Established 1988

Category: Post Processing

It’s Cloudy…..But Is It Cloudy Enough?

It’s Cloudy…..But Is It Cloudy Enough?Leif

Leif Petersen has been a member of the Oshawa Camera Club since moving to Oshawa, from London, in 2008.  He has served on the club’s Executive Committee as Community Liaison, Vice President, President and is currently the Past President.  Leif is a member of Durham College’s Digital Photography and Video Advisory Committee and the Treasurer of the GTCCC.  He often leads workshops on various photography subjects and provides printing, matting and framing services for OCC and other club members

How to Get More Life and Mood Into Dull Clouds

I’d venture to guess that, after returning from a shoot on one of those days when, although there are clouds, they aren’t quite as dramatic as you’d like them.  In fact, when you start going through your shots, the sky is just marginally better than bald.  Of course, you can bring Lightroom’s ‘Highlights’ slider down to the left to try to recover some detail, but it doesn’t work really well if there’s very little detail there to start with.  Have you ever heard of the ‘Cloud’ filter in Photoshop?

I’ve chosen a shot I captured in front of Halgrimskjirka, the Lutheran cathedral, and the statue of my namesake, Leif Eriksson, in Reykjavik, Iceland to demonstrate this tip/trick.  I used the ‘Highlights’ slider to bring back some cloud detail, but it didn’t do much for it.

Clouds - 1


Here’s the process:

  • Open the image in Photoshop
  • Shrink it down: press the letter Z and then hold the Alt/Option key & click
  • Create a duplicate layer: Ctl/Cmd-J 

          Duplicate Layer


  • In the Menu bar, go to Filter>Render>Clouds, which puts an ugly mask over your image and ‘Layer 1’ becomes the clouds

Cloud Layer


  • Double click on ‘Layer 1’ and rename it ‘Clouds’

Cloud Layer 2

  • Stretch the ‘Clouds’ layer out: Ctl/Cmd-T, grab the handles and stretch the clouds out; you can also rotate it a bit if you like, then press Enter
  • In the Menu bar, go to Image>Calculations and make the following settings:
    • Merged > Gray
    • Blending > Screen
    • Result > Selection

Clouds Selection

  • Press Ctl/Cmd-D to unselect
  • Reduce the Opacity of the ‘Clouds’ layer to about 40% so that you can see what’s going on

Cloud Layer 3 Opacity

  •  Press the letter V and move the clouds around to the desired location
  • Apply a mask to the ‘Clouds’ layer

Cloud Layer 4 Mask'

  • Make sure that the Mask is selected by clicking on it and then brush the clouds out of the areas you don’t want them
    1. Before brushing clouds out, you can stretch them out more, move them around or rotate them more by pressing Ctl/Cdm-T
    2. Do the work you want them press Enter to lock it in
    3. Note that if you make those adjustments after you brush the clouds out, you’ll see the areas where they’ve been removed
  • Adjust the opacity to the desired level, likely in the 15% to 20% range
  • I’ve also added some Midtone Contrast & a Vignette
    • You’ll see that I added the mask to the Midtone Contrast layer. You add the mask to another layer by clicking on the mask in the ‘Clouds’ layer, holding down the Alt key and dragging the mask to another layer.

          Final Layers Panel


And here’s the final image


Clouds - 2



There’s Another Option, You Ask?  Certainly, This is Photoshop!


As with many things in Photoshop, there’s more than one way to do it.  In this case, Option 2 is:

  • Create a selection of the sky using the Quick Selection tool
  • Save the selection: Select > Save Selection and then press Ctl/Cmd-D to unselect
  • After moving the clouds to the desired location, load the selection: Select > Load Selection
  • Add a mask to apply the clouds to the sky only
  • Adjust the opacity to suit your taste

The disadvantage of this method is that you can’t move the clouds around after.  Try it to see what I mean.

Now it’s time to go back through your photos looking for dull, cloudy days that you can add some life to.  Have fun!

Creative Photographic Art Collages

Peter Neely

Peter Neely

Don Mills Camera Club



My experience with photographic collages goes back 25 years or so to the days of negative and slide film. In those days we called them sandwiches where we would layer two or more slides or negatives together to create a new image; this can now be done digitally.

Using Photoshop Elements I can now layer numerous images together and create a digital collage. The process for making collages is actually quite simple and involves layering images and using blending modes. You can use one image or many images to create the collage.

