It's All About Light

We thought we’d share some of our Photoshop and image processing tips on the blog, so for this entry, I'm going to show you how to create a "Luminosity Mask" in Photoshop CS4. First, you should know what luminance is; it’s the amount of light passing through a particular area of an image. Measured in a range from zero to 255 in an 8-bit image, it is expressed as red, green and blue channels of light.

Adjusting the luminance, by taking a selection from the image itself, is great because it creates a natural gradation, based on the intrinsic brightness of the image. Why? Because every pixel is affected in exact proportion to its native brightness. This technique works nicely, for example, when the sky is overexposed or the foreground underexposed.

Load the luminosity as a selection in Photoshop CS4 in one of two ways:

  • Option+Command+2, or 
  • Command+Click the RGB thumbnail in the Channels palette. 
You may also inverse the selection, Select>Inverse, or type on your keyboard, Command+Shift+I, to apply an adjustment to the opposite areas of the image. Then travel to the Layers Palette and apply a Levels or Curves Adjustment Layer to the layer that needs correcting.

You can use this technique for color adjustments, too. Load the luminosity as a selection and copy the selection to a new layer in the Layers Palette, Layer>New Layer via Copy, or type on your keyboard Command+J. Then apply a Blend Mode, like Overlay or Multiply, to the new layer and adjust the opacity if necessary. Don't forget to name your layers and keep things organized.

Give this a try and make your images really POP! To learn more creative techniques in Photoshop CS4, enroll in one of our courses or workshops at Aperture Academy, or come in for some private tutoring. Hope to see you soon!



It's not easy getting "The Shot"

Post written by Brian Rueb, Photography Instructor for Aperture Academy

Often times, when we see an image in a magazine, online, or in a gallery, we’re impressed at the beauty, composition, or presentation of the shot. Most of the time we don’t stop to think of all that goes into actually getting "The Shot."

After completing seven days of photography in Southern Utah and Northern Nevada, I decided to give you a brief recap of exactly how hard photographers work to come away with a few images they can be proud of. 

The goal of any landscape and wildlife photographer is to be in a position that allows them to spend as much time during the day shooting as possible. This means putting in hours and hours of research ahead of time so that we have a general idea of the layout, sun position, weather and composition possibilities before we even get to a scene.

With a good 50 hours worth of research already under my belt, I set off for the Southwest United States on a Tuesday afternoon.  

Over the following days I endured:  
  1. Six nights sleeping in the back of a Toyota Prius. Photographers need to adhere to a budget in order to maximize the time we spend in the field, and to save cost, and put myself closer to the areas I want to photograph I’ve chosen to sleep in my vehicle. This saves cash…but the rest I get isn’t the best.  

  2. One shower. During the middle of the trip we broke down and got a proper hotel one night to clean and get a good night sleep. A shower does amazing things to rejuvenate you after five days of hiking grime has built up.

  3. I hiked nearly 50 miles over the week. About half of that was in water that required special equipment to keep me warm, safe, and my gear dry.  

  4. I watched as rain began to fall while I was in the middle of a slot canyon. Slot Canyons are amazing places for photography, but during a storm they can be deadly. Watching rain drops keep fallin’ on my head while I was in the middle of one of these canyons was quite nerve wracking. Luckily, the sun came back out, and I was treated to a canyon all to myself for photography. Which is rare.

  5. I drove over 2300 miles in seven days. A lot of photography is being in the right place at the right time. This means constant watching of weather reports, and changing plans on the fly to give yourself the best opportunity to be where the photography is hopefully great. 

  6. I was in a different location for sunrise and sunset every day….and spent the afternoons in still different areas. Being in the right place for sunrise photography requires that you get up at least an hour or two before, usually hike somewhere in the dark…and this is all before you really know whether or not you’re going to have conditions worthy of photographing. Over those seven days, I had only two sunsets that were worth photographing (one was amazing…which made up for the others).  I had only one sunrise that was even decent…the rest were bland, but still required that I get up, break down camp, and get to my location before there was light to see.
This is hard work for only a couple of images, but these trips serve another purpose, too. They allow us to get out and experience places firsthand…so that when we’re conducting a workshop, we know where to be and the time of day to be there. We’re familiar with the types of issues students are going to come in contact with, because we’ve lived through them ourselves.  

When you sign up for a workshop with us, you’re getting that experience and research working for you…so all you have to do is show up and shoot.  It’s just up to you whether you sleep in your car or not.