Category Archives: Processing

Our Latest Meetup

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This past weekend we held a Meetup at the Patuxent Air Expo 2016. Originally the Blue Angels were scheduled to be the main attraction, but their appearance was canceled due to recent changes involving how many weeks they can perform without a break. I was obviously disappointed and suspect many others were as well. As they say the show must go on, and Patuxent River Naval Air Station put on an excellent show!

The star attraction was the F-22 Raptor. I love airplanes of all types, but to quote a friend of mine who is a pilot, “that plane does things an aircraft should not be able to do”. In the shot above the Raptor is participating in the Heritage Flight.

In regard to the shot above, I always shoot propeller driven aircraft at shutter speeds low enough to capture the movement of the props. This is usually around 1/125 of a second. Doing this means that a lot of my shots are going to be blurred and otherwise unusable. It just depends on how accurate my panning is compared to the speed of the aircraft, often times not as accurate as I wish. I have suggested to other photographers in the past that their prop shots should not show frozen propellers. This suggestion is often not welcome. However, when I look at the work of top notch airplane photographers the props are not frozen.

If you notice the shot above is not the correct aspect ratio for a DSLR. It looks like a panorama crop. It’s not a crop. The shot showed the planes too close to the left side of the frame, so I added 5 inches to the canvas size on the left side of the image. Then I used the selection tool to select the blank part of the new canvas and then used the content aware fill to extend the sky.

MacPhun Aurora HDR Pro!

MacPhun is offering Aurora HDR Pro with bonus features!

HDR can be extremely challenging for a number of reasons. Let’s look at this image I recently developed. The challenge was that the 3 bracketed images include various items in motion. For example, in the middle exposure (top left), the woman was walking away from the stopped train. But in the darker exposure (top right), there is altogether a different women in that same position. In the lightest exposure (bottom image), she is even more blurred. With other HDR programs, I have struggled with blending images with movement, even when I have selected the primary/base image. Additionally, I wanted to get the most dynamic range possible without the image looking “hdr”.

Aurora HDR Pro successfully blended the 3 images, while retaining the features from the base image I identified and the integrity of a “non-hdr” image, creating exactly the final image I was going for!

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Developed from these images:

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Key Features include: 

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Dust Spots!

Dust spots and artifacts are my pet peeve… cannot stand them because they are so easy to fix. However, they can be hard to find! They are definitely the bane of any landscape photographer’s existence, but they can show up in any image and they never show up until you have published or printed an image! It is like magic. As soon as your friends, family, and world can see the image, the dust spots/artifacts miraculously appears and of course, you are at best, the second person to see it. :-/

Even those folks with great eyesight miss them. But here is where we can look to technology for a solution. Lightroom Develop and Photoshop Camera Raw both have dust spot removal tools. But for real success, you have to “visualize spots” to get the most of these tools. Let’s take a look at how this one little checkbox can make a world of difference.

Take this image… unprocessed, right out of the camera. We can see some spots (red arrows) right off the bat. So those can be easily fixed. But the real question will be…. have we missed any? So at a glance, we would like to say we haven’t, but how can we be sure?

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As I mentioned, the best tools for the identification of dust spots/artifacts that I have found are the spot removal tools in Lightroom Develop (the icon shown to the right) ,Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 2.20.38 PMand in Photoshop Camera Raw (icon shown to the right).  Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 11.48.12 AMAs these programs are the same, these spot removal tools are also the same. The only difference is the icon used to access them.

Now the tools themselves are great and do an amazing job (most of the time) of identifying the pixels from which to clone the dust spot. But the true beauty of these tools is their ability to identify spots and artifacts in images that we simply cannot see with the naked eye.

