The Daily Focal Point

November 30, 2008


Filed under: 2.0 Tutorial, Photoshop Tutorials — Tags: , — cabenelson @ 9:54 pm

Okay, so as I’ve stated before I’m not a Photoshop “Junkie”. To me Photoshop is a wonderful and helpful tool. But that’s just it, IT’S A TOOL. It’s where I spend about a fraction of the time on a photo. As I’ve also stated before I’ve been called a purist and feel that REAL photography is done in the dark room from start to finish. There’s nothing like working on the entire process from framing the subject, clicking the button, exposing the negatives, working with machinery hands on, all the way to having a finished product you can hold in your hands. There’s also nothing like having your hands smell like the developing chemicals either… weird I know but if you do it, you’ll see there is a HUGE sense of accomplishment. However, digital photography is ALWAYS going to be there and to be honest, even if I had my dream darkroom I would still be shooting the majority of my shots digitally.

Some of the drastic things that photographers do in Photoshop are beautiful and amazing to see, but it’s not what I would consider photography. It almost transcends it and enters a “Hyper-Realism” category. Most are still amazing and beautiful, just not what I would consider my style. I don’t know, maybe I’m just saying that because I can’t do half the stuff they can do!
The purpose of this post is to walk you through what I do to my photos in Photoshop. It’s pretty basic stuff and as long as you have a basic version of Photoshop you can follow along.

I would say that 90% of having a good photo comes from the photo itself (duh) I know it seems so obvious but a lot of people feel like they really need to rely heavily on a editing program to create a decent image. If you have a bad photo to begin with you’re going to have a semi improved bad photo when you finish with Photoshop. How I view Photoshop is simple, it’s there to bring the icing on the cake. But the cake still needs to be there… SO ONTO TO TUTORIAL!

This is our original photograph.

Select your image and open it up in Photoshop (see I told you this would be easy)
Before you do ANYTHING with your photo, you need to decide what DIRECTION you want to take it in. This will help determine your steps and is THE most important part of the process. If you don’t know, study the picture. Ask yourself what do you like? What catches your eye? Take a minute and figure it out. If you do not have a direction or a point you wanted to emphasize in your photos those viewing it will see that it is directionless. If you still don’t know, then go through the basic steps below but tinker around with it more until something comes to you.
Open Photo
For this photo, I’ve decided that I like the framing of the subject and the feel of the photo, but it’s just flat. I’m going to use shading, contrast and saturation to make the image pop. I’ve identified that I like the rock wall behind them, the dark details of the sand, and the waves. I’ve realized that we need to add something to the peeps in this pics to make them “pop”. And I’ve also realized that I’ve captured the ever typical San Francisco couple. Dude is in all black threads, wearing shades at dusk, and holding a Starbucks Coffee no doubt. While she’s a little bit bohemian hippie with her scarf and hemp knitted skirt. Typical…

One of the FIRST things I’ll do is go straight for the Brightness/Contrast tool- Once you change the contrast, you’ll be amazed at how flat your photo was before. Take it easy with the contrast for now. If you increase the contrast too much you’ll loose some of the shades that you might want to stand out. For example, if I went overboard with the contrast I would loose some of the detail in the dark sand. The whole point is to adjust it to get an idea of you what you’d like to accomplish. You can always increase it to be more than it is at a later time.
Brightness contrast

The second step after I’ve gotten the brightness/contrast down, I’ll mess with the variations tool. This is probably one of the coolest tools I mess around with in Photoshop.
What Variations does is provide you with 24 different variations of your photo. It’ll display the different colors you can add to the photo if the tone of your photo needs to be changed. It will also allow you to adjust your saturation, but more importantly you can control the intensity of everything. Or just apply extra color to the shadows, mid tones, or highlights. For this photo we’re going to add some blue on the mid tones category because I want the picture to have a “cooler” feel. I’m also going to add some more saturation (increase or decrease the amount of color) here.

Now onto the Shades of the Photo! Did you ever used to play with a Lite-Brite when you were a kid? Well, think of your photo only as thousands of lite-bright pegs stuck in a board. In order to get more detail out of your image, you’ll need to brighten and darken some of those pegs! This is probably where I spend the majority of my time with photos. This is where you can emphasis certain parts of a photo by lightening or darkening a specific part without applying it to the rest of the photo. For this, I’m going to lighten the sand in front of the people, lighten certain details of the people, and then give the photo a burned or tunneled look to it. I do this by working mainly with the doge and burn tools on your toolbar. Like variations, you can control the amount of intensity (or flow) and also if you want to apply it to the highlights, mid tones, or shadows.
lite brite technique

I also wanted to add a significant amount of detail to the waves. Using the Lite-Brite technique we’re going to dodge/burn some more detail into those waves.

