Tag Archives: plugins

Liberate Your Art

Sometimes I am asked if an image was edited with Adobe Photoshop. My answer is almost always yes, at least to some degree. To be well-rounded in your photographic skills these days, it is important to sharpen your camera skills, management of light, AND editing your images on the computer.

I work with all of my images using Adobe Lightroom, and then for some of those images, I take them a step further and use Adobe Photoshop to enhance them. I also use a variety of great plugins from companies like Topaz Labs, Google Nik Software, Alien Skin Software, and others.

In this photograph, I’ll break down the main sections where I edited the image using various tools. My model’s name is Vanessa. She was absolutely wonderful to work with.

Here are the areas that were modified from the original image.

First I tweaked the overall image light levels just a little bit in Adobe Lightroom. My camera exposure settings were pretty much perfect already, so I didn’t have to adjust the image very much.

A. In these areas, I made some Photoshop edits. I added the fake ball of light using the Photoshop Filter->Render->Lens Flare option. Then there was a clothes pin holding the fabric that I had to remove with the Photoshop Clone Stamp tool and the Healing Brush.

B. I did a little smoothing of her skin using Nik Color Efex Pro‘s Dynamic Skin Softener Tool.  Vanessa didn’t really need much smoothing because her complexion was already wonderful.

C. I used my Topaz Glow plugin from Topaz Labs just to enhance Vanessa’s hair and the fabric ever so slightly.  I also used Topaz Glow to modify the ball of light to have a more unusual look.

D. I dropped in a different background using Photoshop Layers and Layer Masks, just to further mix things up and just to give the photo a bit different look from the original studio shot.

Here is the original photo, as shot in my studio (note the clothes pin)

There are an infinite number of options for how you might edit any photograph. This is really a lot of fun, once you learn how to use Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop and explore some of the many plugins.

I encourage you to not get “stuck” in just one aspect of photography. Explore your creativity. Challenge yourself technically. Experiment with different lighting techniques.  Improve your photo editing skills. Dare to liberate yourself to create art, not just photographs.

Happy Photography

Kevin Gourley


So You Think You’re Finished

I am a proponent for getting the shot right in the camera as much as possible.  Get the exposure right. Get the depth of field right. Get the shutter speed right. Get the lighting right. The result will be a better photograph!

That doesn’t mean your job is necessarily done after firing the shutter and capturing the image. So much of the fun of digital photography is the step that comes next. Granted it takes a bit of creativity and (even more-so) a mastery of the various software tools available. I highly encourage you to take the time to learn powerful tools like Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom. Explore the various plugins currently available. Push yourself to go beyond just taking the photograph. Use your digital editing skills to make art!

Since you can do so much with a digital photograph to edit and enhance it, or perhaps even totally change it, sometimes it is hard to say “I am finished with this photograph.” The more proficient you become with your photo editing skills,  you will discover new ways to edit your old photographs. You can even combine different photographs taken at different times with different cameras. 

Here are a few examples:

Here is an original image, as shot in-camera. It already is a good starting point. Nice dramatic light.  Nice composition.

The photo really is a good starting point.  I could just crop it a little bit, and it would be fine as-is.  But, when I was shopping recently, I noticed a placemat that looked interesting, so I took a photo of it with my iPhone:

Then, with a little Photoshop “magic”, using layers, layer masks, blend modes, etc., I replaced the background with the placemat, just darkened a bit.

photoshop. post processing, dramatic portrait

The point is, you can create all kinds of variations from an original image and it is a lot of fun just seeing what you can create.  Be creative. Open your mind to use most anything as a possible background.

Use the tools at your disposal, Lightroom, Photoshop, and various plugins to enhance images. Don’t be afraid to combine images shot with a DSLR with images that were shot with an iPhone.

I created one other variation from the same original image. I cropped in much tighter and then used a plugin from Topaz Labs, called ‘Topaz Glow‘.  (At only $69.99, Topaz Glow is a great tool to have on hand.) Here are the results:

topaz labs, topaz glow, plugin, photoshop

Or here is another example. In this case, I started with an image created in my studio during one of the Studio Lighting Workshops I teach. (Actually, ALL of these were shot by me while teaching a Studio Lighting Workshop.)

portrait, dramatic

I then went back through some old photographs I had taken years ago with a different camera while traveling through Austria and Germany. I found an image among those that would work well in merging the portrait above.

With a little Photoshop editing, blending, masking, etc., here is the result:

Here’s one more example. This image was also shot in my studio:

dramatic portrait

I then grabbed this image from one of the photos from my Austria/Germany travels:

Then I combined the two images:

dramatic portrait

Really, once you have taken the photograph, the fun has only just begun.

