Archive for the Photoshop Tutorial Category

Photography Photoshoppers

Posted in Photoshop Tutorial with tags , , , on April 7, 2013 by Art of Photography

This is for the photographers who post process their compositions in Photoshop (or possibly Lightroom).

When you are processing your photographs, you want to avoid clipping shadows and highlights. Clipped shadows (a completely black area) or a blown-out highlights (areas of solid white) means portions of your image have lost their detail. The usual precaution against this is to use the histogram tool. However histograms cannot show you where in the image the clipping has occurred. You’ll see indications at either end (left for shadows, right for highlights) but there are no indications of midtones issues. The middle of a histogram can take any shape depending on the content of an image and isn’t much help with actual evaluation. Fortunately, Photoshop has come up with better tools that address these shortcomings.

Clipping Preview Before

The one I want to discuss today is the easiest one to use, the Clipping Preview. It is, in effect, a histogram overlaid on your image and not just a graph.
To see the clipping preview, Alt/Option-drag the black (shadows) or white (highlights) slider at the bottom of a Curves or Levels adjustment layer or panel. In Camera Raw and Lightroom it is the same thing but with the tone sliders. Highlight is a solid white image while shadows is solid black. Where you see Indicator colors is where clipping is occurring. Not all clipping needs to be addressed, but you do need to evaluate the loss of detail and decide if it should be returned. The color keys are the same as in the histogram’s window, the colors shown are channels or mixes of channels. All black in the highlight or all white in the shadow is all channels clipped.

Clipping Preview After

That’s it for today but remember, if processing for printer output, make sure your are in CMYK mode and your last processing step should be soft proof ( view > proof colors or Ctrl/Cmd Y). My personal workflow is to run Gamut Warning first, then Soft Proof to evaluate the actual clipping (not all out of gamut needs to be compensated for).


Photoshopping – Adding Text Banner

Posted in Image Post, Photoshop Tutorial with tags , , , , , on March 31, 2013 by Art of Photography


Requires Photoshop knowledge of Grouping and Layer Styles Dialog Box

How To:
1. Open the image of your choosing
2. Add a new blank layer above it
  a. Fill with White
  b. Set Opacity to 70% (to start)
3. Type in your text
  a. I used a specialty font. Start with Century Gothic (Bold)
  b. Font color = Black
  c. Set font size what you want. Resize as appropriate
4. Group the Text layer and the White layer
5. Text Layer – Layer Style >> Advanced Blending (Blending Options)
  a. Knockout: Shallow
  b. Fill Opacity = 0%
6. Free Transform White layer to make it a band across the image
  a. Text should be centered (Layer >> Align)
7. Play with resizing background, banner, and text. Wide images look best with this
8. Re-adjust opacity of white layer to taste. Try a drop shadow for the text layer.

I realize this is short, sweet, and to the point, but in figuring out some of these you might learn a few new things about Photoshop. It should be a fun journey anyway.


About Art in Photography – Color

Posted in Image Post, Photoshop Tutorial with tags , , , on March 29, 2013 by Art of Photography

About Color
Whether dressing yourself, evaluating a setting and model, or color adjusting an image, knowing some of the basics about color will really make the difference between okay and WOW. While this can be a very complicated discussion, there are some simple basics that just seem to work.

The basic color wheel is twelve (12) colors
Red, red-orange, Orange, orange-yellow, Yellow, yellow-green (lime), Green, blue-green (Cyan), Blue, blue-purple (violet), Purple, purple-red (magenta). Red is in the 12 o’clock position, Green is at the 6 o’clock.

A palette is all the colors you are using in your image (Comes from the days of painters holding a wood plate with all their various colored paints on it).

The best color to make another color stand out is its compliment (the color opposite on the color wheel). If featuring Orange, use blue colors around it. A variation of this is split compliments where the color on either side of the opposite color is used instead. (Opposite of Red is Green so green-yellow and cyan would be used with the red color in this palette).

Black & White pictures are actually various shades of grey. You can do the same thing with color by using four colors that are next to each other in the wheel (Red, red-orange, Orange, mustard) – this is called an Analogous Color palette.

A pure color is a hue. Add white to it (lighten it up) is Tinting. Adding grey to it is toning. Darkening it (adding black) is Shading. Apply the same rules to Tint/Tone/Shade that you apply to Hue (compliment, split-compliment, analogous). Green and Yellow colors go together okay but green and light yellow can look better and dark green (hunter green) and dark yellow (gold) can really pop (ask the Packers).

