Category Archives: Tutorial

An Obscure, But Useful Toning Option for HDR Photos

The Diffuse filter is very subtle option in the Stylize set.  It may take a few passes to be noticed (especially on a hi-res photo). It attempts to diffuse an image to make the selection look less focused. This can work well to create areas of distress in a photo (especially when combined with blending modes).

1. Select the layer in the Layers panel.

The original image – © Richard Harrington

2. Choose Filter > Convert for Smart Filters.

3. Choose Filter > Stylize > Diffuse.

4. Choose a method from the window.

  • Normal moves pixels randomly
  • Darken Only replaces light pixels with darker pixels
  • Lighten Only replaces dark pixels with lighter pixels
  • Anisotropic shuffles pixels toward the direction of least change in color

For this example, I used Darken Only.

5. Press Command+F (Ctrl+F) to repeat the filter.

The edges are roughened and many details are darkened

For this example, I applied it three times.

6. Blend each filter by clicking the blending arrow in the Layers panel.

Double-click the blending arrows to access blending modes and fade options

7. Change the mode and opacity for the first filter instance.

Use Mode and Opacity to refine the effect

Options like Multiply, Overlay, or Soft Light tend to work well.

8. Repeat as needed for other instances

The blended filter creates both a pop in contrast and an organic distressing to image details

The Shutter Matters When Shooting Time-lapse

© scyther5 / iStockphoto

The shutter speed has an affect on your exposure when shooting time-lapse motion (and can serve as an additional exposure control). When shooting under bright light, you’ll keep the time the shutter is open very short.  For low-light you’re going to need to open things up a bit.

However, shutter speed much more significant than just exposure control. The decision to use a short or long shutter can have considerable impact on the quality of motion in your image.

A short shutter (1/125 or faster) depicts motion that is sharp and staccato in its movement.

A longer shutter (1/30 or less) progressively elongates and stretches movement. This is the effect you see when the brake lights of cars appear as long streaks on a highway or running water seems fluid and without detail.

Short and long shutter speeds are techniques you use in your still photography, and they can work in time-lapse photography to stunning effect.

Use a Photo Filter inside Photoshop

Traditional Photo Filers – Sergpet | iStockphoto

Chances are you’ve used glass filters on your camera lens to solve a problem. These can be used to “cool” or “warm” a picture, or to add special effects. Since Photoshop often tries to simulate or correct for steps not taken in the field, the addition of Photo Filters was a logical evolution for Photoshop.

These are  “real-time,” color-correction options that require ZERO rendering.  You’ll find a total of  20 different adjustments that simulate traditional colored glass filters. Besides the built-in presets, you can also choose custom colors from the Photo Filter interface using the standard Color Picker.

The Most Useful Photo Filters

These are the photo filters I find myself using most frequently.

  • Warming Filter (85 and LBA) and Cooling Filter (80 and LBB). These adjustment layers are meant to even out photos that were not properly white balanced. The Cooling Filter (80 or LBB) makes images bluer to simulate cooler ambient light. The Warming Filter (85 or LBA) makes images warmer to simulate hotter ambient light.
  • Warming Filter (81) and Cooling Filter (82). These adjustment layers are similar to the previous filters but cast a more pronounced color. The Warming Filter (81) makes the photo more yellow, and the Cooling Filter (82) makes the photo bluer.
  • Individual Colors. The Photo Filter also has 14 preset colors to choose from. These can be used for two primary purposes: to add a complementary color to a scene to remove color cast or for stylistic reasons.

Put Them in Action

Let’s try applying a Photo Filter adjustment layer:

The original photo | ©Richard Harrington

1. Open a file that doesn’t have the right “temperature” or mood.

2. Click the Photo Filter icon in the Adjustments panel.

3. In the Filter area, choose Cooling Filter (80) to adjust the temperature of the photo.


The sky and the image should be “bluer.” You can adjust the Density slider to control the intensity of the effect.

The final image is cooled down | ©Richard Harrington

Enhancing Details with Adobe Camera Raw

You can use the Details tab in the Adobe Camera Raw dialog to really enhance your photos.  This works great if you’d like to create custom settings for your raw files before you run the HDR or Photomerge commands. The Detail tab offers precise control over both sharpening an image as well as reducing noise.  All raw images will need some sharpening.  Noise on the other hand may not appear unless the image was shot with a high ISO setting or under low light.

1.  Open a raw image with Adobe Photoshop.  The Camera raw dialog will open.

2. Double-click the Zoom tool in the top toolbar to switch to 100% magnification.It’s easier to accurately judge both sharpening and noise at a 100% view.

3.  Click the Details tab. In the Detail tab, you can adjust sharpening to bring out fine image details.

  • Amount – Increases definition at the edges of an image.  Use a lower amount for a cleaner image. When you open the file, Camera Raw plug-in calculates the settings to use based on camera model, ISO, and exposure compensation.
  • Radius Use a low number for fine detail and a higher number if the photo lacks much detail.
  • Detail Controls how much high-frequency information is sharpened in the image and how the edges are emphasized.
  • Masking – This controls the edge of the mask.  Using a value of zero means that everything receives the same amount of sharpening.  A higher number will limit the sharpening to those areas near the strongest edges.

An easy way to tell how much masking to use is to hold down the Option (Alt) key while dragging.  White areas will be sharpened while black areas are ignored (masked).  Try this out, hold down the Option (Alt) key and drag slowly to the right.  A value of 50 seems to be the right balance for this image.

4. Noise reduction controls let you remove extra grain from the image.

  • Luminance – Reduces luminance noise. Set this to 10 for this image (it’s not very noisy).
  • Luminance Detail – This sets a threshold for the noise reduction. Higher values preserve detail but can produce noisier results. Lower values tend to produce cleaner results but likely remove some detail.
  • Luminance Contrast – This option works best for very noisy photos.
  • Color – Reduces color noise.
  • Color Detail – Use a higher value to protect detailed edges.  A lower value preserves more color, but can result in color bleeding.

5.   Toggle the check box for Preview to see the before and after states.

Exporting to Video From Photoshop Extended

Whether you’re making slide shows with your HDR or panoramic images or doing time lapse, you may need (or even create) video. One of Photoshop Extended’s greatest abilities is to work with video files.  While you can open a video file in the same way that you would any photograph, you need to save the files in a special way.

1.    Preview your video file or animation Before you export your video or animation, you should watch it playback in real time.  This is a great way to check your file before you export it.  Make sure the Animation (Timeline) panel is visible (Window > Animation).  Then click the Play button. The animation first caches, then plays back in realtime.

2.    Render the video Creating a video file requires that Photoshop render the effects applied to the video clip and process the animation frames.  To start the process, choose File > Export > Render Video.
3. Specify Output. You’ll need to specify several options in the Render Video dialog box.  First enter a name, then specify a location for the file.
4.    Choose a format and size Photoshop can write several different file formats for video. Click the QuickTime Export pop-up menu to choose from options like QuickTime, Flash, Windows Media, or others. You can click the Settings button to choose advanced export options for each format. Click the size pop-up menu to choose an output size that matches your needs.
5.    Choose how much to export In the Range section you choose how much of the video to export.  You can choose to render all frames or just a selected range.

6.    Need more control? If your file contains transparency, you can use the Alpha Channel option to specify how the embedded transparency should be handled. You can also use the Frame Rate pop-up to specify a playback speed.  It’s generally best to leave this set to the default value of Document Frame Rate.
7.    Write the file Give the Render Video dialog box a once over to check your settings.  When ready, click the Render button to write the file. Photoshop processes the animation and places the file in the targeted location.


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