Anything Photoshop or Photography



Image of a lioness drawing

This week I thought I would present a few handy tips and tricks that you may not know or had forgotten – some are from a few years ago. These are ones I found while experimenting on my latest images. Maybe they will be helpful for you while working on yours. The image above was drawn and painted from an photo I took at the Jacksonville Zoo a while back. I love her expression. So here we go…..

  1. CHECK VALUES QUICKLY (PS): Sam Peterson from Adobe Creative Live, has this excellent way to turn your photo to black and white to see how the image values are looking. First need to set up the panel. In PS go to View -> Proof Setup -> Custom and in Customize Proof Condition Dialog, set Proof Conditions – Device to Simulate to Dot Gain 20%, Rendering Intent to Relative Colorimetric, and check Black Point Compensation. Now these settings will always remain. Simply press CTRL+Y and instantly you will see the whole image in B&W. Just press CTRL+Y again and it removes the effect. Also, the Color Picker still works when image is in B&W so you can see what color is causing a problem if you do not like the results. Really cool! I am using this all the time now for a quick view of what is happening with the tones in the image.
  2. SHADOW AND HIGHLIGHT LAYERS (PS): Another Sam Peterson trick – this guy does have some really interesting techniques! For images with really neutral lighting, he creates a New Layer and sets it to Multiply blend mode and selects a grayish-blue tone (try #8e969e). Clip this layer to object layer for keeping shadows confined to the object only. Otherwise can use on the whole image. Use any brush, soft Airbrush or hard edged, to paint in the shadows. (Can create a gobo lighting effect doing this with an interesting stamp brush – see my Photoshop Gobo Lightng Effect blog.) He does the same technique for Highlights using a Color Dodge blend mode and a darkish mid-gray color (try #42403d). These two layers work well together and give some beautiful results. By using these colors and adjusting the brush opacity and flow, a subtle result can be achieved.
  3. BRUSH SMOOTHING FOR TRACING (PS): This tip is from Paul Trani also from Adobe Creative Live. When tracing over an image and are having problems controlling the brush strokes, set the brush Smoothing up to 50 and the lines stroke much easier. It does slow the brush down a little, but it really helps to create nice smooth curves lines. I am finding this very helpful anytime I am using a very small sized thin line brush – used it to add some tree branches on a trunk recently.
  4. SELECT AND MASK REFINE EDGE BRUSH (PS): I have always struggled with getting good results in this panel. Well Sam Peterson once again gave me some insight for this tool. With the layer mask highlighted, go into the Select and Mask Panel and choose the Refine Edge brush icon, 2nd down on left side. In Tool Options Bar at top, open the drop-down next to the brush size field and set the brush Hardness to 0, Spacing to 25%, Angle to 0, Roundness to 100% and Size to Off. Also note that the Radius is set to 0, Smart Radius is not checked, and Object Aware selected. Once I did this, I found it was much easier to get good results on the edges, particularly when selecting hair or fur. He also cautions that dragging the brush too much inside selection will allow the edges to creep in. Drag on the very edges outside of object for best results. Use the ALT key and paint back any area that leaks in or use the Brush Tool (3rd icon on left) to clean up.
  5. CAPS LOCK TO FIND AND PAINT WITH BRUSH (PS): Kim Klassen of texture fame put me onto this one. When painting with a very tiny brush or very large brush where it is hard to see, just press the Caps Lock to get a small cross so you can see where the center of the brush is. It works with painting with a very tiny sized brush. I use this trick all the time when using cleaning up areas with small brushes like cleaning up halos, etc.
  6. SMUDGE BRUSH AND MIXER BRUSH LAG ISSUES (PS): These tips comes from Kyle T. Webster, the Adobe Brush Evangelist. If your Smudge or Mixer brush are acting very sluggish, you may need to turn off Sample All Layers due to several layers in image. Can also go into the Brush Settings Panel -> Brush Tip Shape section and – for Smudge Tool, uncheck Spacing and for Mixers set the Spacing to 5%. Try reducing the brush size also. It helps to close other documents open in PS and any open web browsers to speed things up too.
  7. DEHAZE SLIDER TIPS (LR): Two major Lightroom and Photoshop gurus offer these tips. Moose Peterson, of wildlife reknown, says that whenever he uses Dehaze, he always lowers the Blue Saturation in the HSL/Grayscale tab since the slider tends to crank up the blues. John Paul Caponigro, possibly my favorite PS guru, says that Neutral areas may turn magenta, and Shadow areas pick up strong blue or green casts. Can reduce Saturation after using, but what he likes to do it create a Virtual Copy. On one copy use no Dehaze and on another use it. Highlight both images in filmstrip, right click on an image, and select Edit In -> Open as Layers in PS. Put layer with no Dehaze on top and change to Color blend mode. Something to try IMO.
  8. ADJUSTING PRESENCE SLIDERS IN LANDSCAPE IMAGES (LR): This info comes from Randy Van Duinon, a very good architectural and landscape photographer, who uses an interesting LR workflow. He starts by first adjusting the Texture slider which works in the fine detail adding contrast in these areas; next the Clarity slider which adds contrast in the midtone areas (he keeps this amount around 35 and more on cloudy days); and finally Dehaze which adds contrast to the larger areas. Then he continues with the Basic settings. This has worked out well for me at times.
  9. USING PROFILES IN LIGHTROOM (LR): Daniel Gregory, a professional fine art photographer, came up with what I consider is a rather common sense tip. Since the image can change rather dramatically just by changing a profile, he believes that it should be applied first as he would be making different setting decisions depending upon which profile he uses. The Adobe profiles do not have an amount slider, but usually creative profiles that are downloaded have this slider. Consider the Amount slider the same as an Opacity slider on a layer in PS. I will add that many people do not add the profile until the end (Matt Kloskowsky for example) so this is definitely something to try.
  10. PARAMETRIC AND LINEAR CURVES (LR): This tip is from Tobi Shinobi, a bright young newcomer on the PS scene. In the Tone Curves section, first adjust the Linear Curve (2nd white round circle) and add your points. Press ALT to reset the curve and ALT+click over the curve to set a point to adjust. Right click to delete point. The go to Parametric Curve and adjust – they work independently of each other. Use this order to add some finesse to your images.

I hope there were some new ideas presented in these tips. Some really great PS and LR gurus have some great ideas! It was fun putting this together. See ya soon again…..Digital Lady Syd


Image of a bird feeder with a couple of birds
Just doing a really quick blog this week – have been working on an image that was taken this last summer that I really liked, but it just was not that sharp. Mainly my settings were off – they were working on the butterflies but not for the skiddish birds. If I walked in closer, the birds were totally freaking and would not come near the bird feeder, so this was a problem. Lesson learned – shoot manual when having problems! It may not be the best image, but I did get a nice remembrance of the birds and they are at least recognizable. So here is what I finally came up with to fix this.

Obviously I was shooting a lot of images and that was a big part of why this worked. I have learned that a little burst shooting and several attempts are especially good when I am not sure that I am getting the image I want. The two images were not shot at the same time – actually several deer images were taken in between. The juvenile Blue Jay image was shot first and the Cardinal second. You will probably never find a Blue Jay and a Cardinal at this feeder at the same time. That is why the bird images were taken at different times, but I decided to leave the Blue Jay alone as I thought he looked cute. Below are the actual RAW files taken. You can see these both are in pretty bad shape. One reason I wanted to use this Cardinal shot is that I liked the way his head was turned.

Original Raw photos of bird feeder and birds

In Lightroom these simple settings were applied: first opened the Detail Panel to adjust some Sharpness and add Noise reduction (because it is always there with this camera), then in Lens Correction the check boxes for Remove Chromatic Aberration and Enable Profile Corrections were turned on. The image was next cropped into a Square. In the Basic Panel the Auto button was clicked and Texture and Clarity sliders were adjusted. That was it. The image was taken into Photoshop where it could be seen this just was not good. Topaz (for website see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Sharpen AI was added and set to Stabilize, Remove Blur 1.00, and Remove Noise 0.20. It helped, but it could not totally fix this pix. In Lightroom an image that used the same bird feeder that was sharper had to be found – the one with the juvenile Blue Jay was selected. The changes made to the RAW file for the Cardinal were copied over to the Blue Jay image and it was also brought into PS. Below you can see what they both looked like at this point.

Bird feeder images after Lightroom adjustments made to them

Now the Blue Jay image had to have Topaz AI Sharpen applied in PS before stacking on top of the Cardinal layer. Several layers of cloning and painting with both regular and mixer brushes was required to add back the needed detail and blend the colors together. Once brought into the Cardinal image, the Blue Jay layer had to be Free Transformed to fit and a black layer mask added – just painted back parts needed. The info was all there on the originals, just slightly blurry. A Color Lookup Adjustment Layer was added on top using Sparkle Stock’s Bleak-Shoji 01 LUT and set to 58% layer opacity – this tended to tone down the very green background color. Viveza 2 was used to highlight the birds and add a little detail with the Structure slider. The setting were placed on the Blue Jay in this case where the Structure slider was set to 65%, Brightness 42%, Contrast 49%, Saturation 22% and Warmth 25% – really made the bird pop – I use this program all the time to even out an image. I used 6 different points in this image to help direct the eye to the birds. I really feel it is much better than Lightroom’s filters and a lot easier to use. I do still love LR so don’t get me wrong, but this program to me is still the best Photoshop plugin ever made. (See screenshot below of how this plugin was used.)

Screenshot Viveza 2
On a stamped layer, Topaz Lens Effect’s Vignette filter set to Burnt Sienna was used – the effect was painted off the birds and feeder in a layer mask. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added to add some contrast back. Then on a New Layer the Sharpen Tool was set to a Strength of 100% to just the Cardinal and some of the seeds in the bird feeder – it was set to 45% layer opacity to keep it natural. A Selective Color Adjustment Layer was added next to adjust the red color in the Cardinal – this really added some depth and detail to the birds body which was not seen in the original image (Reds set to Cyan +82, Magenta +6, Yellow +2, and Black +13). Next a Black and White Adjustment Layer was added on top and the colors were adjusted as a black and white before setting the layer to Luminosity blend mode – great way to make sure you have your tonal values correct. (See my How to Use a Black & White Adjustment Layer to See Contrast in an Image blog.) Last step involved adding a Red Channel Luminosity Mask to a Curves Adjustment Layer – the Red Channel lighted up the birds the best. (See my How to Use a Red Channel to Create a Nice Blended Image Effect blog.) I hope I am getting across the fact that the sharpening is just slowly built up using different tools for different parts of the image.

Image of a painted deer
Who is this that just walked into my blog? Oh yes, one of the deer that was wandering around the yard near the bird feeder. My goodness! (Image was digitally painted mainly in Corel Painter 2019 and then finished up in Photoshop – my normal paint process.)

Anyway, thought I would show you how to fix something that may not seem fixable. It can be done, just takes a little experimentation and imagination to make it work. It actually is a lot like compositing images. Hope this was a bit of help to some of you – a favorite image might be saveable with a little manipulation. …..Digital Lady Syd


Image of sunset at Spanish Cay in the Bahamas

Taking some time off due to the Dorian Hurricane that is coming up the coast near me. The Bahamas are right in the hurricane’s path. It is one of my favorite places – the Outer Banks especially where all the smaller cays are. The above is an older image of a sunset at the Spanish Cay marina, a little island with hardly any inhabitants but a really nice marina. This is also one of the places where you check in with your passport to continue your visit in the area.

The HDR effect was created using 5 images in Lightroom. Lightroom has made it so easy to do this – just select the images to use and right click to select Photo Merge -> HDR. Just click Merge to apply and a DNG file is created to finish up your post work. For this image one of Blake Rudis’s profiles called Warmifier was applied first in the Basic Panel. Then just the normal adjustments were done. An Adjustment Brush with settings of Texture 85 and Clarity 41 was used to paint over the treeline. A Graduated Filter was placed at the top with settings of Exposure -0.34, Shadows -10, Clarity -30, and Saturation 6. A Radial filter was placed over the clouds where they were slightly warmed up and Clarity removed to soften. In Details Panel, the Luminance had to be slightly increased as there was noise from the darker images. Since I wanted to Sharpen it without bringing back more noise, the Masking Slider was set up to 94 so only the major lines of the image were sharpened. Then the image was taken into Photoshop. On a duplicate layer, Luminar Flex was used to further enhance the image. Filters used were AI Sky Enhancer, Accent AI Filter 2.0, Golden Hour, Top & Bottom Lighting, and HSL adjusting only some of the foreground water color a little. The Filter Amount was then set to only 36%. Last step was to add a Color Lookup Adjustment Layer using Crisp Warm Look at 8% opacity.

Here is hoping the Bahamas, the Florida coast and on up get through this storm. See ya on the other side!…..Digital Lady Syd

PS: Check out my Flickr Bahamas Album for more pix from the Outer Banks.


Image of room taken at the Flagler Museum in Palm Beach, Florida
This blog shows how to add some very soft directed lighting using Lightroom (or ACRs) Adjustment Brush, and how to get rid of the noise caused by the high ISO settings usually associated with interior images. I am not particularly an interior photographer, but there are times when touring old homes or museums I have taken some pretty boring images. I decided to try a technique learned from watching Serge Ramelli’s The One Trick That Got Me the Most Jobs on Interior Design Photography video to pop these image a little – if using LR (or ACR) a lot, check Serge out even if you do not like his total style, he always has some of the best ideas on how to use LR creatively. The image above was taken at the Flagler Museum in Palm Beach, Florida and was quite forgettable. Two major things changed this image dramatically: Serge’s LR adjustment brush settings and in the use of the new Topaz (for website link click sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) DeNoise AI filter in PS.

Serge’s Lightroom (ACR) Adjustment Brush Settings

The RAW photo is shown below. After watching Serge’s video, the soft lighting effect was painted in on a JPG (gasp!!!) created when trying out the DeNoise AI filter. These are the Basic settings used: Exposure -0.44 (want it darker here for this technique), Highlights -91, Shadows +85, Whites +72, and Blacks -54 – pretty standard sliders to use when beginning the image processing. Next click on the Adjustment Brush set up a brush with these setting from Serge: Set the basic brush to Flow and Density around 70, Feather 100 and no Auto Mask (in LR only, I set my Brush B to these settings). In the Panel set the Exposure to +0.84 and Clarity to -48 (he says for a glow effect). At this point I created a preset of the brush called SRamalli Interior Lights. Then just started brushing with a fairly large brush in places where the light would go or have a pleasing effect on. Paint on the ceiling and carpet also. The trick is to go back and forth between the Basic Panel and the Adjustment Brush Panel settings to get exactly the right settings for the look needed. I would encourage you to watch Serge’s video to get the total feel of how he does this. To finish up this image, the Transform Panel’s Upright was set to Full since the image was very crooked (caused a few lights on the walls to disappear but this is not an image that I be publishing – just one to remember how nice the Museum was.)

Topaz DeNoise AI

Normally I would have finished up in LR by going into the Details tab and adding sharpening and removing noise, but this time I decided to let Topaz DeNoise AI filter do the heavy lifting in Photoshop. (Note that you can actually access DeNoise AI from Lightroom if you add it on as an External Editing program from your Preferences panel.) This image was originally selected to try out the new AI fiter and it really created a great result (set Noise Level to 0.50 and Enhance Sharpness to 0.50). Most of my images are not that noisy so this was the kind of shot needed to try it out. A Color Lookup Adjustment Layer was added called Vintage Chrome by On1 (they recently gave out to software owners a whole bunch of great LUT’s for both their On1 (for website link click sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Photo Raw 2019 software and PS.) It was set to 57% layer opacity and the lace in the curtains were darkened in window using a layer set to Overlay blend mode and a low opacity black brush painted over them.

Raw file from Flagler Museum in Palm Beach, Florida
This image below was an taken in one of the historic rooms at Flagler College (was the old Ponce de Leon Hotel built in 1888) in St. Augustine (not to be confused with the above Flagler Museum image taken where Flagler used to live in Palm Beach). Same steps in Lightroom and then in PS, used the Topaz DeNoise AI filter (set to Noise Level 0.50 and Enhance Sharpness 0.50). But also Topaz Sharpen AI filter was applied (set to Processing Mode Stabilize, Remove Blur 0.50 and Suppress Noise 0.50) – needed a little more sharpness since the image was taken hand-held at a high ISO and Stabilize mode will fix this. Last step involved adding a Levels Adjustment Layer to even out the midtone contrast. That was it.

Image of historic room at Flagler College (old Ponce de Leon Hotel)The original RAW image is below – pretty unbelievable that you can even get an image from it. It is nice to have a nice shot of the beautiful chandelier in the room.

