10 of the Most Useful Photoshop CC Shortcuts

The post 10 of the Most Useful Photoshop CC Shortcuts appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.


Learning photography well requires a lot of study and practice. Figuring out what the dials and buttons on your camera do takes time and focus. Choosing what to photograph and how you want it to look is challenging for many photographers.

Once you’ve taken some photos, another challenge to face is how to get them looking their best. This is where you need to learn a whole new set of computer skills. The more particular you are about the way your photos end up, the better post processor you need to become.


Adobe makes two of the most popular photography post-processing programs. Lightroom and Photoshop have been industry standards for many years. As the software develops, it becomes more and more complex. There are many built-in tools to make the user experience more fun. But to make use of them you will need to study and practice.

Photoshop CC Shortcuts

Making the most of your keyboard is about the best way to ensure not only greater speed, but more enjoyment when using Photoshop. The software has many cool shortcut keys that speed up your workflow. They also help you maintain unbroken concentration when you are working on a photograph.

With so many shortcuts, it’s not practical to sit down and learn them all at once. Looking at them in the software does little to inspire. This is why I’ve come up with a list of ten Photoshop CC shortcuts that I think you will find helpful.

From time to time, I make a point of learning a few more. I’ll search for five to ten shortcuts and make a list. I place this next to my computer monitor and refer to it when Photoshopping.

If you’re not used to using keyboard shortcuts with Photoshop, they might seem a bit fiddly at first. Like learning to touch type, the more you practice, the easier it becomes, and the less you have to think about where you are putting your fingers. Learning to use shortcut keys in Photoshop is a similar experience, but you can easily break it down and learn a few at a time.

1. Clone Stamp Tweaks

The clone stamp is one of the most used tools in Photoshop. It’s powerful and flexible to do everything from removing small blemishes to recreating whole portions of a composition. Here’s a couple of keyboard shortcuts that make it even more useful.

Use Alt+Shift+arrows (Opt+Shift+arrows on Mac) to offset the selection area.

Alt+Shift+<> (Opt+Shift+<> on Mac) rotates the selection

Using [] scales the source.

These shortcuts only work when you have a North American keyboard selected in your operating system.


2. Last-Used Filter

When you’re processing batches of images, you’ll often want to repeatedly use the same filter. To apply the previously used filter, use Ctrl+F (Cmd+F on Mac). Reapply the last filter used, but display dialog box to alter settings use Ctrl–Alt–F (Cmd+Opt+F on Mac)


3. Lock Transparent Pixels

In Photoshop, using the / key locks transparent pixels. This is helpful when painting or compositing. Working on a layer with transparent pixels, you will avoid affecting them using the keyboard shortcut.

10 of the Most Useful Photoshop CC Shortcuts

4. Color Fills

Use Shift+Alt+Backspace (Shift+Opt+Backspace on Mac). This fills opaque pixels on a layer with the foreground color. Shift+Ctrl+Backspace (Shift+Cmd+Backspace on Mac) fills with the background color.


5. Marquee Tool Tweak

Drawing a marquee by default happens from the edge. To draw a marquee selection from center Alt+drag (Opt+drag on Mac)selection.

10 of the Most Useful Photoshop CC Shortcuts

6. Selection Help

To bring back a selection you deselected, use Ctrl+Shift+D (Cmd+Shift+D on Mac). This will restore the last active selection. It is super helpful if you deselect and then notice something else you need to alter.


7. Layer Mask Speed

Ctrl+\ (Cmd+\ on Mac) switches between Layer and Layer Mask Ctrl+2 (Cmd+2 on Mac) to switch back. This is a pure workflow time saver. It allows you to keep your mouse active on the image rather than dragging it back and forth to the layers panel.

10 of the Most Useful Photoshop CC Shortcuts

8. Brush Tool Cursor

With the Brush Tool selected hitting the Caps Lock shows only the cross-hair cursor. This allows you to position your cursor more precisely. It’s also a good shortcut to know how to undo. If you’ve inadvertently turned caps lock on while using the Brush Tool, you may wonder why you can only see a crosshair. Hit the caps lock again, and your normal cursor will reappear.


9. Revert to Last Saved

F12 reverts the file to the last saved instance of it. This is a quick and easy way to review changes you are making to an image.

10 of the Most Useful Photoshop CC Shortcuts

10. Screen Space Savers

F keys to show/Hide panels. Memorizing these keyboard shortcuts will give you so much more screen space to use. If you are confined to a single monitor, making use of these shortcuts can change the way you use Photoshop.

F5 – Show/Hide Brushes panel

F6 – Show/Hide Color panel

F7 – Show/Hide Layers panel

F8 – Show/Hide Info panel

Alt–F9 – Show/Hide Actions panel

10 of the Most Useful Photoshop CC Shortcuts


I suggest you use this list as a starting point. Not all these shortcuts will be helpful for everyone. Think about the actions you use repetitively when using Photoshop and search to discover if there are keyboard shortcuts to make your life simpler.

Making a note and keeping it near your computer will help you commit these shortcuts to memory. Once you have them, do some more research and make another list of shortcuts you’d like to learn. Making a concerted effort and being consistent with using these shortcuts, you will learn them quickly.

There are over 500 keyboard shortcuts for Photoshop. Master these, and then you can also customize your own.

If you’ve got a few favorite shortcuts you think others may not be aware of, please share them in the comments below.


The post 10 of the Most Useful Photoshop CC Shortcuts appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

How to Make Your Images Have Fall Vibes

The post How to Make Your Images Have Fall Vibes appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Anabel DFlux.


With Fall fast approaching, we will soon be surrounded by beautifully warm-colored leaves and vegetation, filling the air with the sweet scent of Autumn. This is a photographer’s paradise, especially the ones who are also social media mavens following artistic trends. But what if you, like me, are not so lucky to live in a place that actually has seasons?! I live in Southern California, and finding trees that actually change color is…pretty uncommon, to say the least. So what are lonesome Californians to do?! Turn to post-processing, to make your images have fall vibes!

What defines a Fall or Autumn vibe in images?


All there is to portraying specific ideas or ‘vibes’ are color. We associate colors with seasons, inspired by the colors that nature gives us during those times (in locations that actually have seasons. Is my bitterness over Southern California’s lack of seasons showing yet?!). Winter tends to be cold and blue, Spring is rainbow and vibrancy, Summer is warm greens, and Autumn is oranges, reds, and yellows.

Although you can sit there for several hours and recolor every leaf into a different Autumn color, for the most part, Fall vibes can be achieved by playing with and removing colors that are associated with the seasons we are not trying to mimic. Fall is warm and full of reds, oranges, yellows, and more rustic tones.

How to make your images have fall vibes in post-processing

Taken this summer, this is the base image we will be working with to show you how to make your images have fall vibes. I find that images with very shallow depth of field (like the one below) are a bit easier to work with when altering their colors.

How to Make Your Images Have Fall Vibes

For the sake of explanation, the edits shown below are quite extreme. Use your judgment and personal taste to determine how far you take them.

Also, the tutorials I am listing below use Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop. However, they can easily apply to other editing software too as many feature similar options and sliders. Even the free mobile version of Photoshop and Lightroom have these sliders.

Adobe Lightroom

I turn to Lightroom for these kinds of color adjustments because it’s quite quick and simple to do. You can also copy the settings and apply them to an entire batch of images rather than having to do each one by one. Our final image will look like this:


The HSL Panel

The HSL panel is the first panel I go to when I want to create a summer vibe in my photographs. Conveniently, this is one of the first open panels in Lightroom.

