Tag Archives: Photoshop

HDR the lazy girl way

One of more controversial debates going on right now in the world of photography is HDR photography, short for High Dynamic Range photography. Please don’t ask me for an accurate explanation of the terms or even how it works. The first time I even heard of the term was during the MPIX New York photo tour last year. During the opening question-and-answer session, Rick Sammon explained that while the human eye sees about an 11-f-stop range, a single photo can only capture maybe 4 f-stops. Combining multiple exposures of the same photo can hopefully replicate the same amount of detail that ours eyes can see, from the details that are hiding in the shadows to what appears blown out in the highlights. You therefore expand the range visible in a photo, hence the HDR acronym.

I happen to like HDR, but I prefer it applied with a light touch—enough to remain realistic without going overboard and looking almost cartoon-like. (Although there are definitely artistic applications for that, too.) For example, I’ve always loved the photography of Ansel Adams, and found it interesting that he is often referred to as the first HDR photographer. It makes sense, because when you examine his photographs closely, you can see how much detail there is in the deep shadows and in the bright skies and reflections. His darkroom technique involved meticulously manipulating the contrast in the negative in order to display a wider range of visual information. In other words, HDR. Continue reading HDR the lazy girl way

A Photo(shop) Essay

Once upon a time, I posted a water shot here. Okay, it was just the other day. My readers (yes, all six of them) said that they liked it. I liked it too (I’m the sixth reader).


But the actual image straight from the camera was, well, kinda messy.


Yuck. See how ugly it was? All those water spots that the faucet spray deposited on the lens made me want to go clean up my kitchen pronto. Fortunately, the feeling passed.

So I fired up Photoshop CS2 and the first thing I did was Auto Contrast. Because it was late, I was a little sleepy, and I’m never sure where to start or stop so I let Photoshop decide and then took that as my starting point. Also, I really just don’t know that I’m doing.


Not bad, eh? Looking better already. But I really couldn’t stand those spots in the dark space. So I figured, no problem, I’ll clone them out. So I sampled an area as close as possible to the first spot and started. And I didn’t “paint” the spots with strokes – I “dabbed” by clicking on them.


Okay, spots are less noticeable, but now I have gray circles there that still mess up the photo. And I didn’t want to risk feeling like cleaning my kitchen again.

Then I remembered something I read in Scott Kelby’s Photoshop Elements 3 book, so I decided to try it. First, using the Lasso tool, I selected the offending area in the left.


Yes, I know I have unsteady hands and can’t draw to save my life. But not to fear, there’s always Feather to the rescue (sounds like some chicken superhero, doesn’t it?) . I set the Feather to 10, because I like round numbers. And pi.


Much better shape, eh? Then, I went to Filter and picked Gaussian blur and moved the slider to the right until the spots just disappeared. It was like smoothing out the dark area. The result was so cool and sooo much easier than cloning that I didn’t even mind so much that the blur setting was at 7.3 and not a round number.


Look at that pretty left side. It’s so nice and neat and fits so well with my brain that was just starting to register the non-round number I just used. So before it could protest and rebel and kick and scream, I did the same thing to the right side.


Ah. That’s better. Now all it needs is a little sharpening. Since there aren’t really a lot of details in here that can benefit from sharpening, and all I wanted to do was to make the outline of the bubbles pop (my inadvertent puns kill me!), I used the Sharpen Edges filter.


Much nicer, I thought. So nice that I figured I’d do it one more time.


Excellent. I was about ready to dance a jig. Then, just to defy my brain one more time (I was getting bold now – I was Photoshop empowered!), I thought I’d do one more contrast adjustment and set that to 6. Not 5 or 10, but 6. Ha! Take that, you numbers freak you.


Isn’t that trippy? Once again, here’s the before and after:



Now when I look at the final version, it makes me think that my kitchen is spotless and that you can eat spaghetti and meatballs off my floor. I like it!

The End

P.S. I’m sorry for making you look at so many pictures of shiny water. Will you forgive me if I post a flower picture? Here’s the two mums from the same post, a little less sharp this time.


I hope we can be friends again. And if not, you can blame Shrew. Because she was the one who told me I needed to post this. (Sorry pal, but if I’m going down, I’m taking you with me.)