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.


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.

F:\DPS Images\Four Updates for LR Article\Lightroom-updates-adobe-adam-welch-digital-photography-school-3-3.png

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.


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.


This opens up the customizer dialog box.


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.


We are then met with this preset management window.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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.

How to Use the New Enhance Details Feature in Lightroom

The post How to Use the New Enhance Details Feature in Lightroom appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Ringsmuth.

One benefit of subscribing to Adobe Creative Cloud is that the software you use is updated regularly throughout the year. Some of these updates might not add much to your workflow, while others result in dramatic improvements to how you edit your images.

In February 2019, Adobe rolled out a powerful new option in Lightroom called Enhance Details. You may not have noticed since there’s nothing new in the interface that even indicates the feature is available.

However, this can dramatically increase the quality of your RAW files, particularly if you shoot with Fuji cameras, and it is certainly worth investigating to see if it could benefit you.

In order to understand what Enhance Details does, it’s important to know how RAW files work. When you shoot in RAW you aren’t storing images on your memory card or computer like when you shoot in JPEG. Instead you are storing a set of instructions for how your editing software should create an image when it’s exported from Lightroom, Capture One, or any other image-editing program.

What’s weird to wrap your head around, though, is the notion that when you browse through your image library in Lightroom you aren’t looking at the RAW files at all. You’re seeing previews that the software has generated which give you a good idea of what the RAW files will look when they are exported.

This is why RAW files look slightly different when you open them in different software. Capture One, Lightroom, Luminar…they all use different methods to interpret the data in a RAW file. This results in previews (what you see when you edit an image or browse your image library) that look different, as well as your final exported final images.

This isn’t a RAW file. It’s a JPG file generated from RAW data, as interpreted by Lightroom.

Understanding RAW Files

So what does all this have to do with Enhance Details? It all goes back to how your RAW files are interpreted in Lightroom. Digital cameras collect Red, Blue, and Green data on their image sensors using an array of pixels that correspond to each color. When Lightroom loads a RAW file, it looks at the color data for each pixel and guesses what the resulting image should look like. This is what you see when you look at your images before exporting them.

This also means that Lightroom has to essentially fill in the details throughout each image since you don’t see individual Red, Blue, and Green pixels when you zoom in on an image. You see pixels of all colors that Lightroom has created based on what it thinks they should look like based on the Red, Blue, and Green color data in the RAW file.

Unfortunately, this means that some elements of the scene that you photographed, particularly the very fine details, get lost in the transition from RAW file to Lightroom.

Different camera sensors contain different types of RGB patterns. When saving RAW images, all of the color information for each pixel is stored without the camera deciding how to interpret the data as an actual image.

Enhance Details is a way for you to recover some of the finer aspects of your images that get lost along the way when interpreting RAW files.

It works by using Adobe’s artificial intelligence technology, called Sensei, to fill in some of the missing gaps when pixels are rendered from RAW data.

The results can be quite impressive, depending on the type of image you are working with. It can also mitigate some of the issues that Fuji users have traditionally had when rendering RAW data from Fuji’s X-Trans sensors. Traditionally, these result in wavy, worm-like artifacts with an overall loss of sharpness.

Bringing out the details

To use Enhance Details, select an image in your Lightroom Library and choose Photo -> Enhance Details.

This brings up a Preview window which lets you see what will happen after the Enhance Details procedure finishes.

It shows a zoomed-in view of the photo you are working with, and you can click and drag around to see what different parts of the image will look like after the operation is complete.

When you click on the image preview it reverts to its un-enhanced state, allowing you to compare the original and Enhanced versions with a single click. There are no parameters to configure, sliders to adjust, or options to customize with the operation which I find refreshing. It’s a take-it-or-leave-it approach, at least in its current state, which makes it a little less of a hassle from an end-user perspective.

When you are satisfied that you want to undergo the Enhance operation, click Enhance and wait for Lightroom to finish the operation.

When it’s done you will still have the original RAW file, but in addition you will now have a new Adobe DNG file that contains the Enhanced image. This file is, as you might expect, the same image as the original but with several additional megabytes of new data where Adobe has attempted to improve things.

Original on the left, Enhanced on the right.

More details, larger files

One important point to note in this process relates to file size and storage space. When I converted several RAW files that were originally about 22 megabytes, the resulting Enhanced DNG files were about five times larger. Since each new file easily takes up well over 100 megabytes you might want to be somewhat selective in choosing the images you want to Enhance. Either that, or start looking into more storage solutions!

So what’s different about the enhanced RAW pictures other than massive file sizes? It varies depending on the scene you photographed, the camera and lens you used, and other parameters. If you shoot Nikon, Canon, or Sony, you might not see that much of an improvement since Adobe already does a pretty good job interpreting those RAW files. However, if you use Fuji you might notice significant improvements. The image below is the original RAW file, shot with an X100F, that I edited in Lightroom.

Original Fuji RAW image. It seems fine, until you zoom in for a closer look.

At first glance, and sized down for on-screen resolution, it looks fine. But upon closer inspection you can see some significant issues particularly among the leaves and ground.

Some of the issues are now apparent, and they can’t be corrected simply by adjusting sliders in Lightroom.

When I first saw this up close, I thought there was something wrong with my computer! Either that or I had a broken camera. The edges of the leaves, particularly where the sun is shining through in the top-right corner, have a wavy, worm-like appearance that’s rather strange and almost a little disconcerting. This is due to how Lightroom renders Fuji RAW files and can be corrected quite easily using Enhance Images.

Original on the left, Enhanced on the right.

