Category Archives: Photoshop

mermaids digital manipulation composite photo copyright Aloha Lavina 2012.

Creativity, Camera, and Photoshop

Which net would you use to catch a butterfly?

Many photographers argue that getting an image right in camera is the real deal—if you’re going to call yourself a photographer, you better learn your exposure and technical stuff, and compose beauty in the frame.

With the rise of digital photography, however, now you can take your images into a whole new realm of manipulation. Highly stylized images have grown in popularity along with the advances in digital cameras and software for processing digital photos. Photoshop is arguably the giant in the post processing world, so much so that people now use the name of the software as a verb. As in, “Was this photo Photoshopped?”

Purists, or people who scoff at Photoshop artists as hacks, don’t like overly manipulated photos. Indeed, a lot of contests out there specify the minimal adjustments that the entrant can make to their entry to the contest. Still, the world is not made of purists. At the other end of the spectrum are the—for lack of an official term—digital artists, who style their photos with scores of layers, stacking special effect upon special effect, and not apologizing for it.

In between are you and me.

Every week, I have a group of hobbyist photographers who make images because we like it. We call ourselves a Tribe. It’s a lot of fun now that we kind of know each other, and we sometimes chat briefly on Facebook about photography. And when I asked the Tribe if they wanted weekly modules with a Photoshop twist, I got an overwhelmingly positive response. So I can anecdotallyconclude that in my Tribe at least, we like improving our skills with the camera and we like to learn new Photoshop tricks, too.

mermaid manipulated photo in Photoshop copyright Aloha Lavina 2012.

Do you think I overdid this one, my first attempt at a total composite? I thought the fire ball tipped the scale.

Photoshop is a complicated software that is the industry standard; it takes a long time to master its tools. But it is somewhat accessible to the emerging hobbyist, as long as he or she is patient and doesn’t get overwhelmed.

But it’s not fair to photography if the shooter shoots thinking that Photoshop will fix everything.

Here’s what I’ve learned from my forays into the world of digital manipulation using Photoshop.

1. You still have to light the image right.

Photography is still capturing light, no matter what you can do to create light in Photoshop. A well lit image can be enhanced beautifully in Photoshop, but you cannot create light where there is none in the software. Yes, people argue that with tools like Shadow/Highlight control, or painting with light technique, you can paint light with a Photoshop brush easily. But you still get unnatural effects when you do this, like nasty noise in the underexposed areas you tried to bump up, or discoloration. Nothing works like a photo where light is where it should be, in the first place, as you capture it in camera. So yes, learn to manipulate light in Photoshop, but first learn to light.

2. You still have to get a good exposure.

We could say this is like Tip Number 1, but it’s a little different. This is about balancing the way your camera becomes sensitive to the light (ISO), choosing the right amount of light to enter the lens (Aperture), and rendering the captured image in the right amount of time (Shutter Speed) to get an image that has a good dynamic range. A good dynamic range in plain English is when the highlights and shadows have good detail just like the midtones. Now you can ‘recover’ shadows and highlights using Photoshop, but the resulting image is not as detailed as you would like it to be in a good exposure. You still have to learn to make a good exposure, no matter how high powered the latest version of PS is.

3. You still have to compose the image.

You can crop in Photoshop, and move the elements around. You can even composite different images, add things, clone things out, flip or transform or warp the image.

Manipulating every single image like this, to create a composition you really like, takes a lot of time.

And you’re not really sure about the compatibility of the elements. For instance, what if the lighting isn’t similar in the items you choose to composite? And what if you plunked a cow that is clearly not proportionally matched with a model in the original photo? Ooops. Visually, some things do not work composed in Photoshop. You still have to learn to compose in your camera.

mermaids digital manipulation composite photo copyright Aloha Lavina 2012.

This was better. The light was right, the framing was deliberate. And then the whole slew of layers.

4. The rules of optics still apply.

We see with a maximum aperture of f/2.1 in the dark, and a minimum aperture of f/8.3 in bright light. But another thing happens with us in our three dimensional world: we see in planes. That means that things that are on the same plane have the same sharpness for our eyes.  Why is this important for Photoshop? It means that we can’t blur the hell out of things we don’t want to see clearly in the image when those things are on the same plane as the things we want sharp. It just doesn’t compute in our brains.

But this is called artistic license. Skillfully done, you could still make a beautiful image with unnatural optical composition.

5. Photoshop is almost like painting.

Painters have the luxury of composing their pictures exactly as they imagined. Photographers have to find that composition and then interpret it with skill and technicality. Photoshop gives the photographer the advantage of adding or subtracting things that are in the frame, just like a painter does. But if the shooter doesn’t have skills in Tips 1 to 4, it may not work as well.