Original RAW file for Flagler College room
Hope you enjoyed these couple little tricks – it is pretty easy to do and I plan on trying this technique out on a few old cathedral images taken in Europe. It does add some nice of emotion and color to an image which in normal circumstances would be pretty uninteresting. And do download DeNoise AI, especially if you have AI Clear or DeNoise6 – it is really good! Until next time…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Showing Some of Serge Ramelli’s Effects
Topaz DeNoise AI – And Yes, Free Upgrade When You Own DeNoise6 or AI Clear


Image of a Red Ruffed Lemur at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm
Decided to take a bit of a break this week so just presenting a few Lightroom tips I have run across over the last couple months. Most of them will also apply to Adobe Camera Raw (and the Camera Raw filter). Sometimes where reviewing a video or blog, there will be a little jewel included in the technique, but it is never really emphasized or in some cases below, actual blogs were created on the technique. All the names listed are Lightroom gurus. So without further ado, here are a few tips you may not have tried using:

  1. Using the Auto button in Lightroom and ACR’s Basic Panel (it may be the first AI feature used in Photoshop) was added in December of 2017 and many people think it is a great starting point for post-processing. But you can also just hold down the SHIFT button and double-click on any of the individual slider tabs to set just one of the Auto values.
  2. For the Adjustment Brush in either LR or ACR: If no pin is selected (highlighted), whatever settings chosen will be the values for the next new pin; if pin is selected, the settings will only apply to that pin – if New pin is clicked, the settings go back to the old values. This had confused me for a long time.
  3. From Unmesh Dinda, a Lightroom trick only – click on the little triangle on upper right side of the Adjustment Brush panel – it will bring up an Amount slider so the total effect created by that pin can be adjusted.
  4. Unmesh’s second tip, also for Lightroom only: In the regular Adjustment Brush panel, once a section is painted, ALT + click and drag over pin in photo to increase or decrease all the sliders but this time proportionately which also will adjust the total effect. I think this is really something!
  5. From Matt Kloskowsky: Can draw a straight line with the Adjustment Brush by clicking once, and then SHIFT + click at end point – works just like in Photoshop.
  6. Also from Matt a Lightroom tip only: When using the Adjustment Brush, hold the CTRL key to paint close to the edges of an object – it essentially turns the Auto Mask checkbox on. Just let go of CTRL to release. It will not indicate when it is on in Brush section, but it is on.
  7. This tip is from Serge Ramelli (see link at end on my blog on him – almost all of his work is done in Lightroom) – if you have converted image to black and white and there are halos in your image, look at your Black & White Panel to see if any of the color settings are larger than -50 – it will cause halos, especially in skies.
  8. From Rob Sylvan, hold the ALT Key while moving the Defringe Amount sliders in the Lens Correction Panel’s Manual section. This is really a great way to see what effect it is having on just the discolorated edges in Lightroom but not Camera Raw. This also works with the Hue sliders but I did not see that it helped much in Lightroom but worked great in Camera Raw. So try both sliders when adjusting your image.
  9. Also from Rob Sylvan: Sometimes removing the purple or green fringe from your image can reduce the saturation in parts of your photo where you want the color to remain. To fix, first make adjustments in the Lens Correction Panel; when finished, select the Adjustment Brush and reset sliders to 0 (click on the word Effect – turns into Reset) except for the Defringe slider that should be set to -100. Paint over areas of image to remove the unwanted Defringing, especially where there a similar colors to the fringing. Don’t know where those areas are? Do Step 8 and it will show what areas are being affected.
  10. From Scott Kelby, to enhance Detail in Lightroom, use the Clarity slider (don’t go too far or halos will appear) which adds midtone contrast and causes the image to be darker; to fix just adjust the brightness by moving the Exposure slider between 20 to 30. Great for  hard edged shots but not for people images.
  11. Use the Calibration Panel to tailor your colors. Can still use these colors with the Basic Panel Tint and Tones.
  12. From Matt Kloskowsky, to fix bad lighting, decrease Exposure and increase Whites.
  13. When using the Detail’s Sharpening section, Martin Evening suggests using these settings: Set Radius to 0.7 to 0.9 for images with lots of fine lines, and 1.1 to 1.3 for softer edges as in portraits; Detail slider – as you increase the amount above 25, more chance for halos so keep at 25 or below; and the Amount slider acts like a volume slider for sharpening.
  14. From Blake Rudis, when creating LUT files (or profiles used in LR) in Adobe Camera Raw (see below for link on how to do this), use adjustments that are unique to Photoshop like Solid Color, Levels, Curves (more precise in PS), Channel Mixer, Color Balance, Gradient Map, and Selective Color Adjustments Layers. Seems intuitive but good to remember.
  15. Here are some shortcut keys from Julieanne Kost on how to use the Radial Filter:

• Shift + M selects the Radial Filter

• When you drag in the image area, the Radial Filter is scaled from center, Shift-drag will constrain to a circle

• Control-double-click in the image area to expand the Radial Filter to the visible image area.

• Control-double-click on an existing Radial Filter will expand it to the visible image area.

• Control + Alt-drag an existing Radial Filter will duplicate it.

• “H” hides the interface

• Tap the Apostrophe key ( ‘ ) to toggle the Invert Mask option

• Double-click on an existing Radial Filter will apply the Radial filter and dismiss the tool.

Hope you found some new Lightroom tips. Well, that is it for this week- have a wonderful Spring break if you get one, or if not, just have a great week!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
How to Create Profiles in ACR from LR Presets and Some PS LUT Files
Showing Some of Serge Ramelli’s Effects
Lightroom for Animal Photography


Image of a Laughing Kookaburra Bird
This week I am going to discuss one new method of creating a very localized vignette for your image – next week I will have another one. I have written about vignettes in the past, but these next two are really good! This Radial Filter technique used on the Laughing Kookaburra Bird above is actually a bit of a no-brainer when you think how easy it is to create – just never thought about it. This is one that many of you may decide is the best way to create a vignette. Jesus Ramirez presented the method in a recent short video called Powerful Tip to Make Better Vignettes in Photoshop. In his example, he opened an image in Photoshop’s Camera Raw Filter – make sure you have set the layer in PS to a Smart Object (right click on the layer and choose Convert to Smart Object). The vignette should be added near the end of your workflow. This can be done in Lightroom/Adobe Camera Raw but it interferes with some of my other Radial filter effects so I use the Camera Raw Filter in PS for this particular method. In LR a Virtual Copy created after doing your other changes could be used to add this effect in at the end.

First select Radial Filter – Add a Radial Filter on the subject and clear the old settings by opening up the upper right pop-out panel and choosing Reset Local Correction Settings. Go to the Exposure slider and set it fairly dark – Jesus used a setting of -3.60 but ended up using just -2.65. For the bird image I used -1.20. The Clarity slider moved left helps remove the midtone contrasts, Sharpen to the left blurs details, and negative Saturation all will make distractions less noticeable. Setting Temperature to more blue will darken the area to make the subject appear more warm. For my image above, Contrast was set to +46, Clarity -55, Saturation -38, Sharpness -88, and Temperature -39. Be sure you have a soft Feather to control the edge of the gradient – his setting was 20 and I used 11.

Second Radial Filter – Create circle by right clicking on the pin from the first Radial filter and selecting Duplicate – then need to pull it a little to the side so both filter pins can be easily accessed. Set the Effect to Inside and reset the settings again. Go to the Exposure settings and decide what looks good, then adjust the same sliders – Temperature, Clarity, Saturation, Sharpness and Feather. For the bird above the Exposure was set to +0.25, Temperature +6, Clarity +36, Saturation +22, Sharpness +31, and Feather 18.

You do not have to use all the sliders for this method to work and other sliders can be used to tweak it depending on the image.

Image of a Yellow Billed Stork at the Jacksonville Zoo
For the bird image above the Outside Radial Filter was set to Exposure -0.25, Contrast +15, Clarity -28, Saturation -30, Sharpness -60 and Feather set to 20; and the Inside Radial Filter was set at the same place using Temperature +18, Tint -10, Exposure +0.35, Contrast +30, Clarity +15, Saturation +13, Sharpness +18 and Feather +39 – Set Range Mask to Luminance and used 41/100 to let a little more of the outside vignette into the inside radial filter background.

My two blogs previously were based on PS guru Matt Kloskowski’s very good technique (How to Create a Subtle Vignette blog) and Blake Rudis’ very creative technique (Yet Another Great Way to Create a Vignette! blog). In fact Topaz Lens Effects filter vignettes are really good and so are the ones in Skylum’s Luminar and Aurora HDR plugins/software. (See sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website links.)

I imagine most of us have used a technique similar to this to create emphasis in the image – I just had never used Radial Filters to actually create the final vignette effect. I think it is very good and easy to do. Next week’s vignette is a very different workflow but is still a localized vignette – very interesting to compare. See ya next week!…..Digital Lady Syd


Image of an African Elephant at the Jacksonville ZooThis week I watched a few videos by the Lightroom guru Serge Ramelli. Thought I would show a few things I have learned from his techniques in the last few weeks. I have found that if you follow a few of his videos, you get the main idea of how he gets the results that are definitely a signature effect for his style. I like it, but not sure it fits all my photos. This blog will show a few things I have learned from him.

He went on a safari recently and created some interesting Lightroom/Adobe Camera Raw presets so I decided to try them out. The above African Elephant image was taken at the Jacksonville Zoo and seemed like a perfect subject for my first attempt.

To download the free presets, need to go to one of his U-Tube videos where he has a link to them – How to Edit Amazing Landscape Photos with Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop or How to Remove Fence Lines: Simple Camera Trick. You must sign up for his site to get them. I do not feel these are Serge’s best videos, but I appreciate the fact that he has given us some interesting presets to try out. There are 10 presets with the download, and the one used above is called Warm Dramatic Light – it seems to be his favorite. Two Radial Filters were used to brighten up the elephant face a little light reflection on the foreground rock. Two Graduated Filters were used one on the bottom and one on right side. For the rest of the workflow, the image was brought into Photoshop (the latest PS update this week fixed the problem with opening PS from Lightroom to edit an image). I believe if one thing has changed my recent workflow from the holidays, it is Topaz (for website link, see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) Studio’s AI Clear. I am now using it on every image as my first step in PS. In this image the Clarity slider was also set to 44. A Dehaze Adjustment was also added and set to 41. Back in PS an Exposure Adjustment Layer was used on the eye and a 50% Gray layer was used to Dodge and Burn on the elephant.

Another trick I learned this week was from Jesus Ramirez, definitely a PS guru, in his Color Matching in Photoshop Fast and Easy – 90 Second Tip #05 (Phew!). This is the coolest tip which uses the Curves Adjustment Layer – check out his video as it is really short and to the point. (I may do a blog on this as it really is a good technique to have in your arsenal of PS effects.) The last steps were just a little clean up in the image. Between the nice Safari preset of Serge and the Curves Adjustment Layer of Jesus, the image has a natural African safari feel to it.


B&W image of Laupahoehoe Harbor on the Big Island in HawaiiThis image was created by following several videos in a class at Kelby One by Serge called Lightroom Classic Techniques for Creating Black and White Images. I felt like Serge did an excellent job on discussing this process and gave some really nice presets with the course. I have not taken any of his individual classes he sells, but for the $9 sale price, it is probably a good buy if you want to learn his black and white technique. This image used a B&W preset created in the class but he does have some that are in his free Welcome Kit (28 presets and lots of other goodies) offered at his site. One thing I did learn is when to use a black & white treatment. He says “Boring colors mean go black and white.” In Photoshop Topaz Studio’s AI Clear was applied. The image was cropped and a few spots cleaned up. A slight vignette was created using Matt Kloskowski’s technique – see my How to Create a Subtle Vignette blog. That was it – not even a Curves Adjustment Layer was needed for contrast.


Image of a carved wooden post in the countryside of BelarusThis image was taken on a country road in Belarus and of course it did not have any snow. This image used Serge’s preset called Zoo Hollywood (in a free set of 6 that can be downloaded with his video called How to Turn Your Zoo Photos into Fine Art with Lightroom). In PS, Topaz Studio was opened and AI Clear applied, then Topaz Impression using the Type 03 brush. Next the Edge Adjustment was added to give some interesting edges to the cornfield. Back in PS Serge’s Snow brushes were applied – these are probably the best atmospheric snow brushes I have used – 10 of them in the set. Check out his video called How To Create Snow in Photoshop CC to download them. His video shows a few tricks to make them look good. I just had fun applying them. Nik Viveza 2 was used to even out the colors and that was about it.

Hope you get a chance to try out Serge’s presets and brushes – they are really nice. He takes a bit of a different approach to his images for processing and the presets show this. Enjoy your week!…..Digital Lady Syd


Image of San Francisco, California, at nightHope everyone is having a great start to the New Year! It seems like there are some wonderful new Photoshop techniques being presented almost daily. What I am going to show this week is one that totally blew me away since my camera does have a lot of noise when I shoot over ISO 1000 especially. It is an older model Nikon that I can’t seem to part with and I have a ton of nighttime images that just do not look great due to the older sensor. So if you are like me, or have some images you shot before before getting a better camera, this technique may really help to salvage a few of your favorite images from the past.

It all started when I read an article by Serge Ramelli, the Adobe Lightroom guru, in Kelby One’s November Lightroom Magazine called Nighttime Photography Workflow. Yes, Kelby One (the old NAPP site) still puts out their Photoshop and Lightroom magazines just like when they used to be on the newsstand years ago. If you are a member, they are published digitally almost monthly. Below is the RAW image for the above image of San Francisco at night. I really liked the bridge lit up and the tall building on the right with the lights on, but the car and blinding lights and colors were awful! The only thing good about it was fairly sharp. What I learned from Serge’s article is that there are a few tricks to getting those night photos to pop and that you do not have to stick to the original color scheme – I really liked the cool night tones that ended up in my final image. Therefore you will see most of my images are now turned towards the cooler bluish-pink tones which I think looks much better than the ugly yellow-orange original colors. I might add that Serge has lots of very good Lightroom programs and some great tips on photographing.

Just to help everyone out, the preset has been added to my DeviantArt site so you can download it with the settings described below – zipped file is called SJ Nighttime Settings.

Original RAW photo of top image in blog
This is what was done with to the above image to get the final top image look – these are my settings so feel free to change if you like different ones. The preset (linked above for download) uses my settings shown below:

1. First I set the Profile in Lightroom (could use ACR for these same steps) to Vintage 07 with the Amount slider set to 78%. Always check through these profiles provided by Adobe (or any you may have acquired recently). This profile seems work with most of my night images.

2. Crop and straighten image. In the above the parked car roof had to be removed.

3. In the Basics Panel try making some of these adjustments – use any order you think works best on the image:

– Open the shadows up but not so much since it is a night image – in my case +63 was used. If image a lot darker than the above, use a smaller amount.

– Boost up the whites – this makes the lights in the image really pop if they do not already stand out as mine did above so it was set to 0.

– Blacks – set to reveal more of the sky but try not to add more noise. Mine was set to -7 which really did help.

– Highlights – I set mine back to -100, but in a dark image, this may too much.

– Temperature – I set mine towards blue or -80

– Clarity – really makes it pop – a +35 was used on this image.

– Vibrance – used a +24 here.

– Saturation – used more of this +33.

– Tint – +22 to give it a little of a magenta feel.

– Exposure and Contrast – these were adjusted as a last step. Only the Exposure was decreased to -98 for this image and preset.

4. Here is the tip that gives the image the depth it needs – add a Radial Filter over the midground subject – in this case the bridge area. Invert should be checked so only the inside of the filter is changed. Now slightly boost the Exposure to something like +1.47, which was used here along with Temp of 35, Tint of 35, Clarity of 41 and Whites 22 (since it really popped the lights of the bridge). Again, re-adjust these for the image being used. For this image, the Range Mask set to Luminance was used and the Range set to 95/100 so only the really light areas inside the circle were affected – that is why the lights look so vivid. If you cannot see what is happening, check Show Luminance Mask and watch as you move the sliders. Note: if you make a preset for these settings, be sure to turn off the Luminance Range Mask settings which is not needed for all image, and it will not looks right when you try to adjust the other sliders in the Radial Filter. For the preset the Radial Filter circle was left on the image with the above settings.

5. Last step involves using the Details panel and adjusting the Noise Reduction – in this case Luminance was 28 which is quite a bit and Contrast to 23. Then the Sharpening was set to 85. This is definitely a setting that you need to set yourself depending on your camera model and how much of a noise problem there is.

