Category Archives: Photoshop Techniques

Rose after Delauney and O’Keeffe

At a recent lunch with my brother he reminded me how we both benefited from a classical education in the arts when we were young. I may not have got much of this stuff via formal education, but I sure was exposed to every layer of visual art history as a child thanks to my parents. Mostly, by seeing the stuff in person—from the paintings on the walls of the Caves of Lascaux to the museums with the “moderns” and everything in between.

To quote the dearly beloved and recently deceased Pete Seeger on the difference between education and experience, “Education is when you read the fine print; experience is what you get when you don’t.”

I’m not sure how this fits with being dragged through every museum imaginable as a wayward kid—probably more in the experience category—but even as a bored child it was hard not to fall hard for the impressionists at first encounter.

Rose after Delauney and O'Keeffe © Harold Davis

Rose after Delauney and O’Keeffe © Harold Davis

Anyhow, this wasn’t what I had in mind when I went to work on the photo of the pale rose (far below), but I do know enough to recognize the palette and patterns of the great geometric painter Sonia Delauney along with the sensuousness of a Georgia O’Keeffe floral—when they pop out at me in an image I’ve created.

You’ll note that the original image is rotated 90 degrees. The other effects come from a series of LAB adjustments—inversions and equalizations—applied using a variety of blending modes.

Within each rose © Harold Davis

Within each rose © Harold Davis

For a couple of other examples of this kind of thing, check out Mandalas from a Glass Bowl, Broken Arrow and Creating LAB Patterns, and also see my article on, Using LAB Color Adjustments.

Meanwhile, I must report that there is a certain goodwill towards the world that comes about from consorting with one’s fraternal sibling when both brothers are “of a certain age” with receding hairlines and cares and children of their own, and fondly reminiscing about some of the unique aspects of our culturally rich—and radically eclectic (or maybe eclectically radical)—upbringing.

Mandalas from a Crystal Bowl

Wandering the crowded aisles of Berkeley’s Urban Ore—a somewhat dodgy cross between an upscale junkyard and a down-at-the-heels flea market with an added smidgen of green ideology—with my camera and Otus, I came across a beautiful cut crystal bowl in a locked cabinet. It was love at first sight. Finding the person with the key to unlock the cabinet and negotiating the price took a bit of time, but soon enough Otus and I were making our way home to photograph our new treasure.

Crystal Mandala 1 © Harold Davis

Crystal Mandala 1 © Harold Davis

I photographed my crystal bowl straight down using a light box and a bracketed high-key sequence of exposures. This is the technique I developed to capture flowers for transparency (actually, for translucency), and as I note in my presentation on the subject the technique produces interesting results with many subjects in addition to flowers. In this case, the high key HDR approach emphasized the contrast between the edge lines of the bowl and the negative spaces created by the transparent glass.

Crystal Mandala 2 © Harold Davis

Crystal Mandala 2 © Harold Davis

My next step playing in Photoshop was to invert the essentially monochromatic image, transforming black lines on a white background to black lines on a white background. It’s hard to get me going on this kind of thing without wanting to play in Photoshop, so I started using LAB adjustmentsHow do you make a mandala from a crystal bowl?

Red Crystal Mandala © Harold Davis

Red Crystal Mandala © Harold Davis

In this case, in addition to LAB inversions and equalizations, I used Nik Color Efex filters, direct painting on layers, layers, layer masks, and repeated application of some of the oddball blending modes such as Difference. Play around long enough in Photoshop and you never know what you will find!

Holographic Mandala © Harold Davis

Holographic Mandala © Harold Davis

With this imagery it was visually important to me to “square the circle” with a square crop. With some of the Crystal Mandalas, like the Holographic Mandala, there is almost a three dimensional look—part of the image jumps off the plane. In contrast, with Mandala Inside, the effects create an outer translucent shell or layer, with an inner core that is much bolder and more defined.

Mandala Inside © Harold Davis

Mandala Inside © Harold Davis

These could be small virtual worlds, and have become something completely unrelated to the original sequence of photos. When I first looked in my crystal bowl, I did not know where it would take me!