The process for a single image collage using Photoshop Elements is as follows:

  1. In Preferences make sure you have the Floating Window open.
  2. Open and duplicate your selected image.
  3. Go to Image (on top bar), click and select Rotate (from drop down panel); choose which way you want to rotate the image. You will now have one image flipped opposite the other image.
  4. Place cursor on one image, left click and hold down and drag on top of the other image and align the images; now you have a new layer on top of your original image (make sure Layers is open).
  5. Open blending modes by clicking in box at top that shows Normal; this will open Blending mode choices where you can scroll through and see how each mode affects layered image. I usually choose Differences mode to start as it makes the biggest change to the layered image.

For multiple image collages the process is the same as the above.

You can Rotate, Stretch, Shrink, Crop and add pieces of images; each time you change the Blending mode the appearance of the image is changed.

1Original Image

Example #1 is a single image rotated horizontally and collaged using Difference mode.

2Example #1

Example #2 is the same single image arranged differently and collaged using Lighten mode.


Example #2

Example #3 is 2 images collaged using Difference mode.

4Original Image #1

5Original Image #2

6Collaged Image


Panoramic Presentation


Black and White images on black backgrounds


 Black and White images on black backgrounds

by Glenn Springer, President, Haliburton Highlands Camera Club

A Britisher by the name of Antony Northcutt recently posted some black-and-white flowers on a black background on Facebook. I loved it and bought his eBook to learn the technique. Then I changed it!

Pablo Picasso said that a “good artist copies; a great artist steals”. The great artist uses the work of others as an inspiration, builds on it and makes it his own.

In Photoshop there are a million ways to do anything. Everyone’s approach is going to be different! In this short tutorial, I’ll show you my workflow and some of the thinking behind it, to give you some ideas.

This deals with making black and white images on black backgrounds. The key points are subject choice, selection, background rendering and toning. I edit in Photoshop CC 2014 but most of this works in earlier versions as well.

Selecting the subject

I don’t have that great an eye, but I’m looking for repetitive patterns and not-too-fine details. I look for textures. I fill most of the frame because I don’t want to have to crop too much. I used a flower in this example.

Expose for the subject because the background is going to be removed anyway. Shoot in RAW. Bracket exposures because colours can fool you. The key is to watch the histogram and be sure not to blow out the highlights.

Initial Processing

I use Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw. Sometimes I’ll crop up front, because I personally like square images for this approach. At first, my goal is to tone the image so that I have details at both ends – dark and light. Ignore the background and just look at the subject. This is just a “rough cut” – now you’re ready to export to Photoshop.

ALWAYS hit Ctrl-J, (Cmd-J on a Mac) as the first step in Photoshop, to duplicate the background layer in case you want to go back, reduce opacity or change blend modes on the working layer(s).

Making the Selection

One of the simplest ways is the Quick Selection Tool, followed by Refine Edge. Another easy tool to use is Topaz Remask. Get all of the flower, you can finesse the edges later. If you select too much you can erase it later, but it’s much harder to add something you missed. Suffice it to say, the simpler the subject, the easier it is. Complicated edges can be very challenging!

Now once it’s selected, Ctrl-J (Cmd-J) copies your selection onto a fresh layer.


The starting image after cropping square and the initial selection

Making a black background

KISS principle. Northcutt had you select the layer underneath, create an exposure adjustment layer, slide the exposure down as far as it will go, and you have an almost-black background. There’s one advantage to that method: you can keep some vestiges of what was around the subject in the final image. But the problem is, you won’t get a pure black. That makes a huge difference when you go to print.

Here’s my simpler way. Create a new layer. Fill it with black (alt-backspace on PC, option-delete on Mac). Slide the new layer underneath your selection layer. You’re done.


The selection is pasted into a new layer with a black layer added underneath

Now it’s time for a little cleanup. Don’t use the eraser tool – if you make a mistake, it’s hard to go back. Instead, add a mask on the layer and paint on the mask. Anything painted in black will reveal the layer underneath, anything painted in white will hide it – and it’s easy to go back and forth (the “X” key switches the foreground and background colours).

The Black and White Conversion

You could leave your image in colour. But I like black and white for this, and, well, I’m the artist today! Again, there are lots of ways to approach this. Before we do…

I want to work on a combined layer now. So I “Stamp” a fresh combined layer with “Ctrl-Alt-Shift-E” (Cmd-Option-Shift-E). I do this often, so I’ve programmed that into my tablet on a single hotkey.

Sidebar: You’ve already done a bunch of work. Save often, as a .PSD file to preserve all your layers

For the black and white, you could just go up in the menu and change the whole thing to greyscale. But it’s better to create a black-and-white adjustment layer. Now you can choose what happens to each colour in the original. Play. Sometimes I’ll use Silver Efex or BW Effects for the conversion.


