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How to Create a Double Exposure Effect Using Photoshop

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Post Production Tips

What is a double exposure effect?

In days of yore, back when DSLR cameras were SLR, a roll of film was inserted in the back of your camera to give you 24 or 36 exposures. A double exposure was created in-camera by taking two different photos on the same frame of film.

How to Create a Double Exposure Effect Using Photoshop

The Double Exposure Effect created in Adobe Photoshop using Blend Modes, Layer Masks and of course two or more images.

When I did shoot with an SLR camera, I managed to achieve this effect more by accident than intent. In order to take another shot, you had to manually wind onto the next exposure!

With the onset of digital, this technique is very easy to replicate in Adobe Photoshop. If you don’t have Photoshop, get GIMP, it’s free to download and use. If you do a search on YouTube, there are plenty of tutorials on making double exposure effects to choose from. The more popular tutorials seem to use images of a portrait and a landscape.

However, you can use any images you want as this is quite a stylistic technique.

The ingredients

In essence, all you need are two images.

One of these images will have to be cut out using a layer mask so that the other image can be clipped to it.
Then it’s a case of using the blending modes, reducing the opacity, and other color effects to produce the desired result. Depending on what images that you use, experiment with the different blending options to see which effect you like the best.

The technique – step-by-step

In this article, I will show you a step-by-step tutorial on how to create your very own double exposure effect using Photoshop. The hardest part will be selecting the two images that you want for the composition.

Select your images

For my first image, I’ll be using this photo of the Hook Lighthouse. I took this shot a couple of years ago while on holidays along the hook peninsula in Wexford, Ireland.

How to Create a Double Exposure Effect Using Photoshop

Hook Lighthouse on the Hook Peninsula in Wexford in South of Ireland.

However, I didn’t get to snap any seagulls. This is exactly what I wanted for my second image, a close up side shot of a seagull.

I found one on Pixabay. If you don’t have images ready to hand. You can go to sites such as Pixabay or Unsplash. These two sites alone have excellent quality images to choose from and you can download any image for free (note: please read the usage terms for the Creative Commons license and be sure to follow them).

How to Create a Double Exposure Effect Using Photoshop seagull

Seagull image from

Cut out the subject from the background

So, first I needed to make a selection of the seagull. The Quick Selection Tool did a good job and I finished it off by using the Refine Mask. I was able to save this out on its own layer with a layer mask.

How to Create a Double Exposure Effect Using Photoshop

Using the Quick Selection Tool and Refine Mask in Photoshop to isolate the subject from the background.

I decided to add a blue background in keeping with the nautical theme but also the seagull is predominately white, so he stands out more.

How to Create a Double Exposure Effect Using Photoshop background

I added a blue background after I isolated the seagull from the original background.

Add the second image and adjust the Layer Blend Mode

I brought the lighthouse image in as a Smart Object above the seagull layer and resized it. Next, I dragged the seagull layer mask to the lighthouse layer (which copies and applies it to the second layer) and changed the Blend Mode to Vivid Light. Finally, I then reduced the opacity to 68%.

How to Create a Double Exposure Effect Using Photoshop

I used the Blend Mode – Vivid Light which produced some funky colors on the beak of the seagull. But I liked the effect it created on the lighthouse image in comparison to the other Blend Mode options.

How to Create a Double Exposure Effect Using Photoshop

The Layers Panel in Photoshop and how the double effect in Photoshop is achieved.


At this stage, the colors on the seagull went a little too funky, especially around the eye and its beak.

So, I added a Hue & Saturation Adjustment Layer, checked the colorize tick box, and dragged the Hue slider to 183 and increased the Saturation to 10.

I added a Hue & Saturation Adjustment Layer to get rid of the funky colors that the Vivid Light Blend Mode created around the beak of the seagull.

The lighthouse rocks were still a little too sharp, but I didn’t want to reduce the opacity of the overall image any further. So I duplicated the seagull layer and dragged it to the top of the layer stack. I chose a big soft brush and I dabbed a couple of times on the layer mask around the rocks and the lighthouse to give it more of an opaque/ghostly look.

Final image

A GIF animation illustrating the different stages in creating a double exposure effect.

I had hoped to put a video together to accompany this article. But honestly, Adobe Creative Cloud have done a great job with a video on their YouTube channel, in illustrating this technique in under 45 seconds!

Now it’s your turn, let’s see what you can do. Why not give this technique a go? Please post your questions, comments and results in the section below.

Disclaimer: the author was not sponsored by Adobe, Pixabay or Unsplash. Words and opinions are those of the author only.

The post How to Create a Double Exposure Effect Using Photoshop by Sarah Hipwell appeared first on Digital Photography School.


How to Boost your Lightroom Performance and Improve Speed

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Post Production Tips

Are you running out of space on your hard drive? If you’re both a prolific photographer and a Lightroom user the answer may be yes. A hard drive that’s close to being full is bad news because it slows down Lightroom and just about every other application that you use on your computer. So how can you boost your Lightroom performance and make your computer run faster?

Luckily, there are ways to both minimize the amount of hard drive space Lightroom uses and to free up some space that is being used unproductively. As a result, Lightroom will run faster, as well as your entire computer usually.

So, how much spare hard drive space is required for Lightroom?

Ideally, you need at least 20% of your hard drive space to be free. If you have a 1TB drive, that means you should aim to keep at least 200GB free. If you have a smaller drive, such as the 256GB solid state drive I have on my iMac, then you need less. In my case, I need to keep at least 50GB free to keep Lightroom happy.

So, here are some tips to help improve Lightroom performance:

1. Store all your photos on an external hard drive

This has nothing to do with Lightroom per se, but it’s important because your photos are likely to take up a lot of hard drive space (especially if you shoot in Raw). The best approach is to use a separate hard drive for your photos, either an external drive or another internal drive added to your computer (if this is possible on your machine).

For example, my Raw photos take up 1.96TB of hard drive space. I keep them on a 3TB external hard drive like the one shown below.

How to Boost your Lightroom Performance and Improve Speed

It’s important that the hard drive on which your photos are saved also has at least 20% of its space free. Otherwise, it might slow Lightroom down as well.

It’s good practice to use the external drive for photos and Lightroom catalog backups and nothing else. That means it won’t get cluttered up with other files. It’s easier to backup to other hard drives.

2. Save fewer LR catalog backups

It’s important to backup your Lightroom catalog regularly in case it becomes corrupted or the hard drive it is saved on fails.

Many photographers recommend that you set up Lightroom to backup the catalog every time you exit the program. The only problem is that the hard drive space occupied by those catalog backups can soon add up to a considerable amount.

It’s less of an issue in Lightroom 6 and Lightroom CC, which compress the backup catalogs than it is with older versions of Lightroom. But even compressed backups take up a lot of hard drive space. For example, my backup folder currently has six backups in it and is 2.94GB in size.

There are two steps to take to minimize this problem:

1. Save catalog backups on an external hard drive. The same one you use to store your photos is ideal.

Each time you quit Lightroom the Back Up Catalog window appears. Click the Choose button to select the folder where you want it to save the Catalog backups. NOTE: this is the only time this option appears!

Also worth noting is that you want to save your backups on an external drive anyway because if your main hard drive crashes, both your main catalog and all the backups are gone. That is not good and defeats the purpose of having backups.

How to Boost your Lightroom Performance and Improve Speed

2. Delete old backups. You don’t need to keep anything older than the two most recent catalog backups.

I deleted my four oldest backups and freed up nearly 2GB of hard drive space. It may not sound like much if you have a 1TB or larger hard drive, but it does make a difference on a 250 GB solid state drive.

