2 Methods for Creating Duotones in Photoshop

The post 2 Methods for Creating Duotones in Photoshop appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Glenn Harper.

This article looks at two methods for creating duotones in Photoshop. But first, what is a duotone?

Think of a duotone and you’ll imagine an image composed of two distinct hues. Easy so far. But a typical printing-press duotone uses black ink and another color, the net result being a photo that is monochrome by many people’s definition. No black appears in the final image unless the initial grayscale image was clipped, which photographers generally try to avoid.

Two methods for Creating Duotones in Photoshop

This photo uses two distinct blue-cyan hues laid over the original black (using a gradient map), but it’d qualify as monochrome in most circles.

A sepia image often comes from a duotone process, yet many people think of sepia pictures as monochrome.

Indeed, they are monochrome in the end but try producing a sepia effect in Photoshop using a single brown color. You’ll notice it tends to look flat. You can try some wild curves adjustments, but you really need black or dark gray in there to give contrast.

sepia monochrome aand duotone

Using duotone mode to create two sepia photos. The top half is duotone with a mixture of dark gray (near black) and dark brown. The bottom half is what you get with dark brown only – monotone.

For our purposes

We’ll look briefly at the classic black + one color method of creating duotones, not least because that blend tends to create more tasteful results. But I’ll also show you how to produce two-color images in Photoshop CC using two methods: duotone mode and gradient maps.

Method 1: duotone mode

To access Photoshop CC’s duotone mode, you first need an 8-bit grayscale image. But before you convert to grayscale, you might want to do a normal black & white conversion. That way, you can use the color sliders to get the best starting point before shedding data.

The process of creating a classic duotone in this way is described well in another article. Either pick one of the many presets available in Photoshop or choose your own color combo. Then adjust the contrast in the two “inks” as desired using the built-in curves adjustments. Technically, this produces a duotone, even if it’s monochromatic by some definitions.

Creating duotones in Photoshop

A two-ink duotone photo that is nevertheless monochromatic in appearance. Only by clipping the original grayscale image can you get true black into the photo.

Tip: in order for your second color (or “ink”) to be the one that imbues the image, you need the first “color” to be neutral (i.e. the default black or dark gray). Otherwise, the two colors blend. To achieve two distinct colors, there’s more to do.

Two distinct colors in Duotone Mode

It is possible to produce a two-color image in Photoshop’s duotone mode. Let’s say you have two colors selected (e.g. black and orange) and you want to make shadows blue. This is what you’d do next:

  • Click on “Overprint Colors” to open a dialogue box.
  • Click inside the color square next to “1 + 2” to open the color picker.
  • Move the picker around and choose a blue, observing its effect on the image in real-time.
  • Close “Color Picker” and “Overprint Colors” boxes.
  • You’re done! Convert back to RGB for conventional web or printing use.
Two methods for Creating Duotones in Photoshop

By clicking on “overprint colors” in duotone mode you can lay a second distinct hue over your darker tones. In this instance, I’ve chosen dark green.

Method 2: gradient maps

Like duotone mode in Photoshop CC, there are many gradient map presets you can try out. Some of these use a single hue or multiple hues, so they might be monochrome, tritone or quadtone in some cases. But a classic two-color gradient map will give you a duotone result with discrete colors.

Duotones in Photoshop CC.

Using a normal blend mode with a gradient map produces a two-color image without black. There’s a distinct lack of contrast, though this varies depending on the colors chosen.

The method for creating a duotone using gradient maps is here:

  • Open a black & white adjustment layer (don’t do anything with it yet).
  • Open a gradient map adjustment layer and set a “contrast” blend mode (e.g. overlay, soft light, hard light, etc).
  • Click on the gradient to edit its colors.
  • Double-click on the lower left and right sliders to open the color picker and select your shadow and highlight colors. A single click on either slider produces a slider in the center, which you can move if you want to alter the transition point between colors.
  • Adjust color sliders on the black and white layer if you want to selectively darken or lighten parts of the image.
  • Adjust opacity on the gradient map layer to taste.
  • Flatten layers.
Creating duotones with gradient maps.

You’ll bring the contrast of the original image back in by selecting an overlay, soft light, hard light or color blend mode.

When you’re going for a subtle duotone with off-black and off-white colors, you can skip the black and white layer. Just use a gradient map layer with a normal blend mode. Note, however, that this precludes the possibility of reducing opacity (which brings color back in) or selectively adjusting different tones. The extra B&W layer adds versatility.

The normal blend mode also looks pop-arty if you choose bold colors, so it’s good for creating graphic posters or flyer pictures. In this mode, it’s worth bearing in mind when picking colors that a color from low down and one from high up on the picker graph gives more contrast. The nearer the two hues are to each other in terms of “picker height,” the less contrast you’ll have in terms of brightness. Other blend modes add contrast, so this only applies to “normal.”

Blue and orange duotone.

Another gradient-map duotone using a “normal” blend mode. Blue and orange are complementary colors (approx). Photo: Pixabay

Of course, if your shadows and highlights are so close to black and white that their hues are hard to detect, you’re effectively back to creating monochromes. The semantics don’t matter provided you’re not entering duotone photo competitions with pictures that look mono.

Compressing the tonal range

When using the color picker to select your shadow and highlight colors, any hue you pick above the base or below the top of the graph compresses the tonal range (or dynamic range) of the photo. At least, that is the case if you perform a separate edit or use an adjustment layer with a normal blend mode.

If you’re going for a graphic image with two bold colors, the tonal range is almost immaterial. You can let it fall where it may. But with mono images and subtle duotones, dynamic range is more important. We’re always taught to aim for a full tonal range in our photos so that the data goes end to end on a histogram, but actually compressed data sometimes looks good. It gives online photos more of a print feel in the absence of deep shadows and dazzling highlights. Try it!

Understanding the color picker in Photoshop.

The hard left of the color picker goes from pure black to white, bottom to top. The same principle applies to colors. They go from pure black to full saturation. In this instance, I’ve compressed the tonal range of a black and white photo by 5%, lifting shadows slightly and subduing highlights.

Just as you can compress the tonal range of an image using curves or levels, so you can using gradient maps and the color picker. You could do similar in duotone mode by adjusting the endpoints of the built-in curves so that the curve is less steep. Conversely, making curves steeper increases contrast and eventually clips shadows and highlights.

compressing the tonal range of photos

What I did in the above picture using the color picker is the same as doing this in curves. Selecting two duotone colors using a normal blend mode will also compress the tonal range unless you choose the most saturated hue and black. (The baseline of the color picker is always pure black.)

Choosing colors

If you’re looking for colors that go well together, try using the Adobe Color Themes extension in Photoshop CC. You needn’t have an image open to experiment with it. Set your background and foreground colors via the extension in the tools palette, and they’ll automatically transfer over to a gradient map when you open one. Complementary colors are perfect for duotones.

Creating duotones in Photoshop CC

With this photo, I’ve set complementary foreground and background colors in Photoshop CC using the Adobe Color Themes extension. Then I’ve opened a gradient map, which applies the two colors automatically.

There are several websites dedicated to finding colors that work well together, including Adobe Color. These typically include the hex numbers, which you can copy and paste into the Photoshop color picker to reproduce the exact same hues.

Final thought

In times past, a duotone was used as a cheaper alternative to color halftone printing. Today, you could figuratively think of it as a more expensive alternative to black and white. I wouldn’t suggest it’s better (of course it is not), but it’s another way to convey mood. Sometimes you can hint at the color that was in the original photo. Or, you can just make some far-out pop art. There are many possibilities.

 

2-methods-for-creating-duotones-in-photoshop

The post 2 Methods for Creating Duotones in Photoshop appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Glenn Harper.

Lightroom Texture Slider vs. Skin Smoothing

The post Lightroom Texture Slider vs. Skin Smoothing appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Ringsmuth.

One of Adobe’s recent feature updates to Lightroom has profound implications for photographers who retouch their portraits. While in-depth alterations are best handled in an app like Photoshop or Affinity Photo, Lightroom’s brush tool has been a good choice for basic retouching for many years. Users can dial in specific settings to help skin appear softer and smoother, or select a preset defined by Adobe. However, these retouches have typically employed the Clarity slider, which is great for a lot of situations but not exactly ideal for portraits. Thankfully, the new Lightroom Texture Slider option aims to solve this and a whole lot more.

Lightroom Texture Slider vs. Skin Smoothing - 1

Before I get too deep into the Texture option, it’s important to know that it’s not just for tweaking headshots. It is specifically designed to either increase or decrease the detail on textured surfaces. These can be cloth, rocks, plants, skin, or anything that has a non-uniform appearance.