Here are some of the tools you should check out for photo management, editing, and enhancement:

  • Adobe Lightroom
  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Topaz Labs Software
    hey make a wide range of products for image enhancement and excellent artistic effects. My students get 15% off Topaz Labs products!
  • Alien Skin Software
    They also make a wide range of products for image enhancement and excellent artistic effects. In fact, their Exposure X2 software might be an alternative for you to consider if you just don’t want to use Adobe Lightroom. My students get 10% off Alien Skin products!
  • Google Nik Collection
    A collection of great software for photo enhancement, and it is TOTALLY FREE! Available on Mac or PC.
  • Macphun Luminar
    A powerful photo editor.  Mac only. My students get 10% off.
  • If any of you are experimenting with HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography, make sure you check out:
    • Photomatix by HDRsoft
      Runs on Macs and PC’s. My students get %25 off their products.
    • AuroraHDR by Macphun
      Runs on Macs only. My students get 10% off their products.
    One other alternative way to have fun with your images is to create a slide show!  Check out ProShow Producer by Photodex (for PC’s). Or ProShow Web which works on any platform.
  • Ready to make PRINTS from your great photographs?
    Check out Color Inc Pro Labs. They do excellent work, plus my students get special discounts!

Want to Learn More About Photo Editing (or Photography)?

I occasionally teach classes on Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop and many other topics. Make sure you are subscribed to my email list so you’ll be notified as I add more classes.

I also offer private instruction on almost all photographic topics. We could set up sessions where I just teach you what you need to know the most, to get you started.

Happy Picture Taking (and Editing)!

Kevin Gourley


Alien Skin Software: Exposure X2

First, I have to make a clear confession.  I am a proficient Adobe Lightroom user, and don’t have much experience with Exposure X2 from Alien Skin Software.  BUT I just took Exposure X2 out for a “test drive” and thought it was worthy of pointing out this nifty program to you all.   Yes, Exposure X2 can be used as a plugin from Lightroom, but it also can be used as a standalone program.

If you have experience with Adobe Lightroom, the first thing that you’ll notice is the incredible similarity of much of the user interface. With some portions of the program, you’ll almost feel like you are using Lightroom!  In spite of it feeling sort of like Lightroom, it’s definitely not Lightroom. Exposure X2 has an impressive set of photo adjustment tools built in.

You’ll quickly notice that there are not different “modules” for managing and organizing that are separate from the developing and editing of the images.  Unlike in Lightroom, it is all kept together in one interface.  That has some advantages.  Also, as soon as you start using Exposure X2, you might notice that you immediately have access to ALL of the images on your computer.  There is no need to first “import” them. They are just there ready to be edited when you open a folder.

When you do any editing, remember that Exposure X2 still does “non-destructive editing”, meaning that it doesn’t really change the image until you export it.  (Believe me, thats a good thing.) And it works handily with RAW and other image formats. As you look over the editing capabilities, you will see a range of additional tools not found in Lightroom, such as overlays of really cool borders, light effects such as flames and flare, infrared simulation, simulated bokeh adjustments, and a variety of textures.

All of these additional built-in editing tools make Exposure X2 still useful as a plugin in Lightroom even if you don’t use it as a full Lightroom replacement.  But keep in mind it is indeed a fully capable standalone program.  Just note that if you were to make a complete transition from Lightroom to only use Exposure X2, Exposure X2 will not automatically know about the edits that reside within the Lightroom catalog.  So even though the interfaces look similar, it does not mean it’s an instant switch to quit using Lightroom and switch fully over to Exposure X2.

As I mentioned, Exposure X2 is capable of browsing any drive or folder to view and edit images without having to use any sort of ‘import’ operation.  Its response is pretty snappy when you browse to a folder it hasn’t viewed before. Exposure X2 appears to be a well designed program, not just in its user interface, but “under the hood” with fast efficient processing of images, which you really need when you work with thousands of images.

OH and one last point. You can also use Exposure X2 as a plugin from Photoshop!  That is really cool because if you are proficient in Photoshop, you can use layers to mask in Exposure X2 effects in portions of an image or mix and blend the effects, further enhancing the value of using Exposure X2 as a handy tool in your bag of tricks along with other plugins and tools.

Check out Alien Skin Software and see if their software or plugins might be a fit for your photography workflow!



P.S.  My students get a generous 10% OFF Alien Skin Software!  Thank you Alien Skin!

Happy Photo Editing!

Kevin Gourley