Now onto the details! For me a photo is all about DETAILS. If there aren’t little details for your eyes to follow (especially with a bigger photo like this) then it falls through! FOCUS ON THE DETAILS! We’re going to get up and personal with our peeps in the picture. I’m going to use the Lite-Brite technique on our peeps clothing, face, etc. I’m going to saturate this lady’s hemp skirt and scarf.
I’ll also add more color (or take away the amount of color) by using the SPONGE tool on the toolbar. You can set the intensity or if you would like to desaturate instead of add color.

We’re going to add some color and depth by dodge/burning the rocks and using the sponge tool to bring out more of that natural rock color.
rocks detials

I’ll do a re-cap of the photo and try looking at it with a fresh eye. Sometimes, when you get so bogged down in the picture it’s easy to overdo it. Go take a break and come back to it. Or open up your orginal photo and look at them side by side. You’ll know by looking at the original if you’ve gone overboard or not. For this, I’ve decided to “Rubber Stamp” some of the trash in the sand out because I felt like it distracted your eyes.

I feel like this is as good of a shot as we’re going to get here.

So here’s the original:

And this is what we finished with:
San Fran Pees Done

Okay, so as a recap. This is what I primarily use for my photos:

  • Brightness and Contrast (Allows you to darken the darks and lighten the lights)
  • Levels (Allows you to adjust the intensity of the images shadows, midtones, & highlights
  • Variations (Allows you to adjust color and saturation to the image)
  • Hue/Saturation (Allows you to adjust the intensity of color in the image)
  • Dodge and Burn Tools (Allows you to lighten/darken certain parts of an image “LiteBrite”)
  • Sponge Tool (Allows you to increase/decrease color for a certain part of an image)

So I just threw out a lot of information and probably missed some details. So, what questions does everyone have? What do you want to know about Photoshop? What tools in Photoshop do you have questions about? – Now is the time to ask!


November 2, 2008

Photoshop Tutorial

Filed under: Photoshop Layers, Photoshop Tutorials, Week Three — cabenelson @ 11:59 pm

I’ve wanted to walk through a Photoshop tutorial since I started this website 3 weeks ago. I finally found a good picture to run a tutorial on and frankly some time to detail it all out. I love Photoshop and it’s one of those tools where you can get into some pretty advanced stuff. For me, I keep it straight forward and simple.

For this tutorial, I’m going to walk you through how to combine a color photograph with a black and white photograph. Have you ever seen a black and white picture with color splashes and wonder how do they do that? Well here it is… *WARNING* I’m going to say this right now. I’m not a Photoshop Guru… There might be easier/faster ways of doing some of this stuff in Photoshop. But this is the way I do it and it gets the job done… ALRIGHT! LET’S DO THIS!

Step Number One: One of the harder things to do in this combination is identifying a photo that would be good in this process. You’ll need to find one that looks good in black and white as it is but has a colorful subject you want to emphasize. Excuse the Ginormous sizes to these but I want you to be able to see exactly what functions I’m using in Photoshop.

Open your photo in Photoshop (duh..)
Step 1 copy

Adjust your photo however you want (brightness/contrast, variations, levels etc.) Point is to get your photo as best looking as you can before you really start tweaking with it with multiple layers.
Step 2

Each time I focus on multiple layers and I try to explain it I start drooling and my eyes glaze over. But this is super simple. Just click on Layer>New>Layer via Copy. All this did is duplicate your photo and lay the new copy right on top of your old copy.
Step 3

For the next step, click on Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Hue/Saturation. All Hue and Saturation allows you to do is adjust either the TYPE of color (from red to blue) or the amount of color. This is where we’re going to make the new duplicate layer black and white.
step 4

Adjust the Saturation down to -100% What this will do is take your new duplicate layer and remove 100% of the color making it Black and White. (REMEMBER! You still have the original color photo underneath!) Step 5

Once this is done you’ll be looking at a black and white version of your photo. Since you still have the color version underneath your freshly new black and white version, all you need to do from here is erase the new layer, exposing the color layer underneath! To do this click on the ERASER tool- Step 6

Make sure your brush is solid and not feathered. The name of the game from here is a steady hand and a sharp eye. The last thing you want to do here is erase a part of the black and white version of your photo, exposing color in a spot where you don’t want it. Do as much as you can in a general way. Step 7

And then zoom in nice and tight to those pesky edges, adjust your brush size and make sure you have that steady hand! If you mess up, no big deal, just hit undo all you’re back at where you started.
Step 8

Zoom out and make sure you’ve got clean lines. Continue to erase any other parts of the photo you want to “pop” out with color.
Then… BOO YA!
Finished Product

You got yerself one dang artistic photograph.