If you want to smooth the texture to make a surface appear more glassy, slide the Texture option to the left. By contrast, if you want to enhance the look of any textured object, just slide the tool to the right.

Texture vs. Clarity vs. Sharpening

Texture is fundamentally different from other tools such as Clarity or Sharpening, each of which has long been a staple in many portrait photographers’ workflows. Clarity works by increasing or decreasing contrast specifically along edges, or areas of already-high contrast. It primarily affects mid-tones and not the lightest and darkest portions of an image. Sharpening makes the edges of objects and surfaces much more vivid. It has some additional parameters like Radius and Amount that can be fine-tuned to get you just the right balance.

Lightroom Texture Slider vs. Skin Smoothing - 2

Each of these tools has a specific purpose, and they can be used alone or together to create specific results. If you usually do basic portrait retouching by using the Brush tool and selecting the Soften Skin option, you may have noticed that it’s merely a combination of Clarity and Sharpness. Texture, on the other hand, is specifically designed by Adobe to alter the appearance of textured surfaces.

If you have traditionally done some basic retouching using Clarity and Sharpening, you might be surprised at how effective the Texture option is.

The Soften Skin brush preset in Lightroom is just a combination of -100 Clarity and +25 Sharpening.

Retouching with Texture

While you can apply texture globally by using the option in the Basic panel of Lightroom’s Develop module, portrait photographers will appreciate that it can be applied selectively using the Brush tool. Select the Brush option and then look for the Texture slider, which is right above Clarity, Dehaze, and Saturation. You can also configure parameters like Size, Feather, Flow, and Auto Mask though I would recommend leaving the latter turned off if you are editing portraits.

Click on your photograph and brush in the Texture adjustment the same you would with any other adjustment. Be careful to stay in the facial region and not brush into hair, clothing, or other parts of the image. You certainly can apply the texture brush to other elements of your picture later on, but to start with stay focused on the face.

Lightroom Texture Slider vs. Skin Smoothing - 3

Original image with no brush adjustments applied.

As you brush in the Texture adjustment, you will see rough areas of the skin become smooth. I recommend starting with a value between -25 and -50. This retains most of the original look of the portrait while smoothing things out just a bit.

If you have never worked with the Adjustment Brush tool, you might take a minute and look over these five tips that could speed things up or make your work a lot more efficient.

Lightroom Texture Slider vs. Skin Smoothing - 4

Texture -50 adjustment brush applied to the cheeks, chin, and nose.

The resulting portrait has a smoother, softer appearance where the Texture adjustment was applied. Details such as pores and wrinkles remain, and color gradients and shifting tones are also preserved.

This is much different than the results typically produced by using the Skin Smoothing option, which employs a mix of negative Clarity and positive Sharpening.

Lightroom Texture Slider vs. Skin Smoothing - 5

Image with Soften Skin adjustment applied to the same areas.

This third image looks as though petroleum jelly has been smeared over the camera lens. The woman’s cheeks are missing the subtle color variations from the original image. While the skin is certainly smoother, it also looks more artificial.

To show how these images look in direct relation to one another, here is a graphic that shows all three versions for three seconds at a time. First is the original, then the Texture adjustment, then the original again, and finally the Soften Skin adjustment.

Lightroom Texture Slider vs. Skin Smoothing

You can create your own Adjustment Brush preset if you don’t want to rely on the Soften Skin preset. But if you have traditionally used the Clarity option, you may find it pleasantly surprising how vastly improved your results are by using Texture instead.

Comparison two

For another comparison, here are three more images to help you see the difference between Texture and other methods of softening skin.

Lightroom Texture Slider vs. Skin Smoothing - 6

The original image with no skin softening adjustments applied.

Applying a Texture -50 Adjustment leaves the pores, stubble, and small wrinkles intact but smooths them out just a bit. It’s a subtle change that doesn’t alter the original too much or make the face appear artificially smooth.

Lightroom Texture Slider vs. Skin Smoothing - 7

Texture -50 applied to the cheeks, chin, nose, and forehead.

A custom skin smoothing adjustment of Clarity -75 and Sharpness +15 makes the young man’s forehead and cheeks appear fake and plastic. It’s not a great look for a portrait.

Lightroom Texture Slider vs. Skin Smoothing - 8

Clarity -75 and Sharpness +15 applied to the same areas.

Looking at the three images sequentially shows the effect in a more pronounced fashion. The Texture adjustment gives a much more natural result while the final image seems over-processed and fake.

Lightroom Texture Slider vs. Skin Smoothing - 9

Conclusion

There’s a lot more you can do with the Lightroom Texture slider, and it’s useful for a wide variety of images aside from portraits. Some photographers like to reduce texture in the face and increase texture on hair and clothing for a punchier look.

My recommendation is to open up some of your images, especially portraits or headshots, and try it out for yourself. You might be surprised at how well it works.

Have you used the Lightroom Texture slider? What are your thoughts? Please share your thoughts (and images) with us in the comments section.

 

Lightroom Texture Slider vs Skin Smoothing

The post Lightroom Texture Slider vs. Skin Smoothing appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Ringsmuth.

How to Realistically Enhance Light Beams in Photoshop

The post How to Realistically Enhance Light Beams in Photoshop appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

As a general nod to creative decency, in my work, I tend to steer clear of the “influencer” types of photographs. You know the ones I mean. The photos of people standing at the edge of some gorgeous vista, smiling, but, of course, seldom looking at the camera. They usually have some brand name product conspicuously visible in the frame. It’s not that those kinds of images are wrong, neither in execution or intent, but rather slightly tired and overdone.

With that said, there is one type of photo that I find myself producing again and again, that I admit would fall into the category I attempt to keep myself away from most of the time. I love making photos at night time with light beams shining off into the dark of space.

The problem is, that without an enormously powerful light source, achieving highly pronounced light beams is fairly difficult to achieve. In short, your average consumer flashlight or headlamp likely won’t pack enough luminous punch.

This is where a super simple piece of Photoshop magic can make these types of photographs truly stand out. In this tutorial, I’m going to show you an easy way to enhance the light beams in your images using Photoshop.

Before we begin

As with most any type of photography, your finished results are directly dependent on the quality of the starting material. You should always strive to get as much right in-camera as possible before you move to post-processing. This means correct exposure relative to the elements of your images, accurate focus, and appropriate ISO settings.

While this technique can enhance light beams in any photo, the outcome will vary enormously in terms of both quality and realism depending on the solidity of the original digital file.

Alright, now let’s have some fun!

Process first

It’s a good practice to save the enhancing of the light beams in your photos until the very end of your post-processing. This means that you should process all other aspects of the image as you would like them to appear in the finished photo before you apply the steps we’re about to discuss. Here is the RAW file of our example image before any post-processing.

Here is that photo after I have finished the global and local adjustments. In short, aside from the somewhat lackluster beam emitted from the headlamp, the image shown here looks exactly the way I like.

I have completed all exposure, contrast, color adjustments, sharpening and noise reduction. Regardless of what software you use to complete your post-processing, you will need to bring the image into Photoshop to finish your work. Since I use Lightroom Classic CC, I choose ‘Edit in Photoshop.’

How to enhance the light beam

After you’ve kicked your image into Photoshop, it’s time to begin the incredibly easy process of enhancing that beam of light. We’ll do the entire operation with some super simple layer masking. To get started, select the polygonal lasso tool (keyboard shortcut ‘L’).

We’re going to imagine that we are drawing a shape which corresponds to how the light will naturally diverge from the source. In this case, the headlamp. So, beginning at the base of the light beam we’ll create our shape. Simply click and let go, then draw the first line. I recommend extending this first line past the canvas of the image. I’ll explain why in a moment.

Connect the dots

Now it’s just a matter of drawing more lines and connecting them. Click each point to anchor the lines together until you reach back to the beginning point. This will complete the shape automatically. At this point, the shape will also appear to be moving with the so-called “marching ants.” It will essentially look somewhat like a triangle.

It’s this shape from which we will create our first mask. Believe me, this is all about to make perfect sense!

Add a Brightness Adjustment Layer

Click on the Brightness Adjustment Layer icon to add a brightness and contrast adjustment layer. Photoshop automatically creates the mask for this layer based on the shape we’ve just drawn.

This is where the magic happens. Increase the brightness slider.

Boom. Isn’t that cool?! All that has happened is that the brightness increase only affected the shape we created with the polygonal lasso tool.

Feather the mask

There’s still a light problem, though. Look how unnatural the beam emitted from the headlamp now looks. We can fix this by adjusting the feathering of our mask. Click on the mask icon within the adjustment mask window.

Increasing the feathering of the mask makes the edges softer and appear as if they are naturally diverging from a finite point of origin.

Doesn’t that look so much better already?

