The Basic Rule with Photoshop: Less Is More

This may seem like something so basic that it’s basically for beginners, but since most members of our community are more or less beginners up to some extent, this post is for them. Becoming a professional photographer is a continuous and very challenging process, and some of us never manage to transition properly from being an amateur photographer to becoming a pro. That is perfectly fine, of course, since having photography as a hobby is rewarding enough in itself, and most of us are in need of a job before we can make it as a pro, but these tips are still useful if you’re trying to have ago at it, and even if you don’t.

To get to the point of this post, photo editing is a big part of the photography process, and most photo editing is done via Photoshop, but most beginners tend to overdo it. We’ve previously talked about portfolio mistakes which are easy to make, but didn’t include this one in them as the post would have become too long. The bottom line is that when a potential client notices anything that seems a bit fake within your previous works, they might be understandably put off by it. The one rule to keep in mind is that when it comes to editing, less is more. Let’s develop on that a bit.

The most common Photoshop fails (are not what you expect).

contrast

Photoshop mistakes are a very common source of fun and jokes all over the internet. There are numerous posts which just seem to centralize and present the most appalling editing fails one can find online. While most of them are definitely funny, it should go without saying that this isn’t the kind of thing we’re talking about here. Of course no serious photographer or aspiring one is going to do something as preposterous as cropping extra family members in a portrait or anything like that! But there are more subtle ways in which you can fail if you forget the basic less is more rule.

The main areas where you may get in trouble are the colors (and especially the overall color temperature) and the contrast. This is the areas that need a bit of retouching most often, and also the areas where you may get a little overeager and keep adding a bit just because you’re excited about how you can turn something ordinary into something wonderful and full of impact. If you’re having trouble properly assessing where you should stop, the best thing to do is to further your photo editing education. Look at many good pictures, as many as possible. Soon enough your eye will be trained to detect a too much or too little when it comes to contrast, enhanced colors and color temperatures.

When in doubt, less is more.

To make sure you find the perfect balance and train your hand to not go overboard with the editing, we would suggest starting with something a bit more basic than Photoshop. Why don’t you try Google’s Picasa instead? Even if Photoshop will still remain something you need to get more skilled with, you can use Picasa just for its auto contrast and auto color enhancement features. You can also make your pictures warmer or colder, color-wise, depending on the idea you’d like to transmit. With this kind of help, it will be harder to forget that less is more and any change will be easy to undo.

Have patience and remember: it’s preferable to not edit your photos enough than to aim for a more visually compelling result only to come up with something that seems off. Your clients and portfolio viewers may not have the photography skills to easily spot mistakes, but they too can instinctively sense that less is more and there’s just something unclean about an overly edited photo. Take it slow until your train your hand and good luck with your contrast settings.

4 Photo-Editing Tricks & Tips for Landscape Photography

Planet Earth is incredibly beautiful and diverse. There is always something to see, some new miracle to uncover and, hopefully, capture on camera. Landscape and travel photographers are among the luckiest in the world. Although in-camera technique is essential for photography, excellent Photo-editing and rendering skills can turn the dullest of images into an awe-inspiring capture. The prowess of photographers in the digital darkroom is becoming increasingly crucial for the success of images. It is even more important for landscape photography, for which a bit of contrast and luminance tricks could completely redefine the overall appearance.

Whether starkly beautiful, bursting with colour or magnificently minimal, no other type of photography offers more potential for stunning imagery than landscape.

 (Source: www.digitalcameraworld.com)

There is always something to see, even if you look past your back-window. In this guide we will provide you with much needed tricks & tips for landscape photography. They are fundamental for highlighting the natural beauty of the landscape you have captured. Approaches to landscape shooting may have changed in the past few years, but the main rules remain the same: creating an interesting composition with the help of quality lenses, getting the time right, and enhancing a photo via post-processing tools.

1. Blending Raw Exposures

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Photo cameras struggle to present scenes in high-contrast (it cannot record everything that our eyes see). With the Raw files you can create incredible results, because they contain an enormous amount of information. The Raw tonal controls now surpass those of Photoshop (especially when working only with RAW files). Here’s how you can blend raw exposures to add more depth and contrast to your landscape:

  • Processing for Shadows: Insert your RAW image in Photoshop. From the basic panel set exposure to +.63, shadows to +63 and clarity to +55 (or a setting that looks good for your scene). Shift+Click the open object button to make it a smart object.
  • Processing for the highlights: go to your layers panel and choose a New Smart Object via copy. Send the thumbnail back to Camera Raw. Now go to the Exposure, Shadows and Clarity menu and reset the values to -0.20 exposure, -50 highlights, and -19 whites.
  • Blending Layers: Go to the Add Layer mask icon, and then grab the Brush tool. Choose the black color and set opacity to 30%. You can now paint the foreground to hide parts of the darker layer and reveal the light treatment bellow. Press X and paint with white to reveal the top layer more.