HSL stands for “Hue, Saturation, and Luminance,” and is a panel box in Adobe Lightroom (with similar panels in other programs). I like to say that this is the panel that adjusts each of the colors individually. Each slider is divided by colors: red, orange, yellow, green, aqua, blue, purple, and magenta.

Hue is the color. On a technical term, the hue is the wavelength of the light reflected. This describes why an object that is a solid color appears different depending on the amount of light that hits it. On the HSL panel, the Hue slider can change how specific colors look. For example, the reds can be made to be more orange in color or more red.

Saturation determines how intense a color is. Pulling the slider to the left makes the color more gray, pulling the slider to the right makes it more true to pure tone.

Luminance lightens or darkens a specific color. Luminance refers to the reflective brightness of colors. I use this slider to make colors that are a bit too light, much darker in photographs so that they don’t stand out to the eye too much.

With the image above, our primary objective is to change the green to more fall colors. In this case, I will make the green more orange. I can achieve this by adjusting the Green color slider under ‘Hue’ and subsequently adjusting the colors surrounding the green. The awesome thing about sliders is that you have full control.

Next, I drop down to saturation and adjust how true to tone each color is and decreasing the color we want to remove altogether (for example, the green).

Finally, with the Luminance slider, I brighten up all of the warmth we have put into the photograph.

How to Make Your Images Have Fall Vibes

Split toning

If you find solely using the HSL sliders isn’t enough, you can add more of the color you want using the Split Toning menu. Split Toning is located right below HSL.

Split Toning is just toning applied to different areas of luminance. You can color your shadows with one color, and your highlights with another. In this case, I toned both the highlights and the shadows to bring even more warmth into the image.

When I do Split Toning, to make it easy to see what I am doing, I bring the Saturation up to its maximum 100 value point and then click on the little color rectangle next to Highlights and then next to Shadows. Clicking this rectangle brings up a color selection box. I then select the color I am interested in and proceed to significantly lower the sliders until I achieve the shadow or highlight coloration I desire.

The settings I used for the image above are these:

How to Make Your Images Have Fall Vibes


If you’re following along in your own editing program, you may find that making all of these color adjustments have now impaired parts of our image that you may not want to be colored like that. In my photo, the whites of the dog became far too yellow for my liking. You can use Masks to remedy this by selecting the parts of the image you do not want the effect applied to.

Locate Masks at the very top of the right-hand tabs when clicking “Develop.” I like to use the Adjustment Brush which is the long selectable line directly under “Histogram” in the screenshots below.  Then, you paint on the image and can make adjustments on the painted section independent from the overall image. In this case, I removed the warm effect from the dog and brightened the dog a bit. The red haze shows you where you applied the mask.

How to Make Your Images Have Fall Vibes how-to-make-your-images-have-fall-vibes

Adobe Photoshop

There are many, many, many different methods of achieving the same end result in Adobe Photoshop.

Photoshop is a large, and at times, complex program. To keep it simple, I’ll explain my favorite color adjustment methods similar to the adjustments in Adobe Lightroom. For another example of a Fall-vibe in a more muted tone than the edit above, we will replicate the image featured below:


Before we even get started, in the Layers panel, duplicate the Background (main) layer and work on that. As a rule of thumb, never work on the original layer and make all adjustments on a new layer. This helps you remedy mistakes, give you the flexibility to change your mind, and use masks to remove the effect from the parts of the image it shouldn’t apply to!


The term ‘saturation’ in general describes the level at which something is absorbed. For example, a sponge heavily saturated with water. In photography, saturation refers to how pure a color is. How red is red? How blue is blue? You can imagine a color  “absorbed” in the photograph like a sponge, with a higher saturation resulting in a more significant color.

Hue is a color attribute that explains how discernible a color is to its true color (for example, how green is the green?). Hue is based on color wavelength and is completely independent of a color’s lightness or darkness and intensity.

You can use the Hue/Saturation slider in the Image > Adjustments window!

How to Make Your Images Have Fall Vibes

Where it says “Master” (which will adjust everything simultaneously) you can select individual colors to adjust. This is great to use on images that don’t involve a lot of color variation.

How to Make Your Images Have Fall Vibes

Selective Color

The Selective Color in Photoshop (also located in Image -> Adjustments) is similar to the HSL sliders in Lightroom. Selective Color allows you to modify each color (located in the drop-down menu under “Color”) by either adding or decreasing CMYK colors (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black). CMYK is the color mode that a printer operates in.

I like using Selective Color with images that feature a lot of white because I don’t necessarily want my whites toned the same as the rest of my image. You can adjust the white itself in Selective Color, which is pretty cool. This allows me to keep the white dog more authentic to the original rather than making the Great Dane orange.

How to Make Your Images Have Fall Vibes how-to-make-your-images-have-fall-vibes

Color Balance

Another way to adjust the colors in the image is by utilizing the Color Balance sliders. This can also be located under Image -> Adjustments. Color balance is the global adjustment of the intensity of the colors. This what I use the most when trying to create some fall vibes in my photographs.

I prefer this method because it’s the fastest slider set to use – but the end result does tend to look a lot like a filter. If that’s the look you’re going for; awesome! But if not, Selective Color may be of better use to you.



Whatever method you implore to make your images more Autumn oriented, enjoy those warm fall vibes and glow up that Instagram feed!

Do you have other tips on giving your images fall vibes? Try these methods and share your images with us in the comments below!

The post How to Make Your Images Have Fall Vibes appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Anabel DFlux.

How to Use Photoshop Blending Modes for Fine Art Portraiture

The post How to Use Photoshop Blending Modes for Fine Art Portraiture appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.


Layering images experimentally in photoshop can be an exciting way to bring a fine art feel to your photography. It is spontaneous and unpredictable, with different outcomes each time.

The layering technique I talk about in this article is a way you can explore and get inspired by the work of Victorian art photographers like Julia Margaret Cameron. They would have used long exposures because of the limitation of their cameras, which added a dream-like quality to their images.

Instead of long exposures, I have used multiple images shot of the same subject, layering them and using Photoshop blending modes. It gives a different kind of ethereal feeling to the images which you can use on any subject, not just portraits.

Start with a portrait

Your portrait doesn’t have to be sophisticated, but it should be able to be repeated over a dozen shots or so. I opted for simple natural window light, but there’s no reason why you couldn’t use flash instead.


The image I found worked best was one with strong colors and features with a simple background. I opted to take inspiration from Julia Margaret Cameron’s photography by using simple historical clothes, and an instantly recognizable prop.

You want to try to end up with a dozen or so slightly different images of your subject. Take far more images than you need so that you have lots of choices when it comes to selecting images for your layering effect.

Between each shot, ask your subject to move just a small amount – perhaps their head or their hands, but just a fraction. Try to avoid any dramatic pose changes.

Layering the images in Photoshop

When it comes to selecting images and editing them, there are many different software packages and options. I’m going to talk about how I use Lightroom Classic and Photoshop to achieve this effect. Even within these two software packages, there are other ways you can accomplish the same effect. As long as you end up with a photograph that you love, then you haven’t done anything wrong!

I start by importing my images into Lightroom Classic and then selecting the ten or so images that will make up the layers of my final image. At this point, I try to choose a ‘base’ image that will be at the bottom of the layer stack in Photoshop and will show through the strongest. Generally, this is my favorite image out of the set.

