Adding drama to an image in Photoshop…

For this post I have recorded a short video tutorial on one of the methods I often use to dodge and burn, (or simply) selectively paint with light in my images while working in Photoshop CS6. I do stress that this is just one technique that I will employ, if you are even barely familiar with Photoshop you will realise that as always there are many different options available to you.

I have recorded this using Photoshop CS6, although the technique is equally applicable to earlier versions of the software. Although I do use separate layers in this video, and indeed look very briefly at the concept of blend modes, it really is just about judging the effect as you see it on the screen and adjusting it to suit individual images rather than getting caught up in the technicalities. Even if you have never worked with layers or blend modes before, it is still possible to follow along and duplicate the technique to add a sense of drama to an image.

For me, the ability to subtlety direct the eye of the viewer is what makes this such a useful technique. If the lighting was not perfect at the moment of capture, I like having the ability to transform an image into that which I had originally visualised. Naturally I always advocate ‘getting it right’ in camera rather than relying on a post-processing ‘fix’, hence my use of flash for a major portion of my commercial work; however when out hiking, this is of course not always possible!

One thing I should point out is that after I have finished retouching my image, I will save the layered file as a .PSD, which is the native Photoshop layered file format. The layered document which contains all my edits becomes effectively my master file, and I will save it in a dedicated .PSD folder within that particular project’s main folder. I will then have access to a re-editable file, should I change my mind with how the image should look in say six months time… Also of course I will vary the amount of sharpening I apply to my images dependent upon the final output, with less sharpening being applied to smaller versions of an image that are destined for the web than for those that I plan on making into large prints. Having the ‘master’ .PSD file makes this very easy indeed, and ensures that my workflow is both flexible and future-proof…

When I am ready to print the image or place it on the website, it is simply a matter of flattening the master file and saving a version of it as a JPEG or (for very big prints) a TIFF file. Fairly obviously, I never save over my master .PSD file…

As I mention in the movie, most of this technique can be achieved in Camera Raw, however it is still worth knowing how to work on a file in such a manner once you are already in Photoshop, in case you have already committed many edits to the image which would make it impractical to start over, and assuming you are not working with smart objects…

I hope that this movie proves to be helpful!



2 thoughts on “Adding drama to an image in Photoshop…

  1. Michael, your photos of the Pyrenees and the dramatic Warrenmang Vineyard landscapes are simply beautiful. Thank you for sharing with us, they are simply gorgeous and convey the feeling of the summer vineyards that we love so well.

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