Photo Blog Stop http://photoblogstop.com Photoshop and Photography Tutorials Tue, 04 Aug 2015 14:36:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Adding a Moon to your Landscape using Photoshop Blending Options http://photoblogstop.com/photoshop/adding-a-moon-to-your-landscape-using-photoshop-blending-options http://photoblogstop.com/photoshop/adding-a-moon-to-your-landscape-using-photoshop-blending-options#comments Sun, 30 Dec 2012 23:25:49 +0000 http://photoblogstop.com/?p=2655 In this tutorial you’ll learn how to add a moon to your image, and use luminance blending to realistically blend the object into your image.

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In this tutorial you’ll learn how to add a moon to your image, and use luminance blending to realistically blend the object into your image. We’ll even be able to move the clouds in front of the moon!

This tutorial can also be used to place any other type of object in your image. For example you could place a sun, bird, tree, etc.

Watch the video

The Steps

Quick steps for advanced Photoshop users

  1. Place your moon image to your destination image.
  2. Adjust the “This Layer” slider in the Layer Style dialog box to mask out the background around the moon.
  3. Adjust the “Underlying Layer” slider in the Layer Style dialog box to bring the clouds in front of the moon.

Place the moon image in your destination image

In Photoshop, open the image you want to place the moon into.

Click on File > Place, and select your moon image. Click on “Place” to add your moon image as a new layer in your destination document. Press the Return key (PC: Enter) to accept your changes.

Move the moon to a suitable location

Press and release the “V” key to select the Move tool and drag the moon to a location that suits you.

Moving the moon to a suitable location
Moving the moon to a suitable location

If your moon image has a dark background like mine, you could probably change the blend mode for the layer to Lighten or Screen to remove the dark background surrounding the moon.

Conversely if your moon has a light background, you could probably change the blend mode of the layer to Multiply or Darken to remove the light background surrounding the moon.

I want to show you how to use luminance blending, so for the sake of this tutorial leave the blend mode set to normal. For detailed information on Photoshop Blend Modes, read “Photoshop Blend Modes Explained.”

Mask the moon’s background using luminance blending

Open the Layer Style dialog box by double-clicking on the moon layer—click anywhere to the right of the layer name (don’t double-click on the name).

Double-click the layer to open the layer styles dialog box
Double-click the layer to open the layer styles dialog box

If your moon image has a dark background like mine, drag the left slider in the “This Layer” section to the right until the background disappears. Don’t move the slider too far—stop dragging as soon as the background disappears.

If your moon has a light colored background, you would drag the right slider to the left.

Dragging the “This Layer” slider
Dragging the “This Layer” slider
If the changes you’re making in the Layer Style dialog box aren’t being displayed on the screen, be sure the “Preview” box is selected.

In the illustration above you can see that I moved the slider to the right, and the value for this slider has changed to 30. This tells Photoshop that for the current layer, luminance values of 30 or lower should be masked-out and be transparent.

Fine-tune luminance blending

While still in the Layer Style dialog box, press and hold the Command key (PC: Control) and click on your image to zoom in.

You’ll probably notice some artifacts around the perimeter of your moon.

Artifacts remain around the object
Artifacts remain around the object

To remove these artifacts, Option+Click (PC: Alt+Click) and drag the right half of the slider you just moved—drag the slider to the right. This effectively splits the slider into two pieces. Continue to drag this half of the slider to the right until the artifacts disappear, and click on OK to accept your changes.

Splitting the Luminance Slider in “This Layer” section
Splitting the Luminance Slider in “This Layer” section

In the illustration above you can see that I moved the right half of the slider to the right, and the value for this slider has changed to 109. This tells Photoshop that for the current layer, luminance values between 90 and 109 should gradually be transitioned from transparent to opaque for a smoother effect.

It’s important you understand why these sliders give you these results. I want to keep this article simple & short, so I recommend you read my chapter on “Luminance Blending.”

View the entire image

Zoom out a bit to see the entire image.

To zoom out, press and release the “Z” key, and hold the Alt key (PC: Option) while you click on your image.

Re-size the moon

I need to make the moon smaller because it’s looking too large for the scene that I’m working with.

To re-size the moon, select the moon layer and use the keyboard shortcut Command+T (PC: Control+T) to open the Free Transform tool.

Re-size the moon by holding the Shift key while dragging one of the corners. When the moon is about the right size, release the Shift key and mouse button, and press the Return key (PC: Enter) to accept your changes.

Resizing the moon with the Free Transform Tool
Resizing the moon with the Free Transform Tool
It’s important you hold the Shift key while you re-size the moon to maintain the aspect ratio!

Move the clouds in front of the moon

The image I’m working with has clouds in it, and the moon looks artificial because it’s in front of the clouds; some of the clouds should be floating in front of the moon. We’ll use luminance blending again to move the clouds in front of the moon.

Open the Layer Style dialog box again by double-clicking on the moon layer—click anywhere to the right of the layer name (don’t double-click on the name).

If your clouds are darker than the moon, drag the left slider in the “Underlying Layer” section to the right until you start to see some of the clouds appear on top of the moon.

If your clouds are lighter than the moon, drag the right slider in the “Underlying Layer” section to the left until you start to see some of the clouds appear on top of the moon.

Adjusting the Underlying Layer slider
Adjusting the Underlying Layer slider

In the illustration above, you can see that I moved the left “Underlying Layer” slider to the right, and the value for this slider has changed to 90. This tells Photoshop that for the layers below the current layer, luminance values of 90 or lower should punch-through the current layer, and become opaque.

Fine-tune blending the clouds

Option+Click (PC: Alt+Click) and drag the right half of the slider you just moved to the right. This effectively splits the slider into two pieces. Continue to drag this half of the slider to the right until you get the effect you’re looking for, and click on OK to accept your changes.

Splitting the Luminance Slider in the “Underlying Layer” section
Splitting the Luminance Slider in the “Underlying Layer” section

Reposition the moon

Tap the “V” key to select the move tool, and drag the moon around in your image until you’re satisfied with its location.

If the clouds don’t look quite right after moving the moon around, re-open the Layer Style dialog box and readjust the settings in the Underlying Layer section.

Layer Styles changes are parametric—you can always revisit your changes in the Layer Style dialog box and modify them.


Knowing how to use the Photoshop blending options effectively can open a world of possibilities for you. I think you’ll find these options invaluable when you need to add a creative touch to your images.

The final image with the moon

The final image with the moon
The final image with the moon

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Adding a Mirror Reflection Effect http://photoblogstop.com/photoshop/adding-a-mirror-reflection-effect http://photoblogstop.com/photoshop/adding-a-mirror-reflection-effect#comments Wed, 22 Aug 2012 19:19:44 +0000 http://photoblogstop.com/?p=1806 In this tutorial you’ll learn how to add a mirror-like reflection to the bottom of your images. This is an easy to apply effect that can add some extra dimensionality and character to your images.

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In this tutorial you’ll learn how to add a mirror-like reflection to the bottom of your images. This is an easy to apply effect that can add some extra dimensionality and character to your images.

Watch the video

The steps

Duplicate the Background layer

Duplicate (jump) the Background layer by right-clicking on the layer thumbnail and selecting “Duplicate Layer.” Another way to jump a layer is to select the layer and use the keyboard combination Cmd+J (PC: Ctrl+J).

Jumping the layer.
Jumping the layer.

Once the layer is jumped you’ll see two layers in the Layers panel.

Duplicate layer.
Duplicate layer.

Flip the image

With the new layer selected, right-click on the image and select “Free Transform.” You could also use the keyboard shortcut Cmd+T (PC: Ctrl+T).

Selecting the Free Transform option.
Selecting the Free Transform option.

Right-click on the image and select “Flip Vertical.” Press the Return key to accept the change.

Flipping the image.
Flipping the image.
The flipped layer.
The flipped layer.

Zoom out to make room for the mirror effect

Zoom out to give yourself room to add the mirror effect. Press and release the “Z” key, and hold down on the Option key (PC: Alt) while clicking on the image. Zoom out to the point where your image fills about half of your Photoshop window.

Zoom out of the image.
Zoom out of the image.

Increase the canvas size to accommodate the mirrored effect

Increase the canvas size by about 30% to make room for the mirror effect. Use the keyboard combination Cmd+Option+C (PC: Ctrl+Alt+C) to open the Canvas Size dialog box. Select “Percent” and enter 30. Select the “Relative” check box, and click in the top middle box in the grid—this tells Photoshop to extend the canvas downward. Set the “Canvas extension color” to black.

Extending the canvas size.
Extending the canvas size.

