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Posts tagged “Overlay Frame

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.)
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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.
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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.
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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 Make Frames or Borders


Thought this cloud image had a spooky Halloween feel to it so I added in the bats for effect. For some great Halloween fun in the Orlando area, check out Universal Studios Halloween Horror Night! (Nice YouTube video link if you cannot get there.)

It has come to my attention that I spend a lot of time trying to find a special border or frame for my images. Of course OnOne Software’s PhotoFrame plug-in (see sidebar for website link in my Tidbits Blog) is by-far the best framing program around (and I have used it a lot!), but there are times when a special frame is required. (See my blog My Favorite Photo Frame Plug-In – OnOne PhotoFrames (hum!)) That’s why I decided to try making a few of my own. A download link on my Deviant Art site called SJ PNG Borders with all the borders created in this blog is available if you would like to use them. For details on how each image was post-processed, see the end of this blog.

  • Quick Basic Black or White Frame workflow on a Layer.

1. Open an image in Photoshop and do all your corrections.
2. Create a New Layer on top with default black and white colors in Tool Bar swatches and fill it with white (CTRL+BACKSPACE) for a black border and black (ALT+BACKSPACE) for a white border.
3. Set New Layer blend mode to Multiply if creating a black frame so the white disappears and image shows up. Use Lighten blend mode if creating a white frame.
4. Select an interesting brush and paint in either black or white on your layer. I find that chalk brushes or ones with some texture or rough edges make the best borders. I used some light gray tones around the inside edges on this the one above. Try different brush opacities here too. Sometimes a Layer Mask is needed if the brush sprays your border into unwanted areas. After the frame clean up, Apply Layer Mask by right clicking on the mask and selecting in the list.
5. To be able to reuse the border, turn off the eyeballs to all the layers but the border layer. Go to File -> Scripts -> Export Layers to Files. In dialog select where you want the file to be saved and the file format – I used a jpg format and saved with my overlay textures. Click Run button. (See my blog I Didn’t Know That! Export Layers to Files in Photoshop).
6. Now the frame shows up in Adobe Bridge as a jpg file so it can be accessed any time. Just drag frame over to new image and adjust. Then remove Smart Object by right-clicking in border and select Rasterize. Change the blend mode so your image shows up in center. If needed, use a Free Transform (CTRL+T) to readjust image after rasterizing. (

For above Cloud/Bat image border that was originally created this way, see SJ-Overlay-Using-Charcoal-Brush.png in my download border set – since it was saved as a png file format overlay, any of the blend modes including Normal can be used.

To change the color of the border:

1. Select border by going to Select -> Color Range. Use the +Eyedropper to select all around the frame.
2. Once selected, go to Layer -> New Fill Layer -> Solid Color Adjustment Layer or click on the 4th icon from left at bottom of Layers Panel and select Solid Color. Choose any color in the Color Picker and click OK.
3. Now turn off the eyeball of your original border layer and your image appears.
4. Double click on Solid Color square thumbnail in Layers Panel to get Color Picker again and sample in image to get the correct color.
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  • Basic Workflow to create a .png Overlay Border.

Recently I came across a really nice blog by ShadowHouse Creations called Brush Painting on a Layer Mask on how to make your own unique borders. The workflow below shows an example of how he creates a border. (See SJ-Soft-Sparkler-Overlay-Frame.png)

1. Open image in Lightroom/ACR and Photoshop and do basic corrections to image.
2. Add a New Layer.
3. Go to Layer -> New Fill Layer -> Solid Color Adjustment Layer (or click on the 4th icon from left at bottom of Layers Panel) and select Solid Color. Add any color and exit adjustment layer.
4. The Adjustment Layer needs to be clipped to the the frame layer below by ALT+clicking on line between the layers or going to Layer -> Create Clipping Mask. It will now move the adjustment layer to the right a little.
5. Now double click on the Solid Color Adjustment Layer thumbnail to bring up the color picker again. This time select a color that matches the image – can even sample in the image to select. You will now be able to see real-time how it looks on the image. (Note the frame above used two layers with Solid Color Adjustments Layers to give the two layer color effect – all four layers were merged together in this case before saving down as a reusable frame as described below. (See my SJ-Soft-Sparkle-Two-Toned-Overlay-Frame.png)

To save the frame you created as an overlay to use again:

)1. First Highlight the Solid Color Adjustment Layer if you used one and CTRL+E to Merge down.
2. Turn off all the eyeballs on the left side of all the layers except the one with the frame.
3. Go to File -> Scripts -> Export Layers to Frame. Use settings in screenshot below.

