Category Archives Photoshop


One of the highlights of my trip to San Francisco was getting to see the Hearst Gallery’s retrospective on one of the most brilliant digital artists of our time, our good friend (and Photoshop Hall of Famer) Bert Monroy. What an amazing exhibition (and beautifully presented by the gallery—kudos to them for an outstanding job).

The gallery was closed that day, but Bert arranged for us to have a private tour with him, and it was just amazing. I’ve seen Bert’s amazing photo-realistic work many times over the years, but seeing it at that scale really revealed the incredible detail that he puts into his work.

The shots below give you just a glimpse at the retrospective, and besides his work (all output on the latest Epson printers—including an entire section of the exhibit printed on large canvas), they had a number of important stepping stones from Bert’s career, including corporate work he had done in the early days, his first book (the first book ever on Adobe Photoshop), and even Bert’s original 128k Macintosh (shown below). It’s an amazing exhibit and if you’re out in the San Francisco area (the Hearst Gallery is just outside Berkley in Moraga, California—here’s the link), you’ve got to see it for yourself. Stunning work from a living legend, and true pioneer of digital art.







I’m teaching three sessions at the upcoming Photoshop World Conference & Expo (March 25-27, 2009, Hynes Convention Center, Boston, Massachucetts), and I wanted to give you a little background on my sessions.

  1. Portrait Retouching, Part 1
    I did this class for the first time at Photoshop World Las Vegas and it was a huge hit with the crowd. In fact, the #1 comment about the class was they wanted “more!” So, this time in Boston I’ve expanded it to two parts, so I can cover much more ground. I’ll be showing some of the latest Photoshop techniques for making people look their very best, and I’ll be including some more advanced techniques as well.
  2. Portrait Retouching, Part 2
    The first half of this class picks up where Part 1 left off, with a new batch of retouching techniques. Then, in the second half of the class, we’ll pull the whole thing together as I stage a live studio portrait shoot right in the class, and then I’ll take those shots straight into Photoshop where you’ll see the entire retouching process from start to finish. We’ll use the techniques you’ve learned in part 1 and part 2, and you’ll experience right along with me, how to deal with any unexpected retouching challenges.
  3. Creative Print Layouts in Lightroom (or How to show your work in Lightroom)
    This session (open to all Photoshop World conference attendees) is part of “The Lightroom Conference at Photoshop World” and in it I’m going to show you how to use Lightroom’s Print module to design some really creative, clever, and fun layouts that will make your work, and your client’s work, really stand out. Once you see what can be done (and how easy some of these layouts are), it will change the way you show and present your work from now on.

So, if you’re going to Photoshop World, I hope you’ll check out some of my sessions. If you’re not registered yet, you can sign up right here. Hope I’ll see you there!

OK, today in Part 2 we’re looking at the Post Processing I did to yesterday’s image, and for that I used the new Lucis Art Pro plug-in (which I’m going to mini-review in this same post).

DISCLAIMER: If you hate the Dave Hill look, or you’re tired of it, or whatever…do me a favor—just skip this post. The reason I did the post in the first place is that this is the #1 most-requested technique I get from readers, and I thought I’d give it a whirl. Obviously, this was a huge mistake on my part, because apparently it just mostly made people mad at me (I don’t know why it always has to come to this—it’s just a Photoshop technique for goodness sakes). But since I did part one and promised to show the post-processing, I feel like I should finish it, so I’m going to. However, it’s mean comments like the ones I received yesterday that make me think I should stick to safer topics, like the Nikon D3x pricing and more Lightroom conspiracies. ;-)


Step One: Before you run the Lucis Pro 6.0 plug-in, you’ll need to do something to soften your subject’s skin, because the hyper-sharpening the plug-in adds will greatly magnify every blemish, spot, or skin irregularity and it looks pretty bad. So, I started by using the Healing Brush. I Option-clicked [PC: Alt-clicked] in a nearby area that didn’t have a blemish (to sample that skin texture), then I chose a brush size just slightly bigger than the blemishes I wanted to remove, then I moved over the blemish and just clicked once to remove it. So, I went through the image and did that first.

lucis-21Step Two: Next, you’ll need to do an overall softening of the skin. What I did for this picture is apply the same type of skin softening I might to a portrait of a woman, but I used a higher amount of blurring than I would normally use. I started by duplicating the background layer. Then I applied a 25 pixel Gaussian Blur, then I lowered the opacity of this layer to 50%, as shown here (so it’s half as blurry). Then I held the Option key [PC: Alt-key] and clicked on the Layer Mask icon at the bottom of the Layer panel. This hides the blurry layer behind a black mask (as seen here). Then I changed the foreground color to white, and I took the Brush tool and painted over just his skin. I avoided the edges of his skin or any areas that were supposed to have detail (like his eyes, eyebrows, lips, etc.). This left the rest of the image sharp, but his skin very soft.


Step Three: Now I applied the Lucis Pro 6.0 plug-in (shown above). All I did in this plug-in was to drag the Enhance Detail slider over to 65, and then I clicked OK. Simple enough.