Select “OK” to accept your changes. You should see the canvas has extended downward, and the canvas color should be black.

The extended canvas.
The extended canvas.

Move the flipped layer downward

Confirm the flipped layer is active by clicking once on it in the layers pallet. A white border will appear around the image’s thumbnail when it’s selected.

Selecting the layer thumbnail.
Selecting the layer thumbnail.

To move the flipped layer downward press the “V” key once to select the “Move” tool. Click and hold on the image while you drag downward. Drag the image downward to the point where the flipped image is below the normal image, but leave a small gap (apx. 4px) between the two images—as you’ll see later, this will give us a thin line between the image and the mirror effect.

Hold the Shift key down while you drag—this will maintain the image’s horizontal alignment when you release the mouse button.
Moving the image downward.
Moving the image downward.

Add a layer mask

Add a black layer mask to the layer you just moved downward. With the layer still selected, Option+Click (PC: Alt+Click) on the “Add layer mask” icon.

The Add layer mask icon.
The Add layer mask icon.

A black layer mask will be added to the layer.

Layer mask thumbnail.
Layer mask thumbnail.

Add a linear gradient to the mask

Select the layer mask by clicking on it once—a white border will appear around the mask thumbnail.

Selecting the layer mask thumbnail.
Selecting the layer mask thumbnail.

Add a “Foreground to Transparent” linear gradient to the layer mask. Press the “G” key to select the Gradient tool, and click the “Linear Gradient” icon to select a linear gradient. If the current gradient isn’t already set to “Foreground to Transparent,” click the drop-down arrow in the gradient selection window and select it. Also confirm the Mode, Opacity, Reverse, Dither, and Transparency options match those shown in the illustration.

Gradient options.
Gradient options.

Create the gradient by dragging downward from an area a little above the black canvas to a location a little before the bottom of the end of the black canvas. Try to make both the starting and ending points of the gradient equidistant in relation to the black canvas. It may take a few tries before you get the gradient you’re looking for. If the gradient doesn’t look right use Cmd+Z (PC: Ctrl+Z) to undo your changes and try again, this time changing the starting and ending points for the gradient. I also find it helpful to hold the Shift key while you drag out your gradient. This will constrain your dragging motion to a confined angle.

Dragging out the gradient.
Dragging out the gradient.

Apply a Gaussian Blur

Select the flipped layer’s image thumbnail (not the mask).

Selecting the flipped image layer thumbnail.
Selecting the flipped image layer thumbnail.

Press the Shift+F7 key, or select Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur.

Selecting the Gaussian Blur filter.
Selecting the Gaussian Blur filter.

Set the radius to 20px, and click on OK to apply the Gaussian Blur.

Applying a 20px Gaussian Blur.
Applying a 20px Gaussian Blur.

The final image with the reflection effect

Final image with the mirror effect.
Final image with the mirror effect.

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HDR Images taken in the Sierra, Spring 2012 http://photoblogstop.com/galleries/hdr-images-taken-in-the-sierras-spring-2012 http://photoblogstop.com/galleries/hdr-images-taken-in-the-sierras-spring-2012#comments Fri, 10 Aug 2012 22:47:07 +0000 http://photoblogstop.com/?p=1427 HDR images from my trip to the Sierras in the spring of 2012.

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[See image gallery at photoblogstop.com]

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HDR and Multiple Image Panorama Processing http://photoblogstop.com/photoshop/hdr-and-multiple-image-panorama-processing http://photoblogstop.com/photoshop/hdr-and-multiple-image-panorama-processing#comments Sun, 22 Jul 2012 18:58:09 +0000 http://photoblogstop.com/?p=1080 Processing a series of images for HDR requires a variety of steps, and processing multiple images for a panorama requires another of set of steps. So how do you create a multiple image panorama that was also shot for HDR processing? In this tutorial I’ll discuss how to accomplish this using Lightroom, Photoshop, and Nik Software’s HDR Efex Pro 2.

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Processing a series of images for HDR requires a variety of steps, and processing multiple images for a panorama requires another of set of steps. So how do you create a multiple image panorama that was also shot for HDR processing? In this tutorial I’ll discuss how to accomplish this using Lightroom, Photoshop, and Nik Software’s HDR Efex Pro 2.

Capturing images for the HDR panorama

The image shown below is one of the finished HDR panoramas I created. The panorama was built using 14 images that were stitched together in Photoshop. That’s a lot of images to stitch together, but this is primarily the result of my shooting in portrait mode (as opposed to landscape). But wait, there’s more! Each of these 14 images/quadrants were also captured using 5 different exposures for HDR processing. That’s a total of 70 images and a lot of post processing to do!

The final HDR panorama.

Sierra HDR panorama
The full HDR panorama

The steps

Quick steps for advanced Photoshop users

  1. Create one panorama for each of the exposure values shot.
  2. Create an HDR image using each of the panoramas.

Create the panoramas

First create the panoramas—the HDR processing will come later once all the panoramas are created. Create one panorama for each of the exposure levels you shot.

For example I took 5 exposures of each of the 14 images that will make up the panorama, and the exposures were bracketed at -1.3EV, -0.7EV, 0EV, +0.7EV, +1.3EV. I first stitched together all of the -1.3ev images into one panorama, and then all of the -0.7EV images into another panorama, etc. The end result was 5 panoramas that differed in 2/3 stop increments.

I recommend you make any post-processing image adjustments after your images have been stitched into the final panorama. If you need to make adjustments prior to stitching, be sure to apply the same adjustments to all of the images that will comprise the final panorama.

To create the panoramas, select the series of images (for a given EV) in your application and use one the following menu options to merge them into a panorama:

  • Adobe Photoshop Lightroom: Photo > Edit In > Merge to Panorama in Photoshop…
  • Adobe Bridge: Tools > Photoshop > Photomerge…

If you’re doing this directly in Photoshop you would use File > Automate > Photomerge, and then select the images.

Lightroom's "Merge to Panorama in Photoshop" option
Lightroom’s “Merge to Panorama in Photoshop” option

Regardless of which of the above applications you use, the Photomerge dialog box should appear. For the above image I selected the “Spherical” method, but you may need to use a different method depending your image.

I recommend doing some tests with the various Photomerge methods to determine which method works best for your image.

Photoshop's Photomerge Dialog Box
Photoshop’s Photomerge Dialog Box

Creating the final HDR image

I’ll be using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and Nik Software’s HDR Efex Pro 2 in this example.

If you’re following along using a different application, you should be aware that HDR Efex Pro (version 1), Photoshop, and Adobe Bridge will require all of the panoramas be the same size (dimensions). If you’re using one of these applications and your panoramas aren’t exactly the same size, you’ll need re-size the images before you do the HDR processing. You can do this in Photoshop by opening each image and increasing the Canvas size (not the image size). Document the size of each of your panoramas, and pick a new canvas size that is larger in width and height than any of your images. Don’t worry about making the new canvas size too large—you can always crop it later.

Select your 5 panorama images in Lightroom, right-click on one of them, and select Export > HDR Efex Pro 2.

Selecting Panoramas in Lightroom for HDR Processing
Selecting Panoramas in Lightroom for HDR Processing

HDR Efex Pro 2 will launch and the following Merge Dialog box will appear.

HDR Efex Pro 2 Merge Dialog box
HDR Efex Pro 2 Merge Dialog box

If your images aren’t the same size you’ll see the following message in the upper left corner of the Merge Dialog box. HDR Efex Pro 2 will handle cropping the images for you—this is one of the new features in this version.

HDR Efex Pro 2 Auto Crop and Resize, and EV Selection
HDR Efex Pro 2 Auto Crop and Resize, and EV Selection

If you’re working with JPG images that have had the metadata stripped, they won’t contain the original exposure information, so you you’ll also have to tell HDR Efex Pro 2 what the original EV spacing was. For example if the original exposures were -1.3EV, -0.7EV, 0EV, +0.7EV, +1.3EV, you would select 2/3 spacing as shown below.

HDR Efex Pro 2 EV Spacing Selection
HDR Efex Pro 2 EV Spacing Selection

For this image I deselected the “Ghost Reduction” option. I did this because I knew it was a very still evening when the photos were taken, so the trees and bushes weren’t moving around. I also noticed that when the Ghost Reduction was enabled, I got some unwanted artifacts in the preview image. More often than not you would enable this option.

If you need to adjust the “Chromatic Aberration” or “Ghost Reduction” adjustments, there’s a very handy loupe function you can use. Just click on the small magnifying glass in the lower right of the preview image to enable it. You can then drag the loupe around the image, and it will automatically zoom in to the areas you want to inspect for chromatic aberration or ghost reduction.