Here is how this works. Take the image noted above, we identified 5 dust spots/artifacts that need correction. Let’s see what the spot removal tool finds. To make this a bit easier, I have drawn arrows to re-identify the spots we found in the above image and then circled the additional dust spots/artifacts identified by the software. Take a minute to look back at the color image. Those spots in the sky do not stand out and could easily be missed if it wasn’t for the spot removal tool. So how do we get this masked image, show below? In both Lightroom Develop and Photoshop Camera Raw spot removal tools, there is a checkbox that says “visualize spots”.

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In Lightroom, the Visualize Spots can be found to the bottom left of the center panel: Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 12.03.43 PM.

In Photoshop, the Visualize Spots can be found at the bottom of the right hand panel: Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 12.03.26 PM

To emphasize the spots, check the box and then drag the slider bar to the right. This tool will even identify spots in the middle of clouds! In fact, it will identify spots anywhere in an image. Dust spots stand right out, as they have distinct round edges. Notice the dust spots in the sky above, they are hollow round spots and very noticeable. Now you can use the cloning feature (in both programs) to clone out the dust spots.

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In a few minutes, hundreds (which can happen) of dust spots/artifacts can be removed!

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Now, you can finish processing the image! I suggest removing dust spots first, so that whatever processing you do to the image doesn’t exaggerate or further emphasize spots that need to be removed. It is simply easier to fix the spots before their edges are more pronounced with contrast or clarity.

For this image, here is the final result:

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Happy Holidays and Creative New Year!!

Third Party Printing

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If you are like me, you don’t have a photo quality printer at home, so you use a third party printer, such as Costco. Our particular Costco does a great job, but tends to print a full stop darker than what I want in my print result. So this tip is how to deal with this, without having to alter your base image.

The features discussed here can also be used to brighten up or add contrast to your images when printing at home as well. But the likeliness is, if you are printing from Lightroom, you already knew this.

For folks like me, who print outside of their home, we normally Export a .jpg to a file, then upload the .jpg via an online portal to our printer, then pick up the images when they are ready. This method works just fine, but there is no way (that I have found) to imbed a development rule in the Export presets.

So how do we get around this… use the Print module in Lightroom!

The Print module can be used to print to your home printer or to a .jpg. So for those of us who use a third party printer, we just need to modify the settings in the Print module to print to file and create a preset for the settings that work best with our third party printer and each time we want to print and image, we will be set.

Click here for a video that will take you through the set up instructions.

While you are there, remember to subscribe to RRPT videos and check out the over 2 dozen videos already available in our library!

Creating a Sense of Motion with Long Exposures

Long exposure images can create an almost surreal effect, evoking emotional responses, such as calm, peacefulness, and even angst, depending on the image. Creating these images can be a challenge and generally requires certain gear, such as a sturdy tripod, a camera body that has a bulb setting, various types of filters to reduce the amount of light hitting the camera’s sensor in order to lengthen the shutter speed and show motion in the image, and the right setting (environment).

The best long exposure images are created when capturing moving water or clouds, as these subjects convey movement in an otherwise still environment.

So, let’s chat about the gear and look at some examples of long exposure images.

The images that follow were taken on different trips, literally from coast-to-coast and were taken with either a variable stop filter or a 15-stop filter, as noted. I use Singh-Ray filters, but there are many options on the market. So you can find the one(s) that work best for you. If you are interested in Singh-Ray filters, you can get a 10% discount by using ROADRUNNER10 for a discount code.

For this image, I used variable stop filter to extend the shutter time to just over 66 seconds. This allowed me to capture the movement of the clouds, while creating a plane of glass on the ocean’s surface. I chose a variable stop filter, because the variability allowed me get just the right amount of exposure reduction to meet the needs of the environment. In this case, the heavy overcast would not have been conducive to using my 15 stop filter, which is actually best used on bright sunny days with big puffy cumulous clouds.

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This image was captured in the taken during the day, well before sunset. The sky was too bright for the variable stop filter to achieve the look I was going for, so for this image I used the 15 stop. The 15 stop allowed me to achieve a 3 minute exposure, which resulted in smooth water and a nice layer of fog on the horizon.

