How to Edit Food Photography Images Using Lightroom

To edit food photography it requires a bit of a different approach than you might take with other types of photography, like portrait or landscape. The objective is to keep the food looking as fresh and appetizing as possible, which can take a subtle but considered hand.

How to Edit Food Photography Images Using Lightroom

Before and after a subtle edit of a food photo.

Although there is always room for style and artistry, the more real your subjects look, the better. Lightroom is the program of choice for most food photographers. It’s intuitive and relatively easy to use and offers most of the tools required to make great food photos.

For this article, I will walk you through how I make global adjustments to a food image in Lightroom’s Develop module. Workflow is something that is individual to each photographer. This is how I approach editing my food photography, however, you may opt to do things differently. Hopefully, you will find some takeaways that will help you edit your own images.

I’ll be editing this image of an apple pie. This is the shot straight out of the camera. Like all RAW images, it lacks contrast and needs a bit of pizzaz.


How to Edit Food Photography Images Using Lightroom

Final image.

The Histogram

It’s important to have a basic understanding of the histogram in order to make adjustments to the exposure and tones in your image. The histogram is one of the key tools available for analyzing your image. It provides a graph of the density values of a given image. The histogram shows the relative quantity of pixels at each density value.

The far left point of the histogram is pure black and the densest, and the far right point is pure white with no density. A big peak in any of these regions means that the image has a lot of pixels at that particular density. An open gap in the histogram means that there are no pixels at that density.
How to Edit Food Photography Images Using Lightroom - histogram

The distribution of these tones will tell you about the overall exposure of the image. Most images look best if they contain both dark and light values. Generally, without some dark and light values, the image may lack contrast and look flat.

If you have a strong peak at the black or white end of the histogram, your image could be under or overexposed. However, it really depends on the individual image and the desired aesthetic. For example, blown out whites has become a “thing” in recent years. A dark and moody shot will have a lot of pixel density at the dark end of the spectrum.


Before you can start making global adjustments to your image, it makes sense to crop and straighten it first. One tip is to shoot a bit wider than what you want for your end result so you can tweak your composition in post-production. You also may want to crop it to a certain aspect ratio – say 4×5 or square for Instagram.

First,  make sure that your horizon line is straight.

My horizon line in the apple pie image was already pretty straight. I used the crop tool to check it and also brought the crop in slightly on the left-hand side to cut off a little bit more of the pie. To access the Crop Tool in Lightroom, click on the grid symbol under the Histogram in the top panel (or just hit R, the keyboard shortcut). This will allow you to crop your image by bringing in the corners with your cursor.

While this tool is activated you can click “O” for the shortcut to bring up several compositional overlays like the Phi Grid or Golden Spiral to help you get the most out of your composition.

How to Edit Food Photography Images Using Lightroom - crop your image first

Lens Corrections

How to Edit Food Photography Images Using Lightroom - lens corrections panel in LR

The Lens Corrections options fix optical distortion caused by the position of your subject in the frame, or where your camera is positioned relative to your scene. Lightroom supports a variety of lenses to automatically calibrate with this function.

I always check off Enable Profile Corrections before I start making adjustments to my image. Checking this box automatically brings up the camera profile for the lens used to create the image, in this case, the Canon EF 24-70mm.

White Balance

I recommend setting your White Balance in-camera or shooting with a gray card and adjusting it in post-processing. This removes incorrect color casts and ensures that your whites and colors render accurately.

How to Edit Food Photography Images Using Lightroom - eye dropped for WB in LR

You can correct your White Balance in Lightroom by taking the eyedropper tool (circled in red below) and clicking on an area in the image which appears neutral. This will the adjust the color temperature in the whole image, and you can tweak afterward if it’s not quite as you desire. It’s not as precise as the other options but can work well for food your food images.

Also, in food photography, White Balance can be used creatively, depending on your image. I tend to favor a cooler approach to my food photography. Cool colors give a crisp and fresh feeling to the image, which means I tend to edit more towards the blue or cyan.

Using the white balance eye dropper tool in Lightroom to color correct - How to Edit Food Photography Images Using Lightroom

Using the white balance eyedropper tool in Lightroom to color correct

Keep in mind that the goal is to make the food look as fresh and appetizing as possible, so you don’t want the food to look blue. Food photography looks best when there is a balance of tones. I keep my surfaces and props on the cool or neutral side and work with my food subjects individually to keep it as realistic looking as possible.

When composing my apple pie image, I chose a vivid blue background to complement the golden tones of the pie. Not only does this create a balance of tones, blue and yellow are opposite on the color wheel and are a great combination of colors for food photography.

How to Edit Food Photography Images Using Lightroom

After White Balance color corrections.

Exposure and Contrast

The next slider is Exposure, which affects the brightness of the range of tones in your image. To see bright or dark details, pull the Exposure slider to the left, or the Blacks slider to the right. If the bright areas look muddy, or the shadows still need more light, move the sliders to points where the image looks good overall.

I often make this adjustment initially and then may scale it back once I have made some other adjustments.

Contrast can be boosted in the Basic Panel or in the Tone Curve panel, which I will get to in a moment. It’s important to add some contrast, as RAW digital files are flat by nature.

How to Edit Food Photography Images Using Lightroom

After slight Exposure and Contrast adjustments.

Highlights, Shadows, Whites and Blacks Sliders

How to Edit Food Photography Images Using Lightroom - basic panel sliders

This panel is where you may end up doing a lot of tweaking before you settle on a look that you’re satisfied with. It will give you a more precise balancing of tones than simply relying on the Exposure slider.

In my shot of the apple pie, the highlights were too bright, and the shadows too light for the look I was aiming for, which was a darker mood. My style tends to be dark and moody with bright food.  I brought the highlights down and boosted the whites, while also bringing down the shadows and blacks to create the ideal balance for the aesthetic I was going for.

How to Edit Food Photography Images Using Lightroom

After Highlights and Shadows were tweaked.

Clarity, Vibrance, and Saturation

Clarity is a most important slider in Lightroom when editing food photography. Clarity gives your image contrast in the mid-tones (edge details more specifically) and adds detail. You probably wouldn’t edit a portrait with +50 clarity, but you can easily do so with food photos. Keep in mind that overdoing the clarity can make food look dry and unappetizing. For this edit, I put my clarity at +42.

Vibrance is also an important slider in food photography post-processing. It’s a better tool for your edits than saturation because it’s is more subtle. It tends to adjust the less saturated colors without intensifying the ones that are already saturated.

The difference between Vibrance and Saturation is that it affects the intensity of the colors. Red becomes redder, green becomes greener, and so on. Vibrance will first boost the saturation of the muted colors and then the other colors. It adjusts the less saturated tones without over-saturating the ones that are already saturated. Whether you use Saturation depends on the image and the look you are going for, but in general, a conservative approach is what works best when editing food photography.

How to Edit Food Photography Images Using Lightroom

Clarity, Vibrance and Saturation adjusted.

It’s easy to quickly overdo the Saturation and make your image look ugly. If I use the slider at all, I might only nudge it up a tad to about +5 or +6. You’ll notice that I actually brought down the Saturation slightly in this image, so the blue looks a little less intense.

Tone Curve

The Tone Curve is often challenging to new users, but it’s one of the most powerful tools that Lightroom has to offer. Getting in-depth with it is beyond the scope of this article, but let’s look at the basics.

The Tone Curve is a graph that maps out where the tones in your images lie. The bottom axis of the Tone Curve starts with Shadows at the far left side and ends with Highlights on the far right end. The mid-tones fall in the middle, in a range from darker to lighter. The tones get darker as you move lower, and brighter as you move up the axis.

Assess the mid-tones in your image. Are they bright already? If not, click on the middle of the tone curve and bring the point up. If they are already bright or too bright, bring the curve down slightly. Move on to the rest of your image. Typically you will find that your curve looks somewhat like a soft S (see screenshot below).

You can control the lightness and darkness of your tones by adjusting the Point Curve itself or by Region Curve. The Region has sliders for each part of the tonal range. As you drag each slider, the curve and the image both change.

To make adjustments with the Point Curve, click on the area you want to affect to create an anchor point at which to control the tone. Dragging the point up lightens that tone; dragging it down darkens the tone.

After Curves.

You will also notice that there is an RGB option in the lower-right portion of the point curve. This helps you to individually edit the Red, Green, and Blue channels. It performs the same types of adjustments to brightness and darkness, but on each separate color. This can be utilized if you want to edit a color individually, or give your image a certain type of color overall.

To choose tones directly from the image, there is a handy tool called the Targeted Adjustment Tool. This is located in the top left of the Tone Curve.

Click on it and move the cursor over the image. The tool shows you the tones under the crosshairs. If you click and drag it up and down the image, you will affect the tones like those under the crosshairs. For example, if you drag vertically on an area with light pixels, all of your image’s highlights will be adjusted.

If you’re getting started with learning the Tone Curve, play around with the Region sliders and take note of how the various sliders affect the curve. Whichever approach you choose, be sure to watch the histogram as you make changes, to ensure that you are not losing important detail.

HSL Adjustments

HSL stands for Hue, Saturation, and Luminance. This is where you balance the colors in Lightroom. However, color adjustments are usually more subjective than tonal adjustments, as color gives a photograph a sense of mood.

There are two ways to make color adjustments in this panel; you can adjust them all at once under HSL/All, or each color individually under the Color tab at the top of the panel.

The Hue tab or section is where you choose how warm or cool you want each color in your image to be. For example, I find that greens almost always look off, so I slide the greens slightly more towards the left or right to get them looking more realistic. To add more warmth, that is, more yellow to your greens, slide it to the right. For a cooler hue, sliding it to the right will add more blue.

Whereas the Saturation slider in the basic panel adjusts the color of the whole image, the saturation sliders here adjust each color individually.

If you adjust a color to be more saturated, then it will affect the saturation of that particular color throughout the whole photo. Whether you’re working in the basic panel or the HSL panel, saturation requires a light hand.

