Viewing Photoshop

How to Black and White Your Photos for Higher Profits with Phillip Blume

Friday, September 2nd, 2016


How to Black and White Your Photos for Higher Profits with Phillip Blume


Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the September issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.


Do you see the world in black and white? No one does. So why does black-and-white photography stir up such an emotional response? No other technique or trend is its equal. Is our obsession purely nostalgic? Sure, the early history of photography was written in black and white due to technological constraints. Yet, even today, a century since we learned to capture color and decades since the advent of digital color spaces (CMYK, sRGB, AdobeRGB, ICC), black and white remains timeless. How can you use this to your advantage?


For any photographer who wants to create more impactful work, understanding black and white’s appeal is important: When and how should you use it? But for a professional photographer like myself, harnessing this genre’s appeal can also mean a significant increase in annual revenue.


So if you want to convert your black-and-white photography to green (or whatever color your national currency may be), read on. The first step is to shift our syntax. Let’s make black-and-white a verb.


Black-and-white is a verb.


It seems odd that simply draining the color from an image creates a new experience for the viewer. Yet it’s undeniable. It’s one thing to desaturate an image. It’s quite another to black-and-white it. When I use black-and-white as a verb, I have in mind a strategic, three-step process that communicates something to my client. The something I ultimately communicate is value.


Artists are communicators first and foremost. Let’s utilize this skill more in our businesses. An artist’s personal message is often provocative and must not be compromised. But as professionals as well, we have another important goal: to communicate something our clients will actually value and pay for. With that in mind, my process of black-and-whiting involves the following:


  1. Identify images whose value will increase in black and white.
  2. Convert images to black and white by a method that reflects our brand.
  3. Deliver black-and-white images via a method that protects our brand.


#1 Identify black-and-white images that define your brand.


To identify images whose value will increase in black and white, we first consider a shortlist of criteria that help reinforce our brand message. I’ll list those criteria below, but your criteria may be different because your brand is unique. Use our list as a model, but plan to adapt it.


In addition to our best-known signature brand, Blume Photography, my wife and I own a distinct associate brand, Eve & Ever Photography, which differs from our studio in several ways. I’ll mention a few of those differences later. But with Blume Photography, we’ve chosen to communicate a consistent brand message defined by certain words: luxury, fresh, fun and real.


So here’s our selection process. As soon as we receive our outsourced, color-corrected images from Evolve Edits, we scroll through the images in Adobe Lightroom looking for strong black-and-white candidates. We then apply our favorite black-and-white preset (visit to download our free custom “Blume B/W” preset) to approximately 5 percent of our images, but only to images that meet these criteria:


  1. Expresses a strong emotion. This usually relates to our subjects’ facial expressions—whether the expression is a bride’s wild laughter or her father’s contorted attempt to hold back tears before he walks her down the aisle. Because our brand highlights both “fun” and “real” emotions in a photojournalistic style, black and white allows us to intensify the viewer’s focus on these “brand values,” blocking out even the distractions of color and environment to clarify our message.
  2. Feels nostalgic. Like any skilled photographer, we’re constantly “chasing the light” during photo shoots and wedding days. Beyond natural light, though, our brand is built on the use of shapely off-camera lighting as well. The result for our brand is a portfolio of images that display the high-contrast feel of Old Hollywood. Because we want to communicate “luxury,” images lit this way are great candidates for black and white. The images stand out from the competition, and our clientele naturally make the association between this look and the historic value of old cinema. Basically, it visually reinforces the same message we speak to them again and again: Your images will be as important to your grandchildren as they are to you.
  3. Fails to meet our color quality controls. Sometimes black-and-whiting just comes down to hiding mistakes. We would never deliver an image that is out of focus, poorly lit or without meaning. But often you create great images in environments where you couldn’t control the ugly, mixed lighting. (You can gel only so many conflicting light sources on a run-and-gun wedding day.) In cases like these—even though our brand highlights “fresh” bright colors—black and white allows us to “mask” these mixed-tone messes that threaten to undermine the otherwise carefully curated, consistent tone of our brand.


In all, our black-and-white selection process takes only 15 minutes or so. But it plays a crucial role as one of many personal touches that give our finished work a recognizable style. Ultimately, it gives our couples the benefit of consistency and originality they expect when they invest in a higher-end photography experience.


#2 Convert images to reflect your brand.


Like every facet of your personal style, your method for converting images to black and white will develop with experience. I define “personal style,” which contributes to your overall brand, as habits you settle into after you experiment a lot and find what you like. At the same time, you want to be thoughtful about your techniques, not settle into poor habits out of laziness, which is a real temptation.


We developed our custom black-and-white conversion with minor tweaks over several years. It’s nothing magical, but it does enhance our brand by giving our images a beautiful film-like look that far surpasses a basic desaturation effect.


Instead of detailing our editing techniques here, we’ve decided to let you download our Blume Black-and-White preset as a free gift. If you use Lightroom, enjoy this. Use it “as is” if you like, but also take time to investigate our included edits—reverse-engineer how we create our signature mood and film-like look.


Download it now while it’s available at


#3 Deliver black-and-white images to protect your brand.


Contrary to popular belief, the quality of one’s photography is not usually the determining factor behind a successful photography businesses. Customer service and experience is. The way you present and deliver black-and-white images can add value to your service just as much as the steps you took to create them.


The options for presenting your finished images are countless. So, again, make certain your chosen method protects your brand. Consider these possibilities.


  1. Provide black-and-white originals only. By educating our clients early on (through literature and carefully scripted consultations), we earn a good deal of trust from them. Our couples view us as experts and have faith in our creative choices. This pays dividends when we ask couples to hike to a strange portrait location on their wedding day. It also helps in post-processing. For our Blume Photography brand, the black-and-white selections we make are delivered to the couple as black and white only. We do not include color versions of these photos; we believed these images to be better in black and white. So this is how they’re presented, both during our in-person ordering sessions and on the custom USB drive our couples receive.A knee-jerk reaction to business strategies like this—which limit options for clients—is to consider them drawbacks. In reality, high-end clients perceive higher value when they are served by an expert who asks them to make only the most necessary choice. Remember this: The more choices you leave to a customer, the more likely she is to retreat from a purchasing decision.


  1. Both color and black-and-white options. A more common option for delivering black and white is to provide your client both color and black-and-white versions of every photo. This assures your client does not convert your images on her own, in a style that may misrepresent your brand. On the other hand, it may create the impression that you simply pasted a common black-and-white filter to your images, that your black-and-white images are nothing special. So this may undermine your ability to educate your client about the time and care you put into editing, affecting the client experience. Still, this option isn’t a nonstarter. If your business plan is geared more toward speed and ease than luxury, it may be a successful option. Just pitch it right: that you go above and beyond to make sure your client has everything she needs to suit her preferences.


