Color to black and white conversions are radical transformations of an image. They establish the tonal foundations of a neutral image, creating tonal relationships by determining which areas of an image become light and which are dark. While this process can generate some localized effects (all blues become darker or lighter), this is quite different than selectively lightening and darkening an image to accentuate existing tonal relationships (only select blue areas become darker or lighter). Selectively enhance a tonal structure after conversion, rather than before. Selective enhancement may yield dramatic results.

Here are two ways.


Method 1

Create a new layer set to a blend mode of Overlay. Use an appropriately-sized soft-edged brush. Paint with black to darken and white to lighten. Vary the opacity of the brush to control the intensity of the effect – lower is less, higher is more. If you’re not sure what percentage to use, it’s very rare that you will be when you first begin enhancing an image, take this approach.

Paint areas with a single broad stroke and use the Fade command (Edit: Fade or Shift: Command/Control: F) to modify Opacity. (Ignore the option to change Blend Mode; this is rarely helpful and far too complex.) This allows you to determine opacity visually with a dynamic preview and generates a smoother effect. Additionally, opacity can be reduced to 0% to eliminate the effect. Note that you can only Fade the last stroke made, so until you determine a precise opacity, fade each stroke after making it. Once you know the opacity desired for a given area you can set the brush to that opacity and continue painting without fading.

If you find you’d like to reduce the effect use a soft-edged eraser, at any percentage. This way you can selectively reduce or eliminate the effect.

Use the opacity of the Brush and Eraser tools to control the opacity of the effect. If you use the Opacity of the layer to limit one part of the effect you’ll limit the effect of all areas and won’t be able to generate a stronger effect.


Method 2

Selectively lightening and darkening with an Overlay layer generates stronger or weaker variations of a simple contrast response. If you’d like to generate a more specific contrast response, use another method. Roughly select an area; create a Curves adjustment layer that generates a specific contrast response; blur the layer mask; refine the mask with a soft-edged brush. This will allow you to precisely modify brightness and contrast. Just as the effect can become more complex, so can your layer stack when you use this method. It will generate multiple adjustment layers. (File them in a Group.) For instance, you cannot lighten and darken with a single layer and you’ll need two adjustment layers for different types of contrast. That said, no other method delivers the same precision.

Use the first method for basic moves (and industrial strength problems in dark shadows and bright highlights). Use the second method for very precise moves.

Periodically turn off these effect layers to monitor your progress. You’ll be amazed at how quickly and dramatically you can enhance an image.

Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.

Learn more in my Black & White Mastery workshop.

Read more about black & white photography here.


Awareness of the distortions produced by angle of view and lens choice is the beginning of using them creatively. Curiously, permission is the beginning of using distortion in post-processing creatively. Many people have been told that it’s inappropriate to do so. Why? Why accept an unintended mechanical by-product, but not a consciously intended effect? Why take such a powerful tool for expression off the table? Even the subtlest applications of distortion can produce powerful results. Once you understand what kinds of distortions are possible during post-processing, you may even find yourself changing your angle of view during exposure.

There are many reasons why you might want to distort an image. Here are four:

1. Correct optical distortion that can be produced by many things, including lens choice, angle of view, motion, panoramic stitches, etc. You can choose to make the selection of a wide-angle lens less about distortion and more about including more.

2. Modify proportion; adjust the height and/or width of objects and/or areas. Just for starters, take off the 10 pounds that the camera adds on.

3. Change proximity; reduce or increase the spaces between objects. Make things feel more or less related.

4. Enhance or change gesture; make a leaning object more tilted or straighten it out. Think of this as adding the words “very” or “less” into a sentence.

When exploring the many distortion tools in Photoshop, you’ll find that the Liquify filter is one of the most powerful. The Liquify filter is so powerful that, when in use, it offers its own toolbar and menus, somewhat like Camera Raw. To get the most of the Liquify filter, it’s worth taking the full tour …

Read all the details on Digital Photo Pro.

Photoshop’s sophisticated distortion capabilities are relatively new to photography and so is the mind-set of using them to photographers. Both are worth acquiring. Everyone can find a use for them, at one time or another, if not on every image. As every photographer uses distortion to one degree or another, ultimately what separates photographers is not whether they use distortion, but when, how and why they use it. The same tools can be used to achieve entirely different effects. There’s a world of difference between using distortion to remove process artifacts for more accurate representations, using distortion to aesthetically refine the formal qualities of images and using distortion to expressively interpret subjects. Intent is everything. Practice is a reflection of intent. Simply asking yourself how far you are and aren’t willing to go and, finally, why, will help clarify yours. Consider these questions seriously, and you’ll find your vision will grow stronger and clearer.

Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.

9_4Blended copy

OPTIC 2015 featured dynamic presentations by the world’s top outdoor photographers and gear from the premier manufacturers over three days in New York City brought to you by B&H and Lindblad Expeditions.

Couldn’t attend in person or want to review at your own pace? Now you can view all the presentations of your favorite speakers from the conference.

I presented tips and strategies For Mastering Color In Photoshop. Watch it and you’ll get a taste for the artistic perspective and advanced color adjustment strategies I offer in my digital photography and digital printing workshops. You’ll see in new ways.

View Mastering Color In Photoshop here.

Incubation X


Wouldn’t it be great if you could selectively adjust colors based on how saturated they are in Photoshop? You can! How? With a free plug-in Adobe provides called Multiplugin; it hasn’t been updated since Photoshop CS5, but it still works with current versions.

Why Would You Want To Do This?

Do you have images where semi-neutrals aren’t saturated enough, but you don’t want other colors to get too saturated? Select the less saturated colors before adjusting them. Do you have images where you’d like to reduce the saturation of very saturated colors without affecting other levels of saturation? Select the more saturated colors before adjusting them. You even can select colors with medium saturation, separating them from both the high and low range of saturation. Using this technique, you can produce subtle color effects that aren’t possible with any other method.

Saturation masks aren’t for saturation adjustments only. This simple selection/mask can be used with any color adjustment tool in Photoshop, greatly expanding your ability to adjust color. Imagine adjusting the lightness and/or hue of high, medium or low ranges of saturation independently of one another.

Read more here.

Download Adobe’s free Multiplugin here. Mac or PC.

Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.

Resonance in Blue and Gold IA

Originally designed for color grading film and video, Photoshop’s Color Lookup feature offers novel ways to adjust color that will quickly reveal new possibilities in your images. Capable of performing extremely complex calculations extraordinarily efficiently, color lookup tables (LUTs) work by looking up a source color in a table and using the replacement color specified in the grid to transform it for the final destination.

Like Match Color and Gradient Map adjustments (See my last two articles for Digital Photo Pro.) the color effects Color Lookup generates are so complex they are not easy to previsualize. Like anything new, this takes practice. And these are new! Experiment and you’ll find many rich possibilities. Unlike Match Color, Color Lookup is loaded with presets that will allow you to quickly explore many different effects, ones that are far more sophisticated than Gradient Map presets. In this way, using them can be as easy as using many smartphone app effects.

You can also generate your own Color Lookup presets. To do this create a color effect you like with any with any combination of adjustments layers, Opacity and Fill, Blend If sliders, blend modes. (Layer masking and transparency will not be included, because alpha channel information in alpha channels is not included in the recipe.) Then go to File: Export: Color Lookup Table, name the file, and click OK. (I recommend the titles you give your presets include the color space you created them in.) These files are stored in Photoshop’s Presets folder or if they’re saved as ICC profiles in your operating systems Profiles folder. You can now use your custom preset at any time on almost any file by making a Color Lookup adjustment layer and choosing your preset. You can share your custom Color Lookups with others by giving them these exported files. Color LUTs created in Photoshop can even be used in other programs such as After Effects, Premiere, SpeedGrade and other applications that use color LUTs.

Using Photoshop’s Color Lookup you can choose to create color effects as subtle or dramatic as you like. This game-changing color adjustment tool may seem exotic at first because it offers a new way of thinking about and seeing in color. Once you become more familiar with this mindset you’ll truly begin to see with new eyes. Isn’t that what it’s all about?

Read more on Digital Photo Pro.

Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.



Whether used subtly or dramatically, Photoshop’s Gradient Map color adjustment tool can open up new ways of seeing and working with color for any artist. Photoshop’s Gradient Map assigns new colors to existing brightness values. With it, you can enhance existing colors, transfer colors from one image to another or create entirely new color relationships. It can be wild!

The Gradient Map interface looks difficult to use, but with a few pointers, you’ll find it surprisingly easy to use. While you can apply a Gradient Map directly to a layer (Images > Adjustments > Gradient Map), I recommend you apply Gradient Maps as adjustment layers (Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Gradient Map) to take advantage of both the greater flexibility and control you’ll gain over the final effect.

Once activated, there are a number of default presets you can experiment with, but it’s most likely that you’ll want to create your own. Simply click on an existing gradient in the Properties panel to activate the Gradient Editor. Click New. Click at the bottom of the gradient to add new colors. A pointer will appear; double-click it or the Color box to choose a color. You can move the pointer to direct the color into different tonal values. (Move left to target darker values and right to target lighter values. Alternately, enter a new number in the Location field.) The diamonds left and right of it will control how each color fades into surrounding colors. You can add dozens of different pointers/colors, but for most applications, I recommend you restrain yourself to as few as possible. You can delete a pointer/color by clicking on it and clicking Delete or by pressing the Delete key. When you create an effect you’d like to use more than once, type a Name and click Save; you can easily store, retrieve and share these GRD files.