6. I made a preset (download shown above) with my settings so that I could reuse them on another image (with Luminance Range Mask off). Also, now that I was at a point where the image could be opened in Photoshop, it was opened sent over as a Smart Object (right click and select Edit In -> Open as Smart Object in Photoshop). This will open up ACR only if using RAW files. If needed, you can go back and adjust your settings in PS without going back to LR.

The following steps will vary depending on what will work with your image. For the one above, this is the workflow but the image below used totally different steps to remove noise and finish up the image.

7. In Photoshop the next thing done was try to sharpen and remove noise a little more by going into creating a duplicate layer and going into Topaz (for website see sidebar on my Tidbits Blog) Studio.  Their AI Clear adjustment was selected and these settings were applied:  Auto Noise Reduction and High Sharpening. The Precision Contrast Adjustment was added in Studio also and these settings were used: Micro, Low and Medium Contrast set to 0.30 and High set to -0.30. The last Adjustment selected was Dehaze set to a Strength of 0.52. Apparently their Dehaze filter is much superior to the one in Lightroom or ACR. I also find it is pretty good so I apply it using this filter.

8. Finished up with a Tone Curve to darken down the image to add contrast.

A couple things that can be also done to enhance these images. If another Radial Circle needs to be added to fix an image, go ahead and try it. To duplicate the one already in the preset, just right click it and select duplicate – then drag to the new location. If new settings need to be used, just click the New button. Also, add a Gradiant Filter or two if the foreground or background needs to be darkened some. And for the really hard to adjust area, just brush the settings in. Lightroom and Camera Raw are so flexible.

Below is another example of an image that was really bright yellow and did not look good at all.

Image of the Firehouse on Main Street at Disney WorldThis image followed pretty much the same steps as above – used the preset I created for the first image and just adjusted for this one. The Radial Filter had to be adjusted and the Luminance Range Mask set for this image. But this time in Photoshop, did a couple different things. Used Imagenomics Noiseware‘s default to remove more noise – it worked wonders! I always try different ways as sometimes one will not work but another will. This is not a new filter, but it is one of the best out there. The Fireworks was from Design Textures but it is pretty easy to create your own (see one of my older blogs called Faking Fireworks!). at A little clean up was done and the last step was to open up Topaz ReStyle and applied the City Lights II preset. A few sliders were adjusted in the plugin to tweek the colors. That is all that was done and the image now has a very Disney look. Below is the original image and another example of how Topaz ReStyle can change an image’s look, even a night one. This time the Royal Blue and Apricots preset was applied to give a much more Disney feel to it, but not what I would do to most of my nighttime images.

Original of the Disney Main Street image Alternate image of the Firehouse on Main Street USA-Magic Kingdom
Technique may or may not work on every image, and the image needs to be really sharp to get good results. I have a few images where the noise just could not be removed, but most work pretty well with this preset and a few tricks in Photoshop.

Hope everyone will give this a try – it really surprised me how good some of my image could be. Hope everyone has a great week!…..Digital Lady Syd


Image of small palms at Viera Wetlands in FloridaEveryone is very happy about the recent update to Adobe Lightroom (LR)and Adobe Camera Raw (ACR). I have been pretty happy too, but one thing has been bothering me a lot. How do you make these new profiles? This blog is not going to discuss how to use these profiles as there are many great videos on this topic. I just want you to understand how profiles differ from presets: Presets once applied have all kinds of different settings from the various panels throughout the program in either ACR or LR; but once a Profile is applied there are no settings changed in the panels or tabs – they simply act as a kind of film sitting on top of your original RAW file (they will not work with JPG files) and now the various program settings can be changed from this point on. Also, to find the new Profiles and all the Legacy files, go to the top right of the Basic section in both ACR and Lightroom and click on the 4 square icon to open up the browser. Usually an Amount slider is available that can go all the way up to 200% to adjust how much of the profile is applied. The default profile for any new downloads is now the Color profile in the Basic folder, which is better according to my sources – for older photos Adobe Standard in the Legacy folder will be applied so switch them over in the Basic settings to see if it helps the image. When done, press Close to access the rest of the Basic Panel. The image above is from the Viera Wetlands in Florida. It is the final image of photo used in video.

Everyone has been talking about the fact that you can make your own profiles, but no one was showing you how. But the New Profile dialog in ACR or the Camera Raw Filter will let you convert your presets and some LUT files with the .cube extension to a new profile. Colin Smith at Photoshop Cafe in his How to Make New Color Profiles for Lightroom and ACR video finally discussed the secret on how to create your own profiles. Although not based upon settings in Adobe Photoshop CC or LR, but from within ACR itself – it is not that hard to do at all. I included a short video on this and give you the steps below. Several of the profiles are based on my own or those from others Photoshop LUT files (see my How to Use and Create Lookup Table (LUT) Files blog). I also cover this in my video, but I have to admit the LUT file created looked different in ACR than in LR – not sure why but checking on this – all my other ones were fine.

Here are the steps for converting ACR presets (which are now the same as the ones in Lightroom) into profiles.

  1. Profiles can only be created in Adobe Camera Raw or the Camera Raw filter, so first an image needs to be opened in either one, but not in Lightroom.
  2. Make some changes to the image that you think would make a great profile to apply to other images or select one of your existing presets. Changes can be made to the settings to add additional changes to existing presets.
  3. Go to the Presets tab in either (the second from the right in ACR as the end one contains a Snapshot tab or the last tab in Camera Raw which does not allow snapshots).
  4. Now here is the clincher – go down to the bottom of the Preset Panel to the Create Preset icon and instead of just clicking on it, hold down the ALT  key + the icon and the New Profile dialog box appears! (See screen capture below.)
  5. Name the Profile and create a New Set for the profile if you want to put them in a special folder.
  6. Next time you open up Photoshop or Lightroom, the profile will be in this folder. Note the folder will not be in the Presets list if you created a new one unless you also saved it down as a Preset, but only in the new Profiles browswer in the Basic Panel.

Image of New Profile dialog box

I have included a very short video below so you can see exactly how a preset is turned into a profile. Also I am showing how to do a quick LUT or Color Lookup Table using the .cube extension in Photoshop to use as a profile. I have not tried a Look Table using a .csv file, which is one of the choices for saving a LUT file. The default Photoshop LUTs use a .look file extension – I have not figured out how to convert it to a different usable extension. Adobe has issued an article with more info how to do this on their Digital Negative (DNG) page – scroll down to Resources Profiles SDK (2018) to download the PDF. Apparently it is a pretty complicated process. If viewing in the RSS feed and video link does not show up, please visit my blog site to activate the video.

I find it odd that everyone is leaving out this bit of info. I have to give Colin kudos for sharing this. It is so easy to do, but it must be done in Camera Raw. Who knew, but now you can at least go on and make your own to your hearts content. Hope you have a good weekend creating profiles!…..Digital Lady Syd


Thought I would do a short post of my favorite images from the last year – have not done this in a while. For more info on photo adjustments, click on the image to go to Flickr where links to the original blogs are available. Hope you enjoy my favs!Image of the Veira WetlandsImage above is from the Viera Wetlands in Brevard County and used the Orton Effect.
Image of a Malayan Tiger at the Jacksonville ZooThis beautiful Malayan Tiger was post-processed using the fabulous Topaz (for website link, go to my Tidbits Blog sidebar) Impression 2 filter. This is one of my favorite images created using Impression.
Image of a painted pink roseImage of this peach rose is one that was painted in Photoshop with the mixer brushes, and the background was created in Corel Painter – then the layers were stacked in PS.
Image from Shorpy's of a boy looking in a store window in DC cc 1922The original image was taken in Washington, DC, around 1922 was cropped and hand-tinted in Photoshop. I find it is really fun to hand-tint old images found at
Image of the Flagler Kenan Pavillion at the Flagler Museum in Palm Beach, FloridaThis is the Flagler Kenan Pavillion at the Flagler Museum in Palm Beach, Florida. It is one of the lightest, brightest rooms I have seen and is on the IntraCoastal Waterway. This effect was created with the no longer available Lucis Pro 6.0.9 Photoshop plug-in – too bad that in 2016 it finally became a reasonable purchase and then it discontinued.
Painted image of St. Trinity Church in Belarus Image is of St. Trinity Church as seen from the Mir Castle in Belarus. This image was painted in Photoshop using Jack Davis’s painting action.
Image of three painted birdsThese three painted Florida birds are presented in a Lightroom template with the background added in Photoshop. The birds were all painted in Photoshop and the bird backgrounds painted in Corel Painter.
Composite image of Rudolph the Raindeer and a Native American little boyThis image is an example of a composite that integrated several elements into a story.
Image of several ants on a dandelionImage taken with a LensBaby Composer on my camera which gives a very lovely soft effect.
Flowers created using Paintstorm StudioThese flowers were painted in Paintstorm Studio, a really nice painting program.

Next week I plan to continue presenting all the Fun Tips and Tricks that can be done in Photoshop with a little painting mixed in!…..Digital Lady Syd


2017 January Calendar example This week I thought I would give you a quick tutorial on how to create basic calendars using your own photos. A calendar can be so personal and might be the perfect last-minute gift. Recently I blogged about how to use templates in both Lightroom and Photoshop, and these techniques use very similar steps to create calendars. (See my How to Use Lightroom’s Print Templates to Display Your Images blog and How to Use a Photoshop Template blog.)

The first thing that needs to be done is to download the free calendars. First Ed Weaver at Red Photographic site distributes the calendars every year along with the wonderful Lightroom Print templates. Also Calendar has different formats that can be downloaded as Word documents – see the Photoshop Calendars section below on how to convert these to JPEG files. Either site’s calendars can be used in both programs.


Matt Kloskowski (a former Photoshop Guy) created a recent blog that basically covers how to get the templates into your program  – check out his Free Lightroom Calendar Preset and Templates blog. It is important to understand that the JPG calendars are just that – JPGs and need to be Imported into Lightroom just like any other image. Therefore, they need to be placed in a folder probably with your images so you know where to find them. The templates also need to be imported into Lightroom – the files have an extension of .Irtemplate. In the Lightroom Print module’s Template Browser, create a new category called 2017 Calendar Templates – then right click on the folder and import these templates. There are 11 being imported.

The image above used the Calendar 8 1:2 X 11 1 month template. Matt suggests creating a New Collection called 2017 Calendar Templates. From the Develop module, select all the 2017 Calendar JPGs and drag them into this collection. Now go through your images and choose ones you would like to include in your calendar. The collection makes is very easy to add the images and the calendars into the templates once back in the Print module. Highlight the new Calendar collection  and the Film Strip at the bottom will show all the items in the collection. Click on a template in the Template Browser to chose one. Just drag images into the openings of the template you have selected. To adjust the images inside the openings, must CTRL+drag image to fit – this is because the template is a Custom Package. My 12-month calendar did not look right when selected. If this happens, click on the Page Setup button and go into your printer’s Properties. You probably need to set the paper size to the size in shown in the template description – my printer does not have all the sizes shown so the standard 8 1/2 inches X 11 inches was used for the these examples and set to Borderless Printing to get the template openings to look correct. A background color or Inner Stroke can be added. Instead of printing right from Lightroom, I like to go to the Print Job section and choose Print to: JPEG file. Press the Print to File and save the file as a JPEG. Now more adjustments can be made in Photoshop if needed.
Image of a 12-month 2017 CalendarBelow is a different example of how to use the templates in Lightroom. This calendar used the Custom Center template in Lightroom Templates folder. Note that the heading colors are different from the gray tones in the original calendar JPEGs – this can be done by first selecting the calendar needed, then enter the Develop module, create a Virtual Copy (by right clicking on the image) and changing the color – this time the Split Toning panel was used to do this. The Virtual Copy can be dragged onto the template just like the original image. I just kept going back to the Print module and seeing if the resulting color matched nicely. Also, on the Calendars, I removed the bottom lines by just adjusting the cells – then used the CTRL+drag inside to further adjust calendar in the cell.
Image of a January/February 2017 Calendar


It is actually easier and there is more creative license to do calendars in Photoshop. First create a document that is the size you want the calendar to be – I used 8.5 inches X 11 inches again. Now bring in the calendar. The calendars from Ed Weaver are fine or download from Calendar for some different formats. If using the Word document calendar, just open it up in Word, right click on the calendar itself, and choose Copy. Go into the Photoshop file and right click or CTRL+V to Paste the calendar into the document. Now Free Transform (CTRL+T) to adjust size and to position. If Copy is not one of the options in Word (as in the 12-month calendar which is in a table format), need to right click and choose Select -> Table – then right click once calendar is highlighted and click on Copy. It will now Paste into Photoshop. Next place an image for the top of the calendar – or just paint in a New Layer above the calendar. New Layers can be placed above the Background layer and fancy brushes can be used to paint behind it. There are now all kinds of possibilities for creating beautiful calendars for each month or for yearly ones.

Image of a January 2017 Calendar with Lions showcasedAbove the background was painted behind and above the image to give the whole month a snowy feeling – this might be a little hard to read, but it was fun to create. These are just my lion buddies that look so good wherever I put them. Used the Pretty Action”s Magic Dust brush again, some of Aaron Blaise Canvas Texture brushes, and a couple of Grut’s FX Cloud brushes (they don’t have to be used for clouds!). The image below is another example of creating the Calendar in PS and just dragging in the calendars and images. A layer mask was placed on the calendar and using one of the canvas texture brushes again, parts were lightly painted out in the calendar. Then the calendar was duplicated and taken into Color Range where the white was removed – press CTRL+J and just the numbers were shown on the layer – a Layer Styles stroke was placed around it. Then the layer was set to Color Burn at 64% so it shows up, but is slightly transparent. The flower image was taken in the Bahamas – Corel Particleshop was applied using the Cluster Brush to add some bright lights. Also the Magic Dust brush was used to add more of a magical feel. Really fun!January 2017 Calendar Hope this was easy to understand. It is a lot of fun to create your own calendars – I like to do this every year. Just experiment around and you should be able to get the hang of it. Enjoy the holidays!…..Digital Lady Syd


Images of Maui from a HelicopterThis week I thought I would discuss using the built-in templates in the Print module of Lightroom. They can be a little tricky. I listened to some videos recently from by Julianne Kost called Introduction to Photo Compositing. She used a Lightroom Print module diptych template for her images before saving them as JPEG files in the Print To field. I just sort of improvised and used a canned LR default called Custom 2 over 1 in the Template Browser, which is an example of a Custom Package Layout Style. Then adjusted each image cell to fit the image selected in the Filmstrip at the bottom. The low original coastline image was more square than that shown – just used Photoshop’s Content-Aware Scale to stretch it out while protecting the coastline. The background in the template was a beach texture created in Corel Painter with some grunge brush strokes added on top – had to select the white border and remove it before adding the texture. The Maui images above were all processed using similar filters – the now free Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 set to Luminosity blend mode and then Topaz (see website link at my Tidbits Blog sidebar) ReStyle. Pretty simple workflow.

Image of three Florida birdsHere is another image LR template showing my painted birds that used a rather unique set up for presenting your photos. I don’t know why, but I like the vertical strip look. In PS, a different texture was used for this background. Again, selected the white border and added a layer mask. Then applied the mask to just leave the images that can then be placed above the texture layer.

Now for the Layout Style template issue! I find these print module templates not as easy to use as it should be. After playing around with the two templates shown above, I have learned that there are differences between each style and how you load the images. Here are some issues to be aware of:

  • Sometimes the images are not in the same folders. If this happens a temporary new collection needs to be created so all the images appear in the filmstrip together. The Quick Collection does not work, must be in a created one. The Filmstrip is how you add the images to your templates so this is a necessary step. You can remove the collection when you are done printing or saving the final image as a JPEG.
  • A lot depends on whether you are using a Single Image/Contact Sheet template or a Custom Package. Depending on which one is being used determines how the images can be added to the template. If you cannot drag images in individually from the filmstrip, the template is a Single Image/Contact Sheet template. More on this below.
  • Unfortunately, the size of the images cannot be increased or reduced to adjust inside the cells – in other words no Free Transform to adjust image in cell – the aspect ratio is set. The work around would be in the Develop module to create a Virtual Copy of the size or part of image you would like to use and then select it in the Filmstrip using the Print Module.

For Single Image/Contact Sheet templates, the limitation is that the images can only be added based upon the order of the images in the Filmstrip – must select all of the images at once in the Filmstrip to add. Therefore, if you do not like the order, you will have to rename the images to set the order. When using this type of template, the images can be adjusted inside the the individual image cells by just dragging inside them. The Zoom to Fit can be checked to make it fit the cell, but the size cannot be adjusted otherwise. Press CTRL+click on the image to deselect image to remove from template.

