Flower Photo CourseCheck out my online Flower Photography Course.
- Islands in the Seine
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- The Way of the Digital Photographer a best photography book of 2013
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Category Archives: Photoshop Techniques
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 Peachpit.com) to learn methods for turning night-sky photos into star trails in Photoshop CC.
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.
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.
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
- “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
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 Photo.net. 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.
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.
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.
In my new article on Photo.net, 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.
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 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!
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!
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!
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!
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 computers 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.
I have a new column out on Photo.net, 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.
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 Photo.net.
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.
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.
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.
Please check out my new column on Photo.net, Placing a Flower Photo on a Background. Stay tuned for the sequel, coming next month to Photo.net, 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 Photo.net 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.
Photo.net columns by Harold Davis
- Placing a Flower Photo on a Background, June 2013
- A Spiral Model of Creativity, Aug 21, 2009
- Advanced Photoshop Tutorial: Hand HDR, Aug 21, 2009
- Aging Photos Roundup, Sep 13, 2010
- Becoming Composition Conscious, Jul 08, 2009
- Becoming a More Creative Photographer, Apr 20, 2009
- Converting to Black and White, Feb 17, 2010
- Creating HDR Images by Hand: Part I, Dec 09, 2009
- Creating HDR Images by Hand: Part II, Jan 14, 2010
- Creating Photo Books, Nov 02, 2010
- Creating a Photo Book Proposal, Dec 07, 2010
- Creativity in the Photoshop Darkroom, Dec 15, 2009
- Expecting the Unexpected, May 18, 2009
- Finding an Audience for Your Photos, Jan 19, 2011
- Focusing on What Matters, Jun 09, 2009
- HDR in Adobe Photoshop CS5, Jun 28, 2010
- Harnessing the Power of Flickr, Apr 17, 2011
- Harold Davis Column, Aug 21, 2009
- Intro to Compositing, Jun 02, 2010
- Inverting Backgrounds with LAB, Apr 28, 2010
- Knowing When to Quit, Aug 21, 2009
- Making Colors Pop in Photoshop, Oct 08, 2010
- Making the Unseen Visible, Aug 11, 2009
- Multi-RAW Processing, Sep 15, 2009
- Nik Color Efex Pro 3.0 Review, May 12, 2010
- Setting Limits, Aug 21, 2009
- Sharpening in LAB Color, Feb 03, 2010
- Using Email to Find an Audience, Mar 11, 2011
- Using Image Apply Image, Aug 05, 2010
- Using LAB Color Adjustments, Mar 17, 2010
- Using Twitter to Find an Audience for Your Photos, Jun 09, 2011
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.
For the past several days we’ve had very wet and windy weather—the epitome of winter’s rainy season in the San Francisco Bay area. During an interlude in this weather I saw the Japanese maple leaf shown in the image plastered to the outside of an upstairs window.
To shoot the wet maple leaf, I positioned the camera on a tripod inside looking out—so the image is looking through a wet window to the leaf on the exterior. I used a macro lens, and shot two exposure sequences, one at moderate depth-of-field (f/10) for the window glass, and one stopped down (to f/22) to get the leaf itself maximally in focus.
The image you see combined four of the low-depth-of-field exposures (using Nik HDR Efex Pro) for the window pane. I then painted-in two exposures of the f/25 leaf exposures using layering and the Brush Tool in Photoshop.
Exposure data: 40mm macro, six exposures, all exposures at ISO 200, 4 exposures shot using shutter speeds between 1/15 of a second and 2.5 seconds at f/10, 2 exposures shot at shutter speeds of 2 seconds and 5 seconds with an aperture of f/25, tripod mounted, exposures combined using Nik HDR Efex Pro and Photoshop.
When it comes to image conception and post-processing these days I seem to be thinking in opposites. In my image of the Triumph of the Wave (below) the breaking surf reforms against the adamant of a rock-bound shore. Wild and peaceful. Violent and tranquil.
There’s something like the Hegelian triad in operation: thesis and antithesis yields synthesis. Nowhere is this more apt than in post-production, where effective practice means repetitive application of opposites: sharpening and blurring, increasing contrast and reducing contrast, saturating and desaturating, and so on.
The key is to be selective. Blurring and sharpening the same pixel makes no sense because you get back where you started. But blurring and sharpening adjacent pixels can be very effective.
Technique should always be in the service of vision. The moving anarchy of the surf is in opposition to the static solidity of the rocks. Synthesis in subject and process can yield an image that is meditative—and a call to action, both calm and exciting.
It’s fun to apply textures to an existing image to create a new effect. In this context, a texture is simply a flat shot of paint on wood, or canvas, or something textural. It is applied over the original image in a Photoshop layer stack. This may seem counter-intuitive because people expect textural effects to belong to the background, as would be the case with a physical painting on canvas. In fact, some of my floral tapestries combine a scanned background of paper or canvas with textural overlays, so many variations are possible.
Most often, I’ll experiment with different blending modes and opacity to add interest to my overlay textural effect—and I usually use more than one texture overlay per image. Note that I am using the term “overlay” to simply mean the texture layer is above the image layer on the Photoshop layer stack, and I am not referring to the Photoshop Overlay Blending Mode.
I used exactly the same “recipe” with Venice of Cuba (shown above) and Tower in the Sun (below). The recipe consists of a series of specific textural layers applied at a given opacity and a variety of blending modes.