It may be tempting to move your catalog to an external drive, but this will slow Lightroom down. It’s best to keep the working catalog on your internal hard drive.

3. Keep an eye on the Preview Cache

If you go to Lightroom > Catalog Settings (Mac) Edit > Catalog Settings (PC) and click on File Handling you will see something like this.

How to Boost your Lightroom Performance and Improve Speed

Lightroom gives you a lot of useful information about how it uses hard drive space here. First, it tells you the size of your Preview Cache. This is where Lightroom stores all the previews it builds which enable you to view your photos in the Library module.

As you can see, my Preview Cache is currently 36GB, which is a large chunk of a 250GB hard drive. It’s less of an issue if you have a bigger hard drive.

How to Boost your Lightroom Performance and Improve Speed

If your Preview Cache is too large, there are some tips for reducing its size in the next two sections.

4. Regularly delete 1:1 Previews

Of all the Library module previews Lightroom uses the 1:1 Previews take up the most space. But they are essential for zooming into your photos at 100%, which is why many photographers build them.

You can manage 1:1 Previews by setting Automatically Discard 1:1 previews to After 30 Days. You can also set it to After One Week or After One Day. Just pick the one that works best for you. Avoid the Never option, otherwise, your Preview Cache will grow out of control.

How to Boost your Lightroom Performance and Improve Speed

Set your File Handling Preferences in the Catalog Settings to automatically delete 1:1 Previews after 30 days.

There’s another way to delete 1:1 previews:

1. Go to the Catalog panel in the Library module and click on All Photographs.

How to Boost your Lightroom Performance and Improve Speed

2. Go to Edit > Select All (or click CMD/CTRL+A for the keyboard shortcut).

3. Go to Library > Previews > Discard 1:1 Previews (click the Discard option in the next window).

There are a couple of things you should be aware of, though:

  • Lightroom doesn’t delete the 1:1 previews from the Preview Cache right away. There is a delay, so in case you change your mind you can use the Undo function. You may have to wait a day or so to see the benefit.
  • Lightroom only deletes 1:1 previews that are at least double the size of your Standard previews.

5. Build Standard Previews that aren’t too large

You can set the Standard preview size in your Catalog Settings as well. If you select Auto Lightroom sets the smallest size required for your monitor resolution. You can also set Preview Quality to Medium or Low to reduce the space the previews take up.

How to Boost your Lightroom Performance and Improve Speed

6. Build fewer or dump Smart Previews

The Catalog Settings also show you the amount of space occupied by Smart Previews. If that is too large, you can delete them.

How to Boost your Lightroom Performance and Improve Speed

  1. Go to the Catalog panel in the Library module and click on All Photographs.
  2. Go to Edit > Select All.
  3. Go to Library > Previews > Discard Smart Previews (click the Discard option in the next window).

7. Regularly dump the Camera Raw Cache

Lightroom creates more previews to use in the Develop module when you process your photos. These previews are saved in the Camera Raw Cache.

You can set the maximum size of that cache by going to File Handling in Preferences. The larger the number you set the more hard drive Lightroom’s Develop module previews will potentially take up. But, Lightroom may run slower if you set it too low – so you need to find a balance between too big and too slow. Try around 20GB to start with and see how you go.

How to Boost your Lightroom Performance and Improve Speed

You can delete the Develop module previews by clicking the Purge Cache button. It’s probably a good idea to do this every now and then to free up hard drive space. The last time I did it I gained over 20GB of space (see below).

How to Boost your Lightroom Performance and Improve Speed

If you edit or view video files in Lightroom you can also gain space by purging the Video Cache (below).

How to Boost your Lightroom Performance and Improve Speed


Lightroom is essential for most photographers but it can use up a lot of hard drive space. The tips in this article let you take back control of your hard drive. Any questions? Let me know in the comments below.

If you’d like to learn more about Lightroom, then please check out my popular Mastering Lightroom e-books.

The post How to Boost your Lightroom Performance and Improve Speed by Andrew S. Gibson appeared first on Digital Photography School.


3 Good Reasons to Use Layers in Photoshop

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Post Production Tips

If you shoot RAW, in general, you will be editing those files in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR), Lightroom or some other RAW editor. This may be all the post editing that you require. However, if you are like me, I finish my editing in Photoshop. Why? Because I use layers and they play an essential part of my workflow.

Layers are definitely where the real magic in Photoshop happens. They were introduced way back in version 3.0. I am a long-time user of Photoshop, so using layers in my workflow is second nature.

How do layers work?

In Photoshop, there are many types of layers. You can add text to your image using a Type Layer. You can duplicate any type of layer. By using a Layer Style, you can add a drop shadow or other effects to your photo. For example, you may want to color correct a portrait image by using a Curves Adjustment Layer.

In this article, I’ll give a brief overview of how layers work and go on to explain why I use the following go-to in my workflow:

  1. Adjustment Layers for non-destructive editing
  2. Layer Masks
  3. Smart Objects

The Layers Panel

Let’s go over to the Layers Panel and I’ll walk you through how layers work. Here is an example of a simple vector image of a mountain range with a sunset. There are six layers stacked on top of one another, that make up the final image. By clicking on the eye icon, you can turn the visibility of each layer off and on.

3 Good Reasons to Use Layers in Photoshop

Different layer types in Photoshop

6 layers stacked on top of each other to form a picture in Photoshop gif

Six layers stacked on top of each other to form a picture in Photoshop

However, in Photoshop, you can do a lot more with layers. You can delete a layer by clicking on it and dragging it to the little trash can at the bottom of the panel. You can also duplicate a layer by dragging it down to the icon beside the trash can, which creates a copy of that layer. A layer can be moved by clicking on it and dragging it up or down the stack. You can reduce the opacity of a layer, thereby allowing some or all of the image layer underneath to show through, depending on how much you reduce the opacity.

3 Good Reasons to Use Layers in Photoshop

Duplicate and delete layers in the Layers Panel using the tools circled in red.

#1 – Adjustment Layers

Without a doubt, when Adjustment Layers were introduced into Photoshop 4.0 it meant that users could unleash the magic of Photoshop by editing non-destructively. Prior to this, you had to duplicate the image first to preserve the original, as edits were permanently made to the layer. Adjustment Laters are key in any photographer’s workflow.

As a precautionary note, Adjustments under Image in the Options Bar is not the same as creating an Adjustment Layer via Layer>New Adjustment Layer. The former will apply edits directly to the layer that you are working on, where as an Adjustment Layer adds a layer above the working one. These edits can be redone or discarded without altering the pixels of your original image.

3 Good Reasons to Use Layers in Photoshop

Applying edits through Image>Adjustments will affect the image permanently.

Working non destructively by adding a New Adjustment Layer via the Layer tab in the Options Bar

Working non-destructively by adding a New Adjustment Layer via the Layer tab in the Options Bar.

Adjustments Panel

As with the Layers Panel, the Adjustment Layers has its very own panel too. The icons represent the 16 different layer adjustments available in Photoshop. Some are used more than others. Adjustment layers apply the correction to all the layers below them, without affecting any of the layers above.

Adjustment Layers has it's own panel with 16 icons representing the different Adjustment Layers

Adjustment Layers has its own panel with 16 icons representing the different options.

Once I do my initial edits in ACR, I’ll finish off my post-processing in Photoshop using Adjustment layers. I like to use Levels, Curves and Selective Color & LUTs to add the necessary contrast and color corrections. As each Adjustment Layer is used and stacked on top of each other, it is essential to reduce the opacity of each layer.

How Adjustments Layers can add colour correction and bring out the details in the image in an non destructive way

How Adjustments Layers can add color correction and bring out the details in the image in a non-destructive way

Different Adjustment Layers such as Levels Adjustment Layer, Curves Adjustment Layer and Selective Color were used on this image.

