I really love taking photos but I am slowly realizing that once in Photoshop, I end up with something entirely different than what I had in mind! There is an older book, Photoshop Secrets of the Pros by Mark Clarkson, where players “pass images back and forth making changes as they go” for a set number of rounds, ie., Photoshop Tennis. This book first got me thinking about doing radically different effects to images. Last week I did a blog on Digital Lady Syd’s Photo Art Workflow where I basically showed what I do to give a different feel to an image. This week I am continuing with that theme showing other options to get more of that photo art look. The images are also examples of what happens when I start playing around with different combinations of effects in Photoshop – I am never quite sure what I will end up with. I also downloaded and tried Photomatix Pro’s new program Merge to 32-bit HDR this week so that was part of the first two images’ workflow. This image of the Ormond Heritage Condominiums (located where the old Hotel Ormond used to reside in Ormond Beach, Florida) was first processed as a five-image HDR shot using Merge to 32-bit HDR. The really neat thing is that if you already own Photomatix HDR Pro 4.2 and Lightroom 4.2, you can download it for free from the link above. All you do is select all the HDR images in Lightroom, go to File -> Export and select Merge to 32-bit HDR (or just right click and go down to Export and select the program). A dialog opens where I chose the following: Preprocessing and Merging (Align Images, Crop aligned result,by matching features, and include perspective correction) and Remove ghosts; and Name Merged File: Combined file names and check Stack with first selected photo and Scale pixel values to fixed range. The images are processed very quickly and a TIFF file is placed back with the original images, just as if you had done this in Photoshop’s Merge to HDR, except Photomatix never opens up a program – it all happens inside Lightroom. What a cool little program from Photomatix! The above image was mainly processed in Topaz photoFXlab (see sidebar for website at my Tidbits Blog) plug-in using Topaz Adjust presets. See Image 1 settings below for more info.
When adjusting the crop on the top image in Lightroom, I got a quick look at what a small crop would look like. Basically I just liked the way it looked – the frosted light of the lamp post and the comfortable porch balconies make you want to sit outside and enjoy the view and weather. The only thing done on this image in Photoshop was using Nik Color Efex Pro 4 and stacking a bunch of filters: High Key, Sunlight, Detail Extractor, Dark Contrasts, Bi-Color Filters and Image Borders. It just works!
This image was also processed in Lightroom using PhotoMatix Pro’s Merge to 32-bit HDR. I then did my adjustments on the resulting TIFF file in Lightroom. In Photoshop I decided right away to use the new Topaz photoFXlab program where Topaz Simplify and Topaz Lens Effects were used from the Plugins tab. See settings for Image 3 for the exact info on how this was applied.
Here is the same image with exactly the same settings as in the image above except for the framing, but the twist is that a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was clipped to the Vivid Light texture and set to a Difference blend mode at 71% opacity. I loved the way it looks like as if it is being drenched in some bright light – almost a spooky feeling. I am glad I did not stop with just the image created above as I think I like this one better – there may be more of a story in this image.
The next two images show an example of starting with a night photo taken with my point-and-shoot camera at the Gold Lion Cafe in Flagler Beach, Florida, and turning it into a really interesting almost wintery looking sketch. I did not exactly plan this result. The night image is definitely what it looked like that night as I sat topside and listened to the ocean waves rolling in. But I really like the final image with the artistic pop added.
Here is the image with a more photo art feel.
Both images took a lot of manipulation but the second one used the Layer Styles dialog to get the beautiful color out of it. See Image 6 settings below to see how this was done.
As you can see, if you stick to the basic workflow, which all these images did, but add in that new tool or different feature (like the Layer Style Blend If sliders or the new Lookup Adjustment Layer or a unique crop or blend mode combinations), you can get some very different and interesting images and end up in a totally different spot. As always, every time I work on images, it is always completely consuming and lots of fun – otherwise, why do it? Tennis anyone?…..Digital Lady Syd
Settings for Image 1: Once the Tiff image is taken into Photoshop after making Lightroom adjustments, the background layer was duplicated Topaz photoFXlab plug-in was opened. After duplicating the layer, the Mask tab was selected and the plain sky was deleted. A new cloud image was load using +From File and placed under the top layer. A stamped layer was created using +From Stack and Topaz Adjust was opened up and Photo Pop preset was applied. In the Brushes tab, detail was increased throughout the image. PhotoFXlab was exited. The background was duplicated again and put on top in Photoshop. This layer was taken into Topaz photoFXlab again and Topaz Adjust’s preset Painting Venice was applied. Back in Photoshop a black layer mask was added and the bright areas of the image were painted in to add depth to the trees in the image. ShadowHouse Creations You’d Be Surprised texture was applied using Overlay blend mode at 34% opacity. Finally a Curves Adjustment layer was added. My frame layer style (see DLS Free Layer Style Frames) was added sampling colors from the image.
