One Four Challenge January Week 1 – Tutorial…

Yesterday I said I’d tell you how I got my January One Four Challenge photo from a blown out sky and bluish leaves to something that looks like what my eyes really saw… green leaves and a blue sky.

fix triptych

It involves a few layers and several techniques that I have already written tutorials about in the past.  There are also a few techniques that I want to outline upfront, so that the tutorial might be easier to understand if you were to go through it step by step.

For this image it was important to figure out how to get some areas ‘selected‘ and not others.  There are several selection tools in Photoshop, and I’m sure most people have their favorites.  But sometimes it’s fun to experiment a little and you might get better results.  I needed to select out the lighter green areas of the leaves on the trees… so this is how I did that… and as a side note, I also used this technique to select out the sky bits in a different layer.


Magic wand is a really cool selection tool.  But I found out it can be even more amazing.  After selecting one of the lighter green leaves, I then went to Select->Similar and it then put marching-ants around similar items (of similar color)…


Next I went to Select->Refine Edge…


Where I then chose to save this selection as a New Layer with Layer Mask…


Which gave me a new layer with a mask…


Ok… so that’s how I made the selections for the lighter leaves and the sky…  Now that you have the basics… let’s get to the tutorial for this image…


After making my initial fixes in Camera Raw to try to mitigate the blown out sky by tweaking the whites and shadows… I still had a whitish-blue sky and now I had blue leaves…


So I selected the sky (as explained above in the Selection Tutorial), and made a new layer with layer mask.  Next I created a new layer above that layer and filled it with a green from the darker leaves* and changed the blend mode to color.


Now this bit might be confusing, but stay with me here.  I then clicked on the mask and dragged it to the green layer…. which now makes my green layer have the mask that I created by selecting the sky.  I then inverted the mask [ctrl-i].  Next I deleted the background copy layer…


Which basically makes everything in the photo this new green except the sky…


Once you have that basic concept… I just did that a few more times for different things in the photo.

Turn off that layer so that you can see the background layer again, this time select the light green leaves, and make a new layer with layer mask.  Create a layer above that layer and fill it with one of the light green leaves*, switch the blend mode to color.  And drag that mask over to the light green layer. Then delete the background copy layer.  If you turn back on the dark green layer it will look something like this…


It still needs work.  So then I created a duplicate layer of the background, added a black mask and put it at the top of the stack.  (remember that white reveals this layer, black conceals).  I took a white brush and painted the mask in areas that needed a touch up… like the trunks of the trees… also there was a few leaves in the lower right hand corner that I painted… basically this layer is “putting back” the original colors…


Now you may notice that I haven’t done anything with the sky yet… it was that color blue after tweaking it in camera raw, but because of the blue leaves it made it look whitish-blue.  I wanted to push it just a bit further.

But this time I decided not to reinvent the wheel.  Remember that first layer I made where I had selected the sky?  I made a duplicate layer of the dark green layer [ctrl-j].  Then I inverted the mask.  Next I filled the new layer with the blue of the sky*.  So far it will not look any different.  Then I filled it again and altered that blue by making it a bit darker by increasing the saturation percentage (S:)…


I then moved the blue sky layer to the bottom of the stack and changed the blend mode to multiply.  Next I dragged all these layers into a layer group.


And there you have it… the leaves are no longer blue and the sky is no longer whitish…


I hope that tutorial was informative, and I hope you experiment with some of these techniques.

Until next time…

* I select colors by using the eyedrop tool.

32 thoughts on “One Four Challenge January Week 1 – Tutorial…

  1. Thank you for a great tutorial! As a complete newbie with photo editing, posts like this are a wonder. I’ll be checking back often to see what other tips and tricks I can pick up. 🙂

  2. This is a fabulous and comprehensive tute Nic, followed by a great discussion!
    Thank you for the tute Nic and to everyone for contributing to the discussion.
    I definitely agree about doing some sort of learning regarding whatever software you choose. The possibilities are endless and there’s always something new to learn and you do go ahead in leaps and bounds when you are learning and applying what you learn.
    I started out with GIMP years ago and one of the reasons I stopped using it, was then – they didn’t offer RAW file support. Meaning even if you opened a RAW file – it was treated like a JPEG. Wonder if that’s still true for now?
    As for PS CC – not really suitable for those (me – not practical) on a limited/minimal internet connection (my opinion only) – however great value I think if your budget is limited with good internet.

