Make Your Color Grading LUTs More Powerful With This Hidden Photoshop Trick

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“Colin Smith shows a cool hack to split LUTS into color and tone, so you have more control over them than normal. Color grade your photos in photoshop and change the color or brightness of the presets.”
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4 Ways To Crop Your Images – Crop, Distort, Retouch

Deciding what’s in the frame and what’s out is a critical decision that can make or break an image. You can look at it very simply. What is an image of? What is an image not of? And how does what’s left over support or distract from the essence of an image?

In the past we had two simple options; one, use the frame to crop; two, crop when printing or post-processing. Now we have two more options to think about; three, distort; four, retouch. Each of these offers different possibilities and becoming familiar with them all will help you choose.

It’s a new mindset. Once you learn to see in these new ways, you’ll find you’ll make images that you previously passed by, leaving them unmade or even unnoticed. As a result, you’ll make many more successful images.

Classic crops eliminate the most information

Crop

You’ve got choices. Choose wisely.

One – Crop Before Exposure

Use the frame to eliminate distracting information around a subject(s). Take extra care with image information that touches the frame, as it will draw extra attention. If part of an object is eliminated by the frame make sure what’s left looks deliberate - just a sliver lopped off or a sliver left over seems careless. Once you’ve made your exposure, you’re committed. You can crop more but you can’t uncrop. When in doubt, shoot both tight and loose.

Two – Crop After Exposure

Shoot loose (more than you need) and you’ll preserve your ability to refine a composition during post-processing, testing, and comparing many variations, even over extended periods of time, before settling on a final solution. Doing this will take more time but you will gain precision.

Distorted to fill the frame

Distort

Distorting photographs is widely practiced. But most photographers tend to think of their limited use of distortion as having produced no distortion. In fact, every lens distorts in its own way, some more than others, like wide-angle lenses. Lens profiles are designed to correct for lens distortion during post-processing by ‘undistorting’.

Many people think they aren’t distorting their photographs when in fact they are doing it on most of their images in multiple ways, first by using a lens, second by using a lens profile, and sometimes third by creating panoramas. Why are these practices more acceptable than using distortion and retouching as a part of your cropping practices? In the end, it’s your choice.

You can push one or more sides of an image outside its frame and achieve similar results to cropping. What’s different here is that the proportions of the objects and spaces left within the frame will change, typically getting taller or wider, usually only a little but potentially a lot.

You’ve got options. Test them before you settle on your final solution.

One - Transform

Use Photoshop’s Edit > Transform to distort an image uniformly. To move an entire side, hold the Shift key to move one side without moving the others.  And/or, to move one corner independently, press the Command key before moving a corner point.

(To do this an image’s Background Layer needs to be a Smart Object or a duplicate layer.)

Two - Content-Aware Scale

Use Photoshop’s Edit > Content-Aware Scale to distort an image non-uniformly – smooth areas will expand or contract more than textured areas. Pull the areas you wish to crop outside the frame. Hold the Shift key while you’re doing this if you wish to change one side more than another and the image’s aspect ratio with it.

(Do this on a duplicate layer. Content-Aware Scale doesn’t work on a Smart Object.)

Three - Warp

Want more localized control? Try Warp. (Edit>Transform>Warp) Warp gives you a grid to adjust more points with. It adds the ability to modify the position of elements not just with the edges but also the insides of the frame. Do this on a duplicate layer or duplicate Smart Object. Warp works on Smart Objects but since it is not a filter so you can’t get the future flexibility of a Smart Filter.

Four - Liquify

You can use the Liquify filter to distort small portions of an image. For instance, moving something in the middle of the edge of a frame off frame without moving the corners. To do this,  go to Filter>Liquify, start with the first tool Forward Warp and use the brush to get the effect you desire. It’s worth exploring the other brushes too as Liquify is a powerful distortion tool.

Distorted to fill the frame

Distorted version with aspect ratio changed afterward

Preserve Or Adjust Aspect Ratio

Both cropping and distortion may or may not change an image’s aspect ratio (the proportions of the frame). Cropping can be set to preserve a set aspect ratio but this puts limits on what’s possible as at least two edges, if not all, are adjusted together. if you adjust one edge separately from the others you’ll change the aspect ratio, for better or worse. But if a specific aspect ratio is important to you (either because the original creates consistency between images or because a new ratio is more expressive), after cropping you can distort the entire frame to the aspect ratio of your choice.


