about how you can go about simulating the look of a photographic film. More specifically, creating vintage or expired film looks using Adobe Lightroom. Adobe has made a couple of big updates to Lightroom lately that make working towards that “vintage film look” more effective and easier than ever before! Simulating the look of any film consists of four core dimensions: color, contrast, and grain. Before we get into the “how” of simulating film in Lightroom, let’s first briefly talk about some of the confusion surrounding film photography in general.

Film photography is full of variables

There’s a misconception that the look of film is set in stone; meaning that “XXX type of film always looks like this and XXXX type of film always looks like this.” Nothing could be further from the truth! There are all kinds of factors which play a roll (film humor) in how the final negative or print appears to the viewer.


A Nikon F3 35mm film camera. Shot with a digital camera…made to look like a vintage film. Ironic.

The age of the film, how it was stored, type and temperature of chemicals used in development, the duration of development, even how we agitate the chemicals around the film all play a major part in how the finished film appears. Also, when it comes to the final print, there are even more variables that can affect the look of the picture. The reason I’m saying all of this is to make sure you understand that simulating the look of vintage films has just as much to do with your creativity as it does with understanding the basics of how film works. There is no explicit right or wrong! So relax and let’s get to work learning how to simulate the look of vintage film in Lightroom.


Color is the most effective part of the simulation process and there are many routes we can take to manipulate the colors of our vintage film simulations. The “vintage look” comes about literally by the progression of time. As the light-sensitive emulsion of the film degrades, it produces all sorts of funky color tones and nuances. To simulate this effect of color aging, we will use the tried and true Split Toning Panel and also one of the biggest and newest features to come along for Lightroom: Creative Profiles.

Split Toning

Don’t worry, split toning can look a little intimidating but it’s really not! Split toning is just a way for us to add in specific color tones to the shadows and highlights within our photo.


To change the color tone of the highlights move the highlights color slider to the color tone you like or select it from the color palette.


You can also change the saturation of the highlight colors by using the saturation slider. The same goes for the color toning of the shadows as well.

The balance slider is just a way for us to control the bias of the split toning to favor either the highlights or the shadows. Moving the balance slider towards the left makes the shadow toning more prominent while sliding it to the right makes the highlight color stand out. There are limitless combinations of colors and saturation balances so feel free to experiment. Just remember that using complementary colors for the shadows and highlights (blue and orange, yellow and violet) are always a good choice when it comes to split toning. Also, color changes in an expired film are usually quite subtle so keep that in mind as well as your tone.

Creative Profiles

One of the coolest and most versatile new features to come along for Lightroom recently is the introduction of “Creative Profiles.” Profiles have long been a part of Lightroom, but now we have the option to apply our own custom profiles that we’ve either bought or made ourselves. To learn more about the full power of Adobe’s Creative Profiles check out another one of my articles here. For our purposes, Creative Profiles allow us to introduce color grading to our vintage film simulations.


The great things about creative profiles are that they apply themselves without disrupting any of your development settings. What’s more, you can dial in the strength of the profile using the density slider. Being able to use controllable color grading with creative profiles not only opens up a whole new world when it comes to simulating vintage film but in all areas of your post-processing workflow.


Unlike color, simulating the contrast of vintage film in Lightroom is more or less a straightforward idea. Generally, as the emulsion of a photographic film ages its contrast usually decreases. This is due to the breakdown of the light sensitivity of the film.

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A 4×5 large format negative

The amount of contrast lost depends on a number of things such as the age of the film, the way it was stored, and the actual type of the film itself. The take away from this is that a good guideline for vintage film simulations is to essentially “fade” the image by decreasing its contrast. You can achieve this in a few ways. The most simple being to use the contrast slider to lessen the contrast. However, there’s a more precise and arguably more appealing way to fade the photo; by using the tone curve.


To decrease the contrast and ultimately simulate the fading of an image all we need to do is take the control point at the bottom left of the tone curve and move it directly upwards. This controls the luminance values of the darks in the photo and makes those areas appear lighter which in turn makes them less contrasted. In most cases, you’ll want to add at least one more control point to the right of the one you’re adjusting and pull the rest of the tone curve back down. Of course, this is completely subjective. Feel free to add other control points and play around with the tone curve to really control the way your fades appear within your photo. Remember, there is no correct amount of fading so experiment as much as you like!



The final facet of our vintage film simulation routine is to add in and control simulated grain to our photos. Not to be confused with digital noise, film grain is a direct result of the visibility of the individual silver crystals present in the films light-sensitive emulsion. The more/larger the crystals which present in the emulsion, the more sensitive the film to light and the higher it’s ISO rating. While the overall appearance of grain depends on a vast array of variables, a general rule is that the higher the ISO of the film the more pronounced the film grain becomes. So if you are attempting to make your simulations appear as a highly light-sensitive film such as ISO 1200 or ISO 3200, the more grain needs to be added to your simulations. If you are shooting for a lower ISO film for your vintage film simulation, say an ISO 80 or ISO 100 speed, you add less grain or even none at all. Here’s an image from a medium speed expired 35mm film, Kodak Tri-X 400. It was developed at a higher temperature and agitated quite a bit to bring out more of the grain.


To control the presence of the grain we add in Lightroom we are presented with three sliders: amount, roughness and size.


When you think about each of these sliders, it’s easy to visualize how they affect your image if you imagine them as physically controlling characteristics of the light-sensitive silver crystals of the film’s emulsion. The Amount slider would add in more or less crystals. Roughness is how raised or bumpy those crystals appear. Lastly, the Size slider controls how large or small those crystals seem. I know…that might still be a little confusing. So I’ve made up a quick guide for adding in your grain and given a couple of common real-world 35mm film stocks as reference points:

  • ISO 50-100(Kodak Ektar 100, Ilford FP4 Plus, Fujichrome Velvia 50)
    Amount: 15
    Size: 10
    Roughness: 10
  • ISO 200-400(Kodak Tri-X 400, Ilford HP5 Plus)
    Amount: 30
    Size: 10
    Roughness: 10
  • ISO 800-1600(Fujifilm Superia X-Tra 800, Fujifilm Superia 1600, Kodak Portra 800)
    Amount: 45
    Size: 40
    Roughness: 15
  • ISO 3200 and above(Kodak T-Max P3200, Ilford Delta 3200)
    Amount: 60
    Size: 40
    Roughness: 45

Lightroom automatically sets the “size” and “roughness” sliders to 25 and 50 respectively. If you add ANY amount of grain to your photo remember that those defaults are set out of the gate. Also, something to keep in mind, the amount of grain added largely depends on the original digital ISO of your photo. The values listed above are merely baseline approximations.

Vintage film simulations: Why?

Even as we steep in the digital waters of today’s modern photography world, I still have a love and lust for shooting film. Film, especially expired and vintage film, carries an aesthetic that goes beyond digitized image files of “1’s” and “0’s”. Speaking just for myself, the majority of my professional work consists of digital photography – not film. To that end, I’m sure that some of you are still thinking, “If you want the look of film, just shoot film.” Yes, I understand that even at its most basic applications, film photography isn’t for everyone. That’s why being able to approximate the looks of so many different types of film in Lightroom is such a wonderfully paradoxical thing. We can still enjoy the accessibility and convenience of digital photography without wholly sacrificing the “feel” of film. What’s more is that thanks to the recent advances of color profiles in Lightroom, we can now blend and mix our settings until we reach that perfect imperfectness which captures the organic unpredictability of vintage film. Which, when you think about it, should grant each of us the realization of how extremely fortunate we are to be living in such a cool time to be photographers.

Test out the ideas in this article and try some vintage film simulations of your own. Be sure to post your results in the comments. We’d love to see them!


