How to Plan and Shot the Milky Way

How to Plan and Shot the Milky Way

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Astrophotography  is a fascinating world, finding yourself under a magnificent starry sky is an experience that everyone likes, it is always fascinating for me to photograph the night sky and enjoy stars photography

Years ago photographing the stars at night was something that perhaps few people would have the lucky to do, but today with modern DSRL and technologies, astrophotography has become more easy

In this article, I am going to show how to plan and shot the milky way, what you have to know to do it, what you need for and how can do it!

WHEN TO GO

Milky way is clearly visible during the summer months, before you go always search on internet that milky way will be visible in your area

WEATHER

Essential condition for photographing the milky way is a cloudless sky, more clouds will make it more difficult to see the stars, so always check the weather before you go to shoot

MOON  PHASE

Another milky way enemy is the moon, always consider the moon phases of the rise and the sunset to avoid having a bright ball to ruin the show in the sky. The best time to go is during the new moon or with low moon visibility rates. To check the best moment to go you can check on the web but there are many apps to do that, I use PhotoPhills

WHERE TO FIND A DARK SKY

In astrophotography is very important to find a good location to photograph a starry sky with some composition element of course to composite a landscape. You have to get away from the big cities and light sources as much as possible, which is the main element of disturb for good visibility of the milky way. Fortunately it’s easy to find apps and tools to do this. Before go give a look on light pollution map  it will to help to find good locations or confirm that the place you chose is good to shoot the night sky

COMPOSING THE SHOT

the best thing would be going to the dark location before night, with sunlight you can better understand the location and think about how to take the picture once night comes. There are many apps that allows you to find the milky way once darks begin. Some of this are Google Earth, Stellarium, Photopills, Google Sky Map and Sky View. If instead you go to the place when it is already dark, if you have found a good location with dark sky you can see it with a naked eye

GEAR YOU NEED:

 

A Good Camera

A good camera that is capable of working with high ISO is an indispensable requirement to capture the milky way. As nikonist I know the fabulous performance of the D810A, but there are many other here great mirror-less options available these days, even cheaper, solutions on the market that guarantee excellent low light performances

Tripod

It is not possible to do a long exposure without a tripod, so this is an indispensable requirement for photographing the milky way. For a landscape photographer investing on the good and sturdy stand is very important

Lens

To capture the milky way you need to have a wide angle lens, the reason for this is that the milky way is very large in the sky and if you want to have a good frame need to include a composite element below, the wider will be your lens more is better. Another important element is the aperture value, a good aperture lens will capture more light this allows to  play with ISO and get great results, I personally use the nikon 14-24 f2.8 that I use in most of my landscapes

Remote Shutter

I’t highly recommended to have one with you. During a milky way/night shot you, you may need to shot for 25-40 seconds exposures. Normally you can do it with self timer but over 30 sec camera switch to bulb mode, to avoid staying the whole time with your finger pressed on the button with an almost always moving result a remote shutter will not let you shoot without interacting with the camera keys, risking having a blurred picture. Also, if you like to shot startrails  is a key requirement

CAMERA SETTINGS:

 

Focus

During the night, auto focusing in the dark is very difficult , so it is necessary to use the manual focus (which I generally recommend for every landscape photo)
You can focus manually in the dark with great results adjusting the lens, setting it to the infinite symbol and then moving it slightly to the right, shot a trial shoot  and zoom on it,  you will be able to see if it’s all in focus correctly

Shutter Speed

Talking about exposure time may be lower or higher depending on the lens you use or the ISO that you set. In most cases, good results are obtained with 25-30 seconds, but many photographers rely on the 500/600 rule that displays exposure times of the the milky way before stars that make it passes from point to trails (you can find the app for this rule the name is dark skies). I personally think it useful but with good DSL with high ISO sensitivity you can quietly use values much lower than those that are reported in thesw two rules.

Aperture

For this type of photography, the camera’s aperture value must be the lowest f/value added. This will allow the camera to receive as much light as possible without raising ISO too much,  more this value of your lens is as low and cleaner will be the final result

Iso

This is a decisive value and linked to the previous point. Usually I get best results in an ISO range ranging from 3200 to 6400 before noise starts destroying the image. With particularly bright lenses you can keep this value low gaining photo cleanliness, so it is to balance the shutter and ISO aperture value to find the best compromise

I’ve talked about the composition before, always try to photograph the milky way below some compositional element to have a good overall landscape.