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This next image was captured in at sunrise. As before, the setting was not bright enough for a full 15 stops but it was too bright to shoot without a filter, so I used the variable filter to slow the rushing waves down.

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There are times when you don’t even need a filter to capture a long exposure, as in this next image, which was captured after the sunset. The clouds enabled me to get a 6 second exposure, without the aid of any filters.

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In this last image, I used a 10-stop filter to achieve the flowing motion of the river.

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In each of these images, I used a sturdy tripod to help ensure that the still subject matter (e.g., buildings, piers, bridge) would be sharp. The environment and my overall vision for each image helped me decide which filter to use. Long exposure images take experimentation, how long is long enough, how long is too long.

I would say that if you are new to long exposure photography, you might find that a variable filter will provide you the most bang for your bucks, as it allows you to experiment in almost all conditions. You may struggle to achieve 10 minute exposures with a variable filter, but you will easily achieve 1-3 min exposures with a filter that varies from 1-8 or 10 stops, which is adequate to slow cloud and water movement in most situations. Whereas a 15 stop is best used in the middle of the day, bright sunshine, where a variable will not darken the image enough to achieve a slow shutter speed. You can also get filters at other stops, such as 5 stop and 10 stop, each has its own use.

So the question becomes, do you want to invest in a number of different filters to achieve a range of stops, or do you want to invest in one filter (a variable) that provides you a range with which to experiment. As noted, if you are just learning or experimenting with your interest in long exposure you might find that a variable filter gives you the most options early on. Once you are hooked, you may find that investing on set stops, such as 5, 10 or 15, broadens your creative horizons. In either case, long exposure images can open up a whole new avenue to create artistic images. 

Mt. Storm Time Lapse

The other day, I was asked to describe how I created this image:

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I decided it would be easier to write a blog and create a video demonstrating the techniques, than to layout out an answer in a Facebook reply. So let’s get started.

The Set Up

This image was created from 37 different images, created using the time lapse feature in my Fuji XT1. If you do not have time lapse built into your camera, you can purchase a wired or wireless remote with time lapse capability for most camera bodies. The time lapse was set to continue indefinitely, with a 1 second interval between images.  The camera was set to Aperture mode, with the Shutter speed determined by the camera. A sturdy tripod is a must. I also shot RAW and JPG files.

As you can tell by reviewing the image, that the image was created midday and yet, cloud movement is clearly visible. I was able to achieve this effect by using a Singh Ray 15-stop Mor Slo filter. (To receive a 10% discount, please use our discount code: ROADRUNNER10). The 15-stop Mor Slo is a great filter that will allow the photographer to create long exposures in the middle of day. The Singh Ray filters are so well made that they do not add color cast or distortion to the images. (Tip: buy 77mm filters and then a set of step-up rings, this way, one filter can be used on all your lenses).

Once the camera was in place, I triggered the shutter and waited. One thing to consider, when shooting time lapse images, consider bringing a second camera body along, as the wait can be quite dull with nothing to do. This may explain why I shot 37 images and not 100.

Post-Processing

As noted above, I shot both RAW and JPG files. I did this so that should I chose to process a single image, I would have the RAW file and for the time lapse image I could use the JPG files, which are smaller and easier to manage when blending so many layers. I organize my files using Lightroom and process my images in Photoshop. So after my trip, I imported my images into my Lightroom catalog (for a video on how to do this, click here). I selected the images that I intended to combine (a total of 37 images) and then opened the images, as Layers in Photoshop. From Lightroom, this is a simple Right click on the selected image thumbnails, Edit in, scroll to the bottom of the list and choose As Layers in Photoshop.

It takes Photoshop a few minutes to open and add each layer to a single tab, once it is complete, you can start changing the Blending Modes for each layer. At this point, take a moment to check the file size. In this case, my file size was just under 3GB. This is a huge file and I only used the JPGs! Now, I can start changing the Blending Mode for each individual layer (except the bottom layer) to Lighten. This allows the lighter pixels to come through from the layer below. As each of the 36 layers are changed, you will see staccato effect in the clouds start to appear.

