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The tiny cathedral

While I do use a tilt-shift lens all the time, I don’t do many tilt-shift photos. The problem is, if you use a wide lens, like the 17mm one I have, you can’t really create a nice miniature effect. You need to zoom in a bit, to compress the perspective. Without that, it just does not look right.

For this photo, I used a 90mm tilt-shift lens. This one works really well for creating miniatures, you just have to be a bit further away, as you can’t zoom out. This is a blend of three exposures, done in Photoshop.

The tiny cathedral, St Martin's Cathedral, Bratislava, Slovakia

Taking photos through glass

I almost called this taking photos through windows, but then I realized, even walls can be made of glass :). You probably had this experience. You are at a place with a great view, but there is a glass wall or window in front of you. And all your photos have all these ugly reflections visible in them. I hate those, and I think you too. So what to do? Today I will share with you a few tips on what to do and how to get better photos through glass.

Taking photos through glass

Get better photos through glass

  • Clean the glass – As a photographer, you probably carry a microfiber cloth with you anyway. So why not use it and clean the glass in front of your camera to get rid of fingerprints and other dirt from it. The cleaner the glass, the cleaner the photo.
  • Use a bigger aperture – If you use a bigger aperture (smaller F-number), focus on something in the distance. Keep the camera close to the glass and the whole area of the glass will be completely out of focus. And that’s what you want. You don’t want to see the fingerprints or scratches in the photos. Like this, they will completely disappear.
  • Put the lens right against the glass – The closer you have your camera to the glass, the less it will be visible in the photo. So try putting the lens right onto the glass wall or window (but first make sure your lens has a flat front, don’t try this with a fisheye). Like this, not only the glass will be out of focus, but you are blocking all reflections from the side of the lens.
  • Turn off all the lights inside – If you can, especially in the evening and at night, turn off all lights. If it’s darker inside that it’s outside, you will get rid of most of the reflections. This is of course not possible if you are at a lookout platform or something similar.
  • Shade the camera with a piece of clothing – To get rid of reflections, you can try to shade your camera with your jacket or other pieces of clothing. Just put the camera as close as you can to the glass, and then hold the jacket over it. Take a test shot and you will quickly see if it worked.
  • Use a dedicated shade – If you tend to take many photos through the glass, I would suggest getting a dedicated shade, like the Lenskirt. I use it and it just makes the whole process very easy. Check out my review of the Lenskirt for more on this one.

If the window or wall is double glass, with space between, you are mostly out of luck. A lot of things just don’t work in that case. You can try all these tips then.  But if there is a gap between the glass, there will always be a reflection there. Turning off lights and shading as many areas as you can works the best here, but don’t expect great results.

Btw. the photos in this post were taken through glass walls, both with the help of the Lenskirt.

Taking photos through glass

The SNP bridge

I used this photo as an example in yesterday’s article on blending using luminosity selections, but I did not include the final edited version of it. So here it is. Actually, compared to the blend I have shown there, I only edited it as shown in this article on editing using luminosity selections. I used Levels to brighten the dark areas more and add contrast to them, and I also used color balance to make the dark areas colder.

This is a blend of three exposures, done in Photoshop.

The SNP bridge

Luminosity selections and masks

Over the last few weeks, I have been posting about Luminosity selections and masks. Today I will expand on the topic again, but going into how to blend images using luminosity selections. If you understood the previous articles on this, you should be able to understand how it works really quickly and be able to use it right away.

But before I start, I will presume that you have checked out the previous articles on luminosity selections and are familiar with what they are and how to create them. I will not be going into the things I already explained there.

Blending photos using Luminosity selections

The process here is almost exactly the same as when you are editing photos using luminosity selections. So as in the last article let’s take an example to show you how it’s done. I will be blending these three exposures here.

We will start again with a photo, for which we created the Bright 1 to 4 selections and Dark 1 to 4 selections. Additionally to that, I will put the brighter exposure and darker exposure on separate layers, both hidden (they have to be hidden when you create the luminosity selections, or else they will be made from them not the base image).

So what’s our goal here? If you look at the image, you will see some areas that are too bright and some that are too dark. The goal here is to brighten the dark areas by using the overexposed photo and darken the bright areas using the underexposed photo. You could look at it as if you cut up the photo into puzzle pieces and then put together a new one using all the best pieces from all the exposures. Let’s start.

Blending in the dark areas

  1. Make the brighter layer visible, and add a black mask to it (hold down Alt and click on the add mask button). This will again make the layer invisible.
  2. Go into the Channels window and with Ctrl+click select one of the Dark selections. The best process is to select each one going from 1 up until you see the selections that best matches the area you want to blend. Just look at the marching ants that show the selection. Usually having a selection that’s a bit bigger than what you want to select here, works the best. For this photo, I will choose the Dark 3 selection
  3. Go back into the layers window. Click on the mask next to the brighter layer to select it. Choose the brush tool, white color, 0% hardness, 50% opacity. Hide the selection by pressing Ctrl+H. It is still there just not visible.
  4. Now that all is prepared, you can start painting into the mask. Everywhere you paint, you are painting with the brighter layer into the base layer. To get more brightness in, paint over the same spot multiple times.
  5. Continue doing this until all the areas are brightened as much as you want them to be. If you feel you overdone it, just switch to a black color and paint over the same spot to remove the blend.
Create selection
Paint it in
Finished mask

Blending in the bright areas

  1. Fist deselect the selection you already have, with Ctrl+D. You don’t see it as it’s hidden, but it’s there. Same as before, make the darker layer visible and add a black mask to it.
  2. Go into the Channels window, and choose one of the selections, based on which one fits the photo the best. Again, go through all the bright selection starting from 1, and choose the one that selects the area you need to edit the best. Again, bo with a bit bigger selection to what you need. That results in a better blend. Here I have chosen the Bright 2 one.
  3. Return to the layers, select the mask on the darker layer, and start painting with the white brush on it, until you recover all the bright areas.
Create selection
Paint it in
Finished mask

Blended photo

And we end up with a photo that has the dark areas brightened and the bright areas darkened. Of course, this is not the finished photo. There are still thing one would have to correct, mostly the contrast. As I mentioned with the other edits, contrast is lost anytime you work with bright and dark areas of a photo.

This explains the basics of blending. If you need to blend more exposures, you do the exact same thing. You choose the base you want to work with and blend other exposures into it as I showed here. The only difference is, that you have to recreate your selections. As they are created from the base layer, once you blended in something into the base layer, they will no longer be as accurate as you need them to be.

So if I had a photo taken at 0EV, and I blend in a -1EV exposures to darken the highlights, I would have to create new selections if I wanted to blend in the -2EV photo to darken them even more. This is where Photoshop extensions like Raya pro and TK actions make the whole process much easier.

This was supposed to be the last article on Luminosity selections, but I will do one more, on the concept of matching exposures. Stay tuned :)

Evening at the Douro river

I wanted to post a daytime photo from Portugal today, but I did not like the ones I edited. When I was there it was just too hot and sunny, for the photos to look like I wanted. So in the end I went with another evening photo here.

This one was taken in the town Barca De Alva at the Douro river, close to the Spanish border. This is a blend of 5 exposures, done in Photoshop. I really needed all of them, as it was already quite dark and the bridge is lit up very brightly.

Evening at the Douro river, Barca De Alva, Portugal
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