CONCLUSIONS

Once photographed, the post-processing stage is what allows you enhance the visibility of the milky way. In my opinion, this kind of photo requires initial work on Camera Raw before starting to work with Photoshop so you need to take it in this format to get the best results

How to process the milky way depends on your personal taste, if you prefer something more natural or something that increases more colors and details.

This might be the subject of my next tutorial, let me know what you think in the comments!

I hope you enjoy and you find this tutorial usefull, I’m always happy to ear it from you!


3 Different Ways to Create Beautiful Orton Effect

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Giuseppe Sapori - Frostbite Touch

The Orton Effect is a glow effect added to photographs in post-production. I’ts largely used in landscape to create a dreamy effect. The Orton Effect found applications also in portrait photography and it is used to create a surreal impact. For this reason it is very used by photographer during editing

The Orton effect consisted of superimposing two or more images of the same scene with very different exposure characteristics on a slide. Of these, one is perfectly focused while the others are blurry

Being a widespread effect in photography I noticed that it is also full of tutorials about how to make it, but it seems that everyone does this in a different way from the others and there is no standard way to accomplish it

That is why I did my guide within the orton effect to make it three different typologies that I usually use:

 

FIRST METHOD (MORE DARKS)

1. Duplicate your background layer by holding Ctrl+J, or CMD+J on a Mac.

2. With this new layer selected, go to Image>Apply Image. Make sure your settings are the same as the settings in the image below

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3. Next change the Blend Mode of the top layer to Multiply. This will darken the image

4. Go to Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur. While looking at the image, change the Radius until you have the

effect you are looking for, then press Ok

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SECOND METHOD (MORE BRIGHTS)

1. Duplicate twice your background layer by holding Ctrl+J, or CMD+J on a Mac

2. With the first layer, go to Image>Apply Image. Make sure your settings are the same as the settings in the image below, repeat it twice

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3. Now go to the layer on top and Go to Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur. While looking at the image, change the Radius until you have the effect you are looking for, then press Ok

4. Merge all layers and set Screen as blending mode

 

THIRD METHOD (MORE DETAILS)

1. Duplicate twice your background layer by holding Ctrl+J, or CMD+J on a Mac

2. Deselect the layer on top than with the second go to Go to Blur>Gaussian Blur set it between 20/25

3. Go to Image>Adjustments to increase brightness and contrast, then decrease the opacity to 10%

 

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4. Now make visible the layer on top,  go to Filters>Others>High Pass and put radius as your personal taste

5. Group all layers


4 Methods to Correct Color Cast in Photoshop

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In this tutorial we will see how to correct color cast fastly and very effectively, I selected 4 methods among most used for final results.

some of these techniques are more rapid other more longer,  below you will find all this methods starting from the easiest to the most longer. This is because not all the techniques work in the same way with different images, there are some of this that may be work great with some pictures but they could not do the same with others, that’s why below there are 4 methods to correct color cast in Photoshop, so that you can use them in every situation

 

THE 4 METHODS

1) The first method is very simple to use, go to Image>Auto Color this automatically correct your color cast neutralizing the main color cast

2) The second method is by using match color, go to Image>Adjustments>Match Color and select Neutralize this restore the color cast and it does a better job than Auto Color

3) Next one is to use Adobe Camera Raw, go to Filters>Adobe Camera Raw, now change the white balance from As shot to Auto to have a auto correct of color cast, if you don’t like it, you can move the temperature slider below to customize colors

4) The last method to correct color cast in Photoshop is to use the white point, select threshold adjustment layer and move the slider to find the brights. Now select the color sampler tool and put it on the white point. Now go to levels adjustment layer and select the white eyedropper tool, click on the white point selected and photoshop will auto correct color relying on the white point selected.

These was the 4 methods to correct color casts in photosh, below you will find the video tutorial, enjoy!

 

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How to Sharpen and Resize Photos for Web

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After each photo editing a very important step is the final one: saving for web. This is a very important passage to upload photos for web and social networks in a small format. Below the passages to create a final sharpen and resize photos for web.

