Freestyle Photo Editing

My usual approach to photo editing is to have a clear finished image in my mind before I start. I like to focus on this finished image to get it as clear as possible in order to plan out the change I’m going to make. Although the plans only jotted bullet points it helps reinforce the finished image in my mind.

This image is completely different.

Early morning in Padley Gorge, The Peak District.

Rather than planning out the finished result I just trusted to luck. I also didn’t spend any real time trying to imagine what it would look like when finished. In fact, it started off with me thinking the result would be a colour shot.

Here’s the starting image without any adjustment.

I can’t remember all the changes I made but it went something along the lines of the following:

Luminar 4

  • White balance and split toning to give the image a cold blue/green tint with a spooky feel.
  • Change the contrast to give a dull matt feel to the blacks.
  • Diffuser to soften the detail and make the fog/mist in the original shot more obvious.
  • Add a crop and dark vignette to focus attention on the centre of the frame.

Nik Silver Efex Pro

  • Conversion 1 on a new layer – selected a dark sepia preset from the list and then adjusted the tones to ensure the blacks don’t become too dark.
  • Conversion 2 on a new layer – used the standard conversion as a base to then emphasise the lighter tones in the image. This included using the Colour Response sliders to make the green moss glow.


  • Blended the two Silver Efex conversions together. Most of the image is from the dark conversion. The light conversion was them used to emphasise the highlights.

Overall, it was quite a bit of fun working like this. I’m quite pleased with the result but I can see some changes I would like to make in a future version.

I hope you like the image and have a great weekend.

10 thoughts on “Freestyle Photo Editing

  1. This is a fascinating post. I’m using the lockdown period to learn more about the possibilities of the software I use (Lightroom, Photoshop, and Nik). I’m not familiar with Luminar 4. I have a few comments:
    • In response to your Conversion 1 step, the blacks do look too black to me; all detail in the deeper shadows seems to be gone.
    • Must look into the possibilities of the color response slider; how you’ve brought out the green mossy areas is pure magic.
    • I find the vignetting too drastic. In the corners (with the exception of the upper-left one), all detail is gone. The initial impression is quite striking, to be sure, but upon deeper contemplation, I’d rather be able to see the fine structures.
    It is a lovely photo! Where was this?

    1. Hi Gary, I don’t think I was being clear about what I meant by a black in the image. There isn’t a true black with an RGB value of 0,0,0. The darkest shade is more like 30,30,30 which is dark grey. I also flattened the tone curve in these dark tones to remove the contrast which is why I called it a matt black. Regarding your deeper contemplation, I avoided contemplation with this image almost entirely and instead reacted to what I saw during editing. You may prefer fine structure but I think that’s a personal preference. I decreased the appearance of fine structure because I preferred this look. I guess it’s back to not everyone will like the same things. Do be sure to check out the colour response sliders in Nik Silver Efex. They can do magical things.

  2. That hefty an amount of vignetting doesn’t appeal to me but the description of the workflow was interesting.

  3. Hello Robin
    Usually, I do not apply vignetting much, if any, but in this case I find it pleasing and like it very much. The image does not pretend to be realistic, but appeals with beauty and power. I like it very much.
    You should wear a microphone and talk into it when editing freestyle 😉

    1. Thanks Robert. Great to hear you like the image. I’m not sure about wearing a mic when editing. I have tried this and find that I become completely distracted from the editing or sometimes I become so engrossed in the editing that I forget to describe what I’m doing. I guess I’m a typical man who can only do one thing at a time.

      1. Joking only. Probably because I am right now working your new Photoshop book through and being not very computer savvy I would need a teacher standing behind me 😉 Have a nice time and stay healthy!
        Regards, Robert

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