Category Archives Photoshop


I hope you’ll come and spend the day with me in New York on Monday learning all the cool new stuff in Lightroom 3. I just kicked the tour off in Ft. Lauderdale on Monday (had over 400 photographers there for the day, and we had a blast).

I can’t tell you how many people came up to me during the day, who didn’t have Lightroom at all yet, but were just blown away by what it could do. It’s really the kind of day that can change everything for your workflow, so I hope you can make it if you’re up that way.

It’s only $99 for the full day of training (including my step-by-step workbook), or just $79 if you’re a NAPP member. Here’s the link with all the details. Hope I’ll get to see you in person at the Javits Center on Monday. It’s gonna rock!

P.S. Don’t forget Matt is Boston on Friday. Use the same link above and see Matty K live!


Just a quick word of thanks to everybody who came out and spent the evening with Matt, Corey, Dave, RC, and I for NAPP and Adobe’s free “Photoshop CS5 Summit” this past Friday in Manhattan.

By Friday morning we had over 2,100 people registered for the event, and it was great to see so many familiar faces in the crowd. Our thanks to everyone who endured the long queue outside the theater, and the horrendous audio issues in the back of the room. (Believe me, we know. So does the very expensive company that we hired to do the audio and video, who’ll be hearing from us again today).

Here are a few scenes from the event (photos by Brad Moore):


Above: We worked in teams of two during the night, with each of doing start-to-finish products and working CS5 into our existing workflow. Here I’m doing a camera raw start-to-finish retouch with the final image used as the cover of a sports magazine (That’s Corey Barker to my left).


Above: Dave Cross and RC Concepcion on stage during their presentation. Both Dave and RC had some really slick projects they tackled in front of RC’s home town (two of RC’s brothers were in the audience that night).


Above: Adobe’s Product Manager for Photoshop, Bryan O’Neil Hughes (left) kicked off the 2nd segment of the three hour summit, and gave the crowds some amazing insights into how Photoshop CS5 was developed with direct input from the Photoshop community.

CS5 NYC 1sm

Above: View from the 2nd floor balcony.


Above: In the theater lobby there were tables manned by Wacom, B&H Photo, and Adorama (among others).


Above: Matt Kloskowski during his “Seven Commandments of HDR” presentation. He had a hilarious true story of how he took the HDR image of St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Thursday, which he used in his presentation.


Above: Lightroom Product Manager Tom Hogarty got the “Rock Star” treatment when he took the stage in New York, as he had an incredibly Lightroom-friendly crowd who were cheering him big time, even though it was a CS5 event.


Above: Corey and I did the final session (before giving away a third round of cool prizes), with Corey’s amazing 3D Photoshop presentation (along with lots of teasing from me, a 2D guy, along the way).

A special thanks to Adobe, and all the great people on the Photoshop team for sponsoring the event (we couldn’t have done it without them) and a big thanks once again to everyone who came out to be a part of the event.

I hope to see some of you again when I head there next month for my Lightroom 3 Live! Tour at the Javits Center, on Monday, July 19th (here’s the link with details).


My buddy, portrait photographer, and Web guru, and HDR Expert RC Concepcion is tonight’s special guest on Peachpit’s “Photo Club” and everybody’s invited (it’s free), and tonight he’ll be talking about photography, Photoshop, and all sorts of cool RC stuff.

Here’s how Peachpit describes it:

Join Peachpit and Layers TV host RC Concepcion for the next Peachpit Photo Club webcast on Tuesday, June 22, 2010 from 8 to 9 p.m. ET (5 to 6 p.m. PT).

RC will cover everything essential about getting yourself and your work on the Web—what to do, what not to do, useful techniques, how to present your work, and more. Plus, he’ll jump into the software side a bit and show you some simple in and out techniques for working with your images, hosting your images, and getting up to speed quickly—just like he does in his popular podcasts. As if that wasn’t enough, he’ll address the just-released Lightroom 3. It’s kind of like an RC extravaganza!

Of course, along the way RC will provide you with insight and inspiration, and answer your burning questions. To keep the creative juices flowing, Photo Club members will receive a fun assignment at the end of the session. Once completed, Photo Club members can upload their assignment to the Peachpit Photo Club Flickr Group where your friends at Peachpit, along with RC’s help, will help critique your work. And of course, there will be a chance for prizes!

This all happens tonight, so be sure to sign up to be a part of this very fun evening with RC. Here’s the link with all the details.


We just got even more prizes to give away next Friday in New York City at the free Photoshop CS5 Summit. That’s right—-now we have a bunch of $250 Gift Cards to the most amazing camera store in the world—-B&H Photo!

This all takes place next Friday, and if you want to be there (it’s free), make sure you snag your seat right now. Here are all the details. Hope to see you there!!

Who: Your instructors are “The Photoshop Guys,” Me, Matt Kloskowski, RC Concepcion, Corey Barker, and Dave Cross

When: One night only—Friday, June 25th, from 4:30 to 7:30 pm

Where: The Hammerstein Ballroom, at the Manhattan Center, New York City

Cost: Free, free, free!!!!