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See What You’re Missing – 2 Ways To Non-Destructive Crops

We’re responsible for everything that’s in the frame. We’re also responsible for everything that’s not in the frame. Deciding what’s in the frame and what’s out is a critical decision that can make or break an image. Framing and cropping are critical. If you miss a key element during framing you’re out of luck. However, if you overcrop you’re not, if you crop non-destructively and you remember to reconsider your crop from time to time. After you crop, you forget what you’re missing. It’s out of sight and out of mind. But it doesn’t have to be.

Lightroom and Photoshop’s crop tools allow you to see the image information you’re missing Here’s how …

In Lightroom, highlight an image and tap R. You’ll see the areas eliminated with a darker overlay. You never lose image information when you use Lightroom. It couldn’t be easier. What’s hard is remembering to do it.

Photoshop also makes almost as easy. First you have to open an image. Then press C (or click on the crop tool). Then click on the Crop tool control handles and you’ll see the missing information, again under a darker overlay. When you use Photoshop, be careful. Unlike in Lightroom, you can eliminate image areas permanently. Here are two ways. One, check the Crop tool’s option Delete Cropped Pixels. Two, flatten the file or merge other layers with the Background layer. You may think this has happened when you first look at a file that has been cropped in Photoshop as when you first click on the crop handles you won’t see the larger canvas but simply drag the right corner of the window out and you’ll see the bigger canvas.

Why would you need to reconsider your crop? To make future improvements as your vision evolves. In the analog darkroom photographers never (almost) cut their negative’s or transparencies. They masked them during printing. This means every time them made new prints they reconsidered their crops. Sometimes, after their seeing matured, they changed their minds – significantly. I’ve witnessed the greats reviewing their top images. One day, Arnold Newman adjusted his crop on his portrait of igor Stravinksy. Another day, my father reconsidered his crop for Running White Deer, making subtle but significant shifts in their final compositions.  Those two images are both dramatically influenced by the way they’re cropped. If the masters do it, you may want to consider doing it too.

Small changes can make big differences. But you won’t think to make them if you don’t see what you’re missing. So make it a habit to reconsider your crops from time to time. It only takes a few moments and if you do, perhaps even your best images will improve.

Read more in my Creative Composition resources.

Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.

3 Tips To Gain Greater Control Of Adobe’s New Neural Filter Colorize

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“Colin Smith gives you 3 tips to make Adobe’s new Neural filter Colorize do exactly what you want it to.”
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Remove Strong Color Casts By Quickly Colorizing Photographs With Photoshop?

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“How to instantly remove an impossible color cast / multiple colored lights in photoshop. Use the Colorize filter in an unexpected way. This new feature in Photoshop 2021 makes it easy to fix colors in photos. Colin Smith walks you through these exciting new features in the latest Adobe Photoshop update. ”

Find out more from Colin Smith at Photoshop Cafe.
Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.

Brand New Photoshop Features That Shouldn’t Even Be Possible

 

“Photoshop June 2021 update has amazing new features. Colorize black and white photos instantly, and automatically. Change focus on a photo instantly, fixed the save a copy and all new features. Colin Smith walks you through these exciting new features in the latest Adobe”

Find out more from Colin Smith at Photoshop Cafe.
Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.

6 Ways To Get Better Shadow & Highlight Detail In Your Photographs

You want your photographs to glow - right? So what’s better than one kind of glow? How about three?

You can get there by not succumbing to the classic temptations to clip shadows and/or highlights to produce a more obviously dramatic but a less lively, nuanced, and expressive tonal scale. Instead, hold the full dynamic range with a real black and white and also create gorgeous separation in the values nearest to them.

So many times we give the lion’s share of the contrast to the midtones. Midtone contrast is really important. But that doesn’t mean we have to sacrifice the light in highlights by making them too hot to look at comfortably or in shadows making them so dark they turn to murky mud. You can hold separation in these extreme ends of the tonal scale and produce beautiful qualities of light that complement not just contrast. Here’s how.


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One Filter To Quickly Remove Most Halos In Photoshop

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“Learn how to easily fix and remove halos easily and fast using a hidden Photoshop slider.”
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Photoshop’s New Filter Depth Blur Helps You Control Depth Of Field

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“Just one slider to Add Background Blur & Shallow Depth of Field! Besides, you can also control where to focus! All of this, in a brand new feature called “Depth Blur” which is a part of Neural Filters in Photoshop. In this video, we will be testing this new feature against a variety of images; from simple single-subject ones to images with random objects or a group photo. In this lesson, we will also learn and discover in what scenario this feature can be useful and how you can make the best out of it, along with some best practices and advanced techniques. We’ll also learn how to use depth maps for better results.”
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A Fast Way To Create Flares In Photoshop | Unmesh Dinda

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“See how you can easily add flares to your photos using Photoshop in this quick tip from Unmesh Dinda of PiXimperfect.”
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