After black-and-white conversion and curves adjustment

Toning your image

Curves adjusts the overall toning of the image. Make the curve “S”-shaped if you want more contrast. Pull specific spots to re-tone specific densities. Now do a non-destructive dodge and burn.

Create a new layer and fill it with 50% gray. Change the blend mode to “overlay”. In this mode, it has zero effect on your image. But if you paint in black on this layer, it burns in what’s underneath it. White dodges. Choose a soft brush, turn the opacity and paint. Use the “X” key to switch back and forth. Make a mistake? Switch colours. Or just fill the whole layer with grey again and start over!


How to add a non-destructive dodge/burn layer



This is what the dodge/burn layer looks like after it’s done

As a rule of thumb, burn in the dark things and dodge the light areas.



The key here is to select a subject with great tonality and texture, but not too much complexity. Visualize it in black and white. Put it on a pure black background, then enhance it with the traditional darkroom tools now translated into Photoshop. Pay attention to detail and your results will be outstanding.


This is the final product after a few more minor tweaks


Online resources:

Antony Northcutt eBook

Faczen tech blog (the full article)

Non-destructive dodging/burning

HDR Photography


HDR Photography


John Strung

HDR photography gets a bit of a bad rap from people who think its sole purpose is for special effects photography. That is not the case all. HDR stands for “High Dynamic Range” photography. It actually originated as an attempt to make photographs look more realistic.

Cameras do not have as large a dynamic range as the human eye. If you look at a landscape on a sunny day, your eye can see the clouds in the sky at the same time as it can see the details in the shadows. Cameras can’t yet do that. If you expose for the clouds in the sky, you lose the details in the shadows. If you expose for the shadows, the sky is blown out. That is why so often shots we take of landscapes do not seem as vivid as we recall the scene being. While you can compensate to a certain extent in post-processing the result often yields grainy images.

HDR photography attempts to remedy this by combining multiple exposures. In the simple example above, you would take three separate shots, one exposing the sky correctly, one exposing the shadows correctly, and one exposing the midrange correctly, and then combine the three to approximate what the eye actually sees.

This sounds complicated, but modern cameras and software make it easy. In fact, modern cameras make it easy to take HDR photos with 3, 5 or 7 images.

The image below is a HDR composite of 5 different exposures.


 The next image is the middle of the 5 exposures used for the HDR photo above.


Compared to the HDR image, the single exposure image has blown out highlights in the streetlight and at the base of the lighthouse, and has no colour or detail in the lake or sky or below the pier.

HDR is useful whenever your subject has a larger dynamic range than your camera can handle.

It can be particularly useful for shooting into the sun or for getting texture in snow as in the image below.

1409-3HDR is also useful for indoor architectural photography. If HDR had not been used for the image below of the Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal, the bright chancel would have been blown out and there would have been little or no detail in the dark areas under the balconies.


Making the HDR Image


  1. Camera Settings – taking the photo

Use a tripod.

Set your camera to Aperture Priority mode (Av on Canon, A on Nikon), with a fixed (not Auto) ISO setting, so that only the shutter speed changes between exposures.

Most cameras have an “Auto Exposure Bracketing” setting that will allow you to set the camera to take 3, 5 or 7 shots at different exposures automatically. You may have to consult your camera manual.

The photo below shows a Canon 6D set to take 5 shots, the first 2 stops underexposed, then 1 stop underexposed, then correctly exposed, then 1 stop overexposed, then 2 stops overexposed.

If the camera is set to the timer mode, you only have to press the shutter once and it will automatically take all 5 shots one after the other.


Exposure Tip:

Most cameras will not let you take an exposure longer than 30 seconds unless you use the manual “bulb” setting. When shooting HDR in low light situations, to ensure that your longest exposure is 30 seconds, set up your camera as above and press the shutter half way down to see what shutter speed the camera will automatically expose for. Then, assuming you are going take HDR shots over a range of -2 to +2 EV (as above) change your ISO so that the shutter speed is shown as 8 seconds. This will result in exposures of 30, 16, 8, 4 and 2 seconds. (If you are going to shoot a range of -3 to +3, set your ISO so that the metered shutter speed is 4 seconds).

  1. Combining and Processing the Images

Combining and processing the images is done most easily using a plug-in. The two most popular ones are Photomatix ( and Nik HDR Efex Pro ( Both will work as plug-ins for Lightroom and Aperture. HDR Efex Pro will also work as a plug-in for Photoshop and Photoshop Elements. Although HDR Efex Pro is a little more expensive than Photomatix, it comes as part of a suite of 7 plug-ins, so you get an additional 6 plug-ins for the price.