Green Lantern Mandala © Harold Davis

Green Lantern Mandala © Harold Davis


Lantern Mandala © Harold Davis

Lantern Mandala © Harold Davis

Quince by Moon

Here’s my red flowering quince shot, with the moon in an alternate position. Good argument for archiving one’s layers unflattened—that way it is easy to go back and move the moon!

Quince by Moon © Harold Davis

Quince by Moon © Harold Davis


Broken Arrow and Creating LAB Patterns

Wandering the pedestrian walk on new San Francisco Bay Bridge span in the waning days of the year, I shot this directional arrow, intended to guide foot and bike traffic, straight down and broken up by strong shadows from the railing.

Broken Arrow © Harold Davis

Broken Arrow © Harold Davis

Before I converted Broken Arrow to black and white, of course, it was color (shown below). (The monochrome version is still an RGB color file technically speaking—but that’s another story!)

Broken Arrow - color © Harold Davis

Broken Arrow – color © Harold Davis

It’s astoundingly easy to use Photoshop adjustments in LAB color and blending modes to create intricate patterns out of something like the color version of Broken Arrow. Here’s one example:

LAB Cross Pattern #1 © Harold Davis

LAB Cross Pattern #1 © Harold Davis

To get to the pattern from the color photo,  in Photoshop I duplicated the image, and converted the duplicate to LAB color mode. I next used Image > Adjust > Invert to invert the LAB color values within the file, and then converted the entire image back to RGB, with results shown below:

LAB Inversion (all channels) © Harold Davis

LAB Inversion (all channels) © Harold Davis

Next, I made another duplicate of the original image file, converted it to LAB, selected the L channel only, and inverted the L channel. I flipped the image horizontally, with results shown below:

L-Channel Inversion (Flipped) © Harold Davis

L-Channel Inversion (Flipped) © Harold Davis

The last big step is to align the two LAB inversions as layers in one image, and set the Blending Mode to Difference (by the way, they have to be back in RGB, or the Difference mode isn’t available).

There are many possible variations on this technique of course, depending on what channels you invert, how you flip the image, and what blending modes you use. Here’s another variation from the same original image:

LAB Cross Pattern #2 © Harold Davis

LAB Cross Pattern #2 © Harold Davis

To learn more about the LAB color techniques for creative image making I have pioneered, check out The Way of the Digital Photographer  (pages 156-163) and The Photoshop Darkroom (pages 148-201). If this really intrigues you, you may want to consider my Mastering Creative Photoshop workshop (January 25-26, one last minute spot available, more space in the second session, May 31 – June 1, 2014).

Star light, star bright, stacking star trails tonight!

Star trails are magical. It’s amazing to see the stars circling in the sky, reminding us that our planet is rotating in space. For many folks who want to get started with star trail photography, it’s something of a mystery and seems inherently difficult. Not so!

Click here to read my article Stacking Star Trails in Photoshop Creative Cloud (posted on to learn methods for turning night-sky photos into star trails in Photoshop CC.

Saline Valley Star Trails © Harold Davis

Saline Valley Star Trails © Harold Davis

Digital is Different

Vive la différence! In my recent post featured on the Amazon Digital Design blog, I explain how digital photography differs from analog photography, and how you can take advantage of that difference in your work. Click here to read the entire post explaining why digital photography is different.

Venice of Cuba © Harold Davis

Venice of Cuba © Harold Davis

Mastering Creative Photoshop Workshop

Mastering Creative Photoshop: The Way of the Digital Photographer 

A Two-Day Weekend Workshop with Harold Davis

Overview: Frustrated by Photoshop, and mystified by how to integrate Photoshop into your workflow? This workshop is for you. Learn to live and love Photoshop under the tutelage of Harold Davis, an acknowledged Photoshop guru and the author of The Photoshop Darkroom.