We do not see with our eyes. We have cones and rods in our eyes that send signals to a part of our brain that filters them into a single signal. That signal is then processed further by our cognitive process. Colors around a color, the content of the scene, emotional experiences all affect how we see, and more importantly, react to a color (White is traditional mourning colors in the Middle East, brides dress in black). In fact, be careful about supposed psychology attributes of colors. How a color is used, where it is used, the subject matter, tinting/toning/shading, where the person is when they see it, the type of frame (or display screen), size of the image, ambient lighting, on and on, can create very different feelings in the viewer about your color.

Is this it? Not hardly. There are palettes made up of double split compliments, triad combination, and there have been uses that completely break the model. Colors on a computer screen are additive while colors printed are subtractive. That is why when designing for computers you use the RGB model but for printing you use CMYK. In fact, you can spend many (many) days researching the various aspects of color. But I find if you adopt a few simple palettes and work the tint/tone/shades this becomes a relatively simple process.


B.T.W. – Where is brown? It is a heavily toned (lightly shaded?) yellow! A brown frame with dark green matting is one of my favorite combinations (you should now understand why)!

Photoshop Tools: Smart Sharpen vs Unsharp Mask

Posted in Photoshop Tutorial with tags , , , , , on March 15, 2013 by Art of Photography

Do you use Unsharp Mask? If so you might find it interesting that, according to Bryan O’Neil Hughes (Senior Product Manager Adobe Photoshop), it was designed for scanned images and not sharpening photographs. The actual tool of choice for sharpening pictures in CS6 is Smart Sharpen. (Adobe has been studying users habits and have noted that there is a resistance to using any tool labeled “Smart”).

In Smart Sharpen you have three modes of operation. When this filter is set to ‘Remove: Gaussian Blur’ it performs the exact same function that Unsharp Mask does. However, there is another mode ‘Remove: Lens Blur’ that was specifically designed for sharpening photos (The third option is ‘Remove: Motion Blur’.)

Additionally, unlike Unsharp Mask, you can save your favorite settings as presets. There is also an Advanced mode where you have additional options to control the effect in shadows and highlights (Unsharp Mask has only a universal Threshold slider).

Both of these filters are best used when you copy the layer you want to sharpen. After sharpen the image as desired you then set the Layer Blend mode to Luminosity (thereby avoiding any color fringing). If you are using the tools on a Smart Object/Layer, you can set just the filter to Luminosity (real power now as the layer itself could be a different blend mode).

Here is a comparison of results. They are overly strong to make it easier to see the difference.

Original Image:

In this first image, Unsharp Mask was used with Amount: 200, Radius: 5.0, Threshold: 25:
While the colors are more contrasty, the borders still look smudgy and overall the image is garish.

In this second rendition, Smart Sharpen (Remove: Lens Blur) is set to Amount: 200, Radius: 5.0, Shadow = Fade Amount: 50% Tonal Width: 50% Radius: 1px, Highlight = Fade Amount: 25% Tonal Width: 75% Radius: 5px:
Notice how much clearer the weave of her hat is. Also the color in her legs has been preserved and there is better transition between light and dark elements. The overall image looks ‘more real’ and there is even some sharpening of the background bushes (if you wanted to preserve the bokeh of the background you could apply a layer mask and paint out those areas).

Have a great weekend!


For HastyWords – A Tutorial

Posted in Photoshop Tutorial with tags , , , , on March 14, 2013 by Art of Photography

The blogger Hastywords requested some guidance on how to create the reflected image used in my last post (The Art of Photoshop).

Here is the image:


Here are the instructions:

1. Open a new document at least twice the width of your primary image. Height should be the same.
a. The background can be any color you want as we may change it in the end. I started with white. Transparent would be okay too.

2. Bring in your primary image in whatever method you think best. I have CS6 so I drag & drop (it automatically creates a new layer). Name it Primary.

3. Locate it along one side of your canvas (for this tutorial assume the initial image was placed along the right hand side)

4. Duplicate the primary image (Ctrl + J/Cmd +J)
a. Drag it to the ‘other’ side. Name it Reflection
b. Flip it horizontally (Ctrl + T/Cmd + T then right click >> flip horizontally)

5. Here is the fun/artistic part. Using transformation tools move the reflection image as you want it to look in your final composition. In my example I had her head touching the window and so I needed a point where the hair met but I also needed her neck and head to expand away from that point at an angle. I resized and rotated the image then used warp to fill in any gaps.
a. You may have to trim parts of the two layers if there are overlapping edges. To avoid this, I extracted the heads onto their own layers.