For Custom Package templates, the images can be dragged into any cell and in any order. If a template will not let you add another image, that means a Single Image/Contact Sheet Layout Style template has been selected. Unfortunately there are not as many options to create a template when the Custom Package  is selected. There are no Layout Margin or Cell Spacing cells so all the image cells have to be lined up using the Rulers checkbox in the Rulers, Grid & Guides section. This can be tedious to do, but worth the time so that the images can be added in any order. Start with Cells section and press the Clear Layout button – then Add to Package and click the 2 X 2.5 button, then start adjusting the size of the cell to taste by dragging the sides or corners. To adjust the image position inside the cells, must CTRL+drag on image or else the actual photo cell moves. To delete a cell, just press the BACKSPACE key. To duplicate a cell, press ALT+drag to it to a new position. If

Below you can see the difference between the two major Layout Styles. Luckily in this case you can get very similar results, but it is harder to set up the Custom Package style. The top screen shot used a Custom Package layout and the bottom one used the Single Image/Contact Sheet layout. If you would like to see the preset settings more clearly, click on each image to see settings in Flickr:

Screenshot of a Single Image/Contact Sheet for 3 Tall preset

Image of a 3-Tall Custom Package preset After images are lined correctly, go to the Print Job and change Print to: from Printer to JPEG File. The image can then be brought into Photoshop where the background can be changed and text added. Pretty easy at this point.

In my Showing Off Your Images with Lightroom blog a while back, there are several more examples of using LR templates. For more info on how to create your own Print Template presets, Scott Kelby did a really nice job in his Adobe Photoshop Lightroom (any version) Book for Digital Photographers, “Creating Custom Layouts Any Way You Want Them” chapter. Here he goes into more detail on how to make several different creative effects using the Custom Package layout style. This module has not changed since Lightroom 3 at the time of this blog. I really like templates. It is too bad it is so confusing as to how to get these nice effects. I am surprised Adobe has not updated the Print module to incorporate some easier ways to add photos and adjust them. Hopefully that will be part of the next update. Anyway, it was a lot of fun creating some different ways to show my images. Have a good week…..Digital Lady Syd


Image of a pirate on a kiddie ride at Daytona BeachShowing just a couple tips for Lightroom and Camera Raw that I learned a while ago from my favorite Photoshop Guru, Jack Davis. This image is of a Pirate that sits atop a kiddie ride at the Boardwalk in Daytona Beach, Florida.

Desaturate and Add Back Localized Color

The first trick is to desaturate the image setting all the Saturation (SAT) sliders in the HSL section of Lightroom to 0. Then they were adjusted to show just a hint of any colors I wanted to show up in the image, so in this case, Red was set to -81, Orange -61, Yellow -54 and Aqua -85. All the other sliders were set to -100 so no color showed through at all.

Next the Adjustment Brush was opened and 2 pins were painted to darken the colors in localized areas. The reds and blues were saturated more by setting the brush to Clarity 77, Saturation 100, and Sharpness 83 on the Pirate. The brush Flow was only 70 and Density 61. Also added another point for some less intense color in the Pelican picture and boats setting the Saturation to 53. On the last pin point the Saturation was set to -100 to remove extraneous reds and yellows in the background. Jack Davis does a wonderful job of tinting a photo using this technique where he starts with all the Saturation sliders at -100. Check out most of his video classes on Creative Live. As an aside note, if you wanted more of the same effect created with the Adjustment Brush, you can always add a second pin and repaint with the same settings the area to double-up the effect.

Split Toning Effect Using Tone Curves

Next a Split Toning effect was applied using the Tone Curve to get the pretty vintage blue color in the image. This is a really neat section to use for split toning that you do not come across very often. Once again Jack Davis, in his wonderful Lightroom 5 Training (Day 3) videos for Creative Live, used these settings to achieve this look. In Lightroom, click the little icon on the bottom right of the section to make sure it shows the word Channel: RGB under the curve and not Region sliders (Parametric Curve tab in ACR) so you will be able to access the individual channels. This is the Point Curve tab in Camera Raw. Open the Channel drop-down field to select the Red Channel and Green Channel and create a very soft S curve by clicking in the grid and dragging. By using these settings for the Blue Channel, you are taking the blues out of the highlights and darkening the shadows.  (My settings for this Curves preset are: Red points are roughly set to bottom left corner, 26.7/31.6%, line goes directly through the center, 73.3/76.1%, and top right corner; Green points are set to bottom left corner, 32.1/17.3%, through the center point, 74.9/76.1%, and upper right corner; and Blue Channel set to a straight line that starts at 0/21.6% for left side and ends at 100/85.1% on right side.) In Lightroom there are two ways to save the Tone Curve settings: Save it down as a regular Develop preset by clicking the (+) sign on upper left corner of the Presets Panel – name it and only check Tone Curve in the dialog; and the second method is to be sure you are in the Point Curve screen (icon on) and the Point Curve field drop down should show the word Custom. Open list and at the bottom select Save and name – now it will be added to drop-down list for use again. If you are having trouble finding where to put these curve points on the grid in Lightroom, it is much easier to do in Camera Raw by entering the numbers using the Input and Output fields in the Point Curve tab. To save as a preset, go to the pop-out in upper right, select Save Settings and choose Point Curve, Name it, and it appears in the Curve drop-down choices, and not just in Photoshop Camera Raw but also in Lightroom! Pretty cool and it is a little easier to do this in Photoshop than in Lightroom. I hope a future Lightroom update will add the Input and Output fields to this section.

Opening Lightroom Settings in Photoshop as a Smart Object

Since there was a lot going on in Lightroom with this image, I decided to bring it into Photoshop as a Smart Object in case further editing was needed. By right clicking on the Image in Lightroom, and choosing Edit In -> Open as a Smart Object in Photoshop, the photo will contain all the Lightroom settings. In Adobe Bridge, highlight image and right click – select Open in Camera Raw. When finished with edits, hold the SHIFT Key and press the Open Object button for image to be a Smart Object in Photoshop with saved settings. Of course in Photoshop CC, the image can be first opened in Photoshop, then right click on image and select Convert to Smart Object. Go to Filter -> Camera Raw filter and the edits will also be saved to this layer. Screenshot of image from LightroomIf you look in the upper right corner and behind the pirate, you can see some distracting reds that were missed when painting out with the Adjustment Brush in Lightroom. By double-clicking on the little icon inside the Layer icon , the image can be reopened with all the Lightroom settings still available. If editing using using the Adjustment Brush, the settings, (that is the Size, Feather, Flow and Density sliders) do not carry over between programs. Whatever the brush was set to the last time it was used in Photoshop will still be there, not the ones used in Lightroom. Therefore if the results do not look right, look at those brush sliders! In this case the pin point that had the Saturation slider set to -100 was clicked on so these areas could be further edited – otherwise a new pin point will be dropped down. When finished editing, just click the OK button and Photoshop will automatically update the image to the new Camera Raw settings.

The last step was to add a Black and White Adjustment Layer to check the focal point (the pirate) and do a little adjusting with the sliders to get his colors just right. The layer opacity was set to Luminosity blend mode where the layer mask was filled with black (CTRL+I in mask) and just the parts needing adjustment were painted back. That was it.

I hope everyone will try out this some of these little tips – Lightroom and ACR are so powerful! And for my American friends, hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Can You Get a Painting Look With a Photoshop Action? Jack Davis Can!
How to Use a Black & White Adjustment Layer to See Contrast in an Image


Image of a deserted Roller Coaster at Daytona BeachJust doing a fun quick blog this week on a Lightroom (Camera Raw) preset I created several years ago and rediscovered. This is an image of how I envisioned this roller coaster looking at Daytona Beach as we move toward the cooler months.

This image was first processed from Adobe Bridge in Adobe Camera Raw using an old preset of mine that uses the Camera Calibration Process 2010, so the new sliders were not present. It was one of my favorites and it was called Colorful Blown Out. (For an example of original use, see my blog Colorful Blown Out Look Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw Preset. The download links do not work anymore, so see Bird image below for the original preset settings.) I like this preset as it makes it easy to separate your subject from the background so the Color Range Command can be used. By adding a texture underneath, some really interesting and nice effects can be achieved. The Roller Coaster image uses the preset with the old 2010 Process and sliders. See end of blog for more post-processing info and how the Color Range selection was created.


Image of Daytona Beach Another image from Daytona Beach near the end of summer. Mainly locals enjoying a few final days. Well, the same blown out preset for Lightroom 3 was used on the first image, but this time I updated it to Camera Calibration Process 2012. Click on the image below to see the settings used for the Basic and Luminance sections which make up most of the preset. The other Sections were Sharpening set to Lightroom default of Amount 25, Radius 1.0, Detail 25 and Mask 0. The Effects Post-Crop Vignetting was set to Style Color Priority, Amount +22, Midpoint 28, Roundness -14, and Feather 4. At this point the settings were saved as a preset. The Exposure and Vignette settings definitely need to be changed to suit the image, and possibly all of them – it is just a starting point. All these same settings are the same in Camera Raw as well. I do find I prefer the original preset more than the 2012 version created with the new sliders. My advice is to try both preset versions.

Screenshot of settings for Lightroom presetIt is a pretty high key look. In case you cannot see these settings, here they are: Exposure +2.39, Contrast +96, Highlights -28, Shadows +28, Whites 0, Blacks +10, Clarity +34, Vibrance +70, and Saturation 0. For more post-processing info, see end of blog.


Image of a Roseate Spoonbill This rather comical image of a Roseate Spoonbill from the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Rookery used the original 2010 process. If you want to try it out, here are the Basic Section settings: Exposure +1.61, Recovery 0, Fill Light +56, Blacks 3, Brightness +50, Contrast +97, Clarity +68, Vibrance +70, and Saturation 0; Post Crop Vignetting set to Highlight Priority, Amount +36, Midpoint +54, Roundness -15, and Feather +76; Luminance set to Reds -39, Yellows -36 and Greens -25; and default Sharpening settings. These also need to be adjusted some to get the correct effect, but it is a good start. And lots of people prefer the Recovery and Fill sliders and use the older 2010 process with their old favorite presets often. See this short video by Matt Kloskowski, one of the best Lightroom gurus, called Lightroom’s Secret Shadow Slider Trick. The Fill In slider is quite high in the 2010 process versus the lower amount of Shadow in 2012. It is really great that Adobe lets you use the older sliders so you can still use some of your favorite presets.

Hope you try this effect, it is actually pretty nice on some images. Look forward to the coming months with everyone! Have another good week!…..Digital Lady Syd

Image Info:

Image 1: Info on finishing this photo is as follows. The Roller Coaster image was opened as a Smart Object in Photoshop where it was duplicated. This layer was rasterized to form one regular layer (right click on words in layer and choose Rasterize). This regular layer was taken into Select -> Color Range, choose Highlights, and clicked the Invert check box to select the roller coaster and not the sky. Next press CTRL+J to put selection on a layer of its own. Next several texture were tried out underneath to see what would give an interesting back effect. This time I used two of my painted textures and the Blend If sliders to get the colorful result. On a stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) Topaz (for website link, see link at my Tidbits Blog) Lens Effects Dual Tone Red to Yellow preset was used as a starting point, then sliders tweaked to get the effect I liked. A Black and White Adjustment Layer was added on top to see where my focus was going. By adjusting these sliders and setting the Adjustment Layer to Luminosity blend mode, the bright detail in the center were emphasized and where the image focal point is. The layer mask was inverted to black (CTRL+I in mask) and just the focal area was painted back in. On another stamped layer, Nik Viveza 2 was used to darken the edges a little. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added as a last step on top.

Image 2: Therefore, it was taken into Photoshop to add a few more tweaks. The Liquify Filter was used to slim down several of the beach-goers. On a stamped layer Topaz Adjust was applied using Topaz Adjust’s Painting Venice preset (one of my favorite Adjust presets) with changes to Transparency (0.57) and Warmth (0.17). On top one of my Corel Painter beach textures was added to soften and give the foreground a little more color, and was set to Normal blend mode at 53% layer opacity. A layer mask was added and the people were painted back a little to make them show up better. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added as a last step. Pretty easy and lots of fun to do! I just love all the activity at the beach!

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
I Didn’t Know That! Converting Lightroom Preset to Adobe Camera Raw Preset


Image of a View from Edinburgh Castle in ScotlandOriginally I thought there was not too much to discuss about the new Dehaze slider feature when it was released for Lightroom CC and Photoshop CC2015 in Camera Raw version 9.1. Now that it has been around a while, there are a few things that should be addressed. The image above of a view taken from Edinburgh Castle in Scotland is a perfect example of how this slider can really make an image pop without much manipulation. Below is the image as it came into Lightroom as a Camera Raw file. Original Camera Raw image taken from Edinburgh Castle in ScotlandAs you can see the clouds were really blown out in the original along with a real flat look, which RAW files tend to be. There were just a couple things done: the Dehaze slider (found in Lightroom CC’s Effects Panel or Photoshop CC 2015’s Camera Raw’s fx Panel) was set to +76; the Sharpen Tool Amount was increased to sharpen the whole image a little; the Noise Reduction Luminance slider was set to 16; and an Adjustment Brush was used on the left foreground trees as they were too dark compared to the ones on the right (the Shadows were opened up, the Contrast reduced, and 1/2 stop of Exposure was added to blend these trees into the others}. Nothing was done in Photoshop to this image. I really like what just a simple Dehaze adjustment  can do to make this a beautiful image and what I remember.

Julieanne Kost, the Adobe Evangelist, says in her blog that Dehaze is “based on a physical model of how light is transmitted and it tries to estimate light that is lost due to absorption and scattering through the atmosphere.” She says to adjust your White Balance first, before using the Dehaze slider. If you are afraid that you may be clipping the blacks, press ALT+drag the Dehaze slider and watch the image to see when the black pops in. Then adjust the Basic Panel sliders like the Shadow and Vibrance sliders. If using this slider from Photoshop CC2015’s Camera Raw filter, it can be applied as a Smart Object (Smart Filter-same thing).

Ben Wilmore, the Photoshop guru, said to adjust the White Balance after using the Dehaze slider first. Also Blake Rudis, another Photoshop expert, suggests using it as a first step if there is any haze in your image, so that is my workflow. The Dehaze slider can introduce a color cast, especially with hazy skies. This needs to be fixed after setting the slider.

It has been suggested that this slider works well with cityscapes, as above. Also it works well with underwater images, as in the Manatees image. The turtle shot below uses it as more of a creative slider to add some haze to the background of the image. It would be nice if you could add this effect using an Adjustments Brush or Graduated filter.


As mentioned before, it can add color casts, especially blue, in the shadows because the ground bounces the cool outdoor sky light up onto your objects. Sometimes it exaggerates artifacts as in small white highlights and dust specs. Ben Wilmore suggested three ways to correct for these issues.

  • Change the White Balance Temp or Tint sliders in the Basic Panel, or use an Adjustment Brush with the Temp/Tint sliders set to correct the color cast, and then paint in where correction is needed. Try to adjust in the direction of the opposite color (for example, if too much blue from water or sky, then add some yellow; too much green in underwater shot, then add magenta).
  • Use the Split Toning Panel. With Hue slider look for the opposite color (as above) to use in the Shadows or the Highlight areas, and then adjust the Saturation for how much color effect you need.
  • Use the HSL Panel and go to the Saturation sliders and lower the incorrect color.

These are all pretty easy fixes, and it depends on the image as to what works best – sometimes all three will need to be used.

Image of turtles in a bowl.
This shot was for Bob, my son’s long past turtle, and the humble beginnings these creatures have. These turtles were being sold in a store at the beach and I actually felt sorry for them – they were so crowded in this little bowl. The original RAW file is shown below. I decided to try adding haze to this photo to draw focus to the front turtles since there was way too much color and too many turtles in the image.  This time the Dehaze slider was set to -67 before the Basic sliders and the Adjustment Brush were used.

Camara Raw image of Turtles Once the haze was added, the Adjustment Brush was used to remove the haze off the few turtles in the front, and yet leave the effect alone for the distance. It worked very nicely. See the brush settings used and the red overlay brush strokes in screenshot below. By varying the brush Flow amount, the effect can be removed more lightly from parts of the image. The Temp and Tint sliders were adjusted along with an increase in Saturation to help recover the brightness in the foreground turtles.
Image of Overlay applied with Adjustment Brush in Lightroom
I did get a little of the white blown-out artifacting on the foreground turtle’s back. In Photoshop, Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Detail 3 and Nik Viveza 2 were used to add some detail and brownish tones back into his shell since I think the patterning in the shells is the interesting part of this image.