How to Use Photoshop Blending Modes for Fine Art Portraiture

When you’ve got your images selected in Lightroom Classic in the Develop module, open the ‘Photo’ menu and select ‘Open as Layers in Photoshop.’

This will save you having to manually stack all of the images together. You’ll end up with a single file open in Photoshop with all of your selected images placed on layers.

How to Use Photoshop Blending Modes for Fine Art Portraiture

The next stage is to place your ‘hero’ image (the one that you want to show through the most) at the bottom of the layer stack by dragging and dropping it. Then select all the layers above and reduce their opacity.

Playing with Photoshop Blending Modes

This is when it starts to get interesting. Playing with the different photoshop blending modes for the layers will give you all kinds of different results. Dark images will suit different blending modes to lighter images. You can check out a comprehensive guide to photoshop blending modes here!

You’ll want to turn down the opacity of the layers quite far so that the original ‘hero’ image shows though. The other layers should then become more of a fuzzy halo rather than a focal point for the shot.


Once you’ve found a blending mode and opacity that looks good, you can start to fine-tune the image.

Begin by identifying parts of the images that don’t really work, and work out which layer they’re on. Then create layer masks and use a black paintbrush to gently fade those unwanted parts away.

I decided to remove almost all of the layers from the face of my subject since it was a portrait, and I wanted to be able to see her clearly. I also took away some distracting echos of hands, which I felt made the final image stronger. Since you’re working using layer masks, you can always undo any of your choices at this stage – just simply paint over the bits you want to see again on the layer mask with a white paintbrush!

How to Use Photoshop Blending Modes for Fine Art Portraiture

As you can see from my layer masks, they don’t have to be neat. Just use a fairly large brush with soft edges and a low opacity and you won’t be able to see the brushstrokes of your mask in the final image.

Finishing your image

Once you’re happy with the basic image you’ve achieved through layering, I’d suggest saving a copy of your work. Then you can experiment further with different techniques.


Once I’d saved my image in Photoshop, I closed it and went back to Lightroom Classic to work on the shot further. Here, I simply changed the toning of the image slightly with a preset and applied some sharpening to key areas of the picture.

The result was a warmth that always makes me think of Old Masters paintings in galleries. Together with the effect of the layers, it creates a rather painterly fine art image.


But, of course, there’s absolutely no harm in processing the same image in a different way. This is one of the reasons I love Lightroom Classic – you can create virtual copies of a single shot and work on them all differently!


This variation I processed in Nik Analog Efex Pro 2, which you can use straight from the Lightroom Classic interface in the same way that you can take photos to Photoshop. The software itself is very similar to Lightroom Classic with its adjustment panels on each side but instead specializes in replicating old film effects.

It is a great way to create an image that pays homage to the great Victorian art photographers.

You could get a similar effect by layering wet plate textures and dust and scratch layers in Photoshop before adding a black and white conversion.

There are many ways to get all these different effects – please try some and post your results in the comments. I’d love to see what you did with this technique and how you achieved it!

The post How to Use Photoshop Blending Modes for Fine Art Portraiture appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

Photoshop Elements 2020 Released With New AI Features and Guided Edits

The post Photoshop Elements 2020 Released With New AI Features and Guided Edits appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.


Adobe has just released its latest iteration of Photoshop Elements: Photoshop Elements 2020, which debuts alongside Premiere Elements 2020.

Now, Photoshop Elements has always been geared toward beginner and amateur photographers, and this year’s release is no exception. Adobe has included new features that ensure it’s easier than ever to produce stunning edits.

Included among these exciting features is Adobe Sensei AI technology, which will drive Photoshop Elements automation. While Sensei AI technology isn’t new, this time it’ll be used to bring photographers options such as:

  • B&W Selection
  • Pattern Brush
  • Painterly
  • Depth of Field

In all four of these cases, Sensei AI is the driver behind easy-yet-powerful edits. B&W Selection allows you to quickly isolate elements from your photos and portray them in color, while giving the background a black and white look. Depth of Field takes a relatively sharp background and gives it a beautiful blur, making your main subjects pop.

And that’s not all. In addition to these new AI-powered options, Photoshop Elements promises a new black and white editing experience with its Colorization feature. Colorization takes a black and white photo and gives it realistic colors (or, as Adobe promises, you can use Colorization to “give new life to an existing color photo”).

Photoshop Elements also offers a one-click selection of your subjects for easy manipulation, as well as a skin-smoothing effect. And let’s not forget the two brand-new guided edits, which are designed to make post-processing accessible to everyone, as the software walks you through the process of creating patterns or making unwanted items vanish from the frame.

Adobe Photoshop Elements isn’t for everyone. Experienced photographers will likely prefer to work with Photoshop CC or Lightroom, both of which pack some real editing power. But for those who are just getting started with photo editing, Photoshop Elements offers a level of accessibility that its more serious counterparts lack. And the guided edits are a great feature for those wanting to learn while editing.

You can purchase Adobe Photoshop Elements as a standalone piece of software for $99.99 USD, or you can get it alongside Adobe Premiere for $149.99 USD.

The post Photoshop Elements 2020 Released With New AI Features and Guided Edits appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

Review of PaintShop Pro 2020 Ultimate: A Photoshop Contender?

The post Review of PaintShop Pro 2020 Ultimate: A Photoshop Contender? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Glenn Harper.

Not for nothing is Photoshop called the “industry standard” for graphic design and photo editing. The moment you defect to another product, you start missing stuff. Can Corel Paintshop Pro 2020 Ultimate do the job just as well? It’s a comprehensive standalone program with lots of extras thrown in for free.

New stuff

This edition of Paintshop Pro (PSP) introduces several new features, including a touch-ready Photography Workspace, a SmartClone Tool, and a Refine Brush for ultra-precise selections. There are improvements to existing tools, too. We’ll cover these things during this review as well as looking at preexisting features.

Paintshop Pro Photography Workspace

The new touch-ready Photography Workspace may not suit everyone, but it’s uncluttered and armed with enough tools to rifle through many pictures.

Raw processing in Paintshop Pro

Paintshop Pro Ultimate comes with Corel Aftershot 3 raw processing software as well as its own in-built raw conversion. Since many of our pictures start out as raw files, it seems apt to look at these facilities first.

Aftershot 3

Aftershot 3 is a pared-down version of Corel’s Aftershot Pro, which you can upgrade to for a modest sum. The latter lets you create Lightroom-style catalogs, so all changes to images are stored inside the program instead of in separate XMP sidecar files. Although not as sophisticated as the pro version, Aftershot 3 Standard offers much more than the in-program raw conversion tool of PSP 2020. A notable exception to this is DNG support, but it does have lens corrections, layers and Perfectly Clear auto image enhancement. The latter works well with layers since you can adjust the opacity to achieve optimum results.

After shot 3 - Perfectly Clear

Reducing the opacity of Perfectly Clear on an adjustment layer often gives a nice result.

An early problem I had with Aftershot and Paintshop Pro 2020 was that neither liked my custom monitor profile, so I had to switch to a generic Adobe RGB profile to make the color look acceptable. It took some head-scratching before I realized why raw previews looked so bad.