    • Robyn, I’ve actually been researching the RAW file issue. There are a few raw readers out there and I’ve been looking at a few of them… for now I’ve found that UFRaw works in Windows but the other two I looked at DarkTable (which works with Mac & Linux) and RawStudio (which works in Linux). I tried all three in Linux and was most pleased with DarkTable… but if you aren’t running that operating system then it would be a problem. From the screenshots it looks like Aperture (on Mac) will also work with RAW files and looks a bit like Lightroom and DarkTable. I currently run Adobe on Windows, so I was trying to find something that might run on that platform. It’s a work in process and I will most likely be blogging about it soon.

      If you consider that Camera Raw and Lightroom are a separate program that Photoshop itself, then if you found a program that you liked that would do your initial Raw tweaks, then conceivably you could then go to GIMP for the edits that require Layers and Masks. Like I said, I’m currently doing research… it will probably become a serial post in addition to my Photoshop Tutorials.

  3. I will check out Gimp. I downloaded it once and got a virus so removed it. I follow Scott Kelby but have never purchased anything from him. Money has been tight the past few years so I tried to learn everything as inexpensively as possible. That’s why I say 2015 should be a good year. Coming from 2014, anything will be an improvement. Thanks to both of you!

  4. I’ve enjoyed reading this discussion (all above) and love that you have taken the time to write down what steps you took Nic. It’s amazing and I never knew half of the stuff you were talking about, oh there is so much to learn about PS but I did like, and think I followed, what you did to your image. I guess until I try it I’ll never know, now to find some time 🙂

    • Thanks, Lee! I do hope you find some time to experiment, as strange as it may seem many of the things I’ve done lately came from a leap of an idea after I learned how to remove green-eye from my dog’s photo. Somehow that knowledge of changing the blending mode to color but the image keeps it’s highlights was the spark I needed to make the changes I did to the pink flower, the blue elephant, and the image here. Funny how that happens, I love to learn and I aspire to help others learn what I have figured out.

      • I really liked that you put screen shots in your explanation. That helps me a lot as I find as you said it is a case of figuring out what you need to learn only to find out that you needed to know something else first All very round and round (I can’t spell circulitus 🙂

  5. Hey Nic, handy tips on selection, I haven’t tried doing any selections in PS yet, just working with whole images and layers. Like you I got my copy of PS at academic pricing as Im a student part time, and that was the only way I could afford it. Of course the same week I bought my copy was when they announced it was going to the Creative Cloud, and my disc copy would not qualify for any upgrades and new features 😦

    Still CS6 is so advanced and powerful Im sure it will keep me occupied for many years to come!

    • Thanks, Stacey! There are so many tools for selection in PS, and so many ways to accomplish what you want. I originally bought CS5 and it seemed like in no time CS6 came out… I ended up taking an additional class where I learned the basics of In Design, Flash, Illustrator, Photoshop, and Dreamweaver so I bought the CS6 suite at academic prices. I’m not happy about the Creative Cloud, I want to purchase the disc and move on, not be charged monthly for usage, so I will most likely not upgrade.

      • They have a deal on CC with PS and LR for around $10 a month but over time it still adds up to significant amounts, way more than you would have paid and PS was expensive enough!

        • I was looking over that tonight and what is kinda crappy about that deal is that when you stop paying the subscription price the software is no longer usable. In fact, if you need to make modifications to your images and you are not in a place with internet you’ll be lucky if you can even use the software. Apparently, if you pay for a year subscription (upfront) they *allow* you 99 days without connectivity. So if you were to go on an African Safari, you had better find an access point every three months or you cannot use your software. I think that is just unacceptable. And I’m really sad that they went that direction. I’m thinking that when CS6 is no longer supported, I may have to find other software… GIMP comes to mind.

  6. I use primarily Lightroom and have yet to purchase Photoshop. I constantly marvel at what can be done nowadays. But the learning seems daunting. Great job!

    • Thanks, Emilio! Photoshop does have an excessive amount of things to learn, but just like your camera, you probably won’t need or want to use every aspect. For example, I rarely, if ever, have a use for the auto function of my camera now that I have the knowledge of the manual functions. Photoshop is similar, at first, you learn a few simple tasks, and then you start to experiment, then your learning takes leaps and you experiment some more. I have a two-year photography program, several online tutorials, and several books in my arsenal of knowledge, my leaps are much bigger now than when I started 3 1/2 years ago. I got my first dSLR July 31, 2010… I had no idea what I was doing, but it was such a leap from my point-and-shoot that I had to know more. I read books, I bought a few new lenses, and I started stalking hummingbirds trying to capture their wings not as a blur. I finally signed up for photography classes in May 2011, I both fortunately and unfortunately took a class that was way above my knowledge… but it made me work really hard to figure it out. Books and the internet (and the classes I took) have helped me so much I can’t even quantify it. So I guess what I’m trying to say, is figure out what you might want to learn, and just go for it… learn in digestible chunks. I have found over the years that sometimes we don’t know where to start, but it seems to me that learning is circular… the things you need to know to get to the place you want to be will always have information that you needed to know before that point. Jump in, you’ll figure out what you don’t know once you start, and it’s OK to take a few steps back and learn those things to get to the place you were interested in to begin with.
      Sorry about the long response… also I should mention that since I was taking classes at a university I was able to get Photoshop at the student price… prior to taking classes I was using GIMP (which is free and open-source). GIMP may not do everything Photoshop can do, but it can do quite a bit… and there are a ton of tutorials out there on the internet, GIMP even has a magazine. Good luck, and I hope you jump in! 🙂