Notice the way the edges of the leaves are much smoother in the right-hand image. The gold light coming through the dark leaves is also crisper.

This isn’t just an issue of adjusting the Sharpening slider in Lightroom. Instead, it’s an entirely new RAW file built from the ground-up using Adobe’s artificial intelligence algorithms.

The new image really is enhanced – as the name of the process implies. While it might not be entirely obvious when viewed on a computer screen, there is a clear difference when files are shown at full resolution or as large prints.

Enhanced image. You can’t see a noticeable difference on a small screen, but when viewed full-size the details are much improved.

Your results may vary

While the process works wonders for Fuji RAW files, it’s somewhat hit-or-miss for major names like Nikon and Canon. For instance, below is a RAW file from a Nikon 7100 as rendered by Lightroom.

Original image, shot from the Columbia Center skyscraper in downtown Seattle.

The Seattle skyline looks crisp and clear, with no noticeable issues in the finer details even when zoomed in to 100%. When processed through the Enhance Image feature the improvements are discernible, but you really have to look for them. It’s a marginal improvement, and nowhere approaching the fixes to Fuji RAW files.

Original image on the left. Enhanced on the right. If you look at the roofline of the building in the middle, you can see a more accurate rendering in the Enhanced image…barely. The Enhanced version doesn’t have oddly-colored pixels where Lightroom didn’t quite get the original RAW file rendered properly.


In my opinion, Enhance Images isn’t worth the file size tradeoff on Nikon and Canon cameras. Lightroom already does such a good job of rendering them already. However, I encourage you to try it out and see for yourself. The amount of improvement depends greatly on a variety of factors including your camera, lens, and the subject in the photograph.

You might find that you prefer the Enhanced Images as a general rule, or you might only use this feature now and then. Either way, it’s nice to know it’s there.

Enhanced image, without a lot of truly noticeable improvements even enlarged to full size.

I like to think of Enhance Images as a useful tool to have in your back pocket for those times when you really need it and not something I use on an everyday basis.

The really exciting part is where this technology might end up in the future. Right now the process is done for one photo at a time and takes several seconds even on newer computers. I can easily see a time when it’s applied as easily as a filter or adjustment slider, with dramatic improvements to every image.

Until that happens, it’s fun to see technologies like this take shape and mature. As photographers, we live in an incredible time with technology like this that were unthinkable only a few years ago.

It’s amazing to ponder what the future might hold, and think about the tools we will have at our disposal to let our creative freedom loose.

Have you use this feature? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.


The post How to Use the New Enhance Details Feature in Lightroom appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Ringsmuth.

How to Place an Image Inside Text in Photoshop

The post How to Place an Image Inside Text in Photoshop appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

In this article, I want to share with you one method of creating an image that appears inside text.

How To Use Photoshop to Create an Image Inside Your Text

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Making your photos stand out online, especially when using social networks is tough. Finding ways to enhance your pictures so they will capture people’s attention is a great way to grab more attention to them.

Placing an image inside text can communicate more than the text or the photo will say on their own.

Here are a few easy steps to show how you can make your images have more impact.

How To Use Photoshop to Create an Image Inside Your Text Inle Lake fishermen, Myanmar

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Set up your Photoshop file

Create a background layer of a solid color. Above it make a new text layer and then add the photo you want to include inside the text.

The size and font you choose are up to you, and they can be changed during the process if you decide they are not working as well as you’d hoped. You can also use a vector layer to place your image inside.

For this method, you will use a Clipping Mask. This allows you to use the content of a layer to control the visibility of the layers which are above it. This is how the shape of the text will control how much of the photo is seen in the final outcome.

How To Use Photoshop to Create an Image Inside Your Text Clipping Mask

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Creating the Clipping Mask

Select your photo. It must be above the text layer. Go to the top menu and select Layer ->Create Clipping Mask, (or press Alt + Ctrl/Cmd + G.)

You will now see your photo within the text. Everything outside the text area will be the solid background layer. You have effectively masked out most of your image.

If this is too much, as it is in my example, the effect is not going to attract many eyeballs. The text is easy enough to read and the effect is interesting, there’s not enough of the image remaining.

How To Use Photoshop to Create an Image Inside Your Text

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Reveal more of your photo

If you want more of your photo to be seen, rather than only what’s within the text area, you can do so.

Duplicate the layer by pressing Ctrl/Cmd + J. Now make a selection of the parts of your photo you want to be seen outside the text area. There are many methods for doing this. Here I have used the Quick Selection Tool.

Once you have made your selection, you can click on the Layer Mask icon at the bottom of the Layers Panel. This will reveal only the selected area of this layer.

You can then refine your mask if necessary by using the Brush Tool. Make sure the mask is selected in the Layers Panel. Brush with black to reveal more and white to conceal areas you don’t want to see.

How To Use Photoshop to Create an Image Inside Your Text Refine the Image Mask

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

There are no rules as to how much to show. It’s purely up to what you think is best. Keep in mind that the text will be most legible with less of the image showing outside of it.

You should now have a compelling image with a message.

Experiment to add diversity

Every image and text combination will work differently. If you’re not satisfied with the outcome, change some aspect of it.

Using a different font is easy enough. With the text layer selected, choose a different font.

How To Use Photoshop to Create an Image Inside Your Text Change Font

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

If you can’t find one that fits your image exactly as you want it to, manipulate it. With the text selected, bring up the Character dialogue box. Here you can stretch your text wider or higher, or make it more compact. See if you can make it fit your image in a more pleasing way.

You may need to refine your clipping mask further if you make changes to your font.