You may also find these articles on vintage techniques helpful:

How to Add a Toy Camera Effect to Your Digital Images Using Photoshop

How to Mimic a Digital Cyanotype Using Photoshop with Ease

How to Create a Lithography Effect Using Photoshop

How To Mimic a Cross-Processing Effect in Photoshop

How to Mimic Lomography in Photoshop with Ease

The post The Basics of Simulating Vintage Film in Lightroom appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

Capture One Pro 12 Review – Whats New and Should You Upgrade?

The post Capture One Pro 12 Review – Whats New and Should You Upgrade? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Carl Spring.

Screenshot of Capture One

Capture One have recently released version 12 of their image editing software. Capture One have made a name for their high quality imaging software that offers professional users the best control of their images. But does version 12 deliver this? And, more importantly, is it worth upgrading to from version 11?

What’s new?

Capture one say “Capture One 12 delivers better, faster, and more creative control. New features includes advanced masking functionality, an even more efficient and intuitive user experience, plug-in compatibility, and much more”

In any software, a speed increase is always welcome. In use, Capture One 12 is slightly quicker on my machine, which is nice. Is it enough on it’s own to make me upgrade? Probably not. However, there are lots of other features that make it much more appealing. These include an updated interface, new masking options, intelligent adjustments copying and much more. Let’s look at each of the updated features in more detail.

New updated interface

The menu system in Capture One Pro 12 is more customizable than before. The new icons have been upgraded, which does make it look fresh. I like the new design, but this is nothing to get excited about. There is a redesigned keyboard shortcuts panel though, which is useful for those who like to create their own. I’m not someone who delves deep into creating my own shortcuts, but I do appreciate the new design. If you are so inclined, you have the option to create more than 500 customizable commands.

C1 Interface

The updated interface. Yes, it is a little nicer, but not a massive difference. V12 is on the left.

New masking options

New masking options are something to get excited about. The Luminosity masking allows you to create a mask based on the Luma Range of the file. This makes it really simple to create a mask to bring back only the darkest of shadows or add clarity to the lightest part of the image. It is a straightforward system that works well in practice.

Linear gradient masks have also been transformed to give more precise control, which many of us will really find useful. The addition of Radial Gradient Masks is another handy option for those who like to create custom vignettes on their images.

Screenshot of luminosity mask in Capture One

Luminosity masks are a great time saver and probably my favourite new feature in Capture One 12

Intelligent adjustments copying

I love this update. I use Capture One for about 80% of my editing. This includes minor skin retouching and cropping, etc. It used to be that when I copied the adjustments and pasted across to a batch of images, I then had to go in and undo the crop and remove the retouching on each image. Now, the copy-paste tool ignores options such as crop and spot healing by default, but if you want to add them, it is simple to do so. A great timesaver and a feature I love.

Screenshot of intelligent copy

A small thing, but a massive timesaver. Copy/paste adjustments without adding the crop is huge for my workflow. What about yours?


Plugins are the one feature that I love from Lightroom. Finally, Capture One is allowing plug-ins to work with their system. With this being new the range is limited, but obviously, this will increase over time. A great time saver, I can’t wait to see the potential of this increase going forward.

Plugin Screenshot for Capture One

At launch the plugins are limited, but this will grow and become a great time saver for many users.

Fuji Film simulations

I don’t currently shoot Fuji (I do lust over their Medium Format Cameras) but for those that do, Capture One have now developed (alongside FujiFilm) the different Film simulations available in their cameras. This means you can add the FujiFilm preset onto your images and use this as a starting point in your editing. Now if only I can get DPS to fund the rental of a a Medium Format Fuji, I can do an in depth test for you all (editor’s note: I wouldn’t mind one myself). Please comment below to help me out. In all seriousness though, this is awesome for all you Fuji Owners.

Mac OSX Mojave support

As a Mac user, this is my biggest pet peeve with Capture One. With the release of version 12, support for version 11 has now ended. This means that if you want to use Capture One with OsX Mojave, you need to upgrade to version 12. Obviously if you pay monthly this isn’t a big problem, but if you own the software outright, the upgrade price of £150 (US$195) feels a little steep just to use the latest version of an OS.

Whilst I understand it from a business point of view, it does feel like, as a Mac user, you are forced to upgrade every year. I love that you can purchase Capture One outright, but it does feel like they are slowly creeping towards the subscription model like everybody else. 

Should I upgrade?

The million dollar question. I have upgraded. The plugin support for JPEG mini and intelligent copy paste features will save me enough time to easily justify it. The added benefits of better masking is also great for the way I work. However, it is not that simple for a lot of people. If you are PC based, you may want to skip this version unless, like me, there are features that will help your workflow. However, if you use a Mac, this is more of a do you want to upgrade to Mojave. If the answer is yes, then you really do need to upgrade. There are many reports of version 11 working fine in Mojave, but as a professional, I cannot risk it. Capture One have also ceased their discount codes, which again seems to be a little harsh. You used to be able to easily find a 10% voucher, but since the end of 2018, Capture One seem to have cut them. Obviously I am not privy to why, but I am sure they have their reasons. 

Should I move from Lightroom?

If you are thinking of moving from Lightroom, I would say give it a go. Capture One have a generous 30 day trial of the software, which is time to get to grips with it and see what it can do. Give it a try, you have nothing to lose.

Do you use Capture One? If so, share your thoughts below.

The post Capture One Pro 12 Review – Whats New and Should You Upgrade? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Carl Spring.

How To Make Amazing Photomontages. Part 2: Compiling Photomontage Photos

The post How To Make Amazing Photomontages. Part 2: Compiling Photomontage Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

In Part One of this three-part series on How to Make Amazing Photomontages, you learned how to approach and take your photos for your montage. Here in Part Two, you’ll learn about compiling photomontage photos. To compile your Photomontage images using the following steps, you require Photoshop or other imaging software that has the ability to create layers.

Lanna Chic 1 How To Make Amazing Photomontages

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Part 2: Compiling your photos

1. Get organized

Managing your photos well can save you getting in a mess further along in this process.

Import all your images into one folder. Go through and pick out your strongest images – ones that stand out to you.

Naturally, you’ll have lots of photos that won’t be worth looking at on their own, but among them should be some key images. Put these into a separate folder and label it ‘Group 1’ or something useful to you.

Next, you need to choose the bulk of the photos you want to use. Think about the images you want to go around the edges. Which ones are for the main body of your photomontage? These are likely the first photos you took. Place these into another folder and label it ‘Group 2’ or something useful to you.

Drop the remaining images into a third folder and label it.

Ceramic Artist How To Make Amazing Photomontages

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

2. Save as and resize all your images

Save all your photos as jpeg files with a resolution of 300ppi. At this resolution, they are a little large but will be the same size when you get them printed later.

What dimensions do you want your finished photomontage to be? Think about how many photos you made along the horizontal axis. Calculate how wide each one should be, so they fit within the finished size you want your montage.

If you want a montage one meter wide (3.3 feet) and have taken seven photos across the horizontal, make each photo 14 centimeters wide (5.5 inches.) This gives you a starting point. As you start laying the photos out, this can change entirely so you may have to resize the images again later.

Run a batch command to resize them all. Save them to new folders because it is helpful if you need to resize the originals again later.

Chedi Luang How To Make Amazing Photomontages

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

3. Prepare a clear canvas

In Photoshop or your preferred software, make a new canvas. Make the ppi resolution 300 to match your image files. Make the size a little larger than you want your finished Photomontage to be.