Click here for information and online registration for the Mastering Creative Photoshop workshop

When: Saturday, January 25 and Sunday, January 26, 2014

What: This workshop covers developing a personal digital Photoshop workflow. Topics explained in detail include archiving and checkpoints, RAW processing, multi-RAW processing, HDR, hand-HDR, stacking, LAB color creative effects, monochromatic conversions, using backgrounds and textures, layers, layers masks, working with channels, Photoshop filters, and plugins from Nik Software, onOne Software, and Topaz.

Harold states: “I often get asked about my Photoshop techniques when giving workshops. In a general workshop that involves photography there just isn’t time to cover in depth the vast multitude of creative Photoshop techniques that I use. This workshop will provide a one-time opportunity to explore Photoshop as a creative medium and artistic partner component of digital photography. I will work with each participant to develop their personal Photoshop style and to process one or more of their own images using the techniques demonstrated in this workshop.”

Suggested Reading:  You may want to take a look at Harold’s The Way of the Digital Photographer (published by Peachpit Press) before attending this workshop.

Where: The workshop is hosted in Berkeley, California, in a convenient location near the upscale Fourth Street shopping district and close to the University Avenue exit from I80.

Cost: Tuition is $695 per person. Workshop is limited to a maximum of 16 participants.

“Harold Davis’ ethereal floral arrangements have a purity and translucence that borders on spiritual.”—Peter Kolonia, Popular Photo Magazine

“Harold Davis’s Creative Photography series is a great way to start a photography library”—Daniel Fealko, PhotoFidelity.

What folks have said about Harold Davis workshops and events:
  •  “A great artist and speaker!”—W. Anglin
  •  “Harold is genuine, generous, and gracious – He has a world of knowledge and expertise that he loves to share – his wonderful books show his monumental talents and skill set- his workshops shows the depth of his connecting with others in a very real and personal way.”—P. Borrelli
  • “Awesome! He patiently addressed questions from the audience which contained photographers of all levels , molding his answers to the level of understanding for each of us. His presentations covered a wonderful range of technical knowledge as well as emphasizing the need for images to have an emotional quality. The images he shares are breathtaking and he is generous in sharing many facets of how he captures such beauty.”—J. Phillips
  • “Not all photographers are good verbal communicators. Harold is someone who can DO and TEACH. A rare combination of talents.”—B. Sawyer
  • “Inspiring!”
  • “He was very giving of his talents and time. The course was very organized and thorough. Loved it! Learned so much! … I also wanted to let you know that I have more than paid the cost of the workshops I’ve done with you by selling some photos! I have sold three prints already.”—L. Beck
  • “Very creative and a marvelous instructor.”—Kay S.
Red Poppies © Harold Davis
Red Poppies © Harold Davis

About Harold Davis:  Harold Davis is a well-known digital artist and award-winning professional photographer. He is the author of many photography books. His most recent titles are The Way of the Digital Photographer (Peachpit) and Monochromatic HDR Photography (Focal Press).

In addition to his activity as a bestselling book author, Harold is a featured columnist for He has been acknowledged as a Moab Master printmaker and is known as a Master Printer. His limited edition artist book Botanique was featured most recently in Fine Art Printing, the only magazine devoted exclusively to fine art photographic printmaking. Harold’s work is widely collected, licensed by art publishers, and has appeared in numerous magazines and other publications.

Harold’s technique and destination photography workshops to such diverse locations as Paris, France; Heidelberg, Germany; and the ancient Bristlecone Pines of the eastern Sierra Nevada are widely popular and usually sell out quickly.

Click here for information and online registration for the Mastering Creative Photoshop workshop

More information: BotaniqueHarold Davis websiteHarold Davis blogbooksworkshops.

Monochromatic HDR Photography publication announced

Focal Press, a leading publisher of media technology books, announced today the availability of Monochromatic HDR Photography by Harold Davis, an award-winning photographer and best-selling author of more than 30 books.

Harold Davis-Monochromatic HDR book cover

In this beautifully illustrated guide for all levels from advanced amateur to professional, Davis shows photographers how to work at the intersection of two hot trends of the digital revolution: Black & White and High Dynamic Range (HDR) imaging.

Click here to read the full press release on Business Wire, and here for Monochromatic HDR Photography on Amazon.