Adding a shape on a new layer under your text layer will create a new look. Then, by duplicate your original photo layer. Drag it below the shape in the Layer Panel. This creates a background of your original photo.

Now you have a shape containing your text with your image inside and a shape with the image outside it.

How To Use Photoshop to Create an Image Inside Your Text New Background

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

I have moved the location of the text and shape as I didn’t think it looked so good over the main area of interest in my photo. After moving it I dropped the opacity of the shape layer to reveal some of the photo underneath. I also added a stroke around the text (using the fx panel) to help it stand out more.

How To Use Photoshop to Create an Image Inside Your Text Experiment with new layers

© Kevin Landwer-Johan


There are so many variations you can experiment with to place an image inside your text. These are just a few ideas to help get you started.

Remember, if you are using text, keep it legible. If people have to struggle to read it, then it’s not working. Likewise, if the text is not enhancing your photo, try something different.

There are no right and wrong ways of doing this. I hope you found this method helpful.

Try it out with photos for your Pinterest, Instagram or Facebook feeds. Done well it will help your photos stand out from the crowd and get your message across.

I’d love to see how you are making use of placing an image inside text. Please post your photos in the comments and let us know of any additional tips and techniques you like to use.

The post How to Place an Image Inside Text in Photoshop appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

How to Develop a Photography Workflow that Preserves Your Images

The post How to Develop a Photography Workflow that Preserves Your Images appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Karthika Gupta.

“I love spending time in front of a computer working on my images – sorting them, cataloging them and editing them,” said no photographer ever!

Well, maybe a few of us like to be sitting in front of our desk pouring over image after image, shoot after shoot. But let’s face it, as photographers, we would much rather get out there and photograph in the field than be chained to our desk and computers indoors.

How to setup a workflow to protect your images Karthika Gupta

This is where having a good solid workflow that can help you ease the post-shoot process is very important. Workflows are not just for the editing portion of your life as a photographer. In fact, a workflow is something that can help you before, during and even after your photo shoot.

Whether you are a busy professional photographer or an active hobbyist, having a good solid workflow and method of organizing images is crucial.

Having a workflow is even beneficial if you just photograph on your smartphone.

We have all been in situations where your phone runs out of space because you have images from three years ago that you have done nothing with. Sorting through three years worth of data to find images to delete under pressure of missing a key moment is no joke!

I wear many different photography hats as a wedding, lifestyle and travel photographer. So my workflow is slightly different based on the type of session I am photographing. But for the most part, I follow the same series of steps.

Here is my process. Hopefully, you may be able to replicate some or all of these steps to create a process that works for you in your photography.

1. Choice of Gear


My camera of choice is a Canon 5D MKIII. At this point, I only have one digital camera. I used to have a Canon 5D MKII as my backup, but ever since I starting working with a second shooter for my weddings, I didn’t find the need for my Canon 5D MK II. So I sold it.

For commercial shoots or bigger gigs that require multiple cameras and lenses, I just rent what I need. I am lucky in that I have a big camera store close to home that has all the gear I could need. They even have a studio that I can rent out should I need more space.

Batteries and Cards

I purchased two extra batteries when I was a full-time wedding photographer, and because I sold my backup gear, I am now left with extra camera batteries for my primary camera.

This works really well because I carry all my batteries with me when I am traveling or going to a multi-day event. That way I don’t have to worry about finding a plug point or charging my camera battery in the field.

This was a lifesaver earlier in the year when I traveled to Portugal and lost my power converter/adaptor. Try figuring out how to say power adaptor in a part of the world where you don’t speak the language! I drained out my batteries to the very last percent of battery juice during that trip!

Side tip: try shaking the battery to squeeze out every last bit of battery juice if you are running out of battery life. I’m not joking. I have tried this successfully many times in Portugal to get that last shot before the battery died!

I have 5 x 32GB CF cards, 3 x 16GB CF cards and a handful of 8 GB CF cards. For the most part, all these cards travel with me for a multi-day shoot or a personal travel trip that is several days long.

Part of my pre-shoot workflow includes downloading all my cards, charging my batteries and packing my bag with everything I need the night before.

Camera bag

My camera bag is a backpack that I used not just my photography but also for excursions and trips around town. I ditched the proverbial camera bag many years ago when I started traveling with my family of young kids. Carrying a camera bag, diaper bag, and a purse was just not practical. Also, once I got used to carrying a day pack that held all my treasures, it just seems second nature to me to pick that bag up no matter what the occasion.

Since I have just one camera/day pack, part of my workflow is to make sure the bag is empty and ready for the next adventure as soon as I come back home from a shoot/trip or even just going around town.

Luckily, it has enough pockets to store batteries, CF cards and other things like filters, and flashes.

How to setup a workflow to protect your images Karthika Gupta

At a recent class I taught, I loved seeing the diversity in terms of camera bags that everyone was using!

2. During the shoot

There is nothing quite like learning the importance of having a workflow than losing data or content in the absence of one. I learned the hard way when I lost all my images from a shoot on a card that failed. Luckily it was for a family shoot that I could reschedule.

So from that point onwards, I change my camera data card with each logical break in the event I am photographing.

For example, if I am photographing a wedding, I have the getting ready activities on one card, the ceremony on another card and the reception on a third card.

Even though the cards are not full, this gives me the security of losing only a part of the day should anything go wrong.

Of course, my backup for weddings is my second photographer who does the same thing.

For non-wedding related client work, I use a backup SD card in my camera. The Canon 5D MkIII has a dual card slot, so I take full advantage of the technology at my fingertips. If I am on a personal assignment, I change out my cards every night and download the photos onto an external drive.