October 24, 2008

Photoshop Deletion

Filed under: Photoshop Deletion, Photoshop Tutorials, Week Two — cabenelson @ 8:08 am


When I take photos I usually have a pretty good idea of what I want the photo to look like even before I snap the picture. I’ll visualize what I want based on composition, lighting, color, subjects etc. I usually won’t vary from the actual photo once it’s taken. Other times I really have no idea what I’m doing! In looking through the view finder of my camera, I know I will like certain parts of the shot but as for the image as a whole, it’s not what I want. I guess more than anything I search for potential every time I look through my camera. If I feel/see that the image could have potential I’ll snap away. And most of the time, if I don’t have a good idea of what I wanted to get out of the picture to begin with, ideas usually start coming to me once I open the image up in Photoshop.

With this image in particular I loved the couple walking on the beach, not holding hands or anything romantic/cheesy, just walking close together. I loved the lighting, the ocean, the red rocks behind, the greenery on top and most of all their reflection. I loved the composition of the shot and the fact that both of them were wearing a similar orange. But as it is right now, it wasn’t an image I 100% loved. One big feel I wanted to come across with this photo was a feeling of solitude. Just two people and a large beach. However, with over half a dozen people in the shot (as well as their beach crap) it was going to be impossible to come across with that feeling of solitude. Parts of me felt like walking up to each of the people in the shot and ask them, “Could you please move? Yes. Who am I? Well, I’m a part-time amateur photographer who will use this photo for no reason other than to post this on my extremely small don’t call it a blog- blog. Now please move your crap, you’re in my shot!” and then I’d shout, “DON’T YOU KNOW WHO I AM!?”

Instead I use a series of fairly easy techniques in Photoshop to remove anything undesired and to come across with the feeling I want to. After my usual touch-ups (Brightness/contrast, levels, color variations, saturation etc) I zoom in on the people/objects I want to “delete” from this photo. I select the “Rubber Stamp” tool and change my brush size to match. It’s imperative that if you do this you need to select a stamp that is faded on around it so that it feathers out the image and doesn’t look so blatantly photoshoped. Hold down the Alt button and click with your mouse on the area you want the deleted space to be filled with. Think of it more as in taking a section of the picture close by and simply covering up the undesired object with it. It’s extremely simple to do; the hard part comes with blending it in so it doesn’t look fake.



October 20, 2008


Filed under: Burn Tool, Photoshop Tutorials, Week Two — cabenelson @ 11:11 pm

Last year Kim and I went on what was one of my favorite drives. I don’t remember why we decided to do it other than we were fairly new to California and wanted to go explore. However, I’m sure that the whole thing was well documented by my wife. HERE
(Seriously, I love my wife. She has helped me so much with this “Don’t call it a Blog… Blog” and she’s just an amazing woman, I’m serious when I say that without her I would be living in a forest naked, with Bear of course, eating berries). Before you throw up with either the mental image of me naked or me publicly gushing over my wife, I’ll get back to the photos.

We stopped at an old Spanish cemetery and snapped a bunch of pics. I did some basic photo work on this one. I am a believer that sometimes it’s the little things in a photo that make the biggest difference.


Cemetary 3

This photo is a good example of my favorite Photoshop function, the Burn Tool. This allows you to darken 3 different shades of the picture (Highlights, Midtones, Shadows) with different amounts of intensity. If you look closely I spent about 20 minutes or so burning the lettering in the headstones to make them more pronounced and also the designs in the headstones. Focusing on bringing the little things to the viewer’s eye can genuinely make a big difference.

October 17, 2008

Fall Moon

Filed under: Photoshop Tutorials, Rubber Stamp Tool, Week One — cabenelson @ 6:56 am

Winter Moon

Okay, so maybe I use Photoshop to manipulate more of my photos than I had originally thought! Going through my photo album this morning, I realized that in order to get some of the shots I wanted I absolutely had to Photoshop the image. I found a good example of an image that I could envision in my mind completely but I was unable to capture, despite my best camera trickery.

For this photo, I knew that I wanted to frame the picture with both the pine tree and the empty branches. I also wanted to capture the color (or shade) of the gray sky. It was just one of those shades that struck the mood and would have been a photo killer if I couldn’t get it right. I absolutely wanted that feel especially against the main subject in the photo, the moon. The problem was that my camera (or the photographer) wasn’t able to pick up the details in the face of the moon without over exposing the shade of gray meant to establish the tone of the photo. After over 20 shots at different settings without any success, this seemed nearly impossible to do.

I could have one…
Correct Background

Or I could have the other…
Correct Moon

At this point I pretty much knew that in order to get the picture I had envisioned, I would need to do a Photoshop swap. This is where you intentionally take the two entirely separate photos in the hopes of combining elements from both, into one super photo! I simply opened up both photos in Photoshop and moved the moon over to my photo with the correct shades of grey. This was accomplished by lassoing the moon (sounds so stupid) and creating a new layer on my background photo. I simply moved the moon over and rubberstamped the perimeter of the moon to blend it in. 10 bucks says that if you scroll up to see the finished photo again, you see it entirley differnt now that you know the moon was faked.

My point is that sometimes you need to “tweak” the photos that you have in order to create the photo you want.

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