Take the photo already finished to save it for web, first thing let’s resize it.

Go to Image>Duplicate this will create a copy of the photo in a new window, then go to

Image>Image size and change the resolution in 72 Dpi. The width/height width will change automatically, once that’s done change below in Bicubic Smoother (enlargement).

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Once resized, let’s continue with the sharpening . In the new window duplicate layer, rename it “Sharpen and Resize” and go to Filters>Sharpen>Unsharp Mask. Set a smaller radius (0.5) and higher strength (100/120), you can change theese values as your personal taste but usually theese values works the best.

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Once sharpening applied we need to resize again the image, this time as the final width/height desired, go again to Image>Image size and change the width or height (it depends if you have a orizontal or vertical photo) for the final size of the photo, for web I usually set it on 1000px on the long size.

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The final step to sharpen and resize photos for web it to save the photo. Go to File>Save As and set the your desired final quality. And that’s it. Just choose a name you want and save it 🙂

If you know other techniques to sharpen and resize your photos, comment below this post and let me know it, I love hear it from you!

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10 Tips To Improve Your Landscape Photos

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I Have always been a lover of  Landscape photography. A suggestive spot, natural locations or a beautiful sunset over the sea for me have always been something unique, a moment to stuck. In my experience I have made ​​many mistakes during my shots over that places, but I’ve also learned from them what are the main warnings to keep in mind when need to photograph a landscape. So in this article I will  share with you 10 Tips To Improve Your Landscape Photos, hope you will find them usefull:

Plan for your shots

If you plan well your photos, you’re already a step piece. This means to know the shooting place and location features.  In  Landscape Photography we need to know so many factors such as the position of the sun, weather conditions, moon phases and moon sunset for the milky way.

There are so many apps that allow you to know the conditions of  your shooting location. I usually use Photo Emeries, Photo Phills and Golden Lite, they are all good for the direction of the sun, or times for the golden/blue hour, or even where you will locate the milky way in the sky

Giuseppe Sapori - Moonwalk

Arrive Early to get the best position

It seems a small thing but it isn’t, get there early helps you find the best position before other photographers, you will also have all the time to understand where it will comes the sunrise or sunset and calculate the shot. For example when I was in Oia Santorini, many people wanted to take the famous sunset, the best spot was invaded by many tourists and photographers.

I arrived at my spot at least 4 hours before sunset (it’s too much I know, but in my case it was really necessary) finding the spot I chosen, during this long time I set the camera, I cleaned my lenses, I set the shot while I made an aperitive with beer and chips while waiting. By the time all the others  photographers and tourists crowded behind me in bizarre positions 🙂

Giuseppe Sapori - Oia Sunset 2

Clean your lenses

If you arrive early to your location you will also have time to give a clean the lens you decide to use. The best solution is to use specific products for lens cleaning but if you don’t have something of this try to clean them using cleenex.  Avoid absolutely to breathe on the lenses and to give him a clear brief with the shirt 🙂 breath is not suitable to clean and shirt can drop pesky lint that attach to the lens

Always use tripod

In one word “essential”, to get the freedom to shoot with manual focus, with long exposure times and with bracket shots. Depending on the light and the type of photo it may not be necessary but photographing landscapes at dusk  is a prerequisite

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Don’t move tripod

In landscape photography tripod always it assumes a fundamental role, but personally I think it also aids in shooting creativity. Once I have chosen a good position I hardly move my tripod, this because it allows me to be able to catch and shoot the various moments of light alternate with the passage of time. This means choosing the best light, the best color or just have the choice to do it.

For example in the pictures I took in the new district of Milan Porta Nuova I stayed for about two hours withoud moving my tripod capturing everything I needed even if far apart them in a time frame. At home with Photoshop I merged all the layers I needed to put it all together in one frame: light trails, city lights and sky with the colors of the first sunset. Moving tripod or changing the direction of the camera this would have been impossible

Giuseppe Sapori - Faster ride

Manually focus

The auto focus is definitely more practical, but to improve it and sharpen your images nothing is better as manual focus, expecially in cases where there is low light manual focus is the best choice.