With that problem temporarily solved, I found the software eminently usable, though I think Corel should include a histogram in the standard Aftershot version. The pro version has enough to commend it without cutting essentials from its little sibling.

zPerspector plugin Corel Aftershot 3

Adjusting perspective in Aftershot 3 using the zPerspector plugin.

Aftershot is rebranded Bibble software, which was highly rated in its time. It includes access to many plug-ins, such as the Wavelet Sharpen plug-in and the zPerspector perspective correction plugin. These are useful add-ons. I’d recommend that you trial Aftershot thoroughly before buying or upgrading. Remember, the Pro version won’t catalog your DNG files if you use them. You need proprietary raw files. As well, Paintshop Pro doesn’t like Adobe’s enhanced DNG files.

Working in Paintshop Pro 2020

The first thing to do in Paintshop Pro 2020 Ultimate is to choose from three workspaces: Photography, Essentials and Complete. The new “touch-ready” Photography workspace is inviting since it doesn’t distract you with a bewildering set of tools. It’d be a good place to start for beginners. But if you’re coming from years in Photoshop, you’ll probably skip to the Complete workspace where all things are possible.

Adjustment Layers

Just like Photoshop, Paintshop Pro 2020 gives you the choice of editing photos on adjustment layers or independently. Some of the editing choices are not available as layers, though you can always apply these to a duplicate layer. All adjustment layers have built-in layer masks for selective editing.

Color and Tone

Paintshop Pro offers most of the features you’d expect in an advanced pixel editor when it comes to correcting color and tone. There are a few things you may not have seen before. For instance, the “Histogram” adjustment layer is a kind of advanced blend of Levels and Curves.

The “Histogram Equalize” adjustment in PSP 2020 evens up the tonal range of the image, often brightening it. You need to be careful with this if you don’t want to blow highlights. More useful, I think, is “Local Tone Mapping” at its default low settings. It seems to have a very subtle HDR effect that perks many photos up.

Smart Photo Fix - PSP 2020

Smart Photo Fix lets you alter the software’s One Step Photo Fix adjustment, and as an alternative starting point, it’s pretty good. PSP did a decent job with the photo in the screenshot, though it could still do with brighter whites.

Conspicuous by its absence in Paintshop Pro is any form of clipping display or exposure warning. If it’s there, I never found it. To me, this is a must-have feature, since it shows you what you’re losing with tonal or color adjustments and whether it’s likely to matter. I don’t expect it to be missing in a wide-ranging package like Paintshop Pro.

Correcting perspective

I’ve gotten used to being able to correct perspective in architectural photos, so I was keen to see what Paintshop Pro offers in this respect. In fact, the Perspective Correction tool in PSP is very good, albeit without the full-auto option of ACR or Lightroom. It’s the work of a few seconds to correct most photos, and that’s good enough for me.

correcting perspective - Paintshop Pro 2020

This is all you need do to correct verticals in Paintshop Pro. Not automated like Adobe’s solution, but easy.

Cloning (& the new SmartClone tool)

The regular cloning tool in Paintshop Pro is fine for most cloning work, but now we also have the SmartClone tool. This is useful if you want to lay textures or patterns over another area of a photo or even a different photo. Three blend modes are available for different effects: Original, Blend, Black and White. The first gives you regular-type cloning, the second tries to blend color and texture by reducing opacity, the third clones only texture by desaturating the selected area.

smart clone tool and paint brush - Paintshop Pro 2020

I used the SmartClone tool to superimpose Proust’s face onto a separate image of the beach at Cabourg – a scene he’d have known well. By placing the clone onto a duplicate layer with a layer mask, I was able to refine the original rectangular selection using the Paint Brush with “Smart Edge” tool.

A neat feature of the SmartClone tool is the ability to save selections as presets, so you can use them with future images. This tool is not an equivalent to content-aware fill in Photoshop. It has its own uses and controls. Paintshop Pro offers Object Remover and Scratch Remover tools to intelligently fill in areas of an image, though you have to be reasonable in your expectations as to what these things can do.

Selection Refine Brush (new)

I never need to make intricate selections in my day-to-day photography, but perhaps that makes me a good candidate for testing the new Selection Refine Brush in Paintshop Pro 2020. I had trouble even accessing it at first until I realized the chosen selection tool must be docked for the button to appear. Despite this shaky start, I was soon impressed.

I started with a quick freehand selection around the edge of the subject and well within the hairline so that any intricate hairs could be selected later with the refine brush. The brush does such a good job at picking out fine detail that it’s a waste of time to attempt precision yourself. You can further refine the end result with global corrections such as smooth edge or feathering.

Image: In this photo, everything not in red is selected. You can see the Selection Refine Brush has...

In this photo, everything not in red is selected. You can see the Selection Refine Brush has done a very good job of selecting strands of hair. This was the work of just a few minutes, and I’m a novice at selections. (Photo: Pixabay)

Once you’re happy with the selection, you can output it in various ways. It’s easy to copy and paste the selection with transparent background onto a new image if you want, or you can edit it further on a new layer. Whatever your aim, it’s hard to imagine other software doing a much better job in getting you to that point.

Dealing with Chromatic Aberration

Fixing chromatic aberration, even in its most common purple fringing form, is one of the great strengths of Photoshop. Other programs struggle to compete. Paintshop Pro’s “One Step Purple Fringe Fix” introduced an artifact the first time I used it and didn’t completely remove the fringing. On the other hand, “Chromatic Aberration Removal” in PSP 2020 gave a good result. Taking as small a sample as possible seemed to help. Based on this, it might be better to leave chromatic aberration in a raw image and fix it in the rendered version, unless you have advanced raw conversion software on your side.

Image: Using the Chromatic Aberration Removal tool in Paintshop Pro to remove green fringing. Radius...

Using the Chromatic Aberration Removal tool in Paintshop Pro to remove green fringing. Radius and color range settings help to fine-tune the correction. (You may need to view this full size to see the difference.)


Paintshop Pro offers four sharpening methods: Sharpen, Sharpen More, Unsharp Mask, and High Pass Sharpening. These are familiar choices. Unsharp Mask lets you choose radius, strength and clipping settings. It also includes a set of presets you can pick from according to your intended use for the image.

High Pass Sharpening focuses sharpening on edges.  Most programs give you a grey overlay with this feature so you can clearly see the effect of your edit, but that’s not possible in Paintshop Pro. Instead, you have to eyeball the image directly.

There is another route to high-pass sharpening in PSP where you do get the grey preview: create a duplicate layer and go to Effects->Edge Effect->High Pass. Choose an Overlay, Hard Light or Soft Light blend mode.

high pass sharpening - PSP 2020

You get this useful preview if you sharpen your photos using Edge Effects->High Pass in PSP 2020. It’d be nice to see this in the High Pass Sharpen tool, too, but you get a regular preview there. As you can see, the grey overlay makes it easy to see what your sharpening settings are doing.

The noisier your photo is to begin with, the wiser it is to avoid global sharpening. If you have a clean file to work with that you want to quickly publish online, a simple Sharpen or Sharpen More adjustment will often look fine.


A great feature of Paintshop Pro is its compatibility with Photoshop plugins (those with 8bf, 8be, 8bi, and 8ba extensions). A lot of the time they work fine, though I noticed the color goes flat in my Nik Collection Viveza 2 plugin if the preview is small. This is a known problem with other Photoshop alternatives.

Paintshop Pro’s compatibility with PS plugins is not an insignificant factor when weighing up the software. In fact, a range of downloadable plugins and scripts is available as soon as you buy the product – some of them free.