So in conclusion, there has to be balance in the way we use our camera skills and the way we manipulate the resulting photos. Ignoring one for the other seems unwise when the beauty you could make with both is boundless.

And that’s why if you want to catch this butterfly, make sure your net is big enough.

_________________
Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That!

If you like what’s on the blog, let us know by commenting! Even if you don’t like what’s on the blog, leave a comment any way, but please keep it nice. :) To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage. It would also be cool to be friends with you on Facebook, or connect with you on Twitter.

You might also like:
Are You Paying Attention?
Finding Good Photos where they Hide
Why You Should Shoot Like Johnny Depp
Sell an Experience, Not Just Photos
Nine Things Rupert Murdoch can Teach Photographers

 

ADL_1330

Easy way to dodge and burn without destroying pixels

Dodging and burning is a photography darkroom technique that’s been around since film days. Dodging is a technique for making an area of a photo brighter, while burning is a term used for the opposite, the technique for darkening areas in an image. Although there are ready made dodge and burn tools in Photoshop, using them straight onto a digital photograph will invariably damage the pixels of that photograph.

Here is the way I dodge and burn my digital photos without destroying pixels. The goal for this technique is to increase drama in the light by painting the shadows and highlights in.


If you liked this video tutorial, let me know what other topics you want to see covered in the comments!

The finished black and white image, ready in 12 easy steps.

How to Convert a Color Photo into BW Using Channels

I’ve been busy off the grid for a couple weeks. Last week I spoke at Create Without Limits, an invitation only event for corporate executives where we discussed ideas about how art and business collide and synthesize. Two weeks ago I ran a workshop for emerging hobbyists in Bangkok, and promised the participants a short tutorial on how to convert a photo to black and white.

I chose to teach a BW conversion using Channels because it seems to me to be the easiest, apart from just using the Black and White automatic conversion on PS4 and PS5 (which is pretty good, and very easy). The workshop students also needed to practice using layers, so the Channels conversion was a good way to do this.

Step 1. The first thing is to start with the original file, and adjust Levels.

Adjusting levels using the dropper tools.

Step 2. Use the black dropper tool to choose a black point. Set the dropper over the darkest part of the photo, and click once.

Adjusting black point for levels.

Step 3. Choose the white point by clicking on the white dropper tool, then clicking on the whitest point in the photo.

Choose a white point to adjust levels.

Step 4. Choose the gray point. I chose a section of the man’s hair, that I saw was halfway between my blacks and whites.

Choose an area that is halfway between black and white for the gray point in levels adjustment.

Step 6. Now we’re ready to make the photo black and white. Make a new layer and name it “Channels.” Then click on each channel in the Channels menu to see which channel suits the subject’s tones. I chose the Green Channel for the man’s tones, and the Blue Channel for the shadows, because the Blue Channel’s shadows seemed richer, grittier, which is the look I want.

The Channels Menu is right beside the Layers Menu.

The Green Channel's tones looked great for the man.

The Blue Channel looked perfect for the background, to bring out rich blacks and grittiness.

Step 7. After picking these two channels for my subject and background, it’s time to blend the two layers. There’s a simple way of doing this. Put the layer that has the least change ABOVE the layer that has the most change. I moved the Blue Channel layer on top of the Green channel layer, so that I could just mask out the man.

Blending the two channel layers into one image using layers.

Step 8. To mask out the man, simply click on the Add Layer Mask button (it looks like a square with a circle in the middle) which is at the bottom of the Layers Menu on the right side of the screen. Then I take a soft brush at 100 percent opacity and brush the man so that the Green Channel layer for the man’s tones become blended with the Blue Channel layer, the background.

Tools for blending the layers: Layer Mask, Brush. Easy peasy!

Step 9. After blending the two channels layers, it’s time to refine the image. I found some spots on the background that were distracting in the photo. So I chose the Clone Tool, sampled areas close to the spots, and ran the Clone Tool over the distracting spots until the image looked cleaner.

So many distracting spots! They must be removed to give the image a neat finish.

The Clone Tool icon looks like a stamp.

After removing the spots, I merged the layers using this shortcut: Command + Option + Shift + E.

Step 10. Looking at the photo, I wanted more contrast between the black background and the lighter subject, so I decided to (1) use the Burn Tool to darken the shadows. (2) Don’t forget to name this layer “Burn!”

The Burn Tool helps to darken areas of the photo if you run it over that spot. I use no more than a 20 percent opacity.

Step 11. To sharpen the photo and add more contrast, I used the Unsharp Mask tool located under Filter>Sharpen>Unsharp Mask. A window pops up asking you to put in Amount, Radius, and Threshold. For Amount, I typed in 120. For Radius, I put in 1, and left the Threshold at 0. Then I clicked OK.

Sharpening using Unsharp Mask.