Image of Manatees at SeaWorld-OrandoThe Manatees above seemed to totally enjoy watching everybody take pictures of them while visiting their exhibit. The RAW image is shown below so you can see the color cast, noise and bright highlights. Image of Camera Raw file of Manatees at SeaWorld Orlando

The Dehaze slider was set to +78, the White Balance was changed with the Temp slider set towards yellow and Tint towards the magenta. Then a little Exposure, Highlights, Shadows, Clarity, and Vibrance changes. Next some HSL changes using the Luminance and Saturation sliders to tone down the greens some more. The Split Toning Highlights and Shadows were also added to give the highlights and shadows some corrected color. In Photoshop the Spot Healing Brush was used extensively to remove the little spots everywhere that were in the water – very time consuming. A Noise Reduction filter was used with the layer opacity set back to 75% so as not to remove all of the grain interest. Since the reflections were so bright at the top of the image and drew the eye up, a black to transparent gradient was applied to a New Layer. A layer mask was added and the manatees were painted back in so the focus is on them. I found it not as easy to use the Dehaze slider with the underwater image, but it definitely sharpened up the details so you can see the manatees more clearly.


This slider apparently is not without its controversy. This feature is in the latest update of Lightroom CC, but it was not included in the Lightroom 6.0 original release. Apparently the programs are identically, except the Dehaze feature is not turned on in Lightroom 6.0. Prolost’s website has some free presets that will allow you to use the Dehaze slider effects – I do not have this issue so I do not know how accurate the results will be, but worth a try. Also, there is no guarantee that if Lightroom 6.0 is updated, these presets can still be used.


If you would like to download the new Lightroom CC/6.0 Manual, here is the link to Adobe’s pdf file as it is a little hard to find. Also I just learned that “Adobe provides backwards compatibility for the latest cameras for free in Photoshop CS, CS2, CS3, CS4, CS5, and CS6 as well as Lightroom 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, through the Adobe DNG Converter. With this tool, you can easily convert camera-specific raw files from supported cameras to a more universal DNG raw file.” Therefore, if you bought a new camera, you will be able to open the files up in the older versions of both Lightroom and Photoshop’s ACR – no feature updates, but at least your programs are not unusable.

Well hope you enjoyed this blog – a pretty simple slider that seems to give some big results to the images you are processing. A lot of people are really liking the effects. Until next time, have a good one!…..Digital Lady Syd


Image of Scott Monument taken from Edinburgh Castle in ScotlandI recently ran across an article on how to get a nice depth-of-field effect using the localized tools (Graduated Filter, Adjustment Brush and/or Radial Filter) in Lightroom (or Adobe Camera Raw) without going into Photoshop to apply a Gaussian Blur or Field Blur. This technique is so basic, but it is easy to forget that you can do this quickly to your image without the use of Photoshop! The image above of the Scott Monument as taken from Edinburgh Castle in Scotland is a good example of how you can drive the focus of your image very easily by just using Lightroom or ACR.

I was reminded of this little trick in a short Martin Evening Peachpit article where he explained that by stacking the Sharpness and Clarity settings, you can increase or decrease your depth of field in an image. First do your regular Lightroom or ACR changes. To get the soft localized blurring as shown in the background and the foreground above, a Graduated Filter was opened using these settings – Sharpness set to -100 and Clarity to -30. By applying the Graduated Filter three times to the sky area, twice to left bottom corner of the image, and twice to right side of the image, a pretty nice blur was created leaving the center sharp. Since the spire of the monument was too blurred, the Adjustment Brush was opened up and the spire painted over with the Brush sharpness set to +100 and the Clarity to +30 using two different points to add the sharpness back to that area. Also some more localized blur was added with a new Brush mask to the background around the monument and the left foreground trees. All in all a pretty easy way to accentuate the focus point in an image. Martin does mention that after so many applications of the settings, there will be no change. Also he recommends viewing your image at 1:1 view to see the results accurately. After using the Graduated Filter on this image, it was opened in Photoshop and Topaz (see sidebar at Tidbits Blog for website link) ReStyle’s Dutch White Smog preset was selected to finish up the post-processing – thought it gave a pretty close representation to what Scotland looked like to me.
Image of Hogwarts School at Universal Studios OrlandoHogwarts School at Universal Studios Orlando in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is the image shown above. It used exactly the same principal as the first image with blurring the foreground area but sharpening the school to draw focus to that area. I am finding this technique seems to work best on landscape images. I tried it on a portrait and had trouble keeping the skin looking smooth – other techniques would work better in that case. In Lightroom some basic straightening and sliders were applied. Then 6 Graduated Filters were used on the trees in the image. Next Seim Effects PW4 Sampler Tint 81A Warming preset was applied before taking the image into Photoshop. Seim offers this preset sampler free at his website – I really like the presets he has created. This may seem counter-intuitive, but Topaz Detail 3 was used to sharpen up the the image – a black mask was added and only the school was painted back, therefore leaving the trees still slightly blurred. This step could have been done in Lightroom with an Adjustment Brush set to a large amount of sharpening. A Camera Raw Radial filter was added so the eye is further drawn up to the school, which could also have been done in Lightroom. Last step was adding my SJ Thin Double Edge Frame – this is the only step that would need to be done in Photoshop. Image of an old castle-like building in BelarusThe above is an interesting castle-like old building in the countryside of Belarus – I can’t help but wonder what this structure was years ago! This building drove me crazy trying to get it to look straight – I just don’t think it is a straight building but I did my best with the Adaptive Wide Angle filter (see my blog How to Use the Adaptive Wide Angle Filter). Clouds were added using my free Cloud Brushes 1 and 11 set to 32% layer opacity. Last step involved applying Topaz ReStyle Cream and Plum preset (my favorite preset for this plug-in).

This blurring effect is a great technique to use if you do not want to go into Photoshop to finish up the image. I believe the best way to do this is by applying the Gradient Tool several times and then going back in with an Adjustment Brush set to the opposite settings to remove the effect in localized areas, also several times if needed. And don’t forget the same settings can also be used with the Radial Filter and several areas can be selected. This is a great quick trick to add to your Lightroom (ACR)-Photoshop arsenal of tools to speed up your workflow. The same principles apply when using any of the localized tool settings. Give this a try and see what you think!…..Digital Lady Syd

2013 Inexpensive Gifts for the Photoshop Lover on Your List

Image of snowman and card scene created in both Photoshop and Corel PainterThe last two years I have done blogs on inexpensive gift items that I felt were a good deal if you are a Photoshop and/or Lightroom lover like I am. All the previous items I still recommend and would still make great gifts.

2012 Inexpensive Gifts for the Photoshop Lover on Your List
Inexpensive Gifts for the Photoshop Lover on Your List (for 2011)

This year I am running a little late with my list, but I thought I would add a few more items that might help you out if you need another quick, last-minute gift. All can be downloaded in some form and put on an inexpensive little thumb drive from WalMart or Staples for a nice little gift. These items are not listed in any particular order, just how I thought of them.

1. Topaz ReStyle ($59.99)

The snowman greeting above used this Photoshop plug-in which has turned out to be my favorite Topaz plug-in (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) – since I love all their plug-ins, that is quite a statement! I almost always try it on every image opened in Photoshop, usually as a last step, just to see if a slightly better color palette can be achieved. More times than not I will apply it. At least try out the trial to see if you like it – just a fabulous plug-in that no one else has. The snowman image was originally in whites, greens and browns, which looked okay. But when put into Topaz ReStyle and the Warm Steel Wash preset applied, this was the result which looks more wintry to me. Totally love this plug-in as seen by the various references to it throughout many of my recent blog postings.

2. Dave Delnea’s Lightroom Develop Presets ($10)

This is a set of 46 presets that I use all the time – I love the way he has added different light effects that sit on top of your other presets in many cases. It can really helps even out a dark corner in an image and the presets can be easily edited in Lightroom if the effect is too strong. These sell for $10 or you can get a bundle with David duChemin’s Lightroom presets (see last year’s #10 item) and get them for $16. Can’t go wrong with either set.

Image of Colonial Park Cemetary in Savannah, GeorgiaThis image of the Colonial Park Cemetery (the link is to a website on the ghosts said to haunt the cemetery in Savannah, Georgia where over 10,000 people are said to buried) used both David duChemin’s Toxic Cool Heavy + MTC preset which added the soft fall tones, and Dave Delnea’s Backlight Horizontal Left preset that filled the back corner with light for a more natural tree shadow and lighter background.

3. Argus Preset Viewer ($9.99)

Last year I recommended the Preset Viewer Breeze by Tumasoft (last years #3 item) and it has been a great little program, but the Argus Preset Viewer appears to me to be just as good, faster and cheaper. It adds thumbnails down the right side of your Windows Explorer where you can view a complete set of Photoshop brushes, swatches, styles, shapes, gradients, or patterns. This is such a time-saver and at such a reasonable price. Definite must have!

Image of screenshot of how Tumasoft Argus preset viewer looks

Above is an example of how my free Cloud Brushes look in the Argus Preset Viewer from my Deviant Art site when highlighted in the Windows Explorer.

4. Flypaper Nik Color Efex Presets  ($8)

We all know that Flypaper Textures are great. Recently they offered 84 presets for Nik’s Color Efex Pro plug-in and they have turned out to be really nice. Also gives a great starting point for stacking several filters to get an interesting effect. And the good thing is that they are very inexpensive! This would be a great stocking stuffer!
Image of an old building in the Belarusian countrysideThis image used three plug-ins: Topaz DeNoise, Nik Color Efex Pro using the Fly For Girls preset which stacked Cross Processing, Darken/Lighten Center, Reflector Efex, and Graduated Neutral Density filters, and Nik Viveza. The clouds were added using my brushes 1 and 2 in brush set shown above. The image is of an old residential building in the Belarusian countryside outside Minsk – I have always wondered what stories it could tell.

5. Melissa Gallo’s Painted Textures  ($5 to $35)

Her textures are so gorgeous and I use them on many of my images. If you like the very true vivid painted texture look, check out her textures. She does have a couple texture sets at very reasonable prices – her Winter Solstice Mini Collection of 10 textures for $20 and her Monet Collection of 20 textures for $35. This is something that you cannot get right now, but usually the first Friday of each month, she offers two of her beautifully painted textures for sale for $5 – only time they will be available. She has some more expensive bundles with tutorials and actions included. If your Photoshopper likes textures, definitely check these out.
Image of Mums with Melissa Gallo texturesJust an example of what several of Melissa’s beautiful textures can produce. My mums were not that outstanding an image, but by stacking Melissa’s Mist on the Lake texture at 100% opacity and painting back the flower, her Thanksgiving Mayflower texture set to Overlay blend mode at 87% layer opacity, and finally her Spring Rain texture set to Soft Light blend mode at 92% opacity, an interesting and unique texture look can be achieved. These textures were all from her 2 for $5 deals each month.

6.  Lightroom 5 Unmasked E-Book  ($20)

If you are like me and get a little discouraged that every time Adobe upgrades their software, you have to spend bunches of money on a new book to cover all the little upgrades they did, this is the solution. When Adobe upgraded to Lightroom 4, I bought Piet Van den Eynde E-book and it served my purposes since I knew how to use the program, just needed a quick reference for the new things. When Lightroom 5 came out, Piet came out with an update to his book for just a few dollars (Lightroom 5 Up to Speed) and I was now all set for version 5. His updated complete Lightroom 5 E-book is 356 pages.

7.  Trey Radcliff’s Photomatix Pro Presets  ($14.97)

Needless to say anything Trey sells has got to be good! I am listing these presets as they are very unique and once again I do not know anyone who sells this type of item. Trey also has several nice inexpensive Lightroom preset sets and many inexpensive E-books available in his website store so check them all out.Image of miniature mushrooms that look like hobbit homesThis is a 3-image HDR using Photomatix Pro 5.0 and Trey’s A Little Sumfum Sumfin preset was applied.Some mushroom edge sharpening and a radial vignette were added in Lightroom. These were the tiniest mushroom I have ever seen, only 2 inches high at the max, and I had to shoot them lying on my stomach! I actually expected a little tiny hobbit to walk out!

8. The Way of the Digital Photographer by Harold Davis  ($25.61)

I have always been a big fan of Harold Davis ever since he released The Photoshop Darkroom and The Photoshop Darkroom 2 books (they are still great books). This book is his latest and I just bought it. Planning on spending a few days enjoying some of his new techniques this holiday. Anyway, not sure you can go wrong with any Harold Davis book and they are all available in Kindle editions from Amazon.

9.  Video Tutorial – Snapseed – The Definitive Guide  ($15)

I just bought this and it looks really good. Snapseed is a free IPhone or Adroid application from Nik to create all kinds of interesting effects on your phone images. The above E-book, example images, and videos from Flatbooks discuss how to get the most out of this really cool app. Would make a great gift for someone just getting a new phone (like I did).


10.  Adobe Photoshop Suite CS2 and/or Photoshop CS2

For people who do not really want to buy Photoshop because they do not need to use it that  much, this is a pretty good alternative. Adobe no longer is supporting this version but they will let you download it for free. Since it is a 10-year old program, it lacks a lot of the bells and whistles of the newer versions, but for people who just want to add an adjustment layer or select with a channel, this is not a bad way to go. Thought I would put this out there since not everyone is as crazy about Photoshop as I am. And the bonus is that you can learn the basics of some of the other Adobe programs and see if you might want to actually upgrade to the CC Cloud verion. The link above goes to a recent Gizmoto blog that discusses this in more detail and contains the link to Adobe.

11.  NKS5 Natural Media Toolkit

This is a Photoshop Panel that I have been trying out a little but have not spent much time on it due to the holiday overload. It is a free download and you might want to give it a shot. It is opened from the Window -> Extensions -> NKS5 where a panel with all kinds of brushes and effects are set up on icons. It could be a real time saver. I actually added it to Photoshop CC without any issues even though it says it is for CS5 and CS6.

For some other fairly inexpensive gifts for the photographer, check out this recent episode of The Grid where Photoshop Guys Scott Kelby and Matt Kloskowski discuss all kinds of items. Lots of fun to watch too. Also, I cannot say enough good things about Creative Live and all the programs they present. If you like what you see during the live presentations, you can get the videos for a reduced price. Keep checking in as they often have different videos at reasonable prices – several are under $50. Still one of the best places to learn about all types of programs that have to do with photography.

Hope this little blog will give everybody some quick ideas for their last minute shopping.  Happy Holidays everybody!…..Digital Lady Syd


Image of family at Flagler Beach
This week I decided to combine a little Flagler Beach in Florida with a little Lightroom and Photoshop. Got a chance to get down to the beach recently on a beautiful day. This little beach is about as laid-back and what I call “retro” as you will ever find in the US. I just love this place! The retro effect seems to be very trendy right now in photography processing. When I think of what is retro vs. an old photo look, I believe that a retro look is what you personally remember or think something would have looked like when you were younger, not just adding some effects to make something look old. All the images in this blog have my personal retro stamp on them – they were pretty good to begin with, which always helps when post-processing your photos. The colors and softness are what I added to get my personal retro affect.

Create a Lightroom Preset For a Vintage Feel

The above may be one of my favorite recent photos. What a wonderful place to spend a sunny day and this family epitomizes what I think of as a great beach day, now or when I was younger! I was really happy to be able to get this nice effect from a Lightroom preset. First I downloaded a preset from Allen Mowery’s Photography Site’s blog entry called Allen’s Vintage Retro – A Free Lightroom Preset. His work is really interesting. Then in Photoshop I further tweaked it to make it mine and saved it as a new preset. The Luminance and Saturation sliders and Split Toning Colors adjustments from Allen’s preset gives this image a great feel. I added Basic slider adjustments along with a Tone Curve adjustment on the RGB channel by creating points on the curve and dragging to get a softer look. (Here are all my Lightroom preset settings if you would like to create it: Basic Panel Highlights -100, Shadows +45, Whites -53, Blacks +25, Clarity -27, Vibrance -2, and Saturation +39; Tone Curve RGB Channel Points at 19.6/27.8% and 52.5/56.9%; HSL Saturation Red -42 and Blue -83 – all others 0, and Luminance Red +25, Orange +19, and Yellow +21; and Split Toning Highlights 64, Saturation 56, Balance -54, Shadows Hue 229 and Saturation 23.) In Photoshop the image was duplicated and Topaz (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for link) Clarity’s Micro Contrast Boost preset was applied. In Photoshop a black Layer Mask was created and just the water area and a little of the people were painted in to get just a little more detail. A Levels Adjustment Layer was added using these settings: (27/0.70/255 and Output Levels 23/255). That was it! A very magical Summer Beach Scene!
An image of a pirate statue at Flagler Beach This pirate stands watch at the doorway to Bahama Mama’s Tropical Gift shop a block off the beach. Looks like a cute place. Very little was done to this image after some cropping. In Lightroom three presets were applied – each one affected different sliders so three can be applied to get this look. An HDR Split Tone preset I had created a while back (Highlights Hue 52/Sat 64; Balance +49; Shadows Hue 215/Sat 50), Jared Platt‘s Sharpen Sharper preset which is just an Amount of 50, Radius of 1.0 and Detail 25 – pretty much the default; and Dave Delnea Backlight Horizontal Right preset which uses a bunch of different settings to get this effect (I just bought his presets and am using them a lot). In Photoshop Nik Viveza 2 was used – three control points on the pirate to draw focus. A Levels Adjustment Layer was added and the Output Levels was set to 18/255. The last step used Topaz Clarity’s Flowers III preset. I think it has a really vintage feel to it.