Time Machine

Paintshop Pro also offers the fun “Time Machine” photo effect. This teaches you something about photographic history and attempts to replicate photos from different eras, ranging from the daguerreotype in 1839 to the cross-processing look discovered in the late 1950s to early 60s. You can add appropriate borders to each effect if you want. Below is the “Early Color” preset in action with James Joyce obliging as the subject.

Review of PaintShop Pro 2020 Ultimate: A Photoshop Contender?


As well as Corel Aftershot 3 raw conversion software, Paintshop Pro 2020 Ultimate comes bundled with a host of other goodies. Here’s the full inventory:

  • GRFX Studio: gives access to 1000s of photo effects.
  • Parallels Toolbox: a suite of tools to keep your computer running smoothly.
  • PhotoMirage Express: turn stills photos into eye-catching animations.
  • Painter Essentials 6: lets you paint, draw and sketch as well as automatically adding painting effects to photos.
  • Aftershot 3: raw conversion software (good, but lacks some of the near-essential features of the pro version).
  • Creative Collection: free pack of many extras available for optional download.

As well as letting you create original artworks, Painter Essentials 6 can generate “paintings” from your photos.

Other new features of PSP 2020 include copy-and-paste layer styles; quicker text rendering, editing and text wrap; faster Pic-to-Painting transitions; and an improved depth-of-field effect.

shallow depth of field - flower photography

Paintshop Pro lets you apply arty shallow-depth-of-field effects with the improved Depth of Field tool.


Corel Paintshop Pro 2020 Ultimate is a vast photo-editing package that doesn’t leave you wanting for much. But it’s lacking in places. The absence of a clipping display or exposure warning that I could find is almost a deal-breaker for me. I use that all the time when adjusting color and tone. Also on my wants list would be gradient maps. There are surprising omissions and inconsistencies in Paintshop Pro. That aside, it’s not unlovable.

black and white conversion - GRFX Studio

The Classic B & W effect in GRFX Studio creates some pleasing black and white conversions and gives you plenty of control over the result.

Some of the tools in Paintshop Pro 2020 Ultimate are exceptional. My new-found ability to make complex selections with the Refine Brush was a bit of a revelation. And there are tons of special effects, so there’s no excuse not to be creative. Paintshop Pro seems to lean that way – towards the visual editor who doesn’t care so much about the math and more about how the photo just looks. And maybe that’s not a bad thing.


Have you used Paintshop Pro 2020 Ulitmate? What are your thoughts? Share with us in the comments!



The post Review of PaintShop Pro 2020 Ultimate: A Photoshop Contender? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Glenn Harper.

Photoshop vs Lightroom – the Power of Photoshop

The post Photoshop vs Lightroom – the Power of Photoshop appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

In this video from Nick Page, he Looks at Photoshop vs Lightroom and shows some things that Photoshop can do that Lightroom cannot.

In this tutorial, Nick covers the following using landscape photos as examples:

  • How to use the Quick Selection Tool to select skies against difficult backgrounds so that you can change things like exposure, and contrast more selectively.
  • How to use the Select and Mask tool to refine selections.
  • Applying the selection as a new layer mask.
  • How to fade your opacity levels of your selection.
  • Using the Hue/Saturation adjustment.
  • How to focus stack using layers, and Auto Align and Auto Blend Layers features.
  • Using Exposure Blend and feathered brushes for realism in your photograph.
  • A handy shortcut to create a white layer mask rather that a black one.
  • How to use Levels Adjustment to alter your image contrast.


Do you use Lightroom, or Photoshop? Or both in conjunction with one another? Let us know in the comments.


You may also find the following helpful:

The post Photoshop vs Lightroom – the Power of Photoshop appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

How to Make a Cool Double Exposure Effect Using Photoshop [video]

The post How to Make a Cool Double Exposure Effect Using Photoshop [video] appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

In this video from tutvid, you’ll learn to make a cool double exposure effect using photoshop.

Some of the things that you will learn while going through this double exposure effect in Photoshop tutorial include:

  • How to isolate an image from its background using the magic wand tool and the Select and Mask Tool.
  • Fine-tuning your selection in the Select and Mask Window using the paintbrush.
  • How to output your mask selection to a new Photoshop layer – so that you save your original image.
  • Making a new Layer and fill it with a solid color.
  • Using the pen tool to create a path you can then make a selection from.
  • Making your image Monochromatic.
  • Using the Channel Mixer, Curves and Levels to fine-tune your monochrome image.
  • Turning your image Monochrome using the Black and White Adjustment Layer.
  • Working with contrast.
  • Merging multiple Layers.
  • How to choose images that will work together.
  • Adding your second image to your original as a new layer.
  • Using Photoshop Blend Modes.
  • Saving and loading selections.
  • Dragging Layer Masks to new Layers to create your double exposure.
  • Fine-tuning your double exposure by painting out parts of your layer mask.
  • Using the High Pass Filter to add more detail to your image.
  • Using Camera Raw to fine-tune your image.
  • Working with Gradient Maps.

Try this out for yourself, and share your creations with us in the comments section below!


The post How to Make a Cool Double Exposure Effect Using Photoshop [video] appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

Your Comprehensive Guide to Photography Post-Processing Software

The post Your Comprehensive Guide to Photography Post-Processing Software appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Herb Paynter.

My recent article, 3 Alternative Post-Processing Applications that Challenge the Adobe Throne, presented just three of the many post-processing software packages available (both free and paid) that provide excellent post-processing capabilities. In this article, I’ll give you a much longer list of post-processing software. To be impartial, I’ll list the titles in alphabetical order.

Your Comprehensive Guide to Photography Post-Processing Software

DXO Photolab 2

A few of the titles added by readers in the Comments section of the “3 Alternatives” article impressed me with their power and innovative design. I’ve been editing digital images with every software package available since late 1986, and I thought I’d seen most of them. However, it seems that the list of capable editing software grows weekly.

As you will notice, I do not mention ALL the software available for download or online use. Those that made the cut will be actual production titles with a minimum set of well-designed editing functions.

To be honest, I’ve looked at a significant number of offerings that are little more than public domain routines. They are not fully implemented or even adequately defined. These were considered but not listed.

Listed below is a wide variety of packages on both mobile and laptop/desktop platforms; a true variety pack that covers the field from hobbyist to professional users. No matter what your preference, you’ll find something here to tickle your fancy and meet your demands.

Your Comprehensive Guide to Photography Post-Processing Software

ACDSee Photo Studio Professional

As was welcomed in my first article, additional post-processing software titles should be added to this list by readers who have discovered (and used) them.

It is important to recognize all such products in a desire for fairness and sharing information. Because this list includes many more titles, I will not mention individual features of these titles, only a brief mention of the product’s most notable features.

This is where you can really contribute…

I’ll rely on you to describe your favorite features and benefits of your favorite titles. Let’s make this a very collaborative group effort BUT with one important request: please be brief and succinct with your comments. Limit your comments to one or two of the features that make your favorite app stand out from all others. That way, we learn from each other without monopolizing the mutual pulpit.