If you want to be sure to don’t mistake with the manual focus I can suggest a little trick: Set the live view and enlarge the picture on the part to focus on, turn the focus ring until the image is perfectly in focus and then returns to classic view in this way it will be easy and fast do it

Bracket your exposures

It ‘a personal taste choice, some photographers prefer to work with single RAW but personally I bracket all the time because it allows me to capture the entire dynamic range in a picture and to work more freely. Have a series of shots allows great control on the result final, all this is not always possible with the individual RAW exposure

With foreground is better

Many photos of landscapes made by the greatest photographers are characterized by this element, in fact, never underestimate the potential of the foreground which serves to capture the attention of potential frame viewers. For example when we are capturing a mountain, or a sunset in the background have an interesting foreground to insert make the image much more complete and interesting, helping to broaden the overall vision. It can make the difference

Giuseppe Sapori - The last light

Shoot looking into the sun

Shooting into the sun will completely transform your images. Sun will add a wonderful point of light into the frame, it will change and enhance the entire balance of light in your picture. Don’t worry if the image may be too overexposed in some places, taking with brackets shot you can bring back the light where you need to create a more dynamic and natural look

Giuseppe Sapori - Coastal Sunset

Focus stack

This last point of 10 Tips To Improve Your Landscape Photos can be connected with point number 8 “with foregound is better”. When I spoke about foreground, it can happen that the image is not perfectly sharp between the foreground and background. For this reason, using the focus stacks  is important to have a perfectly focused image in all its parts without sacrificing a full-frame elements. I talked about the stack depth focus in this article.

Giuseppe Sapori - The Heaven Mirror

these are my 10 Tips To Improve Your Landscape Photos. if you were to tell me your what you put it? Your point of view is important, write me in the section below


Dodge and Burn – 2 non destructive techniques compared

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It is quite common to have to raise or lower the level of exposure in our pictures. The Dodge and Burn tools in Photoshop are used to either lighten underexposed areas of a photo or darken overexposed areas. The terms “dodge” and “burn” refer to techniques that were used to either lighten (dodge) or darken (burn) specific areas of a picture by increasing or limiting the exposure in those areas. Unfortunately Dodge and Burn tools  do not work on the original pixels and can cause permanent damage to our image.

One of the most used and efficient Dodge and Burn method is by using a 50% grey layer: this method allows you to create a dodge and burn very effective not being at the same time too intrusive

 

How to apply Dodge and Burn using 50% grey

 

1. Create a new layer;

2. In the new Layer dialog box select overlay and Fill with Overlay-neutral color (50% gray). (The new layer created will set automatically on Overlay and in the layer’s preview you wull see it filled in grey);

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 3.  Select the Dodge Tool and paint all the areas that need to be lightened;

4.  Select the Burn Tool with the same opacity and paint all the areas that need to be darkened

If you get a look at the grey thumbnail for the “Dodge and Burn” layer in the Layers palette, you can see all the areas  painted with black or white like the image below

 

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Although I consider this method one of most valid in dodge and burn technique, but I prefer to use the technique with direct brush using separate layers

 

How to apply dodge and burn using separate layers

Simply by creating two empty levels and by drawing directly above them. The steps and the process of this method of dodge and burn can be even more simple than 50% gray method but it requires more precision and attention in the paint

1. Create two separate layers. The first one will be your Dodge, the second your Burn tool;

2. Select a white brush and paint inside the Dodge layer using a very low opacity, around 2%;

3. Select a black brush and paint inside the Burn layer using a very low opacity, around 2-5%

as you can see this time go to paint directly on the image , but with such low opacity where you will not even need to change the blending mode

I prefer this dodge and burn method, using the separate layers because it is the most versatile. Painting directly on the separate layers it allows to create levels as many are your needs, for example you can create a new layer to increase dodge/burn of greens, blues, yellows etc… or if you need to intensify the brightness of a color , without apply  filters

It is very usefull when you want to lighten/darken some colored areas of your image, a typical example is the use of this third method on the milky way, to make more visible some of it’s colors. In this case:

 

1. Create a new layer

2. Use the color picker tool and sample the color you need to dodge/burn

3. Set the opacity around 10%-20% and paint directly on the area you need

4. Change the blending mode to soft light

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You can create as many layers as you need to create dodge and burn, using this simply method. Below you will find the before/after of a light dodge and burn applied in my image


Tutorial: Bracketed Landscape with Focus Stacking

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The technique of the Focus Stacking consists in taking a series of pictures gradually changing the focus between the one and the other; being processed will join the shots, taking advantage of each image only those parts that appear to be in focus. In landscape photography the main rule is to focus all the elements of the foreground and take some exposure for the sky or highlights.