For this image I left the “Alignment” option enabled, and the “Chromatic Aberration” setting enabled and set to the default settings.

Once you’ve set the options required for your image, click the “Create HDR” button to open the main HDR Efex Pro 2 window.

Most of the options in the main window are self-explanatory, especially for those of you that are familiar with other Nik Software applications and plugins. However I would like to explain the options in the Tone Compression section because this is the area that manages the HDR processing algorithms.

HDR Efex Pro 2 Main Window
HDR Efex Pro 2 Main Window

HDR Efex Pro 2 Tone Compression Options

Tone Compression Options
Tone Compression Moving this slider to the right will darken the highlights and lighten the shadows in the image. Moving the slider towards the left will have the opposite effect. When the slider is positioned at the far left (-100%), the image will look like a single image exposure.
Method Strength Controls the strength of the HDR Methods directly below the slider (Depth, Detail & Drama). Initially setting the Method Strength high (75-85%) helps you see the effects when the 3 HDR Methods are adjusted. Once you finish making your adjustments in the HDR Method section, you can return to the Method Strength slider to fine-tune the strength of the applied methods.
HDR Methods
Depth Add or subtracts the visual cues that give the image more dimension. This is done by accentuating the shadows and adjusting the contrast around objects. Setting the Depth to Off will give the image a flat dimensionless appearance.
Detail Adds or subtracts detail in the image. This setting ranges from a soft blurry effect (Soft) to a grungy effect (Grungy).
Drama Often used to add a unique style to the image. This setting is also found in Nik Software’s Snapseed application. The algorithm originally got its name from the way it would add “drama” to clouds.
HDR Efex Pro 2 Tone Compensation Explained
HDR Efex Pro 2 Tone Compensation Explained

Once you’re happy with the adjustments you made in the main window, you can save your settings as a “Custom” preset, or click on the “OK” button to save your changes and return to Lightroom. The new 16bit HDR TIFF file will automatically be imported into Lightroom.


Are you a fan of Smart Objects?

You have the option of creating a Smart Object if you access the “Merge to HDR Efex Pro 2” option from within Photoshop. Creating your HDR image as a Smart Object will allow you to reopen the HDR Efex Pro main window and readjust your HDR settings. I’m a huge fan of Smart Objects, and I nearly always use them. However one downside of working with Smart Objects is that the file size is always larger than a non-Smart Object (rasterized). Usually this isn’t a big deal, but in the case of this panorama, the resulting 32bit image (as a Smart Object) was 2GB in size!

Want to save the 32bit version of your file?

If you would like to save a 32bit version of your HDR file, start your HDR processing from within Photoshop (mentioned above). Just open Photoshop and select the “Merge to HDR Efex Pro 2” option from within Photoshop. When you get to the Merge dialog box be sure to select the “Smart Object” option. Once you’ve finished making your changes in the main HDR Efex Pro 2 window, and you’re back in Photoshop, the image will be in 32bit mode and the layer will be a Smart Object. To save as a 32bit file simply save the file as a TIFF, PSD or Large Document Format—the file will remain 32bit, and the layer will remain a Smart Object (be sure “Layers” is selected before you click on “Save”). If you prefer to save some disk space (and lose the option to re-edit your HDR settings), you can change the Smart Object layer to a rasterized layer by right-clicking on the layer and selecting the option “Rasterize Layer.”

Is processing all of these images worth the trouble?

You may ask yourself if processing all these images is worth the trouble. For myself I would say undeniably “Yes.” I love to shoot both HDR images and panoramas, and using this technique gives me the ultimate flexibility when creating high resolution and highly dynamic panoramas.

 

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Selective Focus in Photoshop—Painting in Focus or Blur http://photoblogstop.com/photoshop/selective-focus-in-photoshop-painting-in-focus-or-blur http://photoblogstop.com/photoshop/selective-focus-in-photoshop-painting-in-focus-or-blur#comments Sun, 06 May 2012 18:42:15 +0000 http://photoblogstop.com/?p=1035 Have you ever wished you could simply paint in or paint out the focus in your images? This tutorial will show you a very simple technique that will allow you to do just that; you’ll learn how to apply focus or blur to your images using the Brush tool in Photoshop CS6. Before we dig …

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Have you ever wished you could simply paint in or paint out the focus in your images? This tutorial will show you a very simple technique that will allow you to do just that; you’ll learn how to apply focus or blur to your images using the Brush tool in Photoshop CS6.

Before we dig in to this tutorial let me first mention that this technique isn’t intended for realistic control of the focus and bokeh in your images. Instead it’s a handy technique that you can use for creative focus. If you’re looking for precise control of the focus and bokeh in your images I recommend you look into onOne Software’s FocalPoint 2 software. FocalPoint 2 gives you accurate control of the focus your images and amongst other things, allows you to recreate the blur and depth of field from several popular lenses. If you want to take this technique to the next “advanced” level I recommend you download a 30 day trial of onOne Software’s Perfect Photo Suite 8 for evaluation.

Watch the video.

What you’ll need for this tutorial.

To begin you’ll need 2 images of the same subject. One of the images should be shot using a small aperture, which will give you a high depth of field—the majority of the image should be in focus. The other image should be shot using a large aperture, and the resulting image should have a minimal depth of field.

In this tutorial I’m using a couple of images of a rose from my garden. One image was shot at f/22 (Rose-1) and has a high depth of field. The other image was shot at f/5 (Rose-2) and has a reduced depth of field. Feel free to use these two images to follow along with this tutorial: Rose-1.jpg, Rose-2.jpg.

Rose-1 shot with small aperture.
Rose-1 shot with small aperture.
Rose-2 shot with large aperture.
Rose-2 shot with large aperture.

When capturing your own images for this technique you’ll want to use a tripod so the images align properly in Photoshop. If you didn’t use a tripod when capturing your images you can always use Photoshop’s Auto-Align feature. (See Controlling Depth of Field with Multiple Images for information on how to use this feature).

The steps

Open both images and place each on its own layer in a single document.

To start we’ll want to open each image into a single file, each with its own layer. Like most techniques in Photoshop there’s several ways to accomplish this, but for this example we’ll simply open each file in Photoshop, and then move one of them to the other using the “Duplicate Layer” option.

With both images open in Photoshop and the Rose-2 file active, right-click on the layer name and select the option “Duplicate Layer.”

Selecting the “Duplicate Layer” Option.
Selecting the “Duplicate Layer” Option.

In the new “Duplicate Layer” window select “Rose-1.jpg” in the “Destination” field.

Selecting the duplicate layer destination file.
Selecting the duplicate layer destination file.

While we’re in this dialog box let’s name this new layer “Rose-2” by typing “Rose-2” in the “As:” field. Click on “OK” to accept your changes, and Photoshop will copy the new layer to the Rose-1 file.

Set the destination layer name.
Set the destination layer name.

In Photoshop switch to the Rose-1 file and you’ll see that the new layer “Rose-2” has been added to the file.

New layer successfully added to the document.
New layer successfully added to the document.

Add a layer mask

Confirm the new “Rose-2” layer is selected by clicking on it once, and add a white layer mask to the layer by clicking on the “Add layer mask” icon.

Clicking the "Add layer mask" icon.
Clicking the “Add layer mask” icon.

A new layer mask will be added to the “Rose-2” layer. Click once on the new layer mask to confirm that it’s selected.

New layer mask successfully added to the layer.
New layer mask successfully added to the layer.

Paint in the focus or blur

Set the default foreground and background colors by hitting the “D” key. This will set the foreground color to white and the background color to black. Next hit the “X” key to reverse the two colors so the foreground color is changed to black.

Select the Brush tool by hitting the “B” key, select a soft brush of the appropriate size, and begin painting on the image in the locations you want to sharpen the focus. Be sure the brush blend mode is set to “Normal,” and the opacity is set appropriately (I use 90-100%).

Painting in the focus.
Painting in the focus.

If you painted in the focus in an area that you didn’t want to, you can paint the blur back in by reversing your foreground and background colors—just paint on the layer mask with a white brush. To paint the blur back in, hit the “X” key to reverse your color pallet and paint over the area that you want to remove the focus.

Review your work

When you’re done painting in the focus you can Shift+Click on the layer mask to disable the layer mask and see the “before” version of your image. This is a great way to see the results of your work. Shift+Click on the layer mask to re-enable it.

Disabling the layer mask.
Disabling the layer mask.