Step Four: Now, the key part of this is Dodging and Burning the heck out of the image, in other words, over exaggerate the highlights and shadows, so the photo almost looks cartoonish (basically, you’re going to make the darkest parts darker, and the brightest parts brighter). If you have Photoshop CS4, you can use the Dodge and Burn tools, because they’ve been greatly enhanced. We’ll start with Burning; after you choose the Burn tool, go up to the Options Bar, set the Range to Shadows (so it just effects the shadows), and lower the Exposure amount to 20%. Now paint over the shadow areas in your photo (like in the folds of his shirt, his pants, on his hat, etc.). You have to really exaggerate the shadows, so you’ll have to paint over the shadow areas a few times, and let it build up a bit.


Step Five: Now switch to the Dodge tool. Up in the Options bar, switch the Range to Highlights, and paint over the highlight areas in his shirt, pants, and along both side edges of him, where the brighter light is hitting. Again, you’ll probably have to paint over these highlight areas a few times to really exaggerate the look.


Step Six: Lastly, you’ll finish off by darkening the edges (kind of an edge vignette effect). I did mine by duplicating the background layer and switching the Layer Blend mode to Multiply. Then I made a rectangular selection that’s about 1 inch in from the image borders all the way around (as shown above). Then I added a 250-pixel Feather, and then hit the Delete key, which knocked a hole out of the darker layer, which gave the darkened edge vignette look. That’s how I did the final image you saw yesterday (and the final shown below).


Lucis Pro 6 Plug-in Review
I had reviewed the previous version of this plug-in, called LucisArt2, last year, and while I liked the plug-in, there was a problem (one problem for Mac users, one for Windows users). On the Mac, to use the old plug-in you had to launch Photoshop in Mac OS X’s “Rosetta” mode, which is a much slower (but more compatible) mode. This slowed Photoshop down quite a bit, but I’d only run in Rosetta when running this plug-in (unless, of course, I forgot to quit Photoshop, turn off Rosetta mode, and relaunch Photoshop, which I did all the time).

Well, luckily, in the new Batch of LucisArt plug-ins, they all run in regular Mac OS X. On Windows, they completely rebuilt the interface, and now it’s dramatically better. Besides fixing OS stuff, there are a lot of improvements, including a new algorithm that gives better, cleaner results, a better more streamlined interface, much more control over how the affect is applied, and in Lucis Pro 6, you can run the plug-in on 16-bit images (the other, less expensive, and less featured LucisArt3 plug-ins can only run on 8-bit images). So, overall—lots of improvements to the effect and functionality.

That being said, in my opinion there are two really huge problems with this plug-in.

  1. It’s crazy expensive at nearly $600 ($595 US). That’s twice what Lightroom costs and nearly as much as Photoshop CS4 itself (you can buy the full version of CS4 from for $639), for a plug-in that is essentially a “one trick pony.” There are less expensive versions of the plug-in (like LucisArt3), but of course, they have less features and can’t run on 16-bit images, but you can get one of those for around $300 (about the same price as Lightroom). Now, the case can be made that if your clients are willing to pay for this look, then it may be worth the investment, but outside of that, I would have a hard time justifying the high price.
  2. I think Lucis Pro 6 has a bigger problem than the price. It requires a USB hardware dongle. To me, this is the deal breaker. I absolutely would not buy the plug-in because of this requirement (Note: the cheaper LucisArt3 does not require this dongle).  I know they’re doing this to cut down on software piracy, but this isn’t penalizing the pirates—it’s penalizing their highest-paying customers. Plus, if I need to use the plug-in on a laptop and my home machine, now I have to carry the dongle in my case. If I leave it at home, and need it at work; I’m out of luck. If I need to use more than one USB port on my laptop, now I can’t use the plug-in. Ridiculous! I don’t know of a single software product in our industry that has become a success while using a hardware dongle (just ask Quark, who added a hardware dongle to QuarkXPress for a very short time), and I hope the people at LucisArt will rethink this going forward

The Bottomline
While the plug-in does a very good job at what it does, I would have a hard time recommending the product for the two reasons I just listed above. While Lucis Pro 6.0 is a big improvement over its predecessor, LucisArt 2, in just about every way, I think the 400% price increase is way off the mark, especially with the limited looks this plug-in can provide (Though the market will ultimately decide if the price is too high). As for the hardware dongle; for me–it’s the deal killer.

Here’s a link to their site for more details, complete pricing for all three plug-ins with a list of each product’s features, and a comparison of how LucisArt 3 compares with LucisArt 2.


The image above is from a promo shoot I did last week for rapper “10 Minute” and I wanted to apply a “Dave Hill” like look to the images, but I cheated—I used a plug-in. (click on it for a much larger view).

Now, let me say this up front: From the research I’ve done, I don’t believe photographer Dave Hill actually uses a Photoshop plug-in; I believe he creates his look without a plug, using a series of layer blend modes, High Pass Sharpening, Skin Smoothing, and Dodging and Burning (and I am working on that whole Photoshop-only workflow as we speak, and will do a post on it when I’m finished), but since I needed to get this job done fast; I used the Lucis Art Pro 6.0 plug-in, and I feel like it got me pretty close to the look (a mini-review of the plug-in is coming up tomorrow in the 2nd and final part of this post).