Different Adjustment Layers such as Levels, Curves and Selective Color were used on this image.

What about areas of your image that don’t require the same amount of editing as other parts?

#2 – Layer Masks

When adding an Adjustment Layer in Photoshop, it applies the adjustment to the whole image. But, sometimes you need to make adjustments to only one area or separate parts of an image. This is where Layer Masks come in handy. When you add a new Adjustment Layer, it automatically adds a white Layer Mask (white reveals and black conceals).

For example, in the image of the waterfall, it was necessary for me to mask the water with each adjustment layer, otherwise, the highlights would have been blown out.

The water in the image on the left had no masks applied when global edits were applied using Adjustment Layers. Masks were used on the image on the left to preserve the highlights of the water.

The water in the image on the left has not had masks applied when global edits were added using Adjustment Layers. Masks were used on the water in the image on the right to preserve the highlights.

In the following image of this landscape in the Dublin mountains, the day was quite overcast. I wasn’t happy with the sky, so I decided to try a different one. By using the Layer masks, I was able to mask out the original sky. I used the Pen Tool for this but you can use the Brush or the Quick Selection Tool and then fill the area with black.

Layer mask applied to hide the original sky and reveal the new sky in the layer beneath.

Layer mask applied to hide the original sky and reveal the new sky from the layer beneath.

The new sky image underneath was put under this layer so that it showed through the mask, similar to a cut-out. I then added more Adjustment Layers to color correct the image so that the new sky looked seamless.

An animated gif to demonstrate the Adjustment Layers to color correct the image and by adding a layer mask to reveal a different sky to the original overcast one.

#3 – Smart Objects

Adobe really defines Smart Objects in a neat nutshell. Smart Objects preserve an image’s source content with all its original characteristics, enabling you to perform nondestructive editing to the layer.

So for photographers, this is fantastic news. Now, when you apply edits to a layer that is a Smart Object, you can transform, scale, rotate, warp, apply filters or layer masks. The quality of the image will not be degraded even though it is a raster image!

3 Good Reasons to Use Layers in Photoshop

An image layer converted to a Smart Object

So how do you convert an image to a Smart Object? It is simple, right click on the layer and select Convert to a Smart Object. You will see a small icon on the thumbnail image that tells you that the layer is now a Smart Object.

3 Good Reasons to Use Layers in Photoshop - smart object

Right click on the layer to reveal a drop-down menu and select Convert to a Smart Object.

If you edit your images in Camera Raw, you can then export the image into Photoshop as a Smart Object. Hold the Shift key and the Open Image button turns to Open Object. This means that at a later date, you can return to Camera Raw to re-edit by double clicking on the layer thumbnail.

How to set in Camera Raw the default setting for images to be exported to Photoshop as Smart Objects

How to set the default in Camera Raw for images to be exported to Photoshop as Smart Objects.

Alternatively, when you have the Camera Raw dialog box open, at the bottom there is what looks like a link on a website. This link actually takes you to the Camera Raw Workflow Options. You can check the box Open in Photoshop as Smart Objects to set that as the default in ACR.

3 Good Reasons to Use Layers in Photoshop - ACR

Click the check box in the Camera Raw Workflow Options dialog box to ensure images are exported out as Smart Objects.


Layers can play an important role in your post-production.

  • You can separate parts of the image and edit them without affecting other parts of the image.
  • Converting your image layers to a Smart Object allows you to move the new image around, edit it, and resize it without affecting the resolution of the original image.
  • You can add multiple layers on top of each other and put them into groups.
  • You can apply filters and effects to layers independently, e.g. drop-shadow, color adjustments, etc.
  • Blend Mode options can change the appearance of each layer
  • You can reduce the opacity on a layer. This is particularly useful when using Layer Adjustments to fine-tune the edit to create a subtle effect.

The main take away from using Layers in Photoshop is that the whole process is working non-destructively.

Now it’s your turn, do you use layers in your post-production process? What are your favorite techniques for using layers? Please share your comments below.

The post 3 Good Reasons to Use Layers in Photoshop by Sarah Hipwell appeared first on Digital Photography School.


Image Editing Software Review: PortraitPro 15

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Post Production Tips

mWhen it comes to portrait photography, there seem to be two predominant schools of thought. The first says that retouching is bad, that people should be presented as they are and retouching is a no-no. The second school of thought says that when people have their portrait taken, it should be an idealistic representation of the person, flattering the subject and minimizing any flaws.

The truth, however, probably lies somewhere in the middle. When people have their portrait taken, they want the photographer to make them look as good as possible. Most portraiture requires some level of retouching, and truth be told, retouching was in vogue long before the digital age. Digital photography, however, has brought with it some new tools. One of those tools is PortraitPro 15, from Anthropics Technology.

An example of a portrait retouched using PortraitPro 15

An example of a portrait retouched using PortraitPro 15.

Overview of PortraitPro 15

PortraitPro 15 is available as a standalone application, or as a plugin for Photoshop, Lightroom, or Aperture. There are three different versions available; Standard, Studio, and Studio Max. PortraitPro Standard is the standalone version, which also has a few other limitations. PortraitPro Studio and Studio Max can both be used as plugins, and they also offer a variety of other options including RAW file support, color profile support, the ability to read and write TIFF and PNG files in 16-bit mode, and a batch dialog. The Studio Max version also offers a Full Batch Mode to greatly speed up your workflow. Compare all editions of PortraitPro 15 here.

Before and after using PortraitPro 15

Before and after using Portrait Professional 15

Getting started with PortraitPro 15

Getting started in PortraitPro 15 is simple. If you’re using the standalone application, simply open the file you wish to work on. From Photoshop (if you’re using the Studio or Studio Max version), go to the Filters menu and Select Anthropics > Portrait Professional.

Once your image is open, PortraitPro 15 will detect the facial outline of the subject. It will sometimes detect gender and age, or it may ask if the subject is male or female or a young girl or boy under 12. You will then be shown a side-by-side comparison, with the image on the left showing the outlines of the face that the software will use for its retouching. These outlines can be adjusted to provide better accuracy, but the software does a pretty good job of selecting facial features on its own. On the right is a preview of what the subject will look like after the retouching is applied.

On the far right, you will see a navigator window that allows you to move around the image easily. Beneath that is a list of presets so you can easily apply a particular look to your subject. Beneath the presets is a group of “Portrait Improving Sliders”. These sliders include;

  • Face Sculpt Controls
  • Skin Smoothing Controls
  • Skin Lighting Controls
  • Makeup Controls
  • Eye Controls
  • Mouth and Nose Controls
  • Hair Controls
  • Skin Coloring Controls
  • Picture Controls

Each of these groups of sliders affects different aspects of the image and provide an incredible amount of control over the retouching process.

Before and after using PortraitPro 15

Before and after using PortraitPro 15.

Some of these sliders, particularly Face Sculpting may seem a bit controversial. Like most digital photo editing tools, you can certainly go too far with its use. But, there are times when it has come in handy and improved the subject, such as when one eye may not be fully open. As with all things, moderation is the key to using these sliders.

The Basic Retouch

Gender Selection in PortraitPro 15

When you open an image using PortraitPro 15, the application will ask you to confirm the gender and age of your subject.

Whether you choose to use the plugin version or the standalone version, the workflow is the same. From Photoshop you’ll select Portrait Professional from the Filters menu, and from Lightroom, you’ll select “Edit In”, which will open the current image in PortraitPro 15. If using the standalone version, simply go to File > Open.

