Archives for category: tutorial

Because I am lacking in photographic inspiration, and can’t think of anything new to shoot, I’m going to play with old images. I love monochromatic images; black and white will never go out of style…but sometimes I want something more. I recently discovered the beauty of duotone images. Duotone refers to a halftone reproduction of an image, where one color is superimposed over another. When one of these tones is black (as in grayscale/black & white imagery) and one tone is a specific color, you can get some really fantastic subtle effects. I’ll manipulate one of my images for the sake of comparison:

Here is the original monochromatic photo        

This is an obvious duotone photograph, where the superimposed color is an red-orange (specifically PANTONE 166 C) I rarely see duotones with this intense of a bright color…it seems more common to use extreme colors when they are cooler tones, like the example below.

So…yep that’s blue (PANTONE 2915 C to be exact). Pretty extreme for a portrait, but it can be really dynamic for cold landscapes and the like. Now, for subtlety.
Now this one also has a blue tone (PANTONE 544 C), but it is a lot more subtle. It just gives the image a cool feel, rather than screaming HEY LOOK I’M BLUE. Anyway…I like it. There are places where it can really enhance a photo in a quiet way.

This effect is perhaps my favorite. The superimposed color is a light beige/brown, called PANTONE 5835 C. It is a subtle warmth added to the photo. Not immediately noticeable or bothersome, but it adds a nice effect to the portrait.
You might think you see this all the time, with sepia and hue-adjusted photos, but it is a different effect. Hue adjustments change all the tones of the photo (shadows, midtones, highlights) to reflect that color. A duotone is a combination of two tones, that create a more natural effect. The highlights generally remain white, and the darkest shadows stay more or less black. Hue adjustments and sepia of course have their place in photography and digital manipulation, but I am a huge duotone advocate. It works within an image rather than overlaying an obvious effect on top of it. 
So, if you’re wondering how to do this:
1. Open an image in Photoshop
2. Change the color mode to grayscale, to make the Duotone option available  (Image>Mode>Grayscale)
3. Change the color mode to duotone (Image>Mode>Duotone)
4. A box will pop up where you will choose your color
5. In the “Type” box, change the selection from Monotone to Duotone (Yes, there are other options there…you can do Tritone and Quadtone too!)
6. Click on the white box for Ink 2, and choose your color. (You can change your color options under the “Book” tab. I stick to PANTONE Solid Coated, because it is a common system used among professional printers)
7. Press OK, and you have yourself a fancy Duotone image! You can always go back and change your color in the .psd file, by getting back to the Duotone menu.

In the box that comes up after clicking on “Duotone,” you’ll see a small box next to your ink selections with a diagonal line through it. If you click on it, you can adjust the curve of a particular tone. If you know how to use the Curves adjustment, you might want to try this out. You can adjust specifically where you would like to see the most color (midtones, highlights, etc) with this feature. It gives you a lot more control over the use of color in your image.

Three cheers for duotone!! Hopefully I’ll have some NEW images up soon that showcase this technique in all its glory.


So, I’m finally doing what I said I would, and uploading a couple more examples of smoke photography that I’ve processed in Photoshop. And yes, I do recognize that smoke photography is in no way an original idea, and some of my methods for processing them are derived from examples I’ve seen. This was mainly an exercise to improve my technical skills, and really just to see if I could do it!

The above photo was relatively simple to process. In Photoshop, I converted the image to black and white, with the Black and White adjustment layer. I then added the Invert adjustment layer, and make slight changes to the contrast. Voila! Cool smoke.
This purple smoke was also pretty simple to create. I took one of the original smoke photos, opened it in Photoshop as a layer. I then added the following adjustment layers: Hue/Saturation, Color Balance, and Color Mixer. I didn’t use any specific settings, but just played around with the sliders in each layer until I achieved an effect I wanted. Changing the color of smoke and making it look good is most easily done with my favorite “guess and check” method.
Who doesn’t love rainbows right? This was quite an experimental photograph. I had seen multicolored smoke photos before, and wanted to see if I could figure it out for myself. Again, I opened the original smoke photo as a layer in Photoshop. I duplicated that layer and dropped the opacity to around 60%. I then added a rainbow gradient, switched the blending mode to “Overlay” and adjusted the opacity until I achieved the effect I wanted. Contrast and Hue/Saturation adjustment layers were also added to alter the intensity of the color, and to keep it looking somewhat realistic.
And there we are! If anyone has additional questions about smoke photography, or the post-processing please feel free to ask by comment or by emailing me.

I’ve seen a lot of examples of smoke photography lately, and wanted to give it a try myself. A pretty good amount turned out well, and I’m going to do some photoshop experimenting with the color on a few, but here’s the first of the set. This one only has minor edits done in Lightroom.

Here’s a diagram of the setup I used to get the shot:

The setup was pretty basic. I had my camera level with the smoke against a black background. I used a Canon Speedlite with a snoot to light the smoke, at a 90 degree angle to the camera and at the same height. The important thing is to light only the smoke, and to not let any light spill onto the backdrop. I shot with a wide angle lens and cropped the images in Lightroom (shot at ISO 100 so that the extreme crops still look good)

After my Photo a Day/365 project ends on December 31st, I’ll have more time to update this blog, which will include the rest of the smoke shots!