You can also Option+Click (Alt+Click in Windows) on the layer mask to display the layer mask and see where you applied your paint strokes. This can come in handy to see any areas that you might have missed with the brush. When the layer mask is displayed, you can also see the density of your paint strokes. You can Option+Click (Alt+Click in Windows) on the layer mask again to hide it and show the image again.

Displaying the layer mask.
Displaying the layer mask.

This technique can also be used to hide or show areas of your image. For example let’s say you have a couple of images of a group of people. In one image a person (let’s call him Joe) isn’t smiling, but everyone else is smiling. In the other image Joe is smiling, but some of the other people aren’t smiling. You could use this technique to hide the people that aren’t smiling, or show the people that are smiling, and end up with one image where everyone is smiling!

That’s it for this tutorial! As you can see, applying this technique is very easy, and it’s good technique to tuck away in your arsenal of Photoshop tricks. Feel free to leave comments and start a conversation!

The final image

The resulting image with some additional enhancements.
The resulting image with some additional enhancements.

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Landscape Photography—Shooting Multiple Image Panoramas http://photoblogstop.com/photography/landscape-photography-shooting-multiple-image-panoramas http://photoblogstop.com/photography/landscape-photography-shooting-multiple-image-panoramas#comments Sun, 18 Mar 2012 02:18:06 +0000 http://photoblogstop.com/?p=960 Shooting multiple image panoramas is fairly simple, but there are several techniques that will help you achieve the best results.

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Shooting multiple image panoramas is fairly simple, but there are several techniques that will help you achieve the best results.

Advantages of Multiple Image Panoramas

Some photographers capture panoramas as a single image using a wide angle lens, but I prefer to capture several images with a longer lens, and then stitch them together during post-processing.

Panoramas created from a series of images have the following benefits:

  • The panorama can be as wide as you want.
  • The panorama will have higher resolution and more detail.
  • Lens vignetting will often be minimized.
The full panorama
The full panorama

Shooting Tips

The most important rule to remember when shooting multiple image panoramas is to avoid letting your camera make any decisions for you—capture your images using as many manual settings as possible.

  • Overlap your frames by 1/3 (25% to 33%). The more overlap the better (within reason). When capturing the images pick a spot in the frame as a reference point to help you estimate your panning range.
  • Manually set your white balance.
  • Set Focus to manual.
  • Shoot in Manual Mode, or at the very least use Aperture Priority and lock the Exposure. Take several exposure readings for the range you will be photographing and use the average. Whatever settings you choose to use, use these settings for all photographs that will comprise the panorama.
  • Use the optimal f-stop. When selecting your exposure settings keep in mind you probably want a large depth of field (DOF) in your panoramas. You’ll also probably want the sharpest images you can get. If you’re using a camera with a full-frame sensor shoot around F/11, and on a cropped sensor shoot at F/8 or F/9 (generally speaking if you shoot with a cropped sensor camera at F/11 or more, the image will appear soft and it won’t be as sharp as it could be).
  • Re-shoot the panorama frames a few more times using different exposure values. For example re-shoot all frames again using -1/4 stop, and then again using +1/4 stop. Use your judgement when making these adjustments. If you have lots of time and your location was hard to reach, you might want to keep shooting the frames using a variety of settings to insure you’ve captured what you need.
  • Turn off Active D-Lighting on Nikon cameras, or Auto Lighting Optimizer on Canon cameras.
  • Use a tripod when possible.
  • Make sure the tripod is level. Rotate the tripod head and take various leveling measurements. You can also test the level of the camera once it’s on the tripod by placing a small level on the flash shoe.
  • Take photographs in both landscape and portrait camera positions. Portrait images can give you more leeway if you need to crop the top or bottom of the images—remember you are shooting a multiple image panorama, so you have a large horizontal panning range.
  • Use a Nodal Rail (sliding rail) if available to make sure your camera rotates around the “entrance pupil” (not necessarily the nodal point). For more info about the entrance pupil, which is otherwise known as the no-parallax point (NPP), read the article “Finding the No-Parallax Point” by John Houghton.
  • Shoot in RAW mode when possible.
  • Use a UV Haze filter.

It’s important to use as many manual settings as possible—you want all of the images that make up your panorama to be as consistent as possible.

Shooting in manual mode is very important when capturing photographs for a multiple image panorama. While the auto settings on modern cameras can be very sophisticated, they aren’t always consistent. For example you could take several photos of the same scene (all within one second) using an auto mode, and each photo could be slightly different because the camera decided to change the capture settings. This is why it’s important to use as many manual settings as possible—you want all of the images that make up your panorama to be as consistent as possible.

Post-Processing Tips

I recommend you make any post-processing image adjustments after your images have been stitched into the final panorama. If you need to make adjustments prior to stitching, be sure to apply the same adjustments to all of the images that will comprise the final panorama.

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Balancing Flash and Ambient Light http://photoblogstop.com/photography/balancing-flash-and-ambient-light http://photoblogstop.com/photography/balancing-flash-and-ambient-light#comments Sat, 17 Dec 2011 19:20:13 +0000 http://photoblogstop.com/?p=854 When you take photos of your subjects in front of a Christmas tree with your camera set to the “Auto” mode, the ambient light, and in particular the Christmas tree lights, never really get a chance to register on the camera’s sensor.

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The holiday season is now upon us, and this is the time our digital cameras usually get a good workout taking lots of photos of our friends and family. It’s also a great time to experiment with your camera and try some new techniques!

Lots of folks take photos of people standing in front of a Christmas tree, and why not? The shimmering ornaments and colorful lights glowing on the tree makes for a great background! Photos like this can look great, and have the potential of resulting in some memorable shots, but there’s some techniques you can use that will improve these types of shots, and that’s the topic of this article—balancing the ambient light from your Christmas tree lights with your digital camera’s flash.

This article pertains to capturing great photos of your subjects in front of a Christmas tree, but the same concepts also apply to any photography where you want to balance the flash and ambient lighting.

When you take photos of your subjects in front of a Christmas tree with your camera set to the “Auto” mode, the ambient light, and in particular the Christmas tree lights, never really get a chance to register on the camera’s sensor. Instead the light from the flash plays a dominant role in the photograph—the resulting image will have good exposure of the subjects, but barely visible Christmas tree lights. These types of photos could look much better if you could just balance the light from your flash with the light coming from the Christmas tree lights. In other words: less flash, and more tree lights.

Flash vs Ambient Light

To keep the flash from overpowering the lights on the Christmas tree and effectively drowning them out, you need to give the tree lights time to register on the camera’s sensor, and this “time” needs to be when the flash isn’t firing. This really isn’t hard to do when you think about it—flash is virtually instantaneous, especially when compared to the shutter speeds of a camera.To get a good photo of your subject in front of a Christmas tree, you just need to capture the ambient light from the tree lights when the flash isn’t firing, and then add a touch of “fill-flash” on your subjects. In general terms, this means you need to reduce the shutter speed on your camera and manage the output from your flash.

Generally speaking, the exposure for your subjects is from the flash, while the exposure for your background is from the ambient light.

When using TTL flash mode, which is a common flash mode for both point-and-shoot cameras and DSLRs, you can adjust the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO to control how the ambient light registers, and the flash settings won’t be affected (within reason). When adjusting any of these settings to get the desired amount of ambient light, you would then manually adjust the flash exposure compensation to control the light from your flash.

Ways to increase the ambient light in your photograph

  • Use a slower shutter speed in Manual mode or Shutter-Priority mode
  • Use a smaller aperture in Manual mode or Aperture-Priority mode
  • To reduce motion blur or ghosting of your subjects in Aperture-Priority mode (because of a slow shutter speed), increase the ISO. This allows you to use a faster shutter speed while maintaining your aperture settings.
  • To increase the depth of field in Shutter-Priority mode, reduce the ISO. This allows you to use a smaller aperture (a larger f-stop number) while maintaining your shutter speed.

Point-and-Shoot Cameras

To balance the flash and ambient light when using a point-and-shoot digital camera, read your camera’s manual and see if it has a any built-in “Scene Modes.” If it does, look for a scene mode that’s related to night photography. For example, “Night Portrait” or “Night Landscape.” These pre-programmed “night” shooting modes are typically configured to automatically balance the flash and ambient light, and just might give you the results you’re looking for.

If you’ve tried using one of these “night” scene modes, and the tree lights still don’t stand out in the final image, look in your camera’s manual for any other mode that can slow down your shutter speed. For example, the Canon A560 has a function called “Slow Synchro” that claims to adjust the flash timing to slow shutter speeds. Keep in mind that when you slow down your shutter, you stand a chance of getting blurred subjects if they move during the shot. Another option for some point-and-shoot cameras is “Manual” mode. If your camera has a manual mode, look for a way to either slow down the shutter, or reduce the size of your aperture (use a larger f-stop number).