In the image of the apple pie, I thought that the blue looked a bit more on the magenta side, so I slid it towards the left. This hue gave me a blue that worked better with the orange tones in my picture.

Lastly, Luminance affects the brightness of the color. I find these sliders more valuable than the saturation sliders and work with these first.

How to Edit Food Photography Images Using Lightroom

After HSL adjustments have been applied.

Working in Lightroom is all about balance, and the same goes when working with the Hue, Saturation, and Luminance adjustments.


Noise is the grain that can appear throughout an image. It’s not often a problem when you are shooting with artificial lights, but when working with natural light, grain can appear in your images if you are shooting at a higher ISO or you didn’t get enough light onto your sensor.

Working with the Noise slider in Lightroom will minimize the grain and give your image a smoother look. But, be careful not to push the slider too high, as it can result in a plastic look. For the apple pie, I set the Noise at +20, as it was shot in studio with a strobe.

Post-Crop Vignetting and Dehaze

If you are editing a darker, moodier image, Post-crop Vignette is a must. By darkening the outer corners of the frame, you draw the viewer’s eye towards the center of the image and your subject.

To darken, move your slider to the left. The midpoint slider controls how far in the dark edges get to the center of your photo. Feather controls how soft or hard your vignette will look. A softer vignette looks more appealing than a hard, “spotlight” effect.

How to Edit Food Photography Images Using Lightroom

Vignette applied.


Sharpening should be the last editing step. It adds contrast between pixels and edges, thereby adding definition and creating a more refined look.

NOTE: It’s not meant to make a blurry image look sharp!

Also, sharpening should not be applied to the whole image. In food photography, there is not much of a point in sharpening the props and the background, etc. The focus is on the food, therefore, this is what we sharpen.

To do this in Lightroom, mask out the image to select the areas of the image you want to sharpen rather than sharpening the whole image. You do this by holding down the Alt/Option key (it will show you where the sharpening is being applied, the white areas) while clicking on Masking in the Sharpening panel. Slide it to the right. The farther right you go, the less of the image it will sharpen. For my image, I left it at +76.

Also read: How to Make Your Photos Shine Using Clarity, Sharpening, and Dehaze in Lightroom

In Conclusion

So here is the final image! Not drastically different than what I began with, but overall a more balanced and refined looking photo and consistent with my style of food photography.

How to Edit Food Photography Images Using Lightroom

Before and after editing. Note how subtle the differences are here.

When it comes to post-processing your food photography, the best advice I can give is that whatever your style, strive for a natural look for your subject. Ask yourself this question, “Looking at this image, do I want to eat that food?”

The answer should unequivocally be yes! If so, you’ve done a good job.

The post How to Edit Food Photography Images Using Lightroom appeared first on Digital Photography School.

How to do Creative Editing with Layers in ACDSee Ultimate Photo Studio 2018

In my first article on ACDSee Ultimate Photo Studio 2018, I covered all the elements of the program that a beginner would need to know about. This article covers editing in more detail, starting with processing your RAW file in Develop Mode and then doing some creative editing using Layers in Edit Mode.

Layers are a critical part of editing your images. Either in doing your RAW process and then tidying up areas that need it with curves, levels, and other adjustments. Or if you want to add more creativity to your images, with textures, decorative flourishes, fancy text embellishments. Finally, you can go all the way up to compositing, and using layers is the best way to achieve that.

textured image of flowers - How to Edit Using Layers with ACDSee Ultimate Photo Studio 2018

Let’s look at what ACDSee Ultimate Photo Studio 2018 has to offer for editing a RAW file. Then we’ll add a creative edit with texture layers, embellishment layers, and using masks to create a vintage grunge effect.

I am going to assume that you have a basic understanding of RAW editing and using layers and masks and not detail absolutely every step worked through in this process. If you need more help, go back and read: ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2018 Guide for Beginners first.

Editing a Raw File in Develop Mode

First, open up Manage mode and find the right folder to select an image. For this exercise, I liked the Gerbera Still Life image and decided that the final version should have a grungy vintage look added at the end.

How to Edit Using Layers with ACDSee Ultimate Photo Studio 2018 - image thumbnails

This is the selected image of three crimson gerbera flowers, with a pair of pointe ballet shoes and some sheet music. It’s a bit dark and dull and needs some tweaking which we will do in the Develop mode of ACDSee Ultimate Photo Studio 2018.

original image before editing - How to Edit Using Layers with ACDSee Ultimate Photo Studio 2018

Original unedited RAW file

After some basic editing, the image is brighter and the colors are better balanced.

How to Edit Using Layers with ACDSee Ultimate Photo Studio 2018 - edited with basic adjustments

However my final vision for this image is more of a vintage look, and the colors are too bright and rich. So, further editing to bring the saturation down and darken the crimson was applied. This now provides the basis for the layers and creative elements, so it’s saved and then we move into Edit mode.

How to Edit Using Layers with ACDSee Ultimate Photo Studio 2018 - image with lower saturation

Creative Editing Using Layers

Switching to Edit Mode by clicking on EDIT with the edited RAW file open will change your workspace. Now the Layers palette is laid out on the right. As there is only the one image open, it shows up as Layer 1.

At the bottom of the Layers palette are the different layer options – hover over each one to find the one you need and click to activate it. For this exercise, we are going to bring in some grunge textures and additional elements to make it look vintage, old, and more artistic.


I use a lot of textures from 2LilOwls, The Daily Texture, and Distressed Textures. If you are patient you can also make your own but there are plenty of places to acquire them online. The ones used in this article were from 2LilOwls.

How to Edit Using Layers with ACDSee Ultimate Photo Studio 2018

My preferred option to add extra layers is to use a second monitor, open up Windows Explorer to the desired folder, find a texture I like and then drag across to my image. Note, when using ACDSee, you have to drag it into the Layers Palette (rather than onto the image directly).

The other option is to click on the “Add A File As A Layer” button which allows you to search for a file within your directory and add it. This was a useful feature which I used several times.

By default, the texture is applied in Normal mode which means only the top layer is visible, which is the texture in this instance. In the Layer Palette it is visible as Layer 2.

How to Edit Using Layers with ACDSee Ultimate Photo Studio 2018 - texture layer

The first texture layer has been added – it’s showing in Normal mode so you can only see this layer and not the one below (the image of the flowers).

Blend Mode

Next, change the blend mode of the layer to something that suits the image – either Overlay or Soft Light are good choices to start with. Also, dial down the layer opacity to soften the effect and make it look more pleasing.

How to Edit Using Layers with ACDSee Ultimate Photo Studio 2018

Masking parts of the layer

This texture has some heavy vignetting around the edges that is a bit too dark. So to solve that, add a Layer Mask and select a large soft brush at around 30% opacity. Dab the brush in the darker edges and corners to reduce the effect.

How to Edit Using Layers with ACDSee Ultimate Photo Studio 2018

The Layer mask is white and it shows up the areas you brush in grey (or black) – you can see where it has been applied in the corners.

How to Edit Using Layers with ACDSee Ultimate Photo Studio 2018

Image with texture and layer mask applied with softer tones in the dark corners now

Add more grunge

It needs more grunge so let’s apply a second texture layer. This one has lots of cracks and scratches for a nice vintage effect. It is also a bit lighter around the edges so should balance out the first texture nicely.

How to Edit Using Layers with ACDSee Ultimate Photo Studio 2018

The texture file is a different size than the original image but you can drag it out to fit by clicking on the yellow squares on the outside edges and corners.

This layer also had the blend mode changed and the opacity adjusted to suit. The crack effect was quite strong on the flowers so a mask was applied with a soft brush at low opacity that was brushed over the flowers.

More embellishments

The top left and right corners felt a bit empty so I added some decorative embellishments. On the left, is a butterfly with some fancy handwriting and another textural element was added on the right. Both are PNG files that are blended in with low opacity and Soft Light blend mode.

layers - How to Edit Using Layers with ACDSee Ultimate Photo Studio 2018

Each element goes onto a separate layer for full control.  Masks are applied to remove the effect from the flowers.  These become Layers 6 and 7.

Finally, a Photo Effect (Somber) was applied to add a bit more contrast and punch.

How to Edit Using Layers with ACDSee Ultimate Photo Studio 2018 - photo effect

Before and after images

Here we have the RAW file after it was edited in Develop mode and some creative adjustments for Saturation and Vibrance applied.

before layered editing - How to Edit Using Layers with ACDSee Ultimate Photo Studio 2018

Here we have the final image after the texture layers, embellishments, Photo Effect and masks have been applied.

How to Edit Using Layers with ACDSee Ultimate Photo Studio 2018 - final image

Additional Notes

As an advanced Photoshop user, I was comfortable using all the layer tools and functions available in ACDSee Ultimate Photo Studio 2018. Most of the usual tools were available and functioned as expected.

The one major issue I found was the inability to change the brush shape. It does not appear possible to import .abr files to add creative brush shapes. The only options for changing the brush are blend mode, size, and opacity and the only shape is round.

You can change the size, hardness, and opacity of the brush but not the actual shape of it. This limits the creative choices available. Some of my brush files were present as PNG images so I was able to import them as individual layers.

Additionally, there were several extra features that were new to me which I found useful. The “Add A File As A Layer” button was extremely helpful and I used that on several occasions. There is also a button for “Adding a Blank Layer”, “Duplicating a Layer” and “Deleting a Layer”. All things that happen frequently and usually require a right mouse click, then a selection and second click. ACDSee made these steps much quicker with a single click.

There were extra adjustment layer functions, in particular, “Photo Effect” that offer a range of predesigned creative effects you can apply as a separate layer, to blend and edit as desired. A Vignette option (similar to Lightroom) was also available to quickly add a vignette.


If you are a beginner to using layers and masks then it can be a bit complicated to get your head around. The good news is that with ACDSee Ultimate Photo Studio 2018 everything that you would expect to be able to do and use to work with layers is all present and accounted for. It looks and functions very similar to Photoshop, so is comfortable for anyone transitioning over.

