I am in the process of making a number of change to this blog, taking it down a much more minimalist route. This will involve the deleting of a few posts that are no longer as relevant as they were at the time of posting, or where the information is somewhat misleading. Hopefully I will be posting a lot more regularly that has been the cas of late, that is providing the there are enough hours in the day to get all that I would like to do done.

Double Exposure Tutorial

Here I want to demonstrate a quite simple method of achieving a double exposure effect. I am using Photoshop, but the same techniques should work in most good graphics packages.
First I open the two images that I am going to layer together:-

image_01Figure 1

image_02Figure 2

I should mention at this point that it is important that both images are the same size to avoid problems when aligning later.
Select the first image (in my case Figure 1) and right click on the ‘Background layer’ in the Layers panel – see Figure 3:-

Figure 3

Select ‘Layer from Background’ in the menu which pops up, this will open a dialogue box giving you the option of naming the layer, it defaults to Layer 0. I never bother renaming the layer unless I am doing something complex with a lot of layers and want to know what each one is for.
Next select the second image (in my case Figure 2), then select the move tool (at the top of the left hand toolbar – a cross with a pointer). Click on the image and drag it to the tab of the first image and hold there, without releasing the mouse button, until the first image reopens, then drag the second image onto the first and release. This will automatically create a second layer on the first image – ‘Layer 1′ as in Figure 4:-

Figure 4

Still using the move tool with layer 1 selected align the edges of both layers, the point at which it becomes important that both images are the same size. The move tool is good for a general alignment, but for more precise aligning of the edges the arrow keys are more useful as they can nudge the layer by one pixel at a time either up, down, left or right.
The next step is to reduce the opacity of the topmost layer (Figure 4 in my case) until you get a ghostly image with the bottom layer showing through. This is the point at which a little experimentation may be required as sometimes I have to bring the bottom layer to the top to get a good result, do this by simply dragging the bottom layer above the top layer in the layers panel (don’t forget to reset the opacity before doing this, as it is only the top layer that should have a reduced opacity). In this case I didn’t need to switch the layers and only reduced the opacity of the top layer to 30% as in Figure 5:-

Figure 5

You should now have the basic double exposure, and all that remains is to finish it off. Right click on the layers in the layer panel and choose ‘Flatten image’ and you have it.

Figure 6

All that then remains is to apply any editing that you require. In this case I simply cropped the image, applied a little noise reduction and sharpened it up a bit to produce the final double exposure.

Light and Reflected Light

Light Tutorial

Sometimes I end up with a colour image that I am quite pleased with, but think that it could be improved somewhat, as with this image:-

light org

The idea here is right, it just lacks proper execution of the thought in mind. There are several things wrong here, I should have cropped when shooting to get rid of both the bicycle wheel on the left and the vehicle at the top, it needs straightening to bring the lamp post upright and it sort of lacks contrast. This is as it came out of Camera Raw – I always shoot in RAW, it gives far more versatility in post-processing – and set the overall tone of the image. For the techy minded the settings were:-

Temperature – 4100
Tint – 0
Exposure – 0
Recovery – 100
Fill Light – 40
Blacks – 5
Brightness – +50
Contrast – +45
Clarity – +50
Vibrance – +30
Saturation – +35

But, in my defence, it was raining and I was in my dressing gown.
So, after straightening up I cropped it


making sure that the lamp post was where I wanted it, on the right hand third line of the image.
The next step was noise reduction, as I had upped the ISO to 800 to get a short enough shutter speed to enable me to hand hold.


I don’t normally undertake noise reduction or sharpening until the final steps of post-processing, but in this case I wanted the image right before the B&W conversion.
The next step was sharpening for which I converted the image to Lab color mode, selected the Lightness channel and applied an Unsharp mask with the following settings:-

Amount 25%
Radius 50 pixels
Threshold 0

then converted back to RGB mode with this result:-


Already this is beginning to look a much better image, all that I wanted to do now was give it more contrast to add a little punch to the image.
The next step was the B&W conversion by adding a Black and White adjustment layer:-


Yes, I know it does nothing at all for the image, which is why I chose to use the High Contrast red filter option for some added punch:-


