Before and After Image

By Amy Horn

During a recent visit at the Wildlife World Zoo in Litchfield Park, AZ, I captured this monkey photo in mid-afternoon light. I loved the moment when the monkey walked across the log, but didn’t feel the mid-afternoon light added to the photo. I couldn’t go back later, so I thought about what would make a stronger image. First, isolating the monkey from the background would help the animal to stand out. So, I used the Adjustment Brush in Lightroom and increased exposure while decreasing clarity, this evened out the exposure and softened the background. Next, I converted the image to black and white using Nik Silver Efex Pro. The “fine art, high key, framed” preset gave me the look I wanted. And like that, I transformed a mid-afternoon light into something better! Follow the process through the images below.

 

 

 

 

Amy Horn is an Instructor with Arizona Highways PhotoScapes

I have Lightroom and Photoshop – Why Do I Need Plug-ins?

Author:  Joel Wolfson

I spent 5 minutes using Topaz Glow to augment the sense of wonder by this child in a museum. This requires at least one hour in Photoshop with advanced expertise to accomplish a similar look.

I spent 5 minutes using Topaz Glow to augment the sense of wonder by this child in a museum. This requires at least one hour in Photoshop with advanced expertise to accomplish a similar look.

The title of this article poses an excellent question. If you aren’t familiar with plug-ins, they are mini imaging programs that work in conjunction with Photoshop, Lightroom, Elements, and other mainstream programs to accomplish various common and creative tasks.

Photoshop can pretty much accomplish anything with an image and Lightroom also has a lot of adjustments available for editing an image. I have been using Photoshop  and Lightroom on a daily basis since their very first versions. My level of expertise is high with both of these and I can do just about anything I want with these two programs whether precise adjustments with luminosity masks, conversion to black and white, special effects, or just everyday raw processing.

Why I Use Plug-ins

The short answer to why I use plug-ins is they’re efficient, save time, easy to use, and can encourage creativity. This provides some critical benefits: They leave me more time to spend behind the camera or with my family, instead of being in front of the computer and still accomplish the tasks I need or want to without the extra time in Photoshop. I also like experimenting with the one-click presets in plug-ins because it sparks new ideas and is a quick way to see different treatments of an image.

In 8 minutes using Topaz Adjust, Clarity and BW Effects I converted a raw capture and created a black and white image with depth, shadow detail and accentuated clouds for drama in the sky. The equivalent in Photoshop requires advanced expertise and takes about an hour.

In 8 minutes using Topaz Adjust, Clarity and BW Effects I converted a raw capture and created a black and white image with depth, shadow detail and accentuated clouds for drama in the sky. The equivalent in Photoshop requires advanced expertise and takes about an hour.

Efficiency in Learning

The other thing to consider is that the learning curve on most plug-ins is shorter than the amount of time you have to invest in attaining a similar result in Photoshop.

For example, if you learn one Topaz or Nik plug-in it’s easy to learn another that accomplishes a completely different task. Let’s say you start with learning Topaz Adjust, which does an amazing job equalizing exposure. You can go to B&W Effects plug-in, see a familiar interface and tools and do great black and white conversions. Similarly, fire up Topaz Clarity and add a sense of depth to your images. Accomplishing these 3 vastly different tasks in Photoshop would require learning a number of different advanced techniques. Add to this the fact that plug-ins tend to have dozens of presets (one-click shortcuts) with which you can accomplish the task you want plus some fantastic results you never dreamed.

It took me about 12 minutes using Topaz Adjust, Clarity, and Detail to process this raw image to one with proper detail, a sense of depth and a natural feel. It takes 45 minutes for a similar result in Photoshop (expert level in Photoshop)

It took me about 12 minutes using Topaz Adjust, Clarity, and Detail to process this raw image to one with proper detail, a sense of depth and a natural feel. It takes 45 minutes for a similar result in Photoshop (expert level in Photoshop)

Hands On Workshop for Plug-Ins

Because I get a lot of requests to go beyond my one hour webinars on using plug-ins I’m offering a two day hands-on workshop with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops in November. It’s called Capture to Masterpiece Workflow: Picture Perfect with Plug-ins. I’ll take attendees through the whole process starting with a photo shoot in the Superstition Mountains through final results incorporating plug-ins. We’ll learn how to optimize raw images, add a sense of depth, convert to black and white, and create some images that are just pure fun where your imagination is the limit!