Using Selective Focus Article on

In my new article on, Creatively Using Selective Focus in Photography and Photoshop, I start by explaining how to control focus using exposure settings in the camera. Next, I explain several techniques for adding selective focus effects in Photoshop, and how to use the FocalPoint Photoshop plugin for pinpoint selective focus control in post-production.

Trestle Bridge © Harold Davis

Trestle Bridge © Harold Davis

About the image: Standing precariously high above the valley on the verge of this Littleton, Colorado trestle bridge, I focused my Zeiss Distagon 15mm f/2.8 tightly on the foreground. Using a fairly wide-open aperture (f/4.5) put the background of the hills very slightly our of focus, despite the naturally high depth-of-field of this extreme wide angle lens. In post-production I added a little extra motion blur to the trees, to further visually distinguish them from the bridge.

Flowers of Late Summer

Flowers of Late Summer was shot on a lightbox using my Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 lens and the full-frame Nikon D800. Layering the 36MP RAW captures brought my computer down to a crawl begging for mercy (EXIF and processing info below). Upgrade one piece of hardware and, alas, the logic of workflow implies that other upgrades will follow!

Harold Davis - Flowers of Late Summer 2

Flowers of Late Summer © Harold Davis

Exposure data: 35mm, six exposures at shutter speeds from 10 seconds to 1/10 of a second, all exposures at f/13 and ISO 100, tripod mounted; exposures combined using Nik HDR Efex Pro and hand-HDR in Adobe Camera RAW and Photoshop; this version added to a scanned paper background and lightly texturized.

Please note that I will be on assignment next week in Colorado, so don’t expect to hear too much from me!

Click here for a good starting place to learn more about my techniques for creating floral images that seem partially transparent.

I’m giving a workshop that will cover Photographing Flowers for Transparency in December, 2013 it is sold out, but I may add a second section (add your name to the Waiting List and/or send me an email if you’d be interested).

I’ll also be giving a workshop in Heidelberg, Germany in June, 2014 that will cover this technique as well as other kinds of flower photography (more info will be posted on my Workshops page as it is available).

Please also consider joining my email list if you are interested in keeping up with what I am doing!

New Workshop: Mastering Creative Photoshop

In workshops I repeatedly get asked to explain my creative Photoshop techniques in more detail than is really possible in the course of a normal photography workshop. So I’ve decided to offer an intensive Photoshop-only two-day weekend workshop. Click here for more information and registration, or see below.

If you want to learn in detail what I do, and get my feedback on your Photoshop workflow and creative zeitgeist, this is your opportunity!

Church at Auvers © Harold Davis

Church at Auvers © Harold Davis

What: Mastering Creative Photoshop: The Way of the Digital Photographer covers developing a personal digital Photoshop workflow. Topics explained in detail include archiving and checkpoints, RAW processing, multi-RAW processing, HDR, hand-HDR, stacking, LAB color creative effects, monochromatic conversions, using backgrounds and textures, layers, layers masks, working with channels, Photoshop filters, and plugins from Nik Software, onOne Software, and Topaz.

Prerequisites: Participants are expected to know how to use their Davis- The Way of the Digital Photographercomputers and to have a basic knowledge of Photoshop. You will get the most out of the workshop if you read The Way of the Digital Photographer: Walking the Photoshop post-production path to more creative photography before attending.

When: A Two-Day Weekend Workshop with Harold Davis, Saturday January 25 and Sunday January 26, 2014.

Where: Berkeley, California.

Tuition: $695.00 per person, limited to 16 participants.

Click here to register for Mastering Creative Photoshop: The Way of the Digital Photographer.

Road Less Traveled by Harold Davis

Road Less Traveled © Harold Davis

Adding Textures to Flower Photos

I have a new column out on, Adding Textures to Flower Photos. Here’s the description of what you’ll learn: This column explains all you need to know to get started adding textures in Photoshop to your photos, starting with the concept of “texturizing.” I’ll explain the mechanics of adding the texture overlay, choosing a blending mode, and masking the texture (if desired). You’ll also need to know where to find textures to license, and how to make your own textures if you are interested.