When i was at the lake in Campo Imperatore I shot a large number of exposures to focus on all the rocks it was, sky and mountain. When I go home indeed I realized that I really need only one of the exposures for the foreground, and only one of exposures for the mountain, focus stack all the rocks one by one in this case was not so necessary, cause the focus was pratically the same for each rock. I did not think about it 🙂

So in this tutorial I will show you how to apply focus stacking in a foregrounded landscape using Bracketing mode and how I use other exposures for my final image.

 

Shooting and preparing the images

I took a series of exposures bracketed images ( -1 , 0, +1 ) for the rocks in the foreground and an additional bracketed series of shots focusing the mountain set on ∞  ( -1 , 0 + 1 ).

Added to this, there is another shot that I took in the late evening to replace the mountain covered by clouds. For a total of 7 exposures.

ESEMPIO

ESEMPIO1

I take all the shots using tripod, ISO 100 and f/11

Below all the steps I do that show you  how to focus stack and how to make a blend with additional exposure

 

Stacking and Auto Blending

1. Launch Lightroom and select all the stack images.

2. Right Click on the images selected. Develop settings>Sync Settings

3. Adjust for all the stacked images,  distortion,  white balance, contrast ecc…

4. Right Click again and select Edit In > Open as Layers in Photoshop

5. Select all the layers and Go to Edit>Auto-Align Layers, with settings as follow:

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6.  Regroup layers by exposure.

For a 2 series of bracketing (-1; 0 +1) x 2 I had 2 overexposed, 2 correct and 2 underexposed images.

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7. Highlight images by group and blend them, Edit>Auto-Blend Layer like below:

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Photoshop will blend the highlighted images creating a layer mask for each image, to show in white the sharp and in black the hidden areas. Select this layers and merge them.

 

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Theese three images are now a “Bracketed Focus Stacked Series”, you can now edit them with Photoshop as you do with a normal bracketing series.  I usually edit theese shots using Luminance Masks to select all the brights and shadows I need without affecting the entire picture in order to create a final quality image.

 

Exposure Blend

Remember the seventh exposure that I said at the beginning? I’ve taken it just before leaving the location, cause I had seen that the mountain began to discover from the clouds. In that picture I had masked only this part of the mountain without affecting the sky.

1. Put the new layer at the top, and auto align again with Edit>Auto-Align Layers

2. Create layer mask and click (Ctrl+I; PC) or (Cmd+I MAC) to invert it

3. Select now a white brush and paint in the areas of the sky that you want to blend in

4. Press( Ctrl+E; PC) or (Cmd+E; MAC) to merge layers

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Conclusions

The final question is “How many images do I need, and where should they be focused?”

The answer depends on what your scene looks like and what effect you’re trying to achieve.

At a minimum, you need to have each scene element you need be sharp, at least one (or a series of bracketing shots)

Sometimes you can do that by focusing specifically on each element you care about. For example in presence of many close-up elements in the foreground, ( leafs, flowers and other things that wind can move). In this case take many exposure as for the element you need.

 

 


How to Increase Details Selectively

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The selective application of digital Photoshop editings are now a crucial prerequisite in contemporary digital photography. This applies not only to details but to all those kinds of interventions that affects our images; so them  colors, details, lights, contrasts etc… To obtain a good image is therefore essential to know how to master the application of selective elements, details in this case are a factor of particular importance for the selective application. Let’s see how to do it:

 

– Duplicate Layer

– Select Black and White adjustment layer

– Change the Blending mode in Hard Light

– Go to Filters>Others>High Pass  and put radius as follow

 

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Now create a layer mask and fill it with black color MAC (Cmd+I) PC(Ctrl+I).

Your layer mask will be look like this. Black mask has the effect of hide the High Pass filter applied.

 

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Now select the White Brush and set the opacity aroud 30% (you can set an higher value for a stronger effect).