Once all of the Blending Modes are adjusted, you have to decide if you are ready to flatten the image and start processing. I suggest that first you create a “stamp” of the image. Essentially, a “stamp” is a flattened version, that can be created as a separate layer (while maintaining all of the original layers below it) or by having all of the original layers merged together. I suggest that you use the “separate layer” method, so that you can check the result. You can always decide after to remove the original individual layers to reduce the overall file size. To create the separate layer, select all of the individual layers (all 37 in this case), and then right click, and while holding the ALT/Option key, choose Merge Visible. Photoshop will do some work and create a Layer 1, that sits at the top of the Layer Panel. If the result is what you were expecting, then you can select all of the original layers again and delete. This will bring the overall file size down to something manageable and pick up the operating speed of Photoshop, as you start to process the image.

At this point, how you process your image is up to you. I darkened the sky, enhanced the power plant, and darkened the foreground with Camera Raw. I then desaturated and slightly toned the image. I did some selective dodging and burning to further enhance the clouds and smoke. Lastly, I added a vignette.

To see a video on how I blended and processed my 37 images, click here.

For additional tutorials on how to post-process images, click here.

History… what’s yours?

Awhile back I decided to get a subscription to Ancestry.com. Starting with myself, I have grown the family tree forward 1 generation and backwards 7 generations (into the late 1700’s so far!). I have added over 1000 family members!

My families origins are Portugal, Sicily, and Scotland. The experience has been moving and educational. I have spent hours thinking about my family members who have passed, those that are still here (that I need to spend time learning from), and those just born. As part of this process, I have had an opportunity to go through old images, that before I could not relate to (or rather place in relationship to myself) until I starting building the family tree. More exciting, because I come from a long line of pack-rats, I have images to attach to the names I am finding.

If you have never thought of researching your family’s history, you might consider it.  It is hard to put into words just how extraordinary, intriguing, and compelling this process has been. I am curious to see how far back the lineage records of my family will go.

Another cool thing is… I now have the skills to repair and archive these images my family has treasured. Here is one of the images I found along the way.

1915 – My great grandfather (Bernardo Scaparro), his sister behind him (unknown), to her right my great grandmother (Josephine Scaparro), the baby is my grandfather (Frank Scaparro), my uncle (Thomas Scaparro), my uncle (Joseph Scaparro), and my uncle (Dennis Scaparro).  These are the Sicilians.

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To see other images, spanning from 1915 – 1967, you can click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Book! Demystifying Photoshop

Screen Shot 2015-03-29 at 11.30.31 AMAdobe Photoshop is an extremely powerful post-production tool and was developed for graphic artists, designers, illustrators, and photographers alike. What does this mean? Well, it means that Photoshop has more features than any photographer is ever likely to use for processing photographs. But it also means that this is one of the best platforms to enhance your imagery.

The ability to use Camera Raw with Layers and Masks will enable you to take your images to the next level, whether you just want to enhance a single image or composite multiple images and textures to create an entirely unique piece of art.

The goal of this book is to introduce Photoshop and its features to photographers and to demonstrate how these tools may be used from the photographer’s perspective. Throughout this book, I will use images, and screenshots to demonstrate various techniques commonly used by photographers in Photoshop.

If you download the iBooks version, you will also get enhanced functionality, such as built in videos and interactive galleries to help reinforce what you are learning.

If you would like to purchase the Kindle/Android/PDF version, click here and then click Buy, just below the cover image.

Texture Tutorial!

Today’s blog is a tutorial on the use of textures. Often we see texture added to images of flowers or landscapes with bland skies. Although these types of images are awesome for texture use, for this tutorial, I will demonstrate how a texture can also add character to portraits. I will be using an image I took for a newly engaged couple.