Settings for Image 3: Duplicated layer in plug-in. In Adjustments tab used these settings: Temp -4, Tint 23, Sat -12, Exp 1.80, Contrast -8, Dynamics 49, Sharpness 51, and Shadows 22. In InstaTone tab image from 500 px of an orange leaf from Aliona Shewtsova and set the layer to Saturation blend mode at 74%, which really brought out the colors. Next a +From Stack stamped layer was created. In Plugins tab Topaz Simplify was opened and the BuzzSim preset was applied as is. In the Adjustments Tab these settings were used: Temp -17, Contrast -5, Dynamics 87, and Sharpness 3. Layer opacity was set to 83%. Stamped using +From Stack. Plugins Tab used Lens Effects and applied Vignette Selective section-Soft Olive Green preset with these settings: Center on right side of slide, Vignette Strength 0.21, and Opacity 50%. Exit plug in. Exit Topaz photoFXlab. Flypaper Apple Blush taster texture was applied using Vivid Light blend mode at 100% opacity. A Curves Adjustment Layer was applied with the individual channels being adjusted to bring out the colors I wanted. My thin double edges layer style was applied (see DLS Free Layer Style Frames).
Settings for Image 5: After basic color adjustment in Lightroom (just a single shot), this image was opened in Photoshop CS6 and Nik Color Efex Pro 4 plug-in was opened. These filters were stacked: Midnight using Neutral Color Set set to 65% Overall Transparency; Bi-Color Filters using the #1 Color Set; and Photo Stylizer using Cool Silver, Style 1, Strength 38% and Overall Opacity 61%. Back in Photoshop Sarah Gardner’s Blush Ginger texture was added and set to Overlay blend mode. The new Lighting Effects Filter in CS6 was used to add some soft light to the center lantern lights – the Spotlight effect was used at an Intensity of 7 and Ambience of 60. A Color Lookup Adjustment Layer set to Abstract and Gold-Blue and the layer was set to a Screen blend mode at 64%. OnOne PhotoFrame (see sidebar for website at my Tidbits Blog) Emulsion 02 was added sampling a dark color from the image for the color.
Settings for Image 6: After applying the same Color Efex Pro filters as Image 5, the image was opened up into Topaz Simplify and a Sketch preset I had previously created was applied so that the lines looked pretty much like a black and white sketch. (To create, use Mode Edges; Colorspace RGB and all sliders in Simplify section – set all to 0.00 except Details Boost 1.00, Remove Size 0.08, and Remove Weak 0.10; Adjust section – Brightness 0.00, Contrast 0.73, Saturation 1.40, and Saturation Boost 1.92; and Edges – MonoEdge Normal, Edge Strength 5.00, Simplify Edge 0.22, Reduce Weak 0, Reduce Small 0, and Flatten Edge 2.28. To adjust the sketch detail and darkness, adjust the Simplify Edge slider.) Now here is the tricky part – a Layer Style was added by double clicking on the layer and in the Blending Options dialog, the Blend If section is used. On This Layer, the black tab was split by ALT + clicking on the tab the split tabs set to 0 and 164 – the white tab was left at 255. On Underlying Layer, the White Tab was split and set to 0 and 72 and the Black Tab left at 0. It looks really weird but it gave me the color effect I liked. This layer was set to Lighten at 100% opacity. A composite layer was created (CTRL+SHIFT+ALT+E) and using Select -> Color Range, the white was selected. CTRL+Backspace to delete the white from the image. Two layers were created underneath the top layer and using Best Mcbad Watercolor Brushes 22 and 30, a watercolor sky was created using blue and light pink. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was added to increase the saturation in the Yellows. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added to increase contrast. This image used different settings for the Lighting Filter – Intensity 5 and Ambience 93 – only wanted a slight glow since it is daylight. Some clean up was done. My Layer Style (see DLS Free Layer Style Frames) was added to frame the image and that was it! Whew!