Facial features selection

PortraitPro 15 will try to automatically detect the age and gender of your subject and try to select their eyes, nose, and mouth. If it is unable to detect the gender and age, or any facial features, you will be prompted to do this. Selection, if needed, is easy. You’ll click the outer corner of the left eye, hit next, then click the outer corner of the right eye. Hit next again, and you’ll be prompted to click the tip of the nose. You’ll continue until the eyes, nose, and mouth are selected. PortraitPro will then find the top of the head and the jawline.

The main screen of PortraitPro 15

The main screen of PortraitPro 15

First editing steps

Once the selection is made, PortraitPro will automatically adjust your image using the Standard settings. From here, you are free to choose a different preset or start moving the sliders to better retouch your portrait.

The first slider I adjust is the Face Sculpt Controls. I will say that I’m not a huge fan of this adjustment so normally I just turn it off. There are times it can get too aggressive and will really alter the look of the subject’s face. You can minimize the amount of adjustment using the Master Fade slider to amend the overall look, or the individual sliders to only affect certain features. For instance, I will often set all the sliders to zero but then use the Eye Widening slider if the subject happens to have a sleepy eye. I do try and keep the digital plastic surgery to a minimum.

Skin Smoothing

The next slider group is the Skin Smoothing Control. This set of sliders does a nice job of minimizing wrinkles and removing blemishes. You do need to be careful when you have a subject with freckles or beauty marks that you want to retain. Again, adjusting the individual sliders will help you find the right amount of smoothing without making things look too plastic, and the Touch Up Brush will allow you to remove strong blemishes without affecting the overall skin texture.

Skin Selection PortraitPro 15

If you need to adjust the area affected by skin smoothing and lighting, you can manually paint in your selection.

PortraitPro offers some quick tips when you select the various sliders. In addition, you may notice that the application hasn’t quite selected all of the skin you want to be retouched, due to changes in tone. Or, conversely, that it has selected areas which you don’t want to be affected, such as clothing with colors close to the skin tone, or hair. You can adjust the skin selection by clicking View/Edit Skin Area and adding or subtracting from the skin selection using a brush, similar to applying a selection by using a layer mask in Photoshop.

Before skin smoothing

Medium skin smoothing applied.

Heavy skin smoothing applied.

Skin Lighting

The Skin Lighting slider controls can actually adjust the lighting on your subject. This is another set of sliders that are best used with care, but a judicious adjustment can help improve your image. Going too far with it, on the other hand, will result in images that have a definitive fake look to them. You have the ability to adjust shadows to the left or right, a kick light to the left or right, and even adjust the angle of your main light.

Before skin lighting effects applied.

Skin lighting medium applied.

Skin lighting heavy applied.


The Makeup Controls sliders allow you to add digital makeup to your subject. Everything including lipstick, mascara, eye shadow and eyeliner can be added or enhanced here. As with the Face Sculpting and Lighting Controls, you will want to be careful not to overdo things here. But again, I’ve had occasions where a little eyeliner or a change in lipstick color has helped the image.

By the same token, if you are taking a portrait as a starting point, you can create some incredibly different looks by changing the subject’s makeup. This makes it an excellent tool if you are creating a digital illustration from a photo.

Skin Smoothing Controls PortraitPro 15

The skin smoothing controls inside PortraitPro 15

Before make-up applied using PortraitPro 15.

Make-up added.

Make-up added heavily, this is over done.

Facial feature control sliders

The Eye Control sliders do a nice job of enhancing the subject’s eyes and bringing them out. Brightening the irises, sharpening the eyes, and whitening them are all done here. You can even change the eye color and add catch lights. The biggest mistake I’ve made (and seen others make) is going too far with the whitening, giving the eyes an unnatural glow. Eyes can be adjusted individually, so you have a lot of control over their look.

Before eye controls applied.

Eye controls medium applied.

Eye color change applied.

Mouth & Nose Controls are sliders to enhance the mouth and nose. Here you can adjust the saturation of the lips, their brightness, and contrast. You have the ability to make the same adjustments to the nose.

Hair and skin sliders

Hair Controls is a set of sliders that I like a lot. You have the ability to re-color hair, adjust the shine, reddening, and vibrance. In addition, as with the skin selection, you can adjust the hair selection. Especially cool is the Hair Tidying Mode, which allows you to smooth and soften the hair. It can give the hair an almost painted look, which is one I tend to like, but again, it is possible to go too far.

Skin Coloring Controls allow you to adjust skin color, add a glow, or a bit of a tan. In addition, you can add cheek coloring here and adjust the exposure on the face.

Before skin coloring

Tan skin coloring applied.

PortraitPro 15

On the right side of the application window, you’ll find a navigator, a list of presets, and the Portrait Enhancement Sliders.

Picture Controls

Finally, the Picture Controls slider allows overall adjustment of the color temperature, tint, exposure, contrast, and vibrancy. You can also crop here. If you’re using Photoshop or Lightroom, these adjustments are better handled there, after retouching. But if you’re using the standalone version, this is an excellent way to finish off your image.

Once you’ve finished with the face you’re working on, you click the Next button at top right, and either click “Return from Plugin”, or “Enhance Another Face”, if you have more than one subject in your photo.

Pros of PortraitPro 15

PortraitPro 15 is an excellent application for quick and easy retouching of portraits. Blemish retouching, eye enhancing, and cleanup of hair is simple and can PortraitPro 15 can provide a nice finished look to a portrait. In addition, the ability to adjust lighting can give added pop and make a flatly lit portrait much more interesting. The same goes for the ability to add or enhance makeup. It’s easy to see the effects of the changes you make usingPortraitPro and compare them to the unretouched photo, so you can judge the edits as you work.

Before and After

Before and After

Cons of PortraitPro 15

My biggest issue with PortraitPro 15 is that it’s easy to go too far with an adjustment and suddenly your image looks fake or digitized, almost like a 3D animation. Like most photo-enhancing filters, a little goes a long way and moderation is required. In the right hands, PortraitPro can be an awesome editing tool. In the wrong hands, it can return some ugly results. Additionally, PortraitPro appears to have some issues when one eye is covered by hair or a hat, or when the face is at a 3/4 angle to the camera. So in those situations, you’ll need to pay extra attention to your selections, and in the case where one eye is hidden, set all sliders for that eye to zero.

My other issue with PortraitPro is that it does seem to be a resource hog. As soon as I enter the plugin from Photoshop, the fan on my 2014 iMac (with the max amount of RAM) starts up and keeps going until I’m done. Some of the adjustments are slow, and on my machine, adjusting the outlines takes a moment as my computer catches up.

Before & After PortraitPro 15

Before & After

Bottom Line

Overall, I love PortraitPro 15 and the ability it has to retouch portraits quickly and easily. While I prefer not to use all of the features all of the time, such as face sculpting or skin lighting, things such as skin smoothing and eye retouching really help give my portraits a finished look. The learning curve is not terribly high and it is fairly easy to tell when you’ve gone too far. It’s become an essential part of my portrait workflow.

See the three editions available on Amazon. The Studio version is a great value.

Before & After PortraitPro

Before & After PortraitPro

Before & After PortraitPro

Before & After PortraitPro

The post Image Editing Software Review: PortraitPro 15 by Rick Berk appeared first on Digital Photography School.


Photoshop Versus Lightroom: Which is Best for Beginners?

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Post Production Tips

If you’re new to photography, you’re likely wondering how to post-process or edit your photos. There is a wide selection of photo editing software to choose from, but the two that you probably hear debated the most are Adobe Photoshop versus Lightroom. So what are the main differences and which program is best for beginners and for you? Read on for a basic overview!

