I am constantly amazed at how some of my images turn out – not at all what I had expected. This week I am going to go through my photo art workflow step-by-step so you can see what a difference a little tweaking will do. One of my favorite image types to play with in Photoshop are shots of art works. It is a nice break from cleaning up photos of family and large travel landscapes and gives me the opportunity to be creative. This image is of a type of art I had never heard of before that is on display at my favorite local museum – the Lightner Museum in St. Augustine, Florida. These are examples of Victorian era cigar band art. The Photoshop-processed image above is my final photo art result and the one I liked the best, but there were several other choices I considered.
NOTE: If you want to see the settings used for any of the steps, just click on the image and the larger Flickr image will appear.
- Here is the initial image as a RAW NEF file. The dishes were enclosed in a glass case and the camera settings were a 44-mm lens at F/4.8, 1/8 sec, and ISO 1250. There is a lot of light glare on the pieces. This image is not one I would normally choose to process, but I just loved the composition of the items and the colors in the cigar bands.
- My next step was to create a Virtual Copy in Lightroom (this does not have to be done if using Adobe Camera Raw in Photoshop) to try to clean up the tone a little before going into Photoshop. Since only a few changes were done here, it does not look much different. First I go to the Lens Correction section and select the Profile tab where I set my lens info, and then the Color tab where I check Remove Chromatic Aberration (this can save a lot of time later). The next step would be to adjust the Crop of the image if it needs it – in this case it did not. Now adjust the Basic sliders. Also check out the noise in the image and try to correct if needed. Next I right click on the image in Lightroom and select “Edit In -> Edit in Adobe Photoshop CS6” which now opens up Photoshop, if it is not already open, with your image.
- I am a big fan of combining my plug-ins until I get just the effect I like. If I do not like what results, I just delete that layer and try again. I always duplicate the background first so I know what the image looked like to start. On a really difficult image, which I considered this one to be, I usually will first open up Nik Color Efex Pro 4 – they have so many filters, you can sometimes get a great look right away. Shown below are stacked filters Tonal Contrast, which I believe is one of the best filters in this plug-in; Pro Contrast, which is one of my personal favorites, and works wonders on many of the images I have processed; and Brilliance/Warmth, one of the most popular Color Efex filters – just adds a really soft warmth to an image. Usually I like the Detail Extractor, but it really looked bad on this image due to all the glare on the items. Note that before entering the plug-in, I created a Smart Object (right click on your duplicated layer in Layer Panel and select Convert to Smart Object in menu) as Nik plug-ins work very well with Smart Objects. It allows you to go back into the plug-in and all settings and control points will still be in place so they can be readjusted easily.
- Since there is so much glare in this image, there is only one plug-in I know of that does a good job controlling it and that is my most used plug-in, Nik Viveza 2. It will almost always improve if not remove problem areas on an image. You can see I have added 10 control points on the glare areas (click on image to see the little round circles more clearly in Flickr) to try to even out the tone. By comparing to the above, it is not perfect, but what a difference it makes! The detail and saturation of the image is also much improved. (See my blog Nik’s Viveza 2 Plug-In – A Hidden Gem!)
- Still have issues where the glare is – it needs to be cleaned up and the pink removed since it draws your eye into the left corner and it is distorted by the glare. The Color Replacement Tool was used to turn the pink color turquoise (see settings used in Options Bar in photo and turquoise foreground color in swatch) and some cloning was done on the dish to even out the pattern where the glare blows out the detail. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was used to get rid of another pink hot spot. I usually try to work completely non-destructively (meaning the original image was not changed by any of the adjustments made on the layers above), but the Color Replacement Tool is destructive and changes are made on the image itself – the Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer may have been a better choice for this problem area.
- I always add or at least try to add a Curves Adjustment Layer to adjust the contrast towards the end of my workflow. Since I thought I was almost done, it seemed appropriate to add it now. Below is what my curve looked like for this image. I usually just drag the Hand Tool (located in the upper lefthand corner of the panel) in the image to get this correct. It usually is just a subtle change but very significant. In this case I only wanted to brighten up the plate and mug where the color was located, not enhance where the glare was. The Curves Adjustment layer mask was turned black by clicking on the mask and CTRL+I to invert the color from white to black. Then a soft 30% opacity brush was set to white and used to gently paint back the areas where the I wanted additional contrast and color. This was a good point to create a composite layer that combines all the layers below into one on top by clicking (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) – this helps when the number of layers gets large as some techniques need a single layer to work correctly – this can especially be a problem with the Clone Tool.