In this tutorial I will also be featuring Joel Olives textures. Joel creates his beautiful textures, overlays, and bokeh overlays monthly. I joined Joel’s Texture Club in February and over the past 7 months, I have received hundreds of incredible textures. Joel also shares his methods and provides a blending action on his site as well. If you are interested in Joel’s textures, follow the link and use DENISE20, to receive a 20% discount on your purchase!

joelolives.com

Here is a sampling!

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Because they are high resolution, they can be used to enhance any image without worrying about pixilation or degradation.

At first blush, the thought of incorporating textures may be overwhelming, particularly with so many options. But actually, it is pretty easy and once you get the hang of it, it can be done in minutes. The tutorial will seem long, but that is because it includes loads of images (so you know where to look for things), as well as multiple techniques on how to achieve different types of blending effects. In the end, this tutorial will provide you with a step by step process to get your creative juices flowing.

So let’s get to it!

First, start by opening your image and making any adjustments you may feel are necessary (brightness, contrast, saturation, etc). For the image I selected, I needed to make sure the doorframe was straight and I corrected any lights/darks, as well as enhanced her beautiful eyes. Now that my image is ready, its time to add a texture.

 

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There are a number of ways to add a texture to an image. I will show you the two ways I use most often.

1) File/Place/Select File/Place
This technique will bring the image in as a new layer and already have the transform feature activated so you can scale it to fit the background layer. When scaling the texture layer, you may decide to scale one for one (to fit exactly on the background) or you may decide that you want it to be bigger than the background. This may be the case, when you have selected a texture you really like, but for a particular image, the edges are too dark.

2) Open the texture as its own image, the select the move tool (V).
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In the texture layer, left click on the texture image and drag to the image you are working on. Before unclicking, hold the shift key. This will drop the layer in a new layer and scale it to the background directly. Should you wish to change the scaling, as noted in #1, just choose Edit/Free Transform ( T or Ctrl T – PC). This will allow you to scale the layer (texture) to your liking.

For this image, I selected jo-tc-aug-2013-13 from Joel Olives August 2013 Textures.

To get the image in to my working file, I chose option #1 from above.

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For me, the texture opens in to Camera Raw. This gives allows me to make changes to the texture prior to inserting it in to my working file. For this texture, I added a little Clarity and Vibrance, then I hit ok.

As you can see, the texture definitely needs some scaling! The great thing about Joel Olive textures is that they are high resolution, so scaling this texture to fit my image will not degrade the texture (and therefore, will not degrade my image) at all.

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To rotate just the texture layer, select Edit/Transform/Rotate 90°CW.

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Next drag your corners out until the meet the edge of your background images. The texture will lock in. If you wish, you can also drag the end texture layer out further. For this particular image and this texture, I like the dark edges with the leaf pattern, so I am sticking with a one to one ratio.

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There are a couple of ways to blend in a texture.
1) Manipulate the Opacity slider
2) Use Blending Mode

Screen Shot 2013-08-02 at 7.18.04 PMHere is the result using #1 (Opacity slider) – This result is not very pleasing and to truly see your background image the opacity of the texture would have to be so low, as to not even feel like a texture.

To make this technique work, you would need to add a Layer Mask and then mask the texture out of areas, such as her face and arms. Using a Layer Mask for this can be difficult and requires multiple brushes, at various opacities, often leaving a “hard” edge. Using the Blending modes and the techniques discussed below will give a more subtle and even feel to the texture.

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Here is the result using #2 (Blending layers) – This result is miles ahead of just using the Opacity slider. You can use a number of Blending modes to achieve the result you are seeking (Overlay, Soft Light, Screen for a lightened effect, even Multiply for a dark edgy feeling).

 

 

 

For this tutorial, I chose Soft Light.

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Next you can soften the effect of the texture by changing the opacity. I changed the texture layers opacity from 100% to 75%. As you can see, the background image is more prominent, but I have lost those beautiful eyes and her skin looks dirty and uneven from the texture. We are going to fix that next!