Setting Sun and Cherry Blossoms © Harold Davis

Setting Sun and Cherry Blossoms © Harold Davis

About the image: With this shot of a setting sun seen through a cherry blossom, I focused on the flower blossoms, relying on the fact that throwing the sun way out-of-focus made it appear much larger; I added artistic impact using a textural overlay as I explain in Adding Textures to Flower Photos on

Pyramide du Louvre in the Cour Napoléon

I plead guilty to an affaire de coeur with Photoshop. I am passionate about the Photoshop darkroom. Indeed, there comes a point in every workshop I give that I am asked, “Did you Photoshop that?”

The answer is always Yes. Every photo of mine passes through Photoshop, and it can fairly be said that much of my work is one part photography, and one part digital painting with photography.

Pyramide © Harold davis

Pyramide © Harold davis

To Photoshop, or not to Photoshop? For me, that is hardly a question. But it is worth bearing in mind that it all starts with a photographic composition. It’s often much easier to get striking photos right in the camera than to attempt to embellish things in post-production.

I believe—and I teach my students—that using camera technique to further one’s vision is one of the most important aspects of being a photographer in the digital era. The take away from the digital darkroom should be to inform one’s photography, not to take its place!

Being such a fervent Photoshop evangelist can lead to assumptions that my photos have been Photoshopped—even when they have not.

A case in point is this image of the glass pyramid in the central court of the Louvre in Paris, France, shot during a night photography session of a workshop I was leading. A number of people have assumed that the reflection is a post-production transformation—or, as one person put it with delightful humor, “I detect a bit of Photoshop wizardry herEreh yrdraziw pohsotohP fo tib a tceted I”.

Shades of the Mirror of Erised!

In this case, however, there’s no compositing or changing the composition around. There were three shots, bracketed for exposure, and I used a polarizer, and that’s it. The three RAW files are shown in Adobe Bridge CC below, along with the exposure data for the image.

So the art here is primarily in the seeing, and the craft is in the photographic technique—as much as I love Photoshop, this is an image that could have been accomplished using a film camera. Not that there would be anything wrong with using Photoshop to create this, it just isn’t the case.

I like to teach being the best we can be, whether in the camera photographically, or in the Photoshop darkroom in post-production.

Pyramide © Harold Davis

Pyramide (black & white) © Harold Davis

Exposure data: 12mm, circular polarizer, three exposures at 2.5, 5 and 10 seconds, each exposure at f/7.1 and ISO 100, tripod mounted; RAW exposures shown below in Adobe Bridge CC; processed in Adobe Camera RAW, Nik HDR Efex Pro 2 and Photoshop CC; converted to monochromatic using Photoshop CC, Nik Silver Efex Pro 2, and Topaz Adjust 5.

The three RAW exposures shown in Adobe Bridge CC

The three RAW exposures shown in Adobe Bridge CC

New Harold Davis Photonet column: Placing a Flower Photo on a Background

Please check out my new column on, Placing a Flower Photo on a Background. Stay tuned for the sequel, coming next month to, explaining how to add a texture to a flower photo to get painterly effects.

Have you ever wanted to turn your flower photos into fine art design pieces? With a little bit of Photoshop know-how, a few inexpensive tools, and the techniques explained in this column, it’s easy to create unique art imagery, guided only by your vision and creativity. Read more.

You may not be aware of the extensive archive of my columns available on on a wide variety of topics related to creativity, photography, Photoshop techniques, and marketing your photography. Links to this material can be found below the image.

Cherry Dance © Harold Davis

Cherry Dance © Harold Davis columns by Harold Davis


In Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Cat’s Cradle ice-nine is a crystal with the power to freeze all life on earth, perhaps as I did with these yellow roses. Not really! Nor were they shot through a wet shower door.

The roses were shot on a white background, and then I applied one of my images of waterdrops on windows (Window Study #3) as a texture overlay.

Ice-Nine by Harold Davis

Ice-Nine © Harold Davis

Other examples of texture overlays: Everything in moderation, Like a Titian, Venice of Cuba.