4. Import your photos

Photoshop allows you to import a series of images to a single working file, so they retain their original file names. To do this, go to the top menu and choose File->Scripts->Load Files To Stack. These open into a new canvas. Select them all and drag and drop them onto your montage canvas.

Do this with the three folders of resized images you’ve made. Arrange them in the layers panel so they are in three groups to make your workflow easier.

Lanna Chic 2 How To Make Amazing Photomontages

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

5. Lay out your photos

Right now you probably have all the layers stacked so you can only see the top photo. Turn off the visibility of the Group 1 and Group 3 folders.

Select all the layers in the Group 2 folder and drag all the photos to one corner of your canvas.

Now select only the top layer and drag and drop it roughly in the position you want it. Do the same with each layer. Don’t worry at all about positioning anything precisely at this stage. Everything from here is likely to be shuffled around a number of times.

Once you’ve added all the photos in Group 2 and have them laid out, repeat this process with images in Group 1. Then from Group 3, but only if you really need them.

Drag photos up and down in the layers panel hierarchy to place them above or below other photos on the canvas.

As you add more photos, you should start noticing the relationship between the images. Keep nudging and tweaking all the layers until you are satisfied they’re all in the best position.

When I am working with large numbers of layers, I color code them to help me keep track of them. You might like to make the layers with the images on the left, middle and right of your montage all separate colors.

Colored Layers How To Make Amazing Photomontages

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

6. Turn unused layers off

You may now have many layers visible with lots of overlapping. Begin to turn layers off for images you may not want to include in your finished montage. Don’t delete them at this stage, just turn their visibility off.

Now you’ll see fewer photos on your canvas, and it’ll be easier to arrange the images you have visible.

At this stage, you may be seeing some gaps in your montage. This is where the images in Group 3 may be useful if you haven’t added them already. You can always duplicate similar layers and drag the copied layer to fill the space. If this does not work, you may need to go back and take some more photos.

Once you are happy with the way your montage looks, go ahead and delete all the layers you have turned off.

Harleys How To Make Amazing Photomontages

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

7. Go back and take more photos (optional)

Having big gaps in your photomontage may look okay. Alternatively, you may have completely covered the whole area and edges, and have ample images. If not, you’ll need to have another session and make some more images.

Use the same camera and lens, at the same focal length. Make your new photos at about the same time of day and ensure you have similar lighting. If the light’s not right, you’ll have a hard time making the new set of photos match.

A few additional layout tips

There’s no right or wrong way of laying out your Photomontages, but you’ll be more pleased with some layouts than others.

If you get stuck and can’t get the photos arranged so they look good, start again. Duplicate the whole file. Keep the original one and re-work the new file. Move the images around differently and change their positions in the layers hierarchy. Experiment until you are content.

Aim to build cohesion in your composition. Too much fragmentation can make your montage difficult for people to view. Follow strong lines in your montage to help keep the flow. In my montage of the taxi trucks in Chiang Mai, following the lines of the vehicles was vital.

Songtao How To Make Amazing Photomontages

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Don’t worry about ragged edges. I don’t often make montages that fit a regular shape. However the edges of your montage are formed, make sure they enhance the overall image.

Tweaking individual photos may sometimes improve the overall look of your montage. When you have the images laid out, take a step back and consider your composition. Are there individual images which are too dark or too bright? Do some contain colors that don’t fit well? How would the whole montage look in black and white?

Be prepared to go with the flow of new ideas you’ll have during the process. As I said, there’s no right or wrong way to make these. It’s up to your creative process. Starting with some idea of how you want it to look is important. However, you don’t need to stick to it strictly when you feel fresh ideas emerging.


Take your time. The process of compiling a montage until you are satisfied can take a long time.

Tuktuk How To Make Amazing Photomontages

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Often I have been on the verge of giving up because I just can’t get a montage looking right. I had started my Tuk Tuk montage then it sat on my hard drive for months without being touched. Finally, I got back to it with some fresh inspiration, and it came together well.

Experiment with the placement of your photos on the canvas. Look at how each one relates to the images around it. Zoom out and sit back often to keep an eye on how the overall montage is taking shape.

Let’s see what you are working on and your thought process in the comments below.

In the next article in this series, I outline how to compile a print version of your Photomontage.

The post How To Make Amazing Photomontages. Part 2: Compiling Photomontage Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

How to Light, Shoot, and Edit for High-Key Photography

The post How to Light, Shoot, and Edit for High-Key Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

High-key lighting originated in the early film and television days. Early cameras and film with limited dynamic range, forced lighting techniques to reduce contrast intentionally. Today, with its use of bright light and an emphasis on whites which give an almost ethereal feel to a photo, the high-key look has become the desired style for some photographers. Let’s explore when you might want to choose the high-key photography style and how you can achieve it both when shooting and in editing.

Emulating the look of early television was the goal for this photo and a high-key monochrome was a great way to do it.

As with all art, individual interpretation plays a big part in what photographers consider a “high-key” image and how the technique should be used.

A few things that typify a high-key photo:

  • Bright lighting that greatly reduces and sometimes eliminates shadows
  • A dynamic range that is predominately toward the right side of a histogram.
  • Images where the “mood” is typically upbeat, light-hearted, ethereal, “airy” or beautiful.
  • Typical uses are in high-fashion, product, or studio-produced images. Lesser so, but not totally non-existent, are high-key outdoor and landscape photographs.
  • Lighting where the ratio between the key and fill light is very close, thus the root of the term “high-key.”
  • Distracting elements in the background get eliminated, and typically high-key images contain only the main subject. High-key images are often Minimalist. Many times, the background is entirely white.
  • Monochrome high-key is more prevalent, and when there is color used, it is typically subdued or used as an accent.

Images of babies and children often benefit from the bright, happy feel of high key.

Two basic approaches to creating high-key images:

1) Light, expose and shoot the photo with high-key in mind from the beginning, or
2) Rework a photograph in editing so that it takes on the attributes of the high-key style.

Often the final image, even if initially shot with high-key in mind, may still require some post-processing to achieve the best result. So let’s first look at how to light and create a high-key image.

Creating the high-key look in the studio

I use the term “studio” here to reference the use of artificial lights in an indoor environment where you can control lighting. This may be but is not restricted to a traditional studio. For smaller still-life subjects, the kitchen counter works just fine. How you light the subject is what creates the high-key look.

The background

The first objective is to light the background in such a way that it is entirely white with no detail. The choice of background material is up to you. If you are shooting a model full-length in a studio, you might traditionally use something like a large piece of seamless paper. A plain white wall can work too. In fact, you can use most light-colored backgrounds if you can put enough light on it to bring the levels up to a “255” totally white level. The lighting diagram below shows how you can set up for a high-key shot in the studio.

Two lights to light the background and two softboxes or other modified lights to light the subject is how high key portrait lighting might be traditionally used in a studio

Once you have your lights set up, make a shot and adjust your exposure so that the background goes as close to all white as you can make it. Sometimes, depending on the lighting equipment you have available, you may not be able to get even lighting across the background. Getting it right in-camera is, of course, optimal; however, you can clean things up in post-processing.

Professionals who make many high-key shots during a studio session may take the time, and have the equipment, to light the background evenly, thus avoiding extensive editing of each shot later. If you are a beginner though, lack of more expensive lighting equipment should not prevent you from giving high-key lighting a try.

Lighting the subject

Lighting the subject is done in the same kind of standard style you might use when doing portrait photography with a key and fill light. You’ll see from the diagram above the key and fill lights have been placed on opposing sides of the subject. For traditional portrait or studio still-life shots, the fill light is typically slightly dimmer than the key light. This allows some shadows to create modeling and depth to the image. (The difference in intensity between lights is called the “lighting ratio.”) In the high-key lighting style, the key and fill lights are usually closer in intensity with the objective being to lessen shadows and give a “flatter” look, minimizing contrast.