Another thing that is important to note is how you store used and unused data cards. Figure out a system that works for you in how you separate the two. For me, used CF cards from a photoshoot are placed in a separate pouch from unused CF cards. I place those in another pouch in my camera bag.

In terms of the actual shoot, try and come up with a game plan for what you are photographing. As a wedding photographer, one of the key things I make sure to discuss with my wedding couples is a shot list. A shot list is a list of all the key moments and images that the couple absolutely wants to have taken. Typically these are around photos with family members.

With client and commercial shoots, the clients typically have a list of images they want to get from you. Use this concept of a shot list to list down all the ‘must have’ images you want to get out of a photographic excursion.

Shot lists save you effort, and they help you become more efficient with your time in the field.

How to setup a workflow to protect your images Karthika Gupta 2

Wedding photography can be quite stressful. There isn’t really a do-over option if you mess up. Having a workflow is critical and life-saving for a wedding photographer.

3. After the shoot

When I am back home from a wedding or a lifestyle shoot, the first thing I do is pack away my gear. I separate my camera body from my lenses and pack them away separately. All batteries are removed, including those from my flash. I have heard horror stories where batteries, especially AAAs, have leaked into the flash socket, so I don’t want to have to deal with that mess! Plus I use rechargeable batteries for all my flashes and external lights. Once they are out, I put them back in the case ready to be recharged for the next photography gig.

If I am at a multi-day shoot, all batteries are plugged into the charger slots right away.

These are the steps I take with my images:

  1. I download all the images from my CF cards onto TWO external hard drives, that act as a storage for my RAW images. 
  2. Once the RAW images are successfully transferred to my external hard drive, I go through and spot check the images and the total image count to make sure all the images are moved over.
  3. Images are moved over based on the shoot, location or event. For example a wedding will be downloaded as follows on the primary storage drive:




  1. The secondary drive is less formal and has images just based on the event. For example:







  1. I then format the cards in camera. This is done on the camera rather than the computer. The reason for this is because I have found that sometimes all the images are not cleaned out and the card still retains some data that occupies unnecessary space.
How to setup a workflow to protect your images Karthika Gupta

Treating every client shoot like it was a wedding really helped me nail down a process and workflow that works for me. Now it is second nature and something I don’t even have to think about.

4. After the shoot (remote)

When I am traveling for work or pleasure, I carry one WD My Passport Ultra external hard drive and all my camera data cards. Earlier in my career, I would carry two external hard drives and create primary and secondary backups in the field. Now I have found that I don’t photograph as much because I am more thoughtful about what I photograph.

So now I just carry all my cards, and one external hard drive to back them up in the field. I avoid taking an external hard drive when I am just traveling for pleasure or personal work to reduce my load.

When I get home, the RAW files from the CF cards used during the trip are copied over to both external hard drives (primary and secondary) that house all my raw images. They are deleted from the WD Ultra so that it is ready for my next trip.

Early in my photography career, there were times where I would travel with almost every lens I owned, a laptop, two external hard drives, and many camera cards to be safe. Perhaps it is age, or perhaps it is maturity (I like to think it is a little bit of both), but now I try to travel light and take only what is absolutely needed to get the job done.

If I need something along the way, I either borrow, rent or figure out creative solutions to make things work.

How to setup a workflow to protect your images Karthika Gupta

I would argue that personal photos are more important than professional ones – especially as the dedicated photographer of the family. I love documenting our journey for no-one but me!

5. Editing workflow

Eighty percent of my editing happens in Lightroom (LR). Photoshop is used sparingly if I have to make any advanced editing. I have invested in the Adobe Creative Cloud for LR and Photoshop. I’ve installed them on my iMac (my primary editing device), as well as my MacBook Pro (my travel companion).

My Lightroom catalog lives on an external HD. I understand some people have concerns over running a LR Catalog on an external HD, because of potential LR speed issues. So far, I have not experienced any issues with LR in terms of speed by having the catalog on an external HD. However, if you are concerned about speed, then your LR catalog can be put on your computer’s hard drive, and keep a backup on the external HD. A backup of my LR catalog lives on a cloud service that is updated every six weeks.

I used to use iPhoto on my iMac to store all my images and only upload selected images to Lightroom. I tried to use Bridge for a few years to select images that I want to import into Lightroom. Now I use Photos on my Mac to select images that I want to edit and upload them into Lightroom.

I know it is probably easier to just upload all images to Lightroom and sort them via the software to save an extra step. I have one Lightroom catalog that houses all my work since 2012, and so there are quite a few images in the catalog. I had found that when I used Lightroom to sort and select images, it takes forever to load.

My Lightroom catalog is sorted by year, and I use the following naming convention for my Lightroom. I am less worried about the naming convention in Lightroom than I am with my primary and second storage units. This is just my personal preference.


After editing is complete, I export my client images onto the same WD Ultra external hard drive as my Lightroom catalog.

The client folders get arranged by the date of the session.

This time the naming standard is as follows:


All images have the same naming convention as the folder, along with an image sequence number.

Every few years I go through and delete edited galleries from the external hard drive. I don’t delete client RAW files – just the edited files. I have found myself going back to many client galleries and re-editing images as my style evolves and changes. There is no point in keep multiple copies of the same image.

I use a mix of presets and hand edits for my images. It took me many years to finally come up with a style and method of how I want my images to look. Ninety percent of my edits follow that same process. Every once in a while I drastically change my “look” to keep things fresh.