Using Photoshop Filter Add-on Plug-ins

Image of kids and dogs in front of a surf shop in Flagler BeachHad to give this colorful surf shop image a bit of a retro feel – love the dogs, but maybe the tattoos give away how current this image is!  (See Sullys Surf Shop Facebook link.) Only a few changes were done in Lightroom – just Lens Correction, Cropping, Auto Tone and Clarity applied. In Photoshop the image was turned into a Smart Object and taken into Alien Skin’s Snap Art and Oil Paint (Landscape – Soft) preset was applied. This filter can give a really nice vintage feel to an image. Two layers were created to bring back more of the photo effects on the people and dogs and the painted flowers on the building. A Layer Mask was added and with a large soft black brush set to 12% brush opacity, the details were further painted back. On a composite layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) on top, Jack Davis’ Wow Edges 01 was applied for a frame effect – it is basically a soft edge created by using a white Inner Shadow but I love Jack’s Layer Styles, even if they have been around a long time. That was it and it sure looks like a wonderful way to spend a Saturday morning at the beach!

Vintage Retro look of Flagler Beach in Early Spring imageJust another example of using filters on an image to get a really nostalgic look – this time it’s the Flagler Beach Fishing Pier (the same one at the top of my Flickr site).  The shot was a three-image, and the tone-mapped HDR tiff file was processed using Nik HDR Pro Deep 1 preset. On a duplicate layer Topaz ReStyle was applied using Teal Skies and Setting Skies color preset. Nik Color Efex Pro 4 was used and Monday Morning filter set to Color Set Sepia and White Neutralizer was applied. A Levels Adjustment Layer was used next with the Output Levels set to 14/255 to get a slightly hazy look. A Color Balance Adjustment Layer was next selected and Shadows Yellow to Blue was set to +14 and Highlights Yellow to Blue -50. A Curves Adjustment Layer was used next and the curve was pulled up to get a slightly over-exposed look. Because grain was added to this image in the HDR preset, it has a very vintage feel.

Image of people relaxing on Flagler Beach with a retro lookThis beach image uses very similar processing as the one above, except there was a lot more processing done in Lightroom first. Once again three images were stacked to get a 32-bit tonemapped image (using Photomatix Pro’s owners free add-on for Lightroom Merge to 32-bit HDR). Then I set all the Saturation sliders to -100 and slowly started adding in the colors the way I liked them. The Hues and Luminance sliders were also tweaked to get the colors right. An Adjustment Brush was opened just the water was selected – then the Tint, Exposure, Contrast, Shadows, Clarity, and Saturation sliders were changed. The Color was changed to a turquoise color. Another Adjustment Brush was opened and just the people were painted. This time the Contrast, Highlights, Clarity and Sharpness sliders were reduced, and the Shadows increased to soften the people. Jack Davis’s Bluish Split Toning Curve was selected in the Tone Curve drop-down, and Dave Delnea’s Backlight Horizontal Left was used to brighten up the image. At this point the image looked pretty good, but in Photoshop Nik Color Efex Pro 4 was opened to add grain to the image. Jared Platt says they have the very best grain filter. So the Film Grain Filter was applied along with the one of my very favorite filters in CEP4-Monday Morning using the Neutral Color Set and the filter set to 55% opacity. That really made the image look the way I wanted it to look.

Image of a beach house near Flagler Beach using Snap Art 3This image has a combination Lightroom preset and Photoshop plug-in to get this look. The more greenish aqua sky is one characteristic I think of when creating retro effects. Dave Delnea’s Lightroom preset Washed Vintage 01 and Backlight Vertical Right presets were used to get this beautiful color and lighting on the image. Then in Photoshop, Snap Art 3’s Oil Paint (dry brush) was once again used to get a painterly look. Three layers were used to bring in details more clearly. On a layer mask in Photoshop, more was softly painted out in a layer mask so you can see the chairs and windows more clearly. A Levels Adjustment Layer was used to add some Midtone contrast and that was it! I could see myself living on the beach in this house!

I am finding that if I try out different combinations of colors and my filters, I can get a nice nostalgic feel to an image. I especially like the new Lightroom presets I got from Dave Delnea and Topaz ReStyle, Nik Color Efex Pro’s Film Grain and Monday Morning filters, and some types of media in Alien Skin’s Snap Art 3 can turn an image into a very retro feel with just a few clicks. I really enjoyed creating a personal interpretation of what is my “retro” look……Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Little Red Corvette
Vintage Roman Bath

Get Great Results with Alien Skin Snap Art 3 and Topaz ReStyle Together!!

Dachas in Belarus using Colored Pencil in Snap Art 3I did recent posts on my Fun Photoshop Blog called Digital Lady Syd Reviews Snap Art 3 and Digital Syd Reviews Topaz ReStyle. Both of these plug-ins have captured my “inner creative me” so it seemed logical to try to combine them and see what happens. I think they are a perfect match – both have creative aspects but emphasize different elements. For the above Topaz (see my Tidbits Blog for website link in sidebar) ReStyle was added first to get a gorgeous fall color palette that gives this image a totally awesome feel. (The preset used was Leaking Red on Blue.) What I like about Snap Art is that it lets me try different mediums of art – I have never tried a colored pencil image, but I loved how the treatment worked with this image. (The preset in Snap Art was Colored Pencil Landscape-More Coverage.) I also have to admit that the wonderful Topaz Clarity was added first to give me sharp edges for the pencil look. Not much to it but really great results. This photo was from the countryside outside Minsk in Belarus – it was such an interesting and beautiful area to photograph.
Original and Topaz ReStyle image of dacha tych…..Above is a beautiful purple mum from a dacha in Belarus. In Alien Skin’s Snap Art 3 the Favorite section’s Oil Paint (thick brush) preset was applied followed by Topaz ReStyle’s Cream and Plum preset was selected. (See settings under Image 2 for more details.)
Original Image and Snap Art image of Mum…..
Same image as the first one, but this time the original RAW file was converted to a black and white on a Virtual Copy in Lightroom using the Lightroom B&W GA Infrared 01 preset that turned this image into a fabulous looking shot to begin with! (Once again, just goes to show what a good image to start with can do.) I wanted to see what Snap Art’s Charcoal effect would look like since the Colored Pencil effect looked so nice. The Landscape Charcoal preset was selected. Three Layer Masks were created in the plug-in to direct the tone and focus throughout the image. I really liked the result – beautiful sketch – but it just did not have any real pizzazz! That’s when the image was opened in Topaz ReStyle. Not all the presets looked great, but the Teal Frost looked beautiful – no changes! It now has a beautiful winter feel – Amazing! The last step involved adding a New Layer and painting a frame around the image. (See settings info under Image 3.)
Original image and Snap Art Charcoal image…..
Soft Pink Flowers using Topaz ReStyle and Alien Skin Snap ArtJust another example of how plain white flowers can be changed into a beautiful color palette and turned into a lovely oil effect.
Original and Topaz ReStyle results of white flower image

The Baby Blue and Pink preset was used in ReStyle. This image looks very soft since the Detail Structure slider was moved left. The flower centers were kept sharp by masking out the effect using the Basic section Mask. In Snap Art an Oil Paint (dry brush) saturated preset was applied. The flower centers were once again made more sharp than the rest of the image by adding more Photorealism and small Brush Size to a Mask on the flowers.
Snap Art and Topaz ReStyle Used on Dacha ImageI used this image previously in my Snap Art Review without the new Topaz ReStyle plug-in applied to it. I really love how the two plug-ins together created this very painterly and sculpted look – it really makes me want to sit on the bench and enjoy the surroundings. The Snap Art plug-in used the Impasto Landscape (Small Brush) preset. (See Digital Lady Syd Reviews Alien Skin Snap Art 3 blog for more on image settings.) I had created a preset that used the Raw Sienna Haze preset with several of the sliders adjusted to get this pleasant result (all the settings were lost). A stamped layer (CTRL+ALT_SHIFT+E) was created on top and this was what made the image really work – the Blend If sliders in the Layer Style. The This Layer black tab slider was split (ALT+click on tab) and set to 69/143. (See my How to Use Those Handy Blend-If Sliders! blog.) A Layer Mask was added and areas that did not look like it fit in were painted out with a soft black brush. That was it and you get this nice fairytale look!
Dacha Original image and Snap Art Impasto Landscape image


As you can see, there is definitely a very complimentary nature between these plug-ins, even though they are made by two totally different companies that use totally different methods to create the effects. I am constantly amazed at how far plug-ins have come in the past several years. A while back it cost almost as much as Photoshop itself to get them, and now there are so many reasonable choices and so many incredible effects. The technology has come a long way, but you have to thank Adobe and Photoshop for giving us the capability to have all this fun! So kudos to Adobe (in spite of all this Cloud mess) and kudos to all the plug-in companies that are now producing reasonably priced, inventive plug-ins for us Photoshop “nuts!”…..Digital Lady Syd


Image 2: Sean McCormick’s LR5 Essential Development Preset Toolbox was used to apply his LR TB63 Tone Curve preset to the image in Lightroom. I hope to review this down the road as the PDF looks very interesting along with his preset concepts. In Photoshop the Shake Reduction filter was applied as a Smart Object and then Snap Art was applied to the same layer. The Favorites category Oil Paint (thick brush) was used as a starting point and then the Background Tab slider Photorealism was changed to 22. In the Color Tab the Brightness slider was set to -19. In the Layers Tab, two different layers were created – one for the center of the flower and one for the long lines of the petals. The Mask Tool was set to Feather 50 and Amount 30. The center of the flower Effects were set with Detail, Brush Size -41, Photorealism 85, Paint Thickness -50, Paint Stroke Length 0, Stroke Color Variation 57, and Bristle Brush Style. For the long petals these settings were used: Detail, Brush Size 57, Photorealism -44, Paint Thickness -50, Paint Stroke Length 100, Stroke Color Variation 55, and Bristle Brush Style. The Canvas Tab used the default settings except for the Lighting which was set to the Diffuse setting. A stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) was added on top and the Topaz ReStyle plug-in was opened. Cream and Plum preset was used as a starting point. Then in ReStyle Tab changed Texture Strength to 0.39. Painted in the Mask back some of the interesting color effects from the original image – brush was set to Strength 0.23, Brush Size 0.25 and Hardness 0.30 using Edge Aware and building up the effect the way I liked. Went to Basic Tab and set Detail Structure to 0.61 and Sharpness 0.11 to bring out the painterly texture more from Snap Art. In Mask painted out the flower to keep it from being affected as much using a brush Strength of 0.74. Back in Photoshop the layer opacity was set to 48%. Isabelle Lafrance Daiphanous Overlay Cobwebby was added on top and set to Linear Burn blend mode at 100% opacity. The last step added a Curves Adjustment Layer to enhance the contrast just a little.

Image 3: Once Lightroom Develop sliders and Photoshop CC’s Shake Reduction filter were applied, the Snap Art plug-in was opened. F5 was pressed to reset the plug-in and in the Pencil Sketch section, the Landscape Charcoal was applied. Pencil Width slider was then changed to 35 and Photorealism to 89. In Tone tab the Brightness was changed to 44, Contrast 10, and Red Channel Strength 42%, Green Channel Strength 72%, and Blue Channel Strength 41%. Canvas tab was set to Paper, Cold press, and Lighting was set to Diffuse (warmer). Layers tab was set to three different layers, the first was placed on the center tree to sharpen it a little (by increasing the Pencil Width and Photorealism Amount), the second on the front plant to tone it down some (by reducing the same sliders the other way), and the third on the structures to slightly enhance the details on them (sliders set in between the other two layer amounts). This is where the real strength of this plug-in lies – this enabled me to direct the focus through the image. Back in Photoshop a Darken and a Lighten layer were created to dodge and burn a few areas in the image (see my Fun Photoshop The Best Dodging and Burning Technique! blog). A Levels Adjustment layer was added to get the final correct tone to the image. Then Topaz ReStyle’s Tiara Frost preset was applied. The last step added the frame on a New Layer using Photoshop’s Natural Brush Spray at 41 pixels using a color sampled from the image.

My Favorite Adobe Lightroom 5 Features

In honor of the new Beta version of Lightroom 5 recently released, I decided to do a little Lightroom blog this week. The image above was taken from a train on the way to St. Andrews – what beautiful and dramatic landscapes they have in Scotland! Everything was done in Lightroom 5 except for one little plant distraction that I could have used the updated Clone Brush in Lightroom to fix, but I just can’t seem to get the results I like. Otherwise, this image showcases the new Radial Filter (which I love!). Now I always go to the Lens Corrections section and check Enable Profile Correction and Remove Chromatic Aberration, and press the Auto button to make sure my image is straight. Then cropping is next. One of the Punchy Sunset presets from David duChemin’s Lightroom 4 Presets Package was applied first as a starting point. Adjusted the exposure slider before going into the Radial Filter. A large oval vignette was dragged out in the in the image and only the Exposure slider was adjusted darker just a little. An Adjustment brush was used to sharpen the houses up on the hillside. Then in the HSL section, the clouds were given a little extra pop by adjusting the blues in the Luminance slider area. The Graduated Filter was pulled down a little from the Lightroom preset that was applied. That was about all there was to it. Really loved the results without too much overall manipulation. This is why I love Lightroom!
…..This image is of some Ostica African Daisies that I planted in my front yard. This image used some Photoshop adjusting to get this look, but I wanted to show how nice Lightroom turned this image into a really good black and white with just a preset applied. It is a good example of an image I would never have tried as a black and white effect, but I recently downloaded this really interesting free Lightroom preset called RM4 Black and White 2. Just applied the preset and did a slight sharpening of the daisy centers. In Photoshop, Topaz (for website link see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) Detail 3  was used to sharpen up the whole image – this is often my first step in Photoshop. On a New Layer a little background clean up was done to make it a nice even black. Next a Darken Layer was created to emphasize the dark lines in the petals (see my The Best Dodging and Burning Technique! blog). Next I did some paint clean up of some of the light shadows on the petals (see my Getting Rid of Those Blown Out Areas in Your Image blog). On a New Layer applied Kim Klassen Cafe‘s Dream Brush Set-kkdreamstamp brush (can find these goodies if you join her Test Kitchen), but a text layer could have been created using a grunge-look font. Kim Klassen’s Archived Set Way Black Frame was used as a frame and turned into a frame overlay by following my How to Create Personal Overlays for Your Images blog.
…..These flowers are actually bright pink Magellan Zinnias with beautiful bright yellow centers. The preset applied was Lightroom’s Black and White Look 3. Then an adjustment brush was used to paint in the different colors on the flowers – created three different areas, one for each color. Last the new Radial Filter was used to add focus to the blue flower, and a little to the purple and yellow flowers. Then the image was taken into Photoshop. A little clean up was done, Kim Klassen’s Cloth & Paper Texture Anne was applied setting the layer to Soft Light at 40%, and finally a Curves Adjustment Layer was applied to add back a little contrast. An OnOne PhotoFrame acid burn controller 15 frame (no long available unfortunately – one of the best frame programs around) was added and a Vibrance Adjustment Layer was used to bright up the colors just a little (Vibrance +21 and Saturation +31). That was it! Lightroom did a pretty good job of colorizing the black and white conversion.
There are several new features in the new Lightroom 5 release and to be honest, I have not even tried most of them. I will definitely upgrade due to just a couple things I really like about the program (and I am not getting into a Cloud discussion since I am on the fence about this one). There were two things that got my attention right away: the new Radial Filter (which was used on the flowers above) which can be applied very subtly,  with different parameters, and as many times as you want; and the Upright Adjustment button – now no need to have crooked images ever again. In the Lens Correction section just click the Auto adjustment button, and then go to the Crop Tool to finish it up. It is fabulous and I use it on every image I process. There are some other changes I will probably use like the Slideshow module now can have both still and videos in your slideshows. The Cloning/Healing Brush has been updated but I still struggle getting nice results – still like Photoshop for clean up issues. It does a great job on little spots but more difficult when trying to adjust a larger area.