The images below were taken with a Canon A560 point-and-shoot digital camera.

Canon A560 Point-and-Shoot Camera using Slow-Synchro Mode - Good Ambient Lighting
Canon A560 Point-and-Shoot Camera using Slow-Synchro Mode – Good Ambient Lighting
Canon A560 Point-and-Shoot Camera using Auto Mode - Poor Ambient Lighting
Canon A560 Point-and-Shoot Camera using Auto Mode – Poor Ambient Lighting

DSLR Cameras

DSLR cameras generally have more options than the average point-and-shoot camera, and ultimately give you more flexibility for balancing the flash and ambient light.

Some camera models also have “slow” flash sync modes that can be used to capture a balanced exposure of both the subject and background ambient light. For example, the Nikon D700 has the following flash sync modes that, when used in “Programmed Auto” or “Aperture Priority” modes, capture a balanced exposure of both the subject and the ambient light:

  • Slow sync
  • Slow rear-curtain sync

As mentioned above, these flash sync modes can be used to capture both the subject and background ambient light. The primary difference between the two modes is that in “slow sync” mode the flash fires when the shutter first opens, and in “slow rear-curtain sync” mode the flash fires just before the shutter closes. These flash sync modes have uses other than just balancing flash and ambient light, but that’s a story for another day and another blog post.

As long as the shutter is open during a period of time when the flash isn’t firing, the Christmas tree lights will get a chance to register their light information on the camera’s sensor.

Regardless of when the flash fires—when the shutter opens, or just before it closes—either of these modes will work for balancing flash and ambient light (there are however pros and cons for each—see the Tips section below). As long as the shutter is open during a period of time when the flash isn’t firing, the Christmas tree lights will get a chance to register their light information on the camera’s sensor. The term for this is “Dragging the Shutter.” Although this term isn’t used much these days, the concept is still valid.

“Dragging the Shutter” is a term used to describe the technique of using a slow enough shutter speed to allow a measure of ambient light to register when using flash.

If your DSLR doesn’t have these “slow” flash sync modes or something similar, read your camera’s manual and look for any modes or functions that will enable you to reduce your shutter speed while maintaining some level of automated exposure. If your camera doesn’t have any of these built-in functions, I’m confident that it does have a “Manual” mode, and this is the mode will give you complete creative control over your scene. Just remember that the goal is to “drag the shutter” and extended the time that the shutter is open so the ambient light from the Christmas tree can register on the camera’s sensor.

The images below were taken with a Nikon D700 DSLR camera.

Good Ambient Lighting: Aperture Priority, F/1.4, 1/160s, Slow Rear-Curtain Sync, ISO 1000, i-TTL -3EV
Good Ambient Lighting: Aperture Priority, F/1.4, 1/160s, Slow Rear-Curtain Sync, ISO 1000, i-TTL -3EV
Poor Ambient Lighting: Programmed Auto, F/5, 1/60s, Front Curtain (normal) Sync, ISO 1000, i-TTL -0EV (not exactly terrible though, thanks to Nikon's i-TTL balanced fill-flash)
Poor Ambient Lighting: Programmed Auto, F/5, 1/60s, Front Curtain (normal) Sync, ISO 1000, i-TTL -0EV (not exactly terrible though, thanks to Nikon’s i-TTL balanced fill-flash)

The Pros & Cons of Using “Slow Rear-Curtain Sync” vs “Slow Sync”

  • When using “slow rear-curtain sync” and TTL flash, people often blink when they see the first flash of light. This first flash is the monitor pre-flash that’s used for metering the flash. Because of this pre-flash, you often capture people blinking during the actual exposure of the shot.
  • When using “slow sync,” people often think the photo has been taken once they see the initial flash, and then they begin moving around while the ambient light is still being captured. This can be the cause of ghosting or motion blur. Fortunately the likeliness of this happening can be minimized simply by increasing the ISO, which in turn allows you to use a faster shutter speed.

Because both of these modes can have their drawbacks, some photographers prefer to shoot these types of scenes in manual flash mode. This sidesteps the monitor pre-flash problem and the ghosting problem when using a sufficient shutter speed.


Flash Mode Trivia

  • “Front curtain sync,” otherwise known as “first curtain sync,” is the term used for when the flash fires when the shutter first opens. This is the normal flash mode used on virtually all cameras.
  • “Rear-curtain sync,” otherwise known as “second curtain sync,” is when the flash fires just before the shutter closes.
  • “Slow rear-curtain sync” is similar  to “rear-curtain sync” with the exception that it “drags the shutter.”

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Creating a Decorative Photo Frame in Photoshop http://photoblogstop.com/photoshop/creating-a-decorative-photo-frame-in-photoshop http://photoblogstop.com/photoshop/creating-a-decorative-photo-frame-in-photoshop#comments Sun, 12 Jun 2011 14:43:34 +0000 http://photoblogstop.com/?p=791 In this tutorial I’ll be showing you how to create a decorative frame around your images using a vector mask. This technique can be especially handy because you can use the same decorative frame on several different images with just a few clicks of the mouse.

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In this tutorial I’ll be showing you how to create a decorative frame around your images using a vector mask. This technique can be especially handy because you can use the same decorative frame on several different images with just a few clicks of the mouse.

This technique can be accomplished using either a standard layer mask (pixel-based) or a vector mask (paths and points-based). I’ll be using a vector mask in this tutorial because it offers additional flexibility, such as the ability modify the mask’s size and shape without degrading the quality of the mask.

Watch the Video

The steps

Quick steps for advanced Photoshop users

  1. Convert the image to a Smart Object
  2. Use a Shape Layer tool to draw the shape of the frame
  3. Place the image at the top of the layer stack (above the vector mask layer)
  4. Create a Clipping Mask, clipping the image layer to the vector layer
  5. Add new layer to bottom of the layer stack and fill with a pattern, or place a background image for the frame at the bottom of the layer stack
  6. Apply a Feather to the vector mask (optional)
  7. To reuse the frame on a new image, Right-Click on the Smart Object layer and select “Replace Contents”

Step 1

Open your image in Photoshop and convert it to a Smart Object by Right-Clicking on the Layer name and selecting “Convert to Smart Object.”

Selecting "Convert to Smart Object"
Selecting “Convert to Smart Object”

Once the layer has been converted into a Smart Object, you’ll see a small icon embedded in the layer’s thumbnail that indicates the object is a Smart Object.

The Smart Object Symbol
The Smart Object Symbol

Step 2

Create a vector mask by selecting the layer shape tool of your choice from the Shape Tools section of the Tools Panel. For this tutorial, I’ll select the Rounded Rectangle Tool.

Selecting Rounded Rectangle Shape tool
Selecting Rounded Rectangle Shape tool

Once the tool is selected, confirm the correct options are set up in the Options Bar—confirm the Shape Layers icon is active, and set the radius to suit your needs (the higher the number, the rounder the corners are). For the image used in this tutorial, I set the radius to 30 pixels.

Setting the Rounded Rectangle (Shape Layer) tool options
Setting the Rounded Rectangle (Shape Layer) tool options

With the Rounded Rectangle Tool, draw a rectangle over your image as shown below—don’t worry that the mask is covering up your image, we’ll fix that in a future step.

Drawing the rounded rectangle over your image
Drawing the rounded rectangle over your image

You can hold the space bar down while you drag-out your rectangle to reposition the rectangle on the screen.

Step 3

Center the Vector mask in your image. Use Cmd+A (PC: Ctrl+A) to “select all,” and then select the Move tool by hitting the “V” key. When you have the Move tool selected, you’ll see the alignment options at the top of the Options Bar.

Click on the “Align vertical centers” icon to vertically center the mask, and then click on the “Align horizontal center” icon to center the mask horizontally. Once everything is centered, deselect your selection by using Cmd+D (PC: Ctrl+D).

Using the alignment options
Using the alignment options

Step 4

Reverse the order of the layers—the layer mask layer needs to be below the Smart Object layer. You can move the layer mask layer to the bottom of the layer stack by either clicking and dragging the layer below the smart object layer, or you can select the layer mask layer, and then use the keyboard shortcut Shift+Cmd+[ (PC: Shift+Ctrl+[).

Step 5

Add a Clipping mask to “clip” the upper layer to the layer below it. Right-Click on (or near) the upper layer’s name and select the option “Create Clipping Mask” (as a shortcut, I prefer to Option-Click between the two layers when the double-circle appears).