In the first diagram above, the background is front-lit with light shining on the background. An alternative is to back-light the background, placing whatever lighting device you’re using, (studio strobe, continuous light, flash or whatever) behind a translucent background so the light shines through and illuminates it. As before, you should light this to be even, and bring its brightness as close to full white as you can get. Take a look at the diagram below to see this alternative lighting method.

Another often used variation of this style is to use a large softbox behind the subject and pointed at the camera.

Here is an alternative that uses just one light. The light source is placed behind the subject and diffused through something translucent. I used a white shower curtain here. Reflectors are used for key and fill.


This lighting style brings in another option of how you light your subject. Because the light used to illuminate the background is pointed at the camera, it might be possible to substitute reflectors for the key and fill lights, bouncing that backlight back onto the subject. This technique can work well for smaller subjects where the distances between the background, subject, and reflectors can be smaller and less light is required.

It may be possible to create the entire effect using just one light source. The photo below was done using this technique.


Using window light

Understanding the concepts above can help you create high-key images using window light and a reflector or fill-flash. Portrait and wedding photographers often take advantage of this style of creating high-key shots with a minimum of lighting equipment. The same principals apply – overexpose the background and light the subject with fill lighting.

An easy way to make a high-key shot at a wedding is to put your subject in window light, overexpose the light coming in the window and fill the subject with your Speedlight.

This was done using the same technique with the backlit shower curtain, but a Speedlight was used to fill the subject.

High-key in landscape photography

High-key images are relatively easy in an environment where you have full control of the lighting. Being able to make high-key shots outdoors with only the available light is more of a challenge. You have to work with the light that is available, have an eye for subjects that lend themselves to the high-key look, and then use your camera settings to get the best in-camera shot you can. Also know that almost always, you need to do some extra work in editing to achieve a good high-key look with your landscape images.

This bitter cold day in Yellowstone National Park had a high-key look already, and minimal editing was needed. High-key needn’t always be monochrome.

The look that typifies high-key photography

Consider the look that typifies high-key photography and what subjects and conditions in landscapes might lend themselves to that look:

  • Bright, white backgrounds – Snow and bright sand often work well, as do flat cloudy skies
  • Low contrast lighting – Cloudy, foggy, flat-light days are a good time to consider making high-key shots
  • Back-lit subjects where you can overexpose the background and fill in the subject with fill-flash or reflected light
  • Consider spot or center-weighted metering of the subject, allowing good exposure of the subject but a blown-out background.
  • Using the Live-view feature of your DSLR or mirrorless cameras can be your friend as you can see your exposure and lighting effect before you make the shot.

Snowscapes Can take you most of the way to a high key image right out of the camera.

Editing high-key images

While it’s always a goal to get images that are perfect Straight-Out-Of-Camera (SOOC), editing can be used to fine tune an image. Even when you shoot in the high-key style, additional editing can be used to clean up problem areas, lighten up and even out the background, and enhance the look and feel you are striving for. Take a look at the image below.

Straight out of the camera, this shot needed to be white balanced and there were portions not evenly lit.


Turning on the Highlight Clipping feature in Lightroom allowed painting in more brightness with the Adjustment Brush and Auto Mask turned on. It was an easy way to get a completely white background when the lighting wasn’t even enough

Sometimes you might have an image that you did not consider making a high-key photo when you shot it. However, while editing, you may decide the mood you are seeking would is best suited to a high-key look. Such was the case with the “Angels Dance” image below.

The music and mood of the dance when I captured the shot of these ballet dancers was free, light, and airy. It created a mental image of angels dancing for me. So later, I used the tools in Lightroom to get the look I was after. Following the method used may give you insight into how you can create high-key images in post-processing.

This shot was going to need some work to give it the high-key mood desired.

Post-production technique

The Raw color image out of the camera was underexposed, and the stage lighting had introduced some unusual color. This did not start out looking like a high-key candidate, but here are the steps taken in Lightroom to produce the final result:

  • There were two dancers in the shot with good form, but two others who needed to be cropped out.
  • I used a basic editing workflow – Exposure brought up to +1.00, Highlights brought down to -100, Shadows opened up to +100, the Whites brought up to +44, the Blacks brought down to -56.
  • To deal with the color problem, and also be more compatible with the high-key look, I converted the image to Black & White. Next, I opened the Black & White Mix dropdown and used the Targeted Adjustment Tool. Here, I sampled different spots in the image and brought up the luminance of those colors. Further manual tweaking of the sliders helped bring up the brightness of each color.
  • Then I readjusted the Exposure to +1.46, the Contrast to +38, brought the White down slightly to +38, the Clarity to -7 and Dehaze down to -9.
  • To make the background full white, and also lose some distracting elements, I used the Adjustment Brush tool. The Exposure was turned all the way up to +4, checked the Automask checkbox, and carefully used the brush to “white out” the background.
  • To further give the “heavenly effect” I used a brush with -50 Dehaze to brush in some light “clouds.”

This high key version much better captures the mood of the dance.


The numbers and precise steps used for this image are a guide rather than an exact “recipe.” They are intended to show you the general idea for creating the high-key photography look with Lightroom and the tweaks and tools to get there. The main point is, even if you have an image that does not immediately look like a candidate for the high-key look, some knowledge of what constitutes that look, and how to use your editing tools to get you there, can create some magic.

It’s okay to have some darker tones in your high key photos.

Good photographs communicate to the viewer, tell a story, convey an emotion, or take the viewer to a time and place. Using the technique of high key is one more way to use your images to speak to your viewer. Learn the techniques both to shoot and edit a high-key shot, and you can not only grow your lighting, camera, and editing skills but add a new means of communicating with your images to your bag of photo tricks.

Please try this technique out and share with us in the comments below.

The post How to Light, Shoot, and Edit for High-Key Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

Understanding and Unlocking the Power of the Lightoom Vignette Tool

The post Understanding and Unlocking the Power of the Lightoom Vignette Tool appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Ringsmuth.

The Lightroom vignette tool is like adding a bit of spice to your favorite meal. Without a bit (but not too much) garlic, basil, thyme, or other even salt, your food might taste bland. Add too much, and it can ruin the whole thing. In a way, the vignette effect does the same job. It adds a bit of spice, flavor, and panache, to give your photos that little extra push over the cliff. It turns them from mediocre to magnificent. If you want to unlock its full potential, it’s important to understand what it does and see how, when applied to different pictures, it can dramatically affect the final output.

You and the Lightroom Vignette effect: A match made in heaven.

About Vignettes

Vignette effects are nothing new to photography. The word itself has French origins. It refers to the wavy lines that would appear like vines (or in French, Vignes) drawn around page edges marking the beginning or end of a book chapter. Over time the word was adopted by artists and photographers to refer to the gradual fade or darkening of an image near its edges.

While vignettes can be distracting if implemented poorly, they can result in a pleasing artistic effect when applied like spices when cooking. The outcome is akin to laying a reverse darkened oval across an image so that the corners and edges of the picture are a little darker. This method also serves to draw the viewer’s attention to the center. You’re basically trying to achieve the Goldilocks balance where it’s not too much and not too little, but just right.

Understanding the Vignette Options

The first step in using Vignette is simply locating it. You’ll find it in the Effects panel on the right-hand side of the Lightroom Develop module. You’re presented with an option to choose a particular style along with five sliders that help you fine-tune the vignette to taste. All of this happens after your image cropping has been applied, so if you use a vignette and then re-crop your image the vignette changes to suit your new crop.