      • Where do I start? I have jumped in. My photography has begun to really excite me since I got Lightroom. I am online almost every free moment and I’m just lucky my wife fully supports my interest. I have not taken any real courses yet but have listened to a ton of tutorials on how to use Lightroom and Perfect effects and even on photography in general. At the beginning I could only afford a Canon T2i with a kit lens but am ready to upgrade. 2015 should see be a good year! And thanks for your long response. It always amazes me when someone takes the time to respond like you have!

        • I’m using a Canon T2i as well. 🙂 I love it, every time I think of upgrading I talk myself out of it. I’m really only interested in getting more frames per second and maybe a better ISO range. Perhaps the full frame, but it’s nice that my lenses are really a bit more than what’s printed with the crop frame sensor. And then I think gosh do I want to carry around that much $$ in equipment? Usually it’s just me (and sometimes my dog) and my camera… with the less expensive camera perhaps I’m not worth mugging? I’ve been investing in better lenses rather than a new camera body… for me that’s when I get better images. And when I think about it, the frames per second would have been helpful when I was taking photos of a cheetah running at the zoo, but I don’t do that *everyday*. And if I could just bring more light to my subject (with a flash or a reflector) then the ISO really isn’t an issue. And then I no longer see the need in ‘upgrading’ my camera, instead I buy what I really *need* and get that 180mm macro lens (which I absolutely love, btw). 🙂
          As for jumping in, the images I’ve seen of yours have been awesome, you have a good handle on the software that you have. I haven’t heard of Perfect Effects. But like I mentioned before GIMP has a lot of the features of Photoshop, like layers and masks and it’s free and runs on several platforms (Windows, Mac, Linux). It’s worth giving it a try, I think I was able to learn a bit faster than my classmates because I had a GIMP background. 🙂

          • I had been considering keeping the T2i body and buying better lenses. And now that I hear your experience, I just might do that first. But what you mention, the ISO others me, too. I wanted to take some interior shots where I couldn’t use a tripod or flash and I had to switch to my phone. My phone!!

          • Oh my, that’s crazy that your phone was a better camera in the low light. I tend to take outdoor photos, so I haven’t had that experience. If I do take interior photos it’s usually me experimenting in my home with flash and reflectors.

    • Emilio I have been using LR since V2, so maybe 5 years or so and the new advances in LR5 are really exciting. I actually bought PS a couple of years ago but have not had the time to spend on learning it, and instead I invested in some training courses in LR, and that was WELL worth the effort.

      I am now learning and playing with PS and enjoying it, but for a photographer such as yourself, who does such lovely compositions in camera, I know LR will suit almost all of your requirements. PS is nice to have but not necessary.

      Tho as I discovered the other day its damn handy to have around if you want to get rid of powerlines in an image!

      • I agree when your images are good, a few tweaks with LR or Camera Raw (which I found out is basically LR) is all you really need for most photos. In fact, unless I’m doing something crazy or trying to fix a ‘ruined’ photo, I only do tweaks in Camera Raw and call it done.

      • I am having a terrible problem with powerlines right now. One of my favorite shots (OK, I only took it last week, but the image, the lighting… ) and I can’t post it. Maybe just for that reason I should get PS! And thnks for the compliment! 🙂

        • If you do get PS then I very VERY!! Strongly recommend you invest in a training course aimed at photographers so that you do learn the right and important stuff. I got some books to help me learn LR which helped to a point but I invested in some video training courses last year and it rocked my world, so much more useful and informative.

          Now I’m doing the same with PS and really enjoying being able to effectively and quickly do the things I want to rather than flailing around, not even knowing the name of what I want to do 😊

          As you are in the US you might find the NAPP courses that Scott Kilby and his team run good value for all the extras you get too 😊

          And you are welcome, you have an excellent eye for composition, I have enjoyed seeing your work

        • I’ve been doing some research on GIMP, especially since I haven’t used it in a while… I originally thought that one of the things it did not have was ‘content-aware-fill’, but it turns out I was wrong. You can get a plug-in that is called synthesizer-heal selection and it does a good job… check out this tutorial.

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