As part of my desire to learn more about some advanced techniques in Photoshop, I’ve been concentrating on learning how best to take a flat image out of the camera and add depth to it using various image adjustment techniques – especially, dodging and burning. At one level, I’ve understood the basics of those techniques for a while – but I’ve not attempted to apply them in any serious way before now. Any student of Ansel Adams understands the use he made of those techniques!
So, I set out to explore and learn some more – and I learned a lot. What did we do before the Internet? Seriously, it’s amazing what a resource it’s become!
The basic idea involves being able to select carefully certain parts of an image for adjustment. Typically, luminosity – brightness – is most important but saturation, sharpness and other features follow. Most of the tools in Photoshop are blunt instruments that apply to the whole image – but you can constrain those adjustments to only portions of an image using selections and/or layer masks. In so doing, you can make much more selective adjustments – and create depth in an image that might have originally looked flat.
One of the first to describe a technique for this was Tony Kuyper – who in 2006 wrote about the idea of luminosity masks. A couple of years later, he described luminosity painting – and most recently, cooperated with Sean Bagshaw who has created a comprehensive video tutorial describing how to apply Tony’s techniques and Photoshop Actions/Panels in detail. If you want to understand the details, Tony and Sean’s work seems very comprehensive.
At the other extreme is a short video by Aaron Nace titled “Dodge and Burn Like a Boss: Using Apply Image” I stumbled across on Phlearn.com. In this video, he describes how to do selective dodging and burning using the notion of luminosity masks. His technique is different, in many ways simpler – but also less precise. For many images, that might be fine – it all depends on the level of precision adjustment you might want. And, when you watch the video, fasten your seat belt. Aaron moves along quickly – so be ready to stop and review as he explains his technique!
Tonight I created an example of applying Aaron’s technique to an image I shot last fall in the Eastern Sierras on an amazing photo workshop with Michael Frye. Up top you can see the image after walking through the adjustments – and below is the original, out of the camera image. It’s pretty flat, frankly. The edited image has more color – but, more importantly, more depth and, I think, overall richness.
But, I’m still learning! Let me know what you think by sharing a comment below!
In this image, I’m putting to use some new techniques learned in a Photoshop workshop with Mark Lindsay. Doug Kaye and I had very much enjoyed an earlier workshop with Mark last fall and we were looking to learn even more.
The basics of the technique used in this image involve the following workflow:
Color cast adjustment – using info points and Lab color indications to neutralize blues.
Luminosity adjustment – using channel curves to add contrast and detail into the most interesting areas of the image.
Lab color – using the Multiply blend mode technique along with a luminance channel layer mask to enhance the colors.
Sharpening – by going back to RGB and using Unsharp Mask to apply “hiraloam sharpening” – hi radius, low amount.
The original image I started with had a substantial blue cast on the trees. In this version, the colors are much more accurate.
I had never been to the other side of the Sierra Mountains to see the fall colors that are so special here out west. I didn’t know what I was missing. Last year, I found out. See above!
My photo buddy Doug Kaye and I took a photo workshop “over there” taught by Michael Frye (and helpers) last October. It was simply an amazing experience. Michael’s such an amazing landscape photographer – and spending a few days with him among the fall colors of the Aspens was a delight. He had the best helpers too – former Yosemite ranger Mike Osborne and Michael’s wife Claudia Welsh.
Photography is such an amazing and satisfying hobby. Here’s my latest example…
In late October, my photo buddy Doug Kaye and I headed east over Hwy 120 through Yosemite to Lee Vining for an Eastern Sierra photography workshop led by Michael Frye and Mike Osborne. We’d never made this trip – over the ridge and down into Lee Vining and Hwy 395 that runs on the eastern side of the Sierras.
I’d done a private workshop with Michael and my son David two years ago in Yosemite Valley and knew that he was a great teacher. That experience is what caused me to sign up for this Eastern Sierra workshop when it was announced almost a year ago. (Michael’s workshops fill up very quickly – often the same day they’re announced!)
This weekend turned out to be an amazing experience – one that I’ll never forget. Doug and I both agreed this workshop was the best workshop experience we’d ever had. We came home exhausted – but amazed at what we’d learned along the way.
I have many favorite images from this weekend – but one of my favorites is an image I shot from a special spot in Lee Vining Canyon where we spent the late afternoon on Saturday.
When we arrived, the sun was just beginning to set over a ridge to the west. We shot a bunch of canopy shots before the sun went down behind the ridge to the west. When the sun went behind the ridge, the most amazing color shift began. The trees in the distance began to pick up a beautiful blue cast – while those up close continued to reflect the aspen yellow from trees down the road whose canopies were still in the late afternoon sun. I was completely captivated by this shift and how the colors changed.
Here’s my original shot as that was happening:
After we got back, I looked at this image and post-processed it a couple of different ways. I import my images into Lightroom and often do basic adjustments there. I had fun making some basic adjustments and shared the photo online in a couple of spots.
But, as it turned out, I was about to learn some new tricks – thanks to a photo workshop that Doug had arranged with Mark Lindsay. Mark is a very talented artist, image editor, and photographer based in Marin. We spent a day with Mark learning some new techniques for using Photoshop to further enhance our images. Mark’s workflow steps through image adjustments by focusing first on color cast and then on getting the tonality of the image right. “Good bones” is what tonality is all about – ensuring an image has the right tonal range. And, then, Mark uses the tools of Lab color mode to enhance the saturation and colors of an image. The combination of these steps takes an image from being average and flat to being very special.
Here’s my post-processed version of that original shot – applying the core techniques of what I learned from Mark:
You can see how striking the differences are between the two. The original is soft and flat, the adjusted version is so much more three dimensional and, frankly, realistic to what I remember having taken the shot in the moment.
I still have lots to learn – but what a great time I’ve been having – both in the field shooting in amazing places like the Eastern Sierra and back home applying new techniques to creating even better images! My focus is on taking images off the page – from flat to three dimensional in a way that keeps me and viewers engrossed inside the image. Great teachers like Michael and Mike helping me at amazing places in the field and Mark helping me post-process back home are my “sherpas”!
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