There are good video tutorials for using both of these tools on the web sites linked above.

Basically, it is just a matter of selecting the 3, 5 or 7 images you took in the Aperture or Lightroom browser, and pulling down a menu to invoke the plug-in. The software will then combine the images and give you a choice of various effects you can apply.

With a little practice and experimenting, you will find that you can process HDR images quickly and effectively.

  1. Useful Links

Photomatix – HDR Plug-in

Nik HDR Efex Pro – HDR Plug-in

HDR Tutorial – How To Make Beautiful HDR Photos With Ease!

The HDR Image

Cambridge in Colour – HDR Photography

Trillium Photographic Club Tips and Tutorials


Quick Photoshop Tips for B&W

Tony Paine

Tony Paine

Mississauga Camera Club

Tony Paine is the 2-time Club Champion of Mississauga Camera Club, Competition Director at Etobicoke Camera Club and a contributing member to the Toronto Focal Forum.  About 40% of his work is in B&W.  See more examples at

Quick Photoshop Tips for B&W

Black and White is used to add drama and emphasize the structural design of a well-executed image.  My 3 hour B&W Workshop covers 10 Tips & Tricks to make better images (most of which also work in color).  Let me give you a couple of the best quick tips.

Half Dome

 Image: Half Dome View from Shady Lookout

Tip #1: Improve the apparent 3-dimensionality of any image with “Poor Man’s PerceptoolTM(courtesy of; George also has a great free natural HDR program “ALW HDR” for CS3/4/5).  PerceptoolTM is a downloadable program that costs about $100 US, but is also only available for CS3/4/5.  What I call Poor Man’s Perceptool is a free Action you can download (which does a better job on highlights than the paid version), comprised of the following simple steps:

1.       Select the upper layer in your image stack (or the base layer if you just opened an image).

2.       Start recording the Action – call it “GDW Poor Man’s Perceptool”

3.       Press Alt-Control-Shift-E (PC) to generate a new layer representing a copy of all the underneath layers.  Name the new layer “Copy”

4.       Press Control-J to make a copy of the Copy layer.  Name the new Layer “Poor Man’s Perceptool”

5.       Apply a 250 pixel Hi Pass filter to the PMP layer (Filter > Other > Hi Pass > 250 Radius).

6.       Select the Copy layer and press CTRL ALT 2 (PC; or Command Opt 2 Mac) to load the Luminosity as a selection.

7.       Click on the PMP layer; Click Add Mask (rectangular icon in Layers Palette with circle in the middle).  This should put a B&W version of the image in the mask of the Copy layer.

8.       Set the blending mode of the PMP layer to Soft Light.

9.       Stop recording the Action

10.   Delete the “Copy” Layer – I use it to allow multiple under layers.  With only an image layer to start, you will get an error message running the Action, but simply press “Continue” to ignore it.

In use, you adjust the PMP layer opacity (50% is typical for color images; 100% for B&W), or turn off the mask if you like.  The result should be deeper shadows and brighter whites emphasizing edges – a more 3-dimensional look.  I use this little trick (plus George’s Edge Burn Action to create a subtle vignette) on almost every image where it is important to develop a sense of depth – in both Color and B&W.

Mississauga Moonrise

Image: Mississauga Moonrise

Tip #2.  A snappy B&W conversion.  Anybody who looks at the luminance mask (Shift-Click on it) on the PMP layer will recognize the mask image is a very snappy B&W in its own right.  The same B&W conversion can be realized in 4 steps (which I also program into an Action):

1.       Save the image then flatten and convert to LAB color.

2.       Duplicate the base layer.

3.       Select the duplicate layer and perform the 250 pixel Hi Pass Filter on it.  Rename it “High Pass 250”.  Set the Blending Mode to Soft Light.

4.       Add a Hue Saturation Layer and Set the Saturation to Zero.

This is all I did to the color head shot of me at the top of the article.  You may dial down the opacity of the High Pass Layer to taste, but at 100% the result is the same as the mask in Poor Man’s Perceptool.  Usually I flatten at this point and convert back to RGB because I want to work B&W in RGB to add color toning for effect or to offset unwanted printer/paper tones.

Peruvian Encounter

Image: Peruvian Encounter

Once you have the Actions in place, it is a simple matter to run them with a single click and then dial down the opacity of the resulting layers to boost your image potential.