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Once the texture is in place, you can manipulate it using Layer Adjustments.

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You can use any adjustment from the Layer Adjustments menu (Brightness/Contrast, Hue/Saturation, Levels, Curves, etc). These adjustments are personal preference and based on the image to which the texture is being added.

For this image, I chose to make a Levels adjustment, to slightly darken the texture layer.

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In order to have my Layer Adjustment only impact the texture layer, I must associate the adjustment to the texture directly, as indicated by the downward-pointing arrow on the adjustment layer. To link layers (this technique links any layers/adjustments) hold the Alt or Option (PC) and however over the layer you want to link (in this case, the Level Adjustment). You will see a downward-pointing arrow appear, left click your mouse and the adjustment will be attached. To remove, just repeat these steps.

 

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If you do not link your adjustment to the texture, the adjustment will after both the texture and any layers beneath. This might be what you want, but if not, the linking technique will be your solution.

At this point, there is a decision to make.

Do you want the subject matter (in this case the face, eyes, and skin) to retain the some texture or no texture at all. Depending on your preference and the image to which you are adding a texture, there is different method for each.

First we will see the technique that retains some texture…

Start by hiding the adjustment layer (click on the eye), then select the texture layer and change the blending back to Normal and increase the opacity back to 100% (all temporary).

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Now, choose the Color Picker tool.

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With the color picker, left click on the texture, looking for a medium tone.

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This color/tone will become the Foreground color.

 

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Once you have made this selection, change the texture Blending mode back to Soft Light, the opacity back to 75% and click the eye on the adjustment layer.

Select the Brush tool (B). Use a soft edged brush and set the Brush opacity to an opacity that is pleasing. For this image, I chose 70%.

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Left click on the texture and then with the brush tool, paint over the areas of the texture that you want the background image to be more prominent (show through).

Since we “placed” the texture, when you go to paint, you will get the following message.

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Just select OK and then begin painting.

 

 

 

 

 

For this tutorial, I have “lessened” not removed the texture from her face, eyes, hair, and left arm. To show the difference, I have not removed the texture from her right hand. However, were I to “finish” this image with the option, I would have likely lessened the texture in her right arm as well. You can still see some texture on her fact and left arm, however it is not as intense.

 

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Next lets look at the technique to remove the texture from her altogether, while leaving the underlying tone of the texture behind.

For this technique, you will need to create a New Photoshop file. You will only use this temporarily, so there is no need to Save it.

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After you hit OK, you will get a White background layer. First thing we need to do is Fill it with color (any color). To do this, select Edit/Fill and under Contents Use: choose Color. The color picker tool will come up, pick a color and choose OK. Then choose OK to fill.

 

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Next choose the Healing Brush Tool.

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Now, holding the ALT or Option (PC) key down, click anywhere on the color image. Your brush will change to the sampling tool.

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This “loads” the Healing Brush.

 

Once you have completed this step, return to your working image. Make sure the Healing Brush is still selected and click on the texture layer.

Start brushing out the texture (even though the brush is a color). It will look like you are coloring on your image, but you are not. I promise, just keeping brushing, stopping every so often (for larger images) to let the Healing Brush process. Remember, you are not painting with this brush.

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Here is a close up of the process. Here I am about halfway done. You can see that her skin tone and his are the same, but the texture is completely gone. You may see that the Healing Brush leaves some color… no fear, just brush over the area again and it will disappear.

 

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Now for the final image (I am sticking with the “no texture” option).

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Remember, every choice I made in this tutorial, was just that a choice. There are many ways to incorporate textures in to your images… let your imagination guide you. 🙂

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_XT17391-EditTonaScreen Shot 2015-02-11 at 3.50.29 PMlity: Create fascinating black and white images. Inspiring presets, film emulation, layers & innovative features ensure the most romantic pictures you ever made!

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