2. Lightroom Adjustment Brush

Lightroom adjustments are vital for color landscape images. No matter how hard you try to get details using ND grads during the shoot, there are still areas of the foreground and background that are shadowed or not very powerful (especially at sunsets or sunrises). With the Adjustment Brush you can lighten shadowed areas, and add warmth. It is particularly effective for lightening mountains and trees that can be found above the horizon. It can also be used to fine-tune and color the sky.

3. Creating Panoramas

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Landscape photography can sometimes result in majestic panoramic scenes. If your lens isn’t wide enough to fit your entire scene into one frame, you can take multiple photos of the same scene and blend them together into a panorama. This can easily be done in Photoshop by overlapping frames and then sticking them together. The best thing about post-processing panorama building is the fact that resolution will be 4-5 times better than a camera panorama.

Use a tripod to take the shots). Go to your Adobe Bridge menu, hold down Shift+Click and select your desired images. Go to Tools->Photoshop->Photomerge and click OK. The results may not be perfect, but if you experience with different layout options in the photomerge box it will turn out well. Get rid of messy edges, and edit your image for contrast, saturation, luminance etc.

4. Surreal Landscape Editing

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Surreal Landscape photography has become the next best thing. If you are interested in such projects you should definitely follow this advice. Using a simple landscape base image can make your surreal photo look a lot better. In this example we have concrete, clouds and a funny looking plant. Add some moody sky effect to it, a hazy horizon, sepia colors and burnt shadows and you get an interesting surreal image.

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To make magic happen you simply have to add the photos one on top of the other. Add a Layer Mask and plot a black to white gradient to blend the land and sky together. Plot a white to transparent reflected gradient on the horizon to create the misty effect, lower the opacity of the element and drop any other element you would like. Desaturate it and make proper adjustments so that it becomes part of the photo.

Essential Tricks for Post-Processing Underwater Photos with Adobe Photoshop

The smart-phone and photography market is providing with a wide assortment of underwater casing options at the moment. Many photographers have been taken with the idea of exploring the underwater world and bringing to life sea wildlife and flora through their imagery. The world under the surface is fascinating and definitely worth exploring.

Everything from affordable soft casing on DSLRs, or waterproof casings for smart-phones will help you create incredible underwater images. However, photos don’t always come out perfectly. There are a few post-processing tricks that you must learn in order to improve the quality of your underwater images. Let’s take a look at the easiest, most effective post-processing underwater photos tricks.

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Post-Process Photo Workflow

The goal would be to spend as much time underwater, and less of it in front of the computer. But even if you manage to snap incredible underwater photos, you still have to edit them a bit in order to make them look spectacular (when contrast/color is not enough, if you have backscatter, or if you need to crop or get rid of unwanted elements). For this you will require a well-put-together post-process photo workflow. It should look something like this:

  • Once you are done with the photo-shoot copy and backup your files on the computer
  • Take a look at your images, add tags, keywords and rate them (1-5 stars) to sort faster. You can do this with the help of Adobe Bridge or Adobe Lightroom.
  • Process your RAW or JPEG file with the help of CS4 or camera raw. When shooting in RAW, you will need an editor such as Adobe Camera Raw, or Nikon capture.
  • Edit your photos according to the following tricks.

Editing Underwater Photos with Adobe Photoshop

Don’t forget about editing the raw file before proceeding to this step. The resulting image should be a 16-bit file that you drag into Photoshop. At this point, some basic editing tricks will be used, according to your taste: adjusting levels (red/blue/green, pull in), shadows/highlights, brightness/contrast, healing tool, cloning, hue/saturation, dust & scratches etc. For advanced features, such as layers and curves, you should check out extensive video tutorials. Let’s take a look at the most effective post-processing tips for underwater photography:

  • Correcting for Color: Water absorbs different wavelengths of light. This means that even at shallow depths red, yellow and orange are absorbed. No matter what you do, or how good the ambient light is, you will lose some color. This can easily be fixed in the post-processing stage. If you are shooting RAW you can adjust the white balance in post-processing (using the temperature slider in Lightroom – example: you can bring white balance down from 5500K to 4500K). Next you have to edit the key colors in the image with HSL/Color/B%W and Lightroom panel.

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  • Correcting for Contrast: Another thing that water does is to take out the contrast out of photos. Contrast correction is an essential step of post-processing. From the original RAW file you will see that the image is quite flat. Go to the histogram to see the light and dark tones that need to be increased.