Image: Skylum Luminar 3

Skylum Luminar 3

List of photography post-processing software

ACDSee Photo Studio

Publisher: ACDSee Systems International

Website: https://www.acdsee.com/en/index/

Trial: Free/30 days

Price: $60 Mac/Win/Mobile

Afterlight 2

Publisher: Afterlight Collective

Android Website: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.fueled.afterlight&hl=en_US

Apple Website: https://apps.apple.com/app/id1293122457 

Trial: Free/30 days

Price: $60 Mac/Win/Mobile

Affinity Photo

Publisher: Serif

Website: www.affinity.serif.com

Trial: Free/30 days

Price: $50 Mac/Win/iPad

Capture One

Publisher: Phase One

Website: https://www.phaseone.com/en/

Trial: Free/30 days

Price: $299 or $20/month Mac/Win


Website: www.darktable.org

Price: Free

Exposure X4.5

Publisher: Alien Skin

Website: https://www.alienskin.com

Trial: Free/30 days

Price: $119 Mac/Win Computer


Publisher: Fotor

Android Website: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.everimaging.photoeffectstudio&hl=en_US

Apple Website: https://apps.apple.com/app/id440159265?referrer=click%3D8cd7ac09-77a3-42f6-9005-ed622bd3e17f

Price: Free


Publisher: Gimp

Website: https://www.gimp.org

Price: Free Mac/Win Computers

Google Photos

Publisher: Google

Website: https://www.google.com/photos

Price: Free online

Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic

Publisher: Adobe Systems

Website: https://www.adobe.com/creativecloud/photography.html

Trial: Free/30 days

Price: $10/mo Mac/Win

Your Comprehensive Guide to Photography Post-Processing Software

Adobe Lightroom Tablet/Computer/Mobile

Online Photo Editor

Publisher: PicMonkey

Website: https://www.picmonkey.com/

Trial: Free/7 days

Price: Starts at $7.99/month

Photo RAW

Publisher: ON1

Website: https://www.on1.com/products

Trial: Free/30 days

Price: $80

PhotoLab 2

Publisher: DxO

Website: https://shop.dxo.com

Trial: Free/30 days

Price: $129 Mac/Win Mobile/Computer

Paint Shop Pro X9

Publisher: Corel

Website: https://www.paintshoppro.com/en/

Trial: Free/30 days

Price: $80 Mac/Win

Anthropics Portrait Pro 2 post-processing software

Anthropics Portrait Pro 2

Photoshop/Camera RAW

Publisher: Adobe Systems

Website: https://www.adobe.com/creativecloud/photography.html

Trial: Free/30 days

Price: $10/mo Mac/Win

Photoshop Elements

Publisher: Adobe Systems

Website: https://www.adobe.com/creativecloud/photography.html

Trial: Free/30 days

Price: $59.99 Mac/Win

Photoshop Express

Publisher: Adobe Systems

Android Website: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.adobe.psmobile&hl=en

Apple Website: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/photoshop-express-photo-editor/id331975235?mt=8&ign-mpt=uo%3D4

Price: Free


Publisher: NCH Software

Website: https://www.nchsoftware.com

Trial: Free/30 days

Price: $40


Publisher: PicsArt

Android Website: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.picsart.studio

Apple Website: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/picsart-photo-studio/id587366035

Price: Free

Pixlr Editor

Publisher: Pixlr

Android Website: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.pixlr.express&hl=en_US

Apple Website: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/pixlr-photo-collages-effect/id526783584

Price: Free online

Pixlr Mobile Android/IOS post-processing software

Pixlr Mobile Android/IOS

PortraitPro 18

Publisher: Anthropics

Website: https://www.anthropics.com

Trial: Free/30 days

Price: $45 Mac/Win

RAW Therapee

Publisher: Softpedia

Website: https://www.softpedia.com

Price: Free (but only offered on Windows)

Skylum Luminar 3

Publisher: Skylum

Website: https://skylum.com/luminar

Trial: Free/30 days

Price: $70 Mac/Win Computer

Smart Photo Editor

Publisher: Anthropics

Website: https://www.anthropics.com/smartphotoeditor/product/

Trial: Free/30 days

Price: $30 Wind/Mac


Publisher: Google

Android Website: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.niksoftware.snapseed&hl=en_US

Apple Website: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/snapseed/id439438619

Price: Free

Sumo Paint

Publisher: Sumo

Website: https://www.sumopaint.com

Trial: Free/30 days

Price: Free version, but Sumo Pro is $4/month

Topaz Studio 2

Publisher: Topaz Labs

Website: topazlabs.com

Trial: Free/30 days

Price: $100 Mac/Win

Your Comprehensive Guide to Photography Post-Processing Software

Anthropics Smart Photo Editor


Some titles didn’t make this list’s cut simply because they are only marginally useful. Needless to say, in today’s market, there is an innumerable slew of entertainment-level phone/tablet-based image “editing” apps also available. There are way too many even to mention, let alone keep current information on.

Many of these apps are made for the amusement of the younger social media crowd who appreciate more unicorns and stickers than serious editing power. Not to sound judgmental, there is an app for everything and everyone, but this listing is “focused” on actual photo editing capabilities more than the social media aspect.



The post Your Comprehensive Guide to Photography Post-Processing Software appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Herb Paynter.

How to Use the HDR Panorama Photo Merge in Lightroom Classic CC

The post How to Use the HDR Panorama Photo Merge in Lightroom Classic CC appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

Not long ago I wrote about Four of the Latest Updates to Lightroom Classic CC. In it, we talked about some of the fresh features Adobe has recently added to Lightroom. One of those great new additions was the single-step HDR Panorama Photo Merge. That’s a mouthful of a name, but it’s an incredibly useful tool that allows us to combine multiple bracketed exposures into a seamless high dynamic range panoramic image in, as the name suggests, essentially a single step. In this article, we’re going to delve a little deeper into the new single-step step HDR Panorama Photo Merge (geez) feature and show you exactly how to capture and combine your images to make a beautifully executed panorama.

What is an HDR Panorama?

High dynamic range (HDR) photographs and panoramas are nothing new to the world of photography. In fact, neither are HDR panoramas.

HDR photos are simply images combining multiple exposures to form a final photo that exhibits tonal and/or focus ranges far beyond a single exposure. Along those same lines, panoramic photos are images stitched together that carry a visual perspective beyond what is obtainable from a single exposure (with a few exceptions).

As you may have guessed, an HDR panorama combines multiple photographs to produce a wide perspective composite image featuring high dynamic range.

Previous methods for merging multiple images to produce HDR panoramic photos were generally tedious and required venturing over into Photoshop. Luckily, with the new HDR Panoramic feature introduced in v8.0 of Lightroom Classic CC, you can now efficiently combine your images with just a few clicks of the mouse. Let me show you how I made the above HDR pano combining twelve separate bracketed photos right inside of Lightroom.

Obtaining your images for merging

The first and arguably most crucial part of creating your HDR panorama begins inside your camera.

Lightroom places some stringent criteria on the images you can combine using it’s single-step HDR Panorama function. ALL of these rules must be met by each one of your images prior to merging.

Here are the “rules” for images you plan to merge into an HDR pano directly from Adobe:

  • All the images in your selection must contain the exposure metadata – Exposure time, f-number, and ISO.
  • Each set of bracketed exposures in your selection must have the same number of images. For example, if you chose to bracket with three images, then all the sets in the selection must also use three images.
  • Every set of bracketed exposures in your selection must have the same exposure offsets. For example, if your first set has exposure offsets of (0, -1, +1), then all other sets in the selection must follow the exposure offset pattern. The image sets can have different exposure values; only the exposure offsets pattern must be consistent across all the sets.
  • Each set of bracketed exposures must be captured contiguously. For example, if you’ve considered a bracket size of three while capturing the images, then the first three images in the sequence become part of a bracket set. The next three images in the sequence become part of another bracket set, and so on.
  • Within a set of bracketed exposures, the images must not have the same exposure value.