First things first: I was able to use something that I learned previously when researching this look; when Dave Hill says a lot of the look is in the lighting—he’s not exaggerating. This look requires a specific type of lighting, and if you don’t light it that particular way (which we’ll discuss in a moment), the plug-in, or the Photoshop-only technique, just won’t look right. It’s a formula that requires a combination of both the right lighting, and the right Photoshop moves.

We’ll start with the shoot, and I gotta tell you—-it was a train wreck (and that’s being kind). First, we got to the location a little late, so we were already losing daylight. Then once we got our strobes set-up in place, we realized that we forgot to pack flags (large black 24″x36″ panels that you use to keep the light from flashes placed behind the subject from creating lens flare), so we had to run back to the studio and grab them.

Once we got our flags on the set, then we learned that we had a lighting problem—there’s something wrong with our main battery pack—-we accidentally dropped it a while back, and it needs to go in for service, but since it usually works…….well…it didn’t, and we didn’t have time to track down the problem.

Anyway, it just wasn’t working, and now we had maybe 15 minutes left to shoot (the sun was nearly down, and we were already under a roof, so light—or lack therof–was really becoming an issue). Luckily, my assistant (and general boy wonder) Brad Moore had thought to bring some Nikon SB-800s and 900s as a back-up, with some lightweight stands and an umbrella. So, we quickly tore down the strobes and we went with off-camera flashes. It’s not the ideal set-up for this shoot, but we had to get it done.

There are a number of ways you can set-up the lighting, and it will change depending on location, your subject, blah, blah, blah but basically you want two flashes behind your subject —one on each side—bare bulb (we would have used two strobes with just reflectors—no softboxes—if all had worked as planned). You want hard, bright light coming from behind skimming the edges of both sides of your subject (see the set-up image below–click on it for a larger view).

Ideally, you’d put them fairly far back—like 10 or 12 feet back, up high aiming downward (the farther back you go, the sharper the light), but since he was down in front of the car, we had to quickly improvise and we wound up having to place them right up on “10” (that’s short for “10 Minute.” By the way; we were lucky—he was a really great guy; incredibly patient, and when we got ready to shoot, he just turned it on. He really couldn’t have been better to work with).


So, here was the lighting set-up: Our main light was one SB-800, mounted on a lightstand, and shooting through a 43″ Optical White translucent Westcott shoot-thru umbrella. This was aiming down at “10” and was off to my right side (as seen in the photos above and below).


In the image above, you’ve got a better view of the SB-800 shooting through the umbrella, and you can see how the flags work to blog the light from the bare SB-800/900 in back.

We had two more Nikon flashes on stands just behind and on either side of him. We had them down pretty low, and we had spent so much time trying to fix the strobe situation, we didn’t really have time to try and position them just right, so we just played the hand we were dealt. (Note: Some photographers shooting with this lighting set-up use a Ring Flash as their main light instead of a regular strobe with softbox). I triggered the flashes using an SB-900 sitting in my camera’s hot shoe—it didn’t fire—I just used it to trigger the other SB-800s and 900.

Now, I do want to make this clear; what I just detailed is NOT the recommended lighting set-up to get this look, and certainly not a “here’s how to do it.” It’s just a “here’s how we did it.” Ideally, we would have used more powerful strobes, and had the time to aim and position the lights correctly, but….sometimes you gotta do what ya gotta do.

There’s nothing too interesting here. It was shot with a Nikon D3, with a Nikon 24-70mm zoom lens in Manual Mode at f/6.3 at 1/60 of a second at 400 ISO. My actual focal length was 31mm, so I was shooting pretty wide. I told you it wasn’t too interesting.

tiOh, another thing we messed up; we forgot to bring music to the shoot, so Brad quickly pulled his car up right next to where we were shooting, and put in the new CD from T.I. (from his new album Paper Trail, shown at left) and cranked up his car stereo. The funny thing was; it was the filthiest thing you ever heard! The lyrics we so explicit, when it started we were all just cracking up  (and Brad was hugely embarrassed—it was the first time he popped it in his stereo, which made it all the better). I’d be setting up to take shot, and then this T.I. song “Every chance I get” came on (Here’s the linkwarning; even the preview is explicit), and and it was so nasty Snopp Dogg would probably blush. You just had to shake your head and laugh or you’d die from embarrassment (especially with all the people we had on the set).


Here’s the before shot (shown above) of the shot you see at the top of this post.


ABOVE: Here’s another where you can see the side lighting a little better. While the side light looks kind of subtle here, look what happens after you run the plug-in (see below). NOTE: The plug-in isn’t the whole technique (but the whole thing only takes about 5 minutes at best), but it certainly does a lot of the work, as you can see below.


Anyway, the shoot part was kind of a bust, and I’m even embarrassed to show you the unretouched shot (shown above), but I felt I needed to, especially for Part Two tomorrow, which is a step-by-step on the post processing, and includes my mini-review of the Photoshop plug-in Lucis Art Pro 6.0. In the meantime  here’s a link to 10 Minute’s site (Warning: Explicit lyrics).