Recently I have been discussing LUT’s as a way of enhancing photography in Photoshop and Lightroom. But where can you find these powerful LUTs from?
Well, you can create your own by combining and tweaking the LUT’s that come with Photoshop and then exporting these. Unfortunately, that’s quite limiting in the range of effects.
Another option is to download free giveaways from the web. But, people don’t give away their best work for free. When you look closely, the most impressive LUT’s usually cost a lot. This isn’t surprising because it can take a lot of effort to create some of these effects.
Since the middle of last year, I have been investigating options that would allow me to apply colour adjustments to images (not video) which I could then save as a LUT file. Whilst there’s a few tools on the market, they appear to be geared towards the film industry (hardly surprising), and the cost is rather prohibitive. If I had £30k+ to spend on software, I would be using it to buy camera equipment.
Then, out of the blue, I was contacted by the company behind 3D LUT Creator, asking if I would review their product. I turned this down (I was too busy at the time) but I did download the free version of the software. After some experimentation I was impressed. But this isn’t a review of their product. Instead, I published a video demonstrating how easy it is to create colour grading effects and produce LUT files which you can use in Photoshop.
Please keep in mind, this is a very simple example and you can do much more with this software.
And no, I’m not being paid for this. I only ever discuss products I’m impressed with or have purchased myself and I think might interest others.
Something that always seems to cause confusion amongst photographers, is Luminosity Masks. I think a lot of the confusion is down to people hyping the technique. There seems to be a lot of photographers that for whatever reason, want to make the subject confusing.
Why does this appear to be the norm with many people involved in photography? If someone thinks they have an edge, they won’t share it. But some even try to make it harder to learn to keep that edge.
Even if you don’t want to enrol in the course, I made the Introduction section free to watch. It has some useful information about masks and Photoshop that you might find helpful.
To watch the Introduction, use the discount link above. When the information page opens scroll down to the Curriculum section. Here you can use the Preview buttons to watch the videos in the introduction.
On Friday, I shared a fairly traditional image of the Elizabeth Tower in London. Some people also know this as Big Ben, although Big Ben is the bell inside the clock-tower. Then over the weekend I was working on my next book (“Mastering Photoshop Masks”) and decided to use the image for one of the worked examples. The image above is the result of the editing example in the book. It demonstrates how you can use masks to create very interesting effects in Photoshop.
I’m expecting to release the book in September and have already finished the first draft. This example used a series of layers and blending techniques, together with a simple mask of the clock-tower. I’m not going to say too much more about how to create the image, you’ll need to wait for the book for that. Anyway, I hope you like it as it shows what can be achieved, quite quickly when using Photoshop. The original looks a little boring now in comparison.
I think I might also work on an Affinity Photo version of the book.
Recently I posted a video on You Tube explaining why I like to use the Nik Plugin’s from Photoshop rather than Lightroom. This came about because in all my Nik videos I start with a RAW file in Lightroom This is then converted to an image that I edit in Photoshop. A couple of people asked why and so I recorded the video for You Tube.
The video has been very well received but given it’s only had a few hundred views. To ensure everyone has access to the information I decided to also post this blog. Whilst I am referring to the Nik Collection in the video, the same argument applies to most filters.
The problem I have when using a plug-in for Lightroom is that you can end up creating lots of new files. This can be hard to manage and quickly becomes messy. If you are working on a RAW file you have no option but to convert the RAW file to an image before editing it with (what Lightroom calls) an external editor. This creates a new file, duplicating the original RAW file with adjustments.
After you have edited your image, you may need to apply a second filter to the image. When this happens, you have the option to work on either another copy of the image file or apply the adjustments to the image you created previously. The first option creates yet more image files. The second provides no “back-out” in case you make a mistake; you would need to start again from the RAW file.
Photoshop is better option as each adjustment filter can be applied as a new layer. The Nik Collection even has a setting you can use to automatically.
Once you are working with layers in Photoshop, other options are available to you:
You can reduce the opacity of the layer if you find the effect you applied is too strong.