There are three options for the Style of vignette:

  • Highlight Priority – Ensures that the bright areas of the image blend more smoothly with the darker areas. The downside here is it can make areas of the image with a lot of colors appear a little strange.
  • Color Priority – The opposite of Highlight Priority, this style makes sure that color is preserved across the vignette. However, it can make the bright areas have some jarring shifts.
  • Paint Overlay – This is a blunt instrument. It just darkens the image where the vignette is applied, with no attention paid to highlights or colors.

If you’re not sure which of these to use, I recommend sticking with Highlight Priority. Both that and Color Priority produce similar results which are not unlike the Burn option in Photoshop (which itself mimics the process of selectively over-exposing parts of an image when developing film in a darkroom). These two also let you use the Highlights slider at the bottom which helps you recover some of the brighter portions of the image that are darkened with a vignette, whereas Paint Overlay disables the Highlights slider entirely.

Additional options:

In addition to the style of vignette, you have additional options that allow you to precisely control how the effect is implemented.

  • Amount – How much vignette is applied. Moving this to the left adds a dark vignette while sliding it to the right adds a white vignette.
  • Midpoint – The degree to which the vignette reaches the middle of the image. All the way to the left results in much more of the vignette reaching the center, whereas all the way to the right keeps the vignette at the most extreme edges and corners. If you’re not sure what to do, just leave this in the middle.
  • Roundness – All the way to the left makes the vignette into more of a rectangle. Leave it in the middle for an oval-shaped vignette. Slide it all the way to the right to make your vignette a circle.
  • Feather – How smoothly the dark areas blend with the light areas. All the way to the left results in a harsh edge and all the way to the right gives you a nice smooth blend.

If you don’t want to over-complicate things you can leave all these sliders at their default values and you’ll be fine. However, they are fun to experiment with over time to get just the right look you are going for.

Visual explanations

This tool is easy to explore on your own but looking at how it affects a black and white grid may give you a better understanding of what is happening. I used the Paint Overlay instead of Highlight or Color Priority because in a simple black-and-white grid Paint Overlay gives the clearest visual representation of how the vignette is applied. The left side of each is the original un-edited grid while the right side is the same image with a vignette applied. The settings used for each one are described in the caption.

Amount -50, Midpoint +50, Roundness 0, Feather +50

Notice how the vignette gradually fades from dark to light, with the center portion of the image on the right being the exact same brightness as the grid on the left with no vignette applied.

Amount -50, Midpoint 0, Roundness 0, Feather +50

With the midpoint set all the way to 0, the unaffected portion of the vignette is concentrated in the middle with the edges and corners being uniformly dark. This highlights the center portion alone but there is very little fade-out between that and the vignette.

Amount -50, Midpoint 0, Roundness 0, Feather +100

The midpoint here remains the same but there is now a more gradual fade-out to the darkened portions thanks to an increase in feathering.

Amount -50, Midpoint 0, Roundness 0, Feather 0

Reducing the feathering to 0 makes the vignette clearly visible with virtually no gradation in how it is applied. I would never use this on an actual photo, but it is useful to understand how the vignette function operates.

Amount -40, Midpoint +25, Roundness +100, Feather +30

Setting the roundness to +100 gives you a vignette that is a perfect circle instead of a more oval shape. It’s important to remember that vignettes are applied after cropping, so if you start with a square image then you will have a circular vignette even with the roundness value set to its default value of +50.

Hopefully, these graphics give you a better understanding of how the vignette effect works. However, to really see it in action, it helps to look at what happens when it’s applied to actual photographs instead of just a blank grid.

Vignette examples

Almost any photo-editing app will let you apply a vignette, but with the extensive tools available in Lightroom you can customize your vignette to do precisely what you want and shape your viewers’ perception of an image in a very specific way. If you control parameters like midpoint and feathering, in addition to the amount, you can create vignettes that impart certain overtones and even emotions and transform your humble images in to works of art.

No vignette applied.

The above image looks fine on its own, and the viewer’s attention is meant to be drawn to the droplet of water right in the middle, but there are other portions of the image competing for attention. Adding a vignette completely changes the mood of the scene and makes the viewer feel like they are in a much more intimate setting. Notice how, with the darkened corners, your eye gets immediately drawn to the center and not to the edges at all.

Highlight Priority. Amount -30, Midpoint +50, Roundness +20, Feather +40

Vignettes can be used to eliminate distractions in the edges of the frame as well, and in doing so draw the viewer’s attention to the subject in the center. In this image below, there is a fence on the top-right and a black climbing rope on the top-left. They don’t really add much substance to the image and instead can take your attention away from the rabbit in the middle.

One way to solve this is by adding a vignette. Through some tweaking of the parameters, the end result is an image that still contains the fence and the rope but makes them far less prominent while focusing your attention squarely on the bunny.

Highlight Priority. Amount -42, Midpoint +50, Roundness 0, Feather +70

I do a lot of family pictures for clients in my city, and one of the final touches I’ll add to most of my pictures is a simple vignette. It’s often very subtle, usually only -10 or -15, but depending on the Style (Highlight or Color Priority), I might need to add more and then tweak it with the sliders. Below is an image with no vignette applied. While it’s fine on its own, the subjects are competing with the bright edges and corners for your attention.

A Color Priority vignette helps maintain the integrity of the colors while darkening them a little, and then I brought back some of the highlights particularly in the top-right corner by adjusting the Highlights slider to 10.

Color Priority. Amount -53, Midpoint +55, Roundness 0, Feather +45, Highlights +10.

Positive values

One thing I didn’t mention in this article is positive Amount values, which make the edges of the frame brighter instead of darker. In my years as a photographer, I can’t think of a single instance in which I have used this option, and I don’t know anyone else who uses it on a regular basis either (editor’s note: it may be used it in high-key photography). You may find instances in which you want to make the outer portions of your image brighter instead of darker and, if so, then positive Amount values would do the trick. Just know that it’s easy to overdo it and the results can sometimes come across as a little cheesy and forced.


These examples and explanations are designed to give you a better understanding of what the vignette effect does and how it impacts an image. I encourage you to try it out for yourself. Use the different sliders and style options and notice how they affect the vignette which, in turn, can have a profound impact on your image as a whole. Just remember the cooking analogy: you don’t want too much vignette, nor do you want too little. Strive to get it just right, and your pictures could take on a whole new life.

Feel free to share your thoughts and comments below.

The post Understanding and Unlocking the Power of the Lightoom Vignette Tool appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Ringsmuth.

8 Lightroom Controls for Aurora Editing

The post 8 Lightroom Controls for Aurora Editing appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ian Johnson.

One of the most amazing phenomena of the night sky is the Aurora Borealis (or, “the Northern Lights”). For as long as humans have existed the dancing, brilliant curtains of light have dazzled the viewers below. For some, the opportunity to see the Aurora is a bucket list item, and the opportunity to view and photograph the Northern Lights draws thousands of people to polar regions every year.

Aurora, Editing, Lightroom, Aurora Borealis, Northern Lights

In the images above, I minimally edited the Aurora and was sure not to over-enhance it. Understanding how the Lightroom slider controls impact your Aurora shots can help you achieve natural and beautiful edits of the Aurora Borealis.

Advancement of digital cameras and photo editing software has created an incredible opportunity to edit your shots after a night out under the stars and Lights. The advent of post-processing technology has, in my opinion, resulted in many Aurora photographs which are over-processed to bring out rich saturation and contrast that did not exist in the original scene. Because many of the middle tones (colors) of the Aurora are so pure and contrast so highly with the sky, it is easy to eject the equivalence of pixel-steroids into your image giving them a false look.