- At this point I thought I was getting the image to a final look. I decided I wanted sort of a vintage type edge on the image, so I used one of my very favorite textures, ShadowHouse Creations Old Photo 6. After trying several blend modes, I selected the Exclusion blend mode (which I do not use that much but worked in this case) set to 53% opacity. Still not sure it was quite what I wanted so I decided to add one of his new Assorted Mask Overlay (08) and set it to Soft Light blend mode at 100% opacity. Basically just the beautiful edges were used on both layers, and the image center was mainly painted out using black in the layer masks to keep the basic image intact. I often use the free Russell Brown Paper Texture Panel to try out and stack the various textures (the green square at the top of the icons to the left of the panels opens it up).
- I must be done???? But then I thought, I wonder what happens if I take this image into the new Topaz photoFXlab (see sidebar for website in my Tidibits Blog). Well that proved to be a problem because I started finding all kinds of new effects I liked on this cleaned up image. The settings below were applied as a first step to the bottom layer for all the different Topaz effects tried on this image.
- I duplicated the bottom layer in the plug-in and applied from the Effects tab a preset called Lithography by H. Hurst (Topaz used the preset from Topaz Detail) and set the layer to 65% opacity. In the Adjustment tab, the Saturation slider was set to 20. The Dodge Brush was used from the Brush tab to whiten around the pupil of the eyes of the girl on the plate using a brush strength of .10. Next the lips were slightly reddened using the Saturation brush. It was saved in the new Topaz extension .pfxl so the settings could be readjusted at a later date if needed. Clicked OK and applied to it to the image in Photoshop. At this point I did create a note to remind myself exactly what I did in the plug-in since I am still learning about the new extension. The image that resulted is shown below.
- To be honest, I just didn’t love the final result so I decided to delete the layer where I applied the photoFXlab plug-in and start over in this plug-in. This time I decided to try out the results using the Plug-in tab and selected Topaz Adjust 5. Here I tried out one of my favorite presets I created from the French Countryside preset in the Vibrant Collection. It looked nice and more like what I wanted. I use this preset a lot when I want a nice artistic feel.
- I decided to try one more preset just to see if I liked it and sure enough, it is the one I selected. It is in the Stylized Collection and is called Painting-Venice. I added several settings in the Finishing Touches section: Transparency – Overall Transparency slider to .7, Color – Warmth 0.03, and Tone – Quad Settings as shown on the image – the correct colors should be set already. Once out of the Adjust plug-in, in the Adjustment tab Exposure was set to 0.38, Contrast to -3 and Dynamics 24.
Well this is a good example of my workflow for a photo art image. I could have used OnOne Software’s wonderful Perfect Effects (see sidebar for website at my Tidbits Blog), or any of the other plug-ins offered by Topaz, but it just depends on what I think will work. Overall the main components are 1) process as discussed above in Lightroom, 2) take into Photoshop and do any clean up, 3) add plug-in effects, 4) add any textures if you want, 5) I always go to Viveza 2 now, 6) do any extra sharpening or noise reduction that might be required, 7) add a Curves Adjustment layer for final tone and contrast, and 8) add any framing. I hope you can see that even though a change is very small, it can be very significant to the photo, and that you can always change your mind. An image can take on such a different feel with different plug-ins and textures applied. I thought originally I wanted a very sharp almost HDR look for this image, but I ended up with a very bright painterly result. I am happy with it but it is not exactly what I had in mind when I started! …..Digital Lady Syd
I ran across this little video by Matt Kloskowski for Lightroom called “The Clarity Super Edgy Trick” but can just as easily be done in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR). The following image is an example of the technique.
To get this nice grunge/HDR effect, the following steps need to be done.
- First do adjustments to image and crop size in Lightroom or ACR. Set the Clarity slider to +100 at this time.
- Select the Graduated Filter (G) (11th icon from left at top) and set just the Clarity slider set to +100 (In Lightroom go to the Effect drop-down and choose Clarity – set slider to +100).