Selecting the "Create Clipping Mask" option
Selecting the “Create Clipping Mask” option
Shortcut: Adding a Clipping Mask
Shortcut: Adding a Clipping Mask

We’re now ready to create our frame for the image! There’s lots of ways to create a decorative photo frame in Photoshop. In this tutorial I’ll show you two techniques—the first uses a Photoshop pattern, and the second uses a separate image.

Step 6a

Framing Option 1—Using a Photoshop Pattern for the frame:

Add a new layer to the bottom of the layer stack—click once on the bottom layer to select it, then Cmd+Click on the “Add a new Layer” icon (this shortcut will add a new layer directly below the currently selected layer, placing the new layer at the bottom of the layer stack).

Selecting the "Create a new layer" icon
Selecting the “Create a new layer” icon

Fill the bottom layer with a pattern by opening the Fill dialog box and select the pattern you want to use. To open the Fill dialog box, use the keyboard shortcut Shift+Delete (PC: Shift+Backspace), or select File > Fill from the upper menu.

In the Fill dialog box, select “Pattern” in the “Contents” section.

Selecting "Pattern" in the Fill dialog box
Selecting “Pattern” in the Fill dialog box

Click on the icon to the left of “Custom Pattern” to select a pattern to use. To view additional Photoshop patterns, click on the small arrow, and then select a group of patterns to load, e.g., Artist Surfaces, Nature Patterns, etc.

Clicking on the "Custom Pattern" icon (Red Arrow: additional patterns)
Clicking on the “Custom Pattern” icon (Red Arrow: additional patterns)

If you selected an additional group of patterns, a confirmation window appear. You can select either “Append” or “OK”—I typically choose “OK,” which will temporarily replace the existing patterns.

Click on “OK” in the Fill dialog box once you’ve selected the pattern you want to use.

If you don’t like the pattern you selected, you can use Shift+Cmd (PC: Shift+Ctrl) to reopen the Fill dialog box, and experiment with another pattern.

Once the bottom layer is filled with a pattern, apply a Feather to the Vector mask. To do this, click once on the vector mask to select it, and then click on the Masks tab. Drag the Feather slider to the right until you get the effect you’re looking for. For this image, I set the Feather to 20 pixels.

Adjusting the Feather
Adjusting the Feather

If you see the thin Rounded Rectangle line in your image, just click once in the layer stack on any area other than the Vector mask.

That’s it! You’ve just added a decorative frame to your image using a Vector mask!

Photo frame with Photoshop pattern.

Photo frame using Photoshop Pattern
Photo frame using Photoshop Pattern

Remember that you can reuse this frame on other images too. Just save the image as a Photoshop PSD file and use it as a template for your other images.

To use this photo frame template on a different image, Right-Click on (or near) the Smart Object layer name and select the “Replace Contents” option. Select the new image you want to use in the picture frame and click on “Place.” Note that this works best if the replacement image is the same (or close to the same) size as the original image.

Selecting the "Replace Contents" option
Selecting the “Replace Contents” option

A different image using the same photo frame.

A different image using the same photo frame
A different image using the same photo frame

You can change the size and shape of the Vector mask without degrading the quality of the mask—use the Free Transform tool (Cmd+T) (PC: Ctrl+T), or edit the anchor points of the shape’s path using either the Path or Direct Selection tools (otherwise known as the White or Black Arrow tools), or the Pen tools.

Step 6b

Framing Option 2—Using an Image for the frame

Select a background image that you would like to use for the decorative frame. If nothing comes to mind, check out deviantART’s website, it’s a great resource for finding free stock images, textures, etc (try to select an image that is close to the same size as the image you’re working on).

Once you’ve found an image to use, open it in Photoshop. Right-Click on (or near) the background layer name and select the “Duplicate Layer” option.

Selecting the "Duplicate Layer" option
Selecting the “Duplicate Layer” option

In the Duplicate Layer dialog box, click in the “Document” window and select the file that you’ve been using in this tutorial (the one you want to add the frame to). Click on “OK” to copy the background image.

The "Duplicate Layer" dialog box
The “Duplicate Layer” dialog box

Switch back to your original document and you should see the image you just copied in a new layer. If this new layer isn’t at the bottom of the layer stack, move it there by clicking and dragging the layer.

If the image you selected for the frame is smaller than the image you’re working on, you’ll need to re-size it so it extends all the way to the edges of your document (the canvas). To do so, turn off layer visibility for all layers except this new layer, by Option+Clicking (PC: Alt+Click) on the layer visibility icon for the new layer. Then use Cmd+T (PC: Ctrl+T) to select the Free Transform tool, and hold Shift+Option (PC: Shift+Alt) while you drag one of the corner handles of the Free Transform box until the image clearly extends to the edge of your image (you’ll want to stretch the image so it’s just a bit larger than the canvas size, and the checker-board pattern is totally obscured). Hit the “Return” key (PC: Enter) to accept your changes. Now turn on visibility for all layers by Option+Clicking on the layer visibility icon for the new layer once again.

A small background image being used for the background frame
A small background image being used for the background frame
Dragging the Free Transform control handles to re-size the image
Dragging the Free Transform control handles to re-size the image

Once the bottom layer is filled with your background image, you may want to apply a Feather to the Vector mask. To do this, click once on the vector mask to select it, and then click on the Masks tab. Drag the Feather slider to the right until you get the effect you’re looking for. For the image shown below, I thought it looked best without applying Feather—it’s entirely up to you!

Final Photo Frame

Final photo frame
Final photo frame

Bonus Tips

  • Try adding a Bevel and Emboss to the background image, and a Drop Shadow and Bevel and Emboss to the vector mask layer. Experiment with layer effects and have some fun!
  • If you’re looking for a software product that adds frames to your images, check out onOne Software’s Perfect Photo Suite 8. It’s full of useful features and has tons of built-in frames and effects.

Final image with layer effects

Final image with layer effects
Final image with layer effects

 

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Self Blending—Correcting Tones with Curves and Blend Modes http://photoblogstop.com/photoshop/self-blending-correcting-tones-with-curves-and-blend-modes http://photoblogstop.com/photoshop/self-blending-correcting-tones-with-curves-and-blend-modes#comments Sat, 28 May 2011 18:43:31 +0000 http://photoblogstop.com/?p=727 Here’s an easy way to control the tonality in your images using a technique called “Self Blending.”

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Here’s an easy way to control the tonality in your images using a technique called “Self Blending.”

One technique to darken or lighten an image is to jump the layer and change the [termlink tax=’tutorials’ term=’blend-mode’]blend mode[/termlink] of the new layer to “Screen” (to lighten it) or “Multiply” (to darken it). You could then add a layer mask and start painting on the mask to hide or show the areas that you want to make lighter or darker. While this is a quick and easy way to work, there’s another technique you could use that would achieve the same results, but keep your file size down and increase the number of adjustment options available to you—in other words, it’s a better way to work. The technique I’m referring to is called “Self Blending.”

In this tutorial I’ll be using the image shown below. Feel free to use this image, or use one of your own to follow along.

The original image
The original image

Watch the Video:

The steps

Brighten some of the darker areas in the image

Open the image in Photoshop and set the Image Mode to 16 bis by selecting Image | Mode | 16 Bits / Channel. Setting your image to 16 bits is optional, but I always work in 16 bit mode to minimize information loss.

In the Layers panel, click on the “Create new fill or adjustment layer” icon, and select “Curves…” to add a new Curves adjustment layer.

Selecting the Curves option
Selecting the Curves option

Change the blend mode

Next change the blend mode for this new layer to “Screen” by using the keyboard shortcut Shift+Option+S (PC: Shift+Alt+S), or select “Screen” from the menu in the Layers pallet.

If Shift+Option+S isn’t changing the blend mode they way it should, be sure you have one of the selection tools selected before using the shortcut. For example, hit “M” key to grab the Marquee tool, and then use Shift+Option+S. For additional information on using blend mode keyboard shortcuts, please see my article “Photoshop Blend Modes Explained.”

Changing the blend mode to Screen
Changing the blend mode to Screen

Self Blending

By applying a blend mode to the Curves adjustment layer, you’re basically creating a “placebo” or “dummy” layer, and the blend mode acts as if you are using the image on itself. In other words, the dummy layer is taking on the characteristics of the entire image, and the blend mode you select gets applied to itself (which is the entire image composition). This is the beauty of “self blending”—you can achieve this effect without having to duplicate the entire image (jumping the background layer), and as a result, keep your file size down.