Photoshop v Lightroom

A Quick Note

While going through this article, please keep three points in mind:

  1. This is not meant to be a thorough comparison review of the two programs. There are endless features to compare between Photoshop and Lightroom, but this article is meant to give beginning photographers a point of reference as to which program to start with first.
  2. Ever since the Creative Cloud rolled out, Photoshop and Lightroom are constantly being updated with new tools and features. So depending on which version of the programs you are using, some of the tools and features mentioned below may or may not be present in your version of Photoshop or Lightroom.
  3. There are many other comparisons written several years ago that aren’t up to date don’t reflect the new features and changes in Photoshop and Lightroom. So if you read other comparison articles (including this one), be sure to double check when they were published and if they have been updated. For reference, I have Lightroom CC 2015.10 and Photoshop CC 2017.0.1

Get both Photoshop and Lightroom here and receive 20% off the Creative Cloud Photography membership now for dPS readers. 

What is Adobe Photoshop?


Photoshop Versus Lightroom: Which is Best for Beginners?

What the photo editing layout typically looks like in Photoshop.

Photoshop is a name that has become synonymous with photo editing. Today, thanks to its extensive functionality, Photoshop is used by not only photographers, but also by graphic designers, web designers, architects, and publishers.

Photoshop is also a pixel-based image editor, giving you ultimate control of every single pixel that makes up your digital photograph. This means you have limitless options when it comes to manipulating your photos. Want to stitch your friend’s head to a frog’s body or swap out gray skies for sunny skies? These are instances when you would turn to Photoshop.

What is Adobe Lightroom?

If you take a look at the main Photoshop interface for the first time, you’re likely to feel overwhelmed. There is a seemingly endless array of tools and options to choose from, and it’s hard to know where to start. This is because Photoshop contains features not only for photographers but also for designers and those of other creative skillsets. So when it comes to easily finding the photo editing tools you need, this is where Lightroom typically excels, especially for those new to photo editing.

Lightroom takes many of Photoshop’s features that are specific to photographers and puts them in an easy-to-find panel. Previous versions of Lightroom lacked extensive editing tools, but today, Lightroom contains many of the main image manipulation tools you need to process your photos.

Another benefit to using Lightroom is that it is also a fantastic image management software. You can use it to import, organize, manage, and edit your photos. In essence, Lightroom is your all-in-one photo management and editing tool. On the other hand, if you want to manage and organize your images with Photoshop, you must use the accompanying software called Adobe Bridge (which automatically comes with Photoshop).

Photoshop Versus Lightroom: Which is Best for Beginners?

What you’ll typically see in Lightroom after you import some photos.

Lightroom versus Photoshop?

Not long ago, you had to purchase Photoshop or Lightroom individually, and it was truly a challenge to figure out which was a more worthwhile investment. Today, you now get access to both programs if you purchase a subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud. For around $10 a month, you can purchase the Photography Creative Cloud package, which gives you access to both Lightroom and Photoshop (with Bridge). If you need other Adobe software such as Illustrator, InDesign or Premiere Pro, you can upgrade to the $50 per month Creative Cloud subscription.

However, the average photographer will be just fine with the simple plan that includes Lightroom and Photoshop. So from a financial perspective, it’s a no-brainer to get both photo editing programs. But in practice, here are some rules of thumb when deciding whether to use Lightroom or Photoshop.

Use Lightroom if…

You are brand new to photo editing

Most beginning photographers will probably prefer the layout of Lightroom. It presents all of your main editing tools in an easy-to-find column, and it is pretty intuitive to figure out. In Photoshop, you have to do a little more customization to set up your workstation exactly how you want; this leads to more flexibility, meaning you can further customize what tools you choose to appear. However, this can be confusing for beginning photographers.

Photoshop Versus Lightroom: Which is Best for Beginners?

For comparison: Lightroom automatically presents your basic photo editing tools in a column.

Photoshop Versus Lightroom: Which is Best for Beginners?

On the other hand, you have to customize which photo editing tools appear in your Photoshop work area.

You want to batch process multiple images

If you have a bunch of photos that you want to batch process, it is much easier to do in Lightroom using presets and its smooth workflow. Batch processing can still be done in Photoshop using Actions, but Lightroom is arguably more straightforward.

 You value a smooth, straightforward workflow

When it comes to workflow, Lightroom is arguably much better than Photoshop. Using Lightroom, you can easily create image collections, keyword images, share images directly to social media, batch process, and more.

Photoshop Versus Lightroom: Which is Best for Beginners?

In Lightroom, you can both organize your photo library and edit photos.

Adobe Bridge - Photoshop Versus Lightroom: Which is Best for Beginners?

If you want to organize or manage your photo library with Photoshop, you must use another program called Adobe Bridge.

Use Photoshop if…

You can’t do it in Lightroom

This is the easy answer since Lightroom will truly meet the photo editing needs of most beginning photographers. With that said, there are a few instances in particular when Photoshop will outperform Lightroom.

Advanced Retouching

While the latest versions of Lightroom do include some basic retouching tools for patching and removing blemishes, you can do much more in Photoshop. Want to make a person look thinner, whiten teeth, and remove small objects? While you can do this in Lightroom, Photoshop’s retouching tools are much more powerful. It might take some extra time to figure out where these tools are within Photoshop and how to use them, but you’ll be able to enhance your photos much more than in Lightroom.


Do you want to combine the elements of multiple images into a single one? This is termed as compositing, and you will want to use Photoshop to combine and further manipulate images.

In Conclusion

If you are a beginning photographer looking for a relatively intuitive photo editing software, Lightroom is generally best, to begin with. You can always add Photoshop to the mix later, if and when you’re in need of advanced photo manipulation techniques.

What do you think? In the Photoshop Versus Lightroom debate, which is best for beginners? Why? Let us know in the comments below.

The post Photoshop Versus Lightroom: Which is Best for Beginners? by Suzi Pratt appeared first on Digital Photography School.


How to Make and Apply a Bokeh Overlay Using Photoshop

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Post Production Tips

Bokeh overlays are an excellent way to add a trendy stylized look to your portraits. You can purchase overlays, but I would instead suggest making your own. It’s easy, fun, and best of all, it’s free!

In this video, I take you through the process of making and applying a bokeh overlay to a portrait using Photoshop. You will also learn to how to color tone your image to create a stylized look.

How to Make Your Own Bokeh Overlays

You can create bokeh overlays from almost any photo that is not too bright, and which has good contrast. The photos themselves do not have to be great photos at all; they can even have boring subjects and be totally out of focus.

To demonstrate the power of this technique, we will work with two bad cell phone pictures; a photo of a hamburger and a photo of a street.

How to Make and Apply a Bokeh Overlay Using Photoshop

It’s a good idea to look through your phone and experiment with the photos that you already have.

To create a bokeh overlay, place the image into your working document by going to File > Place Embedded. Once the image is in the Layers panel, right-click on it and select Convert to Smart Object. This will make it so that any filter that you apply is non-destructive and you can edit it later if you need to.

To blur the image, and get the bokeh effect, go to Filter > Blur Gallery > Field Blur.

Start by dragging the Blur slider to the right to make the image blurrier. In most cases, you’re going to want to keep the bokeh small, so don’t take the blur slider past 200px.

How to Make and Apply a Bokeh Overlay Using Photoshop - field blur

You can then fine-tune the effect by adjusting the Light Bokeh, and the black and white points in the Light Range. You can introduce more colors to your bokeh effect by dragging the Bokeh Color slider to the right.

Here are my results:

How to Make and Apply a Bokeh Overlay Using Photoshop

How to Applying a Bokeh Overlay to Your Photo

Once you have made your bokeh overlays, you can apply them to any image by using layer Blending Modes.