6. Once you have the position you want for the reflection layer
a. Use a Levels adjustment (Ctrl +L/Cmd + L). Using the RGB channel (not an individual color channels), start with these settings:
i. Input 0/2.1/255
ii. Output 40/255
b. Set the layer opacity initially to 75%

7. Now import whatever you are using for the world outside your ‘window’ (the cityscape in the example). Name the layer Outside
a. Put it under your Reflection layer
b. Adjust it to fit in the reflection portion of your image (resize/scale/delete parts, etc).

8. Optional, you may want to blur the image slightly. Either Gaussian at somewhere between 1 & 2 pixels or Motion blur (start at a sharp vertical angle like 80, and distance 25)

9. Set the opacity of this layer to something that is visible but not overpowering of the reflection image (Side note about me. I always use either 25%, 50%, or 75% for opacity. I don’t think the human eye is sensitive enough to discern between 63% and 68%).
a. Change the blend mode to hard light or Overlay.

10. Because of the nature of the cityscape, I changed the color of the background layer to Black. Boom! This picture then took off!

Now tweak all these settings until you have the image you want. All these tutorials or formulas are good starting points but the nature of the images used, what their color spaces are, the final tone you want to set, all will influence the exact settings that work best. In my piece, I re-rotated the head and warped it several times, changed the reflection to not be so hazy white (‘cause it was night time), made the reflected head more visible and made the contrast in the city stronger to achieve the final product. I then applied a cool color filter top layer (CS6 does this automatically with a photo filter adjustment layer at 25% but you can do manually by creating a new layer at the top, filling it with a medium blue, changing the blend mode to color or hue and adjusting the opacity of the layer).

This is not your usual step-by-step tutorial but the best use of this technique is as an enhancement to some project you are already working on. I felt a general discussion of the technique would make it more useful as well as help get away from a specific versions of Photoshop. The basics are: Have a canvas big enough to hold two copies of your reflecting picture, bring the picture in, copy and reverse it, position it like a reflection, haze it and wash out some of the saturation, give the reflection a context by providing a background, tie all the pieces together with a overlay color.


***NOTE: This is a first version. I expect people to have problems with some of the steps as currently written. Email me with your questions and we will correct them, adjust them, modify them, twist them, fluff them, or feed them to dolphins as necessary.

Sometimes It Is The Little Things

Posted in Image Post, Photoshop Tutorial with tags , , , on December 16, 2012 by Art of Photography

Hi all, it has been awhile. For my Christian friends, I hope the holiday preparations are going well.

This picture was given to me recently.


It is a great example of photographic experimentation. The artist has been creative with an otherwise straight-up portrait. However, it is not finished. It is my belief that pictures you want to display are the ones that address all the principles and elements of style (even if addressing means not fulfilling some aspect of these guides). I cannot recommend strongly enough that any serious camera operator learn these ‘rules’ just as those who paint or sculpt incorporate them into their creations. With the plethora of cameras out there these days, if you want to stand out, you have to create a more complete image.

Trying not to affect the foreground image, here is my alterations for a picture that would be used in a digital manner (online article, website, blog?)


I like to think I have put the picture into a context the human viewer understands. Or maybe it is just more interesting or more focused. Anyway, one cannot say it is better without being judgmental, so let me say I feel this is more complete. And remember, all art is editing until you stop.

Scripting the ‘Shop

Posted in Image Post, Photoshop Tutorial with tags , , , on May 6, 2012 by Art of Photography

Probably the most advanced feature in Photoshop is its ability to be scripted. Using either VBScript (for PCs) or AppleTalk (for Macs) or Javascript (for both), you can run any and all commands of the Photoshop interface with the addition of programming functionality (conditionals, repetitions, and recursive). This then gives you one-click access to your favorite treatments and methods. Unlike Actions, they can be programmed to self-adjust for varying sizes, resolutions, and bit-depth, giving you consistent results each and every time.
Is it hard to do? That depends on your level of programming knowledge and experience. But once completed, you just put the script in the correct presets folder and when you next open Photoshop, you will have it under File >> Scripts. What else lets you appear to be part of the programming team!