  1. Allow your client to choose. As mentioned above, our associate brand, Eve & Ever, is geared toward a slightly different clientele than Blume Photography. We seek to meet different needs and expectations. We’ve found the best way to deliver images to our associate clients is via ShootProof galleries, whose settings give us the option to put black-and-white editing in clients’ hands. This option essentially marries photo editing technology with our best online sales tool—and it guarantees our clients get black-and-white versions that look classy, while we remain hands-off.

I imagine a visitor to our planet would be shocked to learn that humanity sees beauty in photos stripped of their beautiful colors. But it’s for good reason that formal art programs initiate new photographers with an intro to black-and-white photography. Simplicity is foundational to art. It allows your artwork to say what you want it to say without distraction. Run your business the way you make your art (without distraction and true to brand), and success will follow.


Learn more and download the Blume Black-and-White preset as a free gift at


Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the September issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

Let There Be Light: Create Your Own Lighting in Photoshop with Dustin Lucas

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016


Let There Be Light: Create Your Own Lighting in Photoshop with Dustin Lucas

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the August issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

Photographers are constantly battling with light to capture an epic moment, especially when the sun is hiding behind clouds or is out of the frame, causing distracting glares across the client’s face. It can be a nuisance, but Photoshop can help create an epic scene, no matter where the sun is.

In this article, I demonstrate how to add light rays in an image to give you a more dramatic look that leaves your clients in awe. You may not be a fan of post-process lighting, but if the light happened naturally, you would take it in an instant. So who cares how you do it? Let’s look at some techniques for creating light rays and using brushes for efficiency.

Once you have processed the color correction and made some local adjustments, you are ready to set up your plan of attack for this new light. Remember that we need to use the direction of the natural light for this effect. It looks like it’s coming from the left-hand columns. This is important for creating a photorealistic effect.

Basic Light Rays

Create a new layer and name it Light Rays. Make sure you have the foreground color selected as white and the background as black. With the Light Rays layer selected, navigate to your top menu bar and click Filter < Render < Clouds and click Enter. (1) Your layer will fill with this filter effect. Now you need to adjust the threshold of this layer. In the menu bar, select Image < Adjustments < Threshold and click Enter. (2) No need to make any adjustments, just click the OK button. So far we have a patchy black-and-white layer that we need to create our directional light rays. (3)

We now need to add a blurring effect to this layer. Let’s use the radial blur tool. In the menu bar, select Filter < Blur < Radial Blur and change the settings accordingly. A good middle ground setting is 80 to 90. The blur method is key because it replicates the linear effect we want with light rays. Change this to Zoom, and the Blur Center preview changes accordingly. For quality, choose Best. We are now ready to examine our light source direction. (4) Since the lighting is coming from the left in the image, we can click in the center of the preview and drag the center radiating lines to the upper left corner. This gets us close to our ideal direction of light. (5) After clicking OK, we need to adjust the layer effects. (6)

Change your layer’s blending mode to Soft Light and begin adjusting the opacity and/or fill. (7) I have dropped the opacity down to 75% so there’s no distraction. Now we are ready to start masking out the unwanted areas and lessening the effect in others. (8) That was pretty simple, and we could make an action for this for increased efficiency. The only custom part is the direction of light; this can be easily done by recording all the steps and keeping the Radial Blur dialog box toggled on. (9) This allows all the steps leading up to the radial Blur to automate. You can change the direction of light, click OK, and the remainder applies.

Leading Lines With Light Rays

You may need a more customized lighting; you need to paint in specific strokes for this. Let’s look at how to get this more dialed-in artistic approach.

With our previous Light Rays layer turned off, create a new layer called Light Rays 2. Instead of adding a filter, I want to brush the light rays into the image. I will paint multiple dots in the image where the light rays need to be coming from and going to. First, choose a foreground color again; for a color image, choose something that matches your sunlight. This image is desaturated, so white will work fine.

Select your brush tool and open the brush settings panel. Currently we have single brush strokes set up with a soft edge. (10) We want to be able to vary the sizes of the dots, space them out accordingly and randomly scatter them as we drag the brush around. First, click on the Shape Dynamics settings and slide the Size Jitter to 100% and Minimum Diameter down to 0%. (11) Spacing will be an issue for the dots; we can change this with the Brush Tip Shape settings. Move the Spacing slider to around 70 and the Hardness to 40%. (12) Now, we need to check the Scattering option. Check Both Axes, move the Scatter slider to 1,000% and begin painting the area where you want the light rays to be. (13)

Your layer is now ready to have the Radial Blur applied at 100% to maximize the length of each ray of light. (14) If we zoom in, you will notice some grain. We can soften this again by striking Command and the “F” key. (15ab)

Selecting different layer blending modes greatly lowers the effect; leaving it at Normal works for this image. You can increase the effect by simply duplicating the layer; hold Option, Command and the “J” key. (16) This doubles the effect, allowing you to lower the opacity as needed. To move and change the size of this layer, hold Command and the “T” key. This allows us to maneuver the angle of the rays to be slightly more realistic and lead those lines right to the couple. (17)

Fine-Tune Your Lighting

Attention to detail is very important. I need to bring back some sharpness and tone into these hazy light rays. I can sharpen the light rays by selecting the layer and navigating to Filter < Sharpen < UnSharpen Mask. Set the amount between 150 and 200. The radius can stay at 1. (18) This provides some definition to the light rays. Now let’s get some of our dark tones back. Make a Levels adjustment layer and drag the left slider toward the edge of the histogram. (19) This effect can be added by duplicating the levels layer, or lessened by dropping opacity. Be aware that darkening effect is applied to the entire image, so mask out the areas the light ray does not affect. (20)

To create your own light rays, adjust brush opacity when painting. You may also adjust the scattering amount and build up your light rays rather than make a single one for the entire image. As you see, I should separate the light rays with the columns. (21ab) Lowering the radial blur amount helps, along with hardening your brush edges.

Final Results

Now that we have masked out the subject and brought back some definition, this image is starting to look much more dramatic. We could also turn on the two circular lamps to complement the light rays. Turning on the lights is very popular as well. I recommend you adjust the settings I have used, and play around with these tools.

Although this look is not for everyone, make it your own. That’s the point, after all. If you do try this out on your next edit, always follow the natural light direction and work on separate layers.

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the August issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

Photoshop Banding and How to fix it

Monday, May 16th, 2016


Photoshop Banding and How to fix it by Payton Hediger

Why am I seeing banding and what can I do?


The first and most important thing to understand is why banding is showing up in the image in the first place. Banding is showing up because of the bit depth of the image or lack of. In most cases your not going to see banding in 16 bit. However, most images are processed in 8 bit. This is the default setting for images inside of Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) and Lightroom. When shooting in a Raw format your camera probably isn’t capable of capturing your images in actual 16 bit but more than likely it’s between 10 and 14 bits.