Well, that is certainly high contrast, in reality just a wee bit too much as the wetness of the ground has got a bit lost in the conversion. But, this is the good thing with using layers for such conversions, you don’t have to stick with either/or settings. I next played around with the opacity of the adjustment layer, as I thought that allowing some of the colour back would bring that wetness back. Moving the slider back and forth I found that 60% opacity worked best for this image:-


All that now remained was to flatten the layers and create the finished image, which I am more than pleased with:-

light final

Shadows and Steps Recovered

Shadows on Steps a Tutorial

Ok a short description of how this was achieved, for those who have asked:-
steps final

This started life as quite a mundane colour image with very little going for it, as you can see below:-

steps org

The only thing that this image has going for it are those shadows, the whole point of the shot in the first place I suppose. Those concrete slabs making up the steps look just awful, definitely a little Photoshop work needed to make this an acceptable image methinks.
First stop, open up in Camera Raw – I always shoot in RAW, it gives far more versatility in post-processing – and set the overall tone of the image. For the techy minded the settings were:-

Temperature – 4650
Tint – +24
Exposure – -0.30
Recovery – 40
Fill Light – 10
Blacks – 5
Brightness – +50
Contrast – +45
Clarity – +50
Vibrance – +30
Saturation – +20


This came out as a slightly more acceptable image, but still left a lot to be desired. So, I decided to play around with a black and white adjustment layer to see where that took me.


After a little experimentation I settled for a High Contrast Blue filter, which was sort of close to what I had in mind, a slightly more dilapidated, grungy sort of feel.


I know that the shadows were the whole point of the image, but the toned down nature of them now adds to the image as a much more holistic one. The High Contrast Blue filter ahs also cooled the picture somewhat, so that is the next step to deal with by the use of a Sepia filter adjustment layer:-


at the same time asking it to preserve the luminosity:-


And that was about it really except to finish off by flattening the image, using a little noise reduction and, finally, sharpening, which I did on only one channel of the image. For the sharpening I converted the image to Lab color mode, selected the Lightness channel and applied an Unsharp mask with the following settings:-

Amount 25%
Radius 50 pixels
Threshold 0

then converted back to RGB mode for the finished photo.

Collages in Photoshop

Collages in Photoshop CS5

This is a tutorial about how to create collages in PhotoshopCS5, the method should work equally in CS4, but I am not sure about earlier versions of Photoshop, the finished collage will look like this:-
duck-collage-finThe finished collage

It is constructed from these five images:-

Image 1

Image 2

Image 3

Image 4

Image 5

These five images are the originals before they have been cropped to put into the collage, you will see how they change as we progress through the tutorial.
Stage 1:
The first stage is to create the background for our collage, and for that I have used Image 1. I made the conscious decision to shoot this with the subject more or less in the middle of the shot with a view to using it as the background; but this doesn’t really matter as it can be moved around later.
Open Image 1 and then make this ‘Background‘ a layer, do this by right clicking on the Background layer in the layers panel and choosing Layer from Background; you can at this point rename the layer, or do as I did and leave it at the default ‘Layer 0′ in Screen 1 below. Making the background into a layer will enable us to move it around later if necessary, you should now have something that looks a bit like Screen 1 below:-

Screen 1

Your background image may be different from mine, but the result will be just the same.
At this point I always save the collage, with the filename ‘**** collage’, as a PSD file just in case I make any mistakes and need to go back to an earlier iteration of the collage; saving as a PSD file is good practice as this preserves all of the layers in order that one can work on a project over a period of time without having to recreate work done previously.
Stage 2:
Now we can start to bring the other four images in to begin building up our collage. Open image two so that it is in a different Photoshop tab in order to do any editing or cropping that you may feel necessary, as in Screen 2 below:-

Screen 2

Once you have made any adjustments to your image select the Move tool by pressing V or selecting it from the toolbar, then click on the image and drag it to the tab of the collage, hold there until that tab opens then drag onto the image there and let go, this will automatically create a new layer (Layer 1 in my case) with the image in it, as in Screen 3 below:-

