Ready to go all “old school” with some quick Photoshop tricks that have been around since before the butter churn, but are packed with wholesome goodness and seven essential vitamins? Here ya go:


Old School: Creating a Soft Spotlight “Behind” Your Subject
If you didn’t put a soft spotlight back behind your subject when you took the shot, this will do in a pinch.


STEP ONE: Open the image you forgot to add a soft spotlight behind.


STEP TWO: Duplicate the Background layer and change the layer blend mode to Multiply to darken the entire image (as seen above). Now, get the Elliptical Marquee tool; hold the Shift key, and drag out a large circular selection like the one you see here. Once it’s in place, go under the Select menu, under Modify and choose Feather. Enter 250 pixels for your Feather amount (to greatly soften the edges of your circular selection), and click OK.


STEP THREE: Now just hit Delete (PC: Backspace) to knock a hole out of that top layer, which gives you a soft spotlight effect behind your subject, as seen above. Two more things: (1) If you want a more defined spot light effect, use less than the 150 pixel feather (maybe 100 or 75), and (2) Because her hair is so tall in this image, I had to add a layer mask to brush away the darkening that went over her hair, but chances are you won’t even have to mess with this.


Old School Beam of Natural Light
This creates…umm…a beam of natural light coming from a window that isn’t there.


STEP ONE: Get the Polygonal Lasso Tool (It’s kind of like a connect-the-dots selection tool), and draw out a selection in the shape of the beam of light you want (as seen above, where the beam is smaller at the top of the frame and grows larger toward to the diagonal bottom). 


STEP TWO: To soften the edges of the selection, go under the Select menu; under Modify, and choose Feather. Enter 150 pixels and click OK. 


STEP THREE: Press Shift-Command-I (PC: Shift-Ctrl-I) to Invert your selection (so everything outside the beam is selected), then press Command-L (PC: Ctrl-L) to bring up Levels. Drag the center Midtone slider to the right (as shown here) to darken the area outside the beam. Click OK. 


STEP FOUR: Press Shift-Command-I (PC: Shift-Ctrl-I) to Invert your selection again (so the inside of the beam is selected), then press Command-L (PC: Ctrl-L) to bring up Levels. Drag the bottom left Output Levels slider to the right (as shown here) to brighten the soft beam. Click OK. 


STEP FIVE: Deselect to complete the effect.


Better Old School Black and White
Instead of just choosing “Grayscale” from the Image menu, under Mode, or even using the Black & White Adjustment layer, try this: Make sure you foreground color is set to its default of white and black, and then choose “Gradient Map” from the Adjustment Layer pop-up menu. Boom. Done.


Ain’t no school…like the old school! Hope you found that helpful. :)

Want a Simple, yet effective Lightroom Retouching Eyes tip?
Check out my “Retouching Eyes” tip today over at (inspired by a tip Kristi Sherk shared on this week’s episode of The Grid where we were doing blind photo critiques of retouching).

I’m shooting the Bucs/Raiders game this week (thank Goodness the Bucs are finally off the road). Hope you have a fantastic weekend! :)



P.S. The next stops for my seminar are in Denver and Las Vegas next month. Hope I’ll see you there.

How to Remove Distractions in Adobe Photoshop with Scott Kelby
Don’t let distractions ruin good photographs! Join Scott Kelby for a class devoted to teaching you how to remove all of those distracting elements from your photographs. Whether it is unwanted bright spots in the background, power lines stretching across a sky, walls covered in graffiti, stray hairs on a portrait, or too many tourists in your landscape (to name a few), Scott has a technique to save the day. This class is designed to start you off with an introduction to the essential tools you’ll need inside of Photoshop, and then each lesson that follows is a project unto itself that demonstrates a wide range of techniques you can add to your skill set. You can even download the project files and follow along. Even if you’re familiar with some of the tools, Scott has included all kinds of little tricks he’s picked up over the years to help you get the job done faster than ever before.

In Case You Missed It
Don’t let bad weather ruin your next photo shoot. Learn how to make great photographs with Joe McNally, internationally acclaimed photographer, as he calls upon his years of on-location experience to give you the tips and tricks you need to get the job done in a variety of locations and uncooperative weather. Joe starts by introducing the gear he takes with him on location and then walks you through his process of making the most of whatever nature has in store at each unique destination.