4. Now file will be shown in Adobe Bridge – sometimes .png files do not show up in thumbnail views as the transparent areas turn white. Just drag file over to image, holding down the SHIFT key to center the file, or go to File -> Place in Photoshop. Since the image comes in as a Smart Object, you can stretch the overlay to fit your image perfectly. After doing this, I usually right click and choose Rasterize to get rid of the Smart Object since it is not needed. To readjust it after doing this, go to Free Transform (CTRL+T) and the same handles show up. The SeaWorld whale image below uses the same .png frame as the one above, but a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was clipped (ALT+clicking on line between the layers or going to Layer -> Create Clipping Mask) to the frame and color changed to the blue edging.
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  • Use a Layer Style for a More Textured Border.

I have been experimenting with adding Inner Glow and Outer Glow layer style effects and changing the color and opacities of the effects. By duplicating this layer but this time using only a Stroke effect layer style with changes to the color and opacity, the stroke will pick up the edges of the border in the layer below. You can get some really interesting results, especially if you have used a lot of texture in your original painted frame. This is also a great way to change the color without having to select the border.
The easiest way to do this is the create a New Layer and with nothing on the layer, go ahead and add your Layer Style by double clicking on the right blank part of layer (or click on the 2nd FX icon at bottom of layers panel) and using Inner Shadow and Outer Glow, or any other style effects you would like to try. Now paint on the layer and create your border. If you do not like the result, go back into the layer style settings and adjust colors, blend modes and opacities until you get an effect you like – each image will probably need different settings. If the edges are not filling in real cleanly, add a New Layer underneath the border layers and paint a matching color to fill in the holes of color – then the layer stiles will pick up a smooth edge all around. The settings for the miniature mums used a light beige-white brush color for the frame. On the frame layer an Inner Shadow was set to a dark greenish Shadow Color and set to Normal blend mode at 100% opacity using an Angle of 111 and uncheck Use Global Light, Distance of 83 and Size of 79; and an Outer Glow was set to a dark brown using Hard Light blend mode at 97% Opacity, Noise 30, and Size 7. On a duplicated layer, a Stroke Layer Style was applied using 3 px, Inside position, Normal blend mode, 100% opacity and Color R189/G156/B154 to get a nice complementary border for this image. It was set to 61% opacity to tone down the effect a little. Since the background of the image was pure white, a New Layer was added under the border layers, and with a 30% brush, some texture in a light pink was added to the image to get rid of the strong white contrast still seen in the image. When I tried these same settings on another image, I ended up using totally different colors and filling in parts of the light areas on the edges on a layer underneath the border as described earlier. It takes a little fiddling around with but the results can be stunning with a little patience! If you like the frame, in Photoshop CS6 the layer style can be applied to the layer by right clicking and selecting Rasterize Layer Style. Do this for both border layers and then Merge (CTRL+E) before following steps above to create a png overlay file.  (See SJ-Dry-Chalk-Brush-Frame and the variation SJ-Mixer-Brush-Frame.png)
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  • Use a Single Brush Stroke for an Effective Border.


I found 20 high resolution brushes called Paint Roller Brushes by Grant Friedman of PsdTuts fame – he suggested using them as paint being rolled on any surface but they make great borders for images. Below are my steps for creating the frame effect. (See my SJ-White-Overlay-Frame.png)

1. Add effects t0 image.
2. Create a New Layer and select a brush (the above used brush 11 set to 90 degrees angle in the Brush Panel). This size will be rather large depending upon the resolution of the image. Paint just one stroke with a solid black color to 100% opacity. The image above uses a layer blend mode set to Linear Dodge (Add) – need to experiment with this depending on the colors in your image.
3. Use the Free Transform tool (CTRL+T) to adjust the size to fit your image exactly.
4. Add a layer mask and with a 30% opacity brush, paint around the edge of the black border at a very low opacity using a Photoshop chalk brush to get additional interest in frame.
5. Finish up your image and save.

To save your border, do the following: If you want the additional edging that was applied in Step 4 retained, you need to apply the layer mask by right clicking on the mask and selecting Apply Layer Mask. Go to Select -> Color Range and select the center black center of the image checking Invert box. Next copy selection onto a new layer by pressing CTRL+J – you will now see just the outside borders and any in between gray white colors you selected. Now finish up with the Export Layers to File – now I would save as a .png as described in the .png Frame Section above.
These orange and yellow blooms are on a Canna MACtro plant that has been blooming all year in my front yard. It is an example of using the same overlay border (SJ-White-Overlay-Frame.png) as the pink flower image above, but this time a Pattern Overlay layer style was added using Digital Lady Syd’s Smudge Texture (convert it to a pattern by opening the jpg texture in Photoshop, then go to Edit -> Define Pattern) set to Normal Blend Mode, 70% opacity, and 480% scale. It just added a hint of the yellow and orange tones from the texture.