Screen 3

Don’t worry that it may obscure the part of the background layer that you want, this will be attended to next. Now we move this layer so the second image is placed where we want it to be, in this case the bottom right corner. Now we want to sort out the overlap issue, so press Ctrl T (sorry don’t know the shortcuts for MACs) or Edit > Free Transform from the menu. Holding down the Shift key click on a corner and resize the layer until it is no longer overlapping, and is the size that you want. Care is needed here to ensure that you release the mouse button before the Shift key, or you will end up with a distorted image. Once you have done this you should end up with something that looks like Screen 4:-

Screen 4

At this point I recommend saving the image, and again after every image inclusion, this way if anything goes wrong it is easy to go back to a ‘right’ version of the image without too much trouble. The above explanation holds true for the next three images also, so I will just include the Screenshots to show what I did rather than repeat myself ad infinitum:-

Screen 5

Screen 6

Screen 7

Screen 8

Screen 9

Screen 10

By the time you have edited and included the images in the collage file you should have an image with five layers that looks something like Screen 10 above.

Stage 3:
The next stage is where things really begin to get creative, I next concentrate on each individual layer, selecting each in turn, that is except the background (layer 0) and working with Free Transform (Ctrl T) on each in turn. Once I have selected Free Transform I choose the warp option from the tool bar, circled in red in Screen 11 below:-

Screen 11

Grabbing the corners of the selected layer I drag them to fill the gaps in between the layers, trying not to distort the subject too much; although a little distortion, I think, adds to the overall effect. Once this has been done for each individual layer you should end up with something that looks like Screen 12 below:-

Screen 12

As you can see there are some well defined edges of the layers showing, and we are going to tackle this problem next. Select all of the individual layers, then choose Edit > Auto-Blend Layers, and in the dialogue box that results choose Stack Images, and leave the Seamless Tones and Colours box checked, as in Screen 13 below:-

Screen 13

If you have followed this closely almost all of those well defined edges of the layers should disappear, leaving you with the almost finished product as seen in Screen 14 below:-

Screen 14

There are a couple of well defined seams forming a triangle with the central duck, but I think that these serve as a focus to lead the eye into the image, which is why I did not go further to remove them. All that remains to be done is to save this image as a PSD file before anything else, then right click on any of the layers in the Layer Panel and choose Flatten Image, and finally Save As a jpg file, or any format that you may prefer.


I thought it was about time for a few changes here to reflect that I am no longer posting solely about artistic matters, but more about the ways in which digital media (cameras and manipulation, in my case Photoshop, software) can be used to create aesthetically pleasing images; whether or not such images are art remains open to debate. Personally I think that photographs can be great art alongside painting, I also agree with Ansel Adams when he said “You don’t take a photograph, you make it.” This is why I have changed not only the style to a much cleaner, simpler style, but also the name to reflect that aesthetic object need not necessarily be just art objects, but can be anything that has a pleasing form etc. in the eyes of any particular viewer.

From the Mundane to the Artistic

I find it quite interesting in these days of digital imagery and manipulation that it is so easy to transform a quite uninspiring photograph into something with quite a high degree of artistic merit. Take this image for instance:-


there is, it can be safely said, nothing about it that would set the world alight. This is exactly as it came out of the camera, and in no way reflects what I saw at the time of shooting, some great harsh directional winter light highlighting these, very early, Buddleia shoots.
With a little post-processing however all is not lost (especially as I ALWAYS shoot in the RAW format) and some of that light can be retrieved:-


OK, so I have chosen quite a boring subject, this is still quite a nothing image. However this is quite deliberate, because I want to make a particular point here. This is still not what I saw in my mind when I shot this image, as I have, over the years, taught myself to look at subject as potential black and white images, and I saw a high contrast B&W image in this subject
So, the next step is to convert to B&W:-


Interestingly a simple B&W conversion seems to be a step backwards, and the lovely contrast of the post-processed image has been lost taking it back to, more or less, the same sad state of straight out of the camera.
But, this is where the artistic side comes into play. I reverted to the post processed image and added an adjustment layer with a deep yellow filter before adding a second adjustment layer for a high contrast red filter B&W conversion followed by yet another adjustment layer to up the contrast and reduce the brightness to create a high contrast but low key image:-


which is what I saw in my mind’s eye when shooting this subject.
I know that this is not a great art photograph, but I think that most would agree that a pretty mundane, nothing image ahs been transformed into something that has substantially more aesthetic appeal than the original.