Many moons ago, I met a gorgeous young ballet dancer during rehearsals for a stage play. Naturally, as a young man myself, I tried my very best to impress her, showing off my (what I thought to be excellent) dance photography. She quickly glanced over my shots, a polite “hm” and “oh-key” here and there. Bottom line: She was far less impressed than I had hoped.

Since that day in February 1997, my ignorance (you may call it youthful arrogance) has given way to grey hair, and I’ve taken on board the many lessons I’ve learned in these 19 years. One of them is to “see like a dancer.”

ABDA Beach Photoshoot


Of course we have to understand exposure, composition, lighting, and a bit of sharpness never hurts, but no matter what subject we photograph, the more we know about it, the better our images will be.

In sport, those who understand “the game” will be able to anticipate what happens next, where to position themselves, when and where to pre-focus, to get that “extra special” shot that others might miss. More than that, they know what moments and images will tell the finer details of the story.


When looking back at the photos I’ve created during my time working as a sports photographer, it is clearly visible which of the sports I played myself (or at least had a good understanding of). As a boy I played tennis, private lessons and all, and as a Swiss native I followed Roger Federer’s career from the beginning. Not surprisingly, my tennis images turned out better than photos of other sports I covered. This in return allowed me to shoot higher ranked events over time, ending up accredited to shoot Grand-Slam tournaments from the sidelines.


So – what happened to the gorgeous ballet dancer? We got married and enjoy life with two beautiful daughters in Australia. While my photography didn’t win her over initially, amazing food at a fine Italian restaurant, a bottle of red and a luscious tiramisu did the trick eventually.

Being married to a professional classical ballet dancer allowed me an insight view of the world of ballet, their training, their persistence, the good and the ugly, from endless repetition to perfect their techniques, bloody toes and training injuries to the magical ease and elegance during performances.

Frances Van Der Hoven

As a man with two left feet myself, I was always in awe of the big jumps of dancers, their grace and balance, their beauty, strength and stamina. What I’ve learned over the years however is the fact that what impresses the layperson (me) may mean little to those who understand the finer details of what we photograph. When you look at dance photographs, do you see beauty, or do you analyse hip placement and turn out? Trust me: They do.


ABDA Beach Photoshoot

Let’s be honest here, I’m the first to admit that I’ve been very lucky many times in my life. Sliding into sports photography, especially in an area where I actually knew what I was doing, certainly helped, and I completely understand that it is indeed difficult to gain access to the sidelines of the big sporting events. I was also more than blessed by getting married to a ballet dancer who eventually opened up her own dance academy, giving me access to photograph many amazing dancers over the years. All of this was not something you could plan for.

What you can do however is leave aperture, shutter speed, and ISO on the sidelines for a while and spend some time studying what you want to photograph. Learn the rules of the game, analyse the amazing images of those who have done it before, not to copy but to learn. If you’re just starting out, talk to the local junior sports clubs, the ballet school in your neighbourhood, ask if you could watch a few training sessions, offer free shoots, practice and learn. I don’t see it as “offering to work for free,” but “having fun at no cost” instead.

Nothing happens without effort. What happens afterwards is a question of time, passion, talent, persistence and an unpredictable whisper of luck. I certainly wish you all the above.

Layla Burgess

You can see more of Stephan’s work at, and follow him on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.


Hi gang — and greetings from the Sacramento airport (we wrapped up our seminar here today and Brad and I are headed home on a red eye. Zzzzzzzzz).

OK, so here’s what I’m working on…
It’s a new online class for KelbyOne on reducing noise in your photos, and I’m planning on covering it from both sides — the camera side of things, and of course the post processing, and here’s where I need your help: I want to make sure I cover all the most common noise scenarios, so if there’s a particular kind of noise you struggle with in your photography, please leave me a comment here, and I’ll try to include it in the class.

I plan on covering everything from long exposure noise reduction, to high ISO / low-light issues, along with issues that come from opening up the shadow areas even on low ISO images. I’m going to share lots of different strategies, including 3rd party plug-ins, native solutions, in-camera options, and more. Let me know the kind of stuff you’re having to deal with, and I’ll try to tackle it in the class (again, just leave me a comment below).