Just to give a little perspective on what that means… When using a camera that can capture in 12 bit you expand your tonal range from 256 tones in 8 bit to just over 4000 and over 16000 for 14 bit. Ultimately your seeing over 65,000 tones with 16 bit!


When importing your images into Photoshop with ACR or Lightroom if you change your settings from the default 8 bit to 16 bit you’re not going to gain extra bits of information. The image will still only contain the original bit depth that your camera was able to capture. But the important thing to understand is that you’re not losing any information.


One thing that I should mention. Most displays can only output in 8 bit. This might sway you from utilizing 16 bit but consider this example. Say you’re working with a 10 bit image out of camera and you want to use a clear blue slight gradient sky. You export from ACR this image as 16 bit. Now the image itself won’t increase in bit depth because that information isn’t there and subsequently you may see banding already appearing in the image. However, if you replace the current sky with a gradient adjustment layer, for example, it will be in 16 bit (not exactly because Photoshop doesn’t actually utilize a true 16 bit depth but that’s a story for another time). Now you have a 16 bit sky in a 10 bit image and since this new sky can utilize the 16 bit tonal spectrum you’re less likely to see banding.


Well, you convinced me to switch, how do I export my files in 16 bit?


To change the export settings from Lightroom find your preferences (Edit for PC or Lightroom for Mac) then choose External Editing and you can change the Bit Depth from 8 bits to 16. In ACR The settings are at the bottom of the window in blue. Click on the blue text which opens the Workflow Options where you can change the Depth from 8 to 16 bits.

Lightroom Settings


ACR Settings



But how does this translate to why I’m seeing banding in my images?


In an 8 bit image there are only 256 tones to represent the entire image. This means that when you’re seeing banding in the gradients of your image each band is representative of one of those tones. Keep in mind that if the gradient was actually representative of all 256 tones from 0-255 in a small area that you’re probably not going to see banding. However, Banding does become apparent when there are say only 10 tones represented over a large area like a gradient sky. The bit depth of the image doesn’t contain enough information to bridge the tones that need to be there to represent a smooth transition between each band or tone.


So how do I get rid of it?


Banding is aptly named for the bands or stripes of color representative of the tone jumps from lack of bit depth. So to get rid of the banding you just have to break up the bands of color. Here are a couple easy ways to do this.


One of the oldest tricks in the book is to use noise to help reduce the banding issue. However, just using straight noise in my opinion looks terrible. Even in the noisiest images you never see sharp noise in natural photo. So what I like to do is add about .3 – .5 pts of Gaussian blur after I’ve applied noise. I feel like that helps bring back a little of the realism while still being able to break up the banding. As for how much noise to add to the image, that’s going to be a cross between what’s effective and personal taste. (Filter > Noise > Add Noise… > Enter amount, Gaussian, Monochromatic) (Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur… > Enter .3 – .5 pixel radius)


Another way to help deal with banding is to use the splatter technique. This technique is limited to only 8 bit images since it utilizes “Filter Gallery”. This works by breaking up the bands with a spatter texture. Like the noise technique, how much you use will depend on effectiveness and personal taste. (Filter > Filter Gallery… > Brush Strokes > Spatter)


The last technique and the one I use in the majority of my images is texture. Concrete and metal textures work great for breaking up banding. Apply the texture over the whole image, set it to the “Soft Light” blending mode and reduce the opacity as necessary.


Alrighty then, 16 bit EVERYTHING!


16 bit isn’t always the answer. The files are roughly double the size and they are going to run slower on your computer. There are also many other factors that could be affecting your images from the display, to color space or how the images is being edited. So, even in 16 bit you may still find banding and posterization issues periodically. But as someone despises destructive editing, utilizing a higher bit depth means having a much greater palette to work with.

Don’t Destroy Your Image in Photoshop—Dodge and Burn It! with Dustin Lucas

Sunday, May 1st, 2016


Don’t Destroy Your Image in Photoshop—Dodge and Burn It! with Dustin Lucas

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the May issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

Whether you cut your teeth in the analog film days or started with a DSLR, you have probably heard the term dodge and burn. I know what you are thinking: This is a dated technique, and Photoshop is way more capable of filling shadows and reducing highlights. Yes and no. Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom have great options for recovering these shadowy or bright tones, but selectively editing with layers is a huge advantage when working nondestructively.

It’s a simple concept: Edit your image without changing the original. Similar to the way Raw files are used in ACR and Lightroom, there is a sidecar metadata file created to save the changes. The Raw image is untouched and left as shot. For new Photoshop users, layers are your new best friend.

Now let’s open an image and get working.

Dodge & Burn Tool

After opening an image, you are ready to begin dodging and burning specific areas. Simply strike the “O” key and the dodge tool is in hand. Hold Shift and strike the “O” key to toggle the Burn tool as well. Hotkeys are a huge time saver. To get started, we need to choose which tones we want to affect by clicking the Range options and selecting Shadows, Midtones or Highlights. The term exposure relates to the intensity of the effect. It works similarly to the opacity setting of an adjustment layer. (1)

When painting this effect, it’s best to stay between 0 and 15. Remember with a Wacom tablet, this effect increases the longer you tap and drag the cursor over an area repeatedly. With a mouse, you have to click multiple times, which can be annoying. Keep in mind that we are manipulating the background layer. (2) This means we are destroying the original image. We need to build separate dodge and burn layers.

Start by creating a new layer. Hold Shift, Command and the “N” key. Name it “Dodge.” Change the blending mode to Overlay and check the box Fill with Overlay-neutral color (50% gray). (3) You can follow these same steps for your burn layer. You are now ready to nondestructively dodge and burn. Simply grab the tool according to which layer you have selected and start painting right on the image. If you decide that the effect is too heavy, lower the layer opacity. (4)

This technique is a little slow for my taste, having to toggle between two layers, two adjustment tools, three ranges of tones, exposure values 0 to 100, etc. Also, there isn’t a way to selectively fix your painted areas like you can with layer masks. This is a 50% gray filled layer, not as easy as toggling white and black as your foreground color to add or remove the effect.

Blending Mode Technique

Using blending modes can add some interesting effects to your images. We’ve previously used Overlay, which is considered a contrast mode. Other modes that affect brightness include Screen and Multiply. Changing the blend mode to Screen makes your image brighter and Multiply darkens. These two modes offer excellent ways to create dodge and burn layers. (5ab)

Start by duplicating your background layer two times, and name them “Dodge” and “Burn.” For your Dodge layer, change the blending mode to Screen to brighten the image. Next, hold Option or Alt and click on the Layer Mask button at the bottom of the layers palette. This turns off the effect for now. Select the Burn layer and change the blending mode to Multiply. You will notice that your image immediately gets darker. Hold Option or Alt and click the Layer Mask button to hide the effect.

