Tips for using Photoshop or Lightroom

One Handed Photoshop – Basic Retouching


Well, it’s Monday and I have another One Handed Photoshop Tutorial for you! I apologize for the length of time it takes to make these. The videos themselves only take a few minutes its the typing the blog post that takes time. I am typing one handed after all. Drat! Now its Tuesday!

Anyway, I got such a positive response from the first 1 Handed tutorial I just had to keep going. That and the fact that I will be one handed for at least 3 more weeks. This time I took the same image and removed a few distractions and cleaned up a little razor rash.

You can view the full tutorial right after you click the link!
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One Handed Photoshop – Make The Image Pop!


You probably know already that ice is slippery, but did you know it’s sneaky too? It is when its black ice. It was hiding in my driveway last week and it took my feet right out from underneath me. I remember hearing a distinct snap too. Then I realized that snap was my wrist. So here I sit typing a blog post with one hand. The other is in a cast and itching like mad!

I was due to write my weekly post over the weekend but now I can only type so much and its less than half as much when using only one hand. So I got to thinking, what can I do one handed that I can put on my site? 1 Handed Photoshop Tutorials were born!

Below is the first in what I hope will only be a short series of tutorials that can be done quickly and easily, and with only one hand, in Photoshop. This first one is on how to use the High-Pass filter to make your images pop out at the viewer. Click the link to watch the video and take a look!

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HDR In Photography

Unless you have been living in a vacuum for the last few years you have heard of the latest trend in still photography, HDR (High Dynamic Range).  Everything from real estate to portraits to advertising is using HDR as a way to grab the viewer’s attention.  Even I have written a couple of pieces on HDR and how to get the effects that really make an image pop.

Is it a trend or the future of photography? I believe that the trend has passed and that HDR is here to stay. More photographers are using HDR everyday and with that, more ways to get ‘the look’ are being used and discussed.

Is there a best way to get the HDR look in your images? I don’t feel that any one technique has yet emerged as the single ‘best’ way. Clearly HDR soft’s ( Photomatix and Photomatix Pro are the current choice of the majority of users today. Of course many are using the HDR component in Photoshop as well.  It just seems that Photomatix is a better tool for tone-mapping than what is included in Photoshop, so far.

I used Photomatix on the image to the right, the image above and the self portrait in my last tutorial and many images you see on this site. For me it works better than the HDR tools in Photoshop. With the tools in Camera RAW of Lightroom 2 (and soon LR3) the hyper real, super sharpening of the James Effect became available. By combining those two processes alone the possibilities become endless.

No matter what tool is used as a solution HDR and super sharpening is here to stay. So what does that mean for your photography?  Should you use an HDR process in every image you create?  Probably not but ultimately, that is up to you. How and where you apply it, the sky and your creativity are the only limits.  The fact is that you should be at least considering it, learning about it and figuring out how it may fit into your workflow.

If you are the client rather than the photographer, what does HDR mean to you?  HDR means that more of the colors you see in real life will come out in the images you want and need. Whether a simple tone mapping in a portrait, a full multi image HDR or having the full dynamic range included in your advertising HDR is going to give you a more appealing and dare I say, more dynamic, image.

HDR is coming on full speed ahead and for me it is the greatest thing since photography went digital.  In each image I take I wonder how I can generate the feeling that I had when I decided to capture the image.  Now the processing is as much of an adventure as the photography itself.  This is a chance for photographers to jump ahead of their peers; an opportunity to be the next leader in photography.

Until next time, Happy Shooting!

“True” HDR Portraits (You Know, with Bracketing?)

On my last tutorial I received many comments on how changing the exposure level of a single raw file then creating an HDR image is not a ‘true’ HDR image. So I shot a bracketed self portrait and generated a new tutorial.  This is the image that resulted.


I am not sure how letting the computer in my camera do the bracketing is any less ‘true’ than doing the same thing manually in Lightroom or Photoshop.  But, I come from a purist photography background; as in I shot film, developed film and have lost years of my life in a dark room (go into the darkroom at 7 in the morning and come out and it’s still 7am, on a different day!), and I am actually fond of the smell of fixer.

I will admit that there are many, many photographs out there today that don’t look anywhere close to real. Some are meant to look that way but many more try to pass themselves off as some type of surreal reality.  I want people to know that you can achieve some very true to life images using HDR processing.

This morning I took many self portraits while bracketing 1/3 to a full stop. I shot sets of 3, 5 and 7 frames.  I found that when doing self portraits it is a bit more difficult to sit still than you think it is.  I was using a programmable shutter release (Nikon’s MC-36), my D200, one SB800 with a grid spot, and one SB900 for fill and of course a tripod.