You should check out the program and see if you like Lightroom. I have used it since Lightroom 1 and have never looked back. It catalogs all my photos for me and keeps me as organized as I am ever going to be with my pictures!

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Lightroom 5′s New Upright Adjustments Section
How to Use Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) or Lightroom 4 Quickly
New Lightroom and Photoshop 32-bit Processing Capability
Showing Off Your Images with Lightroom
Great Free Plug-in for Lightroom – The Fader!

The Best Dodging and Burning Technique!

I loved the way this image turned – the kind of art I like to do! These orchids were sitting backwards in the grocery store and it just struck me how interesting they looked from this angle. So here is the shot I got with my little point and shoot. Since it was not the best quality image, I had to do quite a bit of manipulating to it and that included some major dodging to clean up the lines in the image. I can’t tell you how much I rely on Lightroom to help me clean up these JPGs from this little camera. There is no way I could get them looking this good without it. I did two major things in Lightroom – added David duChemin’s Lightroom 4 preset Honey on Land which turned the really purple and white flowers into rich pink and gold colors. Next I used the Lens Correction panel set to Color and manually defringed this image. It had some pretty bad yellow fringing going on. To fix this, the Remove Chromatic Aberration box was checked, and using the Fringe Selector Tool, the yellow area was clicked as a starting place. The final Amount for the Green Hue was 3 and the Green Hue tabs were set to 0/19. Unfortunately ACR does not have a Fringe Selector Tool but you can manually manipulate the defringe sliders and get very good results. This feature alone is one of the reasons you should upgrade to Lightroom 4 or Photoshop CS6. Now I will get off my soapbox.

Photoshop is where the burning and dodging magic come in to play. Topaz (for website link see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) Simplify 4’s Watercolor II preset was applied. In an added layer mask, most of the flowers were painted back using a low opacity brush to reduce the effect of the filter on these areas. A Selective Color Adjustment Layer and a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer were added with some slight changes to the Reds and Yellows to bring back a bit of the purplish color. Next French Kiss Studio (for website link see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) Botanique2 watercolor texture was added and set to 70% at Normal blend mode. In a layer mask, the flowers were lightly painted back but the background retained the greenish colors. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added to add back the contrast lost with the texture.

The next step is the Burning and Dodging tip that comes from John Paul Caponigro, one of the best users of Photoshop to create fine art and a total Photoshop guru, in a course he offers called Drawing with Light – 21st Century Dodging and Burning (Kelby Training also has the tutorial if you are a member – this DVD is excellent covering many topics to improve your images). To add the burn effect to an image, a New Layer is created and set to Overlay blend mode. With a black soft-edged brush, paint over any areas or edges that need a little more separation. I like to use a very low opacity brush around 12% or less, but John Paul likes to use 100% and back it off completely.
The reason I love this method is that it is easy to erase a mistake or add a layer mask to reduce the effect. If you make one stroke too dark, just go to Edit ->Fade and reduce its strength. Also the layer opacity can be reduced if the total result is too much – you may only need a 15-20% layer opacity to get the effect. If you have a lot of changes and want to Dodge some areas, create another New Layer set to Overlay and use the same brush set to white. Be careful not to overdo this – it is easy to do. The white paint seems to really stand out. But it is a very easy way to direct the eye to the important parts of the image. Remember the layer is set to an Overlay blend mode which means that anything greater than 50% gray brightens the image, and anything darker than 50% gray darkens it. Therefore, when black is painted over the darker areas of the image, only the dark areas are being affected – the lighter areas stay the same. When dodging with white, only the lighter areas are being affected. One thing to watch out for is that the Overlay blend mode tends to increase saturation, so make sure this is not happening. May need to use a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer to desaturate slightly. The last step for this image involved adding a Curves Adjustment Layer to bring in some overall contrast to the image. Textures can tend to flatten out an image.
This image is of a little tiny hard pod or flower growing on my Peace Lily or Spathiphyllum plant.  A macro shot was taken of the flower with filtered light from the south facing window that gives a really soft background feel. Before doing any darkening on this image, it was processed in Lightroom using just the Basic sliders. Next in Photoshop, Topaz (for website link see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Simplify 4’s BuzSim III preset was applied. 2 Lil’ Owls Mosaic Set Amour texture (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) was then applied twice. First time it was set to Overlay blend mode at 100% layer opacity. Second time it was set to Multiply at 100% opacity and the flower was lightly painted out in a layer mask. Finally the a New Layer was created and set to Overlay. In this case, the top of the pod was getting lost in the yellow of the leaf behind it and needed a little more definition. With a soft black lower opacity brush, the top of the pod was painted back to reveal the edge more clearly.

I have used this technique for several years now and still find it the best for localized dodging and burning. This technique is a totally non-destructive to the image, and I think the results are far superior to the other methods out there. Definitely on the top of my favorite techniques. Give it a try and see if you like the technique!…..Digital Lady Syd

2012 Inexpensive Gifts for the Photoshop Lover on Your List

Last year I did this blog and felt that it would be a good idea to list a few more reasonably priced gift items that you might not know about. I hope you find it useful for that perfect stocking-stuffer or gift for your favorite Photoshop user. These are all items I personally own and recommend for your use.  Also, scroll down to the Totally Cheap Corner for some free great gift ideas! So here we go!


I am keeping my number 1 from last year as my number 1 for this year too. This plug-in is the best and this company is the best – once you buy any of their products, all updates are free – who does that in this day and age? It was a hard choice to choose just one to showcase as I use most of their plug-ins regularly. Topaz Adjust is wonderful as it gives that HDR feel to an image even if it is not an HDR and now there are more choices than ever for creating this look. If you are an artistic person, try their newly updated Topaz Simplify 4 – totally fun to use! And the Black and White Effects is really good!  Topaz Adjust (see sidebar for website at my Tidbits Blog) using the Vintage Grunge IV preset was applied below without the vignetting. Otherwise just my usual workflow in both Lightroom 4 and Photoshop CS6. It was taken recently at the 39th Annual Daytona Turkey Run in the infield of the Daytona International Speedway – it is the largest antique auto show in the U.S.


Leslie Nicole of French Kiss Collections has some of the most beautiful and unique textures. She offers many free textures to try out and several inexpensive sets you can download. She has some good video tutorials on how to use her textures. Below are some bougainvillaeas that use one of her textures and one of her overlays. (For more information on how it was processed, see my Tidbits Blog Checking Out French Kiss Textures.)


Once again I am recommending this little program. I would be lost without the Preset Viewer Program. When you need that special brush to load into Photoshop and cannot remember which set is it in, this program will open them up to view within seconds to help you find what you need. Definitely a real time-saver. It also reads patterns, fonts, jpgs, shapes, styles, and swatches. A great addition for speeding up your Photoshop workflow. I often have it open while working on an image to see which brushes I need to load. Below is a screenshot of how my program looks when open – I have several folders where I store extra brush presets. These are my cloud set brushes that can be downloaded for free at my Deviant Art site.


If you like taking Macro images, or even if you don’t know if you do, Mike Moat (one of the best macro photographers around) has an E-Book called Creating Art with Macro in Nature that is terrific! I learned so much from this 184-page pdf book that covers everything you need to know with beautiful images to show you the results. Very enjoyable read. His website Tiny Landscapes also has very helpful information on it. Below is an example of using some of Mike’s tips to create a nice Macro image.


Scott Kelby (need I say anymore?) started creating “quick tip” Digital Photography Books a while back and this year he released his fourth. They are all loaded down with lots of photography and Photoshop tips to make shooting any kind of image painless. He covers every kind of shot and has many recipes sprinkled throughout the books to help with processing. I have totally enjoyed all of them as they are a quick read – you can look up whatever you want to shoot at the moment and get the quick tip for taking the image. The HDR image below is a shot from my hotel room in Orlando while attending Photoshop World (these are a blast to attend if you have not done so yet) a few years ago that follows the tip “Shoot From Up Really High” in Book 3. I just checked the price on his books and they are quite reduced from the cost on the cover – very good buys!


I did a blog on this cool little plug-in program back when it first came out. (See Great Free Plug-in for Lightroom – The Fader!) They have since upgraded it but it is the same basic program and I find I use it all the time. The basic concept is that when you apply a preset in Lightroom, it is applied at 100% – that is your only choice. Using this Fader plug-in, you can set it to any amount up to 150% and you get a live view of how it looks while adjusting the one slider. It is absolutely ingenious! The image of the mum below used Photoshop Guy Matt Kloskowski’s Wedding Fairytale Dark Edge preset applied to it at 115% using the Fader. Then an adjustment brush adding the slight yellow color for the centers was added. The texture is Painted Textures Taupe Canvas, French Kiss PhotoStudio2 Overlay ( from No. 2 above), and my free SJ-Snow1 Overlay.


As I have always said, I am no painter but I just love dabbling. So when Dr. Russell Brown (my Photoshop hero) and Tim Shelbourne (a wonderful artist) came up with their Artist Assistant panel, I fell victim. The Watercolour Assistant Panel is free for Photoshop CS6 and can be downloaded from Dr. Brown’s Scripts page. I can tell you it takes practice to be successful at this, and I have not mastered it yet, but using Tim’s TAQ Watercolour Cloning Brushes definitely helps to create a nice watercolor feel from an image. If you are interested in painting watercolor, check out his website and his brushes. I hope to do a future blog on this technique since it really is a lot of fun to do.


How many times have you been out shooting and wished you had a tripod with you? Unless I plan on going somewhere that is easy go with my car, I usually just wing it. When I went to Photoshop World a couple years ago, this was one of the items in the vendor area. I bought a Steadepod and I now carry it with me whenever I shoot. It may not be a great as a tripod, but it sure beats having nothing. What a life-saver! and fairly inexpensive. This is one of those gadgets you wonder how you ever got along without it. It sets up very quickly and you can get those wonderful HDR landscape and indoor shots you want – and no one says you cannot use it in some places where tripods are not allowed!


Recently I decided that I needed to get a new Lightroom reference book since the latest version has been updated a lot. When Craft & Vision issued a notice that a new E-book on Lightroom was available for a reasonable price, I decided to give it a try. Piet Van den Eynde does an excellent job with this Lightroom 4 Unmasked E-book. It is 313 pages long and covers everything, and from a fresh perspective. Besides a Table of Contents which links through properly, he has a Cases page with links that answer basic questions and offer new techniques. Also check out Craft & Vision’s other E-books – David duChemin (a really great photographer) and Piet have several listed. These E-books are great reads at reasonable prices.


Speaking of David duChemin, he came out with a set of 36 Lightroom Develop Presets and instructions on how to use them. I bought them as I really liked the Milford Greens presets and several of his Black and White presets are now my favorites. This is a very handy set and reasonably priced (approx $0.25 a preset). The Hawaiian Boy and Turtle Sculpture below uses one of the beautiful Milford Greens presets, then The Fader plug-in (see No. 6 above) was opened and applied at 115% before finishing up in Photoshop.




Jerry Jones of Shadowhouse Creations is one of the most generous people in the texture community. His textures are fabulous with a large variety from which to select. He often adds good examples and details on how to use the set he is featuring. He also creates brushes, layer styles, overlays, and actions. This is a “must have” bookmark for anyone who dabbles in the artistic aspects of Photoshop. The pink daisies are treated with two of my very favorite textures from Shadowhouse Creations: Marshmellow Skies set to Normal blend mode at 72% opacity and Oil Painting 1 set to Hard Light at 26%.


I mentioned one of these in No. 7 above – Russell Brown’s panels are the best! Download them all from Dr.Brown’s Scripts page.

  • The one I use the most is the Adobe Paper Texture Panel. This is a quick and easy way to try several textures on top of your image quickly – it sizes them and sets them to any blend mode you want to see. See my blog Russell Brown’s Paper Texture Panel Updated! for more info. I noticed he does not have the CS5 version posted anymore.
  • Another panel I really like is the Edit Layers in ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) panel for Photoshop CS6. (Scroll down the page to get the same as an equivalent script for CS5.) This is very useful, especially if you use Lightroom. It saves time if you need to fix something in Camera RAW quick (like remove noise or Chromatic Aberration or adjust orange which is not in Photoshop) and you do not want to go back into Lightroom to adjust it.  Basically all you have to do in CS6 to access this script is to open the panel and click on the button  – it immediately turns your layer into a Smart Object so you can edit again later if needed, and takes you right into ACR. For CS5 you will have to go to the File -> Scripts -> Dr. Brown’s Edit Layer in ACR to run. Check out my blog Edit Layers with ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) Script for more information on this.
  • As already mentioned above, Dr. Brown’s Painting Assistant Panel for CS6 and CS5! is another fun free panel to try out! It takes you through several steps – like a Photoshop action that stops at each step. It also takes some practice but if you are a little artistic, you will love it. See my blog Dr. Brown’s Painting Assistant Panel for CS6 and CS5! on how to do this.
  • And once again, the Watercolour Assistant Panel is free for Photoshop CS6 only – see No. 7 above for more on this.

The flowers below were created using the Photoshop CS5 Painting Assistant.


This item has been around a while – is a great little plug-in offered over at Adobe Labs Downloads that contains several different filters, and others can be added in. Click on 7. on download page to get to the Adobe Pixel Bender Exchange to find what they have to offer. I am so sorry that it cannot be used with Photoshop CS6 because some of my favorite effects were in this little plug-in. That is one reason why both CS6 and CS5 are on my computer – I still use this plug-in. When you download the plug-in, you get the really nice Oil Paint Filter, which is similar to the one added to Photoshop CS6 – see my blog Photoshop’s CS6 (and Pixel Bender’s) Oil Paint Filter. One that is a lot of fun is the Escher’s Droste Effect – see my blog Pixel Bender Droste Effect for more information on this filter. The filter I use the most in Pixel Bender is from an outside source and is called Kill White – it takes out all the white from an image in a single click. Very handy! (Mike at Mike’s Extra says the 32-bit filter download currently works with the 32-bit Photoshop CS6 but he has not been able to get the 64-bit plug-in working.) This image is of one of my Orange Hibiscus using instructions from my Droste Effect blog link above.

14.  PHOTOMATIX MERGE TO 32-BIT HDR PLUG-IN FOR LIGHTROOM 4.1 USERS – ($0 if you already own Photomatix Pro)

Since there is not much for the HDR fanatic (although the Steadepod in No. 8 above is perfect for HDR in difficult places), the Merge to 32-Bit HDR Plug-in is a little heralded plug-in that HDR Soft released earlier this year and I find it indispensable. Since it is free to owners of the Photomatix Pro program (one of the HDR industry standards for processing HDR images), I thought I would mention it here. The first image in this blog was created from 3 images stacked with this program.  You first select your HDR images in Lightroom, go to Export -> Merge to 32-Bit HDR – it then aligns and brings the file back into Lightroom as a TIFF for processing. Very quick and very useful – much faster than going into Photoshop to stack and align them.


This is a just-for-fun link I found over a year ago but it has 50 sites which also have links and lots of freebies on each site, not just great textures. Total fun and your Photoshop buddy will love browsing through all the wonderful things available and you will be a hero! Check out 50 Free High Quality Texture Packs by

I hope this blog has given you some ideas and places to check out if you are looking for that special Photoshop or Photography gift that will not “break the bank!” If you want more ideas, check out my Inexpensive Gifts for Photoshop Lovers for 2011. I know with the economy the way it is, it is hard to find something that is really nice or unique – maybe this blog will give you some great ideas. Happy Shopping!…..Digital Lady Syd

Storytelling with Your Images

This is a topic I struggle with since it seems that most images that tell a good story are those of people – and it is hard for me to take people shots that are interesting. So I have been working on this. Several photographers have written about storytelling within an image. David duChemin, one of my favorite authors and photographers, has written several great books on photography including one called Within the Frame – the Journey of Photographic Vision where he discusses storytelling. Basically he states “….two aspects of storytelling come to mind. The first is the study of themes that tie the image to our deeper, more universal human experience. The second is conflict, revealed in the frame by contrasts.” Another important point David states is “….the more deeply they [the viewer of your image] care, the stronger the story.” I am no David duChemin when it comes to photography, but I have tried to represent some of his ideas in my blog this week.