Step 12. Last step! I flattened the image (Layer>Flatten Image) and resized it for the web, and here it is.

The finished black and white image, ready in 12 easy steps.

It’s not that difficult to convert a color photo into a black and white image using Channels. Try it and see!

_________________
Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That!

If you like what’s on the blog, let us know by commenting! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage. It would also be cool to be friends with you on Facebook, or connect with you on Twitter.

You might also like:
Hey Photographer! Who are You and What do You Believe?
Using Background Effectively in Your Portraits
Confessions of a Photoshop User

Are You Paying Attention?
Finding Good Photos where they Hide

 

retouched portrait copyright Aloha Lavina.

Confessions of a Photoshop User

I just read this article over at the Fstoppers blog about how the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority banned an ad by Lancome because Julia Robert’s skin in it was Photoshopped too much and represented ‘false advertising.’

The question raised on the blog was, how do retouchers and photographers feel about this ban by the Agency, and “How would it affect the way we do our jobs or how we look at things aesthetically, creatively and socially?”

I use Photoshop. I use it for retouching photos of models for print ads on fashion magazines. But notice how many tutorials are out there for making sure retouching preserves skin texture, detail, and cautioning us against making the skin look like plastic. As of this writing, 49,700 tutorials online talk about how to retouch skin so that it looks like real skin. Like me, a lot of photographers are concerned about not making retouched skin look unreal in photographs.

An unretouched photo can look beautiful. The model’s skin in the photo below was unretouched because I had virtually no Photoshop skills when I took it. But you know what? The model was 18 years old at the time the photo was taken; she had flawless skin, and besides, she had charming freckles.

no retouching portrait copyright Aloha Lavina

Unretouched portrait. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

But the truth of the matter is, if you’re a photographer who wants to get an editorial commission, you use Photoshop. You use Photoshop because the industry standards for beautiful ask you to remove blemishes. You use Photoshop because no one wants to see a zit smack in the middle of a makeup ad. You use Photoshop because flawlessly retouched skin in your look book gets clients to call you and book you.

retouched portrait copyright Aloha Lavina.

The trick is to apply Photoshop without it looking like you did. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

So like every struggling editorial photographer, I study Photoshop. I browse those thousands of tutorials and even made a tutorial of my workflow. I read Scott Kelby’s books. And I use Photoshop because if I use it 10,000 times, each time I get a little bit better at making digitally enhanced skin in photos look like I didn’t retouch it.

If it were your job, wouldn’t you?

_________________
Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That!

If you like what’s on the blog, let us know by commenting! Even if you don’t like what’s on the blog, leave a comment any way, but please keep it nice. :) To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage. It would also be cool to be friends with you on Facebook, or connect with you on Twitter.

You might also like:
Are You Paying Attention?
Finding Good Photos where they Hide
Why You Should Shoot Like Johnny Depp
Sell an Experience, Not Just Photos
Nine Things Rupert Murdoch can Teach Photographers
Cut the CRAP–Just Take Pictures

 

 

 

 

vibrance adds intensity to color copyright Aloha Lavina.

Beginner’s Guide: Seven Tools for Working with Color in Photoshop

Working with digital color images, there are many ways of doing the same thing. Part of what makes Photoshop seem so complicated is that it has a host of different ways you can enhance your images. For color adjustments alone, there is a bunch of tools on the menu. Here’s a quick list of the top seven tools you can use in Photoshop to bring stunning color into your pictures.

1. RAW Vibrance and Saturation

If you shoot in RAW, you can enhance color right on the original file in the RAW Camera window. At the bottom of the default menu, there are two sliders you can use to increase vibrance and saturation. Slide those over to the right a little, and you get extra punch in your photos.copyright Aloha Lavina

Caution: If your photo has dark edges in sharp contrast to very bright edges, you might get some discoloration around these areas if you pump up the vibrance and saturation.

2. Adjusting Hue in RAW

There’s another place in the RAW Camera window where you can make adjustments to the color. Click on the icon that looks like a zigzagging line, and you reach the HSL/Grayscale menu. Here you can adjust the hues in your image. For instance, if you wanted the greens to look more yellow, you can move the appropriate slider to adjust this hue.HSL adjustments in RAW

Caution: Each move of a slider affects the color of other like hues, so be careful when you’re making adjustments in this menu. There is no way to mask the adjustments in this mode.

Once you open the file in Photoshop and you’re out of Camera RAW, there are a bunch of  color adjustment modes in the menu you can choose from.

3. Hue Saturation Adjustment

The HS menu allows you to adjust the hue and saturation of individual colors. For example, in the original photo, the reds were too intense, even though I had not adjusted Vibrance or Saturation in Camera RAW before opening the file. So I toned down the red using the individual color adjustment available in the Hue Saturation menu.toning down red

4. Color Balance

Another menu that is available for color work in PS is the Color Balance menu. Here, complementary colors are matched upon sliders that work like scales, for instance Yellow and Blue.

