Parthenon, Before and After


So here’s a post on the small things that add up, or, How To Remove Annoying Stuff That Buggers Up Your Photo.


On the left is the original.  Nice, but not really what I wanted in this shot of the Parthenon.  So what to do?


I could have taken a tripod, hidden until after nightfall, gotten the shot on a long exposure, dodged the authorities, and not gone to jail in Greece and had a crapton of explaining to do on why I was not back at work a few days later.


Or, PhotoShop.  A coin-flip, really.


The steps I actually took here were:


  1. Remove the scaffolding. This was the nastiest, and took a LOT of small-scale clone/copy work to remove.  Even so, if you look closely on the left you’ll see some repeated patterns that aren’t really natural, but can escape if you don’t know what you’re looking for.
  2. Remove the humans. They’re just clutter!
  3. Punch up the contrast on the marble in the foreground, so the Greek lettering stand out better.
  4. Deepen the blue in the skies. I did this by pushing the cyan tones into the blue range.
  5. Brighten the green on the grass on the ground.
  6. Reverse-fade out the marble, which at intermediate stages had gotten overly beige and not as stark and wind-washed as it ought to be.


All told it was about a half-hour of work.  Totally worth it though!


Happy shooting!


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photography, as it can lend a dreamy, misty feel to an image.

So first, the “before” shot:

Champagne Cocktail
Champagne Cocktail

Now we get to work and turn this (fairly) sharp image of a champagne cocktail into something a bit more diffused, using the following method.  Note that a lot of the “soft effect” is really driven by the opacity levels – without that,  this doesn’t work nearly as well.

  • Duplicate layer (Ctrl+J)
  • Under filter, use the unsharp mask, set to 150%, 1.5 px radius, and threshold of 10.
  • Apply Gaussian blur, radius 10 px.
  • Set layer mode to Lighten, opacity to 20%
  • Duplicate layer again
  • Apply Gaussian blur with radius of 30 px.
  • Set layer mode to screen, opacity to 75%
  • Under Image –> Adjustments, pick selective color, set to Absolute / Whites to 25% black / Neutrals to 40% black / Blacks to 10% black
  • Adjust curves (Ctrl+M to open the curves panel)
  • Set layer opacity to 70%
  • Flatten image and save.

And voila:

Finished Product
Finished Product

Happy shooting!


See more of my work at  and


High Contrast Monochrome

The Makings of a Martini
The Makings of a Martini

This time I’m going to go a bit more in-depth on the type of Photoshop action I used last time, setting up high contrast, but this time around I’m going to apply it to a monochrome treatment.

In particular, this process seems to generate a cool effect when I’m trying to get a vintage, 1920s-30s feel for B&W shots.

And what’s more 20’s than a well made Martini?

In this case, the contrast brings out the bottle labels, and combined with the flash  I used, a “halo” effect on the stirring tin.

Side note, may I add that Mr. Bond may know a good deal about thwarting bad guys and seducing women, but he really knew jack squat about making a good drink.

Stirred, not Shaken!

Here’s 2 more to make the point about labels.

All the Ingredients

To get this effect, here’s what I did.

  1. Copy background into a new layer (Ctrl+J)
  2. Change blend mode to Vivid Light
  3. Invert the image (Ctrl+I)
  4. Use Filter-Blur-Surface Blur, set to 40, 40
  5. Merge layers (Crtl+Alt+Shift+E)
  6. Drag middle layer to trash
  7. On merged Layer, switch blend mode to Overlay
  8. Use Image->Adjustments->Shadow/Highlight. Shadows to 0, midtone contrast to +50
  9. Pick a B&W adjustment of your choice (Ctrl+Alt+Shift+B)
  10. Flatten layers
  11. Use filter->Lens Correction, Vignette to -50 and midpoint to +60
  12. Convert to B&W now, picking your choice of adjustment.
  13. Further tweaks as desired.

Phew!  Well, that’s why I made an action to shorten all that work into a single click.

Finished Product
Finished Product

But in the end, as I said, I really like how this approach works for “old timey classy” shooting like this.

Next time, I’m planning to use another type of photoshop  action.

Classy Garnish
Classy Garnish

Happy shooting!


See more of my work at  and


Actions in Photoshop

Ravens (before)
Ravens (before)

So I had a hard time deciding what to call this post – the runner up was “how to make post-processing not suck!”

This is about what is called the Actions tab in Photoshop.  For anyone intimately familiar with Excel, or programming in general (OK so probably just me in this room, but that’s OK!), this basically boils down to a macro.

All of which is a long-winded way of saying: you tell the computer a set sequence of steps, and then make it so you can execute that series of instructions at the click of a button from that point forward.

In essence, if there’s some particular process you apply in PS on the regular, this lets you reduce it to point-n-click!  Much handier.

