Simple artistic photo retouching tip and resources


Learn photographic Lighting

The trick to doing artistic photo retouching effects is to keep them simple.

In this image, I used an An image from my Organic Vignette package to bring a slight dreamy quality to the image.

I knew what I was looking for when I started, but let me outline the art theory principles behind what I ‘saw’ in my minds eye before I completed the image.


First, hue I knew that I wanted to blend and tie in the warm yellow skin tones, and the blues/purples of the grooms suit and boutonnière. The dreamlike quality of the image comes from the blended and smudged look of the tonalities so their close relationship in Hue is very important. The clever part of my texture sets is their interrelationships within the close Hue relationships-here that close relationship is yellow to orange, with a vignette in the complementary color of blue. Here is the sample image form the texture set for you to see what it looked like:

Organic Vignette Texture Set by Make Light Real


If you notice carefully there is a rim of natural light on the bride’s right cheek – the sunshine was coming through trees near sunset, and the bride and groom had their backs to it. So the overall contrast in the luminance of this photo is not very high – that’s good for applying a lighting effect or texture…because you can trick the viewer more easily. So it’s important to note that I’m starting with an image basically lit by open shade…nice and soft. The Hue of the overlay image is important because I want a unified color theme – but also because it creates a brighter spot of sunlight (of sorts) on her dress. That dapple of bright highlight where her hair ends and the semicircle of her necklace dips rounds out the counterpoint of her smile in the composition.  The rest of the image’s contrast is burned down by the vignette pushing the viewer’s attention to the warm emotional embrace, and the warm sunshine dappled across their embrace.

The simple steps to getting this done in Photoshop is to use a “Hard Light” layer of somewhere between 15-25%.  You want to look to smudge the tones, but not make the texture file in any way prominent to the main  image’s subject matter.

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Free Light Friday – 1/23/09

Blue Bokeh blobs from Deanna’s Lensbaby adventures

Download high resolution image for texture or overlay

Make your sky blue

Make Light Real

And if you don’t think a Lightroom preset or photoshop trick can change the lighting in a photo – watch this:

Original Out of camera image

Original Image

Blue Skies - preset #1

Preset #1 – low power

Color bend method 1 - Blue Skies Presets

Preset #2 – medium power

Power level 2 - Lightroom Blue Skies Presets

Can you see how much more distinct the light coming through the trees is visualized in the photo?

Buy them here:

Blue Skies - Lightroom Preset

Blue Skies – Lightroom Preset – to make your photos $9 better!

Video Tutorial on the Color Blue

Video Tutorial on the Color Blue – take your basic understanding of photoshop and push it into the professional level!

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How to cross light a mountain: Aoraki Mt. Cook New Zealand

his post is in the Thinking Big series combined with a couple other techniques:

Equals how to cross light a mountain!
Aerial overall view
One of the repetitive questions I get from people are – why such a big flash – and why take it all over with you? I suppose it would be like asking someone who works online the whole time why they use a broadband internet connection (, for them the answer is pretty obvious. And it is for me too, it just makes so many more options available.

Quite frankly – this is EXACTLY why!

In my lighting case that I loaded onto the plane in Rochester New York was:

  • 1 Alien Bee 800 Monoblock flash unit
  • 1 Paul C. Buff Vagabond portable power unit and power cord
  • 1 Black Impact Air Cusioned light stand height 230cm (model #SLS-LS8A)
  • 1 Pocketwizard reciever
  • Paul C Buff 11 inch parabolic reflector

Here’s one of the resulting peak moment shots that I try to reach for in my wedding photojournalism. The lighting case was loaded in the helicopter’s coffin gear carrier for the trip up the mountain and across the island. But a large mono-light wasn’t all I had in my arsenal

Of course I want to cover the whole event with variety as well as style so get past the jump and let’s talk details… (more…)

Light Control: turn the sky from white to blue

Before flash:

After Flash:

What does a texture do for an image?

Let’s talk about texture

In response to my release of the Light Touch beginner’s textures, we’re about wisdom here


Can you see what’s happening when I added the texture in the first image?

Can you quantify it in your mind?

If not I recommend taking a read of the classic text “Perception and Imaging” to give yourself a strong backbone in realizing the subtitles and abstractions of what you see.

But let’s try and put our finger on it for a moment with the end in mind – what does a texture do for an image?

In the first image I composed the shot with a piece of the ceremony decor in focus with the bride’s head in the background but out of focus.  The sharp objects are perceived by our eyes as the subject – the blurry or soft things are the ground – upon which the subject ‘rests’ or ‘resides’.  Without separation there is nothing.

So what happens when a texture file with small sharp details is introduced?

Click to enlarge (huge)

In the texture file that I used from the Lighting Overlays Disk 1 set, a focal plane runs through the image with the texture of paper in sharp focus.  In this image where only one small object is in the focal plane the texture adds to the perceived depth of the image by adding more ‘figure’ to the figure/ground relationship.  It appears as though the crystalline beads rest on something as they sway in the breeze.

The second image of the diptych shows the opposite point of focus, but has the same exact texture applied to the image.  Even with my best blue sky photo processing tricks, I couldn’t help the bride’s face rise in perceptual value without some additional lightening or darkening of the sky.  I chose the blue texture file and applied it in overlay blend mode which darkened the sky while increasing saturation.  Here’s the image as it looks straight out of camera raw.

Interesting perspective, but not the same dramatic picture energy as the finished version.  The lighting overlay helps channel the image’s tones into a dramatic and emotionally engaging corner burn (compare the top and bottom right.  The cooling blue effect helps the skin-tones rise in prominence and the overlay blend mode deepens the shadows and brightens the highlights for a stronger dimensional feel to the hazy sunlight.

I hope this discussion brings you deeper understanding on your path to visual wisdom!

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buy downloadable texture files

Catching the color blue, photoshop tutorial

I realized again how much I love the color blue when VFXY had a blue theme week.

Ever wonder why blue is such a wonderful color?

Blue is the hardest color for camera sensors to capture, and the hardest color for CMYK printers to print.

So how we deal with it in Photoshop is of utmost importance.

We’re sitting here on this beautiful blue jewel hanging in the galaxy, wouldn’t it be great if you captured some of that uniqueness in your images?

If you’d like to continue learning about the possibilities to accentuate and control the blue channel, purchase the Beautiful Blues Screen cast Training video.

photoshop tutorial video