Except for the ability to change your brush shape, everything necessary to do a basic layer edit was easily recognizable and usable with pretty much no additional learning curve. That is a real bonus for anyone coming across from other programs.

There are also some nice new features that added extra value and made the experience better – in particular, “Add A File As A Layer” is something that I could easily get used to using. For anyone only using one monitor (like on a laptop) that makes adding another image as a layer so much easier. The Move function in Photoshop is really not user-friendly. This is a definite bonus if you are like me and add lots of extra files to your layers when editing.

Working in Edit mode and making a layered image with ACDSee Ultimate Photo Studio 2018 was not difficult and the additional features added real value in unexpected places.

Disclaimer: ACDSee is a dPS advertising partner.

The post How to do Creative Editing with Layers in ACDSee Ultimate Photo Studio 2018 appeared first on Digital Photography School.

How to Easily Make a LUT in Photoshop

If you’ve ever done any video editing then you’re probably familiar with a little something called “color look-up tables”. These look-up tables are lovingly referred to in the industry as a “LUT”.

At the basic level, a LUT is a preset that performs color grading and various other visual effects. Each is based on a blindingly complex set of mathematical sorcery that luckily for you (and me) doesn’t need to be explained in this article.

How to Easily Make a LUT in Photoshop

But wait…this is Digital Photography School, not Digital Video School. So, why are we talking about LUTs if they only help us when editing video?

Well, with Adobe’s recent release of Lightroom Classic v7.3 and Adobe Camera RAW 10.3 we now have the ability to use the awesome new Creative Profiles feature which, you guessed it, makes LUTs usable in our photo editing. It’s safe to say more and more photographers will be incorporating custom-made LUTs into their own Creative Profiles. For more information on making Creative Profiles check out this excellent tutorial by Spyros Heniadis.

So how can you make your own LUTs? There are a number of ways and most of them require purchasing software exclusively engineered for creating a LUT. But what if I told you that Photoshop is capable of exporting LUTs if you don’t want to spend any extra money on new software? And what’s more, making basic LUTs in Photoshop is insanely simple.

In this article, I’m going to show you just how easy it is to make and export your very own LUTs right inside Photoshop.

Create Your Edits

To get started you need an image file. This image can be either RAW or JPEG. If you’re planning on using your LUT in video processing then it’s a good idea to use a screen capture from your video file. For the purposes of this tutorial, I’ll be using a previously processed JPEG.

How to Easily Make a LUT in Photoshop - original image already processed

Starting image already processed.

Once your photo is opened in Photoshop you can begin to make the edits that will be exported as a LUT. You’ll have the power of all the options located in the adjustments panel at your fingertips.

How to Easily Make a LUT in Photoshop - adjustment panel in PS

While you change the fill and opacity of the adjustment layers you won’t be able to add in any masking or more advanced filters. This is somewhat of a bummer, but given the fact that we’re doing all of this in Photoshop it’s a limitation we’ll have to live with for now. For this image, I’ve added three adjustment layers: Color Balance, Curves and Black and White.

How to Easily Make a LUT in Photoshop - 3 adjustment layers

With all of the edits applied, it’s time to actually export the adjustments in the form of a LUT which can then be used for creating profiles to play around with inside v7.3 Lightroom Classic or ACR 10.3 and a host of other awesome uses.

Exporting the LUT

You’ll be happy to know that exporting the adjustments as a LUT is ridiculously easy. Under the main menu at the top click File  > Export > Color Lookup Tables…

How to Easily Make a LUT in Photoshop - where to find it in the PS menu

This brings up the export dialog and you now find yourself faced with a few options before you can export the LUT. First, you have the choice to name the LUT. Make it something descriptive.

If you want, you can bypass this step as you will give the LUT its own filename in just a moment. Personally, I don’t always name the LUT at this time. You can enter in any copyright information you choose.

How to Easily Make a LUT in Photoshop

The last two options are the most important. Choosing the quality of the LUT and its file format is essential to be able to efficiently apply the LUT later in whatever application you might be using. Leave the quality set to Medium which will give a good balance between load times and quality.

The file format you choose will depend on what you’ll be doing with the LUT. For example, if you will be using your LUT to make profiles for Lightroom be sure to save it as a CUBE file. When you’re finished, click OK.

This brings you to the final step of the LUT manufacturing process. All that’s left to do is to choose where you’ll save the LUT.

How to Easily Make a LUT in Photoshop

You’ll notice that you now have the opportunity to again name your LUT. It’s here where you’ll want to make sure you give it a name that is easy to find. Once you’ve decided on file name and destination just click Save to store your brand new LUT!

Final Thoughts….

If you need a quick and easy way to make your own color lookup tables then you needn’t venture any further than your old friend Adobe Photoshop. While there are a few limitations when compared to dedicated color grading programs the ability to create LUTs directly from Photoshop can save you time and money.

If you’re like me and do a lot of work on the road, knowing how to make your own LUTs on the go will come in handy and make your life a LUT (haha) easier.

The post How to Easily Make a LUT in Photoshop appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Three Ways to Apply Tonal Effects in Photoshop

We are used to thinking about photography in terms of color or black and white, but before we arrived here, though, there were a series of processes that resulted in images being monochrome. In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to get those looks so you can think outside the box and achieve different tonal effects that will make your photos unique.

Intro Tonal Effects Photoshop Tutorial

Adding a tonal effect can give your photos from different collections a unified look. It can also help to set the atmosphere of a scene, or simply give a nostalgic and antique look. Before photography became as we know it to be today, there were many experiments and formulas chemists used that became popular throughout history.

Many of them had a particular color. The most popular are sepia and cyan and now it’s possible to achieve these and any other tonal effect with just a few clicks. I’ll show you three different ways to achieve it so you can choose which method suits you best.


First of all, you need to work with a black and white image. There are many different ways to achieve this in Photoshop. The one I’m choosing is Menu > Image > Adjustments > Black and White because it gives you a lot of control.

Three Ways to Apply Tonal Effects in Photoshop

Once you have your starting image as black and white, you need to add a solid color adjustment layer. To do this go to the Layers palette and click the adjustment layers button on the bottom and choose the Solid Color option from there.

A pop-up window will open where you can choose the color you want for that layer. There’s no right or wrong here, it’s a matter of taste but for a sepia tone go somewhere in between the yellow and the red and when you’re happy just click OK.

Solid Color Tonal Effects Photoshop Tutorial

Now the color should have covered the entire image, which is normal as you added a solid color. But you still need to merge it with the image, so open the blending options menu from the top of the Layers palette and choose Soft Light.

Solid Color Soft Light Tonal Effects Photoshop Tutorial

You can also check out the other blending possibilities to see if there’s something that suits you better, but Soft Light usually works best for me. You can make a final adjustment on the layer opacity if you think it needs tweaking and that’s it!

Sepia Tonal Effects Photoshop Tutorial


To achieve a cyan tone on your photo you need to start with a black and white image the same as the previous process, so I’ll use the opportunity to show you another way of converting your color photo into black and white.

Go to the Layers palette, add an adjustment layer. and from the drop-down menu choose Black and White. On the Properties window, you’ll have the same adjustments as the previous method as I used above.

The difference is that now you’ll have the black and white adjustment on a different layer so you can come back and tweak it or change the opacity at any time.

Adjustments Layer BlackandWhite Tonal Effects Photoshop Tutorial

Next add another adjustment layer, this time choosing Levels from the menu. In the Properties window, you can see a histogram of your image that shows you the blacks, whites, and mid-tones in your image and a corresponding slider to each of them for you to adjust.

Start moving the sliders to increase the contrast of your image as this will give a better result when you apply the cyan color to it.

Adjustments Layer Levels Histogram Tonal Effects Photoshop Tutorial

The final step you need to do is to add a third adjustment layer, this time using the Hue/Saturation option. On the Properties window move the Hue slider towards the blue end until you find a tone that you like, around the 215 is usually pretty good. If you feel the blue is too intense just decrease the saturation value a little until you are satisfied with the result.

Adjustments Layer Hue Saturation Tonal Effects Photoshop Tutorial

Now you have a snowy photo with a nice cold tone to boost the mood!

Cyan Tonal Effects Photoshop Tutorial


If you are thinking that sepia or cyan are very nice effects but it would be even better if you apply both or even more, you don’t have to worry. Photoshop has thought about that too.

First, you have to open your black and white image (or convert your image to black and white as we did above). Then go to Menu > Image > Mode and choose the Duotone option. This is correct even if you want three or four tones, you will modify that later.

Duotone Tonal Effects Photoshop Tutorial

A pop-up window will open where you can choose the number of inks (tones) that you want in your image just by clicking on the drop-down menu. For this example, I’m choosing Tritone so three fields will be available to choose the inks.

Triotone Tonal Effects Photoshop Tutorial

You can set the color of each ink by clicking in the second square which will open a pop-up window with a color picker. So just click on the tone you like and hit OK. Then name it in the field to the right of the ink. Repeat this process for each ink color.

Duotone Color Picker Tonal Effects Photoshop Tutorial

Now the colors you selected are all covering the image in the same way. But you can modify that by choosing which ink will affect more which tones. For example, I choose the magenta for the darkest tones and the yellow for the lighter tones, but you can choose any tone and any adjustment you want.

Just click on the first square which will open the Curves window. By default, it will have a diagonal straight line that goes from 0 (black) to 255 (whites) you can experiment moving it all you like until you get the look of your image right.

Duotone Curves Tonal Effects Photoshop Tutorial

Because of all the possibilities, this is the hardest technique but also the more personalized one that will give you a very unique result. Try it out and let me know in the comments how it goes!

Duotone Tonal Effects Photoshop Tutorial jpg

Your turn

So there you have three methods for applying tonal effects using Photoshop. Do you use any of these for your images? Which method do you prefer? Do you have another technique you like? Please share your tonal effects images and ideas in the comment area below.

The post Three Ways to Apply Tonal Effects in Photoshop appeared first on Digital Photography School.