Create multiple masks

At this point, we could be completely finished, or we could repeat the steps we’ve already learned to “stack” additional layer masks based on shapes we’ve drawn using the polygonal lasso tool. In this particular image, I’m going to create another more intense beam inside the one we’ve already made.

Then it’s just a matter of adding another brightness adjustment layer just as we did before. Then adjust the brightness and mask feathering.

Don’t think that your masks are limited to brightness adjustments. You can add any adjustment that you choose.

In this case, I want to cool down the beam to better match the original color of the headlamp light. To do this, I’ll draw another shape with the polygonal lasso tool, but this time, I’ll select the ‘photo filter’ adjustment and add a cooling filter.

And remember when I said there was a reason we extended the mask past the actual border of the image canvas? We’re going to learn why in the next section. It all comes down to realism.

Fine adjustments

When it comes to this type of adjustment, it’s always crucial you understand the mechanics of the effect you are either simulating or enhancing. In this case, we are enhancing the way light travels from a given source.

As you probably are aware, light diverges as it travels, hence the widening of our light beam. Not only that, but the further it perceivably travels, the less bright it becomes to our eyes. The light essentially disappears into space.

To mimic this natural principle, we will “dim” the light beam as it extends further towards the edge of the frame using the brush tool.

We’ll select each layer, and selectively adjust the masks so that the light appears to dissipate softly. Make sure you set your brush to black.

This is where you will need to exercise your own judgment based on your particular image. Experiment with different opacity and flow rates. If you remove too much, just switch the brush to white and paint the effect back in as needed.

Isn’t Photoshop great?

And that’s it! Here is our final photo with the enhanced light beam.

Considering this is what we started with…

…the overall creative power of this cool edit is obvious.

Let’s recap

When it comes to enhancing (and even simulating) light beams in your images, you’ll want to remember a few key  guidelines:

  • Begin with the best image possible
  • Save your light beam enhancements until the very end of your processing
  • Maintain realism by understanding light – it diverges and dissipates (in our perception) as it travels
  • Stack as many masks as you need
  • Remember to feather your masks!
  • Don’t be afraid to adjust the color of the enhanced light beams

At its core, enhancing light beams in Photoshop is an extremely easy way to add some immediate power to your images. Even though we’ve used the example shown here, you can apply this technique to any scene with point sources of light such as car headlights, street lights or in any scenario where you might want to creatively pump up the luminosity of light beams.

Try it out, experiment and, as always, be sure to share your results with us!

 

How to Realistically Enhance Light Beams in Photoshop

The post How to Realistically Enhance Light Beams in Photoshop appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

How to Make an Animated GIF in Photoshop

The post How to Make an Animated GIF in Photoshop appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

Don’t you love GIFs? I do. They are fun, creative, and a great way to grab attention. In a world full of images (animated and otherwise), you need to create original quality work to stand out. Stop following trends and make your own using Photoshop in just a few simple steps.

A GIF is a file format that supports animated images in the smallest size, which makes it very appealing for any online platform. The famous acronym stands for Graphic Interchange Format, and it became trendy for Internet humor, but now it’s a powerful tool.

Five reasons to do your own GIF

  • Showcase your product/brand in action or being used.
  • Do a call to action on your website.
  • Show a step by step example of any instruction.
  • Enhance your visibility.
  • Grow your social media audience.

What you need

You can make GIFs from words, video snippets, or a sequence of photographs. This last one is the technique I’ll show you. While technically you could use any series of images, a coherent set of photographs result in a more engaging GIF.

To achieve this, plan your photo shoot to maintain either the same light or the same framing, and use it to tell a story. If you need some inspiration, check out “8 tips – How to do storytelling with your images.”

If you are doing any post processing on your images like changing the size or format, you can save a lot of time by doing it in a batch. You can learn how to do this in the article How to Batch Resize Your Images Quickly Using Photoshop (https://digital-photography-school.com/batch-resize-images-using-photoshop/). If instead, you are making more complex adjustments I recommend you create an action and then apply it to all of them. If you don’t know how to do this read How to play Photoshop Actions on Multiple Images with Batch Editing.

Now that you have all your images ready to go, open Photoshop and go to Menu -> File -> Scripts -> Load Files Into Stack. On the pop-up window, choose the files you want to import and click OK. This opens all your images as layers within the same file.

Once the images are open, you need to animate them. If you usually work with still images, you may need to go to Menu -> Window -> Timeline to make the Timeline panel visible. It will appear at the bottom of your screen, and it will show a thumbnail of the top layer.

Open the drop-down Menu from the right of the panel and click on Make Frames from Layers. Now you should see the thumbnail of all the files you imported as layers.

If you need to change the order, drag and drop them to correct. Once everything is as you want it, it’s time to determine the animation settings.

First set the time each one will show before changing into the next one. You’ll see a number on the bottom of each frame and an arrow next to it. If you click on the arrow, you’ll open the drop-down Menu to set the time. Do this for each one, as they can be different from each other. You can see a preview by clicking on the play button.

As the last step, you can choose how many times the animation repeats. Under the frames, you can find a menu where you can set this. GIFs usually run on a loop so I will put ‘Forever.’ But you can decide to do it differently.

As I mentioned at the beginning, GIF is a file format; therefore it is something you determine at the moment of saving. When saving a photograph, you would normally choose .jpg or .tiff. However, this time you need to choose .gif. You can find this option under Save for Web. Here, you can choose the amount of color, whether you want it dithered, and if you want a lossy compression. All of these choices determine the file size. You can move them around to choose the best combination of size and quality.

If you now open your saved file in Photoshop, it will be a layered image that you can continue to work on. If you want to see it animated just click and drag it into your browser.

I hope you enjoyed the article.

Please share your GIFs with me in the comment section.

If you are feeling inspired and want to keep exploring animated images, you can experiment with time-lapse and stop motion. Check these articles to get you started:

 

how to make an animated gif in photoshop

The post How to Make an Animated GIF in Photoshop appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

Catalog Photos Like a Pro: ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019 Review

The post Catalog Photos Like a Pro: ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019 Review appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Glenn Harper.

ACDSee software has been around since the earliest days of digital photography. For 20 years, it’s been competing with Adobe Photoshop. Today, with Adobe offering its top image-editing programs by subscription only, there’s more room than ever for alternatives. ACDSee offers a compelling subscription model of its own, but it also maintains a full suite of standalone products. Photo Studio Standard 2019 is among them, and I’ll review it here.

ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019 - default layout

The default layout in Manage mode of ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019. You can move things around as you wish and close any panes you don’t need.

Aimed at keen photographers with growing photo collections, ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019 is ideal for sorting, finding, and viewing photos. It also has a set of editing tools that will quickly make your pictures look good for the web or printing. We’ll look at all this in detail. To avoid wasting anyone’s time, this program recognizes and opens raw files but it’s not a raw editor or metadata editor – it’s a pixel editor. You have no control over how raw files are processed and can only save 8-bit files.

Embedding ACDSee metadata into DNG files

Preview of a DNG file. You can embed ACDSee metadata into DNG files, unlike other raw formats.

This review of ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019 will include the following:

  • Starting up
  • Manage mode
  • Photos mode
  • View mode
  • Edit mode
  • Other features
  • Conclusion

Starting up

One thing that struck me immediately about ACDSee software was how quickly it opened. Sometimes I wait 2-3 minutes for Photoshop CC to start. There are technical reasons for that, like the plug-ins I have loaded into it and its sheer girth. Perhaps it connects to my Adobe account, too. Whatever. Photo Studio Standard 2019 opens in around 15-20 seconds every time.

Manage mode

Digital asset management (DAM) is the great strength of ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019. In Manage mode, the software offers all you need for sorting and locating your images. Like many people, you may already have your folders arranged chronologically. This is handy for sifting through them using the folder pane of ACDSee, but the software gives you lots of other ways to find pictures.

ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019 - folder pane

Here, I’m using the folder pane in Manage mode to browse photos. I’m not the best organizer, but I do have most folders labeled chronologically.

Calendar pane

I latched onto the Calendar pane within minutes of opening ACDSee. Even if you have your folders arranged by date, it’s so quick to rifle through your photos month by month using the calendar. You can widen the search by choosing multiple months or use single days to narrow it. I used this feature straight away to dig out a few files I might’ve overlooked as potential stock photos.

Catalog pane

The ACDSee Catalog pane gives you several ways to find what you’re looking for: color labels, keywords, ratings, saved searches, categories, and auto categories. Of course, you have to add most of this info yourself to the images, but that’s easy using the software. Auto categories come from EXIF data, so you can filter results by the lens or aperture used, for instance.

cataloging photos with ACDSee software

There are various ways to filter photos in the Catalog pane, some of which rely on you having rated, keyworded, labeled, tagged, or categorized your photos already. In this screenshot, I’m looking at photos taken with a particular lens.[/

Map pane

ACDSee includes a Map pane. Drag your photo(s) onto the place where they were taken, hit Save, and the GPS coordinates are automatically embedded into the EXIF data. Cool! That wasn’t a feature I expected at this price point (Lightroom has it), but it does show how thorough this software is in what it does.