- Click and drag at bottom of image so the top line is totally off the image. Clarity at 100% will have been applied again to the whole image. Everything above the green line in ACR or top line in Lightroom is getting the full 100% Clarity so make sure this line is dragged totally off the bottom of image. Hold SHIFT while dragging to keep the line horizontal with image and it is easier to control.
- Repeat Step 3 by creating a new Clarity Graduated Filter and do this as many times as you want. Usually this means 3 or 4 times.
If you want to apply the Clarity to just part of the image, use the Adjustment Brush set to Clarity at +100. The same brush can be applied several times by just creating New Brushes.
In the image of the cupola on the old historic courthouse in Fairfax, Virginia, I started with Matt’s 70’s Look preset in Lightroom (here is the preset for ACR), applied the Clarity slider at +100 in the Basic Module, and then set two Graduated Filters with Clarity set to +100. The image was finally brought into Photoshop and a rather brown colored sky was changed to a blue color using the Color Replacement Tool Brush. (See my Tidbits blog – “Like a Chameleon-The Color Replacement Tool” on how to do this.) I added some clouds using my SJ-Cloud Brushes Set.
Do watch when applying the Clarity Slider to landscapes – a bright sky next to a treeline can look bad as it tapers away from the trees edge. Since Clarity works on contrast at the edges in the midtone areas, if you do not want the grungy look, keep your setting to 40 0r 50 and do not use this technique.
One of my favorite shooting spots in Mesa, Arizona, is this old Buckhorn Motel in the center of town. In this case, the image was adjusted in Adobe Lightroom and the Graduated Filter was also applied twice. The image was processed using OnOne’s Perfect Layers Lightroom plug-in. In Perfect Layers, the image was duplicated with the new layer set to Screen at 52%, a Shadow Creations Another Mixed Texture Set – Texture Seattle was added as a texture layer set to Normal at 88%, and then the Masking Bug Tool was used on it to get the interesting side borders. This can all be done in Photoshop if you wanted to create this same effect without the plug-in. After opening image in Photoshop, a NIK Color Efex Pro 3.0 Tonal Contrast plug-in effect and an OnOne PhotoFrame were added to finalize the look. The tonal contrast could have been adjusted without the plug-in by using a Curves Adjustment Layer and/or Levels Adjustment Layer. Use Hue/Sat Adjustment Layer to pop the color.
The Magnolia Tree pod image was created by applying my Vivid Drawing Look Preset in Lightroom (here is the preset for ACR) first, adjusting the exposure and clarity sliders, running the Graduated Filter three times with Clarity set to +100 and once with Clarity set to +37, and opening it up in Photoshop. Three effects were then added on separate layers to get this final result, all using NIK’s Color Efex Pro 3.0 (Tonal Contrast, Glamour Glow and Vignette Blur effects were applied – they are coming out with a new version shortly so I will report back on this when available). Sharpening and an OnOne PhotoFrame finished up the photo. It gives a very different feel from the two images above.
With this beautiful Great Egret, Matt’s 70’s Look preset was applied (same preset as first image-link to download above). The Adjustment Brush was used to selectively apply the Clarity/Sharpening as too much tends to give the whites a very dirty look. The Adjustment Brush was used with Clarity set to +100 and Sharpen +100. I painted over the head and beak of the bird. I then applied one more new Adjustment brush and painted just the beak and eye area. The image was opened in Photoshop, and NIK Color Efex Pro 3.0 Glamour Glow (default settings) and Brilliance and Warmth effects were applied. An OnOne PhotoFrame was added and that was it. Very easy and the face is very sharp using the Clarity technique in Lightroom or ACR.
I just have too much fun trying out this technique. It is a very easy one to do and the possibilities are many. Try using a couple different settings in the Graduated Filter or Adjustment Brush. Save the Filters as presets (they can then be used for both). I have to hand it to Photoshop Guy Matt Kloskowski for coming up with this interesting technique. Give it a quick try and see what you think…..Digital Lady Syd
I am one of those people that does love the HDR effect and I do wish I always had the tripod at my beckon call, but usually it just does not work that way for me. I have spent a lot of time trying to get an HDR look anyway. My camera takes a good image most of the time, so the challenge is to find the right program/filters to get that HDR effect without all the perfectly matched images. This blog addresses what I have come up with so far and all sections used Photoshop CS5.