How to Reduce Digital Noise in Astrophotography Using Exposure Stacking

Astrophotography has become increasingly popular in recent years, with good reason. There’s something about the night sky, stars, and The Milky Way that are fascinating to us. They remind us of how small we are and how huge the universe we live in really is. Photographing them can make for some pretty spectacular images.

How to Reduce Digital Noise in Astrophotography Using Exposure Stacking - night photo with Milky Way visible

Digital Noise in Astrophotography

As camera technology has advanced, photographing the night sky has become possible for photographers of all levels and budgets. Low-light performance continues to improve, allowing us to photograph the stars at higher and higher ISOs. However, digital noise continues to be one of the biggest challenges for astrophotographers.

There are a number of different approaches to dealing with digital noise in your astrophotography, from your camera settings to the way you process them in post-production.

Digital noise is caused by a couple of things. Firstly, the camera sensor heats up as it exposes an image, causing an increase in noise. Secondly, an increase in sensor sensitivity, or ISO, can lead to more digital noise in your images. As both high ISO values and long exposures are going to lead to more digital noise, you’re going to need a strategy to deal with it in your astrophotography.

path to the ocean with Milky Way in the night sky - How to Reduce Digital Noise in Astrophotography Using Exposure Stacking

Exposure Stacking

There is a technique called exposure stacking that is very effective in reducing the digital noise in your photos. You take multiple exposures with the same settings, stack them into layers inside Photoshop, align the stack, then Photoshop will create an image based on the median of all the stacked exposures. The final image will show the parts of your exposures that are consistent through each layer, like the stars. Because digital noise is random, and changes from one exposure to the next, it will not be visible in the final stacked image.

If you’re still following me, great. It sounds complicated, but I’m going to walk you through exposure stacking step-by-step and you’ll see it’s really not that difficult. It can take a little time to get right, but it’s totally worth it when you see the difference it can make in your night sky photos.

Milky Way beach photo - How to Reduce Digital Noise in Astrophotography Using Exposure Stacking

Capturing the Stars In-Camera

There are plenty of other articles that will teach you in detail how to take great astrophotography, so I won’t go into it here. However, there are a few considerations that are required to get the exposures correct in order to be able to use the exposure stacking technique later.

1. You need multiple exposures with the same camera settings. You can take as many shots as you want, but I would suggest using a minimum of 10. Try to capture them as close together as possible to minimize movement of the stars between each exposure. The more time that lapses from the first exposure to the last, the more work will be required to stack them properly.

2. Turn off Long Exposure Noise Reduction. This is probably called something like “Long Exposure NR” in your camera. It will cause each exposure to take twice as long when it’s turned on, meaning there will be twice as much movement of the stars between exposures. It also means you’ll be double-processing your images, causing a reduction in image quality.

3. Make sure the stars in your photos are pinpoint. They need to be sharp and have as little streaking as possible. You can work out the maximum exposure time to create pinpoint stars based on the focal length of your lens using this tool.

Import and Develop in Lightroom

Again, there is a wealth of information about how to process astrophotography in Adobe Lightroom. All I do in Lightroom is check each exposure to eliminate any images that are unusable due to camera movement, do a basic edit, then open my selected images to Photoshop as layers.

How to Reduce Digital Noise in Astrophotography Using Exposure Stacking

Use “Open as Layers in Photoshop” to do exposure stacking. Go to: File > Edit In > Open as Layers in Photoshop.

The main things to remember here are that you make sure to sync your edits with all the exposures that you’ll be using and to avoid over-processing the images in Lightroom. Avoid sharpening and noise reduction at this stage of the process. Also take it easy on contrast, clarity, and dehaze. You can perform more creative edits on the final stacked image.

Aligning and Stacking Exposures in Photoshop

Ensuring your images are all aligned correctly is vital when doing exposure stacking. If they are not, you will end up with blurry stars. There are a couple of ways to align exposures. Try the auto-alignment method first and if it doesn’t do a good job you’ll need to use the manual method.

Auto Alignment

  1. Select all layers.
  2. Select Edit > Auto-Align Layers…
  3. Select Auto. Click OK.

How to Reduce Digital Noise in Astrophotography Using Exposure Stacking - auto-align layers

Manual Alignment

    1. Make only the bottom two layers visible.
    2. Select the second layer and change its blend mode to Difference. You’ll see the image go mostly black with white specks. The white areas represent the parts of the two visible images that are not aligned correctly.

How to Reduce Digital Noise in Astrophotography Using Exposure Stacking

  1. Click Edit > Free Transform.

How to Reduce Digital Noise in Astrophotography Using Exposure Stacking - free transform

  1. Click View and make sure Snap is unchecked.
  2. Zoom in on a corner, hold down command/control and move the corner box around until you see the white parts of the image line up and turn black. It will take some trial and error.

How to Reduce Digital Noise in Astrophotography Using Exposure Stacking

    1. Repeat with each corner of the image. You may need to go back to readjust a corner that you’ve already moved. It won’t be perfect, but try to get it as close as possible.
    2. Press return to exit Free Transform mode, then change the blend mode back to Normal.
    3. Make the layer you’ve just adjusted invisible and the next one up visible.
    4. Repeat with every layer, aligning each one with the base layer until they’re all aligned as well as possible.

Stacking Layers

  1. Make sure all layers are visible and selected.
  2. Right-click on one of the layers and click Convert To Smart Object.

How to Reduce Digital Noise in Astrophotography Using Exposure Stacking

  1. Click Layer > Smart Objects > Stack Mode > Median.

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Finish up

When Photoshop has finished working its magic, you should end up with an image that’s much cleaner with significantly less noise than you started with. Your stars probably won’t look quite as sharp when zoomed into 100%, especially if the alignment wasn’t quite right, but you’ll be the only person who looks that closely. Don’t forget to crop the edges that have moved during the alignment process.

Now you can apply any other creative edits you might like to your image. You can either do this while still in Photoshop or save the image and apply the adjustments back in Lightroom.

This may seem like a complicated process, but once you’ve done it once or twice you’ll get much quicker. If you’re anything like me, you’ll find the effort is worth it for the lovely, clean, noise-free astrophotography images it gives you.

The post How to Reduce Digital Noise in Astrophotography Using Exposure Stacking appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Enter for a Chance to Win One of NINE Photomatix Licenses!

Enter the Photomatix “Spring in HDR” Photography Contest Today!

Over the last few years here at dPS, we’ve run very some very popular competitions with our partners to give away some of their great photographic products to lucky dPS readers.

We are lucky enough to be able to do it again today!

Enter to Win One of NINE Photomatix Licenses

For this competition, HDRsoft is giving away THREE Photomatix Pro Plus Bundles, THREE Photomatix Pro, AND THREE Photomatix Essentials.

HDRsoft, the maker of the popular Photomatix software and pioneer of HDR photography post-processing, bring you the “Spring in HDR” photo contest.

What is HDR, you ask? HDR stands for “high dynamic range.” In simple terms, dynamic range is basically just the difference between the lightest light and darkest tones in a scene. HDR photography lets you capture a high contrast scene as you saw it. Take three or more photos with different exposures and merge them to create one stunning HDR image.

With spring in full swing, let’s have fun and SPRING into HDR!

These prizes are designed to help every level of photographer create impressive HDR pictures. Each prize will be won by a different dPS reader.

Photomatix Pro and Essentials offer the dPS readers High Dynamic Range photography software to:

Merge bracketed photos to HDR

  • Load photographs taken at different exposures (a.k.a. bracketed photos) to merge them into a single HDR image.
  • You can leave your tripod at home. Photomatix will align your bracketed photos for you.
  • If there are moving objects or people between the bracketed shots, Photomatix will remove them via its ghost removal tools.

Adjust the HDR image to your liking

  • Choose from a wide variety of styles, with built-in presets from natural looks right through to surreal or grunge effects.
  • Try different HDR styles and fine-tune the HDR settings to find enhancements that work best for your photo.

HDR Photo by Manarola Wojciech Toman, created with Photomatix Pro.


Three grand prize winners will win the Photomatix Pro Plus Bundle, a $119 value. Three second prize winners will win Photomatix Pro, a $99 value. Finally, three third place winners will win Photomatix Essentials 4, a $39 value.

HDR Photo by Manarola Wojciech Toman, created with Photomatix Pro

THREE Grand Prizes

Photomatix Pro Plus Bundle – a $119 Value

Bundle of two products:

  • Photomatix Pro 6
  • Tone Mapping Plugin for Photoshop

3 second place prize winners will receive Photomatix Pro 6 – $99 Value

Photomatix Pro is a standalone program (running on Windows and Mac) to create HDR photos with the look you want, from natural to artistic, using one-click presets and a large range of settings.

  • Merge bracketed photos to HDR.
  • Automatic alignment of hand-held photos.
  • Advanced ghost removal tools.
  • 6 HDR styles (Tone Mapping / Fusion).
  • Over 70 HDR settings and 40 built-in presets.
  • Create an HDR “Look” with a single photo.
  • Native RAW file support.
  • Brush Tool.
  • Options for real estate photography.
  • Batch processing.
  • Plugin for Lightroom included.

Three third place prize winners will receive – Photomatix Essentials 4 – $39 Value

Photomatix Essentials is an easy-to-use standalone program (running on Windows and Mac) to create HDR photos with the look you want, from natural to artistic, using one-click presets and streamlined settings.

  • Merge of bracketed photos to HDR.
  • Automatic alignment of hand-held photos.
  • Automatic ghost removal.
  • 4 HDR styles (Tone Mapping / Fusion).
  • 33 HDR settings and 30 built-in presets.
  • HDR “Look” with a single photo.
  • Native RAW support.
  • Plugin for Photoshop Elements included.

Learn a little more about Photomatix Pro 6 HERE

How to Win

To win this competition you’ll need to:

  1. Download a free trial of Photomatix Pro or Photomatix Essentials from HERE
  2. Load a bracketed photo set or a single photo of your favorite shots in Photomatix Pro or Photomatix Essentials, to create an HDR photo and adjust it to your liking.
  3. Post your HDR photo in our comments section below, include a few words about what you like about the software…and of course, a few words about your HDR photo. It’s as easy as that!