Embedding GPS coordinates into photos

Dragging a photo or several photos onto a spot on the map and hitting “Save” embeds GPS coordinates into the metadata.

Shortcuts pane

The Shortcuts pane offers a way of bookmarking files you know you’ll often need. It makes it that little bit quicker to find any special photos – perhaps a collection of your best-ever shots.

Image Basket

Another neat feature of Photo Studio Standard 2019 is the Image Basket. Normally, when I’m preparing a gallery for the web, I create a new folder on my desktop to work from. The Image Basket is a way of gathering original files together without having to copy them elsewhere.

Keywording in ACDSee

Keywords are an invaluable way of quickly finding what you’re looking for, but they can be time-consuming to add. ACDSee is ahead of Adobe in this respect. It’ll import any keywords you’ve added elsewhere to the IPTC data, but it has excellent keywording capability of its own.

Adding keywords to images

The ability to create large keyword sets of up to 250 is enough to satisfy any lexicologist. I wouldn’t normally need that many, but 40 or 50 isn’t uncommon. Adobe software is restrictive in this respect.

A welcome feature of the new ACDSee ‘Quick Keyword’ tool is the ability to use 25 rows by 10 columns of words (i.e., up to 250 keywords). In Lightroom, you can only have 9 keywords max per set – a source of frustration for many users. ACDSee has its own metadata field that is stored in the database rather than embedded in the file, but you can embed it into suitable file formats.

Photos mode

In Photos mode, ACDSee catalogs all images from the location(s) of your choice and puts them on display so you can scroll through them. Like the Calendar pane, it’s an easy way for you to search visually and find pictures. Hovering the cursor over a thumbnail brings up a larger preview with vital info such as image dimensions, file size, and folder location.

ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019 - Photos mode

Photos mode on the daily setting. You can scroll through your whole database, but it’s still divided by daily, monthly or yearly headings.

View mode

Double-click on a photo in Manage or Photos mode and you’ll bring up a large view of the image in ACDSee’s View mode. Various viewing options are available as well as useful editing tools like Auto Light EQ™ and Auto Lens. You can rapidly scroll through files in this mode and tag images or add ratings, labels, keywords, and categories. It’s an extension of Manage mode if you want it to be. Clicking on Edit mode from here takes the open picture into editing.

ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019 - View mode

View mode is the place to be if you want to browse large previews of your pictures. Double-clicking on any picture in Manage or Photos mode brings you here, too. You can also perform a few basic edits in this space or categorize photos.

Edit Mode

ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019 has plenty to offer in terms of editing but something has to be sacrificed at this price point, and that’s parametric (non-destructive) editing. Photo Studio Standard is a pixel editor only, so you make physical changes to rendered images. You can still leave the original file untouched, but as soon as you finish editing and save a file, there’s no going back and tweaking your adjustments. This is more important if you’re in the habit of reworking pictures or if you edit extensively and want your work to be reversible.

Repair

There are a couple of tools under the “Repair” heading. The red-eye reduction tool is something I’d probably never have a need for, but I tested this with a public domain image. Works well – easy to use.

Correcting redeye in photos

With this close-up view, I found myself wishing the size of the adjustment would go slightly larger, as it barely covered the dilated pupil. But still, the red-eye has gone. Most portraits won’t be as near to the subject. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

One of the few glitches I encountered in ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019 was a malfunction among the repair tools. I can get the Heal tool to work, and it does a nice job of blending the sampled pixels into a new area. But the Clone tool hasn’t worked for me even after a reinstall. I just get a blacked-out image. This appears to be a bug in the program, as it works flawlessly in other ACDSee software I have on my PC.

Add

Under the “Add” heading you can insert text into your photos or a watermark (the Watermark feature is new in 2019). The default watermark is the ACDSee camera logo, but you can use your own graphic if you want. There are also borders, vignetting, special effects and tilt-shift choices here.

tilt-shift photo effect

The Tilt-Shift tool makes Manhattan look miniaturized.

Personally, I’d be most likely to use vignetting out of these, as it helps direct the viewer’s eye and is a useful photographic tool. It can be fun to add borders to your photos, too, which you can customize in this case with a wide selection of textures or any color you choose.

I counted 54 special effects in ACDSee’s collection, and each is modifiable in some way. Even the ones that don’t instantly appeal might work for you with some adjustment, so there’s a lot to go at. Among my favorites are Collage, Lomo, and Orton. The latter is great for creating a dreamy look.

ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019 - Orton special effect

This is the Orton special effect, making a peaceful scene even dreamier.

Geometry

Under “Geometry”, ACDSee provides rotate, flip, crop, and resize tools. There are some thoughtful touches among these tools, like the ability to control darkness outside the crop area. The Rotate tool also has a cropping feature, so you can level the picture up if necessary and correct wonky horizons.

When resizing, the default algorithm is Lanczos, but it’s worth experimenting, depending on what you do with your photos. Lanczos gives a sharp result when downsizing, for instance, but if you want to back off that a little and achieve smoother edges, try Bicubic.

Exposure/Lighting

ACDSee offers some powerful tools under “Exposure/Lighting,” not least its excellent Light EQ™ technology alongside traditional tools like levels and curves. Light EQ™ is similar to curves, only better in some respects since it treats highlights, mid-tones, and shadows separately. That’s only possible to a degree using curves without layers.

ACDSee Light EQ technology

Here, I’m using ACDSee Light EQ™ to adjust the tone of the image. By having the Exposure Warning switched on, I can ensure a good tonal range without losing detail in the shadows or highlights. As soon as pixels appear in red or green, I back off the adjustment slightly. I have the histogram showing the blue channel, as that’s the nearest to clipping at both ends.

The auto buttons in these exposure/lighting controls are also worth a hit every now and again. Personally, I find the auto setting in Light EQ™ tends to make things too bright, but it might provide a better starting point.

You can set your black and white points using eyedroppers in levels and also define the clipping limits under “tolerance.” (Don’t worry if this means nothing to you – it’s only one of several options.

I should mention, too, that ACDSee provides an Edit Brush and gradients with many of these controls, so you can apply edits to selected parts of the image.

Color

Under “Color,” you’ll find White Balance, Color Balance, Convert to Black and White, and Color LUTs. The White Balance tool is excellent, though, like all white balance tools, it relies on neutral tones in the image to use as reference points.

You could also correct color using the Color Balance tool, especially in conjunction with the floating histogram. A good thing about the ACDSee histogram is you can stretch it out as far as you like for a detailed look at tonal distribution. There’s a hue/saturation tool alongside color balance.

Using the histogram - ACDSee software

You can make the floating histogram as compact or elongated as you wish.

“Convert to Black and White” is new to ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019. Based on the colors you know are in the image (e.g. blue sky), you can adjust their brightness to alter the contrast of the final result. This also lets you emphasize different areas of the photo. Good stuff! Contrast is also affected by the RGB percentages, which must always add up to 100. A high proportion of red usually creates more contrast in cloudy blue skies, for instance. Colorized monochrome images are possible, too, under Convert to Black and White.

ACDSee Convert to Black and White

Using the new “Convert to Black and white” feature, I’ve increased the brightness of cyan a fair bit to make the fire-escape steps stand out more. Then I’ve colorized the picture with sepia-like brown tones.

One of the best things in ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019 Edit mode has to be Color LUTs. These let you alter the look of your photos (often drastically) via numerical color shifts. They’re like photo filters on steroids. ACDSee LUTs are good, but you can also download LUTs from the web and load them into the program.

Using color LUTs in photos

The lower half of this picture has the ACDSee “Turin” Color LUT applied to it. Look closely and you’ll see it’s darker with deeper blue windows and yet has a more cyan sky. You can use the Edit Brush or gradients on many edits.

Detail

Sharpen, blur, noise, and clarity all lie under the “Detail” heading. These are all pretty standard. The sharpen tool is like unsharp mask with amount, radius and threshold settings. Typically, you use a low radius for high-frequency photos with a lot of fine detail or a higher radius to bring out coarse detail across a wide area. A sharpening mask slider would be a nice bonus here if I were compiling a wants list. That would be quicker than selective sharpening with a brush.

Other Features

In case all the above isn’t enough, there’s more. For instance, the external editor feature in Manage mode lets you swiftly open images in other programs. Perhaps that will be Photoshop or it could be ACDSee Photo Editor 10, which would complement Photo Studio Standard well.

