It’s About The Displaying

Posted in Editorial, Photoshop Composition with tags , , , , , , on March 24, 2013 by Art of Photography

Here is a picture of Marilyn Monroe. She certainly was a beauty.
My efforts here this morning were not about her picture but how to display it.
(Click the image, thumbnails hid a lot of important detail)
Not saying this is the best way, just experimenting.
I think this would work if there were several pictures to display.
I’ll work on that next.

ScotchTape & Marilyn


What Is Good Art

Posted in Editorial, Photoshop Composition with tags , , , , on March 23, 2013 by Art of Photography

This is possibly the most complicated Photoshop composition I have done to date. It contains over 25 layers and used approximately 100 Photoshop tools.


I like the finished product a lot. But that is not too surprising as one of my interests is Typeface. However, for some, this is dumb. For others, this is okay but not worth more than a one or two second glance (time to click the mouse). Some will see this as pretentious and others genius. Some will have reactions I cannot imagine.

So, with all these views, which one(s) are the right ones? Is this good art, average at best, or was it all just a supreme waste of time?

I discovered art later in life which tends to make me more reflective of the gestalt in artistry. One aspect noticeable from this out-of-flow observing is that when artists get together they do an odd thing that most groups don’t. They criticise each others work, something most would consider anywhere from rude to hostile.

The reason for this lies in all those “views.” Praise, while nice, seldom contains information useful to an artist. Of value are conversations that say if you like a thing, why. If you don’t, why. The more specific, the better. Statements like that are not taken as judgmental. Nor do they often lead to reactive changes. The piece under discussion will not be changed nor is it likely that the next creation will be profoundly different (although sometimes…). Yet, it is understanding “what works and what doesn’t” that is the measure of skill used internally by the artist.

Someone once said that an image of mine could make me famous. I don’t think artists show their work for that reason (I know I don’t). The works that get displayed are already pleasing to the artist (or else they would not be considered finished). You share your best works with the people you like and maybe your peers. But general public displays have to be about the feedback and resulting knowledge that such events bring. An artist will engage in many conversations about displayed pieces. Going in, the artist already knows some are going to like it and some won’t (some will be unimpressed and not talk at all and are liked least for it). However, the balance of the overall resulting reactions is going to provide a better understanding of human (and societal) standards. I like to think that just as the artist learns from going through this, so do we all.

It might be fair to say that no artist has ever produced a bad work of art. Those that didn’t have mass appeal were still loved by a few.

Enjoy your weekend.

Spring in Wisconsin (1″ to 3″ of it)

Posted in Image Post with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 18, 2013 by Art of Photography

Just sharing a picture today…


Glow – Light and Dark

Posted in Editorial with tags , , , , , on March 16, 2013 by Art of Photography

I’m on a roll this week!
While reviewing my Flickr account I noticed a couple of pictures that used a glow technique I have worked out for myself. Since this blog is about what can be done as well as what has been done, I thought I’d share these two images and talk a little about some of the issues in making them.

Light Glow (Hi Key). If you are adding romantic gauze (haze, fog, blur) to a high key image the area to watch for is highlights. Highlights, when done right, are a razor thin line away from blown out. Very bright, possibly heavily saturated, but with details showing. While it never easy adding any sort of glow to an overly bright composition, when it is done, what usually happens is colors end up desaturated in an unintended way. For Photoshop users, I recommend your last layer always be a Hue and Saturation adjustment applied globally (not clipped to the layer below unless the layer below is a stamped layer).


A low-key, dark image on the other hand wants to hide detail from the viewer. What made Ansel Adams’ rep was his ability to make dark areas very dark without hiding any details. You don’t really romanticize dark areas of a work, you soften the de-facto highlights of the details. By de-facto, I mean brighter areas that may not be traditional highlights but because they show light against dark areas of the composition, they become its highlights.


That’s it, housework and homework is calling. Have a terrific day and I’ll see you soon.


P.S. Stamped layer – making a new layer out of all the visible layers in your Photoshop composition (Shift + Ctrl + Alt + E (Win) Shift + Ctrl + Cmd + E (Mac))

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.

The Art of Photoshop

Posted in Editorial, Image Post, Photoshop Composition with tags , , , on March 13, 2013 by Art of Photography

Photoshop can be used to enhance a photograph but it can also be used to create artistic images. Either use is valid in my opinion so long as you are clear about doing it.

Two pictures; a young woman’s face and a cityscape, is artistically modified and blended in such a way as to create something new. It is completely fictional yet still retains the same qualities as any visual piece of art. Whether you like this composition or not is a matter of personal taste but the process is as valid as any used in the creation of art work.


Photography does not have to be simply the faithful replication of existing visions. For me, there was nothing going on with either original image. Just pictures like so many other taken of cities and women. But transmogrified this way, something more creatively interesting was produced. Gestalt says the sum can be greater than the parts. I hope you find tonight’s work such.


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