Do this in the next month and on or about July 20, 2018, the team at HDRsoft will choose the nine best photos and comments, and we will announce the winners in the following days.

Deadline to enter is July 6, 2018, 04:59 pm AEST (July 6, 2018, 02:59 am EDT). Photos and comments left after the deadline will not be considered.

Please click HERE for full contest rules, terms and conditions.

There’s no need to write essay length comments to win, just what you like about Photomatix and/or HDR. Don’t forget to include your HDR photo in our comments section below. We encourage you to have fun and be creative!

This competition is open to everyone, no matter where you live. To enter – simply leave your photo and comment below.

HDRsoft will be offering a 25% discount on Photomatix when we announce the winners. Make sure to get your trial now and watch out for the announcement after July 20th!



Learn more about Photomatix HERE

Disclaimer: HDRsoft is a paid partner of dPS.

The post Enter for a Chance to Win One of NINE Photomatix Licenses! appeared first on Digital Photography School.

5 Genuinely Useful Photoshop Actions

I use Lightroom for basic editing and raw conversions, but I still like to tweak my photos in Photoshop. Mostly, that’s just about familiarity. I’m a Photoshop addict. Technically, it makes sense to do as much editing in the raw convertor as possible—perhaps all of it—but I like the blank canvas that is Photoshop more than the frog-marched workflow of raw convertors. Besides, there are still things you can see and do in Photoshop that aren’t possible in Lightroom.

Although I might spend a fair while in Photoshop doing labor-intensive things, for the most part, I’m looking to edit photos quickly and naturally so they might be broadly acceptable for publication. I want my pictures to look good without going down the path of fancy effects, which would often narrow their salability.

Create photoshop actions

One way I can quickly tweak photos in Photoshop CC is to have a collection of Actions available. This article will show you five useful Photoshop Actions (available for download at the end of the article) curated and/or adapted by me that have nothing to do with 1970s summery film effects, light leak effects, or anything like that. Those are for another day.

Make Buttons for your Actions

Before we get down to the Actions, consider putting your Actions window into “Button Mode” once you’ve recorded or downloaded them. This makes actions more usable since it avoids you having to scroll down to find them. Nothing is faster than single clicks to get your images looking good, even if you have to back up sometimes.

You can customize the colors of your Action buttons if you want, perhaps assigning a different color to each type of edit.

Photoshop actions button mode

Observe and Adapt

One of the purposes of this article is to show you some neat tricks in Photoshop that you can incorporate into Actions. You’ll be able to see what’s happening and use the same tools to achieve different or better things. These Actions also make use of channel masks, which enable precise, flawlessly nuanced selections of color and tone for different types of edits.

Channels selections, Alpha channel, Photoshop CC

These Actions make heavy use of channels, selections, and layer masks.

Action #1 Saturation Boost

Ever since “vibrancy” was introduced, the use of saturation masks has diminished. The purpose of a saturation mask is to gradually mask the most or least saturated areas of an image, depending on whether you invert the selection or not. We can still use such a mask to create a saturation boost Action. It is made using Photoshop’s HSB/HSL filter.

HSB/HSL filter

The HSB/HSL filter has a psychedelic effect on the image.

An inverse saturation mask addresses the least saturated areas of the image more strongly, but there’s still an outside chance of clipping the RGB channels with it (i.e. overexposing or underexposing them and losing detail). In this Action, a “blend if” blending option has been added to give extra protection to shadows and highlights.


  1. Create a duplicate layer (Cmd/Ctrl + J).
  2. Apply an HSB/HSL filter (RGB & HSB settings) to the duplicate layer – it will turn a weird color.
  3. Invert the colors of the layer (Ctrl/Cmd + I).
  4. Select the green channel under “channels”, right-click and create a duplicate channel (label it “Sat Mask”).
  5. Go back to layers and delete the duplicate layer.
  6. Back in channels, Ctrl/Cmd + click on the “Sat Mask” channel you just created (you should see marching ants on your open photo at this point).
  7. In layers, create a hue/saturation adjustment layer.
  8. Add +25 of saturation in the hue/saturation dialogue box (or any value that might be useful).
  9. Go to Layer > Layer Style > Blending Options.
  10. Under Blend If > This Layer, move the sliders inwards to 245 and 10 (or in that vicinity).
  11. Hold down the Alt key to split these sliders into two, moving the inner halves to values of 70 and 160. This feathers the selection to avoid harsh transitions in tone. Click “OK”.
  12. Delete the “Sat Mask” channel.
  13. Ctrl/Cmd + E to merge all layers.

50-50 view of HSB/HSL filter and regular photo.

If the effect of the Action is too strong or weak for your liking, you can hit Ctrl/Cmd + Z to unblend the layers and alter the saturation value. Then simply blend again. This action is much the same as using the vibrancy slider only in fast button form.

Action #2 Mid-Tone Contrast +50

This relatively simple action injects contrast into the mid-tone to highlight areas of an image and leaves shadow areas untouched. Adding contrast in this way also intensifies the color. It’s akin to a curves adjustment, leaving the lower part of the curve untouched.

Photoshop contrast

Although it’s hard to appreciate in a side-by-side comparison, perhaps you can see the snappier highlights and slightly increased mid-tone saturation to the left side of this image. Shadows remain untouched.


  1. Go to the channels palette and click on the RGB channel while holding down the Ctrl/Cmd key. This creates a selection on your background layer.
  2. Switch to your layers palette and hit Ctrl/Cmd + J keys, which will paste your masked selection onto a new layer.
  3. Go to blending modes (top left of the layers palette), and select Soft Light. Contrast is added to the mid-tone/highlight portions of your picture.
  4. Adjust the layer opacity to taste (set at 50% in the supplied Action).
  5. Ctrl/Cmd + E to merge down the layers.

Action #3 Refined Clarity

This Photoshop Action is similar to the previous one in that it’s a type of contrast adjustment which protects the shadows. The main difference is that this one uses Clarity, which it borrows from ACR.

In terms of appearance, this Action reveals more textural detail than a straight contrast adjustment by emphasizing edges and small changes in tone. It affects the saturation less.

Clarity slider, clarity settings

The image on the left has some Clarity applied to it, but the shadows are protected to avoid the kind of crunchy look that occurs with a similar amount is applied in a raw converter (right).

(The Clarity slider gives much the same effect as “high radius, low amount” Unsharp Mask sharpening, which was a thing about 10 years ago.)

If you want to give flat images extra pop with a greater impression of depth and detail, this Photoshop Action works well. Once again, it uses a Blend If modifications to refine the result, avoiding the grunge that often makes excessive Clarity unsightly. By tapering the result from shadows to highlights, it does most of its work in the mid to high tones.


  1. Create a duplicate layer (Ctrl/Cmd + J).
  2. Label the layer “Clarity”.
  3. Open ACR by clicking on Filter > Camera Raw Filter.
  4. Drag the Clarity slider to 100% (ignore the harsh result).
  5. Click OK and be returned to Photoshop.
  6. Open the blending options (Layer Style > Blending Options or double-click to the right of the layer name).
  7. Go to Blend If > Underlying Layer. Hold down the Alt key and drag the right-hand side of the shadow triangle on the left all the way to the far right.
  8. Click OK.
  9. Adjust the layer opacity to taste (the supplied Action is set to 60%).
  10. Ctrl/Cmd + E to merge layers.

Action #4 Shadow Noise

In recent years, the Auto button in Lightroom and ACR has improved to such an extent that I sometimes click on it as an alternative starting point. The result is akin to a mild HDR effect. In particular, it tends to cut out the high contrast in images.

Photos that are intended for sale (however optimistically) don’t generally benefit from being loaded with hard-to-see, blocky detail.

In an image such as this one, I might hit Auto in the raw converter to unblock some of the shadows (as is the case in the top section of the picture: notice the railings, man’s coat, and architectural details).

Of course, the problem with bringing out shadow detail is that it invites noise. Depending on your camera and its settings, it might invite a lot of noise. If we create a Noise Reduction Action using a channel mask, we can target the darkest areas of an image. What’s more, the mask is perfectly feathered, so it will seamlessly apply more or less noise reduction according to the tones of the image.

On the right side of this image, you’ll note that the brighter areas are masked off (redder areas) and thus excluded from noise reduction.

The downside of creating a Photoshop Action for noise reduction is that normally you’d adjust the settings according to the properties of each photo. However, there’s nothing to stop you creating several noise reduction actions for different picture profiles. As well, you could integrate a noise reduction plugin that assesses each picture individually.


  1. Create a duplicate layer and name it “Reduce Noise”.
  2. Apply noise reduction to the duplicate layer.
  3. Go to channels and Ctrl/Cmd + Click on the RGB channel, creating a selection.
  4. Hit Shift + Ctrl/Cmd + I to invert the selection.
  5. Click on “Save Selection as a Channel”.
  6. With the selection visible (marching ants) go back to layers and add a mask to your duplicate “Reduce Noise” layer.
  7. Delete the remaining extra channel (“Alpha 1” if you didn’t rename it).
  8. Ctrl/Cmd + E to merge the layers.

Action #5 Web Sharpen

Sharpening is a contrast adjustment, where adjacent edges are made brighter and darker according to their tone to create the illusion of sharpness. The aim is to emphasize these edges without overdoing it and creating haloes.

One way you can control sharpening is with a luminosity mask, which automatically modifies the amount of edge contrast applied depending on how bright or dark it is. The beauty of this is that it’s subjective. Like other channel masks, it fades the effect of your edit based purely on the content of the image. The only control you have to think about is opacity, which might be greater or smaller depending on the size of the image.

channels mask, luminosity mask, Photoshop

By applying a luminosity mask, sharpening is proportionately reduced in the darker parts of the image (shown as deep red). This ensures that less attention is given to any noisy shadow areas, which we don’t want to sharpen. The Action also shields bright highlights from sharpening using a Blend If setting.

I find that this Action at 10% opacity works well on web images of between 800 and 1200 pixels wide.