As a rule, I spend no more than a minute on each image. I would much rather be outside photographing than indoors editing.

How to setup a workflow to protect your images Karthika Gupta

How to setup a workflow to protect your images Karthika Gupta

Exact same image – two different looks. And I love them both.

6. Editing Remotely

I really avoid extensive editing of images in the field. I prefer to focus on documenting and photographing rather than same day edits. I would much rather take a quick snapshot on my iPhone and edit using phone apps for a quick social media preview than spend time and effort in editing in the field.

A couple of years ago, I traveled out of the country for three months over the summer. This was before Lightroom came up with their cloud version. Because I was gone for so long, I took my Lightroom catalog with me on an external drive and used that for 3 months.

Recently, I started using Lightroom Classic and Lightroom CC for my workflow. I primarily used them for working when traveling. When I know I need access to my files for a particular project or a particular job, I upload those files to my Lightroom CC and work on them while on the road. Once back home, I ‘sync’ Lightroom CC as a collection in my Lightroom Classic and have all those edits readily available.

7. Client workflow

I use an external portfolio service to host my images for client work. These client galleries are only online for three weeks, and then they are deleted. My wedding photography packages all include edited images on a personalized flash drive whereas my family portraiture clients have the option of purchasing digital images if they want them for future use.

Every few years I go through and update client galleries and delete old ones. Keep in mind these are just the edited files. My client RAW files are stored indefinitely in case a client comes back after a few years for the images. If you don’t want to delete client images, you can invest in an external cloud storage system.

How to setup a workflow to protect your images Karthika Gupta

In Conclusion

While it might seem like a lot, my workflow has simplified over time. Just as I limit the gear I own and use, I also try and limit the images I capture – for both client and personal work. Having 100 photos of a spectacular sunset no longer make sense to me. I also stick to my workflow because it saves time in the long run.

One of my favorite things to stock up on are external hard drives. Every so often they fail, and I have to replace them. As cloud storage gets more accessible and less expensive, I can see myself moving things over to the cloud and simplifying my process and workflow even more.

I encourage you to use this, or some variation of this workflow and tweak it to make it your own. If you do it consistently and often enough, it becomes second nature and saves you time so you can do what you enjoy doing – photographing.


The post How to Develop a Photography Workflow that Preserves Your Images appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Karthika Gupta.

How to Make Well Exposed Photos Every Time – Part Three – Post-Processing for Exposure Optimization

The post How to Make Well Exposed Photos Every Time – Part Three – Post-Processing for Exposure Optimization appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

Digital photography allows us an incredible scope to work on our computers to enhance and manipulate images. Optimizing your exposures during post-processing can make a dull, flat-looking photograph into a much more vibrant and interesting one.

How to Make Well Exposed Photos Every TimeMarket Guy

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

My approach to post-processing most of the time is to make my photos look as they did when I captured them or with some variation to the background tone. Because our eyes see more dynamic range than our cameras, this means I am working to balance my exposure and the way the light looks in the photo.

RAW or Jpg?

If your photos are saved only as jpg’s, your camera will have made certain tweaks to them already. It may have added some sharpening, color balance, contrast tweaks and possibly manipulated them in other ways. Jpg images as designed to look good straight out of your camera and may require little or no post-processing.

If you do decide to work on your jpg files, you will face limitations because of the file quality. As your camera saves jpg files, it compresses them and discards some of the information from the photos. Jpgs are technically lower quality which means they do not stand up to as much post-processing as RAW files do.

RAW files contain all the information your camera captured when you pressed the shutter release. They do not look great when you first see them because the camera has not altered them at all during the capturing and saving process.

To make a RAW file look good you must make some adjustments manually or use a preset or Action to make them for you. The technical quality of a RAW file is superior because there is no data lost from what your camera recorded. You have a greater capacity to be able to manipulate these files without losing quality.

How to Make Well Exposed Photos Every Time Temple and Big Sky

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Choose your best photos

From each series of photographs you make I hope that you will have a number of exposure options to choose from when you sit down at your computer. Picking the best images to work on is the first part of post-processing.

Naturally, you’ll be wanting to pay most attention to the main subject in your photo. Is it exposed the way you want it to be? Can you see that there’s sufficient detail in those areas of your composition?

In some cases, such as when you’ve made a silhouette or are using low-key lighting and high contrast, you may have little or no detail in your subject. This is okay if that’s what you want.

However, if exposing for detail was your intention, and there’s not enough in your photo, look at the pictures where you used different exposure settings.

Your background exposure is also important. Does it enhance and support your main subject? Is it too bright or too dark? Again, look to see if there is detail. When there’s no detail, because of overexposure or underexposure, it will be more difficult to manipulate these areas.

How to Make Well Exposed Photos Every Time Attractive Young Photographer

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Make use of the histogram

Your histogram gives you information about the tonal values in your images. It shows you where the most detail is and if you have lost detail in the bright or dark parts of your compositions.

If your histogram is bunched up to the left or the right of the chart, with the graphic touching the top, this means there will be no detail recorded in those areas.

If you can see a histogram bunched to the right and hitting the top, you will have lost detail in the highlights. If it’s bunched to the left and hitting the top, you have lost detail in the dark areas.

If your main subject is within this range and you wanted it to contain detail, you will need to choose a photo with a different exposure setting to work on.

How to Make Well Exposed Photos Every Time Hill Tribe Girl

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Using presets or manual manipulation

Lightroom and Photoshop come with presets and Actions. These can be used to help balance your exposure. You can also download many more or make and save your own. These tools can enhance and speed up your post-processing workflow.