Why: ‘To celebrate the launch of Photoshop CS5! (Adobe will be there, too!)

Reserve your Free Ticket: Go right here.

To Learn more: Just watch this quick video right here.


First, a big thanks to everyone who posted such thoughtful and in-depth comments yesterday. I read all of them (over a 130), and not only did you guys make some great points (on both sides of the ball), everybody remained very civil throughout a topic that often sets “guns a blazin'” Way to go!

Because yesterday’s post resonated with a lot of folks, I wanted to do a brief follow-up post today based on a some of your comments, and I was hoping to get your thoughts and ideas on a couple of topics:


First, just what constitutes an “Over-the-top” HDR shot? What do you (we, us, they) consider an over-the-top shot? Take a look at the images above, taken by my buddy, and HDR expert, RC Concepcion. I love both of those shots. They both got loads of HDR tone-mapping going on (though slightly different styles), but is it “over the top?” If you think it is, does that make it a bad shot?

I read so many comments that basically said, “I like HDR as long as it’s not overdone. But exactly what is “over done?”

Is it:

(a) Pushing the Color Saturation too far, where the colors look un-natural?

(b) Is it “Poorly done HDR?” where the person processing the HDR photo, doesn’t really understand how to use the HDR tonemapping software (and if that’s the case, then is it just a matter of education—-teaching people how to do it right?)

(c) Is it shots where there’s no black in the photo—it’s all midtones–showing too much detail?

(d) Is it shots where the image is over sharpened, like too much High Pass sharpening?

(e) Or, is it like a Supreme Court Justice’s view of pornography, where you can’t really describe it, but “you know it when you see it?”

While you’re here, go ahead and take the Poll below:

Here’s my problem with all of this. I’ve seen way over-the-top HDR images that look horrible, and I’ve seen way over the top HDR images that look absolutely stunning. Which means; there’s more to it than just the post processing.

Recently, one of the images that won Best of Show at the Photoshop World Guru Awards was an image that had literally tons, loads, mountains of HDR effect applied to it. But it rocked! It looked really great, and the judges chose it as the winner hands down (even though some would technically consider it “over the top.”)

I guess my point here is; HDR is like any other effect you do in Photoshop. Too much of it looks bad. Usually. But not always. It just depends on the photo (and the person doing the processing).

So what I’m hoping the anti-HDR crowd will do is this; instead of dismissing a  photo as “over-the-top” HDR, and automatically hating it—instead judge it on the merits of that particular photo. Give it a chance.

But beyond that—try making an over-the-top HDR image yourself. You might find that you like it more than you thought, and that other people like your shot more than you do (like I mentioned yesterday with my HDR shot). Real HDR tonemapping is built right in to Photoshop CS5. Give it a try. You might be surprised at how it changes how you view HDR images moving forward. Even those dreaded over-the-top ones. ;-)


I remember showing someone one of my black and white prints a few years ago—and I could tell there was something they really didn’t like about it. They stared at it for a minute or so, and then said, “Why is it in black and white?”

I told them that the shot was originally taken in color, and that I had converted it to black and white in Photoshop, and they said something along the lines of “Why would you do that?” After talking a little longer, they just told me flat out that they just didn’t like black and white photography. Never had, and they couldn’t understand why anyone would take a perfectly good color image and remove all the color. (Sigh).

I understand that everybody has different tastes, and some folks just don’t like black and white, or duotones, and some people don’t like Split Tones (like me), and some don’t like panos.

You Mean, Like HDR?
Now, when it comes to HDR, I’m kinda of in the middle. I enjoy shooting my own HDR shots, and I get a kick out of processing them. If someone shows me a great HDR image, I’m like “Wow!” If they show me a few more, I’m like, “Those are good.” If they show me a book of them, after about the eighth page, I’m dying to see a regular un-HDR’d image. The novelty can wear off fast on me.

I know some people are at the complete other end of the spectrum. They hate any HDR that doesn’t look natural and photorealistic, (of course, if it truly does look natural and photorealistic, I guess that kind of really means “it doesn’t look like HDR”).  :)

What They’re not Telling You About HDR Images
There’s a secret about those “over the top” HDR images that you don’t hear a lot of non-HDR photographers talk about. While many of these photographers don’t like HDR images at all…

….non-photographers absolutely love them!

That’s right—-regular, non photographer people love those over-the-top HDR images. Even though it’s seldom talked about, I think that’s incredibly important to know.

Matt pointed out something a while back while we were talking about this, and it has proved itself time and time again. Matt mentioned that if he sends a group of images to a magazine, or a Web site, etc., for them to pick a photo to highlight, they always (always!) choose the HDR shot.

Now, I fully realize that by saying this, there are photographers who will now post comments that say “My wife hates HDR” or “my boss won’t allow HDR in any of our marketing materials,” and so on, but save yourself the time and trouble, and just think about it. Think about how other people (not photographers) react to images with the HDR effect. It’s been my experience, time and time again, they love ’em.