Good documentation is important—so one can repeat the steps on a new image. It’s possible to keep track of this kind of formula by taking notes, but the best kind of documentation shares a trait in common within software development—it is self-documenting. The most important aspects of self-documenting a layer-based process are to:
- Make sure the layer structure is coherent
- Name each layer so that the contents of the layer are self-evident (this corresponds to good variable naming in software development)
- Try to use each layer for a single purpose only (it’s better to copy a layer and use two layers than to try to get a layer to do “double duty”)
About the images: While Tower in the Sun appears to depict an exotic location, it was in fact shot close to my home. The tower is the Ferry Building in San Francisco. I substantially underexposed the original image at 1/2000 of a second, f/16, and ISO 200 so that the disc of the setting sun would be rendered.
Venice of Cuba shows a river in Matanzas, Cuba. Matanzas is sometimes called the “Venice of Cuba”—hence the title of this interpretation. My thought in creating the “recipe” was to try for an effect like a Canaletto painting. You can view the original photo that the texturized version was made from on my blog.
I’ve been asked a number of times about the process behind the making of my images of the Basilica Mission Dolores, shown below and in Looking for Light. This is a monochromatic style that I’ve developed intentionally that is based upon High Dynamic Range (HDR) shooting techniques. For other examples of this presentation style, which is intended to partially evoke an old-fashioned etching look see my Agaves and Choosing the Path. You’ll find some hints about how I do this below.
The most important part of this process is the HDR shooting technique. It also helps to start my photography at the very beginning with a final image pre-visualized in black and white—even though a RAW capture by definition includes all the color information.
As I explain in Creating HDR Photos: The Complete Guide to High Dynamic Range Photography, when I shoot for HDR I am careful to use a sturdy tripod. I find that manually bracketing the shutter speed works best. The sequence of seven RAW captures I made for this image are shown below in Adobe Bridge. All exposures were using a 12mm wide-angle focal length at f/9 and ISO 200. My shutter speeds ranged from 1/8 of a second (the darkest) to 20 seconds (the lightest).
Nik Mono HDR Preset
Because I knew that my ultimate destination was black & white, one of my first steps was to run the seven captures through Nik HDR Efex Pro, choosing the Soft Mono HDR preset. This is preset converts a bracketed HDR set of captures to monochromatic by setting the saturation slider to 0%. Results are shown below.
Having processed the files this way, I put the Nik HDR monochrome version aside for use at a later stage in the process.
I created the initial color version, shown below, by layering dark and light versions together in Photoshop. The basic scheme was to use a fairly light exposure (#2881, at 8 seconds) as the background, then selectively paste a lighter exposure over it for the darker areas (#2882, at 20 seconds). Areas that were too bright—such as the windows—were controlled with a darker exposure (#2878, at 3/5 of a second). Note: you can see the different exposures in the figure showing Adobe Bridge above.
The initial color blend is shown below.
Rarely do I construct one of these images without finding flaws that need to be retouched. In this case, I decided to remove a woman sitting in a pew, a devotional man at a niche, a fire extinguisher, and a cut-off statue. The layers panel with each of these corrections is shown below and to the right.
At any normal viewing size one can hardly see these issues, but on my large monitor when I zoomed in they were clear. It’s a funny thing—even though some issues are hardly noticeable at a conscious level, I do find they make a significant difference in terms of the viewers overall impression of an image once they are cleaned up. Viewers may not be able to identify why they respond to one of my images, but it is partly because I’ve taken the time to really clean the image up.
It’s worth going to the trouble involved, because half measures do not avail us! Let’s face it, this kind of post-production work is fairly arduous. If I am going to take the time to do it in the first place, I’d really like to get everything right that I can.
And, in case you are wondering, yes, I also had to retouch these issues in the reserved monochromatic version to conform to the color version.
With the color version complete and retouched, and a monochromatic HDR version reserved, I am ready to do the overall monochromatic conversion. This involves a layer stack with different monochromatic versions combined at varying intensities using several Blending Modes—Normal, Luminosity, Screen, and Soft Light.
In the case of the Basilica, I started at the bottom of my conversion layer stack with the default monochromatic conversion from Nik Software’s Silver Efex 2. I layered on top of it the reserved HDR mono version selectively applied via a layer mask, and a second mono HDR layer applied overall using the Luminosity Blending Mode at 20% opacity.
To finish the conversion I added a layer to add texture and softness. I created this layer using the Topaz Wood Carving filter applied to the color version. This filter is found in the Topaz Simplify plugin, and my results are shown below.
Flattening the monochromatic conversion layers led to the finished image shown at the beginning of this story.
Effective shooting for HDR is pretty straightforward if you have a good tripod, some patience, and use manual exposure controls to bracket the entire dynamic range of the scene you are shooting. For a full explanation of the technique please see Creating HDR Photos.
Crafting a unique and subtle look in post-production from an HDR shoot is not always straightforward. It helps to know where you might be going by pre-visualizing the results at the beginning of the process.
Even when I have some idea of the benchmark steps along the way, there is usually no firm recipe for my HDR conversions, and I do quite a bit of experimentation as I go along. So you should regard the steps I’ve explained in this story as waypoints on your conversion journey—subject to your own creative ideas, and not fixed in stone.