I often chose one of a variety of presets as I begin to post process a photograph. Rarely do I apply a preset without then tweaking it further. Every exposure you make is different, so to get your photos looking their best some manual manipulation is usually best.

Working your highlights and shadows

Having been careful to expose your main subject well, you may already be happy with its tone value. However, some parts of your composition may still need tweaking to get them looking the way you want.

How to Make Well Exposed Photos Every Time Happy Hat Wearer

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Your intention is the most important. How do you want your photograph to look?

Here are two examples of different manipulations made to the same RAW file.

Example one: Dark background

I wanted to make the background darker so the roses would stand out. Using a preset I made in Lightroom, I then made further manual adjustments. I controlled the Blacks, Dehaze, Contrast, and Shadows sliders.

When making this kind of adjustment to manipulate the background of your image, pay attention to your main subject also. These sliders make universal changes to your photos so affect your main subject as well.

With a light-toned main subject and a predominantly dark background, the changes I made did not have much effect on the roses.

How to Make Well Exposed Photos Every Time Lightroom Dark

I then opened the photo, with the Lightroom adjustments, in Photoshop. At this stage, I darkened the lightest part of the photo to lower the overall tone range.

There are many techniques you can darken or lighten specific areas of a photo. I prefer to use the Dodge and Burn tools set to a low exposure to do this. I also used the Patch tool to remove a few of the brighter areas in the background.

As a result, the background is darker, and the highlights on the rose are not so bright.

How to Make Well Exposed Photos Every Time

Example Two: Light Background

To render a lighter, softer look, I took the Dehaze slider towards the left, and the Shadows towards the right. I added a little more Black and some Contrast, otherwise the image looked too flat.

Next, using Photoshop, I tweaked the highlights a little so they were not so bright.

How to Make Well Exposed Photos Every Time Roses

In both of these examples, my main objective was to enhance the roses because they are my main subject.

The background tone is also important. Between the two examples, there is the most difference in the tone of the background. This has a large impact on the overall feel of the photo.


As with all post-processing, there are a variety of methods you can use to gain similar results. Here I have demonstrated a few techniques I am comfortable using.

Concentrating primarily on the tone of your main subject in relation to the background is a good place to start when post-processing. Once you have made adjustments you are satisfied with, you can then move on and make other changes to your photos if you wish.

Aim to expose your main subject the way you want at the time of making your photos. Doing so allows you more flexibility to make changes in post-production and not lose quality. If you are stuck working with a main subject that’s either underexposed or overexposed, you will be limited in how much you can achieve.

Experimentation is the best way to discover how you like to work with photo manipulation software. There is no right or wrong way to work with your photos so long as you achieve the result you want.

You may also like


The post How to Make Well Exposed Photos Every Time – Part Three – Post-Processing for Exposure Optimization appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

A Short Introduction to Basic Photo Editing for Beginners

The post A Short Introduction to Basic Photo Editing for Beginners appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Lily Sawyer.

If you’re a beginner, using editing software can be a daunting prospect. What if you can’t get a handle on the technology? What if it’s too complicated a process? What if it’s just too time-consuming? What if the images turn out horrible? So many what ifs! I get it; I’ve been there. In this article, I’m offering a very simple way of delving into editing if you’re a novice. These are basic principles that I hope will set you in good stead for more fancy editing in the future!


First things first.

You need to be able to see what is a good image and a bad image. The key is in your perception.

If you think heavily edited images are the perfect image, then your editing will lean that way and vice versa. If you think an overly-tinted image is perfect, then that would be your bar for perfection. We all have a bias towards something. However, for editing, I think we need to try and be as neutral as possible and leave our personal preferences for the moment.

To be able to see things objectively, we need to:

  1. See the differences between over-exposed and under-exposed images and decide as to what is the correct exposure
  2. Understand white balance where white looks white, as it should, and not yellow or blue or orange
  3. See the contrast between dark and light
  4. Decide on the noise

Once we have a basic grip of the above, then editing will be a breeze, and we can get more creative from a solid image base or what I’d like to call a clean edit.

But first, a word on shooting format. Shoot in RAW.

The images below are the original RAW images opened in Bridge without any edits applied.

You can see there is a choice of Adobe color profiles. See the difference between the standard profile below left and the color profile used on the image on the right.

You can choose which profile you prefer.


To successfully understand the above, and make the edits towards them, it is important that you shoot in RAW format. If you shoot in JPEG, you are allowing the camera to process the image, discard pixels the camera deems unnecessary, and accept the color adjustments the camera has made. With a JPEG image, you have less control, are working on a great loss and compression of pixels at the very start and an already compromised image color.

You can read more about RAW processing in Bridge here.

Having said that, someone who is a really good, seasoned, experienced photographer may well shoot JPEGS and achieve the desired image they want. I am not there yet!

Secondly, the type of camera you use affects the original images you get.

A full-frame camera gives you the 35mm sensor – wider, more space, more light hitting the camera sensor and more pixels. What you see through the lens is pretty much what you get. A crop-sensor, on the other hand, works in the opposite way. The lens only allows you to use a portion of the sensor so that a 35mm lens mounted on a crop-sensor camera will only give you the point of view of a 52mm lens equivalent – a more zoomed-in longer focal length. You are losing some width, some light and some pixels.

Let’s dive in!

1. Correct exposure

Correct exposure means getting the balance right between the 3 components of the exposure triangle. Namely: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. Balancing all three correctly will give you a perfectly exposed image. That means no blown highlights or details are lost entirely in the shadow or darker areas of the image that should still be visible.