Note that you don’t have to use a Curves adjustment layer to take advantage of self blending—you can use any of the options found in the “Create a new fill or adjustment layer” menu that you can “leave alone” and not make any adjustments to, provided the option doesn’t change the image. For example, the Exposure, Levels, Brightness/Contrast and Vibrance options would work fine as self blending layers because you can add them without having to change any of the adjustments, and they don’t change the image. Conversely, the Pattern or Gradient tools wouldn’t work as self blending layers because they would change the image.

Once you change the blend mode to “Screen,” you’ll notice that the entire image gets brighter. We want to selectively paint in our effect, so invert the white layer mask by using Cmd+i (PC: Ctrl+i).

If this keyboard shortcut doesn’t work for you, the layer mask probably isn’t selected—click once on the layer mask to select it and try inverting it again.

Once the layer mask is inverted, it will turn black, and the “Screen” blend mode effect will be completely hidden.

When working with Layer masks “Blacks Conceal and Whites Reveal.”

  • If you want to hide the effects of a layer, and selectively paint in the effect, fill the layer mask with Black and paint with White.
  • If you want to reveal the effects of a layer, and selectively paint out the effect, fill the layer mask with White and paint with Black.

To selectively paint in the brightening effect, select the Brush tool by hitting the “B” key, or select it from the Tools panel as shown below. Then hit “D” to load the default color pallets—this will set the foreground to color to white, and the background color to black.

Selecting the Brush Tool
Selecting the Brush Tool

Begin painting (with white) with a soft brush over the areas you think need to be brighter. If you’re following along with me using the supplied image, I painted over the shadows on both boys faces using moderate “Opacity” and “Flow” brush settings (50% for each).

If you make a mistake when painting, you can just hit “D” again to reverse the color pallets, and paint with black instead of white—this will paint the brightening effect back out again. Once you’ve corrected the mistake, hit “D” again to swap your pallet colors and continue to paint the brightening effect in.

Brush tool keyboard shortcuts

  • Brush Size: Use the “[” or “]” keys, or if you’re using CS4 or above on a Mac, you can hold Ctrl+Option while pressing the left mouse button and drag your mouse left or right (my favorite technique). If you’re using a PC, you can hold down the Alt key and press the right mouse button while you drag the mouse left or right.
  • Brush Hardness: Use “Shift+ [” or “Shift+]”, or if your using CS4 or above on a Mac, you can use the same keyboard shortcut for the brush size (Ctrl+Option), and drag your mouse up or down. If you’re using a PC, you can hold down the Shift+Alt keys, and press the right mouse button while you drag the mouse left of right.
  • Brush Opacity: Press a number between 0 and 9. For example, if you press the 1 key, you will set the brush opacity to 10%. If you press the 5 key, you will set the opacity to 50%, and if you press the 0 key, you will set the brush opacity to 100%.
  • Brush Flow: Press Shift+a number between 0 and 9. For example, if you press Shift+1, you will set the brush flow to 10%. If you press Shift+5, you will set the flow to 50%, and if you press Shift+0, you will set the brush flow to 100%.

Once you’ve painted the brightening effect in, you’ll want to apply a feather to your brush strokes to soften them. To do this, click on the “Masks” tab up in the Curves window. Then drag the “Feather” slider to the right to apply a mild feather (3px to 7px) to your brush strokes.

Selecting the Mask Panel
Selecting the Mask Panel
Adjusting the Feather Slider in the Masks Panel
Adjusting the Feather Slider in the Masks Panel

You may or may not see the impact of applying the feather to the brush strokes, but you can “show your mask” by Option+Clicking on the layer mask thumbnail (PC: Alt+Click). To hide the mask, Option+Click on it again.

Displaying the Layer Mask
Displaying the Layer Mask

For those of you that are the curious types (like me), you can also disable the Layer mask to see what the image would look like without it. To disable the Layer mask, Shift+Click on the layer mask thumbnail (you’ll see a big red “X” on top of the Layer mask). To re-enable the mask, just Shift+Click on it again.

Disabling the Layer Mask
Disabling the Layer Mask

Because we used the self blending technique on a Curves layer, and we didn’t take the “jump the layer” route, we now have the option of using any of the tools in the Curves dialog box, and as I mentioned earlier, the resulting file will also be smaller in size (especially if you’re working with PSD files).

Darken some of the areas in the image that are too bright

To darken some of the bright areas in the image, simply repeat the above procedure, but this time change the blend mode for the Curves layer to “Multiply” instead of “Screen.” After inverting the layer mask you would then be painting in a darkening effect.

Use the following steps to paint in a darkening effect:

  • Create a new Curves layer
  • Change the blend mode to “Multiply” (Shift+Option+M) (PC: Shift+Alt+M)
  • Invert the mask to hide the effect (Cmd+i) (PC: Ctrl+i)
  • Paint with a white brush to apply the darkening effect
  • Feather your brush strokes
  • Modify layer Opacity as needed

Other Tips

  • If you like the effect of a given layer, but want a stronger effect, you can “jump” the layer by selecting it and using the keyboard shortcut Cmd+J (PC: Ctrl+J). Note that this won’t significantly increase the file size because you’re jumping a Curves layer, and not the background layer. You can then adjust the Opacity back down if the effect is too strong.
  • Keep in mind that you have the option of using any of the other tools found in the Curves dialog box, as well as directly modifying the curve for any of the Curves adjustment layers on a composite RBG level, or individually for any of the 3 RGB color channels.
  • You can also place all of your adjustment layers into a new Group, and then adjust the Opacity of the Group (which will in turn change the Opacity of all of the layers collectively). To place your layers in a Group, Shift+Click on each layer you want to place in the Group, and then hit Cmd+G (PC: Ctrl+G).
  • You can also place a layer mask directly on the Group layer, and paint the effect in or out as needed.

Once you’re done adjusting the tones in the image, you may have several Curves adjustment layers. From the image below, you can see that I have jumped both the brightening and darkening layers (you can tell because the masks are the same), and I added a 5th Curves layer that is set to the Normal blend mode. On this layer I painted the perimeter of the image to darken it a bit, so the viewers eye is drawn towards the subjects. I also manually adjusted the curve to darken the border.

5 adjustment layers—the top having a manual curve adjustment
5 adjustment layers—the top having a manual curve adjustment

The before image

The original image
The original image

The after image

The final image
The final image

That wraps-up this tutorial on using self blending techniques to correct the tones in your image!

Please feel free to leave a comment or ask a question!

For an in-depth explanation about [termlink tax=’tutorials’ term=’blend-mode’]blend modes[/termlink] and the math used, read my article “Photoshop Blend Modes Explained.”

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Accurate White Balance Adjustments in Photoshop http://photoblogstop.com/photoshop/accurate-white-balance-adjustments-in-photoshop http://photoblogstop.com/photoshop/accurate-white-balance-adjustments-in-photoshop#comments Sun, 15 May 2011 18:22:55 +0000 http://photoblogstop.com/?p=694 Sometimes the white balance in your images is "right on," and other times it's miles off—don't worry, it happens to all of us, and it's easy to fix in Photoshop!

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Sometimes the white balance in your images is “right on,” and other times it’s miles off—don’t worry, it happens to all of us, and it’s easy to fix in Photoshop!

Before we dig in to this tutorial, let me first say that it’s always best to try to get your white balance correct in-camera. This results in less post-processing time, and it gives your images a head-start in the event you do need to make some white balance adjustments in post-processing.

These days, virtually all digital cameras have white balance settings. If you’re shooting outside on a sunny day, you would set your camera’s white balance setting to “sun,” and if you’re shooting outdoors on a cloudy day, you would set your digital camera’s white balance setting to “cloudy,” etc.

A lot of the higher-end digital camera also allow you to manually set custom white balance values. To take advantage of this option, you could use one of several devices such as a simple “gray card,” an ExpoDisc, or X-Rite Photo’s ColorChecker Passport.

This tutorial is for those “special times” when you either forgot to set the white balance setting on your camera, and/or you forgot to pack your ColorChecker Passport or other white balance tool in your camera bag before you left for the shoot. Like I said earlier, don’t be to hard on yourself…it happens to all of us, and the white balance can still be easily fixed in Photoshop.

To fix the white balance in Photoshop we’ll be locating and setting the black point, white point and gray point in an image. Each of the color point settings will reside on their own Curves adjustment layer, so you’ll be able to adjust the opacity of each individual layer separately for additional tweaking.

Watch the video

The steps

To begin, we’ll locate the black point in the sample image shown below. Feel free to use this image, or use one of your own to follow along with this tutorial.