For this type of effect, the Screen Blending Mode will be the best to use in most cases. But you can try any of the Blending Modes in the Lighten Category to see if they can give you a result that works better for your image. If you’re not familiar with Blending Modes and how they work, then check out this comprehensive look at Blending Modes where I explain each one in detail.

The Screen Blending Mode allows you to keep the bright pixels of an image and hide the dark ones. In this case, the bokeh is bright, so it will stay, and it will hide the darker background.

How to Make and Apply a Bokeh Overlay Using Photoshop

How to Use Layer Masks to Hide Problematic Areas

Some overlays will not be perfect matches for your photos. Sometimes the bokeh may cover up important parts of the portrait, such as the eyes or even the entire face. Create a layer mask and paint on the mask with black to hide those problematic areas.

When you paint with black on a layer mask, you hide pixels. To reveal them again paint on the mask with white. Painting with different levels of gray will give you different levels of transparency.

How to Make and Apply a Bokeh Overlay Using Photoshop

Use Levels to Change How the Bokeh Blends

The bokeh overlay may not give you the best results by simply changing the Blending Mode to Screen. In many cases, you will have to modify the luminosity of the layer to change how the bokeh blends. Remember, the Screen Blending Mode reveals bright pixels and hides dark pixels.

By using a Levels or Curves Adjustment Layer, you can control the brightness of the layer which will control how much of the bokeh is revealed. When using an Adjustment Layer add a Clipping Mask to make sure that the changes only affect the bokeh layer. To clip an Adjustment Layer to the layer blow it, you can press Command/Control+Option+G.

How to Make and Apply a Bokeh Overlay Using Photoshop

Apply a Color Tone to the Image

To finalize the stylized effect, you can color tone your image by using a Selective Color Adjustment Layer.

Under the Colors dropdown menu select Blacks and slide the Cyan slider to the right, and move the Yellow slider to the left to subtract yellow. Doing so will add a blue tint to the shadows, and it will give your image a retro feel.

How to Make and Apply a Bokeh Overlay Using Photoshop

You can watch a video of the whole process below:


Here is the before and after comparison of the image.

Before tutorial


Finished tutorial


There it is, a quick and easy way to make and apply your own bokeh overlays. Try it and please share your images in the comments below.

The post How to Make and Apply a Bokeh Overlay Using Photoshop by Jesus Ramirez appeared first on Digital Photography School.


How to Remove Objects and Add Punch to Your Images with Photoshop

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Post Production Tips

In this article, we’ll look at an image I reprocessed after my initial edit. I’ll also share with you some tips on how to use Photoshop to remove objects from your scene that are unwanted and add some punch to your image.

Original processed version

Have you ever created an image, processed it, shared it with the world, and then decided it wasn’t quite finished? I have! In fact, I do it more often than I’d like to admit. A while back, I created a video tutorial for On1 Software showing how I used that software to process an image I took at Queen’s Bath on the island of Kauai. I was super excited to share the image because it was an incredible sunset, at an incredible location, shot during some incredible conditions, with a completely random and unscripted local in the scene to top it all off. Here’s a look at the image after processing it and creating the initial video.

How to Remove Objects and Add Punch to Your Images with Photoshop

After watching the video and looking at the final image, I decided I wasn’t 100% satisfied with the edit. I’ve used On1 Software for nearly a decade now, and still use it in my everyday workflow. It wasn’t any fault of On1, I just felt the image could be taken up another notch so decided to take it over into Photoshop to give it another go. I decided the image needed two adjustments…

#1 Remove the local at the bottom climbing up the rocks.

  • Queen’s Bath is notorious for the massive waves that crash against the shore in the winter. Nearly 30 people have drowned at this location from being washed out to sea and this guy was close to being added to the list! I decided to remove him because his movements caused him to become blurred and I felt he ended up being more of a distraction in the image than a complementary part of it.

#2 Add a bit more contrast and punch to the overall image.

  • I felt the sky and rocks were still a bit too washed out and needed a very subtle boost to bring it all together.

Second edited version completed in Photoshop

After a few minutes in Photoshop, I came up with this final (really this time!) result.

How to Remove Objects and Add Punch to Your Images with Photoshop

After working extensively in Photoshop over the past decade, I’ve developed a few tricks along the way. I’m not sure how mainstream some of them are, so I like to share them in hopes that they’ll help you as well. One of those tricks is how I remove objects that are up against other objects(as opposed to being out in the open). To do this, I use a combination of the Quick Selection Tool, Masking, and the Clone Stamp. Adding contrast and punch to the image is a bit more basic in this case, but still advanced if you aren’t super familiar with masking and brush techniques.

Here’s the video where I walk through the process step-by-step.

Let me know what you think and if you have any questions please put them in the comments section below.

Get James’ video course POST II where he walks through his entire workflow in Lightroom, Photoshop, and more from start to finish with 10 of his favorite portfolio images. Be sure to use coupon code DPS25 at checkout for an exclusive DPS discount!

The post How to Remove Objects and Add Punch to Your Images with Photoshop by James Brandon appeared first on Digital Photography School.


How to Make Your Own Frames and Borders Using Photoshop

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Post Production Tips

Give your photos an edge! This tutorial will show you how to make your own frames and borders using Photoshop.

Picture frames have been around for most of art history. This hasn’t change in our digital age. Whether you print your photo or leave it digital, adding an edge to it will always help its presentation. Here are three creative frames and borders that are easy to make in Photoshop.

How to Make Your Own Frames and Borders Using Photoshop

Back in the analogue-photography era, it was very common to leave a white edge around your photo so that the passé-partout wouldn’t cover any part of your image. If the photograph was an artwork, the blank part in the bottom would be bigger than the rest so that you could put your signature there.

Nowadays, a classic and elegant presentation can still be achieved with Photoshop following this idea. Of course you can get also much more creative! Let’s start with the basics:


White Frame

If you want to print your photo and have it framed in a traditional way, follow these easy steps:

  1. Open your image in Photoshop.
  2. Go to the top Menu >> Image >> Canvas Size. In the popup window you will have the choice for the New Size. There you need to change the measurement to Percent, that way it will be even all around your photo without you having to make a lot of calculations. Then choose how big you want your frame. In this case I chose to add 10% so the total size will be 110%. Make sure your anchor point is in the center (as shown in the picture below). At the bottom you can also choose the color of your frame. Click OK to apply.

How to Make Your Own Image Frames and Borders Using Photoshop

  1. Open the Canvas Size window again, but this time you will put your anchor point on the top center square (as shown in the image below). Add an extra 10% to the top/bottom so you leave the width at 100%, and change only the height to be 110%.


  1. Add your signature, copyright or dedication under your image.

Photo with white border and signature applied using this method.

Composed Frames

This basic idea of the white frame can be elaborated a little more in order to create a composition with a very elegant result. This is perfect for minimalistic or classic photographs.

  1. Open your image in Photoshop.
  2. Go to the top Menu >> Image >> Canvas Size and choose size and width of your frame just like you did for the white frame. This time you can get a little more creative, just remember to keep the anchor in the center. When you are done click OK.
  3. Repeat step #2, changing to a different color and size. For example, for this one I decided to first use a gray frame of 3% and then a slimmer one in the color of the grapes to complement the image.
  4. Repeat as many times as you like. In this case I added a third frame in black that was wider than the previous two.

How to Make Your Own Image Frames and Borders Using Photoshop

TIP: To select a color from your photo, choose “Other” in the color menu of the Canvas Size window. A new window will open with all the colors for you to choose from. At that point, passing your mouse through the image, the pointer becomes an eyedropper. Then you just have to click on the color you want and Photoshop figures out the rest!