Now you are ready to grab the Brush tool with white as your foreground color and paint on the effect. Make sure you have selected the layer mask, and lower your opacity to make sure everything blends well. (6) Soft brush edges are a must when you dodge and burn. Be aware of haloing around your subject. (7) We want to draw viewers to the subject, not force them to get stuck on the mistakes. It’s all about those little details.

Using Curves

You can do so much to an image using the Curves adjustment tool: brighten, darken, dull whites, flatten blacks, add contrast or white balance, etc. This is a great way to build your dodge and burn layers as well. Create a curves layer adjustment and drag the line upward for your dodging effect. (8) Again, hold Option or Alt and click the layer mask button. Do the same thing for the burn layer, but drag the curves line downward. (9)

The advantage of using curves as opposed to a 50% gray layer set to opacity, or duplicating image layers set to Screen or Multiply, is that you can fully adjust the tonal settings. On my burn layers, I tend to drag the white point down to dull the whites in the image. (10) This acts as a highlight recovery when I am burning down distracting hotspots. (11) When I need to dodge any clipped blacks in an image, I lift the black point so the area blends better with the surrounding tones. These areas are hard to recover with just brightening shadows, which is why I lift the black point. (12) That means I don’t have to dodge as much.

High Pass Filter

This filter is widely used when editing in Photoshop. It is more commonly associated with sharpening for output purposes. By contrast, it’s the blurring effect for frequency separation. For a quick dodge and burn effect that acts like an interesting contrast boost, start by holding Option or Alt, Command and the “J” key to duplicate your background layer. Desaturate your image by holding Shift, Command and the “U” key. Change the blending mode to Soft Light for a subtle effect or Vivid Light for more intensity. (13)

Now we are ready to apply the High Pass filter. From the menu bar, choose Filter < Other < High Pass. Let’s determine what the radius needs to be. As we increase the radius, the image begins to appear again; the typical range is 70 to 200. You can always select higher because we can lower the layer opacity if it’s too high. (14) Now create a layer mask. Hold Option or Alt and click the layer mask button in the layers palette. Also, if we select Soft Light as the blending mode, we can duplicate these High Pass layers and alter the opacities as well. This is a great technique to subtly build your image. (15)

The Results

As you see, there are many ways to attack dodging and burning. The simplest workflow is to create a blank layer with 50% gray checked and the blending mode set to Overlay. You can simply paint and toggle between white (which dodges) and black (which burns). This can be added to a basic retouch action set, and run on a batch of images when opening in Photoshop. Always work on separate layers and do not destroy your image.

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the May issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

Adding Cool Effects to Your Senior Portraits with Kristina Sherk

Tuesday, March 1st, 2016



Adding Cool Effects to Your Senior Portraits with Kristina Sherk


Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the March issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.


Senior portraits can provide one of the most lucrative and reliable forms of income. It’s also helpful that every year there’s a new crop that need their photos done. Thus, setting your images apart from the rest of the photographers in your market is essential. The more creative and unique your images are, the more sought after you’ll be.


While I do most of my facial retouching using my Lightroom portrait retouching brush MegaPack, there are a few other Lightroom tools to help you make your images stand out from the crowd.


Check out this senior portrait I did a few years ago. I want to pump it up and give it a cross-processed look.


Before we get started adding our effect, let’s decrease the image’s original color saturation, just slightly. This helps the effect that we add to shine out and not get muddied by the original colors in the image. I decreased my image’s saturation by –35.


One of the easiest ways to add an awesome look to your images is to use the split-toning window in Lightroom, one of the program’s most underused features.


As you can see from the screen grab below, I added a hue of 40 and a saturation of 59 to the highlights. Then I tweaked the balance between the highlights and shadows by dragging the balance slider to +22. This ensures that only the top 40% of the highlighted tones in the image receive the warmer color treatment.


The darkest 60% of the image will receive the bluish tint that I am adding to the shadow areas. I added a hue of 222 and brought the saturation up to 55.


I’m sure you’re thinking, “Yes, this looks nice, but I’ve seen that before.” But fear not, young Jedi. It’s a good thing I’m not finished yet. Let’s move on to our next step.


I want to add even more of a rad, color-toned look to this image, so we’re going to call on my next favorite tool, the gradient slider. But I’m not going to use it in the typical way you’ve seen this tool used in the past.


Let’s use it to add two color washes. The two gradients that we’re going to add will meet in the middle of the image to split it. So let’s get started adding a warm color overlay to the top portion of the image, and a cool color overlay to the bottom.


Our first step is to activate the gradient tool by clicking this button within your tools area (or simply tap the “M” key).


We need to change just two things. Increase the exposure to 0.40, and add a slight yellow tinge to the entire gradient using the color swatch box at the bottom of your gradient tool window.


To add a color overlay to your gradient, come down to the white box with the X in it at the bottom right of your gradient tool window and click on it.


You will be greeted with a lovely fly-out window with the color spectrum, a hue value in the lower left corner and a saturation slider in the lower right corner. Find a hue of 41 and increase the saturation to 14%.


Use the X in the upper left corner to close the box. Here’s what your overall settings should look like for your first gradient tool. See how the color box now has a slight yellow tinge to it?


Now it’s time to add this gradient to your image. Start at the top left corner of your image, and click and drag it down diagonally. Unclick in the absolute center of your shot. Your first gradient should look something like this.


Now, let’s create our second gradient. At the top of your gradient window, you have the option to create a new mask. Click the word New to create a second gradient.


Now, the only change we are going to make to this second gradient is to add another color overlay to it. Scroll down to the color box again and click on it. This time, we’ll add a hue of 211 and a saturation a 56%. Minimize the box just like before, and we’re ready to add our second gradient.


Next, just as we dragged the first gradient from the upper left-hand corner of the image into the middle, we’ll do the opposite for this gradient. Start by clicking in the bottom right-hand corner of the frame and dragging until we reach the absolute middle of the frame, once again. Here’s what this gradient should look like.


There’s one last step I’d like to add to make this image even snazzier. I’m going to add the illusion of lens flare. (You may have seen my YouTube video on this.)


Start by clicking on the adjustment brush icon (or simply hit the “K” key). The adjustment brush icon is located two tools to the right of the gradient tool in Lightroom.


Before we start with the actual adjustments, scroll down to the brush attributes and make sure your brush is extremely large. For this image, my brush size was 64 pixels. My feather, flow and density were all at 100. Oh, and make sure auto-mask is unchecked for this step.


Now, let’s scroll back up to change the effects of the brush. Take a look at the brush settings in the screen grab below and copy those same settings for your brush.


Lastly, I’ll take my big soft brush and paint the upper left corner of my frame. This will make the image look like there’s lens flare in it.


I’d be remiss if I didn’t remind you to save anything cool that you create in Lightroom as a preset. It’s an easy way to be able to recreate the awesome effects you make and apply them to new work down the line. One small warning, though: Presets do not record brush strokes, so if you want to create the lens flare look and add it to a preset, you can easily create the same look and feel you got using the adjustment brush by replacing it with a radial filter. You just use the same settings that I added to my Adjustment brush tool, but add them to the Radial Filter tool (Shift + M) instead.