HDR Toning Adjustment Mode
The above Green Turtle Cay Beach is an example of a JPEG image. It was processed in Photoshop using HDR Toning Adjustment Mode. It is possible to get a decent HDR effect with a JPEG image but not all images turn out good using this method.
This image had all the ingredients to make a nice HDR image – the beautiful detail on the restaurant and the windows and stone on the surrounding buildings. (All the rest of the images are camera RAW files.) This process usually gives a bit of the surreal look as shown in the above. Recently Scott Kelby released his CS5’s HDR Pro preset called Scott 5 that creates a really great “Pseudo HDR” effect. All of HDR Pro’s preset along with this preset will appear in the HDR Toning Adjustment Layer also. This preset was used here with a small increase of the Highlights slider to bring out the color a little. Otherwise that was it. If you have only a single image with some great detail in it, try out the preset in HDR Toning. The results are considered hit-or-miss and will probably not be as good as using three HDR images. Check out my blog, Different Images-Same Look Using HDR! – HDR Toning for Single Images section, for more information on this adjustment. Also, several of my images in my blog, Why I Love Topaz Adjust, used this technique before applying the Topaz Adjust plug-in.
Shadow and Highlight Adjustment Mode
This image had the great bright colors that I thought might create a really nice HDR effect. Unfortunately, when CS5’s HDR Toning Adjustment Mode was tried, it just did not look right, even with the Scott 5 preset. Some people have had success using the Shadows and Highlights Adjustment Mode, so that effect was used on this image. It took a lot of manipulation of all the sliders in the dialog, but I believe the “Pseudo HDR” look is present, just not as pronounced as with the HDR Toning Adjustment Mode.
The Sharpen Tool
The image above required a lot of prep work before even thinking about adding an HDR feel to it. The antennae had to be cloned out first.The Color Replacement Tool (see my Tidbits blog, Like a Chameleon – The Color Replacement Tool) was used to make the sky a blue – this tool was used since the sky and steeple were so close in color, it would have been hard to get a really clean selection. By using Options Bar settings as follows: the Mode to Color, Sampling Background Swatch (in this case, sampling the beige sky color to set as the Background Color and my new sky color, #c2d0d8, set as the Foreground Color), Limits to Find Edges, Tolerance 15% and Anti-Alias checked, it was pretty fast to paint over just the sky area. I used my SJ-Cloud Brush Set to paint in a couple clouds on a separate layer and created a composite above (CTRL+SHIFT+ALT+E).
I did not think the other pseudo-HDR techniques would work on this image since it had a rather flat look to it. I also did not want to HDR the clouds that were just added – only wanted the steeple and roof to have the detail effect. This week I listened to a NAPP Grid where Bryan Hughes, Product Manager for Adobe Photoshop, discussed how much the Sharpen Tool had been improved in CS5 and that it now has the best sharpening capability in Photoshop. That gave me the idea to use it for an HDR effect since I only wanted specific areas processed. So that is how this technique began. Select the Sharpen Tool and in Options Bar, set it to Mode Darken and 50% Strength. Paint over all the areas where the HDR look is to be added. Last, add Curves Adjustment Layer to give a little snap to the color. It may not be as effective as a true HDR processed image (the shadows are probably not as opened up as they would be in a true HDR image), but it does have some of the feel.
Lightroom HDR Preset
Many people say that with the correct settings, a decent HDR effect can be achieved with Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw. Here is an example of about as close as I could get to this effect using Lightroom and Photoshop.
For this Hawaiian landscape, a Lightroom preset from William Petruzzo Photography called HDR Effect – Heavy was applied. The Blacks slider was increased a small amount and a Curves Adjustment Layer added in Photoshop for contrast. I tried this preset on a couple other images and got some pretty bad haloing so you need to find the right image to get this nice look. It definitely is worth trying. I am not sure if there is an ACR preset is created at this time, but if you or a friend have Lightroom, you can easily copy the settings over to create an ACR preset.
I hope this has given you a couple new techniques to try and see if you can get a close copy to the HDR effect. I will keep my eyes open for any new ideas and present them as they become available. In the meantime, have fun playing in Photoshop!…..Digital Lady Syd