This week I am going to just show some of the results from taking images in Jackson, Mississippi. For starters, this is a classic place to get good pictures – HDR (high dynamic range) or not. It has lots of history and many beautiful churches and government buildings that make for great photography.
There is so much information on how to get an HDR look, and to be honest, I do not think it is all that hard once you get comfortable with one or more of the HDR programs. I have been taking HDR pictures for several years and I still love the effect, but there are many people who do not enjoy this type of artistic expression on an image.
Photomatix Pro 4.0
This first image is of an old abandoned church in downtown Jackson.
The effect above was created using Photomatix Pro 4.0. This is the program I used to learn how to do HDR post-processing, and I still go to this software first when processing HDR. It is reasonably priced with NAPP members getting a 25% discount, and Mark S. Johnson Photography gives a 15% discount. I have had trouble with slight camera movement since I do not always shoot my HDR images on a tripod. The latest upgrade provides a very good correction due to camera jiggle, or tree branches, people or water movement.
The above image is an HDR Image of the beautiful Mississippi Capitol Building using Photomatix Pro 4.0.
Nik’s HDR Efex Pro
I tried using Nik’s HDR Efex Pro in the image below using the Vibrant Details and Colors preset and then adjusted with some control points. That’s it. If you are interested in HDR, take a look at this software – it has a very different interface from the Photomatix Pro program. Since I love all NIK products, it is hard not to like this program.
Because I got curious, I decided to put the Mississippi State Capitol Building into Nik HDR Efex Pro. Since this software has a bunch of presets to try out on the image before you apply the final settings, I decided to use the Vintage preset that definitely gives a nostalgic feel to the image. This effect would have been harder to achieve in Photomatix or CS5 – to get this result an action would have to be applied in Photoshop after the image was created in the HDR program.
Adobe Photoshop CS5’s Merge to HDR
The HDR effect below was created using Photoshop’s own Merge to HDR command. I used my “Use with Vivid Drawing preset” (download in next section) as a starting point and made adjustments to suit the image. Personally, I think CS5 does a pretty good job.
Adobe Photoshop CS5’s HDR Toning for Single Images
I was unable to get three good image shots off (the picture was taken from the car while at a stop light). Therefore, Photoshop CS5’s new Single HDR Adjustment was applied. First the picture was adjusted using my SJ-Vivid Drawing Look Develop preset in Lightroom (download here) or in Photoshop ACR (download here – wrong extension in the zip folder on file – change to .xmp to get it to work) which gives the start of an HDR effect, and then I opened CS5 to finish the look by going to Image -> Adjustment -> HDR Toning. To apply this effect in Photoshop, the image must be flattened so save your original first and create a new flattened version to apply the HDR Toning. To use the settings used here, download the “Use with Vivid Drawing Preset” I created for the HDR Toning Preset field. It needs to be placed in the following folder for Windows users: (User Name)\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\Adobe Photoshop CS5\Preset\HDR Toning.
Here is another image using the same Lightroom/ACR preset and the downloaded Use with Vivid Drawing Look preset for the HDR Toning dialog in Photoshop. These settings work very well on landscape images with bright colors. Since the sky was flat, it was replaced after running my favorite plug in Kill White that I have added to Adobe Pixel Bender.
There are many good references if you want to learn more about HDR post processing or just to learn the latest techniques. Trey Radcliff is the HDR guru. His “Stuck in Customs” blog (one I have followed for several years and is one of my favorite all-time blogs) is probably the best you will find on HDR, and he has a great HDR tutorial. RC Concepcion just released a new book called “The HDR Book: Unlocking the Pros’ Hottest Post-Processing Techniques” that appears to cover the programs I used above. Richard Harrington has a good video at TipSquirrel called “HDR with Photoshop and HDR Efex Pro” and they have many other HDR videos available – so check these out. This is just touching the “tip of the iceberg” on this subject.
Try some of your other filters (Topaz Adjust with the Spicify preset a popular look right now – see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) or add some textures on these images after you have applied the HDR effect. There are many, many possibilities to get some great looking pictures! Go shoot some HDR images and experiment with the post-processing!…..Digital Lady Syd