This is done via the “Actions” tab in PS.  This can be opened either via Window –> Actions, or Alt+F9 on a PC (probably Command-something on a Mac but I am not a devotee of the Cult of Apple, so go Google it, or whatever the equivalent Mac process is).  You can then click the “new action” icon on the bottom, and give it a name, e.g. “standard processing,” “HDR,” etc.

The tab looks like this:

Actions Tab
Actions Tab

Then starts the meat of things: once the little red “record” icon is turned on, go through whatever your steps are.  Then click the rectangular “stop” button.

Your process is now ready to use again anytime you want, on any image you want!  Just click on it in the actions tab, and click the “play” button.

For example, from the start, I applied my “high contrast” action, highlighted in the panel above.  It involves multiple layers of blend modes, flattening, lens correction, and photo negative inversions.

The result:

Ravens (after)
Ravens (after)

So think about what you do regularly in PS, and decide if there’s anything you can shorten like this to make your life easier!

Happy shooting!

See more of my work at  and


Double Processing and Layer Masks for Exposure

Tuolumne Meadows (before)
Tuolumne Meadows (before)

Drab photo, no?

Today’s going to be some fun and games in PhotoShop coaxing a good result out of this.

There are fundamentally 2 things I’m going to use

  • Smart Object copies of the image, made into layers
  • Layer masks, to expose and hide the parts I do and don’t want.

First, to open the RAW file: bring into camera RAW, and while holding shift, click “open image.”  This brings it in as a Smart Object.

Then in your layers palette, right-click the layer and select “new smart object via copy” to make as many more layers as you think you need.  I went with three layers, one each for the foreground, trees, and mountains/sky.  This technically makes what I’m about to do triple-processing.

For each layer, right click the layer and select “edit contents” – this will bring you back into RAW, where you can expose the layer correctly for whichever part you want to use it for.

A good idea: name each layer after what it’s supposed to be for, e.g. “trees.”

Once edited, then create a layer mask using the “reveal all” option on each layer.  Then select the brush tool on black.  In the mask on the lowest layer, proceed to paint over the area(s) you want to use the higher layers for.  Then moving up 1 layer at a time, do likewise – hide the areas that layer is not supposed to show.

This can get dodgy so expect a few cases where you have to delete the layer mask and do it again (you’ll probably end up with several cases where you hide too much and have gaps in the final image).

Once done, save, and voila!

Tuolumne Meadows (after)
Tuolumne Meadows (after)

Not bad for a bland boring POS, right??  And much better than what I could have coaxed out with things like levels, curves and so on.  In some ways it’s a highly selective, area-specific HDR process.

Happy shooting!

See more of my work at  and


Recommended Reading

List-a-thon strikes!  The subject du jour, photography books I am fond of and find value in.  There is a lot of “noise” out there, and hopefully this will be a handy recommended reading list.



The Camera, by Ansel Adams

The Negative, by Ansel Adams

The Print, by Ansel Adams

Mastering Photographic Composition, Creativity, and Personal Style, by Alain Briot

Take Your Best Shot: Essential Tips & Tricks for Shooting Amazing Photos, by Miriam Leuchter.

The Photographer’s Handbook, by John Hedgecoe

The Artistic Side

Painting with Light: Lighting & Photoshop Techniques for Photographers, by Eric Curry

Digital Photo Art: New Directions, by Theresa Airey

Surreal Photography: Creating the Impossible, by Daniela Bowker

Photo Inspiration: Secrets Behind Stunning Images, by

Niche items

Photographing Waterdrops, by Harold Davis

Digital Infrared Photography, by Deborah Sandidge

Creative Landscapes Digital Photography Tips & Techniques, by Harold Davis

National Audubon Society Guide to Landscape Photography, by Time Fitzharris

Night and Lowlight Photography, by Alan Hess

Creative Night: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques, by Harold Davis

Monochromatic HDR Photography, by Harold Davis

Kodak Guide to Shooting Great Travel Pictures, by Jeff Wignall

Software and Processing

The Hidden Power of Blend Modes in Adobe Photoshop, by Scott Valentine

Creative Photography Ideas Using Adobe Photoshop, by Tony Worobiec

Digital Collage and Painting Using Photoshop and Painter to Create Fine Art, by Susan Ruddick Bloom

Adobe Photoshop CS5 for Photographers, by Martin Evening

Creating HDR Photos the Complete Guide to High Dynamic Range Photography, by Harold Davis

Photoshop Down & Dirty Tricks for Designers, by Corey Barker

Photoshop for Artists: A Complete Guide for Fine Artists, Photographers, and Printmakers, by Sylvie Covey

Bookshelf of Photography Books
Bookshelf of Photography Books