  1. Create a duplicate layer and name it “Sharpen”.
  2. Open channels, hold down the  Ctrl/Cmd key and click on the RGB channel, creating a selection.
  3. Click on the “Save selection as channel” icon at the bottom of the channels palette. A new channel will appear called “Alpha 1”.
  4. Deselect it by hitting Ctrl/Cmd + D or by clicking Select > Deselect.
  5. Click on your “Sharpen” layer to make it live.
  6. Go to Filter > Unsharp Mask and select a high value of 400-500, a radius of around 0.8 to 1.2, and a value of 0.
  7. Ctrl/Cmd + click on the “Alpha 1” channel in the channels palette (the selection will reappear as marching ants).
  8. Go back to the layers palette and with your “Sharpen” layer selected, click on the “Add layer mask” icon. This modifies the sharpening effect.
  9. Click on Layer> Layer Style > Blending Options.
  10. Move the right-hand slider under “This Layer” to 245.
  11. Holding down the Alt key, split the left-hand side of this slider and move it to around 220.
  12. Click OK.
  13. Adjust the layer opacity to taste (the download action is set at 10%).
  14. Delete Alpha 1 channel.
  15. Ctrl/Cmd + E to merge layers.

Photoshop Action Crashes

Occasionally, for reasons unclear to me, Photoshop Actions seem to crash and will not thereafter work without a Photoshop restart. A sure sign that this has happened, aside from inaction and error messages, is that the button in “button mode” changes color.

Download the Set

Download these actions here for free. To install: open the download directly into Photoshop or load from within Actions.


If an Action doesn’t improve the photo as you’d hoped, you can delete or add elements as you wish, perhaps with different settings or to refine the result. I hope this article inspires you to experiment with some of Photoshop’s more powerful tools. Good luck!

The post 5 Genuinely Useful Photoshop Actions appeared first on Digital Photography School.

How to Create Your Own Style by Using LUTs in Photoshop

It is important to have your own style. Everybody says that. It is one of the most important factors to avoid drowning in millions of other photos from other photographers. A style is many things. It is your compositions, what you shoot photos of, what light you shoot in, but one of the most important factors is, how you post-process your photos. In this article, we will look at a post-process technique that can give you your own unique look to all of your photos using LUTs in Photoshop.

There are many ways to apply a certain look to your photos, some are better and some are simpler than others. You can pick up a filter or a preset in some tool and it might look pretty good. But it will not really be your style no matter how cool it looks. Anybody with that tool can click that exactly same preset and have the same look.

mountains at dusk and reflections - How to Create Your Own Style by Using LUTs in Photoshop

Create your own look

If you want to have your own style or look, you will have to create it. A great way to do that is by creating your own “Color Look -Up Table” or simply called LUTs. This is a fairly easy way to make a quite drastic look which will be unique to your photos. This is also called color grading.

A LUT is a Color Look-Up Table, it maps one color into another. It is a technique used in the movie industry, to create certain styles to movies. The same technique can be applied in photography to create a distinctive and professional look to your photos.

In this article, you will first learn how to use LUTs, and then how to create your own LUT files. The LUT is your post-processing style. This technique requires Photoshop or GIMP (or any program that uses layers – Luminar is also capable of using LUTs). The examples in this article were done with Photoshop.

Before we start, remember that when you are post-processing not to overdo it only “do it” enough, or subtly.

The Vista Point - How to Create Your Own Style by Using LUTs in Photoshop

How to use a LUT

Photoshop comes with a number of LUTs out-of-the-box, you apply them as an adjustment layer. They will change the colors of the image and some of them will also change the contrast. Let’s see how to add LUTs to a photo.

Path into the unknown - How to Create Your Own Style by Using LUTs in Photoshop

Step 1 – Open a photo in Photoshop

Start by opening a photo, maybe one that you have post-processed a bit to balance the contrast, highlights, and shadows.

Open a file in Photoshop - How to Create Your Own Style by Using LUTs in Photoshop

Step 2 – Add an Adjustment Layer

Then add an Adjustment Layer – choose “Color Lookup Adjustment layer”.

Add LUT adjustment layer - How to Create Your Own Style by Using LUTs in Photoshop

This layer will use a LUT file to make magic changes to your photo.

Step 3 – Pick a LUT

Make sure that you have the Properties tab of the adjustment layer opened. Click on the 3DLUT file drop-down menu and a list will appear. The list you see include the default LUTs shipped with Photoshop.

Open properties - How to Create Your Own Style by Using LUTs in Photoshop

Pick one and see what happens. Play around and try different default LUTs and see what happens.

Pick a LUT - How to Create Your Own Style by Using LUTs in Photoshop

Some are very dramatic, like for instance EdgyAmber, while others are a bit more subtle.

See the result of EdgyAmber - How to Create Your Own Style by Using LUTs in Photoshop

Resulting image using the EdgyAmber LUT.

At first, you may think that the dramatic ones are not useful at all, but try changing the layer opacity to 30% while you have the EdgyAmber LUT selected.

Change the opacity of the layer - How to Create Your Own Style by Using LUTs in Photoshop

As you can see the dramatic LUTs can also become subtle.

Change opacity Result - How to Create Your Own Style by Using LUTs in Photoshop

EdgyAmber LUT applied at 30% opacity.

Step 4 – Combining several LUT files

You can also create your own unique look. One that you can use for a particular series or even apply it on all of your photos as your style. You can do that by combining several Color Lookup (LUT) adjustment layers.

On each one, change the opacity level to something rather low, probably in the 5%-40% range. Once you have 4-6 layers, you can be pretty sure that the exact combination of layers, their order and opacity is unique.

Combined LUTs - How to Create Your Own Style by Using LUTs in Photoshop

Combining four LUTs for a unique look.

This is a pretty effective, yet simple, way to process your images to make them look like professional photographs.

Advanced tip!

You can also use some of the other kinds of adjustment layers to change the colors, to make more exact fine-tuning tweaks. Good adjustment layers for doing this are Selective Colors, Channel Mixer, and Color Balance. There are others, but they are even more advanced.

Once you have a selection of Color Lookup Adjustment (LUT) layers that you like, you can save this combination as your own LUT. This way you can achieve the same look on another photo, simply by applying just one LUT. It is almost as simple as clicking a preset button.

House in Hamburg - How to Create Your Own Style by Using LUTs in Photoshop

Requirement 1 – Your photo must be the Background Layer

To make this work, it is a requirement that the original image is the Background Layer. This will always be the case if you have opened the image normally.

Background layer - How to Create Your Own Style by Using LUTs in Photoshop

Requirement 2 – Do not use masks

Whatever color grading adjustment layers you use to change the colors, do not use any masks. Using masks will confuse the Color Look Table export tool and your LUT will probably not be usable.

The Lock House - How to Create Your Own Style by Using LUTs in Photoshop

Step 5 – How to use your own LUT

Once you have made a set of adjustment layers to your photo, you can save it to a LUT file by going to: File > Export > Color Lookup Tables…

How to save the LUT - How to Create Your Own Style by Using LUTs in Photoshop

In the export dialog box, you can name your LUT. You can also change the Grid Points. 64 is a good compromise between size/performance and quality. Finally, make sure that you have 3DL checked.

How to save LUT - Settings - How to Create Your Own Style by Using LUTs in Photoshop

If you save all your own LUTs to the same folder, they will be easy to access and find later. You can make a shortcut to the folder and very quickly apply one of your own LUTs to another image.

Step 6 – Using your own LUTs

It is very simple to use your newly created LUT file. Open a new image in Photoshop, add a Color Lookup Adjustment Layer and click Load 3D Lut.

How to load LUT - How to Create Your Own Style by Using LUTs in Photoshop

As you can see, it instantly transforms your photo.

Custom LUT loaded - How to Create Your Own Style by Using LUTs in Photoshop

If you apply this LUT to any photo they will share a common look and feel.

All the photos in this article are processed using the same LUT and the familiarity is easy to spot. The results are dark moody images with a yellow/orange tint in the highlights and a blue/purple ting in the shadow areas.

They were all created with just some basic contrast, highlight and shadows adjustments applied in Lightroom, before importing them into Photoshop. The post-processing need not stop here, but for the purpose of the example, these images were kept simple.

The outer Pier - How to Create Your Own Style by Using LUTs in Photoshop


By creating and using LUT files you can create a look for all your photos or even just to a series of images, that is unique. The LUT could be just a part of a more complex post-processing method or it could be the one spice that makes it your signature look.

As you grow more familiar with them you can create LUTs that you use for particular types of photos. One for sunny daytime photos, one for pre-sunrise, one for nighttime, etc. Have fun and be creative with using LUTs.

More LUTs

You can find tons of LUTs available on the internet. Some are free, some are not. However, I still recommend that you try to create your own, make it your style.

If you have any questions about creating or using LUTs, please ask in the comments area below.

The post How to Create Your Own Style by Using LUTs in Photoshop appeared first on Digital Photography School.

ON1 Photo RAW 2018 – A Beginner’s Guide

When people start photography, or even after they have been doing it for a while, they find a time when they want to start learning how to do some processing on their computer. Then they are faced with a heap of options. There are so many choices and trying to work out which one to choose can be hard. One option that is becoming very popular is ON1 Photo Raw 2018.

You can buy the software outright, so you don’t need to worry about any monthly subscription costs like others are offering. It is easy to learn and you will find that ON1 can likely do everything you need to do. One of the best aspects is the community of photographers around the program as well.

On1 Photo RAW 2018 - A Beginner’s Guide - textured image

Having fun with layers and the textures.

Here is a beginner’s guide to help you find your way through ON1 Photo RAW 2018 and give you the confidence to start working on your photos. You can download the program from their website.

There is a 30-day free trial available to see if you like it before buying, which of course you will. You can also just pay for it which isn’t very expensive either. Finally, if you do purchase it you will have the peace of mind knowing it is backed by a 30-day money back guarantee.