My Love/Hate Relationship with HDR
You see the shot at the top of this post? That’s a pretty obvious HDR shot, taken on my vacation to China, and I didn’t even include the HDR shot in my post about my China photo book (link), because it was so over-the-top that I knew I’d catch some heat from HDR-hating photographers, so I intentionally left it out. The next day, I had a follow-up Q&A post (link), and that was the only photo that didn’t make the cut, so I thought—what the heck—-I’d run it and it might just go by unnoticed, and I’d be spared a nuking by the anti-HDR crowd.

I guess you can say I was incredibly surprised when I read stuff like this:

“That boat shot is killer! Good balance with HDR technique and the whole composition has “interesting story” written all over it. Quite frankly, I think it’s one of your best.”

“Love the shots from the trip, and your HDR on the ferry is FANTASTIC!”

“I like allot of your work, but this is my favorite shot of yours. It’s amazing. Love it…”

“First, that was an amazing image you used for the lead to this post. Great depth, detail and lighting. Well done sir!”

“I love the HDR Shot you posted! My fav of the bunch.”

“Fantastic HDR, the lighting and tones are beautiful.”

You’d think I would be ecstatic with comments like these, but instead I was really depressed. That’s because the regular un-HDR’d photo looks like this:


It’s a nothing photo. It’s not terrible. It’s not good. It’s what I call “A three-star photo.” Not so bad that you’d delete it, but not so good that you’d ever let anyone see it (by the way, the only reason I’m letting anyone see it now, is as a teaching tool). So, it was the HDR-Toning that transformed it from a three-star image to what embarrassingly for me, became an image that some called “my best ever.” (sigh).

My Case for HDR
I’ve read again and again how photographers who hate HDR-effected images feel that when a photographer uses HDR for the “Harry Potter Look” or goes for the classic over-the-top HDR look, they are somehow cheating. They feel it’s a trick to take a mediocre image and turn it into a masterpiece, so it’s not “real photography.” Sadly, I think my before/after actually helps to make their case to some extent.

However, this is where my case for HDR comes in.

Taking the mediocre regular shot took very little effort. I did have to compose the shot (and I think the composition is actually “OK”), but outside of that, I just pressed the shutter button, and the camera did all the work. The post-processing in Photoshop (in Camera Raw) was minimal—-it took all of 15 seconds, so the entire image has a total of less than 20-seconds invested it in.

However, for me to create an HDR image, I (as the photographer) have to work a LOT hardert. First, HDR doesn’t work for just every shot. There are certain types of shots that lend themselves to HDR (images with lots of texture, or metal, depth), and over time you learn which types of shots work (and which don’t). So, the first thing the photographer does is scope out subjects that would make ideal HDR images (it’s harder than it looks). When I saw the rusty, peeling wheel house, and the thoroughly worn wood deck, and old coiled up lines (rope), I knew it would make a good HDR image.

I had to set-up my camera to shoot an HDR bracket of five photos, and then try and steady myself while on a moving ferry in the harbor, while leaning on a railing, and trying to keep very, very still while all five exposures are captured.

Later, I have to work with five images—not just one—then I have quite a bit of post-processing work to do, including using Camera Raw not just once, but twice, along with HDR tone-mapping, and final editing and sharpening, beyond what I’d normally do. In short; it’s dramatically harder to capture a good HDR image, from the moment of capture, through the post processing stage, and the image wasn’t rescued by HDR—-it was created to be an HDR image from the outset. I didn’t just press a button and out popped a winner—I had to work it.

It’s Not Fair!
Normally, this extra photographic effort would gain the respect and admiration of fellow photographers, but when it comes to HDR, it generally gains scorn. I don’t get it. Just like that person at the beginning doesn’t “get” black and white photography. I know HDR isn’t for everyone, but like any effect, it can be fun to do, fun to look at, and like any other effect, you can get sick of it after a while. But each image should be judged on its merits, and not dismissed because “You don’t like HDR” or “You don’t like Black and Whites.”

So, in the past few months, I did learn that non-photographers love HDR shots (and all the photographers I polled asking about how their HDR work was viewed by non photographers, agreed 100% that non-photographers seem to absolutely love HDR images). But I learned two other things as well:

(1) You don’t seem to find people who are really good at creating HDR images, that don’t like HDR images. Just like you don’t find people who are Photoshop experts, that don’t like Photoshop. The people I find that scorn the use of Photoshop, aren’t very good at it.

(2) I find that no matter how much I look at that HDR image I did at the top of this post, and no matter how many people tell me they love it, I will never like it. When I look at it, I know what “it really looked like.” In my mind’s eye, I always see the original, 3-star regular exposure image I showed earlier, and so I’ll never look at it as a great image. I guess I feel like it’s kind of cheating too, even though it took me more time, effort, and skill to get there.

For those of you that do shoot somewhat over-the-top HDR shots, how do your clients, friends, and co-workers react to these types of shots? Do they dig ’em? And, how do you feel about them after the fact (after all, you’re probably the only one who saw the original single exposure). Do you feel like I do? (and did anyone get that subtle Peter Frampton reference?). I’m anxious to hear your thoughts.