I’m sitting here cooped up inside during the Blizzard of 2016, trying out my new Senior Portrait Cool Effect preset. I tried it out on another image from my recent Mermaid Portfolio Workshop trip to the Bahamas (shout-out to mermaid Ashley Soltis for her awesome underwater modeling/mermaid-ing). Here’s what I created with just one click using the preset I created of this effect.


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Google That Sh*t: Working with Nik Collection in Photoshop with Dustin Lucas

Tuesday, March 1st, 2016



Google That Sh*t: Working with Nik Collection in Photoshop with Dustin Lucas


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As a photographer and editor, it is always good to try out new plugin software to integrate into your workflow. I have been using the Nik software for what seems like forever. Silver Efex Pro has been my go-to effects plugin. After Google bought the software, I was worried it would become ancient history for Photoshop users.

The entire Nik Collection goes for $149. It’s a no-brainer. Google that shit and buy it right now. This includes Analog Efex Pro 2, Color Efex Pro 4, Dfine 2, HDR Efex Pro 2, Sharpener Pro 3: Raw Presharpener and Output Sharpener, Silver Efex Pro 4 and Viveza 2. You get all the programs Nik offers as well as full capabilities in Aperture, Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop.

Let’s skip Lightroom and move right into Photoshop.

Open an image in Photoshop. From the menu bar, choose Filter > Nik Collection to reveal all the plugins to choose from. They are listed in alphabetical order. Let’s discuss them in groups based on their functionality. Analog Efex Pro 2, HDR Efex Pro 2 and Viveza 2 are all about creative effects. Color and Silver Efex Pro 4 give you a huge advantage for your daily workflow and your creative edge. Last but not least, Dfine 2, Sharpener Pro 3: Raw Presharpener and Output Sharpener provide attention to detail.

Creative Effects

Analog Efex Pro 2 is exactly what it sounds like—and more. After opening this plugin, we are thrown right into the effects capabilities of this software. Classic Camera is the default preset applied, and we can cycle through the other options. Let’s take a step back and get a feel for the program before we get overwhelmed. To give you a little background in the structure of this software, it is made up of individual tools listed here. Customization is really useful here because there are a lot of effects that are not useful to a professional photographer.

Start with the camera section and select the arrow on the right to begin with a preset. We can remove and add tools to suit the image. For this image, the subjects are close to the edge and may become problematic when working with many of the older analog effects. Meaning the edges are usually soft and vignettes take effect. On the left panel, start with Classic Camera (looks like waist-level camera) and select Classic Camera 3.

On the right panel, you will notice specific tools have been added. Drop these tools down to tweak your image. To add tools to this panel, click back on Classic Camera at the top on the left-hand panel and select Camera Kit at the bottom. From here, you can hover over a tool and click the “+” symbol. Once you develop a solid tool collection, create a preset for later use. On the left-hand adjustment panel, select “+” in the Custom section. Once you are satisfied, click “Ok” and, depending on your settings, a new layer is added for you to further mask the effect.

Local adjustments are called Control Points in the Nik Collection. A newer program utilizing this feature is Viveza 2. This allows users to be selective with adjustments similar to Lightroom. Click on Add Control Point to begin, or hold Shift + Command and strike “A.” Navigate your cursor to an area in the image you wish to specifically edit and click. From here, you can adjust the size of the area being affected by sliding the bar with the black dot. Basic adjustments start out with Brightness, Contrast, Saturation and Structure. Expand them by striking “E.” Adjust the entire image by adding Levels and Curves. I can see this being useful for burning down background and creating a control point to drive attention to the subject.

High dynamic range editing was a huge trend a few years ago when Adobe added a new functionality for its users. It was a chance to bridge that gap between the limited range of recording stops of lights with a camera and what humans can see. I have always been fascinated looking at a scene, photographing it and trying to edit based on what I remember or thought I saw. HDR Efex Pro 2 has given users a great balance of presets and customization for this type of effect.

HDR Efex Pro 2 gives you 28 presets to begin with, and from there, you can adjust with the standard tools in the right-hand panel. Tone Compression, Tonality and Color are the fundamental tools for adjusting the HDR effect. Dial in settings with sliders, much like in Adobe Camera Raw, with the ease of clicking and dragging. Control Points are utilized by Nik to act as a masking option within the plugin. Since we can’t choose to create a new layer once finished with HDR Efex Pro 2, users are forced to use the control points to mask out the subject or they can create a new image layer. I suggest creating a new layer first in Photoshop by holding Shift + Option + Command and striking “E.” This combines all your current layers into a new layer at the top of your panel. Now, open HDR Efex Pro 2. I use the next two plugins, Color and Silver Efex Pro 4, for creative toning.

Color vs. B&W

Color Efex Pro 4 is set up similarly to HDR EP2, and becomes way more useful for the everyday application. Tools are listed in the left panel and, based on your category, they are narrowed down by All, Favorites, Landscape, Nature, Wedding, Portrait, Architecture and Travel. At the bottom, you can select settings to change the filter lists. Click on All at the Top, and we can begin starring tools that sound appealing. I do this so that you can select Favorites to filter the tools for later use.

Let’s click on Detail Extractor and check out the right-hand panel. You can customize your tool with sliders and dropdown presets. Control points are here as well; I pass on this feature of Nik to mask later in Photoshop. My favorite feature, Add Filter, allows us to build a tool set. I like to add Bleach Bypass, Foliage, Tonal Contrast and White Neutralizer. These tools are adjusted for each image, and, depending on the look and feel you want, they can provide quite an enhancement to the original. Like presets, Nik allows users to create Recipes to quickly recall the tool set just created.

Nik’s Silver Efex Pro 4 has received the most attention due to its incredible darkroom-like effects that give users the nostalgic look of black-and-white prints. This plugin set the bar for digital black-and-white post-production. Silver EP2 is set up very simply. The left-hand panel has the Preset Library to allow users to select and adjust according to their taste. Select All to star your favorite presets for quick use later. The right panel lists the stationary adjustment tools, including Global & Stationary adjustments, Color Filter, Film Types and Finishing. These drop down and allow users to slide effects.

Start with 000 Neutral in the preset library to begin at a base level to get a feel for the adjustment settings. Brightness, Contrast and Structure can get very complex and give you the ability to adjust for the histogram. For example, white and black point, highlights, midtones, shadows, etc. can be adjusted for advanced toning. Then drop down to the File Types section and apply your favorite film. This is where Nik really separated itself from film preset predecessors. You can choose by ISO for your grain preference and film brand for tone. Finishing adjustments for toning like selenium, cyanotype and sepia are popular choices. Vignetting, Burn Edges and Image Borders all emulate analog effects for your black-and-white image. This can give your image a nostalgic print look.

