Motivation is a photography blog that discusses the creative aspects of photography. The posts will include thoughts about images and their interpretation, photographers and their work, technique, workflow, my ongoing projects, and perhaps even the occasional off topic rant.

How To Remove Toning Beyond The Edge Of A Photo

For some time I have been thinking of trying to produce some Photoshop video tutorials.  But let's face it, there are a ton of them out there and I didn't want to simply repeat what has already been done.

I had been trying to figure out how to remove toning from beyond the edge of a photo.  If you apply toning as well as an artistic edge to a black and white photo, either on your own or using a Photoshop plug-in like Silver Efex Pro, the toning extends beyond the edge of the photo and all the way out through the border of the image.  This is the case even if you use a Photoshop adjustment layer to apply the toning, which gets applied to the white border as well as to the image. This looks very unnatural, as the toning should stop at the edge of the photo, which has been moved 'inwards' by the applied edge effect.  If you were to print the image you would now have the toning extending beyond the artistic edge, forming a perfect toned rectangle around it which itself is surrounded by the white of the paper.  Not the effect one wants.

I couldn't find the fix for this by Googling it. So when I figured out the simple antidote for myself I thought it would make a perfect first video tutorial. I created a "Howard Grill Photography" page on YouTube and posted it.

Turns out it's not as easy as one might think to make a professional appearing and sounding video tutorial.....but this is just my first attempt. So have a listen if this is something that was bothering you as well.  And feel free to give me a thumbs up on YouTube if it helps!

Texture Blending

As you might be able to tell from my last post on in-camera multiple exposures, I have been going on a bit of a creative journey and experimenting with various techniques. With this image I was doing a bit of texture blending, which is to say combining a 'base image' with various (in this case, two) underlying textures using blending modes to allow the textures to 'absorb' into the underlying image instead of just remaining stacked on top of it.  It is a technique that not only blends a texture into an image (which can be useful if there are bland areas without much detail), but also tends to intensify colors because the texture's color and luminosity also blends into the image below.  Needless to say, getting a nice result requires some experimentation with each image as not only can the specific texture be changed, but one can also change blending modes and use clipping layers to change the individual textures any way you would like.

Some practitioners of this technique really let the texture come though vigorously, but I personally enjoy a more subtle application. The finished image is seen directly below while the original is underneath that.

Pete's Lake In Michigan's Upper Peninsula - Textures Applied    © Howard Grill

With the blended texture, the yellow and pink/purple of the sky have intensified and the slight rippled effect best seen in the sky and lake add interest to areas that were otherwise fairly bland. It is a bit difficult to really see the rippled appearance with the small blog photograph, but if you click on the image it will open as a bigger 'lightbox' photo and the effect will be more apparent. Overall, I think it turned a pretty reasonable image that in my mind lacked a little something into one that is much more pleasing. 

Below is the original with no textures blended in.  It served as the starting point.

Pete's Lake In Michigan's Upper Peninsula - No Textures Applied    © Howard Grill

So let's have a look at the textures I blended into the bottom image to yield the top one.  Here we go....

Texture 1

Texture 1

Texture 2

Texture 2

Finally, here is a screenshot of how I have the layers stacked and arranged in Photoshop:

Layer Stack.jpg

The bottom layer is the blended 16 bit HDR image with Lightroom adjustments as imported into Photoshop.  Right above that is a curve applied through a luminosity mask and above that is a tonal contrast effect applied via Color Efex Pro. Above that are two Hue/Saturation layers with their effects targeted to specific tonalities, once again using luminosity masking, as well as two curves adjustment layers. Finally, we have the two textures applied via the soft light blend mode at <100% opacity. The bottom texture has a clipping adjustment layer to change its hue and saturation a bit.  Finally, there is one more curves adjustment layer at the top of the stack.  

If there are any questions as to what was done please feel free to ask in the comments and I would be glad to explain the process in more depth. 

A New Project: E-Book

A wanted to post a quick note about something I have been working on for some time and hope to have completed shortly.  I have not published an e-book before, but thought that my Carrie Furnace Project would be a good subject for a book. So keep an eye out for it.  I will put up a blog post when it has been completed and is available.

I do want to mention one thing for those who are thinking about giving e-publishing a try, but have not done it before.  It isn't as easy as it looks or as you might think.  But Brook's Jensen has a fantastic resource available in his Lenswork  Visual Workshop PDF Publishing training DVD.  I highly recommend it if you are considering delving into electronic publishing and are not intimately familiar with Adobe InDesign or Acrobat Pro.