ACDSee also has a dashboard that gives you stats on equipment used, database size, and photo counts that show you how prolific you’ve been at various times.

ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019 dashboard

The ACDSee Dashboard, indicating prolific use of a Sony RX100 in my case. There are numerous other stats available.

You can create PDFs, PowerPoint files, slideshow files, zip archives, contact sheets, and HTML albums straight out of ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019, too. There really isn’t a lot you can’t do.

More new stuff

ACDSee also introduced AutoSave and Auto Advance features in 2019. AutoSave does away with the “do you want to save changes?” dialog when you move onto another image. Auto Advance is good for rating, labeling, or categorizing photos, as it moves onto the next image automatically once you’ve clicked.

Also new in 2019 are customizable keyboard shortcuts, support for HEIF files (used on later iPhones), and print improvements that let you adjust for differences between what you see on screen and what your printer produces.

Conclusion

As much as I understand the benefits of SaaS and subscription software models, I think there will always be a market for standalone products that consumers can update when they want.

ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019 is, first and foremost, a great photo organizer. I’ve never seen better. It’s quick as a browser – doesn’t hold you up – and it gives you workflow choices. There are lots of nice touches to make tasks easier. It’s not especially advanced as a photo editor, but you can achieve a lot without layers, 3rd-party plugins, and even Adobe’s unassailable repair tools.

If like me, you prefer taking photos to organizing them, ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019 is the ideal way to get your collection under control. It drills into your database from several directions and helps you find any picture. Many people will want to supplement the editing capabilities with other programs, but you won’t find much better than this for photo management.

Disclaimer: ACDSee is a paid partner of dPS

The post Catalog Photos Like a Pro: ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019 Review appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Glenn Harper.

Image Resolution Explained – Seeing the Big Picture

The post Image Resolution Explained – Seeing the Big Picture appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Herb Paynter.

The very first thing you must understand about photography is that it is totally based on illusion; you choose to believe what you perceive. This concept didn’t originate with photography’s pixels and dots; it is the very basis for human sight. Your brain chooses to believe something to be true well beyond what your eyes can verify or recognize to be true. The very word “resolution” gives light to this concept. The resolving power of a lens is its ability to distinguish small elements of detail. This same issue is true concerning the human eye and its perception of images on a computer screen and the printed page. Each of these “interpretations” relies on a mechanism to carry out an illusion. The eye’s mechanism is rods and cones, cameras use photo receptors, computer screens use pixels, and printing machines use spots and halftone dots. The degree to which each device succeeds in their illusionary quest is dependent upon the resolution of the mechanism and the resolving power of the device.

Each system requires two elements – a transmitter and a receiver. Just as a magic trick requires both a salesman (the magician) and a customer (the viewer), each “visual” process requires a good presenter and a willing observer. The common phrases, “seeing is believing,” and “perception is reality,” pretty much define the benchmark of success. Now let’s get image resolution explained and show you where it’s is most effectively used.

Image resolution

There comes a finite distance when viewing any image where your eye can no longer distinguish individual colors. Beyond that point, your brain must sell the idea that detail indeed exists beyond that point of distinction. The detail you see when viewing an object at close range continues to be perceived long after that object is too far away to verify that detail. There are limitations to the normal resolving power of the human eye with “normal” defined as 20-20 vision.

In the image reproduction process, delivering an image with excess resolution becomes useless when the result of that extra resolution has no purpose. Thus, the gauge of all visual resolution must ultimately be framed by resolving capabilities of the human eye. Producing more image resolution than the eye can perceive doesn’t increase the detail or improve the definition, it just creates bigger files.

While you feel more confident when you pass massive amounts of pixels on to your printer, your printer doesn’t appreciate the excess. It throws all those extra pixels away. More ain’t better; it’s just more.

Dots, Pixels, Lines, and Spots

Beware of the numbers game that is played by manufacturers in the imaging industry. There is ample misinformation and misused terminology floating around that causes significant confusion about imaging resolution. Allow me to clarify some very foggy air beginning with terminology.

DPI (Dots per inch)

The term DPI is probably the most misconstrued acronym in the digital imaging world as it is loosely cast about in digital imaging and applied to just about every device. DPI, or dots per inch, is a reference to printing device’s resolution and describes the dots and spots that each technology uses in various combinations to simulate “tones.” Dots are neither pixels nor halftone dots. We’d all be a bit better off not using this term as it has little practical application.

PPI (pixels per inch)

The basic structure of every digital image is the pixel. Pixels are the square blocks of tones and colors that you see when images are enlarged on computer screens (see the Eye illustration below). The measure of those pixels (typically in a linear inch) determines an image’s resolution and should always be addressed as PPI, or pixels per inch. This setting is affected by the Image Size dialog box in editing software. The higher the number of pixels in an inch, the higher the image resolution. Scanners, digital cameras, and paint programs all use the PPI terminology.

Of all the resolution terms in the industry, this is one that deserves top billing. While the rest of the terms need to be recognized, rarely will they have to enter the conversation.

When viewed in imaging software, these squares are referred to as pixels and should be defined in values of pixels per inch (PPI). This particular dialog defines the size of the “Eye” picture in this article. Internet images are defined by pixel count and concern the linear measurement of horizontal pixels in the image.

LPI (lines per inch)

LPI refers to the halftone dot structure used by laser printers and the offset printing process to simulate the continuous tones of photographic images. LPI refers to the number of “lines” of halftone dots used by various printing processes. “Lines” is a throwback reference to the days when actual lines were etched in glass plates to interpret photographic tones in early printing processes.

This LPI number is specific to the printing industry. Lower numbers refer to larger, more visible halftone dots (newspapers) while higher numbers refer to much smaller and less visible dots (magazines and artwork). I’ll get into the numbers later.

Spots and SPI (spots per inch)

A spot is a rarely used term that refers to both inkjet and imagesetter processes. With inkjet, it is the measure of micro-droplets of ink sprayed during the inkjet printing process. SPI, or spots per inch is a User-Selectable issue concerning the resolution choices when using some inkjet printers. Higher SPI also affects the quality of the printing process by slowing the speed at which the paper is fed through the printer. The spot “marking” size of both plate and imagesetters determines the quality of the shape of halftone dots produced and only applies to high-end lithographers and service bureaus.

Device real-world requirements for optimal resolution

Now we’ll look at each device’s real-world requirements for optimal resolution. How much is too little and how much is too much? The answers require a bit of explanation because there are some variables involved in the projects and the printing devices. First I’ll clarify some misconceptions about digital camera files, then I’ll address three specific printing technologies and give you some concrete examples.

Digital Cameras

The most common reference to camera resolution relates to the camera’s image sensor. These sensors contain a grid of cells called photosites, each cell measuring the light value (in lumens) striking it during an exposure. The actual number of cells contained in an image sensor varies depending on the camera model. When the number of horizontal cells gets multiplied by the number of vertical cells on the sensor, the “size” of the sensor is defined. The Nikon D500 sensor measures 4,288 x 2,848, or 12,212,224 pixels, making it a 12.3 mega (million) pixel camera.

The individual cells in the image sensor are covered by either a red, green, or blue filter called a Bayer array. Each cell records the filtered light, converting the combined values into individual pixel colors.

These pixels can produce any number of different size pictures for various purposes. Each printing process requires a different number of pixels per inch (PPI) to deliver optimal quality prints at a given size. This is because the technology used for each type of printing is different. For example, high-quality inkjet printers spray liquid inks onto paper using very small nozzles (usually 1440 spots per inch).

Laser printers

Most laser printers are either 600 or 1200 dpi devices meaning that a solid line printed horizontally will be composed of either 600 or 1200 dots. Type is printed using all these dots while halftone images can be effectively reproduced from 220-300 pixel-per-inch (PPI) images.

Inside these laser printers is a raster image processor (RIP) that generates halftone dots from square pixels. The value of each image pixel gets transposed into a halftone cell. The formula for exchanging this grid of square pixels into a diagonal pattern of variable-size dots goes way beyond explanation in this article, but it’s kind of like magic.

Laser printers simulate gray tones using the halftoning process provided by the printer’s RIP.

Inkjet printers

Inkjet printers use totally different technology to translate color pixels into printed images. Tiny spray nozzles distribute ink to specific parts of the image to deliver their version of the imaging illusion. The resolution (PPI) required to deliver accurate inkjet images differs from laser printers. This is because they do not use the geometric mechanism of halftone cells but instead, spray microscopic amounts of each ink to precise locations as determined by the pixel values.

Inkjet printers require significantly fewer pixels per inch (PPI) than laser printers to carry the illusion. Typically 150-200 PPI is quite sufficient.