Attention to Detail

Nik Dfine 2 is noise reduction software that should be run prior to sharpening. If you’re using Lightroom or ACR to run noise reduction when exporting Raw files into Photoshop, that is fine as long as you understand when to sharpen. After opening the plugin, you can see the automatic noise reduction setting applied. Change the method to manual and move from Measure to Reduce. We can begin to improve the effect by using different methods. Before getting too crazy with adjustments, check out my previous article from May 2015, “Silence the Noise.”

Control points simplify the settings for contrast and color noise. Changing the method to color ranges allows you to specifically color-pick areas on the image to adjust contrast and color noise. Farther down, you can fix Edge Preservation, Jpeg Artifact Reduction and Debanding. Remember, if you applied grain from a previous Nik plugin, you may begin removing it with noise reduction.

Sharpener Pro 3 has a Presharpener and an Output Sharpening feature. Before adjusting these settings, you need to have an understanding of these two forms of sharpening. Check out my November 2014 article, “Attention to Detail,” for more. Much like Dfine, after opening the image, you can really see a difference with settings automatically applied. Presharpener has an adaptability option for high-ISO images so it doesn’t sharpen the noise. There are slider adjustments for adaptive, area and edge sharpening. Control points and color range are also adjustable.

Output Sharpener is a great tool that allows users to design their image specifically for either print or online. Before opening this plugin, you want to have the cropping, resizing and noise reduction completed. Also, flatten the image and save a specific version based on the output. Open the plugin, and you will notice the automatic sharpening effect applied. Adaptive sharpening allows a softer focused image to be sharper, and can really improve the quality. It defaults at 50% and usually doesn’t need to be increased. Creative and selective sharpening can add an extra push to your image as well.

The Results

Nik has a lot to offer your standard and creative workflow. Using Photoshop, you can really speed up processing by building specific actions for the creative toning, color and black-and-white enhancements, as well as the detail work. I regularly use a specific set of plugin settings. There is no reason to hand-touch each image needing the same treatment. For more extensive editing, spend the time getting to know adjustments and how they work. Sometimes you can save a bad shot.

Nik Collection will be worth it for you, even if you only utilize Color and Silver EP 4 and the Detail plugins like Dfine 2 and Sharpener Pro 3.


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How to create long exposure light trails in Photoshop

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016

How to create long exposure light trails with Payton Hediger.

This image in particular was created by Evolve Edits as a Signature Edit for Rafael Serrano Photography. You may note that there are a few other adjustment to this image beyond the lighting technique I’ll be covering here. HDR, toning, sky swap and skew fixes are all standard processes for a Signature Edit and have been applied to this images with the long exposure light trails.

Original image (Rafael Serrano Photography)
Final Image1_Rafael_Serrano_Photography_0967_After

To get started we need to blur the vehicles. This is going to make a big difference after we blend the light trails into the scene.

Use the “Stamp Visible” shortcut (Shift + Ctrl/Cmd + Alt + E).

When I’m applying filters, I like to make the layer I’m working on into a smart object so I can make adjustments to the filter after I have applied it so I don’t have to go back and forth undoing and reapplying that filter. To do this, right click on the layer you wish to convert into a smart object and then select “Convert to Smart Object”.
Once you’ve made the Stamp Visible layer into a smart object go to Filter > Blur > Motion Blur. I’ve set the blur to 7 degrees and the distance to 122px. This is going to depend entirely on the image you’re using this technique on. The size of the image will also change the distance of blur you’ll want to use.

Then you’re going to add a layer mask, located at the bottom of the layers panel, to the blurred cars layer and mask out everything but the area where you want the cars blurred.

Now we need to actually create our light trails.

In your “Layers” panel, create a new layer, located at the bottom of your layers panel (or Shift + Cntr/Cmd + Alt + N). Name this “Tail Lights 1”. For this image the process of creating the light trails was repeated several times for the headlights and tail lights to get the desired effect.

Using the Pen tool with “Path” selected and start drawing out your lines from the tail lights of the cars off the edge of the image.

6_RSP_Pen_Tool_Toolbar_Path 7_RSP_Pen_Tool_Paths

Move over to the Paths panel and save your path by double clicking the “Work Path” layer under paths and naming it “Path 1”. Again, you are seeing Paths 1 through 4 here because the process was repeated several times to get the desired effects for the headlights and tail lights.

8_RSP_Work_Path 9_RSP_Save_Work_Path
Now we need to select a brush, opacity, and color before moving on to the next step.
The brush I used for this is just a standard sample tip from Photoshops basic brushes.
You can really use any kind of smaller spattered brush for this, just change the spacing to 1% at 100% opacity.

You can play around with different brushes and even change the angle depending on the direction of your path.

This is what I found worked best but you may find something that looks even better with different sets of brushes.
I have also selected a dark red for the tail light color. Use the eye dropper (I) to pick the red in the tail lights of the cars in your image to get a red that going to match.
Right click on the layer and use the “Stroke Path…” option.
Select the “Brush” option under “Tool:” but do not check Simulate Pressure.
When you hit “Ok” the current brush, foreground color and brush opacity will be applied to your path.

Just click off of the layers in the “Paths” panel to deselect the path and to get them out of your view.

Play around with blending modes to get the look your going for but I found that the “Screen” blending mode worked best for this image.

Now we need to add Layer Styles to the paths we have made to give a little realism to them. We will specifically be using “Inner Glow” and “Outer Glow”.

For the Inner Glow…
Change the “Blending Mode” to “Linear Light”.
Change the “Color” to a light orange red color. I’ve used “d18a74” for the color. But this doesn’t need to be specific and will really just depend on the image you’re applying it to.
Then change the “Size”, under “Elements”, to 10 px.

For the Outer Glow…
Change the “Blending Mode” to “Linear Dodge (add)”.
Change the “Color” to a dark red. I’ve used “a70b0b” but again this doesn’t need to be specific.
Change the “Size” to 30 px.

Change the “Contour” to the one with ridges. I liked the effect this gave but sift through the other contour presets to get a different look.
Change the “Range” to 30%.
Change the “Jitter” to 100%.
At this point you should see something similar to this.

I have also added some yellow headlights to the other side of the road using the previous steps just using yellows instead of reds for all of the colors.

Make sure to mask out anything in your foreground like the couple in this image. To do this just add a “Layer Mask” to the light trail layers and mask the trails off whatever is in the foreground.
To get a more realistic effect we need to add light that would be reflected on the road and other surfaces.
To do this create a “Solid Color” adjustment layer. The “Adjustment Layers” are located at the bottom of the “Layers” panel.
We will need two of these. On that is yellow (d7a82a) and the other red (b20f0f) for the headlights and tail lights.

You can use these colors as a good starting point but they will need to be adjusted per image.

Set them to “Screen” in blending modes.