How to Make Your Own Image Frames and Borders Using Photoshop


While frames consist of one or more solid rectangles, borders are much more complex. A border can even be an image in itself. Therefore you are not constrained to a specific shape which gives you a wider variety of options. Here is one example:

Creating a Grunge Border

First, choose an image of a skyline; it can be an urban or nature scene. In this case, I am using a photograph of trees in a pond. Open it in Photoshop.

Next, go to the top menu; Image >> Adjustments >> Threshold and set it to a very high number so that you end up with an image that is basically black and white (no gray tones).

How to Make Your Own Frames and Borders Using Photoshop

Select your image (CTRL/CMD + A) and copy it (CTRL/CMD + C). Then paste it in a new blank canvas (CTRL/CMD + V).

Go to the top menu; Edit >> Free Transform and squeeze your image over to one of the edges.


Duplicate the layer by going to the top menu; Layer >> Duplicate Layer. Do this three times so that you will have four layers.

Select each layer and place them on each side (use Transform to rotate and resize each one) creating a rectangular border. You can choose a different blending mode for each layer so that they don’t look so uniform. You can do this from a drop-down menu on the Layers panel. You can also go to the top menu and choose; Layer >> Layer Style >> Blending Options if you want more control over the blending mode.

How to Make Your Own Frames and Borders Using Photoshop

Now you have a very original border to use with any image you want! Remember that the borders not only complement the image but also show your creativity and personality.

How to Make Your Own Frames and Borders Using Photoshop

If you don’t know how to apply borders to your images don’t worry, it’s very easy. Check out the appendix below to learn how.

Appendix: How to use borders

Now I will place an image inside the border to show you how it’s done. I think a grunge border goes well with urban scenes, but that is up to you.

Open the border file.

Go to the top menu and choose; File >> Place >> and select your photo. This will paste the photo you want in the file of your border already resized. You will have to do the final size adjustments manually though by dragging the edges (hold down the Shift key if you’re using the Transform tool to maintain your image aspect ratio).

How to Make Your Own Frames and Borders Using Photoshop

Change the blending mode of the layer so that it looks integrated. In this case, I used the Darken Mode. Try different ones until you are satisfied. Remember you can you can do this from a drop-down menu on the Layers panel. You can also go to the top menu and choose; Layer >> Layer Style >> Blending Options if you want more control.

How to Make Your Own Frames and Borders Using Photoshop


That’s it! Try using the same border on different images to create a specific style to a photo collection you can hang on your wall.

How to Make Your Own Frames and Borders Using Photoshop

Graffitti author unknown, found on the streets of Milan, 2017.

Borders and frames are great for displaying photos in a digital photo-frame but also for printing. You will save a lot of money and have some one of a kind décor in your home. The possibilities of frames and borders are limitless so explore, create, and have fun.

The post How to Make Your Own Frames and Borders Using Photoshop by Ana Mireles appeared first on Digital Photography School.


Tutorial – How to Use the Lightroom Map Module

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Post Production Tips

The Lightroom Map Module lets you add your photos to a map so you can search and organize them by location. It’s quite a cool feature, so let’s take a look at the best ways to make use of it.

1. Using the Lightroom Map module if your camera has built-in GPS

Photos taken with a camera or mobile that has built-in GPS are the easiest to work with in the Lightroom Map module. As long as GPS is enabled, the camera saves the exact location an image was shot in the photo’s EXIF data. Lightroom reads the data when you import the photos and automatically adds them to the map.

For example, I made this photo using an iPhone SE.

Lightroom map module

Lightroom automatically reads the GPS coordinates embedded in the photo’s EXIF data. The yellow square marks the spot where the photo in the filmstrip was taken.

Lightroom map module

Note: Lightroom uses Google maps and an internet connection is required for the Map module to work.

2. If you have a secondary GPS unit

Some camera manufacturers make GPS units that you can connect to the camera body. If you have one of these it does exactly the same as a built-in GPS unit. It embeds the camera’s coordinates in the EXIF data of your images. That data is then read by Lightroom when you import the photos.

3. If you have an app or sports device that records your movements in a GPS file

Most mobile phones have built-in GPS. You can download apps that record your route and let you export that information in a GPS tracklog (extension type .gpx) file that you can import into Lightroom. Some fitness devices like sports watches and fitness bands have the same functionality.

The effectiveness of this depends on how often the app or device records your location. If your camera has built-in GPS, for example, the location of the camera is always recorded accurately as the camera takes a GPS reading when you press the shutter.

When you use an app to do so, the app doesn’t record your location continuously. Instead, it takes a reading every few seconds. This creates a set of dots that can be joined together to show your approximate route. It’s how apps that record walking routes or running times work. That means that you can’t rely on this method for pinpoint precision, but it does help you with an approximate location.

The screenshot below shows a series of photos taken on a Canon camera that does not have GPS. The location information came from a .gpx file generated by a tracking app on my phone.

Lightroom map module

4. If your camera doesn’t have GPS but your mobile phone does

Here’s an easy method to add GPS data to your photos if you have a mobile phone with built-in GPS. All you have to do, whenever you take a photo with your camera, is remember to take an additional photo with your mobile phone. You can import these into Lightroom and add them to the same Collection. Once you have done so, simply drag the photos taken with your camera, those without GPS data, to the locations on the map indicated by the photos that do have GPS data (those taken with your phone).

Here’s a landscape photo I took in northern Spain.

Lightroom map module

Here’s another that I took with my mobile phone.

Lightroom map module

This screenshot shows exactly where I took the photo with my mobile phone.

Lightroom map module

The other photo in the Collection was made with my Fujifilm X-T1 camera, which doesn’t have GPS. I added location data to the Fuji image by dragging it onto the icon representing the location of the photo taken with my mobile phone at the same spot. The yellow icon now displays the number 2 to indicate that there are two photos in that location with the same GPS coordinates, as seen in the Lightroom Map Module below.

Lightroom map module

Lightroom automatically adds the GPS coordinates to the photo’s EXIF data.

Lightroom map module

This method requires the most effort and relies on you to remember to take a photo with your phone whenever you take one with your camera. This isn’t always practical and is most suited for landscape photography, where you have the time to take an additional photo with a mobile phone.


The Lightroom Map module is an often under-utilized but surprisingly useful tool. Using these ideas you can add Gcoordinatestes to any photo, even those taken by a camera without GPS. In years to come, you can find out exactly where your photos were taken, even if you can’t remember. It makes revisiting your favorite locations a much easier and more enjoyable task.

Do you have any questions about the Lightroom Map Module? Please let me know in the comments below.

Would you like to learn about Lightroom’s under-appreciated features? Then check out my Mastering Lightrooom ebooks and start getting more out of Lightroom now.

The post Tutorial – How to Use the Lightroom Map Module by Andrew S. Gibson appeared first on Digital Photography School.


How to do Post-Processing of Focus Stacked Images

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Post Production Tips

Let me take you on a short walk through Lightroom and Photoshop. There are relatively few steps required to process focus stacked images. In a previous article (How to Photograph the Images Needed For Focus Stacking), I went through what I think you will find is the best and easiest way to take the required photographs.

focus stacked image

My Melbourne tea cup

This image is acceptably in focus from the front to the back. You can only achieve this sort of large depth of field by taking, and computationally combining, several photographs. You can work through the image, taking photographs which are focused on different points, then combine those photographs with software. Photoshop does the job well, but there are also other specialized programs for doing focus stacked images. Zerene Stacker and Helicon Focus are the ones which seem to be mentioned most often.