The gentleman above just popped out at me when I was in Steak n Shake a few weeks ago. I can imagine all kinds of stories – like he sneaked out to get a nice treat, or he didn’t feel that great and this ice cream really cheered him up, or maybe he just felt like ice cream! Any way you look at it, I felt something when I looked at the older man and nostalgic Steak and Shake pictures – it made me want to take the photo. The image is a good example of both aspects of storytelling – I see a basic theme that most people understand as to whether we should be eating this kind of food (as in that never ending diet or health issues) and are we spending too much in order to enjoy one of life’s little pleasures. I can relate to this experience and conflict! The colors and pictures around him also played an important part in this image – black, white and red create a very strong color palette. (See end of blog for details on how each image was processed.)
I thought this image is a good example of a story – the way the trainer seems to be interacting with one of the Killer Whales at SeaWorld-Orlando. Then my husband looked at the image and said it reminded him of “Jaws” – it is reminiscent of the tragic trainer accident with a whale a few years ago (see Tilikum Wikipedia link). Goes to show how each person creates a totally different scenario in their mind. But it does serve its purpose – it tells a story and makes you think! I see conflict in this image – the small trainer vs. the large whale, humor vs. drama, man vs. animal, texture of water vs. smoothness of the subjects – all implied opposites.
Here is another image I thought had a story associated with it – people seem to enjoy the beach no matter what the weather is. Here is Ormond Beach, Florida, and a young lady is having fun just playing on the beach. It was major windy and overcast as Hurricane Sandy had just missed Florida and gone up the coast much earlier in the morning. (See this incredible aerial view slideshow of a blacked-out New York City after Hurricane Sandy came inland.) I tried to convey how large and out-of-control the waves were vs. the smallness of the young lady. There is the conflict of the rage of the water and lightheartedness of the girl. I believe the way the image is colored gives the water a foreboding feel while the young lady is still in summerlike attire. What was she seeing?
…..Now that there are so many good plugins available to help create an effect, it does make it easier to convey a story. This image has a nostalgic feeling even though this man was making Satay Chicken Wraps in London during Scott Kelby’s Photowalk of 2008 (several of my PhotoWalk images are shown at this site). I think the effect makes the story more obvious and interesting. I believe this photo makes you want to know more about the cook – how good is the meal he is preparing, does he like to cook, does he own the store, etc.
John Paul Caponigro, who does gorgeous fine art photography, creates images with stories without people present. He has a lot of interesting photography links on his website including this excellent short article on Storytelling. (Become a member for free to download his many interesting articles.) He states in this article that single images have a beginning at the “point of visual entry.” A series of images begins with the first image, and follow with a middle and an ending, as any story has. “The frame sets the stage. So, set a scene. You can think of anything that enters it as an actor of an unfolding drama. Then, introduce your characters. There’s lots of room for creativity in how you do this. Next, develop a theme.” In the image below, I took advantage of this concept and used a template that would place several images into a single page.
I really enjoyed the expression of both the porpoise and trainer in this series of photos from Marineland. The story began with just the image of the adorable dolphin as the main character. By introducing the hand of the trainer, the story begins to develop. You can see the interest of the dolphin increasing with each hand gestures. Finally the trainer is introduced and you start to see her reaction to the dolphin and dolphin’s willingness to perform the trick for her. The end shows the connection that has developed between our two main characters. There is no conflict in this story but there is a strong conclusion or outcome for our characters. And for some reason the dolphin’s bubbles were intriguing to me!

Rick Sammon, known especially for his wonderful HDR photos, did a blog series on storytelling that contains some different tips to accomplish this. Check out A Week of Storytelling – the link has days out of order, but they are all there. Craig Tanner, of the unfortunately inactive The Mindful Eye website (which is still one of the best places to learn about everything photography – especially how to use space effectively in an image) has several links to his short videos on Storytelling. One from the Daily Critique of 7/16/09 describes how to make an image convey a story more effectively with proper cropping and negative space use. And perhaps one of the greatest storytellers of recent times is the wonderful Joe McNally – everything he shoots tells a story as far as I can tell and every image is interesting. Just check out his blog to see what he is doing – and all his books are interesting. I still love his first book The Moment It Clicks. Another very inspiring photographer of recent times is Steve McCurry, best known for his National Geographic image of the Afghan Girl, has a wonderful blog and website.

I wish I had just get 1% of the talent of any of the individuals mentioned here. There is a lot to learn in this area but it is worth the time to understand what it takes to create a great image. Some work, some don’t, but eventually there will be that one shot that says it all! And don’t be afraid to crop or perform changes in Photoshop to make it more interesting. Take some time when shooting to find the story – they usually are the most powerful shots you will ever take!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Unsharp Mask Filter In LAB Mode
Humorous Shots Are Sometimes the Best

Image Processing Information:
Image 1: This image was processed in Lightroom – Matt Kloskowski’s (a major Lightroom guru and one of the Photoshop Guys) preset Focal Point (Portrait – Bottom Right) just lined up perfectly for this image. Since this was a jpg image (my Kodak point-and-shoot took the shot), the noise was pretty bad so the first thing done in Photoshop was to apply Topaz DeNoise 5 JPEG Strong preset (see sidebar for website link at my Tidbits Blog) was applied. Next Nik Viveza 2 was used to sharpen the ice cream and man’s face while the edges were darkened a little in all the corners. I still did not like the noise, especially in the red areas, so I applied Topaz DeNoise 5 again using my own settings – Overall Strength 0.24, Adjust Color – Red -0.18, Recover Detail 0.54, Reduce Blur 0.18 and Add Grain 0.11. Some clean up to remove distracting glare, sharpening to just the ice cream using a black layer mask on a High Pass Filter, and a Curves Adjustment Layer where only the red channel was increased slightly to add a little more red color back into the image. My B&W Border Frame was added to finish up.

Image 2: This image was first processed in Lightroom. Noiseware was applied to the image once brought into Photoshop. Then Nik Color Efex Pro 4 was applied using two of my favorite plug-ins, Detail Extractor just on the trainer and whale – the overall opacity was set to 0% so only the trainer and whale show any of the changes, and Film Efex Vintage using Film Type 11 – this gives the beautiful illustration type effect. A Curves Adjustment Layer and Vibrance Adjustment Layer were added to get the colors right. Some whale clean up and sharpening was done and a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was applied to lower the saturation of the blue water. A Selective Color Adjustment Layer was added to make the tongue pinker – the adjustment layer was filled with black and the tongue was painted back in. My Thin Double Edge Frame was added sampling colors from the image to create.

Image 3: This image was mainly processed in Lightroom. The poles were slightly tipped out so they were corrected in Lightroom’s Lens Correction Manual tab (although the ones in Adobe Camera Raw or Photoshop would have done the same correction) using the Vertical slider set to -6 to adjust them. Since the bottom corners were drawn in, the image was taken into Photoshop and the corners cloned back in. Then back in Lightroom I decided the image would look good with Matt Kloskowski’s Wedding Fairytale (Bright Edge) applied, but at a lesser amount. That is where I used The Fader, a plug-in that lets you reduce the amount of the preset effect (or more – up to 150%) – see my Fun Photoshop Blog Great Free Plug-in for Lightroom – The Fader! I applied the Fader slider at 119% to get the pretty light colored waves and sandy brown beach. Next the image was brought back into Photoshop and Noiseware (I use both Topaz DeNoise and Noiseware – just grabbed this one) and Nik Viveza 2 were applied to adjust the noise and sharpness of the image. Frenchkiss’s free Glorious Grunge Overlay was applied and a Color Fill Adjustment layer was clipped to it (ALT + Click between the layers) and the color changed from black to a cream color.

Image 4: Loved the vintage feel on this not so perfect image. In Lightroom a preset was applied that I call Gritty Preset by Michael Rather – it was created by listening to a video called True Grit and I use it all the time! In Photoshop Nik Color Efex Pro 4 was opened and two of my favorite filters were applied: Detail Extractor (Detail Extractor 57%, Contrast 6%, and Saturation 6%) with a (-) Control Point placed on his face and set to 25% opacity, and Film Efex-Vintage (used Film Type 15 and adjusted the vignette to 39%). A (-) Control Point was placed on his coat to make it whiter just a little (25% opacity). The image was sharpened in LAB Mode using the Luminosity channel and the Unsharp Mask. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added to increase contrast. My Thin Double Edge Frame Layer Style was added using the default colors.

Image 5: To create this image, it took a little more effort. The template is a free photo grid from PhotoRadar. 17 photos were added – essentially all but the large one were selected in Lightroom, cropped to the same size, then Edited in Photoshop -> Open as Layers. Once stacked in a file in Photoshop, the template was placed at the bottom of the stack and all the images were clipped to this bottom layer (ALT+click between the layers). Each one had to be Free Transformed (CTRL +T) to line up correctly in each of the openings. To create the large opening, the template was selected and the 4 bottom image openings were painted together. The large photo was placed at the bottom of the images so the overlap of the larger photo edges would not show in the other openings. A layer style was added to the bottom layer using a Stroke and Inner Glow so each image was outlined. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added on top to add contrast to all images. A Gradient was applied on the template to add the blue glow. The top text has an Outer Glow Layer Style added to it.

How to Use Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) or Lightroom 4 Quickly

Just realized that I am starting my third year of blogging today! How appropriate that I am back to processing an image from the beginning. This is an image of a beautiful church along a busy highway in the Belarusian countryside. It was post-processed in Lightroom 4 following the workflow below. Since Adobe has released Lightroom 4 and Photoshop CS6, many of the sliders were updated and are much improved from their earlier versions. I finally got a chance to check out Scott Kelby’s training and book to learn about what had changed and what works quick in the new versions. Scott probably has the best Camera Raw workflow out there for both programs and this blog attempts to show how he does it. His The Adobe Photoshop CS6 for Digital Photographers book goes through all these steps very thoroughly. His CS6 book is great, but do not use it as the go-to book for everything there is to know about Photoshop – it is definitely targeted to digital photographers and photo problems. Check out Scott Kelby’s Photoshop for Travel Photographers excellent video where he covers what I am doing in this blog and more. The image above is a good example of his workflow. (Details for the above image include: White Balance – Temp slider moved left to get bluish feel; Exposure set to -0.59, Contrast +49, Highlights -100 to bring out sky, Shadows +37, Whites -16, Blacks -6, Clarity +71 for details, Vibrance +33, and Neutral Density Gradient with Exposure set to -0.80. In Photoshop a clean up layer was used to get rid of power lines and pole. Some sharpening was added and My Thin Double Edge Frame was applied with colors sampled from the image.)

The Camera Raw sliders were designed to be used from top to bottom.

1.  Look at the White Balance – your Tint and Temperature sliders. If you are shooting outside with a DSLR, the white balance may not be an issue. Try checking out the White Balance drop-down options too. If image shot on a cloudy day, it may really improved the results. Use presets below to get same White Balance options for a JPEG file as for a RAW file. It can also be used creatively as in the blue-toned image above.

For Lightroom 4 users: Matt Kloskowsky of Lightroom Killer Tips fame created a some time ago a set of White Balance presets that still work great since only the Temp and Tint sliders are changing – just download them to get a quick look at how each White Balance setting appears on your image in the Navigator. For ACR users: create your own presets by selecting a White Balance from the drop-down menu in the Basic section, then go to the Preset section (2nd icon from right) and click on folder icon at bottom – name White Balance Shade for example, choose subset White Balance, and say OK. It will appear in your preset list. Can now quickly click on each preset to see how the White Balance adjustment will look on your image. Be sure to make a preset for As Shot so you can return to your original settings if you want.

2. Next check out the Exposure and Contrast sliders. If image looks a little washed out, use the Contrast slider. If all check out here, you do not have to use the Highlights, Shadows, Whites or Blacks sliders. The new Exposure slider now controls mostly midtones and includes the old Recovery slider (Exposure slider in CS5/Lightroom 3 covered both midtones and highlights) so adjusting this slider can really enrich the color tones.

3. Go to your Highlights Slider and move left to bring back detail in the sky. This slider is almost always used in this way. There was no Highlights slider in CS5 or Lightroom 3.  Next the Shadows slider is brought to the right to bring out detail in the image. If you go all the way to +100, you will probably have to go to the next step as your image will look flat in the Shadows. This slider basically replaced the Fill Light slider in the CS5/Lightroom 3 versions.

4. The Blacks and Whites sliders are for fine tuning and you do not always need to use them. Try them just to see if an adjustment helps. If there is clipping in the image as shown by looking at the Histogram top corners (if they are colors, you have clipping), then adjust them to get rid of either the shadow clipping or whites clipping. By clicking on the triangle in the corner, you can see in red on the image where the clipping is occurring. Now you set negative numbers for these sliders.

5. Next one of the most important and most improved sliders in Camera Raw – the Clarity Slider. Totally revamped from CS5 and Lightroom 3, this slider now can be cranked up very high without halo effects. It is used to increase the Midtone Contrast in an image. Use this on any image that has details, especially landscapes, buildings, metal objects. Do not use it on people or puppies!

6. Now it is time to finish up with Vibrance. Do not use the Saturation slider. The Vibrance will only affect the duller colors in your image, not the ones that are already as bright as you want them or any of flesh tones. Saturation will increase all color equally.
….. This yellow flower/plant taken at the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden on the Big Island in Hawaii was a very simple image to adjust in Camera Raw. No change to White Balance, Exposure set to -.06, Contrast +45, Highlights -100, Shadows +80, Clarity +39 and Vibrance +37. Since the green background color was a little overwhelming, in the HSL section’s Saturation sliders, the Green slider was set t0 -57, Yellow +19 to brighten this color, and Orange set to +41. Usually you do not have to go to these colors, but sometimes it is needed to individually tweak a color you want. I also used a little Noise Reduction moving the Luminance slider to 25. The last step was to add some vignetting going to the Effects section and selecting Post-Crop Vignetting – Style Highlight Priority and Amount to -22. Scott says this creates a better vignette than the one in Lens Correction. I did not like the crop of the image, so for some reason in Photoshop I cropped and removed spots. Next Scott’s Spotlight Effect, a really easy technique to follow and is the first thing he covers in his video, was used. The Unsharp Mask Filter was applied and it done!
…..This image of the Manta Roller Coaster at SeaWorld Orlando definitely was in need of work – it was way underexposed! I liked this image as the coaster has what looks like whale tales around it and you can see the people through the screen on the coaster. To correct the underexposure issue, the White Balance was changed to Daylight just to lighten the sky up so it looks like it did when the shot was taken. Next the Exposure Slider was set to +1.57, then Contrast was set to to -53. Now the people on the ride can at least be seen! Setting the Highlights to -100 brought out the cloud details beautifully. Setting the Shadows to +100 brought out the detail in the coaster and green bushes. Since there is no clipping in the image, the Blacks and White do not need to be adjusted. I tried the Whites slider and it did make the clouds a little whiter when set to +35, so that is what I did. The Blacks slider was set to +25 to make the whole image look a little brighter. Then I realized both had clipped colors by looking at the Histogram top corners. The Whites slider was changed to +22 and Blacks to +76 to get rid of the clipping. Now it is time to add clarity – it was set to +100 to bring out detail. The Vibrance slider was set to +59. And that is how you open up an extremely underexposed image! For this image, I decided to add the vignetting in Photoshop since the emphasis is off center. There also was some clean up work to do since there was debris in the screen I shot through.
…..This final image is of a beautiful old church in the town of Sterling in Scotland as taken from high above at Sterling Castle. Once again the same workflow above was used. I just went down the list of sliders and set my Highlights back and Shadows up, added Contrast, Clarity and Vibrance. This time a Gradient Adjustment reducing the Exposure and Shadow sliders a small amount to bring out the clouds a little. Some Luminance and checked Enable Profile Corrections. A vignette was added. In Photoshop Scott’s Spotlight Effect was added. There was bright orange construction material around the hospital so I used Replace Color and changed it to brown. A black layer mask was added and the orange color was painted out. Topaz (see website link in sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Detail’s Bold Detail was applied and then once again a black layer mask was added and just the building was painted back with the detail. My Thin Double Edge Frame was added to finish up.

I hope you are able to see how easy it is to use the new Camera Raw sliders and realize that you hardly have to do anything in Photoshop anymore. I really love the fact that it is getting easier to get very high quality results with images that aren’t so high quality and very quickly!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
I Didn’t Know That! Converting Lightroom Preset to Adobe Camera Raw Preset
Edit Layers with ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) Script