Here is an example script. It generates a LOMO effect on photographs. The major steps is it makes an appropriate selection area, inverses it, applies filters for blurring, contrast, and darkening. Then it deselects the area, and treats the complete photo to further degradation.

/* Photoshop Lomo Effect Script                        */
/* for CS3 and above.                                  */
/* Author Dana C. Andrews                              */
/*        */
/* Created May 5, 2012                                 */
/* All Rights Reserved                                 */

/* Functions Section*/
function makeLomoSelection()
var x1 = Math.round(docWidth/10)
var y1 = Math.round(docHeight/10)
var x2 = x1*9
var y2 = y1*9
var featherAmt = Math.round((docWidth * docHeight)/100000)
if (featherAmt < 75) {
    featherAmt = 75
var selMarquee = Array(Array(x1,y1),Array(x1,y2),Array(x2,y2),Array(x2,y1)) (selMarquee,SelectionType.EXTEND,featherAmt,true)

/* End Function Section */

/* NOTICE */
var msg = "WARNING - This effect will first flatten the image (merge all existing layers). Even with this flattening, the script may throw an error (its okay, just run the script a second time. This only happens when the original image was saved with layers and not flattened before running this script) \n OK to continue?"
var title = "LOMO SCRIPT EFFECT"
var ok2run = confirm(msg,false,title)
if (ok2run == true) { 
    msg = "This effect works best with normally exposed images. Compositions that are low/high key (very dark or very bright) will have those effects magnified. For darkish images, this can be interesting but pictures with blown out highlights, this effect will be too much. However, all is not lost. These  issues can be mitigated by setting the LOMO layer blend mode to Multiply (if too bright) or Screen (if too dark). Adjusting the opacity to taste."

// Save original settings then make changes to known parameters
var startRulerUnits = preferences.rulerUnits
preferences.rulerUnits = Units.PIXELS
var startTypeUnits = preferences.typeUnits
preferences.typeUnits = TypeUnits.PIXELS
var startDisplayDialogs = app.displayDialogs
app.displayDialogs = DialogModes.NO
try {
// Global variables
var docRef = app.activeDocument
var layerRef = docRef.activeLayer
var darkAmt = 100 // Static variable for darkening. Must be between 0 - 254

// Document Information section
var docWidth = docRef.width
var docHeight = docRef.height

// Make a layer for this effect
var dupLayer = layerRef.duplicate() = "Lomo"
docRef.activeLayer = dupLayer

// Make a selection 
// Invert selection
/* *** Document is now prepared. Make layer adjustments as desired *** */
} catch (e) {
    preferences.rulerUnits = startRulerUnits
    preferences.typeUnits = startTypeUnits
    app.displayDialogs = startDisplayDialogs
/* The Lomo Effect */
try {
// Blur
dupLayer.applyGaussianBlur (25)
// Adjust contrast and brightness
dupLayer.adjustBrightnessContrast (-25, 100)
// Vignette
dupLayer.adjustLevels (0,254, 1.0, 0, darkAmt)
// Add noise
dupLayer.applyAddNoise (12, NoiseDistribution.GAUSSIAN, true)
// Turn off the selection oval
// defocus it a little more
if ((docWidth * docHeight) < 5000000) {
    var dsRadius = 5
    var dsThreshold = 30
    } else {
        dsRadius = 10
        dsThreshold = 15
dupLayer.applyDustAndScratches (dsRadius, dsThreshold)
// Cool the image 
var filterColor = new SolidColor() = 00 =00 = 254
dupLayer.photoFilter(filterColor, 45, true)
// Done with Effect
} catch (e) {

// Restore original settings
preferences.rulerUnits = startRulerUnits
preferences.typeUnits = startTypeUnits
app.displayDialogs = startDisplayDialogs

// Release variable pointers

startRulerUnits = null
startTypeUnits = null
startDisplayDialogs = null
docRef = null
layerRef = null
docWidth = null
docHeight = null
x1 = null
x2 = null
y1 = null
y2 = null
featherAmt = null
darkAmt = null
selMarquee = null
dupLayer = null
filterColor = null
dsRadius = null
dsThreshold = null
} // this is where false goes if the user selects NO on the alert box about flattening image
msg = null
title = null
ok2run = null


Here are some examples of the effect applied to different image formats

Color portrait

B&W (sepia actually) portrait

Tall format but same script

Love to take pictures and love the pictures you take!

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