Take a look at the examples in this post and read the captions for the time it took using plug-ins versus the time to get a similar effect in Photoshop. Most of the Photoshop work would require an advanced to expert level.

This is a preview mode for looking at a collection of presets in Topaz B&W Effects. As you scroll you see dozens more options. There are also numerous collections of these presets, all of which offer one-click processing of your image.

This is a preview mode for looking at a collection of presets in Topaz B&W Effects. As you scroll you see dozens more options. There are also numerous collections of these presets, all of which offer one-click processing of your image.

Happy Shooting Everyone!
Joel

headshotJoel Wolfson is an Arizona Highways instructor/photographer. Here is Joel’s bio.
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Life in Black & White

by Rick Jacobi

The more I photograph the world around me, the more I am drawn to street photography. For me, it’s images about our humanity that draws my attention.  It fascinates me, how I can capture a moment in someone’s life that will never be replicated exactly the same way again.  I’m allowed just a glimpse into their world that makes me ponder their existence.  What kind of life they have led?  Where did they come from? Where are they going?  What brought them to this place and time at the moment I captured their image.  It is the mystique of these questions that continues to perpetuate my interest in street photography. I like working in black and white as it seems to tell their story in the purest form.  I find color can become a distraction.  So I have created a streamlined workflow for processing my images in black and white that only takes about 4-5 minutes per image.  I use Adobe Lightroom to process my images; however, these same steps can be taken in Adobe Photoshop Raw.

White Balance:  Adjust the slider to your liking.

White Point and Black Point: Start by setting the White Point by holding down the “option or alt key” and move the White slider in either direction until the picture is black. Then move the slider just a little until a point of color comes unto the screen.  Repeat this step with the “Black Slider”.    If the picture never turns completely black, it’s okay.

Clarity:  Don’t over due this.  Most of the time, I keep mine below 10 on the slider.

Contrast:  Do this to your desired look.  It usually doesn’t require much.  I usually keep mine between 5 and 10 on the contrast slider.

Exposure:  Adjust only if you need to.

At this point I take my image into Adobe Photoshop and make a Duplicate layer.

Next I go to Nik Collection and open Silver Efx Pro 2.  I often will use a preset, which are located on the left side of the window.  The ones I like the best are “High Structure Smooth and High Structure Harsh.”  I generally will go through all of the presets before making my final selection.  Then if the image still needs a small tweak, I will make some small adjustments with the sliders and controls on the right panel.

After this step, I Save my image which takes me back into Photoshop.  Again, I will make a Duplicate Layer.

I will reopen the Nik Collection and Color Efex Pro and go to preset on the left called “Darken Lighten Center”.  On the right side of the screen you will see an icon “Place Center”.  I typically place the center of that over a person’s face or area I want to highlight.  Above the icon are the additional sliders “Center Luminosity, Boarder Luminosity and Center Size”.  I adjust those until I get the effect I want. Select Save and return into Photoshop.

One last time, I will make a Duplicate Layer and go to Filter – Sharpen – Unsharp Mask.  Set the Amount to 60;  Radius to 60; and Threshold to 0. This will appear over sharpen but don’t worry about that now.

Save file before continuing with the final steps.

In Photoshop, go to the layer panel on right and click on “Add Layer Mask” located on the bottom of that panel.   Holding down the “option or alt key” click on the icon to add a layer mask.  This will turn the photo back to the way it was before you sharpened it.  Make sure that the foreground color on the left panel is white.  Now I can paint in the areas using the brush tool to sharpen areas that I want.  I typically will do the hair and other detail areas.   How much you do this is your personal taste.  I try not to overdo this.  To see the changes click the layer button on and off to view the before and after results.  If there is a portion you would like to erase, simply turn the foreground color to black and make your brush strokes.

Flatten Layer, Exit and Save.  This puts me back into Adobe Lightroom for a touch of Noise Reduction, a slight tweak of Contrast between 5 and 10 and Exposure if the image is slightly too light or dark.

Save. This completes the process I use for converting images into Black and White. I hope you like your results.