Browse Module

This is where you start when you open the program. Here you can find all your folders that contain your images. This is where you should start exploring what is possible inside ON1 Photo RAW. You can’t break anything and it is good to see what is available.

Hover over all the menu items along the top of the main window. You will see File, Edit, Album, etc., each of those has different options. While you may not use many of them at first, it is always good to know what is there. It will help you understand what is available and if you watch the many ON1 videos you will understand what they are saying and how easy it is to learn.

ON1 Photo RAW 2018

In the Browse module. Hover along the top to see what is in each of the menus.

On1 Photo RAW 2018 - A Beginner’s Guide - photo of a marina

An image with only basic adjustments made to it using ON1 Photo RAW 2018.

The most important thing to do is to find where your photos are located. Then click on Browse and look below. You may have to go searching, but just use the same process that you would if you were looking for them on your computer.

Again, it’s simple. Just point Browse to where your photos are located for them to appear. You don’t have to import photos to start working. You can add folders, subfolders, albums and smart albums (collections) so that they are easier to find in the future as well.

ON1 Photo RAW 2018

In Browse, you can see all your folders and subfolders.

Now it is time to pick a photo. Once you have one selected, double-click on it, press Enter, or you can just go to the side panel on the right, go to Develop, and your image will open there. Watch the short video below on the Browse module.


In this module, you can start to make changes to your images. This is where you can begin the process of creating the image that you had in your head when you took it. This is also where the first steps in raw processing will occur if you are shooting raw files.

Overall Settings

In Develop you can make many of the most common adjustments. Most images need something, whether that is changing the exposure, or perhaps bringing out the shadows, and you can do it all in the Develop module. If you’re just starting out with editing, the Tone and Color Mode is a good place to begin. From there you can make many adjustments to your image that will help make it look a lot better.

ON1 Photo RAW 2018

Overall Settings is where you can make most of the adjustments you will need to do.

You should play with all the sliders to see what they each can do. Don’t worry about going too far, nothing is fixed, and you can undo everything. In the photography industry, we call that non-destructive editing. You aren’t doing anything to your image that is permanent.

When using the sliders you don’t have to click on the actual pointer, just click anywhere you want and the pointer will catch up to you. You can slide along underneath it as well.

ON1 Photo RAW 2018

You will make the changes by using the sliders in the appropriate panels.

Go to the Extremes

Another reason for going too far is that it can help you work out where you need to be with your image. Take the slider to the max, and then you bring it back to where you think it should be. As you do this, you will start to understand what each slider is for and how you can use it. Don’t forget to try it in both directions.

ON1 Photo RAW 2018

Take the sliders to the extreme, see how far you can go. Don’t forget to bring them back.

Resetting or Undoing

If you want to go back to where you were at the start simply go to the top of the section (where the heading is) for example, Tone and Color. On the right, you will see a half-circle with an arrow. Click on that and everything will be reset.

ON1 Photo RAW 2018

Press the icon in the top right of the adjustments window to reset everything you have done.

For individual sliders, if you would like to reset just one, double-click on the name of the slider.

You can see in this section you can also change the white balance, vibrancy, and saturation. You can add structure to the image, though this should always be applied with caution. Many people think it will help sharpen their image, but if the image is not sharp already structure will not do that. What it does do, is give your sharp lines more definition.

ON1 Photo RAW 2018

This is the section where you can change the color aspects of your images, like White Balance.

There are a couple of other settings used for portraits. If you are doing photos with people you should try them out and see how they work with your images.

Lens Corrections

Most lenses affect your images and it is in the Lens Correction area of ON1 Photo RAW that you can correct that. Most of the time the software can detect your lens is, but if you use an unusual lens then you may have to add its profile or tell the program which lens was used. You don’t have to do this, but if you are using a wide-angle lens then it can be good to apply this setting.

Lens Correction is where you can fix the distortion that your lens can cause.


The Details section is where you can reduce noise in your photos and do some sharpening. Both need to be used with caution. Overdoing it can cause unwanted halos and give your images a weird harsh texture.

As with the other sections, you should play around with all the sliders to see what they each do. Some will seem to make a difference, while others will look like they’ve done nothing. To really see what they do try enlarging the image to 100 or 200 percent. Some of them only work on individual pixels.

Details is the area where you can sharpen your image and reduce the noise in it.

Along the top of Details, you can see a default, low, high, and other options. These are like presets that you can use, or you can set your own and save it.

On1 Photo RAW 2018 - A Beginner’s Guide - pink flower

Using Detail to help reduce noise and sharpen the image.

Show More

Under Overall Settings, you will see a button that says Show More, click it. More adjustments will then be shown. If you select one a new window will appear under the others. Scroll down so you can make the necessary changes. Like many of the other settings try them all to see what you can do.

Under Overall Settings, you will see Show More. You will be given more options for adjustments to your image.

Local Adjustments

If you would like to make adjustments to particular areas of your image only, then this is the place for you to do so. Local Adjustments allows you to target parts of your images as opposed to global edits that apply to the entire image.

Local Adjustments is next to the Overall Settings tab.

If you decide that you want to make a certain part of the image darker or lighter (or add vibrance or detail) then choose Add Layer and a brush will come up. The brush has feathering which you can change to suit your image. The solid circle in the middle is how big the solid part will be and the dotted line around the outside is how far the feathering will go. To change that you can do it along the top, click on Feather, and move left or right to change the size.

The brush comes with feathering and it is good to know how to adjust it.

Along the top is where you change the brush settings.

Choose a setting that will make a big a difference for your image, like lighten or darken. Brush it over the area you want to change, this is how to make your selection. This is a good way to figure out and select the area that you want to edit or adjust.

In Local Adjustments, you can make the selection of the part of the image you want to work on.

Once you have the area you want to adjust selected, you can change the settings however you want. Undo the lighten or darken, go to the adjustments in that window and make the changes you really want. You can add as many layers as you want to make lots of changes to different parts of your image.

Experiment with this. Have a go at all of them to see how they work. It is a good way to learn what is possible. When you are done testing, you can delete any unwanted layers. Click the cross in the top right corner of each one.

Tools in the Develop Module

On the left side of the program, there are some tools. Some of them you can use straight away, other tools you can only use within the Local Adjustments tab.

Straightening Your Image

One of the questions that I get asked the most is “Why are all my images crooked?” It is such a common problem and something everyone does. Part of my answer is that it is so common, that most editing software has very easy ways to correct it. ON1 Photo Raw is no different.

The first tool in the left-side panel is the Crop Tool. Click on it and then look at the top panel across the image where you will see a small level. Click on that.

To make your image level you need to click on the crop tool first, and then look for the level icon along the top.

Pick a straight line to use in your image, like the horizon, or a tall building. Click on one end of your straight line, then hold and drag down to the other end. Keep the line along the straight edge and then click at the other end. You will see the image straighten, then just press enter to apply and crop it. The image should now be level.

Click along a straight line to make the image level.

Sometimes it can take a few times to do this, so if it doesn’t look level then just undo and repeat.

The image is now level or straightened.

On1 Photo RAW 2018 - A Beginner’s Guide

Making an image straight and level.

Removing things from your image

It is in the section, that you will find the tools you need to remove unwanted items from your images. The Healing Brush, the Eraser, and the Clone Stamp are all here. Again, you should play around with them to see how they each work and the effect they will have.

The tools you will use to remove unwanted things in your images.

Use Ctrl/Cmd+Z to undo what you have done.

The first two options, Erase and Heal are like brushes so you can apply them to the items you want to remove.

The third one is called Fix, but you need to take a sample of the image to copy over the unwanted thing. You can do this by looking for an area that can be copied and then apply Fix to that area. Once you have selected the area press Alt or Option and a circle with a cross will appear, click on that area. Now you can release the Alt or Option key and then click on what you want to get rid of.

Using those tools to remove a duck from this image.

It might take a few attempts, so don’t be discouraged. Just make sure that what you are replacing the area with something that will match.


There are a number of presets that you can apply to your image. These are great when you first start as they can really show you what is possible with the program. You can add a preset, but each time you add a new one it will cancel out the previous one. If you want to stack presets on top of each other, simply right-click on the preset thumbnail preview, and choose Insert Preset.

On the right-side, you will see a number of new windows appear with all the adjustments that were made to help get that effect. If you study them you will start to understand how ON1 Photo RAW works and what you can apply to your own images.

ON1 Photo RAW comes with a series of presets.

As all the adjustments are there from the preset, you can also make your own changes to fine-tune the preset to your liking You might find parts of it are not exactly how you would like them.

On1 Photo RAW 2018 - A Beginner’s Guide

The preset Firenza was added to this image.

When you go to Develop you can see all the presets on the left. Click on the different folders and quite a few of them will come up. You can see them applied to your image in small preview versions.

There are many different presets that you can use. You can see a small version (thumbnail) of each as a preview of how it will look applied to your image.

However, if you would like to see them a lot bigger then all you need to do is click the square in the top right corner of the window with the presets. It has four small squares inside a larger one.

Click on the four dots in the upper left corner to get bigger previews of the presets.

This will give a grid view and you can see how each one will look applied to your image. This is a much easier way to plan and choose which one to use.

The larger previews.

If you would like to see even bigger versions then simply click Ctrl or Cmd and the plus key. You can really see how the preset will look on your image. To exit, press Escape or the arrow in the top left corner.

Applying the preset to your image.

Moving on to Effects

One of the first things you will notice in the Effects Module is that there are more tools available. There are brushes and gradients that have masks attached to them. The mask will make it easier to make changes and corrections later on if you decide you don’t like them. Masks are good to use, but you do need to get used to them. It takes a bit of practice.

When you go to the Effects Mode you get a lot more tools to start using. Many come with masks.

Presets and Filters

Over where the presets were in the Develop mode, you will now find a series of Filters that can be applied to your image. As you did with the previous module, you can click on one, then the four preview thumbnails of the filters for that set on your image.

In Effects, you also get to use special filters to apply to your images.