You can use layer masks to hide or reveal areas of adjustment in the image. For example, you might like the sky in the adjusted image but not the rest. You could use a layer mask to hide the adjustment but then paint back the adjusted sky. You can even create quite complex masks using luminosity and channel mask techniques.
Perhaps the biggest advantage is that you can convert layers in Photoshop to Smart Objects. When you apply a Nik filter to a Smart Object, all the settings you apply in Nik are saved, including control points. This means when you save your finished image as a PSD file, you can open and adjust the settings in your Nik filter, even moving control points.
If some of this doesn’t make sense, watch the video below. If you want to know more about the Nik workflow, look at my book “Nik Efex from Start to Finish”.
It wasn’t that long ago that if you wanted to do architectural photography that you needed to be looking at cameras or lenses that would provide tilt and shift facilities. How the world has changed. Yes, correcting convergence and shift problems is better within the camera but it’s also very costly, especially when compared to the capabilities of Photoshop.
It’s now possible to shoot with your average camera and lens before correcting the problems in post production. It also becomes very easy to apply different levels of adjustment and experiment more. If you don’t get it right first time, just open up the image and apply some more adjustment using Photoshop’s Transform feature.
The image above was shot on the Olympus OMD using a 14-45mm Panasonic lens at 14mm focal length. The adjustments were applied using the Transform – Distort adjustment in Photoshop CS5. No visible softening of the image took place, even when viewed at 100% magnification on screen. The subsequent “artistic look” to add a vignette and soften the area outside the doorway was added using OnOne Perfect Photo Suite 7. The conversion to Black and White was made using Nik Silver Efex Pro. Most importantly, the amazing doorway is Nantes Cathedral in France.
This book is a little longer than my usual guides at approximately 200 pages and presents a comprehensive, but easy to understand system for editing photography. It’s extensively illustrated, with numerous worked examples, all of which are supported by a download file from my website (www.lenscraft.co.uk). The download contains all the images for the worked examples, in Photoshop PSD format, with the layers still in place. This allows readers to see the actual edits that were made to the images, in order to produce the screenshots for the book.
The approach outlined in the book can be applied to all versions of Photoshop back to version 6 (or possibly earlier) which was released in the year 2000. It doesn’t however apply to Elements; that’s a future book.
The book is available in Kindle format for just $3.99 (£2.69). Don’t worry if you don’t have a Kindle device as you can download a free Kindle reader application for your PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone or Android device by following this link.
For anyone who is a registered member of my Lenscraft website you will shortly (depending when you are reading this) receive an email detailing how for a limited time, you can download the book for free. If you aren’t already registered, you can still register and receive similar notifications as I launch future books.
For a long time now I have been a user and enthusiast for Photoshop. I am however a strong advocate of making photography light weight in all respects and that includes post processing images. I don’t want to be sat behind a computer for hours on end when I could be out taking pictures. No, my life and time are far too valuable for that and this was one of the drivers for me switching to Lightroom. I had reasoned that Lightroom could give me similar results to Photoshop but perhaps, from everything I had read, much faster.
Well, Lightroom is faster, especially where you want to apply the same adjustments to a group of images. It also makes finding an image a breeze and I wouldn’t be without it now. It is not however a replacement for Photoshop and I find that images adjusted in Lightroom still need some extra “polishing” in Photoshop in order to reach their best. It’s not therefore the huge timesaver I had hoped for.
What has caught me completely unawares however is a Photoshop plug-in from Nik Software called Viveza. It’s a very simple application to use and is accessed from within Photoshop but also integrates with Lightroom. What this plug-in gives me is the ability to make key adjustments to my images whilst targeting specific areas. For example I can edit the blue in a sky whilst leaving the ground and clouds unchanged. Yes I could do this in Photoshop but it would take some delicate selections to ensure I did this with a seamless blend, all of which takes time. With Viveza it takes just minutes, looks completely natural and requires much less skill than with Photoshop.
Having now used Viveza for a couple of months through Lightroom I am finding I do less and less in Photoshop. In fact, it’s got to the stage now where I think I can achieve better results with Viveza than I can using Photoshop. My Photoshop skills, painfully built up over years, now seem largely obsolete.