The color effects you can generate with the Gradient Map are so powerful and so varied, you simply must spend a little time experimenting with it to truly understand both how far you can go and how subtle you can get. Consider this kind of visual research time well spent.

After you’re done experimenting, then it’s time to deliver. Working with the Gradient Map often takes a little finessing. You’re likely to be a little disappointed if you try and get the perfect colors with the Gradient Map alone. You can spend a great deal of time picking and re-picking colors until you get it just right. Instead, try working more broadly, getting close to a desired effect and then fine-tuning the results.

Read details on how to do this on Digital Photo Pro.

Once you’ve mastered the interface, the real challenge begins—visualizing color possibilities. Previsualization can only go so far; instead, use software as a tool for visualization. Instead of rushing to a single finished result, I prefer to work on multiple copies of an image to make side-by-side comparisons of a set of variations. The possibilities are seemingly so limitless that you must perform experiments to find the best solution. If your experiments are both targeted and iterative, you’ll generate many solutions that are more likely to be optimum.

Here, a little color theory can be useful. Use dark colors in shadows and light colors in highlights; otherwise, you may posterize or solarize. Use analogous colors (similar color families) to create transitions; transitions between complementary colors tend to get muddy. Variations on earth tones work well for both realistic and antique effects. Variations on warm colors can add intensity, even fire. Variations on cool colors can generate nocturnal and even aquatic effects.

Photoshop’s Gradient Map is an exotic color adjustment tool that can be a real game changer. If you truly understand the possibilities this tool opens up, you’ll have learned to see in new ways. What could be more valuable?

Read more at Digital Photo Pro.

Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.


 How was this effect created? See the illustrations below.

Little explored and capable of opening up whole new frontiers in color adjustment, Photoshop’s Match Color is a tool every user should be aware of, even if it’s only to know what’s possible.

There are three primary reasons to consider using Match Color.

1  – Match two colors exactly.  

(Match the color of one object to another.)

2  – Remove strong color casts.    

(It’s great for neutralizing underwater casts.)

3  – Creatively apply the color in one image to another.

(This will blow your mind!)

A few tips will help you make the most of this fascinating tool …

Read the rest of this post on Digital Photo Pro.

Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.




 New colors


Tool used


Photoshop CC’s recent addition to its Blur Gallery, Path Blur offers a creative and flexible way to add directional motion to your images in postproduction.

The Blur Gallery now has five effects (Field Blur, Iris Blur, Tilt-Shift, Path Blur and Spin Blur) that can be controlled from a single panel. Once you’ve accessed one, you can quickly access the others at the same time, enabling you to create complex blur effects in a single stop. Path Blur alone is capable of delivering lots of complex motion effects with one simple path. It’s likely it will change the way you expose, encouraging you to be more experimental. It even may open a window into a whole new way of seeing for you. It’s astonishing! You’ve got to try it to believe it—and to truly understand it.

Read all the details on Digital Photo Pro.

Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.


Learn how to make the most of your images!

Come join us for a 3 day no-holds-barred seminar on digital image processing led by two long-time industry leaders!

Demonstrations will include essential new features you need to know about in Lightroom 5 and Photoshop CC. Master the most advanced cataloging, keywording, searching, and filtering capabilities of Lightroom. Learn best practices for using Lightroom at home, on the road, and even on a network. See how you can efficiently share your images in slideshows, web galleries, social networks and print. You’ll know what to do in Lightroom and what to do in Photoshop, when to do it, and how to move back and forth seamlessly between the two.

We’ll cover all the ins and outs of developing Raw files. You’ll see what every slider in Lightroom’s Develop Module / Adobe Camera Raw does. And then we’ll show you how to double process and even use Camera Raw as a filter allowing you to use all of Photoshop’s advanced masking capabilities. You’ll see two top pros process their own files and each other’s files.

You’ll be dazzled by game-changing multi-shot processing techniques – including HDR, panorama, focus-stacking and more. You’ll be wowed by our creative uses of Photoshop’s most advanced sharpening and blurring tools. Witness the most advanced color adjustment strategies you’ll find anywhere. Combine them with the most sophisticated selections and masks to master the interpretive art of dodging and burning.

You’ll be able to take your files to a whole new level!

Register now!



These 21 photographers have bundled together 39 different photography products; including training, tools, and much more.

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