Lithographic printing

Offset printing includes newspapers, magazines, and brochures. Each requires a slightly different lines-per-inch (LPI) pattern of dots. Newspapers are typically 85 LPI, magazines are 150 LPI, and high-end brochures and other collateral material require up to 200 LPI resolution.

Each line screen value is produced by a different PPI formula. While all these types of printing can be produced from 300 PPI files, all that resolution is certainly not required and is technically overkill. Even those high-end brochures technically don’t require this much resolution, but the early-adopted myth of 2xLPI persists yet today. The actual requirement for all high-end printing is only 1.4xLPI. Any more resolution simply gets discarded by the platesetter’s RIP.

In this calculation, newspapers (85LPI) need only 120 PPI, magazines require only 212 PPI, and even the best quality print is ideally produced with just 283 PPI.

In case you’re thinking that this is splitting hairs and irrelevant, consider this… using the 1.4 rule totally meets the mathematical requirement and saves a whopping 50% of the file size in storage real estate and transfer time.

I fully expect to hear some pushback about these numbers, but science and math don’t lie. Phobias about resolution are long entrenched, respected, and expected. However, in the end, it really doesn’t matter that much.

No-nos

There are two unforgivable sins in preparing your images for proper resolution. Low-res and up-res.

Low-res

The biggest sin of all is sending files to the printer/publisher with too little resolution.

That is a certain formula for poor results and shows up in the form of soft detail and bitmapped edges caused by normal sharpening.

Every form of print technology requires a minimum of pixels to produce fully-detailed and sharp images. So do not shortchange your project in this respect.

Remember, size your images for the final appearance and assign the PPI at that final size. If you want to see an 8”x10” image appear in print, make sure you address the issue of PPI in the Image Size dialog and before you save the file.

Monitor the Image Size dialog carefully when you make changes. Resample an image while watching the Image Size figure at the top of the dialog. Try to never let it increase. You can get away with a small increase but do so only when necessary.

Up-res

Make it a rule never to increase your image size as it is a sure-fire recipe for disaster. You can’t create detail; you can only destroy it. Whatever size file (pixel count) you begin with is the largest pixel count you should print unless you’re okay with soft images.

Pixels are not rubber, and you cannot stretch them to a larger size without sacrificing the sharpness of the image. Your digital camera most likely provides you with ample original pixels to print most projects, try to stay within that original ratio.

You can increase the image size, but you can’t increase its detail. Every time you enlarge an image, you distort the pixels. So if you want to print sharp images, don’t enlarge them!

The major advantage to maintaining higher resolution files for an archive is that if an image ever needs to be cropped or enlarged, that extra resolution will undoubtedly come in handy.

It remains standard operating procedure in the printing industry to send all files to the printer with 300 PPI resolution. Cloud services, backup systems, and storage media sales folks certainly want you to continue the 300 PPI trend and rent more parking space on their sites.

Final thought

Make it your goal to make the best of this visual illusion called photography. Your camera, your computer, and your printer provide all the tools you need to perform your magic with great success. Enjoy.

 

The post Image Resolution Explained – Seeing the Big Picture appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Herb Paynter.

How to Add Functionality to Photoshop CC with Free Extensions

The post How to Add Functionality to Photoshop CC with Free Extensions appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Glenn Harper.

Using extensions in Photoshop is like putting scaffolding on Mount Everest. The program already has more features than you probably need. But you can add more functionality by using free extensions. Photoshop CC even invites you to “Find Extensions on Exchange…” on the Windows menu.

Finding Photoshop extensions

When browsing the Adobe Exchange site for extensions, take note of what products they’re compatible with. Otherwise, you’ll end up downloading stuff that won’t install. Naturally, free extensions are less likely to be up to date. Some of the paid add-ons are worth a look, with the caveat that you can’t always try them out first.

Extension installers

You can install Adobe extensions easily by using either Anastasiy’s Extension Manager or the ZXP Installer. (I use the latter.) Drag the .zxp file onto the app, and the extension will be waiting next time you open Photoshop. (Or at least it should be.) You can also use Adobe’s Creative Cloud desktop app to install and uninstall extensions.

Installing Photoshop CC extensions

If your extension doesn’t load automatically through the Creative Cloud app, try Anastasiy’s Extension Manager or the ZXP Installer.

Three great free extensions

Some great up-to-date extensions are available for free. They might be a segue from an unpaid product to a paid one or have some other sales angle, but they’re still handy additions to Photoshop.

Here are three free extensions that work with Photoshop CC in 2019 (version 20.0.4 as I write).

Adobe Paper Textures Pro (Russell Brown)

This extension lets you easily add paper textures to photos. The downside is the supplied textures are web-size only, so you can’t add them to big files without losing definition. Of course, it’s designed to hook you into buying full-res textures from Fly Paper. But if you’re into this type of editing, it’s probably worth it, as they appear to be high quality.

Photoshop texture overlay

A textured digital photo using one of the supplied Fly Paper overlays in Adobe Paper Textures Pro.

To make Adobe Paper Textures Pro fully functional without costing you anything, you can download free full-res texture images from other web sources and load those up instead. The textures automatically blend with your open image, so it’s quicker than creating layers manually. In the past, the extension has drawn a few negative reviews. But it has behaved well for me, and despite the odd glitch, it’s a lot of fun to use.

Adobe Paper Textures Pro and a separately sourced texture overlay.

Interactive Luminosity Masks (Sven Stork)

Being able to select different areas of luminosity within an image can be useful when making local edits. You might want to adjust the contrast or tone in one area and not another. Or perhaps you want to avoid sharpening noisy, darker areas of the image or apply noise reduction to the shadows.

The Interactive Luminosity Mask lets you select highlights, mid-tones or shadows, and also allows a customized choice with a zone mask and picker.

Using a luminosity mask in Photoshop - free extension

A luminosity mask exposing shadow areas only for adjustment. You can invert the selection if you want to protect an area rather than edit it.

The extension also includes saturation masks. These were once useful for selectively increasing saturation, but the vibrance slider made that a little redundant. Even so, there’s still a lot of value in being able to use color to make selections. For instance, you may want to avoid sharpening large single-tone areas such as skies. This add-on lets you select areas of low, mid or high saturation, or manually pick a color using the zone mask. You can even launch channels and commonly used adjustment layers from within the extension.

Facebook Grid Cover (Bojan Živkovic)

Photography on Facebook - free extensions

Facebook grids force you to curate your own photos if you want to create a good one. That’s always a useful exercise. This add-on set of actions works flawlessly.

Facebook covers may seem like a frivolous way to spend your time. But creating a grid of photos that look good together isn’t always easy. Even with a simple three-image grid, you may find composing a good online triptych challenging. This extension doesn’t end up in your extensions menu. Instead, it’s an action (or series of actions) that loads initially onto your desktop.

You can pick up to 13 images to go into your Facebook grid cover, and the actions let you switch any one of them as long as the layers remain intact. Whether you run a photographic Facebook page, or just want one for your own cover, this extension will create an eye-catching result.

Further delights

Here are some more free extensions for you to try:

  1. Thomas Zagler’s Free Stock Search is ideal for finding free stock images you can use for things such as digital composites. You could compile a folder of free texture photos and use them with the Adobe Paper Textures Pro extension I talked about earlier.
    Free stock search - free extension

    Free stock photos are useful for overlays in Photoshop. Add texture to your photos or drop in a better sky.

  2. Sven Stork’s Interactive Blender Panel lets you blend pictures together according to tone (highlights, mid-tones, or shadows) and leave the rest of the photo unblended. This is ideal for dropping in more appealing skies, among other things.

    Digitally adding skies in Photoshop

    This is another first-rate offering from Sven Stork. Adding better skies is one use for blending pictures by tone. You can use a layer mask to brush out any unwanted blending.

  3. Anil Tejwani’s Action Launcher provides useful ways to organize your actions, including alphabetically or by favorites. Note: The favorites feature expires after 30 days unless you upgrade to the pro version.

    Photoshop free extensions

    Action Launcher lets you easily filter and organize your actions.

  4. Davide Barranca’s PS Tools lets you lay out all the Photoshop tools you actually use in a pop-out panel and conceal the rest.

    Photoshop tools

    This extension lets you lay out all the tools you usually use and hide the rest. (Note: The panel doesn’t float. The illustration shows screenshots of editing pane and selected tools.)

  5. Denis Yanov’s RealLookLongShadow panel gives you lots of control over drop shadows and their length to make photos or cut-outs stand out.

    Photoshop drop shadows - free extensions

    This extension lets you create longer shadows than is usually possible within Photoshop.

Your recommendations

I hope you find some of these extensions useful or fun. Please feel free to add your own recommendations for free or paid extensions in the comments.