I hoped that the tea cup made a bright, attractive image, and gave a clear illustration. However, it is hardly a great photograph, is it? Being a little more aspirational, I have mostly used this technique to produce images of palm leaves. It would really be great if you could find your own project, your personal muse to apply this technique.

focus stacked image

Palm leaf

I confess that I am not always the most patient person when it comes to processing. Every now and then, I have spent hours on one image, but I generally like to get things done quickly. However, with focus stacked images, working in Lightroom, then Photoshop, I actually rather enjoy the process. I think part of the reason for that is that I am happy with the final product, but it is also quite a pleasant, simple routine, which can be almost relaxing.

Stage One – Lightroom

One of the joys of photography, and computers too is that there is often more than one way of doing things. This is my approach, it is probably not the only approach, but it works well.

Firstly, I import the RAW files into Lightroom.

focus stacked image

Import to Lightroom

The images to be focus stacked

The images below have not been processed, just converted to jpegs. I thought you should have some idea what I started with, and that it might be helpful for you to see where each individual shot was focused.

focus stacked image

Image #1

The next shot was focused on the other side of the frame, on the left. In the actual situation of taking the photographs, it was easy to see which part of the leaf was furthest from the camera, and which was just a little closer.

focus stacked image

Image #2

This is moving forward, with focus along the left edge of the leaf.

focus stacked image

Image #3

If you are photographing a subject which has a distinct edge, like this leaf, something running from the back to the front of the object, it can be very useful. It makes focusing easier, and it gives you something which you can work along in equal increments.

focus stacked image

Image #4

For the next shot, I moved to the other side of the leaf.

You may notice that I like to be extra careful to make sure that the front part of the photograph, where the viewer’s eye will go first, is extra sharp.

focus stacked image

Image #5

Three shots cover the front section at slightly different depths.

focus stacked image

Image #6

Lightroom adjustments

For these shots, I knew what my goal is for the final image. To that end, I did a modest amount of processing, using only the Basic panel in Lightroom. I certainly would not do anything like lens corrections, or transformations, or local adjustments – nothing beyond the basics, only global adjustments. The real work is going to be done by Photoshop, and we should give it the best possible chance to do its job.

It might be leaves, your favorite possessions, or even be a landscape (I would love to try and make a focus stacked portrait, a tight portrait with focus from front to back) the point is that your project will require your own individual processing. This is what I did for the highly-textured leaves.

focus stacked image

Lightroom settings

This processing revealed a few details and gave the images a little more bite or edge. That seemed to work well, and move towards what I had in mind for the final image. I then synchronized all settings in Lightroom.

focus stacked image

So far so good?

With all the images selected, in this case just six, press G and then CTRL/CMD + A. You can then move to the second stage, by going to Photo > Edit in > Open as layers in Photoshop.

focus stacked

Select Photo > Edit In > Open as Layers in Photoshop

Stage Two – Photoshop

You may well have Photoshop set up in your own individual way. This is what you should see in the Layers panel once your images are opened.

focus stacked image

The first step in Photoshop is to select all the layers. My habit is to do this by clicking on the top layer, holding down shift and clicking on the bottom layer.

focus stacked image - layers selected

All layers, all six images, selected.

Another confession? There is a part of me which would like to make this sound much more difficult, at least a little bit cleverer. There would then be more chance of you being impressed. However, the next two steps are too easy.

Align the images

Because the point of focus has moved through the image, the size of the object in the frame will have shifted slightly. But, Photoshop can handle this for you.

focus stacked image

Edit > Auto-Align Layers has always worked perfectly for me.

You could choose to go to great lengths to resize the images by hand, making the actual object the same size in each image, being careful to align parts of the subject in each of the photographs. I have never found it necessary, and any extra steps to achieve alignment, would probably be best covered by a video. For the moment, I am happy that Photoshop has never let me down using Auto-Align Layers.

focus stacked image - auto-align layers

The auto-align layers dialog box

Under the Projection area, I have found that Auto works perfectly well.

For the Lens Correction section, I have found it best to uncheck Vignette Removal and Geometric Distortion (as shown above). Those choices gave me a couple of strange results and did not provide any discernible benefit. I like to think that the secret for this smooth progress is having taken good images in the first place. Push OK, and Photoshop does its thing and does it very well.

Of course, you are welcome to try whatever settings you like. In fact, I would very much encourage you to experiment, have a play! However, the old KIS acronym, of Keeping It Simple, seems to work well enough.

Blend the layers

Next, go to Edit > Auto-Blend Layers. I do wish I could make this sound more difficult.

focus stacked image

Auto-Blend Layers…

As I am sure you will realize, you should choose the Stack Images option in the Auto-Blend Layer dialog box that pops up. With the images I have been feeding to Photoshop, I have chosen to put a check mark next to Seamless Tones and Colors.

But, if that does not produce a result you are happy with, it costs you very little time to experiment. This is what has worked well for me. The images which you have loaded into Photoshop may have been created in different circumstances to mine, and your desired final image may be very different too. The important thing is that the main steps will be the same.

focus stacked image

Auto-Blend Layers dialog box.

Below, you can see the layer masks which Photoshop has created. On a layer mask white reveals, so the white areas are where Photoshop has determined that the focus is good. The white areas are the parts that are allowed to come through and contribute to the final image. In this example, looking at the masking of the layers, you can see the focus stepping forward.

focus stacked image

I think the masks are quite interesting, pretty even.

Merge layers

Finally, right click on any layer and choose either of the Merge commands.

focus stacked image

Merge the layers.

What you see now, in your main Photoshop window, is your single, focus stacked image.

focus stacked image

Final focus stacked image result!

You might see the marching ants indicating a selection by Photoshop of part of the image. My advice is simple. It seems random in its placement, I have never found it helpful, so just ignore it.

When closing the image in Photoshop, simply click save, and you will find a file added to your Lightroom library. In this example, where there were six files to start with, there are now seven (the new focus stacked image has been added).

This extra file will be in TIFF or PSD format (whatever you have setup in your LR preferences).

That is just about it. Stages Two and Three, fulfill our initial brief. You have produced a focus stacked image. All that remains is to export the image from Lightroom.

However, I think you might find it a little unsatisfactory to leave the process at that point, to walk away with the job not completely finished. I think you might want to see what happened next.

Stage three – final processing

I chose to so some further processing to the TIFF file in Lightroom. Using the Adjustment brush I added some positive clarity, +20, on to the top section of the image. By pushing the ‘O’ key, you can see the red mask where painting has been applied.

focus stacked image - location adjustments

The red area is where a local adjustment has been applied of +20 Clarity.

I added a graduated filter with the exposure pulled down 2 stops to the left side of the image.

focus stacked image

A Graduated filter of -2 Exposure was added to the left side of the image.

Another was added to the bottom too, as I really like the black to be unquestionably pure black.

focus stacked image

Another Graduated filter with -2 Exposure was added to the bottom of the image.

I then took that image back into Photoshop, where I used the bucket to fill some more bits of black around the bottom left corner of the leaf.

Then I spot retouched some bits of nature which were a bit too real. In particular, I think any white spots are very distracting. Then I turned to one of my long-term favorites, Nik’s Silver Efex Pro.

focus stacked image

Sadly, it seems likely that Google is going down the route which it has gone down many times before. Having purchased the German company Nik Software a few years back, it seems it is now allowing the software to die through lack of attention. However, I still like the results I get from Silver Efex Pro and still use it. In this case, I applied the High Structure – Smooth preset.

I then cropped the into a square. The final result is below.

focus stacked image

Final focus stacked image.


I hope the first article helped you take photographs for focus stacking and this one helps you with the processing. Most of all, I hope that you might have a go at this. I hope you do not mind me repeating the same point, it would be great if you could find your own project and apply these techniques. For me, that is a major reason to write these articles.

Please share your questions, comments and focus stacked images in the section below.

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