While you can shoot your images in either a vertical or horizontal orientation, it is a good idea to use vertically orientated photos in you plan on displaying them digitally. This avoids extremely long, yet narrow images. Of course, this is entirely up to you.

Combining the images

Now that you’ve made it through the rather exacting process of actually obtaining your photos for merging, the rest of the operation is refreshingly easy to complete.


First things first. In the Library Module of Lightroom Classic CC select the images you want to use for the HDR pano. An easy trick to select all of your images at once is to select the photo at the beginning of the series and then hold down the shift key while clicking the last photo in the series. This automatically selects all your bracketed exposures at once. It also saves you quite a few mouse clicks if you are using a high number of photos.

Once you’ve got all of your photos selected, right-click on any of those images and choose Photo Merge, and then HDR Panorama.

It’s here where you learn for sure whether all of your images meet the requirements for merging. If not, you will receive the soul-crushing message ‘Unable To Detect HDR Exposure Bracket Size. Merge To Non-HDR Panorama Instead?’ That means Lightroom will merge the photos into a normal non-HDR pano if possible.

However, if you’ve done your duty, and you obtained all of your images correctly, your photo will appear as a preliminary smart preview. From here, it’s just a matter of controlling how you want Lightroom to handle the final merging of your images. You’ll have quite a few options that will affect the ultimate product.

Projection modes

Think of projections as the shape of the canvas on which Lightroom paints your finished HDR panorama. There are three different projection modes from which to choose based on the nature of the panorama you are creating:

  • Spherical: This aligns and transforms the images as if they were mapped to the inside of a sphere. This projection mode is great for ultra-wide or multi-row panoramas.

  • Cylindrical: This projects the panorama/HDR panorama as if it were mapped to the inside of a cylinder. This projection mode works well for wide panoramas, but it also keeps vertical lines straight.

  • Perspective: This projects the panorama/HDR panorama as if it were mapped to a flat surface. Since this mode keeps straight lines straight, it is great for architectural photography. Extremely wide panoramas may not work well with this mode due to excessive distortion near the edges of the resulting panorama.

Boundary Warp

The amount of Boundary Warp is a way to stretch your merged HDR pano so that it more or less fills the frame of the selected projection mode. With Boundary Warp, you have a slider that ranges from 0-100 that allows you to preserve any content of the photo that you may lose after cropping.

Experiment with different Boundary Warp settings until you reach a happy medium between distortion and content preservation.

Auto settings/crop

These settings work extremely well to save you some editing time at least on the front end. The auto-crop and auto-settings functions allow Lightroom to trim and process your finished HDR panorama automatically. While you, of course, can crop and process your image manually after merging, I’ve found the auto settings function gives consistently outstanding results.


Consider stacking as an afterthought of your post-panorama post-processing. It’s a way for you to keep all of your ducks in a row, so to speak, and is especially useful if you’ve used many photos to construct your HDR panorama. Choosing the stacking option literally stacks all of the images used for your HDR panorama merge into a group with the merged image placed on top. This aids in keeping your filmstrip tidy and saves physical space in the Library Module.

Once you have made all of your selections for the HDR pano merge, it’s time to click the ‘Merge’ button. This begins the process of combining the images into a single DNG file.

After the merge is complete, you will have an image which you are free to finish processing just as you could with any other digital RAW file. This includes adjusting the auto-cropping and, of course, the auto settings. This achieves the final image that we saw from earlier.

Final considerations

Remember that any HDR image is already by its very definition a composite photo. As such, it is a combination of many different exposures which, if pushed too far, can result in an incredibly fake-looking final product. Always keep your HDR images within the realm of passable reality unless you are intentionally going for a hyper-realistic appeal. Along those same lines, make sure the photos meet all the criteria for HDR panorama merging listed above.

Furthermore, attempt to previsualize the final merged photo in your mind and shoot your images according to the tonal range and perspective you wish to achieve. When in doubt, it’s always better to have too many images to work with than not enough.

Have some HDR Panorama photos you’ve created inside of Lightroom Classic CC? We’d love to see them! Feel free to share them in the comments.



The post How to Use the HDR Panorama Photo Merge in Lightroom Classic CC appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

How to Edit Fireworks Photos Creatively

The post How to Edit Fireworks Photos Creatively appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

I hope you had a chance to read my previous article, “Eight Tips for Better Fireworks Photos” before going out to make your fireworks images and found that helpful.  If so, you should have some good shots to work with here.  If not, these techniques will still work for you if you have some other good fireworks photos.  Either way, let’s see if I can teach you how to do the basic editing on your fireworks images. Then, how to creatively composite your shots and take the “wow factor” up another notch.

How to Edit Fireworks Photos

You shot in Raw, yes?

I realize that beginning photographers may be making their images with their camera set to save only the .jpg file, perhaps not having the editing tools or having learned to edit a Raw file.  While that’s not a deal-breaker, you will find doing so causes the camera to do much of the editing itself, using the camera’s built-in .jpg algorithm to “cook” the final image for you.  Perhaps while you are still a novice image editor, (cook), editing raw files can seem intimidating, and you may feel the camera is a better cook than you are.

The trouble is, with something like your fireworks photos, you will want as much latitude for creative editing as possible as well as much file information as the camera originally captured.  Letting the camera create a .jpg image lets it make the creative decisions and also throws away information you might have needed.

You will still be able to use the steps outlined here to edit a .jpg file.  Just understand things might not work as well.  One final plug for shooting Raw files before moving on – Almost all pros do, and that’s the level of work you want to create, right?  ‘Nuff said.

2 - How to Edit Fireworks Photos

This effect is what I call the “boom-zoom-bloom.” You’ll have to read Part One of this series if you missed how to create it.

Editing tools

The workflow described here assumes you will be using the editing programs I use for working with my images; Adobe Lightroom Classic and Photoshop.  Other editing programs may work equally well such as Photoshop Elements or another favorite of mine, Corel Paintshop Pro.  Use what you have and know; just understand the steps here are using the Adobe programs.  I will also sometimes use plug-in filters such as those in the Nik suite, Topaz Labs or Aurora.

Basic editing of a fireworks photo with Lightroom

This is my workflow with an image in Lightroom.  Much of the work simply involves moving each adjustment slider up and down to see what you like.  Playing is encouraged.