I’ve got another new Photoshop class coming out this week…
On Thursday we’re releasing my new “Removing Distracting Stuff using Photoshop” online class. I packed that baby full of stuff that we run into day in/day out, and I think it’s going to help a lot of people. I did it one problem at a time, so people can just go right to the type of thing they want to remove and, short and sweet, you’ll see exactly how to remove them. I’m also posting lots of downloadable practice files so you can practice along with the tutorials. More on Thursday when it launches.


Above: Here’s a shot from Monday morning, before we opened the doors at my seminar in Sacramento. It probably looks pretty much the same right now, since it’s been 5-1/2 hours since the seminar ended. LOL!). Really enjoyed meeting everybody – such a wonderful crowd of photographers to present to (and thanks for the great turnout!). Can’t wait to come back!

OK, that’s it for tonight (well, by the time you read this…it’ll be morning, right?)
Hope you all have a good night. I’m home for a while, until my next seminar, which is in Denver on Monday, November 14th, and then Las Vegas on Wednesday, November 16th. Here’s where you get tickets.




P.S. Did I mention I got a new guitar? Well…I did! (it’s not actually “new” – it’s used – just new to me). It’s a 2008 Schecter PT Tele with coil tapped Super Rock humbuckers. I’ve had my eye on one for a while, but I finally came across the right deal, and now she’s sitting at my desk. I haven’t had much of a chance to play her (or change her funky colored strings), but I’m hoping to get a chance this week.

Dig the high gloss finish and lack of pick-guard (which I particularly love, since tele’s pretty much always come with a pick guard). OK, now I have to sell one (or two) to make room. here I come!


OK, so I’m sitting here in the Delta Club at Laguardia when I realize I totally forgot to blog today. I’m going to blame it on:

(1) A swamped schedule at Photo Plus Expo

(2) Lack of youth ;-)

(3) 1&2

(4) All of the the above

Despite having the memory retention of a hamster, I want to thank all the awesome folks at Photo Plus Expo who stopped me to say hi, shake hands, share a kind word, or take a selfie.  I met so many nice folks, and it always recharges my batteries when I meet such nice photographers – it really was a treat. My sincere thanks!

Also, major love goes out to: 

(1) The awesome folks at Canon who had me speaking on their main stage (about travel photography and my trips to Iceland and Italy), and on their Live Learning Stage today, where I did a whole hot shoe flash thing, and had a ball. Always an honor and a thrill.

(2) Thanks to the very cool crew at Lexar who sponsored my “Portraits on location” photo walk last night on the High Line. We had such a great time, and got to try out all sorts of fun stuff. Also, thanks for all the hospitality – you guys are the best.

(3) Thanks to the crew at Photo Plus Expo (Jeff, Theresa, Jason) for having me teach a lighting Master Class on the conference tracks. Really enjoyed it (lots of eager photographers in that session – such a great group).

(4) Thanks to you all for even reading this last-minute post. I dig you.

Hope you all have a GREAT weekend, and we’ll see you back here on Monday!



P.S. I’m in Sacramento on Monday with my seminar. If you want to come on out, it’s not too late. 


Camera Essentials: Nikon D500 with Larry Becker
Get the most out of your Nikon D500! Join Larry Becker as he walks you through the important things you’ll want to know about your new D500. This is not a class for seeing every menu option and obscure function, but instead Larry focuses on the things you need to know to get the camera to do what you want it to do, as if a good friend was showing you how. You’ll learn the basics of navigating the buttons and dials, how to access various shooting modes, where to find key settings, and along the way Larry shares a wealth of tips, recommendations, and insights to help you feel like a master user by the end of the class.

In Case You Missed It
If a Sony A7R II or A7S II is in your future or already in your camera bag, then this class is for you! Join John McQuiston as he gets you up to speed on everything you need to know to get started on the right foot with your camera. From getting oriented to all of the buttons and dials to changing exposure settings, and from explaining the focus modes to how to shoot video, John steps through the features and functions you need to know, while explaining its purpose and showing you how it’s done.