If you move the Yellow-Blue slider toward the yellow, the photo gains more yellow and loses some blue. If you’re doing selective color adjustments, you can mess up one color if you adjust another using the Color Balance menu. However, there’s a way you can get around this. color balance menu sliders

Using the Lasso or Magnetic Lasso tool, select the area you want to enhance and then work in Color Balance mode. That way, you leave the rest of the photo unchanged.

 5. Selective Color

Selective color menu is more discrete than Color Balance. Opening the Selective Color adjustment menu, you will see each color with its own hue sliders. For instance, if I adjust Cyan, I can pump it up by minimizing Yellow, by moving the Yellow slider in the Cyan menu to the left.selective color menu in Photoshop

The advantage of using the Selective Color menu is that the changes you make on one color doesn’t affect the other colors in the photograph. This can save you having to mask out unwanted color casts as a result of changes to one color that could affect the hue of another.

6. Photo Filter

This is an addition to the newer versions of Photoshop. Photo Filter adjustments are simple temperature changes to the photo. By choosing the Warm filters, your photo gets a warm tinge, and by choosing a Cool filter, you add more blue and coolness to the photo’s look.using the warm filter in photshop

7. Vibrance

Vibrance adjusts the intensity of color in your photo. By moving the slider to the right, your colors pop more. The Vibrance slider is only one adjustment, and it works best not only for enhancing the intensity of the colors in the photo, but also helps pump up what might just be a tinge of color. For instance, if you had a sky with a tinge of orange, you can use Vibrance to enhance that little blush of orange.

vibrance adds intensity to color copyright Aloha Lavina.

The image still looks natural, but the colors are enhanced after processing using color-enhancing tools in Photoshop.

Although this list is only for Photoshop, you can find the same tools (except for the Camera RAW ones) in other photo processing software, most often with the same terminology. They work the same way, so you don’t have to worry that you’ll lack the tools to help you enhance color in your digital photographs.

What other tutorials would you like to see covered in Imagine That? Let me know in the comments!

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Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage.

You might also like:
Finding Good Photos where they Hide
Would You Resort to Oversaturating Color in a Boring Photo?
Beginner’s Guide: Top Ten Tools for Enhancing Portraits in Photoshop

conservative saturation copyright Aloha Lavina

Would You Resort to Oversaturating Color in a Boring Photo?

Saturating colors in a photo is something that is easy to do, if you have the right tool. Many times, all it takes for Super! Saturated! Color! in a photo is to move a slider to the right.

But before you get slider happy, let’s think about saturation and why it might be wise to saturate moderately.

Take Photo 1 as an example. To super-saturate the colors in this photo, I simply went to Photoshop’s Adjustments Menu, scrolled down to Hue/Saturation, and in the ‘Master’ setting, moved the Saturation slider to the far right.

oversaturated photo copyright Aloha Lavina

Photo 1. Over the top saturation.

Instant super saturated color. Even more saturated and vibrant than real life, which is Photo 2, taken straight off-camera.

straight off camera copyright Aloha Lavina

Photo 2. What the camera actually took.

Compare the two and tell me with a straight face that the super saturated photo is still believable.

Like fiction writers, one of the things you have to do as a photographer is to suspend disbelief. This literary terms means to make us believe a story even though it is made up, or fiction.

Like fiction writers select what readers discover in the story’s scenes, photographers select what’s in the frame for the viewer to see. Skillful and thoughtful framing can result in skillful and engaging storytelling for both fiction writers and photographers.

Since we are selectively presenting the world through artistic expression, we often develop a style of storytelling.

This is where saturation comes in.

Saturation of colors in a photo is often done ‘to taste.’

Personally, I do adjust saturation in post-production, to enhance a photo. In Photo 3, I saturated color-by-color in Photoshop, but didn’t go over more than a 6 on the slider. Why? I try to suspend disbelief, so that folks who look at my photo look at the whole thing and make of it a believable story, rather than losing themselves in the candied gimmickry of an over-saturated image.

conservative saturation copyright Aloha Lavina

Photo 3. Saturated, but not beyond belief.

Wouldn’t you rather get really good at composition, interpreting concepts, and recognizing decisive moments than use gimmickry to attract attention to what may be a mediocre photo?

What are your thoughts on color saturation?

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Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage.

You might also like:
Why You Should Shoot Like Johnny Depp
Sell an Experience, Not Just Photos
Nine Things Rupert Murdoch can Teach Photographers
Cut the CRAP–Just Take Pictures
10 Things Tyra Banks can Teach You about Portrait Photography