A most useful tool in determining whether your exposure is perfect is to look at the histogram when you are editing. Alternatively, you can view the histogram when you have just taken the photo as there is also a histogram on the LCD of many cameras these days. Simply put, a histogram is a representation of the tonal value distribution across your image in the form of a visual graph. Just by looking at a histogram (that graph on the top right corner of the image below), you can immediately tell whether there is an even spread of tonal values on the image judging from the troughs and crests on the graph or a stark contrast.

If the image you shot has incorrect exposure, then editing is your solution. You can move the sliders on your editing software to increase exposure if the photo is too dark or decrease your exposure if the photo’s too bright. You can usually recover some blown highlights in the case of overexposure.


Take a look at the image above. This is the RAW image opened in Bridge. You can see it’s a little bright with the histogram showing a tall mountain almost touching the right edge. When the histogram touches both left and right edges, this would indicate the dark and light parts of your images are clipped and therefore there is overexposure and underexposure in the image. This is an okay image as nothing touches the edges, but it is too bright for me.

The image on the left below shows an overexposed image with the exposure turned up and the image on the right shows an underexposed image with the exposure turned down. See what the histogram is doing in these images.


2. White balance

Simply put, white balance is the adjustment on your camera that reads the color temperature of the light you are shooting in in relation to neutral white. A perfect white balance should show white to be white as perceived in reality and there are no color casts that distorts the whiteness of white. You can, however, go for a warm white or a cool white by adjusting the white balance sliders. Generally speaking, what you don’t want is for white to look too yellow or orange or too cold like with a strong blue cast. Compare both photos below: too cool on the left and too warm on the right.


3. Contrast

There is nothing rocket science about contrast in my opinion. It is simply to do with the strength of the blacks on the photo. After the adjustments above, our photo is still looking very flat. All that’s needed is a fiddle on the blacks, shadows, highlights and light areas. Just remember not to clip your blacks or whites or if you want a bit more contrast, not too much clipping. You can also use the curves tab (the one that shows a grid with a curvy line) for contrast adjustments.


I also played with the other sliders to get the result I wanted on the images above. Just do so gently – a touch here and there rather than extreme adjustments.

Remember, you are only after a clean edit at this stage. The images above show the same edits on the standard and color profiles. The results are different so deciding on your color profile matters.

4. Noise and Sharpening

If you click on to the third tab which shows two black triangles, you get to the panel where you can adjust noise and sharpening. Again, gentle adjustments are needed here.

It is vital to view your photo at 100% so you can see what the adjustments are doing to the image.

Luminance has to do with the smoothness of the pixels. You don’t want to go too much, or you lose definition.

Color has to do with how much the RGB pixels show up and extreme adjustments will either strip your image of color or make the pixels appear too saturated.



Now I have a clean edit, there is still so much I can do to this photo. The eyes are a tad soft so I will need to adjust that. I could add vignettes or change the appearance of the background. I could add sunflares or textures. The possibilities are endless. But most of that has to happen in Photoshop.

I hope this has helped you understand the basics of editing.

Please share your comments below or if you have any questions!

The post A Short Introduction to Basic Photo Editing for Beginners appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Lily Sawyer.

How to Prepare Images For Publication – Part Two

The post How to Prepare Images For Publication – Part Two appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Herb Paynter.

In part one of this series, I presented the reasons why images printed in magazines and publications can appear lackluster, dark, and dull rather than detailed and vibrant as when printed on an inkjet printer. In this follow-up article, I address the unique requirements and limitations of printing presses and some ways to produce rich and detailed images in print.

Fine Tuning the Process for Print

Paper surfaces

The depth and detail that a press can reproduce in the darkest (shadow) portions of an image are limited by several print-related factors, with the paper grade (quality) being the biggest factor. Printing papers come in various grades, textures, and shades of white.

White is a relative term, and newspapers are a prime example. Newsprint isn’t actually pure white and the ink printed on it never appears black.

Printing inks

Newspaper inks are nearly in a liquid state as opposed to other forms of print. The tack level (stickiness) of these inks must remain very low since the newsprint paper composition is quite soft. Full-bodied inks printed at high speed would tear the paper apart. Instead of appearing as black ink on white paper, newspapers appear more like charcoal colored ink on light gray paper. This factor alone dismisses the visual contrast in pictures. Newsprint absorbs ink like a paper towel, which is why pictures in the newspaper lack contrast, punch and depth.

Magazine paper surfaces

Publication (magazine) presses fair much better. However, they still have limitations. Paper grades for publications are still lower quality than those of brochures and coffee table books because of the economy of the project. Most publication stocks are made from recycled papers in which many of the whitening agents and glossy coatings used in higher grade papers are absent. This results in less reflective surfaces and varying shades of off-white colors. While the recycled paper is good news for the environment, it’s bad news for print quality.

The challenge

High-speed presses must also reduce the tack level of their inks to keep these papers flowing through the presses. When the tack level goes down, so does the opacity of the inks, and when the tack level of translucent inks is reduced, the contrast in the images (and image detail) is also reduced. You can see where this is headed…

The creative solution

Thus the challenge is to maintain as much apparent contrast in each image as possible under less than ideal circumstances. Here is where the creative magic of contrast “compensation” enters the picture. Prior to the era of digital editing, this creative level of tonal manipulation was simply out of reach. While adjusting the overall contrast (white, middle, and black points) of printed images has always been possible, serious contour shaping was not. But within current digital image editing software, the entire internal range of tones can be tuned and cajoled with great precision. Success simply takes a clear understanding of the limitations and a good knowledge of the tools in the digital tool chest.