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Image Source: LightStalking

  • Increasing Saturation: if you shoot images at greater depths, colors will lose their power. Therefore, a slight saturation increase will be necessary. This can be done in Photoshop by using the vibrance slider (for RAW files).
  • Reducing Hotspots: If hot-spots appear you can reduce them from the yellow channel in Photoshop, by lowering its luminance. It might help your image look significantly better.
  • Backscatter Removal: Another problem that might appear in the underwater photo is backscatter. If it consists of dust, or fine spots, you can simply lasso the area and remove it with the dust & scratches tool. If it is larger, you should magnify the area and remove with the healing tool or clone tool. You can also use the clone tool for removing algae, bubbles and other unwanted elements.

How to Reduce Your Photo Post-Production Time in 3 Simple Steps

reduce-your-photo-post-production-timeA career in wedding photography doesn’t have to mean a you only do one job, i.e. shoot weddings. Of course, perhaps your business strategy is that of a one-person army, a single-engine machine. That is, you shoot and edit your own photos, without the aid of an assistant or second shooter. However, perhaps your current level of career development has brought you to a less stable position and you alternate between post-production work in the studio, second shooting with various main photographers, and running your own photography operation. The advantage of doing all these things is that you develop a lot of diverse and useful skills, not the least important of which is that of knowing how to reduce your photo post-production time. We’ll tell you all about it today – though the truth is that it all boils down to a single strategy: knowing how to shoot like an editor.

1) Tell your clients’ story

As a wedding photographer, what’s your main goal? Putting together a portfolio of photos that look amazing on your blog, that have a ton of editorial appeal, that could, after all is said and done, end up in a wedding magazine? Or do you rather want to please your clients? Ideally, you should strike a balance between the two goals, but, at the end of the day, your clients are always the most important members of your audience as a photographer. They’re the ones whose needs you want to satisfy and whose story you want to tell. And they won’t always care as much as you do about super-edited photos with editorial value. They’ll want the candid smiles and the group photos, so focus on those if you want to keep them happy and reduce your photo post-production time.

2) Shoot for film

In the day and age of digital photography supremacy, it’s all too easy to overshoot. When there’s a 16GB memory card inside your camera, you might find yourself unable to stop shooting – but ending the event with tens of thousands of photos on your camera won’t help reduce your photo post-production time. Instead of falling into this entrapment, try to shoot with the eye of an editor. Try to think ahead and anticipate the necessary edits with each photo you take. You don’t want to be stuck in the studio for days, culling out your photos before you get to do anything else. The general rule of thumb here is to forget that the camera you hold in your hands is digital – think of it as an old-school film camera with no more than 36 exposures on a roll of film. This might just teach you to appreciate each shot and determine you to try and make it count.

3) Let your mistakes teach you

Irrespective of whether you work with an editor or edit all your own photos, you can always learn from your mistakes, especially if you want to reduce your photo post-production time. If you do work with an editor, try to spend some time with them as they work on your photos (and, ideally, on the work of other photographers, too). Perhaps you chose to use a 50mm lens in a small, crowded space and ended up with pictures that had to be massively cropped, in order for the guests’ expressions to become visible. Perhaps you selected an exposure time that worked for one part of the photo, but completely obliterated the side of it that would have actually been relevant. Until you shoot (and then shoot some more), it’s going to be difficult for you to understand what techniques and methods work in which particular contexts – but when you do, do pay heed to your errors.

10 Alternatives To Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom And Adobe’s Creative Cloud

Guest post by Jeff Colburn

As most photographers know, Adobe is moving all of its software to the Creative Cloud, or CC. Some people call it the Captive Cloud. That means that Photoshop CS6 and Lightroom 5 will be the last versions you can buy on disk, and have as a “Perpetual License.”

Currently, you buy software on a DVD or as a download. You get a perpetual license to use that software for the rest of your life. But with the Creative Cloud, you lease the software month to month, or yearly. If you stop paying your fee, the software stops working. Even if you lease this software for years, you never own anything.

A subscription to Photoshop alone costs $20 a month. The suite, which is comprised of all of Adobe’s software, costs $30 a month for the first year, if you’re upgrading from CS3 or newer. After the first year it’s $50 a month. If you’re not upgrading, then it’s $50 a month from the beginning.

If you want to use Photoshop and Lightroom, Adobe suggests you subscribe to Photoshop on the Creative Cloud, and buy Lightroom 5. This is because you can only do a single-app membership, or a complete membership. The complete membership gives you access to 19 Adobe software programs, where the single-app membership gives you access to just one program, like Photoshop.