It is my goal when editing Aurora shots to enhance but not over-enhance. Understanding how each of the basic Lightroom editing tools impacts an Aurora image can help you tell the story of your night out by making your image look like they did when you saw them.

Lightroom basic sliders

To illustrate how the Lightroom basic sliders (contrast, clarity, dehaze, tint, saturation, vibrance, shadows, highlights) affect an Aurora image it is easiest to look at how extreme values for each setting impact the image. For each slider type, I will walk you through how the slider impacts any image (i.e., the definition of the slider). I will apply it at extremes to the same Aurora image to show a before (no edits) and after (extreme applied) comparison.

1. Contrast

Contrast is a very useful slider and a fundamental one for editing. By definition, the contrast tool darkens the darkest mid-tones in the image and lightens the lightest mid-tones. In an Aurora image, many of your mid-tones are going to be in the Aurora itself. So, you can see as you slide the contrast to 100% that the colors in the Aurora darken giving the image a more saturated look.

Aurora, Editing, Lightroom, Aurora Borealis, Northern Lights

Extending the contrast to +100 increased the saturation in the Aurora and the foreground shadows became much deeper. Boosting contrast and adding saturation or vibrancy can have a compounding effect and lead to an image that appears over-processed.

2. Clarity

The clarity slide adds contrast in the mid-tones without adding much noise. The tool is often used to bring out texture and details. Again, Aurora colors fall into the mid-tones of your image, so a clarity boost impacts them strongly. Boosting clarity to +100 creates definition in the banding of this Aurora shot because there are vertical dark lines of the sky in the Aurora. You may like the clarity slider for Aurora shots because it doesn’t add as much contrast as the contrast slider does and can make stars in the image pop and seem crisper.

Aurora, Editing, Lightroom, Aurora Borealis, Northern Lights

Adding +100 clarity increases the banding in the Aurora and you can see the stars stand out more. It did not add any saturation or other artifacts to the image.

3. Dehazing

Similar to clarity, the Dehaze slider increases midrange contrast and shadows giving the images a slightly dark and more saturated look. However, the Dehaze slider was built to remove fog from a scene. When you apply its technology to an Aurora shot, it adds a lot of contrast and saturation to the image. This is a slider to use gently (if at all) for Aurora image editing.

Aurora, Editing, Lightroom, Aurora Borealis, Northern Lights

In comparison to Clarity, the Dehaze slider adds a lot of contrast and saturation to the Aurora image if it is boosted to +100. The Dehaze slider can be useful but use it sparingly (if at all) for editing your Aurora images.

4. Saturation

The saturation slider globally (for the whole image) deepens, intensifies, and brightens the color. In an Aurora image, you will find it is very, very easy to overdo the Saturation of an image. So, use Saturation sparingly. When slid to +100, it turns the Aurora to an almost neon appearance. At -100, it strips all color from the image. There are times when bringing the saturation out of your Aurora image by -5 or -10 can help improve the appearance of the image and make it easier for the eye to comprehend.

Aurora, Editing, Lightroom, Aurora Borealis, Northern Lights

Bringing all of the saturation out of an image renders it to black and white

Aurora, Editing, Lightroom, Aurora Borealis, Northern Lights

Over-saturating your Aurora image gives it a fake, neon look

5. Vibrance

Vibrance is the “less aggressive” form of saturation. It’s a smart tool that increases saturation and tones in more muted colors. In Aurora shots, the Vibrancy slider focuses on the Aurora and provides a more realistic enhancement of the colors. You can see in the examples below there is still danger in over-using it. A vibrancy value of +100 creates neon colors similar to overusing saturation. However, at -100 you can see there is a distinct difference from -100 Saturation. The -100 Vibrance does not remove all color from the Aurora.  You may find it a powerful technique to decrease your saturation slightly before increasing vibrance.

Aurora, Editing, Lightroom, Aurora Borealis, Northern Lights

You may find Vibrance to be the most useful for natural Aurora image editing. However, boosting it too much will still result in a highly over-processed image

Aurora, Editing, Lightroom, Aurora Borealis, Northern Lights

In contrast to Saturation, you can remove all of the vibrancy and still have some color left in the image

6. Shadows

The Shadow slider increases luminosity in the darkest parts of the image. With a picture of the Aurora, you have a distinct advantage in that the Lightroom program interprets almost any part of the image that is not Aurora to be a shadow. So, you have the power to lift or darken your foreground very easily. You can see in the +100 shadow example below, details were brought out of the shadows in the silhouettes of the trees.

Aurora, Editing, Lightroom, Aurora Borealis, Northern Lights

There is a very clear definition in an Aurora image between the highlights and the shadows. Increasing the Shadows will raise the luminosity of any part of the image not covered in Aurora

7. Highlights

The Highlights slider increases luminosity of the brightest parts of the image. As I describe above, Lightroom interprets any part of the image with the Aurora to be a highlight. That means an increase in the highlights to +100 effectively increases the exposure of the Aurora. If you over-expose an Aurora image in the field, decreasing the highlights can help you reclaim lost detail.

Aurora, Editing, Lightroom, Aurora Borealis, Northern Lights

There is a very clear delineation between shadows and highlights in an Aurora image. Increasing the highlights to +100 only impacts the brightness of the Aurora. In this image, it gives the Aurora an overexposed feeling

8. Tint

The Tint slider is a meant to be used for color correction in correspondence with the temperature slider. You can use the tint slider to neutralize the snow which tends to turn green during intense Aurora outbursts. Use a Graduated Filter, coupled with increased pink tints and decreased saturation, to return your snow closer to white. Often, this helps your eye focus on the Aurora and can restore balance to the shot.

Aurora, Editing, Lightroom, Aurora Borealis, Northern Lights

Using tint to do color control on an Aurora image is a bit more advanced, but you will find that you can control the color of the snow by combining the Tint and Saturation slider controls

Putting it all together for a final edit

Now that you know how each slider impacts your overall image, its time to combine each in moderation to achieve a final edit. In the edit below I wanted to make sure the banding in the Aurora was enhanced along with the purples of the “sun-kissed” Aurora. My final edit brings out features of the image without over-enhancing it.

Aurora, Editing, Lightroom, Aurora Borealis, Northern Lights

Using the controls described in this article, I edited the Aurora image to give it a natural look and enhance the features I liked most about it such as the purple colors and banding

I want you to experiment with editing aurora images. Please feel free to download and edit this high resolution image of the Northern Lights. If you can, share your edit so I can see! Like I always say, “Pixels are cheap” so I hope you make lots of pixels making Aurora images and have fun editing them!

The post 8 Lightroom Controls for Aurora Editing appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ian Johnson.

How to Achieve Color Accuracy in your Photos

The post How to Achieve Color Accuracy in your Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Karthika Gupta.

Next to light, color accuracy is another important element in photography. Color temperature is annoying enough to deal with in terms of camera settings and editing. You spend all this time and effort on editing your photos and making sure they match your photography style. But sometimes the final product can be off if viewed on an uncalibrated screen. While having an accurately calibrated screen is ideal, there are still some things you can do to ensure that the colors are as close to the real deal as possible.

1. Photographing in raw

Karthika Gupta Photography - Memorable Jaunts DPS Article Color Accuracy in Images

Completely overexposed sunset in the Grand Cayman. I love the little sailboat in the distance and tried to correct the image in post.

Karthika Gupta Photography - Memorable Jaunts DPS Article Color Accuracy in Images

The sun is still overexposed and not perfect, but because I photograph in Raw 100% of the time, I could put down the exposure, highlights, contrast and my other normal editing steps. I was able to get some of the details back.