The Sun backlit the subjects in this photo causing the darker areas to hide significant detail. If sent to press without compensating adjustments, the printed results would have looked even darker and important detail would have been lost.

Pictured here are the settings that produced the civil war reenactment photo above. Information contained in the middle tones and shadow tones was recovered by powerful tonal adjustments available in each of the four software applications. Very similar settings produced very similar results. The panels (from left to right) include Adobe Camera Raw, Adobe Lightroom, On1 Photo RAW, and Alien Skin X4.5. Camera Raw and Lightroom produced identical results from identical settings for obvious reasons, while the development engineers from On1 and Alien Skin used unique routines and algorithms in their software to affect very similar results.


The secret to success in adjusting the internal contrast of an image is in developing a distinct visual difference between the whites and highlights and the shadows and black tones. This is best addressed within the six major tonal sliders provided by most RAW editing software (Lightroom, Camera Raw, On1 Photo RAW and Alien Skin’s Xposure X4.5) best address this.

Don’t let the term RAW scare you away. These editors can open and process just about all image file types (RAW, JPEG, TIFF, etc.). Each of these packages provides very similar tonal area adjustments (Exposure, Contrast, Highlights, Shadows, Whites, and Blacks) though each maintains a slightly different range for each. Additional controls to fine tune the tonal values include the Tone Curve adjustments of Highlights, Lights, Darks, and Shadows.

The beauty of all these controls is the fact that they are nonlinear, meaning they can be adjusted in any order and at any time during (and during follow-up) editing sessions. Using these editing packages, truly non-non-destructive image editing can be made to RAW, TIFF and JPEG image files.

Backlighting and a black cat provided a serious challenge in this image. These adjustments were needed even if the picture was not going to press.

Three aspects of tonal controls

Familiarize yourself with these three general aspects of tonal controls to prepare your photos specifically for the printing press.


Since camera image sensors capture very little shadow detail, digital images require significant internal contrast adjustments to the lower portion of the tonal scale.

Shadow tones of each image are the most challenging areas to print cleanly on press. Therefore, you must create a sharp distinction between the darkest darks (Black slider) and the three-quarter tones (Shadow slider).

Use the Exposure slider in conjunction with the Blacks slider to bring out all the detail in the darkest portion of the image. Reference the histogram to gauge the actual pixels that will print darkest.


Lighten the middle tones and accent the difference between the quarter tones and the highlights.

Use the Curves tool to affect the middle tones while adjusting the Shadows slider and Highlight Slider to define the middle tones further.


Reference the histogram again to monitor the lightest tones (White slider). White is a misnomer in the labeling of this slider as its influence is on the extreme highlight tones. Draw a distinction between the light tones and absolute white by using the Highlights slider and the White slider.

The Exposure slider and the Contrast slider play an important part in this tonal ballet. Choreograph these controls to achieve the best balance of internal tones and check your progress by occasionally tapping the “P” key to preview the composite effects of all your adjustments against the original image.

Seemingly lost detail in the darker areas was completely recovered by some severe adjustments to individual tonal areas throughout the tonal range. The image was recovered with only the use of the sliders shown. No further editing (dodging, burning, etc.) was required.

This article is hardly an exhaustive explanation of how to prepare images for publication inasmuch as it does not address the critical issues of color, sharpening, resolution, etc. But it will get you started on the most critical issues of tone sculpturing images for reproduction. In every example shown, ONLY global adjustments to the seven sliders was required to bring full life back into lackluster photos. The most critical aspect of post-production involves an image’s internal tonality.

Shape each image’s internal contrast specifically for the press and paper being printed. If you don’t, the printed image will probably hide shadow detail, lose their “snap” in the highlights, and produce muddy middle tones. Slight but deliberate accenting of the tone curve will produce significantly better images in print.

Working on images in these RAW Interpreter software applications provides amazing latitude in recovering both shadow and highlight detail. This example shows how On1 Photo RAW found significant detail in what appeared to be blown out highlights of a JPEG image.

Chasing light

At the core of the issue is light.

Everything about photography concerns light, and that includes viewing photos in print.

The reason images appear more vibrant and colorful on a monitor is because the background “white” is projected light, not paper. Images printed on paper will ALWAYS appear less vibrant. Paper is only as white as the light reflecting from it. The darker the paper and the dimmer the reflecting light, the less bright the picture appears. Images in print will never look as good as images on your monitor simply because reflected light cannot compete with projected light.


Preparing images to print correctly is a serious challenge, but one that delivers an amazing result. If you want to test your image editing skills, it doesn’t get more challenging than this. The reward for all your print-editing efforts will last a whole lot longer than a post on the Internet and will be seen by thousands (if not millions) more than a print hanging in a gallery. People collect well-produced publications and display them for others to see.

Virtually all images deserve thoughtful preparation before presentation. The camera can’t evaluate tonality balance by human standards. Learning the reproduction habits and limitations of different devices and understanding how to best compensate for each will pay serious visual dividends.

Of course, the final challenge in preparing images for publication is converting the color mode from RGB to CMYK. Check with your publication about this matter before you arbitrarily choose CMYK from the Image/Mode menu. There are a number of workflows that publications use to produce their final files for the printer. I suggest you leave the color conversion decision up to the magazine’s production staff. The conversion process is a complex issue that deserves much more attention than I’m addressing in this series.

Please feel free to comment and question what you’ve just read. Life is a collaborative effort, and we’re all learning.

The post How to Prepare Images For Publication – Part Two appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Herb Paynter.

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