In the tutorial below I start out with the three bracketed images and using Adobe Lightroom2, Photoshop CS4, Photomatix Pro3 and Imagenomic Noiseware Pro and I make what I think is a very true HDR self portrait. I do it all in about 15 minutes too! It’s actually very easy. Check it out! (tutorial should open in a new tab/window)


This tutorial won’t fit on YouTube so if you want to share it, feel free but send your friends to this blog post.

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and I think this should satisfy all those that wanted a ‘True HDR Portrait’.

Until next time,

Happy Shooting!

HDR Portraits

By now I am sure you have heard of HDR or High Dynamic Range Photography. Usually the images are done for landscapes or architecture where there is little or no movement from the subject. This is because you need to blend several images, taken at different exposures, together to show the full dynamic range of color. Doing this with portraits has been difficult or impossible because of the (however so slight) movement of a portrait subject. Not anymore.

In the tutorial below I show you how I got to the dramatic image above from an everyday image that is well exposed but is nothing special.


With Lightroom 2 and Photomatix Pro and a single image of James I was able to create an HDR photo in just a few minutes. The image isn’t perfect but it’s an example of what you can do in a very short time and a little creative thinking.

To do this tutorial, first find an image that you want to work with. Then make two copies of that image. They need to be the same size, exposure, etc.; exact duplicates. I jump ahead in the video to where I have three copies of the same image. Once you have your three, click the image below to watch the video.

(A new window or tab will open; then  just click the play button)


(Best viewed in at least 1024×768 or greater)

Not too tough was it? Do you like the results of your work? If not, go back and play a bit more. Tweak the settings until you get just the HDR portrait you are looking for. Remember, you will get your most dramatic results from portraits of those people that have a lot of drama and character to their looks.

Until next time…

Happy Shooting!

Retouching Parts 1 AND 2!

I have been asked many times to retouch images or to “make me look perfect” by clients. Personally I prefer 100% natural images straight out of the camera. The thing is, I’m not paying me, my clients are. Now it is possible to help someone lose a few pounds, or at least take off the “10 pounds a camera puts on you” but is it necessary? With just a little retouching you can make someone look fantastic! You would be amazed at how far just a little bit of skin softening can go.

The problem in magazines today is that many of the people responsible for the content don’t know and they go too far. Way too far. Don’t blame the photographer or even the retoucher, they both know what reality is; however, often the person paying them doesn’t.

To learn how far is not too far, click the link.
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Faded Old Photo? Easy!

When I did the tutorial on the image of my father I was reminded of a task he gave me before he died, restore as many of the old family photos that I could.

Being the good son that I am I gladly took the box of old photos and brought it home with great in tensions. I was going to restore the images and make them available online to all aspects of my family. Also being the typical son, the box sat in a closet, untouched, for a long time. Then I did the tutorial and remembered my promise.

I can tell you that my family is much more complicated than I ever thought it was. I was looking at the photos saying to myself in a voice like Jack Palance, “I don’t even know who the hell you are!” I spent hours putting older faces to the younger versions and then trying to match them to the faces I had never seen before.

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Selective Color In Photoshop CS4

Although many people liked the James image, almost as many like the image of the older man with the flag in the background. Well that old man, he was my father.

Although he passed away this year at age 84, I look at the image often and I wonder what I could have done better. Of course I am my own critic and I do that with a lot of images. This image though for obvious reasons gets a gander a bit more often.

As my father was very much the ‘Navy Man’ I often wonder what I could do to make that subtle reference pop out more. After all, If you ever met my father and let him talk, and trust me it was hard to stop him from doing that! He would have let you know rather quickly that he was in the Navy.

To make the image  pop I decided to add a little selective color.

Follow the link to find out how.
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The James Effect

By far the most popular image on my site is James – The Mystery Man. I have been asked if it is a drawing, a painting, everything. It is a photograph.

I shot Jim about a year and a half ago and we spent the better part of the day shooting. The image that first loads on the site is an image that was done in the early part of our day. We were in the shadow of a building and this allowed me to control the light completely. I used one SB800 flash unit to light the area behind him and one to light Jim. The light is about waist high and a grid spot used to light only his face.

After the image was captured I used Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop to convert the image to what you see on the site today. The technique is a variation of Scott Kelby’s grunge effect. If you are a member of NAPP you can see Scott’s tutorial at and search on Grunge. I did alter the tutorial a bit and you can see how by clicking the link below.

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Photo Albums or

Once you have chosen a camera and you start shooting, over time you are going to build a body of work. Now that most images are digital we don’t tend to pull out old albums or boxes of pictures like we used to. When I was a kid my sister or I would see an album under the side tables by the sofa and one of us would pull out the album. Our parents would sit next to us and point out how cute we were when we were still in a diaper or worse, when we had been photographed naked as a baby. No bear skin rugs at my house…

Now that everything is digital, the box or album of pictures isn’t under the table or in the drawer anymore. Now they are on our computers (and hopefully backed up somewhere). So what do we do to encourage ourselves to pull those images out and look at them?

Click on the link below to see what I do with them

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