Original Unmodified Image
Original Unmodified Image

Locate and set the black point

Open the image in Photoshop, and set the Image Mode to 16 bits by selecting Image | Mode | 16 Bits / Channel. Setting your image to 16 bits is optional, but I always work in 16 bit mode to minimize information loss.

Click on the “Create a new fill or adjustment layer” icon, and select “Threshold.”

Selecting the Threshold Option
Selecting the Threshold Option

In the Threshold dialog box, move the adjustment slider all the way to the left. Next, slowly drag the adjustment slider back to the right until black areas begin to appear in the image.

Threshold Dialog Box and Adjustment Slider
Threshold Dialog Box and Adjustment Slider

When some people apply this effect, they drag this slider to the right until just a few black dots appear on the screen—this is incorrect because these small black spots typically don’t contain any color information. For example, these black spots are equivalent to RGB 0,0,0—they aren’t actual blacks, they are just void of color, and as such, they are also lacking the color contamination that we are attempting to remove. For this reason, it’s important that you move the Threshold adjustment slider until you can see actual blacks.

So how can you tell when the actual blacks are showing? You can’t be 100% certain, but moving the adjustment slider to the right until you begin to see some “form” in the image is a good start. You can also temporarily turn off the visibility of the Threshold layer by clicking on the eyeball icon—this will reveal the original image, which should give you a good idea of where the blacks are in the image (be sure to turn the layer’s visibility back before you make further adjustments to the Threshold).

The Layer Visibility Icon
The Layer Visibility Icon

Once you’ve identified some blacks in the image, select the Color Sampler Tool. If you don’t see this tool, click and hold on the Eyedropper Tool, and in the resulting sub-menu, select the Color Sampler Tool. Using the Color Sampler Tool, click once in the area that you’ve determined to be black to set the Color Sampler point. If you happen to miss the spot you were trying to click on, you can drag the point you placed to the correct location by clicking and holding your mouse button down on the point while you drag.

Selecting the Color Sampler Tool
Selecting the Color Sampler Tool

It may be helpful to use the Zoom Tool to zoom in on the image to get a better idea of where you’re clicking. The easiest way to zoom in, is to press and hold the “Z” key while you click on the image with your mouse. To zoom out, press both the “Z” key and the Option key (PC: Alt) while you click.

The next step is to create a Curves layer that will contain this black point. Click on the Curves icon in the Adjustments panel, or use the main menu and select Layer | New Adjustment Layer | Curves.

Clicking on the Curves Adjustment Layer Icon
Clicking on the Curves Adjustment Layer Icon

Once the Curves adjustment layer has been added to the layer stack, delete the Threshold layer you created in the previous step by clicking once on the layer to highlight it, and hit the Delete key (PC: Backspace). Don’t omit this important step! Immediately after creating each of our 3 Curves layers, we will need to delete the Threshold layer created in the previous step.

After deleting the Threshold layer, make the upper layer active again by clicking once on it (the Curves layer).

In the Curves dialog box, you will see 3 eyedropper icons. From top to bottom, they represent the black point, the gray point, and the white point.

White Balance Sampling Eyedroppers
White Balance Sampling Eyedroppers

Because we are setting the black point in this step, click once on the black point eyedropper icon to select it. Next locate the Color Sampler point we created earlier and click once directly on it to set the black point. When you do this, you’ll probably notice that the curve shown in the Curves dialog box has changed to reflect the black point change.

It may be helpful to use the more accurate version of the selection tool when trying to precisely click on the Color Sampler point. To use this alternative version of the selection tool, simply turn on the Caps Lock key and you’ll see your cursor change. Note that this handy trick works with nearly all of the Photoshop selection tools.

Locate and set the white point

Click on the “Create a new fill or adjustment layer” icon, and select “Threshold.”

In the Threshold dialog box, move the adjustment slider all the way to the right, then slowly drag the slider back to the left until some white areas begin to appear.

Just like when we set the black point, it’s important that you have true whites appear on the screen. You don’t want the whites from a bright window in the background that may have the whites blown-out—these types of whites aren’t actual whites, and they won’t contain the color contamination that we are trying to remove. The same logic applies to specular highlights found in the catch-lights of eyes or the reflection in glassware—these aren’t true whites.

To help you find a location in the image that may have whites, you can reveal the original image by turning off the layer visibility of all layers except for the background layer. The easiest way to do this is to hold the Option key down (PC: Alt) while you click on the layer visibility eyeball on the background layer. When you’re ready to make further adjustments to the Threshold layer, Option+click (PC: Alt+Click) on the background’s eyeball again to make all layers visible again.

Once you’ve identified some whites in the image, use the Color Sampler Tool again to set another Color Sampler point. To add this Color Sampler point, click once in the area that you’ve determined to be white.

Next create a new Curves Layer by clicking on the Curves icon in the Adjustments panel, or use the main menu and select Layer | New Adjustment Layer | Curves. Once this new Curves Layer has been created, delete the Threshold layer you created in the previous step by clicking on the layer once to highlight it, and hit the Delete key (PC: Backspace).

After deleting the Threshold layer, make the upper layer active again by clicking once on it (the Curves layer).

Because we are setting the white point in this step, click once on the white point eyedropper icon in the Curves dialog box to select it. Next locate the white Color Sampler point we created earlier and click once directly on it to set the white point.

Locate and set the Gray point

Setting the gray point is similar to setting the black and white points as we did earlier, but there’s a couple of intermediate steps we need to make. Start by creating a new layer by either clicking on the new layer icon, or using the keyboard shortcut Shift+Cmd+N (PC: Shift+Ctrl+N).

Clicking the "Create a new layer icon"
Clicking the “Create a new layer icon”

Next open the fill dialog box by using the keyboard shortcut Shift+Delete (PC: Shift+Backspace), and select the option to fill this layer with 50% Gray and click on OK.

The Fill Dialog Box
The Fill Dialog Box

Once this new layer is filled with 50% gray, change the blend mode to Difference.

Selecting the Blend Mode option
Selecting the Blend Mode option
Selecting the Difference Blend Mode
Selecting the Difference Blend Mode

Add a new Threshold adjustment layer by clicking on the “Create a new fill or adjustment layer” icon, and selecting “Threshold.”

In the Threshold dialog box, move the adjustment slider all the way to the left. Next slowly drag the adjustment slider back to the right until gray areas begin to appear. There’s no need to be careful that you select actual grays—because the underlying layer is filled with 50% gray, and its blend mode is set to Difference, the only colors that will appear on the screen will be gray. Because of this, you can stop dragging the adjustment slider when just a few small gray spots appear.

Because the layer is filled with 50% gray, and the Difference blend mode is applied to this layer, only grays will appear when the Threshold slider is adjusted. You can verify this yourself by creating a new Photoshop document. Fill the background layer with black, and then add a new layer filled with 50% gray, and set this layer’s blend mode to Difference. When you do this, the only color you will see will be gray. For more information on Blend Modes and their mathematical formulas, read my article “Photoshop Blend Modes Explained.”

Once again use the Color Sampler Tool to set a Color Sampler point on the area that you’ve decided to use as your gray point.

Next create a new Curves Layer by clicking on the Curves icon in the Adjustments panel, or use the main menu and select Layer | New Adjustment Layer | Curves.

Once this new Curves Layer has been created, delete both the Threshold layer and the layer with the 50% fill that you created in the previous step by clicking once on the layers, and hitting the Delete key (PC: Backspace).

After deleting the Threshold and Fill layers, make the upper layer active again by clicking once on it (the Curves layer).

Because we are setting the gray point in this step, click once on the gray point eyedropper icon in the Curves dialog box to select it. Next locate the gray Color Sampler point we created earlier and click once directly on it to set the gray point.

  • Use Cmd+H to hide/show the Color Sampler points (PC: Ctrl+H)
  • Delete sample points by Option+Clicking on a sample point with the Color Sampler tool (PC: Alt+Click)

Below is an example of what the layer stack in Photoshop should look like. There should be 3 separate Curves layers, one for each of the white balance color points we set. If you want to make any further adjustments to the image, you have the option of adjusting the Opacity for any of the 3 Curves layers. I should also probably mention that it could be considered a “best practice” to name your layers for easy identification. While I do typically name my layers when working on more complex projects, it’s not really necessary for this procedure. After you’ve done this a few times, and you always apply the color sampler points in the same order, you just “know” which layer is which.

Example of the Final Photoshop Layer Stack
Example of the Final Photoshop Layer Stack

That’s it! You’ve just successfully corrected the white balance for your image!

Before

Original Unmodified Image
Original Unmodified Image

After

Final Image with White Balance Adjusted
Final Image with White Balance Adjusted

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