  • White Balance – You shot in Raw, right? Good, because if so, you can take the white balance wherever you like. Play with the Temperature and Tint sliders and get the colors you like.  Because fireworks have no “correct” color your viewer expects, you can pretty much adjust white balance however you like.  Although, if you’ve included foreground objects, you may want to use those as a reference in determining what is realistic.
  • Basic Controls – Play with the Exposure, Contrast, and other sliders to bring the image to your liking. If your highlights are a little bright, (but still not blown out), you can bring them back with the Highlights slider. You might also want to bring down the Blacks if the sky needs darkening
  • Adjust colors with the HSL/Color sliders. You can play with the Hue, Saturation, and Luminance sliders to tweak colors to your liking. Don’t forget to try the Targeted Adjustment Tool to pick and adjust specific colors in your image.
  • 3 - How to Edit Fireworks Photos
  • Dehaze – The Dehaze tool could be your friend and help reduce smoke in the shot if it became a problem.
  • Clarity and Texture  – These controls can give your fireworks images extra sharpness and pop.  Also, try sliding these controls toward the left for different looks.
  • Vibrance and Saturation – With standard photography, these two are typically used conservatively, particularly Saturation which is a bit of a sledgehammer. With firework images, however, often you are going for “pow,” so go ahead and play… it’s your shot.  Oversaturation will blow out details.  Watch each histogram RGB channel.  A histogram off the right edge means you’ve oversaturated that color.
  • Detail – Some sharpening can be good. The two best tools in this group for fireworks images are the Masking Tool and Noise Reduction/Luminance. Sharpen your image as desired.  Then, hold down the Alt key, (Option on Mac), and drag the Masking slider to the right.  What appears white will be sharpened, what is black will not.  The idea to allow the fireworks to be sharpened, but not the dark sky. As for Noise Reduction, if you shot at a low ISO you probably won’t need much. Use as little as needed here.
  • Consider saving settings as a Preset.  If you’ve used the sliders to get your image just right, you might want to apply the same settings to some of your other fireworks photos.  Saving the settings as a preset will allow you to apply the same look with a single click.

Other tools

I mentioned using plugins as options in your editing.  The sky really is the limit here.  Here are a few I have and sometimes find useful with fireworks photos:

Nik – Color Efex Pro, Viveza

Topaz Labs – Adjust, Denoise, (probably others too, I just I don’t have them).

Aurora HDR – You can work with a single image here not needing multiple shots as with traditional HDR work and can get some interesting looks.

Compositing for drama

Sometimes the best fireworks photo is a composite of several photos.  You can layer multiple images and create your own grand finale.  You can also put fireworks over places where they weren’t, but to your thinking should have been.

Confession time.

The image of the Boise (Idaho) Depot I used in the previous article, (and repeated above), is a composite.

They do have fireworks shows over this iconic landmark in our city; I’ve just never been there for a show.  I did, however, have nice nighttime images of the depot and also fireworks photos from another time and place.  With compositing, I created the image I wished I could have captured live but wasn’t there for.  What can I say, creative license, right?

So, you have a great fireworks photo.  You have a great night shot of a landmark or scene where you’d have liked to have captured a fireworks show.  Here’s how you make those come together.

Time for layers

If you only edit with Lightroom, this will be the end of the road for you.  Lightroom doesn’t do layers and they are a must for this technique.  Photoshop does layers, as does Photoshop Elements, Corel Paintshop Pro, and probably a few other editing programs.  Layers capabilities are a must for compositing. So, your editing tool of choice must have them.

Compositing images is a pretty advanced technique in some cases. However, because the background of your fireworks photo is likely to be black or very dark, things become much easier.  Learning compositing using fireworks images can be a great way to begin learning about layers, masks, and compositing in general.

Step-by-step compositing

  1. Open your fireworks image in Photoshop (or your editing program of choice).  You can open Photoshop first and then open the image or send it from Lightroom – (Photo/Edit In/Edit in Adobe Photoshop)

    How to send an image from Lightroom to Photoshop for editing. You can also send multiple images as layers in Photoshop, useful when doing the “Grand Finale” composites described later in this article.

  2. Open your other location photo, also in Photoshop.  You will have the fireworks photo and the scene photo each on separate tabs at this point. Just a note when selecting the scene photo: Select one that has a logical view, angle, and lighting that it will seem consistent with having fireworks in the shot.  Obviously, a daytime image or an image without much sky is just going to look weird.
  3. Go to the image of the fireworks.  Crop it to include just the fireworks section you want if you didn’t do this in Lightroom first.  Then Select All (Ctrl-A, Cmd-A on a Mac), Copy (Ctrl/Cmd-C)
  4. Go to the other tab with the Scene and hit Ctrl/Cmd-V for Paste.  The firework image will be placed as a layer on top of the scene image.
  5. With the fireworks layer selected, select the Screen blending mode.  The dark parts of the sky will become transparent and the fireworks will be superimposed over the underlying Scene image.

    Use the Screen blending mode and the black in the fireworks photo will become transparent showing the underlying image.

  6. You will need to place and size the fireworks where you want them over the Scene shot.  Use Free Transform for that.  With the fireworks layer still the one selected, Ctrl/Cmd-T.  Then hold down Shift and drag from a corner handle to resize while maintaining the aspect ratio of the fireworks image.  Click, hold and drag in the middle of the shot to move the overlying fireworks where you like.  Don’t worry about some of the fireworks perhaps appearing in front of things.  You’ll handle that in the next step.

    The fireworks moved and sized to put them where desired. Note: leaving a little overlap will add depth and make the composite look more realistic. You’ll clean-up in the next step.

  7. To touch up areas where the fireworks might overlap an area they should be behind, (note the fireworks overlapping the tower in my shot and the roof at the bottom), you will create a Layer Mask. Click the icon that looks like a rectangle with the dark circle in the center  A mask will be added to your fireworks layer.
  8.  With Black selected as your foreground color and the mask selected, use the brush tool to paint out areas where the fireworks overlap the foreground.  You want the fireworks to look like they are behind any foreground objects.
  9.  You may find areas in the fireworks layer weren’t black enough that the Screen blending mode eliminated them.  This might work for you –  With the fireworks layer selected, (not the mask, the layer itself), open the Camera Raw Filter (Ctrl-Shift-A).  Just the fireworks layer will appear in Camera Raw.  Take the Blacks slider down (left) to see if you can darken the problem areas.  Also, try the Shadows and Exposure sliders, but pay attention to how the fireworks are affected.  When you click OK, you will be returned to the Photoshop main window.  See if the problem is gone.  If not, use the brush on the mask as you did in step 8 to clean up any remaining areas.
How to Edit Fireworks Photos

This grand finale was captured in one 6-second shot and is not a composite.

The Grand Finale

The most exciting part of a fireworks show is when they shoot off a flurry of fireworks in rapid-fire fashion.  It can also be one of the harder parts of the show to photograph.  Sometimes the intensity of so many fireworks bursting in the air can result in a blown-out, overexposed mess with the settings used for most of the show not right now.

What to do?  How about creating your own finale with the compositing technique we just explored but this time, layering several fireworks images to build-up your finale shot.

How to Edit Fireworks Photos

When things really got crazy during the grand finale, the same 6-seconds was too much and the image was blown out. Look at the histogram. There’s no recovering highlights when they are pushed off the right side of the histogram. Way too overexposed!

Use the same steps as with the composite image we just covered. Stack up several layers of fireworks shots each on its own Photoshop layer.  Then turn on the Screen blending mode on all layers but the bottom one.  Use the technique as before, blending and masking as necessary.

Here’s what that might look like.

Position and clean each layer with a mask as before where necessary.  Voila!  Your own grand finale.

How to Edit Fireworks Photos

Fun even when the smoke clears

For most spectators, the fun of a fireworks show is over when the last boom is heard, and the smoke clears. As a photographer with editing skills, however, you can continue to create all kinds of exciting images with the fireworks shots you captured.  Using the editing and compositing techniques here will not only help you produce some great fireworks images but grow your editing skills in general.

Now, go have a “blast.”

Feel free to share your fireworks images with us in the comments below.


How to Edit your Fireworks Photos Creatively


The post How to Edit Fireworks Photos Creatively appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

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