Invert the layer mask (Ctrl/Cmd + I with your layer mask selected) so that you’re not seeing any of the color. On your layer mask paint back in the color where need using a low opacity soft round brush. I used a 05% opacity brush and applied it to the areas I felt would be hit by the light. The ground is going to be the most affected by the light but then you also have to consider the backside of the groom which would catch a small amount of that reflected light and maybe some of the trees, etc.

23_RSP_Brush_Options_2 24_RSP_Light_Trails_with_Glow
These are all of the final layers that make up the light trails in this image. I’ve put them all into a group (select all of the layers you want in the group and hit Ctrl/Cmd + G to put them in a group) and then reduced the opacity by 15%. Just to be able to see a little more of what beneath these layers as they shouldn’t just be blocked out areas of solid color.

How to Transcend the Trends: Fine-Art Toning in Photoshop with Dustin Lucas

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016


How to Transcend the Trends: Fine-Art Toning in Photoshop with Dustin Lucas


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When it comes to creative and artistic direction in your editing, it is hard to distinguish yourself from the trends. You may have established a niche in your market, but how can you create work that doesn’t look dated as soon as you update your portfolio on your website? You have to transcend the trends and pay attention to what is going on in your industry. Submitting your work to print competitions and professionally graded reviews is a great way to see how you compare with your peers. Seeing how other artists are capturing and editing portrait photography has really changed the way I look at this industry.


You can integrate fine art photography into your posing, composition and (especially) post-production. Post-production is an art in itself, and the techniques used today have paved the way for many artists to begin pushing the boundaries. In this article, I demonstrate some toning and editing techniques that will give your work a boost without your having to worry about a trend dying.


Preparing Your Image


Before proceeding with toning, we need to color-correct the image. I have processed the image through Lightroom CC and exported it as a Photoshop Document (psd). This file type is great for working files, but it is quite large and causes the computer to work harder when you make changes.


A few hard and fast tips: I tend to do less tonal work with the contrast and tone curve; I reset sharpening to 0; I use lens correction; and I always use an appropriate camera profile. (1) Adobe Standard can worsen your image color and toning, so set this to a different profile—I chose Camera Neutral, and changed the red values. (2) To learn more about this, check out my July 2014 article, “Color Space Part 2: Getting Control With Your Color.”


With the image opened in Photoshop, we now need to fix some of these dark and bright spots with a technique called dodge and burn. This is a vital step in fixing specific exposure issues in an image. Create two curves adjustment layers and rename one Dodge and the other Burn. On the Dodge curves layer, click the layer thumbnail to open the properties panel. Click in the middle of the diagonal line and drag your cursor up two cells. Click on your layer mask and invert it by holding Command (Mac) or Control (PC) and striking “I.” Follow the same instructions for the Burn curves layer, but drag the diagonal line downward. I group these adjustment layers together.


You can now use the layer mask to paint in the effect. Lower the opacity and edge hardness of the brush to subtly dodge and burn areas of the image. (3)


Toning With Curves


Now that we have a cleaned up images, we are ready to start adding some creative toning. Curves can provide a variety of effects and should be used to their fullest extent. Add a curves adjustment layer and create a matte-like look. Simply click the point in the bottom left corner and drag upward and drag the upper right point downward. When using smaller grid cells, I am able to more accurately drag the curve line where I need to. To toggle between different cell sizes, hold Option and click in the curves window. You can make this a little extreme for now, and we can dial this back with the opacity of the layer. (4)


It looks like the contrast was pulled out of the image, but it looks different from just dropping contrast. Dropping contrast makes the skin look flat and unflattering. (5a, 5b) This curves adjustment is very basic and needs to be further manipulated. We need more definition and contrast. Drag the back point slider to the right till it meets the diagonal line. This gives some definition to those black tones that we flattened. (6)


Taking this technique a step further, we need to reset our curves adjustments and begin to tone the image with even more definition. Add two points on the curve line, each about three rows from the ends. (7) Click and drag the third point down to the next cell row. Lift the bottom point upward to the second row. (8) Make an additional curves layer and drag the black point slider to about the second cell. (9) You can see the difference between the first curves layer and these two. We are beginning to define our own look. (10a, 10b)


Using Gradient Maps and Color Fill Layers


Gradient maps can really add some nice color tone to your image. Applying this gives it a grayscale range of toning, and you can select specific colors to use as well. This can give you some unique looks; I have used Selenium I. (11) This gives my highlights and midtones a more neutral contrast with some desaturation to those green tones. This setting gives the midtones a warmer neutral gray as well; to change the effect, select different blending modes in the layers palette.


A few good choices are Multiply, Soft Light and Luminosity. (12a, 12b, 12c) Remember, you can lower the effect by dropping the opacity and masking out the subject. My settings for this effect are layer opacity at 40% and blending mode set to Multiply, and I have masked out my subject to allow about 20% of the effect. This gives the image a dark and dramatic look. (13)


Color fill layers can add a nice hazy effect to the image. I want to make a slight warming effect in the highlights and shift a little cooler in the shadows. To do this, I create a new fill layer with a solid color. I select a warm color like orange, set the blending mode to Soft Light and drop the layer opacity to 10%. Next, add another fill layer with a magenta color selected, set the blending mode to Multiply and drop the layer opacity to 10%. (14)

Finally, to cool down the image, we create a blue color fill layer. Set the blending mode to Exclusion and adjust the opacity to 10%. You can lower this effect as needed to reduce the blue cast. (15) These three fill layers work together to reduce any white balance tint cast issues, while still providing an attractive matte finish. Group these three layers together so that you can mask out all three effects at once if needed. This is extremely helpful in removing the color effects from the subject’s skin. (16)


Sharpening and Cropping


These final steps can transform your image. They rely heavily on your output method. Sharpening can be a very in-depth process. Read my previous article from the November 2014 issue, “Attention to Detail: Better Results With Sharpening.” In terms of sharpening, this image needs input and output adjustments made. For this article, I have applied my action set to automatically create these two sharpening layers. Take a look at the difference in the details with the Presharpen layer made—with the Output layer added as well, you can determine how much sharpness to use when saving output versions, like web or print, out of Photoshop. (17)


Another technique I like to use to fine-tune the tonal range is to create a black-and-white layer. I usually adjust the sliders by selecting the auto button and set the blending mode to Luminosity. You can adjust these accordingly afterward. This dulls the highlights and gives definition to these hot areas in the image. Use this effect sparingly, and check the image at a 100% view to make sure pixel degradation and/or banding does not occur. This is a quick and easy technique. (18a, 18b)


Lastly, I like to crop the image to a more nontraditional photographic scale. Recently I have come to really like the 2:1 ratio for landscape-oriented images. I cropped this image to remove some of the headroom and grounded the bride right below the knees to achieve a stylistic composition. Be bold with your cropping and try something less safe compositionally. (19) Always crop last and save alternate versions of this so you do not carelessly throw away pixels from the working file.