You can also select the filters on the right under Overall Settings. If you know which one you want to choose then you can just select it there. When you do make the selection you will see that a new window will open up. In there you can adjust the filter as you want it. You can change the opacity, along with other settings that are used to make the filter. You don’t have to accept everything the filter gives you, feel free to tweak the options to your liking.

Click on the four dots again to get larger previews.

Over on the right under Overall Settings and Local Adjustments, there is a button called Add Filter, click it to see a list of the ones available.

Once again, you should try them all and see how they work. Try adding several filters to the same image. If you don’t like it you can press Ctrl/Cmd+Z to remove it. Otherwise, click the cross in the top right corner.

For each filter there are windows where you can make adjustments to the filters you have applied.

Working with Layers

Layers can be scary, but once you know what they are and how to use them you will see a lot more opportunities open up for your image.

The Layers Module has a lot more tools and adjustments you can use. Plus it also gives you the added bonus of being able to apply other images and work with layers.

You can change the sky if you aren’t happy with what is there in your shot. ON1 makes this very easy with the masking brush. You can make it so that you only mask particular colors, for example, so you can remove just that one and show the image that is below.

To replace your sky or to add textures you have to be able to work with layers and learn about blending them. It can be very hard to grasp at the beginning, but if you keep experimenting you will figure it out.

Here you can see the effect of several textures added and blended to completely change the look of the image.

Resizing Images

This is where you can resize your images depending on what you are going to do with them. For most of us, that is probably going to mean doing images for Social Media. However, there are a lot of other options available so you can prepare your images for printing or whatever you need.

If you want big prints, Resize uses Genuine Fractals® technology to enlarge your images.

Resize is where you can get your image ready for social media or printing.

The ON1 RAW Community

If you really want to go to this level then consider watching the many videos available on their YouTube channel or on their website under product training. ON1 also has a great community (called ON1 Plus Pro, which is $149 annually, regular price) and always includes the latest edition of ON1 Photo RAW as a perpetual license. Or you can buy the lower priced standard membership, ON1 Plus, for just $49.99 per year without the upgrade to the next version of ON1 Photo RAW. ON1 Photo RAW 2018 is available for $119.99 for new customers and an upgrade price of $99.99 for previous owners.

The entire community is always happy to help you learn. The membership also includes different coaches, themes, and topics each month to teach to the Plus community. Some of the names coming to ON1 Plus this year include Matt Kloskowski, Tamara Lackey, Don Komarechka, Colin Smith, Hudson Henry, Colby Brown, James Brandon, Jim Welninski, and Dan Harlacher the Product Director.

You will find many videos that take you through the more complicated parts of the program step by step. Dan has a great voice and is a great instructor. They are all really good.

Editing Your Photos

Whether you are a beginner or more advanced user, ON1 Photo RAW will have what you need. It isn’t a hard program to learn, especially with all the added support that ON1 offers. If you are a very beginner then it is the perfect place to start and grow into.

Disclaimer: ON1 is a dPS advertising partner.

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6 Essential Steps in any Post-Processing Workflow

We live in a digital age, a time when a post-processing workflow is an increasingly essential aspect of our photography. Cameras produce images with the expectation that they will be altered later, will be corrected, sharpened, tinted, etc.

What this means is that post-processing isn’t something that can be easily bypassed, especially if you shoot in RAW, which I recommend.

That isn’t to say that every photographer today has to love post-processing. Some photographers, I consider myself to be among them, greatly prefer working in the field to working on the computer. But while it’s possible to shorten one’s post-processing workflow, a minimum amount of editing is necessary to keep up with today’s artistic and technological standards.

macro photography abstract winter ice - Post-Processing Workflow

In this article, I will discuss that minimum and explain the six essential steps in any post-processing workflow. My examples are done in Lightroom, but this applies to all photographers, no matter what software you use.

Once you’ve gone through these steps, you may declare your images complete, and that’s okay. Or you may choose to work on them further, which is okay, too. The point here is only to suggest the six core elements that all post-processing workflows should includeafter that, the choice is yours.

1. Crop (and straighten)

The first thing that I do as soon as I have opened my images in Lightroom is to crop and straighten them.

While it’s best to compose properly in camera, sometimes you see a slightly better composition when your image comes up on the screen. However, it isn’t good to rely on this too heavily. Cropping heavily reduces image resolution while also magnifying image imperfections.

Furthermore, when hand-holding your camera, it’s easy to take a slightly crooked image. This isn’t a problem, as long as you remember to straighten it out later.

daisy abstract macro photography flower - Post-Processing Workflow

Notice the slight change from original (right) to cropped and straightened (left) – look at the stem.

daisy abstract macro photography flower - Post-Processing Workflow

This image required a slight amount of cropping and straightening in order to balance out the frame. This is especially important when images have clear lines, as this one does (i.e., the daisy stem).

A word of warning: especially if you are a wildlife or bird photographer, you will be tempted to use cropping to compensate for a distant subject. Resist this temptation and focus on your stalking skills instead. If you find yourself consistently cropping a significant amount, recognize that you should probably make some changes while you’re in the field (get closer or use a longer lens).

2. Check the White Balance

I shoot in RAW. Thus, when I’m in the field, I leave my camera’s White Balance on Auto. Because the RAW file format allows for you to change the image temperature without any image degradation, this is perfectly acceptable (though it does mean slightly more time behind the computer).

snowy intimate landscape photography - Post-Processing Workflow

The left (final) image is after some adjustment; the right is adjusted in the other (warmer) direction.

snowy intimate landscape photography - Post-Processing Workflow

A cooler (bluer) color temperature was necessary to recreate a snowy, cold feeling for this image.

Use the Temp and Tint sliders to adjust the White Balance.

Sometimes the goal is to reproduce the color temperature that you saw in the field. Other times, you might be trying to achieve an artistic look. Higher temperatures (high degrees K) make for a warmer image and counteract colder light, whereas lower temperatures (low K) make for a cooler image and balance out a warmer color cast.

macro photography flower abstract sunset - Post-Processing Workflow

The left image is what I ultimately decided on; the one on right is an exaggeratedly cool version of the same image.

macro photography flower abstract sunset - Post-Processing Workflow

Taken at sunset, this image required a higher color temperature to match what I saw at the moment of capture.

3. Check the exposure

After adjusting the White Balance, I generally turn to the exposure. This is an aspect of a post-processing workflow that is often forgotten. Yet you should scrutinize your image carefully before moving on. Is it too bright? Too dark? Just right?

This is where the histogram is your friend. It’s to your benefit to learn to read it. Look for blown out highlights or crushed blacks as peaks pressing up against either end of the graph, as well as gaps that indicate a lack of darker or lighter tones in your image.

The histogram can tell you a lot about your image. This one says the image it represents is slightly overexposed. There are no blacks (it’s not touching the left-side of the graph). An Exposure adjustment and the Black slider will solve this issue.

macro photography flower abstract - Post-Processing Workflow

This situation was unique: While the right image isn’t underexposed, I was interested in a slightly brighter one with more contrast. So I altered the exposure in Lightroom and ultimately chose the left image.

macro photography flower abstract - Post-Processing Workflow

A darker image can be corrected in post-processing (this is easier to do with RAW files).

While it is ideal to expose perfectly while in the field, post-processing allows for a bit of leeway here. For instance, you can use the general Exposure slider in Lightroom to correct small exposure mistakes. And if you want to take this further, you can also work with the more narrowly focused Highlights, Shadows, Whites and Blacks sliders.

4. Check the Vibrance and Saturation

Saturation allows you to increase the intensity of all colors in the image, and Vibrance allows you to increase the intensity of the less saturated colors only. In most photo-editing programs, these are easy to change.

macro photography flower yellow abstract - Post-Processing Workflow

Notice the slightly more intense yellows in the left (more saturated) image.

macro photography flower yellow abstract - Post-Processing Workflow

A bit of saturation gave this image more punch.

Saturation and Vibrance can provide a slight punch to your images when done subtly. These are also quite easy to overdo, so be careful. You don’t want to slam the viewer with so much saturation that they are forced to look away!

5. Check for noise

Next, be sure to check the noise levels in your image. This is especially important if you’re working with a long exposure or an image that was shot at a high ISO. Increasing the exposure in post-processing may also introduce unintended noise.

macro photography abstract yellow - Post-Processing Workflow

This image required a slight amount of noise reduction.

macro photography abstract yellow - Post-Processing Workflow

While the difference is subtle, a crop of the final image (with noise reduction applied in Lightroom) is on the left.

If you find unpleasant levels of noise, you can generally use noise reduction software to remove it. Removing noise does decrease the overall image sharpness (if removing luminance noise) and saturation (if removing color noise). So, once again, this is a correction that should be used minimally.

6. Check the sharpness

Finally, I like to end my basic post-processing workflow by considering the complement of noise – sharpness. If working with a program such as Lightroom, this often needs little adjustment. With a good lens and good camera technique, your images will be rendered sharp simply by the photo-conversion presets.

For example, I rarely alter Lightroom’s Amount: 25 Sharpening preset. If your image is slightly soft, you may want to work with overall sharpness. You might also consider a second round of carefully applied sharpening in order to enhance specific features like the faces of birds, the center of flowers, etc.

autumn intimate landscape photography - Post-Processing Workflow

It is imperative that an image like this have a pin sharp subject.

autumn intimate landscape photography - Post-Processing Workflow

A crop of the final image (left) with sharpening applied in Lightroom.

However, even once you’ve sharpened for your original image, the sharpening work isn’t over. Before you export for printing or web viewing, you will likely need to sharpen again. Otherwise, you’ll find that your new image is slightly soft.

Lightroom has a neat little way of completing this post-processing step. Upon exporting files, you have the option to choose a level of sharpening. I generally choose Low or Standard.

macro photography abstract flower yellow - Post-Processing Workflow


These tips should give you an idea of what a very minimalist post-processing workflow looks like. If you follow this guide closelyeven if you do nothing else to your imagesyou’ll find that your images reach a higher standard.

What is your post-processing workflow like? Please feel free to share in the comments area below.

dahlia macro photography flower

Flower Abstract Macro Photography

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