I hope you enjoy the provided borders. You can create all kinds of border and frames for your images and save them. Try using different brushes and layer styles to get interesting results. It is really not that hard!…..Digital Lady Syd

Image Post-Processing Details:

Image 1: First this image was adjusted in Lightroom before going into Photoshop. A New Layer was added and a border was painted in black using a Photoshop Charcoal brush and set to Multiply blend mode at 100% opacity. A Layer Style was added and in the Blend If section to smooth the opening – Gray This Layer white tab was separated (ALT+click on tab) to read 225/255, Red This Layer white tab was set to 248, and Blue This Layer white tab separated and set to 199/255. That is all that was done in the Layer Style dialog. This slightly smoothed the border into the image. Try playing with this section to get some different effects. A Color Balance Adjustment Layer and Curves Adjustment Layer were added. Finally Obsidian Dawn’s Halloween Vectors Bat1 brush was used at different sizes to paint in the bats. In the Brush Panel the Angle was changed slightly for each bat. The layer was set to 77% opacity and on a layer mask, they were painted to give a foggy feel.

Image 2: The SeaWorld Flower Cart is a three shot HDR image that was first processed in Nik HDR Efex Pro 2. The resulting TIFF was adjusted in Lightroom and taken into Photoshop. Clean up and French Kiss Artiste Fantasie texture was applied using Multiply blend mode at 100% opacity. The flowers were painted out on a layer mask so texture did not cover them. In Topaz photoFXlab Topaz Adjust 5’s Spicify filter was applied at 57% transparency. The Adjust tab Saturation slider was increased and Dynamics slider was applied at 57. In Brush tab Detail and Saturation was painted into just the flowers. Overlay frame created using Fay Sirkis’s Air Brush Soft Sparkle #5. Two layers were used with different Color Fill colors and patterns before merging to get two toned effect. Nik Viveza 2 was added to the flowers to add a little more structure.

Image 3: This SeaWorld whale image from the Shamu Show in Orlando, Florida, was processed in Lightroom, then cleaned up in Photoshop. OnOne Perfect Effects was applied using B&W category -> Blue Filter at 68% strength and Glow category -> Dreamland with Masking Bug placed on whales for no effect on this area. Topaz DeNoise was applied using Overall Strength of .10, Adjust Shadow .44, Correct Black Level 2.33 and Recover .14. My SJ Soft-Sparkle-Two-Tone Overlay-Frame.

Image 4: After initial processing of my miniature mums in Lightroom, they were taken into Photoshop and Nik Color Efex Pro 4 plug-in was opened where two filters, Film Efex Vintage – Film type 13 and Cross Processing – Method C01, were applied. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added where the Red Channel was adjusted to bring out a little more pink tints and the RGB curve added a little bit light exposure. It was sharpened using a High Pass Filter. See under image for border instructions. As a final step, a stamped composite of the layers was created (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) was placed on top and my Thin Double Edge Frame was applied with default colors.

Image 5: Pink Hawaiian Flower image used Nik Color Efex Pro 4 stacking five filter effects: Midnight set to Neutral, Bi-Color Filters Violet-Pink Color Set 2, Film Efex Nostalgic Film Type 11 and set to 53% overall opacity, Glamour Glow with slider set to 27%, and Pro Contrast. Next Viveza 2 was applied to selectively sharpen the flower and smooth out the background. Some image clean up was performed. A little color was brushed on the petals to keep the highlights under control. (See my blog Getting Rid of Those Blown Out Areas in Your Image). A border was added – see under image for frame instructions, and my Thin Double Edge Frame layer style was added.

Image 6: In Lightroom, the process was set to 2010 and I applied an old Lightroom preset that I really like by Matt Kloskowski called Matt’s 70’s Look Preset. In Photoshop Nik Viveza 2 was used to sharpen the flowers using the Structure slider. Then the Burn Tool was used on some of the flower edges in Photoshop. A Solid Color Fill was added using black as the color and painting with a 30% brush on the flowers to spotlight them lightly. Topaz DeNoise was added and the SJ-White Overlay Frame was added. See details above.