 

The post How to Add Functionality to Photoshop CC with Free Extensions appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Glenn Harper.

How to Create and Use a Light Skin Smoothing Action in Photoshop

The post How to Create and Use a Light Skin Smoothing Action in Photoshop appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jackie Lamas.

When you photograph portraits, you’ll spend time editing the photos so your clients look their very best. A lot of that time is often spent smoothing out the skin. But while some smoothing is okay, doing it too much can change the look of the person.

Here’s how to create a simple and easy Photoshop action that will have you smoothing out skin faster without over-retouching it.

Before and after using this light skin smoothing action.

What is a Photoshop Action?

A Photoshop action is where you record various steps in an editing process and save them so you can then reapply those steps simply by ‘playing’ the action.

In this case, the action will have three steps. When you press ‘Play’ it will apply those three steps quickly and automatically so you can get to the fun part – the retouching.

Create the action

Step 1: Open a photo (any photo will do) so you can create the action.

Step 2: Make sure the Actions panel is open. If it isn’t, go to the Window menu and make sure Actions is selected. If you can’t find the Actions panel on your workspace, deselect and re-select it in the menu.

Step 3: Create an Action Set, which will create a master folder for your action to live in and help you organize your actions. (You can skip this step if you already have one.) Click on the three lines in the Actions panel and select New Set. You can also create it by clicking the folder icon at the bottom of the Actions panel. You can give it any name you like. (In this example I named it “My actions”.)

Step 4: Now it’s time to record the action. Select New Action from the Actions panel menu, or click the New icon at the bottom. Choose a name for your action, select the set you want it stored in, and click Record.

Note: Once you hit record, everything you do in Photoshop will be recorded – including the things you did accidentally. Fortunately, you can click the Record and Stop buttons at any time while you’re recording the steps.

Step 5: Once you start recording your action, duplicate your layer in the layers panel or by hitting CMD/CTRL+J.

Step 6: From the Photoshop menu select Filters ->Blur -> Gaussian Blur and choose a value between 10 and 25 pixels. (Don’t worry. Your photo won’t stay blurry.)

Step 7: Create a mask layer, then hold down the Alt/Option key and click on the mask. This will add a black mask on your blur, and your photo will be back to normal. We’ll be using this mask to add the smoothing rather than erase the blur, which is a lot more work.

Step 8: Select the Brush tool (or press B on the keyboard), and choose an opacity between 10% and 20%. Make sure your foreground color is set to white so you can paint back the smoothing.

Step 9: Hit Stop to stop recording.

Your action is now ready to use.

To test your action, open a new photo and hit Play in the Actions panel.

You’ll see the actions you recorded re-applied to the new photo.

How to use your action

Open a photo with the skin you want to smooth out. It’s best if you retouch any imperfections or blemishes beforehand. This action simply smoothes out the skin lightly to make it look natural and clean.

Hit Play on your action, choose a brush size that’s best for your photo and start painting in the smoothing in small strokes. Make sure you paint in the mask layer or you’ll be painting white onto the skin.

You should see the difference after a few strokes. You can also change the opacity if you need more or less smoothing.

Tips

If you accidentally record extra steps, simply stop the recording and then delete the steps that aren’t part of the action.

You can also delete the action and start over. So don’t worry if you don’t get each step right the first time.

In conclusion

Retouching skin can often take time away from photographing clients. But by using actions, you can streamline your editing by automating steps you use regularly.

This action also helps you retouch photos lightly and more naturally.

Let us know if you find it helpful.

The post How to Create and Use a Light Skin Smoothing Action in Photoshop appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jackie Lamas.

How to Create and Use Gradient Maps in Photoshop

The post How to Create and Use Gradient Maps in Photoshop appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Glenn Harper.

We often perceive color in digital photos to be “correct” when the neutral tones – if they exist – are indeed neutral. But in the real world, light always has some color cast or other that affects the areas it illuminates. A camera sensor ruthlessly reproduces these uninvited hues, but still, we try to edit photos to reflect our own vision. Gradient maps can either correct color or spin it to your advantage.

Using a gradient map to correct color

A blue gradient map removes the reddish color cast of artificial lighting (as per right of picture). Your choice of hue, saturation and brightness gives you fine control over the result.

You can use gradient maps for dramatic black and white conversions or create different monochromatic effects, but this article focuses on color gradient maps to:

  • Use them to subtly improve photos
  • Separate elements within your compositions using color contrast
  • Make subjects stand out
Color gradient map on a black and white image

This image was originally black and white. Because the fog in the picture creates smooth transitions in tone, you can clearly see what the “robin egg to orange peel” gradient is doing.

What does a gradient map do?

A gradient map at its simplest is a smooth gradation between one color (or tone) and another. Let’s say you have a gradient map that goes from green to orange. When you apply that to an image, the shadows would have a green tint and highlights an orange one. The mid-tones are typically least affected except with more complex multi-color maps.

how a color gradient map works

Here, a black and white gradient occupies the lower half of the image. Above that is a color gradient map, and above that is the effect it has on the lower half once an “overlay” or “soft light” blending mode is applied (soft light tends to be more subtle). Don’t worry if you can see banding.

You might be wondering at this point: why would I want to twist the color of a photo and effectively give shadows and highlights a color cast? This, after all, is virtually the opposite of a white balance correction. One reason is to enrich the colors that already exist in a photo.

Using a color gradient map to enhance colors

For this picture, I’ve created a custom gradient map that emphasizes the orange brickwork and the deep blue sky. This is one way of warming up the building without forfeiting the color of the sky.

Another good reason to use gradient maps is to harness the power of complementary or analogous colors and create more eye-catching pictures. Sometimes, the feel of a photo is more important than the truth, which only ever exists in degrees to begin with.

an old color wheel - complementary colors

An old color wheel illustration. Opposite colors are complementary colors, so they’re a good choice for gradient maps.

If you imbue your shadows and highlights with complementary colors, you will often make the photo a little more eye-catching. It might be subtle, but it still works in your favor. This isn’t a magic bullet that makes all photos great, but it’s fun to experiment with. You’re becoming a colorist.

Creating gradient maps

The simplest way to create a gradient map in Photoshop is to go to your toolbar and set the background and foreground colors to the ones you want at either end of your gradient. Then, when you open the gradient map, the colors are already in place.

If you want to use precise colors in your gradient map – perhaps complementary colors you’ve found on the Internet – you can enter the hex numbers into the color picker pane instead of randomly sampling.

gradient maps in Photoshop - cold hues

Gradient maps don’t have to include radically opposing colors. This one has a cold effect all the way through.

Method 1

This is one method for creating a gradient map:

  1. Open your image in Photoshop.
  2. Go to the toolbar and set the background color (click on the rear of the two squares to bring up the color picker pane). This will be your highlight color, bearing in mind you can reverse the gradient in Photoshop anyway.
  3. Do the same with the foreground color by clicking on the front square. This will be your shadow color.
  4. With the shadow/highlight gradient colors chosen, open a gradient map adjustment layer. At this point, the photo looks drowned by color, but we’re not done yet.
  5. Choose either soft light or overlay blending modes and adjust the opacity to taste.

Needless to say, not all gradient maps suit all pictures. One way to create useful gradient maps is by looking for color schemes on the Internet. There are also websites that discuss the color palettes used in movies or movie scenes, which you can “borrow” for your own photos.

Adobe color themes - complementary colors

You can use “Adobe Color Themes” to find the perfect complementary color for one that you’ve chosen. Create a gradient map accordingly. In this case, the yellow-green hue in the little squares is the opposite color to this patch of purple.

Method 2

A more tailored way to create a gradient map is as follows:

  1. Open your image in Photoshop.
  2. Open a gradient map adjustment layer.
  3. Set the blending mode to soft light or overlay.
  4. Click on the gradient to open the gradient editor.
  5. Click on the left color stop (square slider at lower left), then click in the color window that activates.
  6. At this point, you can adjust the shadow color and see its effect in real time on your photo as you move the color picker around.
  7. Do the same with the right-hand highlight color stop.
  8. Now you have a custom-made gradient map for that image.

Note: you have to use the preset manager in Photoshop to save your gradient maps if you want to use them again. Otherwise, they vanish when you close the program.

Color gradient - layer mask - selective editing

If you use gradient map layers rather than direct edits, you have a layer mask built in. In this picture, I wanted the deep blue-green of the water that contrasts well with the reflecting lights, but I didn’t want to lose the warm shadows in the buildings. I brushed those back in, so the gradient map only affects the water and sky.

Gradient maps vs color LUTs

An alternative to gradient maps is color LUTs (look-up tables), which you can also find in Photoshop and other programs. Rather than applying color according to the tone of the image as a gradient map does, a LUT shifts hues numerically.