This really is key and I am a huge proponent of photographing in RAW 100% of the time. The colors can be adjusted easily on raw files in editing software like Lightroom, Photoshop, and others. But with jpegs, they’re already baked in. It is not impossible just harder to achieve the exact match.

In Raw files, all the original image data is preserved. In fact, when RAW files are opened in post-production software like Lightroom, a virtual copy is made and used. Edits are made in a non-destructive format so the original RAW file is always available for changes at a later stage. This is very useful when you want to edit images in different ways at different times in your photographic career.

Since a JPEG image is essentially a RAW image compressed in-camera, the camera’s computer makes decisions on what data to retain and which to toss out when compressing the file. JPEG files tend to have a smaller dynamic range of information that is stored and this often means less ability to preserve both highlights and shadow details in the image.

2. Use Kelvin WB mode on your camera

If photographing RAW is not something you can do, or don’t have space for on your flash drives (RAW files tend to be really huge), try photographing using Kelvin White Balance mode instead of Auto White Balance. Not all cameras may have this function, so check your camera manual to figure out the exact menu option and also how to adjust the value. Kelvin lets you adjust the white balance in camera rather than in post. In general, in your camera manual are the ranges of Kelvin values for the various lighting setups. You will have to tweak the values depending on your style and how you want the final image to look.

3. Use a good display screen/monitor

Cheaper screens have smaller color ranges, so the better your screen, the more colors that can be displayed. This is where you’ll be looking at the photos, so you don’t want your image to be limited in that way. At the very minimum, if you’re editing photos, you need a 99% sRGB screen. 100% Adobe RGB capable screens (which is generally better) are also relatively affordable now. That said, most media on the web generally uses sRGB format, so sRGB is perfectly adequate. People generally recommend editing in that color space anyway. In general, for built-in displays like laptops, most modern Mac screens have really good color accuracy and distribution.

Karthika Gupta Photography - Memorable Jaunts DPS Article Color Accuracy in Images

This outdoor space was very hazy when we visited because of many forest fires in the area. That haze and overall air quality and temperature gave a very pink glow to all my images, one that I missed the first time I edited my images on my computer. But then I went back and edited to a more accurate representation of what the scene actually looked like.

4. Calibrate your monitor

Not enough people realize how big a difference calibrating your monitor makes. If your entire computer screen is shifted to be purple, when you look at your final images in a color-calibrated medium, it’s going to end up green. There are several in the market that do a good job like Datacolor Spyder 5 or X-Rite ColorMunki. At the end of the day, they all essentially have the same functionality. Plug in the color sensor, put it against your screen, run the software, and it will automatically install the color profile for you.

5. Edit in a color neutral workspace

Where you sit and work can also make a difference to how you edit. As funny as it may sound, it is true. If you have bright warm sunlight flooding your computer screen, you will likely edit cooler. The eye is automatically going to compensate for the warmth by gravitating towards cooler tones. If you have cool indoor lighting flooding your editing room, that might not work either. Believe it or not, the ideal editing environment is actually a totally dark room, so you don’t pollute any of the colors. I know I cannot edit in a dark room because starting at the screen for too long in that space gives me a headache. If you must edit somewhere with another light source, do your color calibration in that room. The Spyder and ColorMunki can both accommodate the ambient light in your environment.

Karthika Gupta Photography - Memorable Jaunts DPS Article Color Accuracy in Images

The image was shot and edited in the same room with side lighting. Had I not seen this in another room and on another computer, I would have missed the uneven lighting and tonality from the left to the right side of the image, giving it a look of almost photographing with a flash, which was not my intention.

Karthika Gupta Photography - Memorable Jaunts DPS Article Color Accuracy in Images

6. Use multiple devices to spot check color

If you are really doubting your color tones and edits, double check them on another device. Most people have iPhones these days, and iPhones are surprisingly well-calibrated. Unfortunately, you can’t use the calibrators on most phones, to the best of my knowledge, so just send your photos over to your phone, and you should get an idea of how most people are seeing your images.

Karthika Gupta Photography - Memorable Jaunts DPS Article Color Accuracy in Images

The blueish tone in the image here would have been completely missed had I not seen the image on an iPad and an iPhone prior to sending out to a client. I prefer true to form white backgrounds when working with stock photos.

Unfortunately, most people, including myself, don’t pay too much attention to color accuracy in their photos. Most of the color matching stops at editing. Sometimes we even call it ‘photography style’ and leave it at that. But if you really want to understand color and how images can actually look versus relying on a specific style or edit, try one or all these steps. It is actually fairly simple once it clicks.

What techniques do you use for maintaining your color? Share with us in the comments below.

The post How to Achieve Color Accuracy in your Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Karthika Gupta.

How to Add a Toy Camera Effect to Your Digital Images Using Photoshop

The post How to Add a Toy Camera Effect to Your Digital Images Using Photoshop appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

They may look cute, but toy cameras aren’t actually toys at all. The name refers to inexpensive film cameras made predominantly of plastic and paired with a simplistic lens.

From around the 1990s, toy cameras garnered popularity for their distinctive aesthetic. Cameras like the Diana and Holga are embraced, light leaks and all, for their wonderfully unpredictable results.

With their vignetting, blurry focus and lens distortion, photographers armed with toy cameras relinquish control over the definitive outcome of the image, adding a palpable sense of serendipity to the photographic process.

Applying a toy camera effect to a digital photograph isn’t the same as using a toy camera itself, I know. But it’s a fun way to add a unique retro feel to a photograph while making use of the control that a digital camera affords.

Here’s how to add a toy camera effect to a digital photograph using Photoshop.

1. Cropping your image

Open up your image in Photoshop. Here’s my starting image.

The original image

Toy cameras work within a square format, so you’ll need to crop your photograph accordingly. Select the Crop Tool from the left toolbar. In the top toolbar, click on the dropdown menu that regulates the crop ratio. Select 1×1 (Square).

A square demonstrating the crop parameters will appear over your image. Adjust the parameters until you are happy and press enter.

2. Applying a vignette

With your layer selected in the Layers palette, go to Layer -> Duplicate Layer. A dialogue box will pop up. In the input field next to “As:” type “Layer 1” and click OK. This duplicates your current layer so you can work non-destructively.

Next, right click on Layer 1 and select Convert to Smart Object.

Select Filter -> Lens Correction and a dialog box will open. Click on the Custom tab. In the Vignette section of the Custom tab, adjust the Amount slider and the Midpoint slider until you have a nice, dark vignette (for this image I set the amount to -100 and the midpoint to +10). Repeat this step if you want a darker vignette.

Use the Lens Correction function to apply a vignette to your image

3. Adding blur

As I mentioned before, a lot of photographs taken with a toy camera are unfocused or blurry. To emulate this, make sure Layer 1 is selected and go to Filter->Blur->Gaussian Blur. In the Gaussian Blur window set the Radius from 5 to 10 pixels depending on your image and click OK.

In the Gaussian Blur window set the Radius from 5 to 10 pixels depending on your image and click OK

4. Adjusting colors

Toy cameras often lend a distinctive color-cast to photographs. In the layers panel, click on the Create a new fill or adjustment layer button and select Curves. In the Curves adjustment palette click on the RGB menu, select the red channel and create a shallow ‘S’ bend. Select the green channel and apply the same shallow ‘S’ shape. Now select the blue channel and create an inverted ‘S’.

Use the curves function to emulate the distinctive color-cast often encountered in photos taken with a toy camera

5. Creating light leaks

One fun characteristic of toy cameras are light leaks. A light leak is caused by a hole or gap in the body of the camera, allowing light to “leak” into the film chamber. This exposes the film to excess light. The result is whimsical fields of color that add character to a photograph and illustrate the photographic process.