You can’t get two single-app memberships. So you can’t get Photoshop and Lightroom, you must choose to subscribe to just one of these and buy the other. Adobe is considering a Photoshop and Lightroom package, but it’s not available yet.

If you go the single-app route, I suggest you get Photoshop as Adobe will no longer be supplying updates to the perpetual license version except for Camera Raw. And even this support will end when Adobe stops selling Photoshop with a perpetual license.

To get a better idea of what the Creative Cloud is and isn’t, check out this FAQ from Adobe . It goes into detail about how CC works, that you can use the programs offline, the programs and your files are stored on your computer and more.

I belong to various photography discussion groups, and many have been talking about the Creative Cloud, and whether it will be good or bad for them. Some of the main concerns that photographers have are:

If they decide to stop paying for the Creative Cloud, they won’t be able to open my Photoshop files. All the time and effort they put into these files will be lost and the photographs will be unusable.

They don’t want to have to pay a monthly fee, since they don’t regularly buy upgrades when they come out. As for myself, I still use Photoshop CS3.

What if they start using the Creative Cloud, and in a year or two Adobe starts raising the monthly fee, a lot? I’ll have to pay the price, or hope I can find another piece of software similar to Photoshop and Lightroom that can open Photoshop files.

I just purchased Lightroom 5 and I’m considering switching to one of the below programs, then watch Adobe and see what they do over the next few years. The problem I have with subscribing to Photoshop is that I use Lightroom for about 95% of my image manipulation. Paying $900 for Photoshop, to do 5% of my image processing, is a pretty high price.

Here are some options for you. The text in quotation marks is copied from the company’s website.

Acdsee Photoshop Alternative

ACD Systems

They offer ACDSee Pro, which is like Lightroom, and ACDSee Photo Editor 6, which is like Photoshop. They also offer versions for Mac. They have nondestructive brushes and global nondestructive adjustments.

Price: $60 and $50 respectively for PC and $50 and $30 respectively for Mac
Opens RAW files: Yes
Opens Photoshop files: Yes, but doesn’t preserve layers or EXIF and IPTC metadata
Content Aware tools: No
Noise reduction: Yes
Work with layers: No, but does have object layers
Sharpen photograph: Yes
Does HDR: Sort of, get single-exposure HDR results
Free trial: Yes

Aperture

Aperture is more like Lightroom than Photoshop, and it’s for Macs. You can make adjustments, like in Lightroom, and use nondestructive adjustment brushes.

Price: $80
Opens RAW files: Yes
Opens Photoshop files: No, but can send files to be edited in Photoshop Elements
Content Aware tools: No
Noise reduction: No
Work with layers: No
Sharpen photograph: Yes
Does HDR: No
Free trial: No

Capture One Pro 7

“Based on an entirely new and groundbreaking image processing engine, the world’s most advanced imaging software will allow you to achieve vastly superior image quality with excellent color and fine detail from a camera’s raw files. Among others, this breakthrough results in even more stunning images with improved noise reduction, higher dynamic range, detail and clarity.”

Price: $239
Opens RAW files: Yes
Opens Photoshop files: Yes, but only one-layer images
Content Aware tools: No
Noise reduction: Yes
Work with layers: No, but can layer text
Sharpen photograph: Yes
Does HDR: Sort of, get single-exposure HDR results
Free trial: Yes

DxO Optics Pro 8

“Tamp down noise, optimize exposure and contrast, enhance colors, and boost the details in your compositions. Thanks to laboratory calibration of thousands of combinations of cameras and lenses, you can apply optical and geometrical corrections that are perfectly adapted to your equipment and to the content of your images.”

Price: $100 (Standard) or $200 (Elite)
Opens RAW files: Yes
Opens Photoshop files: No
Content Aware tools: No
Noise reduction: Yes
Work with layers: No
Sharpen photograph: Yes
Does HDR: Sort of, get single-exposure HDR results
Free trial: Yes

Gimp

I’ve used Gimp off and on for years, and it’s great. It’s what I turned to when a company I worked for wouldn’t buy Photoshop and I needed to manipulate photos. If you want to learn how to do something in Gimp, just Google it. People have put up a boat-load of tutorials that will show you how to do anything. And there are plugins that will give you RAW format support and even a content aware healing tool.

Price: $0
Opens RAW files: With plugin
Opens Photoshop files: Yes, but may have trouble if the file has many layers
Content Aware tools: With plugins
Noise reduction: Yes
Work with layers: Yes
Sharpen photograph: Yes
Does HDR: There’s no HDR tool, but can combine images and use a layer mask to do HDR
Free trial: Yes

Paint.net

This program is similar to Gimp but has the same tools you’ll find in Microsoft Paint. Plugins let you work with RAW and Photoshop files. Other tools include a clone stamp, text editor and unlimited history.