The latter often causes a radical change in mid-tone subjects like skies and trees, whereas simpler gradients tend to leave those areas relatively unscathed. But it depends. LUTs, like gradients, vary a lot in their effect.

Comparison between color luts and gradient maps

This is a comparison between an orange-teal color LUT (left) and an orange-teal gradient map. Both are more atmospheric than the neutral image I started with, though the LUT has completely altered the color of the trees to the right. Mid-tones are less changed in the gradient map, but highlights are decidedly more orange.

The starting point: white balance

Whether you apply a gradient map or a LUT, the end result is affected by the preexisting white balance in the image. As photographers, we don’t always want to drain a photo of warm or cold light with a white balance adjustment. It’s frequently this light that makes the picture – adds to its atmosphere. However, such an adjustment ensures a purer result with gradient maps and LUTs.

Color LUTs and gradients are usually designed from a white-balance-corrected starting point. So, if you want to see them as the author intended, consider correcting white balance at the raw stage. This isn’t anywhere near compulsory: you can simply lay these edits over photos and they’ll act as filters. Just know that their effect can be exaggerated, skewed or diminished if the photo already has a color cast.

If you customize a gradient map to suit the image, the need for a prior white-balance adjustment obviously disappears. But this is time consuming compared to having a set of tried-and-tested presets at your fingertips.

Enhancing colors and color contrast

The color in the red lens at the front is brought out by this gradient map and the tone of the wood becomes darker than the original. There’s some cool-warm contrast going on here between wood and glass.

Creating multi-color gradient maps

I find simple two-tone gradient maps more useful and certainly more versatile than complex ones, but you can add further colors to the gradient if you wish. You might add a separate color to mid-tones, for instance.

Use analogous colors (sets of three closely related hues) or triadic colors to inspire you, or customize a gradient to enhance the colors that exist in a photo.

triad colors - triadic colors

I probably wouldn’t go for this look, but it illustrates the effect of a three-color gradient map (violet, green, orange – a triadic combo). The different tones in this abstract architectural shot bring all three into play, albeit with a very subtle orange in highlights.

Here’s the method for adding a further color to your gradient:

  1. Open your image in Photoshop.
  2. Create a two-color gradient map as above (steps 1-7).
  3. Click under the center of the gradient in the gradient editor to create a third color stop.
  4. Click on the newly created color stop to activate the color window, then click in that window.
  5. Choose a third color that complements the image (e.g. for mid-tones) and adjust its effect by changing the position of the middle slider. The small outer sliders alter the area affected by this color regardless of its position along the tonal range.

The more colors you add, generally the muddier and less “realistic” the photo appears, but that may be an effect you’re going for.

mullti-color gradient - Photoshop preset

I can’t think of a useful role for this multi-color gradient map. However, it does serve to show you how colors are distributed across different tones. By initially viewing the image in “normal” blending mode, you get a clear idea of how colors will affect the photo before you switch to overlay or soft light.

Using restraint

You can add gradient maps to photos and many people won’t notice you’ve done it. But that’s not to say they don’t have the desired effect.

Just like in the movies, you’re using color to create a mood or make the subject or foreground stand out from the background. You’re not necessarily trying to draw attention to the color itself, even if it pleases your eye.

Many photographers think in terms of light and dark to create impact, or saturation boosts, but color contrast is a rarer consideration.

Although gradient maps (and color LUTs) are powerful tools for making pictures stand out, it’s easy to get carried away with them. After a period of overdosing, you’ll come to recognize the types of images they work best on and which of your gradients to use where. Here are five free gradients you might like to try out. Happy colorizing!

Try out these techniques and share your images with us in the comments below.

 

The post How to Create and Use Gradient Maps in Photoshop appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Glenn Harper.

Four of the Latest Updates to Lightroom Classic CC

The post Four of the Latest Updates to Lightroom Classic CC appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

When it comes to the world of photography it seems as if change is an everyday occurrence. New cameras, new lenses and new ways to make your photographs better, give the feeling that we are never quite standing still. One of the biggest testaments to this fluidity comes from the recent changes made to Adobe Lightroom Classic CC. It seems as if Adobe has been extremely busy over the past year by introducing new features and settings to Lightroom.

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It’s impossible to list all of the changes here, so I’ve picked four of the biggest and freshest new features to be introduced into Lightroom Classic CC. These range from somewhat complex to some very simple tweaks that might leave you thinking “hey, why didn’t I think of that?!”

Here’s a short list of the new features which are currently available in Lightroom Classic CC v8.2 which was the most current build at the time this article was written.

Customize Develop Panels

To kick things off, we’ll take a look at a very simple yet interesting new feature introduced to Lightroom in December of 2018. Until now the only choice of customization for our Develop panels was to switch to “Solo” (highly recommended) mode. With the release of Lightroom Classic CC v8.1, we can now choose the order we want the Develop panels to appear and even decide which panels we want to have listed at all.

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I know, right? Looks a little odd to see all the panels in a different order and a few missing! To customize your Develop panels all you need to do is right-click on the title bar of any panel.

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This opens up the customizer dialog box.

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From here it’s just a matter of checking or unchecking the panels and/or dragging and dropping them into the order you like.

Show/Hide Develop Presets

Moving over from the far right to the far left side of Lightroom Classic CC, we’ll find another new feature added to the v7.4 (seems so long ago) update which dropped in June of 2018. Beginning with this build, we can now control which Develop Preset groups appear in our Preset panel. This feature is called “Manage Presets,” and it is accessed by right clicking on any Develop Preset group or by clicking the dropdown icon at the top right of the panel.

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We are then met with this preset management window.

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This is where you can check or uncheck the preset groups you want to appear in the Develop presets panel. Remember, you can always select “Reset Hidden Presets” should you ever decide you want to restore everything to the default configuration.

Preset Compatibility

While we’re on the topic of Develop presets, it’s worth mentioning another brand new aspect to grace the halls of Lightroom Classic CC in 2018. Starting with the v8.1 update, we have the option to determine which presets appear in our Develop Preset folders even more judiciously than before with the ability to hide or show partially compatible presets.

Now, you might be wondering what a partially compatible preset is? Simply put, any Develop Preset that contains a setting not compatible with your current version of Lightroom will now be italicized or hidden depending on your preferences.

Here, let me show you.

First, let’s say this preset was made with a creative profile which you don’t have installed. You’ll notice that its name appears in italics. This means that the preset is still usable, however, it only offers limited functionality.

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Alternatively, we can choose to not have that preset appear at all. To do this, we first select ‘Edit’ and then ‘Preferences’

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Next, click on the ‘Presets’ tab and then set the preset visibility checkbox to your desired preference. If left unchecked ANY of your presets that feature settings not fully compatible with your version of Lightroom will no longer appear in your presets folder.

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This of course can be undone at any time by simply checking the presets visibility box once again.

Single-step HDR Panorama Photo Merge

Don’t worry, just because the title is lengthy doesn’t mean this next feature is overly complicated. For years we’ve been able to tell Lightroom to stitch together our panoramic and HDR images for us. Now, the folks at Adobe have given us an incredibly easy way to combine the best of both worlds with the release of Lightroom Classic CC v8.0 back in October of 2018. We can now merger multiple bracketed photos into a high dynamic range (HDR) panorama in, you guessed it, just a single step. Well, maybe a little more than that – but it is still incredibly easy.

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The majority of the work involved in making use of this new feature happens before you ever import your images into Lightroom.

Namely, your photos need to be correctly bracketed and meet a few other criteria. It will be helpful to read the full release notes from Adobe to learn more about how to make sure your images are compatible with Single-step HDR Pano Merge.

In any case, once you have selected the bracketed images for your HDR pano, the actual process is remarkably straightforward. So go ahead and select them first.

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Then right-click on any image and select ‘Photo Merge,’ and then ‘HDR Panorama’.

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From here, Lightroom will create a smart preview of your HDR Panorama.

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You then have options to control the way the final photograph gets cropped as well as how the images combine. This new “single-step” approach to creating high dynamic range panoramas is light years ahead of previous methods. Instead of first needing to merge individually bracketed image sets into separate HDR photos, only then to require further stitching into the final panorama, we can now eliminate virtually half of the effort involved. If you’re an avid landscape photographer, you will absolutely fall in love with single-step HDR Panorama Photomerge.

And that’s not all…

Of course, this is just a taste of the new flavors Adobe has added to Lightroom in the last year or so. It’s nearly impossible to include all of the new features constantly added – and that’s a good thing. There are many more fresh features to be found in Lightroom Classic CC.

Do you have any favorites? Feel free to let us know in the comments!

 

The post Four of the Latest Updates to Lightroom Classic CC appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

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