To emulate light leaks you first need to create a new layer. Click on the Create a new layer button at the bottom of the layers panel and rename the layer “Light leaks”.

Select your brush tool and set the brush size to around 2000 and your hardness to 0%. Set the foreground color to your preferred color – usually red, yellow or blue. With the “Light leaks” layer selected, dot or streak one or two patches of color over your image.

Once you are done painting the light leaks, change the Blending Mode of the layer by clicking on the Blending Modes dropdown menu and selecting Color. You can change the opacity of the light leaks by toggling the Opacity slider on the layers panel too.


And there you have it. Now that you know how to add a toy camera aesthetic to your photograph, the possibilities are endless. This is a great opportunity to make use of unfocused, spotty or noisy digital images. It’s the next best thing to using a real toy camera yourself!

Here are a couple of my own creations below, post yours in the comments!


The post How to Add a Toy Camera Effect to Your Digital Images Using Photoshop appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

How to Take Floating Photos – Levitation Photography [video]

The post How to Take Floating Photos – Levitation Photography [video] appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

In this great video from, Dunna Did It, you will learn how to create Levitation photography. That’s right, you’ll learn how to take floating photos!

What you need:

  1. Camera to shoot with
  2. Tripod
  3. Photo Editing software

How to create levitation photography:

  • Set up your object that you are photographing.
  • Put your camera’s settings to the required settings based on your lighting and room.
  • The trick is to take one photo holding it with your left hand, and then one holding it with your right hand.
  • Be sure to turn on you turn Grids ON in your camera.
  • Line up your camera in the same spot for each shot using your grid.
  • Use manual focus for each shot because you want the focus to be exactly the same for each photo.
  • Hold your camera with one hand and line it up to your grid, focus and take the photo.
  • While still holding it, reach with your other hand and grab the opposite side (keeping the camera in the same position). Let go with the other hand, and take the 2nd photo. Try this as many times as you need to.
  • Choose and edit your best photos in Lightroom (or the editing program of your choice).
  • Once you have the two you want to combine, jump to Photoshop (press cmd+E mac, ctrl+E win) and choose Edit in Photoshop.
  • Go to the image held with the left hand and double-click the layer in the Layer Palette to make it an editable layer.
  • Then choose Cmd+A to select all, then Cmd+C to copy.
  • Jump to the other image, double click the layer in the Layers Palette to make the layer editable.
  • Then choose Cmd+V to paste the other image you copied into the new image.
  • Lower the opacity of the top layer to about 36% so you can see how well you can line them up.
  • Move the top layer until it is lined up.
  • Next, we want to take the top layer and delete to parts we don’t want.
  • Put a layer mask onto the top layer and select your Brush Tool (use a soft brush by turning down the hardness).
  • Change your foreground color in your toolbar to black to paint out areas of the layer mask.
  • Paint out the areas you don’t want. To fine-tune, make your brush smaller and continue to paint out areas you don’t need.
  • Check all your lines around your image to ensure they line up.
  • Do any further edits you want and you are done!

You may also find the following articles helpful:

How to do Digital Blending in Photoshop to Create a Composite Photo

How to Create A Simple Composite: Photoshop Creative

How to Make a Composite Wine Bottle Image using Photoshop Layers

Preparing your Model and Background for a Successful Composite

How to Shoot and Create a Composite Image for a Product Advertisement

A Guide to Create Eye-Catching Composite Images


The post How to Take Floating Photos – Levitation Photography [video] appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

Photo Editing: When Does it Get to be too Much?

The post Photo Editing: When Does it Get to be too Much? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Peter West Carey.

Editing photographs in itself is an art. It is what has made so many great photographers legendary. The ability to take the limits of a two-dimensional representation of a three-dimensional world, exact it onto a type of film or digital sensor, then, and only then, to craft the image into one’s liking.

Indeed, it is an art, which raises the question – where is the line drawn for too much editing?

Like art and how to define it, that answer is not straightforward. We each have our interpretation, but let’s take a look at some parameters. There are three questions you may want to ask yourself the next time you dive in to edit your images.

What is my intent?

In the days of film, you had to have intent. Even if your intention was “to mess around and learn some things,” you realized there was a direct cost to that learning. That cost was film, paper, chemical solutions and time — moreover, money.

Now, experimenting is so dang easy, any kid with an iPhone can do it. I think that’s a good thing. Experimenting is a vital part of artistic expression and is especially true with photo editing.

Having intent is important when coupled with experimenting if you hope to learn, grow and progress.

Intent lets you know when your experimentation goes too far, and your edits are too much. The intent is a wonderful guide, with plenty of latitude if you bestow it.

My suggestion here is to have intent with your editing experimentation. Know what you hope to gain from experimenting and have a general direction.

Have I stayed true to my vision?

Vision is where your intent takes you. Having artistic vision helps place boundaries on your work that is often needed, lest everything turns to chaos.

Maybe a portrait photographer’s vision is to portray each subject in a subdued manner with soft lighting and harsh details. They want to show that side of each subject, and that leads to their intent, over and over again. It is repeatable.

This is one edit the author now admits was too much editing, even if it was fun at the time.

Alternatively, perhaps you’re a landscape photographer who envisions your work being a truthful depiction of what you experienced, not some fanciful ‘perfect world.’ You put effort into recreating the scene when back at your computer and employ tools to your end vision.

Without having a vision of what you want to produce, it’s easy to be swayed by the siren song of really cool editing tools that pull you toward the rocks of editing ruin.

Is this sustainable?

I don’t mean to say all art, all forms of editing you choose, need to last forever. We all go through phases. This struck me most profoundly on a trip to Barcelona recently and a review of Goya’s work through the decades he painted.

Firstly, there were Goya’s early career phases where he exacted reproduction in a French and Italian style. These were the most important. Beautiful portraits!

Then, later, he had a more simplistic style. Filled with easy colors and a looser interpretation of the world around him with all its players.

In one of the last room were exhibits of Goya’s “Black period.” Charcoal and dark tones, and dire scenes of hardship. Nothing like what he had been producing before.

Most of us move through periods. That does not instantly disqualify any one of them as art (in an editing sense), but it does give us a good mirror.

We are our own harshest critic, and we alone can look back at work we did one, five, or twenty years ago and deem it art or not. If we see a style, a thread that runs through all our works, it’s easy to say we have crafted art. However, if we find through the benefit of time and distance, that something we thought was the bee’s knees is now, to our more experienced eyes, rubbish, we can cast it aside.

The HDR craze as an example

Some years ago, as digital photography was catching on with the masses, came the HDR craze. It was a time when anyone could use a particular technique to achieve what is known as High Dynamic Range (HDR) images.

For some, it was a fun departure from their normal routine. Others saw it as a chance to show everything in a scene; maybe not the same as their eyes saw, but better than the alternative.

Some of us had our stomachs turn every time we saw one of those photos.

It was new, and it was novel. Moreover, it didn’t fit into many photographers’ visions. Today, it’s hard to find any examples of those early attempts still being reproduced. It wasn’t sustainable.

Although, it was fun for a while. Particularly for those who enjoyed the departure from reality.

I would profess that it was a case of too much editing and that it met its likely demise because of it.


While deciding what dictates too much editing is subjective to the viewer and their experience, I hope the questions I posed above help guide you in future endeavors.

I’m not here to judge your work or to say you might be wrong. That voice, and what your art means to you, needs to come from inside you.

Develop your vision. Stay true to it. Focus your intent toward it. Then you will scarcely have to worry if you’ve gone too far in your editing work.

The post Photo Editing: When Does it Get to be too Much? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Peter West Carey.

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