High Pass Filtration

I usually don’t post information about Photoshop techniques simply because there is an entire universe of websites dedicated to Photoshop that are run by folks who are far more Photoshop savvy than I could ever hope to be. However, every so often I run across a technique that I find really interesting and so, on those occasions, a post about it seems reasonable. Such is the case with High Pass Filtration. Please don’t consider this to be the definitive ‘how to’ regarding this technique but, rather, a jumping off point to look into it in a more sophisticated manner if it seems of interest to you.

The reason I found High Pass filtration interesting is that while ‘surfing the net’ I have occasionally come across images that seem to have a somewhat ‘enhanced’ sense of reality that gives them a very three dimensional appearance. The effect seems somewhat similar to the HDR effect, but tuned down. When I have followed discussions about such images the photographer will often say, when asked, that the image in question was not processed with HDR software.

So, it whet my interest when I ran across a technique which, by description, seemed to be one way to generate this effect. It is done by using the Photoshop High Pass filter to increase contrast. I knew that this filter could be used for sharpening and, of course, contrast enhancement is a form of sharpening.

At any rate, here is a way to use this technique in order to see if it will achieve a desirable effect (plus I made my own little addition to what I read). Once the image you are considering using it on is complete, duplicate the image and flatten it, but don’t sharpen it yet. Now the image consists of only a background layer. Duplicate this background layer twice and click the icons to turn these duplicate layers off, making them invisible. Now click back on the background layer to make it active and go to the Photoshop filters and choose High Pass (Filter>Other>High Pass). You get a dialogue box in which you can choose a radius. Choose 75 pixels to start, but this is obviously a ‘jump off’ point for experimentation. Your image will now look totally disgusting. Don’t worry….just click on the duplicate background layer which is directly above the layer that was just filtered to make it active and then click on the icon to make it visible. The image now returns to the way it looked before starting this whole thing because it is a duplicate of the original at 100% opacity lying on top of the filtered image. Now the fun begins. Change the blending mode of this layer from normal to overlay and the image undergoes an interesting change.

Perhaps the effect is too much? That is why I added the second duplicate layer (which is not visible at this point) on top of the others at the start of the technique. Click on that layer to now make it active and click on the icon to make it visible. The image now appears as it did before starting. But turn down the opacity of this topmost layer to let the filtered look come through and see how you like it.

A few comments:

1) I have only played around with this technique a bit and found that there are some images that it truly enhances and others that it totally destroys.

2) If an image is found that would benefit from this technique, the entire process can obviously be performed within the original file by duplicating the entire image and placing the entire image on a new layer and working from there.

4) It really is difficult to duplicate this effect with curves....I tried.

3) With the image size being so small, and with the effect being toned down with the topmost layer blogs don't really lend themselves to really demonstrating the effect well…, if it sounds interesting, play around with it on your own images and see what you think. With that in mind I am posting one example. The only difference between these two images was the High Pass filtration step.

Pre High Pass Filtration
Copyright Howard Grill

Post High Pass Filtration
Copyright Howard Grill


My blog bias, if you will, has been to not focus on Photoshop techniques. However, every so often a little Photoshop tidbit or tutorial comes along that I feel is so worthwhile that it would be a shame not to share it. This is the case with a recent tutorial on luminosity masking that comes complete with downloadable Photoshop actions.

First, I have to give credit to Mark Graf for finding the tutorial and posting a link to it on his blog called Notes From The Woods. His post with the specific information about the tutorial can be found here. The tutorial itself can be found here.

The tutorial explains the utility and basics of luminosity masking far better than I could in a single post. The uniqueness of this particular tutorial is the included set of downloadable actions with instructions for their use. More importantly, the actions allow one to easily generate not only a standard luminosity mask, but also masks that are ‘ultra-directed’ to the brightest highlights, the darkest shadows and everything in between. This allows one to generate luminosity based selections that are automatically feathered and which allow fine control over the entire tonal range of an image.

I plan to use the actions frequently. I think they are a real find and appreciate Mark having pointed them out and Tony Kuyper for having developed them and for making them available at no charge.

ADMINISTRATIVE NOTE: I want to take the opportunity to let people know that tomorrow and Saturday I plan to have a two part post that actually took me several weeks of thinking about before I could sit down and write it. It is a response, of sorts, to a recent editorial in a major photographic magazine. I contacted the assistant editor of the magazine who has been remarkably responsive and open enough to want to spur on discussion about photographic topics..…so much so that he has agreed to make available, on-line, the full text of the original article so that readers of this blog can think about it and chime in with their own opinion. So please visit again tomorrow as I really think this will be interesting!

By the way (and the podcasters say this almost every week, so I feel that I can say it on occasion as well), if you enjoy this blog and find it something worth taking the time to read, I would certainly appreciate it if you would pass the URL on to someone else you know who might also find it worthwhile.