Price: $0
Opens RAW files: With plugins
Opens Photoshop files: With plugins
Content Aware tools: No
Noise reduction: Yes
Work with layers: Yes
Sharpen photograph: Yes
Does HDR: There’s no HDR tool, but can combine images and use a layer mask to do HDR
Free trial: Yes

PaintShop Pro X5

“With powerful photo-editing tools, incredible new instant effects, and enhanced HDR technology, creating stunning photos has never been easier. All-new tools include face recognition technology and the ability to map photos to real-world locations. Streamlined design tools let you blend images with photos and create high-quality graphics for print, video and the web. Plus, share your images online using new and enhanced social media features. It’s all available in PaintShop Pro X5, the perfect way to create, edit, enhance and share unforgettable photos and designs.”

Price: $50
Opens RAW files: Yes
Opens Photoshop files: Yes
Content Aware tools: No
Noise reduction: Yes
Work with layers: Yes
Sharpen photograph: Yes
Does HDR: Yes
Free trial: Yes

Pixelmator

Like Aperture, this program is for Macs. This program lets you manipulate Photoshop files, but is limited in the RAW files it can open.

Price: $15
Opens RAW files: Only RAW files that are supported by your computer’s operating system
Opens Photoshop files: Yes
Content Aware tools: Yes
Noise reduction: Yes
Work with layers: Yes
Sharpen photograph: Yes
Does HDR: No
Free trial: Maybe, when I click on the Free Trial link, it goes to a blank page.

Splashup

This is a web based program, and even offers layer effects, text effects and filters.

Price: $15
Opens RAW files: No
Opens Photoshop files: No
Content Aware tools: No
Noise reduction: No
Work with layers: Yes
Sharpen photograph: Yes
Does HDR: No
Free trial: Yes

Lightzone

This program was sold until September 2011, when Lightcrafts went out of business. But the program stayed active and is now an open source program. It has a lot of the features of Lightroom, and some great options for photo manipulation, and everything is nondestructive. Give it a try, it’s free.

Price: $0
Opens RAW files: Yes
Opens Photoshop files: No
Content Aware tools: No
Noise reduction: Yes
Work with layers: Sort of. The tools used to edit a photo are stacked, similarly to “layers” in other applications.
Sharpen photograph: Yes
Does HDR: No
Free trial: Yes

There is nothing on the market that does everything that Photoshop does, except Photoshop. But when you consider that the full-blown version of Photoshop is $900, and the most expensive replacement I mentioned was $239, with most under $100, you need to ask yourself something. Does Photoshop really offer enough to be worth an additional $800?

There are more options out there than the ones I mentioned, but this will give you a good start. All you have to do now is decide which path will work best for you.

Have Fun,
Jeff

How To Do A Complete Portrait Retouch in Lightroom 5

Retouching, in a non-destructive format, can be a tedious task for a portrait and wedding photographer but there are solutions to simplify your workload. See how Terry White walks you through this complete retouching Lightroom workflow in an episode of Creative Cloud TV.

 

Photoshop Tutorial – Layer Comps

Have you ever created a multi graphic image layout and wanted to see how modifications would change the feel of the design? Layer Comps allow you to modify a layout quickly while offering design freedom within the same work piece. Instructor Richard Harrington shows you how to use Photoshop layer comps and scripts to save many design options in a single Photoshop file.

 

7 Photoshop Tutorial and Training Sites That Will Motivate You

Photoshop Roadmap

Photoshop Roadmap is a huge directory of tutorials and downloads that let you do a vareity of things in Photoshop. The site is set up to allow you to explore and find some interesting things that will add the WOW back into your photography. Don’t forget to check out their blog.

Tutorial 9

Tutorial 9 provides tutorials, downloads, and inspiration on Photoshop and more. Its set up as a collection of references from teachers and experts from around the world – so there is always something new to learn and see.

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Photoshop – Automating Tasks With Actions

Are you constantly applying the same adjustments in Adobe Photoshop to all of your images? Do you feel like there should be an easier way to increase your work flow? Well there is good news, through the use of actions, you can automate your image modifications. Richard Harrington will share with you how to quickly reapply complex artistic effects to multiple images.

Top Ways To Automate Lightroom

Automating Adobe Lightroom can save huge amounts of time. This 2 part video series
hosted by Julieanne Kost will show important features and shortcuts that you use. Do you work in the development module or image grid area mostly? Learn the shortcuts that will relocate your views quickly.

Part 2 of the automation of Lightroom