Sometimes it is more intuitive to dodge and burn instead of using curves, here I dodged some detail into the smoke and burned the shadows a bit more for drama.
Did it ever bug you that dodging/burning in Photoshop is destructive and can not be changed after you used the tools? I have good news for you – with a little trick it is possible to do your dodging and burning in a separate layer.
First, create a new layer via Layers>New Layer. If you use the “New Layer” icon in the layers palette, press the alt or option key simultaneously.
Name the layer as you wish (I chose dodge/burn for the obvious reasons) and set the Blending Mode to Overlay, this will reveal another option at the bottom “Fill with Overlay-neutral color (50% gray)”. Select that option.
Now you can dodge (lighten) and burn (darken) to your hearts content. You’ll find adjustments for brush size, range (highlights/midtones/shadows) and Exposure right under your menu bar.
Here’s the best part – you won’t need to worry anymore if you screw up, simply go into the dodge/burn layer and paint in your mistakes with the 50% gray color (use the eyedropper to pick it up from an untouched area)
this is how the dodge/burn layer looks by itself. Instead of using the dodge/burn tools, you could paint white or black with different opacities in the d/b layer.
Oftentimes it might be a bit tricky to achieve the right White Balance, especially when shooting jpg. I usually shoot RAW and try to get the color temperature as close as possible in Adobe Camera RAW or Lightroom.
For this tutorial I purposely introduced a slight yellow-ish warm cast to the image. Oftentimes, it’s hard to find a neutral spot for using the mid-gray picker in the curves or levels… the goal is to make this image as neutral as possible with the least amount of work.
First we make a duplicate via “duplicate layer”:
which should look like this:
now, select the top layer and run the Filter>blur>average filter, which gives us some ugly looking brown mess like this:
now we make a curve adjustment layer:
take the neutral color picker (the middle one) and click anywhere in the brownish area
(marked with the X) – voila, your brown shows as neutral gray:
here how this simple move applies to the RGB channels without me (or you) touching a single curve:
now you can simply deactivate (or toss) the middle layer to see the final result – pretty cool, huh:
The easy way out: If you go into the curves “options” dialog you’ll find a “Snap Midtones” option which works almost (but only almost, depending on the image) as good:
Since I posted the “convert to b/w” tutorial I had quite a few requests for my “real” film grain files. Each file is full frame 35mm, 24MP equivalent and can be used with any digital photo – simply paste the grain into a new layer and set the blending mode to overlay, adjust the opacity to taste.
Today I’ll show you a very simple technique to convert color images into a realistic looking black and white photograph. Forget about “convert to grayscale” or “desaturate”. The channel mixer offers much more control over the tonal range and one can simulate the look of a specific film. The values shown mimic Kodak Tri-X pretty accurately.
A simple rule of thumb for taking photos in daylight without a light meter. The rule is quite easy to remember – if you’re taking a photo in bright daylight set the aperture to f/16 and set the shutter speed to be as near as possible to the same number as the film speed.
So if you’re using ISO 100 film, for example, set the aperture to f/16 and the shutter speed to 1/125 sec, since 1/125 is the closest shutter speed value to 100 on a typical camera.
If you want to use a different aperture calculate the number of stops away from f/16 you want to use and then adjust the shutter speed accordingly. For example, f/11 is one stop larger than f/16, so you’d need to increase your shutter speed by one stop. So if you’re using ISO 100 film you’d set the aperture to f/11 and the shutter speed to 1/250 sec.
This rule works because the light output from the sun is a pretty constant value – the sun itself puts out a nearly constant amount of light at all times. Only precisely calibrated equipment can detect the light fluctuations of the sun.
here are some variations for a sunny day:
Full sun – f/16
Half sun – f/11
Open shade – f/8
Darker shade – f/5.6
Darkest shade – f/4
with a little bit of practice, you won’t need your lightmeter anymore. follow this link for Fred Parker’s excellent exposure guide.
A simple trick can override your camera’s DX reading – The image above illustrates how to trick the DX reading of a simple point-and-shoot camera to expose Kodak Tri-X 400 at 1600 ISO…
the process works with any DX reading camera and with any other exposure count / ISO combo:
With zone focusing can be a life-saver between the decisive moment and a hit-and-miss-shot – toss the autofocus camera and get a manual lens instead…
Zone focusing is pretty straightforward, the photographer simply uses the DOF (Depth Of Field) effect to have the desired object(s) at working distance in focus. Zone focussing comes in handy, when there is no time to fiddle with the camera controls, or when the photographer wants to be extra unconspicious – without using the viewfinder to focus (aka. shooting from the hip).
Once you know what an f-stop is, and how to set it on your camera, you’re good to go. After some time you will get better at guessing distances and you’ll be a master of in no time…
In the illustration above, the aperture (f-stop) is set to f8 and the focus is set to 2m (~7ft). The focus ring also shows f-stop markings to either side of the focus point (DOF scale).
Every f-stop shows a line directly related to a number on the distance scale. In this example everything from 1.5m to 3m (5ft to 12 ft.) will be in focus. This works at any distance and with any lens with DOF markings.
zone focusing is much more practical for than the hyperfocal distance, which simply extends DOF from infinity into the foreground, which is great for landscape. rarely needs to rely on infinity focus and smaller apertures like f8 or f5.6 are more common and a close working distance (hence, also called scale focusing) are more practical.
Another great technique is to learn how to guess distances and using muscle memory in combination with a tabbed lens.
You can easily create a composition like this from three similar shots using layer masks in Photoshop. Basically, you set up a tripod, take a few single shots of you in different positions and compose the whole thing in Photoshop, using layers and masks…
First, select one of the shots as the main layer of the composition
open the second shot, select all (menu > select > all) and copy (menu > edit > copy)
paste (menu > edit > paste) into the first image, note the additional layer in the first image
create a layer mask by clicking on the marked icon in the layer palette
select the layer mask, choose a fairly large brush and paint with black ink in the mask, note how the bottom image reveals in the painted area – voila, that’s how layer masks work
finish the mask with a smaller brush for good detail. tip: use a brush with a softness that matches the softness of the image to make it look more realistic.
this image illustrates how the finished mask looks, you can activate this visual of a mask in the channels palette. Double click on the icon gives an option for color display and opacity of the mask
now you have the basics of working with Photoshop layer masks, we perfect your skills with a 3rd image, which you paste in the main document.
add a layer mask to the new layer, as before
with a little trick we can save some time and use the old mask from Layer 1 as a base for our new mask. hit the command key and click on the icon of layer mask #1, Photoshop will make an inverted selection of the mask. Invert the selection (menu > select > inverse) and fill (menu > edit > fill) with black ink, make sure Layer 2 mask is selected. see, half of the work is done already.
here again a visual of a half-finished mask
the mask view out of the channels palette
have some fun experimenting with layer masks – one can produce stunning results with a few images. Also, it is possible to use the gradient tool in a mask to blend 2 images, just give it a try!