Nik Software


I like to automate as much work as I can with actions and plugins. The Nik software suite has become a huge component of my workflow, replacing some hands-on work. My go-to tools are Silver Efex Pro 2, Sharpener Pro 3: Raw Presharpener and Sharpener Pro 3: Output Sharpener. (20)


Silver Efex Pro 2 has a huge selection of preapplied effects that can be custom-adjusted and saved as new presets. (I’ll discuss them in depth in a later article.) Let’s use the 019 Fine Art Process preset and add some settings in the finishing adjustments by adding a vignette and some sepia tones. (21) Once I am finished, the program automatically creates a new image layer; I will adjust it later by lowering layer opacity and masking techniques. As you can see, the gradient map as well as the black-and-white layer techniques have been given a run for their money with the Nik Silver Efex Pro layer. (22a, 22b)


The Results


When it comes to trending effects and editing techniques, you need to develop your own style. The ability to distinguish yourself from the bad trends requires you to constantly see what is out there. You have to see the bad to understand what I am talking about.

Googling is helpful, but you need to look at the print competitions in your industry. Seeing high-scoring fine-art prints up close gave me the drive to push the limits in my own work. Constantly push yourself to remain relevant and transcend the trends.


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Rethink Your Retouching: 3 Techniques for Fixing Hair with Dustin Lucas

Friday, January 1st, 2016


Rethink Your Retouching: 3 Techniques for Fixing Hair with Dustin Lucas


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Whether you’re shooting beauty, fashion or glamour, hair can be a huge distraction. Hiring a makeup and hair artist can be a game changer, but there is still plenty of work to be done after the shoot. Things like stray hairs can really draw attention away from your subject’s face and cause them to get tangled in the hair. It doesn’t have to be this way.


Some familiar tools, like the Clone Stamp and Healing Brush, are great for removing flyaway hairs. Removing these distractions is easy, but making it look realistic can be difficult. That’s where a technique called “frequency separation” can be crucial. Adding hair seems odd but can keep your editing looking as natural as possible. As we all know, when using Photoshop, if something is off, it looks fake.


We will be working with layers so that the file remains nondestructive. Although creating layers increases the file size, I highly recommend it. Along with layers come masks and clipping masks. Masks allow specific areas of an image to be affected by increasing the transparency of the effect. With a black layer mask, none of the effect is applied, and white means it is 100% transparent. This is where brush opacity allows you to apply subtle amounts of the effect as well. Blending modes relate to how the effect is applied rather than the amount.


The Clone Stamp


Now let’s get working in Photoshop. Open your image and create a blank layer. It is best to do all your work on a separate layer so that your original image, or base layer, is not affected. Select the Clone Stamp tool to remove the flyaway hairs. Navigate to the sample setting and set to Current and Below. Adjust your brush to have a softer edge; hard edges make the cloned areas look patchy. Before you begin painting, you must select a sample source—I suggest making your brush smaller and choosing an area similar to where the hair you want to remove is. To do this quickly, hold down Option, click and then paint over the hair. To resample your source, repeat the previous step. Remove all the flyaway hair.


Create a layer mask by holding down Option and clicking the emblem at the bottom of the layers palette. This makes a black layer mask that hides all the work we just did. Select the paintbrush with a much harder edge and chose white as your foreground color. You can now paint back in the cloning work. Choose a lower-opacity brush to help blend everything together.


To remove crosshairs, select your sample source and begin painting. This is a very tedious and difficult process. There are a couple of blending modes that can help with lighter and darker hair. Set it to lighten for lighter hair in darker backgrounds, and darken for darker hair in lighter areas. It is hard to be precise with this tool, and this type of editing should be saved for a different technique. I’ll get into that later.


The Healing Brush


For seamless backdrops and continuous backgrounds, this works well, but I want to work a little more precisely. Create a new layer, grab the Healing Brush and set the samples setting to Current and Below. Select a soft-edge brush so that the blending is less noticeable. Choose a sample source and begin removing the flyaways. You will notice as soon as you get too close to the edge, the blending goes to crap. This is where you can use the Clone Tool to swap back and forth with the Healing Brush. Use hotkeys to do this quickly; the Clone Stamp is “s” and the healing brush is “j.”


Once you remove the unwanted hair, it is a good idea to add some back in so the cleaned-up areas don’t look fake. Create a new layer and choose the paintbrush. Adjust the brush’s edge to 100% hardness, set the brush size to 1 to 3 pixels, and color-pick a section of the hair toward the edge. To quickly toggle colors, hit the “I” key and click in an area, then hit the “b” key to switch back to the brush. Begin drawing long strokes around any curves or to fill in gaps in the hair. Stay close to the edge and draw from inside outward. Repeat strands in an area to create some volume.


Now you need to blur these strokes to create depth. From the menu bar, choose Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Set the radius to match the sharpness of the surrounding hair—I used 2.4 for this example. Then add noise by going to Filter > Noise > Add Noise. I zoomed into the image at 100% to try to match the background, and settled with 9.5% noise. These two adjustments make all the difference in creating realistic strands of hair.


Frequency Separation


This technique is built around the same process for softening skin and image sharpening. Using the Gaussian Blur and High Pass filters, you can start to remove crosshairs much more accurately than our earlier technique with the Clone Stamp. First we need to duplicate our image layer. From the menu bar, choose Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Set the radius to 14 pixels and click OK. Then duplicate your image layer again and choose Filter > Other > High Pass. Set the radius to 10 pixels. Make an action for this. I downloaded a free one from No need to make this step any harder—set an action to quickly create these layers.


Once I have the layers built, I am ready to attack the crosshairs. These can be difficult to remove, as we saw when we used the Clone Stamp on an empty layer. That is why we created the frequency separation layers. Select the high-frequency layer and strike Command + J to immediately duplicate the layer. Then we need to convert it to a clipping mask by striking Shift, Command + G. This allows the Clone Stamp to affect only the layer below in specific areas. It’s a much more precise technique for cloning crosshairs. Strike the “S” key, choose a sample source and begin painting in the direction of the hair strands. Resample and move the cursor to get the right look. You will need to change the blending mode to Normal for the layer and the Clone Stamp tool. You also need to change the sample setting to Current Layer.


Take your time and learn to sample. I like to remove a large piece of hair by sampling next to it and painting over it entirely. You do not have to be precise at first, because you can clean up by dragging the cursor the same direction as the rest of the hair afterward. Painting in the same direction is crucial to creating continuity with the cloned strands of hair.


The Results


Retouching hair can be as stressful as you want to make it. Get used to the tools and the sampling technique to get more precise with your editing. A Wacom tablet is extremely helpful, but I completed this tutorial with a mouse.


Remember, when working in Photoshop, it’s more about what looks right but also not spending days on end to perfect an image. These techniques will get you in a good place, and building on them can revamp your retouching abilities.


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