By painting the various elements, you are selectively showing the details in the affected areas 🙂

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How to remove people/object from an image

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It happens to everyone to shoot in areas frequented by many people, for example the main attractions of a city.  This is the case when tourists ruins our photo idea or simply when you don’t notice that element that you would avoid in the final image. I live in Rome and tourists are really a nightmare for this kind of things, so over the years I learned to juggle well in these situations.

While for people and moving objects  the removal  from he photo can be relatively simple, by taking multiple exposures and deleting them manually or automatically, the static element instead creates a huge problem for its elimination. So  Let’s see how to remove people or object from a a single shot, focusing more attention on the harder single shot removal.

 

MULTIPLE EXPOSURES

In presence of multiple exposures the fastest way to remove unwanted items is to use the “Median”  function in Photoshop.

image-statistics-665x499

 

– You should to go to File > Scripts > Statistics.

– Select “Median” for the stack mode and check “Attempt to Automatically Align Source Images.”

– Select your set of images and click ok.

Photoshop will process the images to preserve the static background removing everything that changes between the shots (moving people, cars, birds etc). If the final result is not perfectly clean you can continue to refine the scene using clone stamp tool.

 

SINGLE EXPOSURE

In the presence of static elements instead as I said the work is more difficult. In this case the undesiderable element will always be in its place without the change to erase them using another exposure.

This is the case of my photo in Oia Santorini where hundreds of people present to photograph the sunset did not allow me to be able to move easily and choose a better point of shot. I wanted to avoid the shot using 35mm because would have lost too much in terms of scenery, so I made the shot in 24mm while knowing the hard work that expect to me, especially for the antenna on huge right. 🙂

before

 

To start remove elements from a single exposure:

–  Select what you want to delete, for example using magnetic lasso, magic wand or quick selection tool.

– Then select Edit>Fill and make the choice like this, then click ok

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The selection you made will be absorbed by the content of the picture, using the elements of background and nearby the selection you made. Obviously small selections you make greater is the change to be more accurate. So you should do it portion for portion on wich you want to delete to create a more realistic effect of disappearance, like this.

a

 

At the end of the erasing may be still something to delete, in this case you can use the clone stamp tool. The clone stamp for correct and clean use must be used with inverse selection (as shown in the picture of this wall with the people above that I should not touch).

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Select the part you want to “save” that you do not want to affect from the clone Stamp tool

Right mouse button and click on Select Inverse

Then you can clone whatever you want without the risk of damaging the wall

 

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This technique will help you a lot to take pictures with a little more freedom even in the presence of so many people, but try to make your life easier shooting when you have more free field 🙂

This is the finished work, I  chose to delete only people and things  than most impacted in the picture but with  patience it is possible to remove all.

 


How to enhance sunset colours

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Taking shots during sunset it means to take them during the golden hour. All the best images whether at sunset dawn share the beauty and the advantage of the warm light intense that only the golden hour can offer

Personally I shoot in RAW, which as you know does not shine in the tackle, so every time I come to edit a photo of beautiful sunsets are always looking for something that can make it sharper and more visual impact.
Hence I decided to create this little guide that contains all my main interventions to make a impressive sunset:

 

FIRST METHOD USING CURVES

1- Select Curves and switch to Red Channel

2- move the curve upward to intensify red colours

3- switch to Blue Channel

4- move the curve downward to intensify yellow colours

 

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Now click on “Elliptical Marque Tool” and draw a circle inside the image, this will be the area, this will be the area affected by the intervention of the yellow enhance effect

Invert the selection Ctrl + I (or Cmd+I on Mac)

Deselect Ctrl+D (or Cmd +I on Mac)

and invert again

Now the image should result like this:

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Go to > Filters > Blur >Gaussian Blur and select an high value of blur.

Now the effect will be applied in a diffuse way on the whole image, decrease opacity until the point that you like

This is the final result

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SECOND METHOD USING PHOTO FILTERS

1- Go to Photo Filter and select a warming filter (numer 81 or 85)

2- Pull it until 100

 

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3- Select > Image >Apply image and take care that the settings are as follows:

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Repeat the last passage (3) until you are happy, decrease opacity if if you prefer a more soft effect

This is the final result

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Hi, my name is Giuseppe Sapori, a professional photographer and author of this website, created by yours truly to show my work and share with you the techniques I use. My expertise is in the field of Landscape Photography... (Read More)

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