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Category: Photoshop

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!

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.