Photoshop Technique: High Contrast Images

Okay, so to kick the week off I thought I’d share an editing technique with you that I saw demonstrated by Scott Kelby a couple of years ago, and is a process that I use on virtually all of my images when I’m looking to add some High Contrast.

Now this technique could be considered a little on the unconventional side seeing as it makes use of the Unsharp Mask Filter but as you’ll see it’s incredibly effective and what’s more, it’s incredibly quick and easy; so here goes…

Step 1: Duplicate the Layer and convert to a Smart Object

Of course if you’re using an earlier version of Photoshop where you can’t convert layers to Smart Objects that’s not a problem. All it means is that you’ll have to start over if you want to change the final effect. Luckily for this technique though that’s no drama as there’s only 2 steps involved.

Step 2: Apply the Unsharp Mask (FILTER-SHARPEN-UNSHARP MASK)

This is where the magic happens and the good thing is that there’s no hard and fast rules to follow other than keeping the Threshold Slider set to zero.

Simply play around with the ‘Amount’ and ‘Radius’ sliders, pushing them to levels you wouldn’t normally, until you get the desired amount of contrast you’re after. I tend to find that the ‘sweet spot’ for me is with Amount at 25, and Radius at 16…but then it does depend on the image.

Note: You may notice on some images that you see a dark halo around some parts of the image; this is due to the amount applied to the Radius Slider. The good thing here is that as we have used a Smart Object, by default we have a layer mask on this layer too so all we need to do is paint using a black brush around the areas with the halo so that it is removed but the contrast remains everywhere else within the image.

That’s all for now, so I’ll catch you here later in the week for another Photoshop technique plus a walk through of a recent ‘on location’ Band Shoot.

In the mean time,

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  • March 14, 2011 - 11:24 am

    Russell Pritchard - Great Job Glyn,
    The sharpening really sets the image off, just great.

    I feel a bit like Ken toney on Scot Kelbys Blog !

  • March 14, 2011 - 1:53 pm

    Tim Skipper - Cool idea Glen, going to have to try that.

  • March 14, 2011 - 2:02 pm

    Glyn - Works a treat Tim and good when used with a layer mask to limit where you want the contrast to show up.

    Enjoy :)

  • March 16, 2011 - 5:37 am

    Glyn - @Ken…sorry, Russell…glad you like it :)

    Cheers for stopping by and commenting mate

  • March 16, 2011 - 5:37 am

    Glyn - @Tim…Nice one; let me know how it goes if you’re able ;)

  • March 18, 2011 - 8:06 am

    Corporate Portraits Ltd - Hi Glyn

    Nice technique as I often increase contrast on my portraits, just with the contrast/brightness tool but this unsharp mask technique works and looks much better. Thanks Grant

  • March 19, 2011 - 5:43 pm

    Glyn - Hey Grant, great to hear you like the technique and that it’s gonna come in handy. Really appreciate you stopping by :)

Photo Shoot & Technique: Chanel Fusco (Promo)

I had the great pleasure recently of working with talented Singer, Chanel Fusco…

This was to be the second time we’d worked together on promotional material and as was the case before with the first shoot [Link] we were again in the studio however this time going for a completely different look and feel to the images.

Chanel was an absolute delight to work with; confident, lots of laughs and above all completely relaxed in front of the camera making for a great shoot for all involved…

This confidence in front of the camera and being relaxed in a studio environment, I can’t help but think is not just down to being Chanel’s second photo shoot with me but largely down to the ‘Photographer & Client’ relationship that we’ve built up over time. I’m a big believer in the importance of building a good relationship & turning clients into friends if you’re to get the most out of the shoot because no matter what kit you have and how technically perfect you are, if you and your client don’t ‘click’ (pardon the pun) then it’s going to show through in the final images.

It’s normal practice for me to meet up at least a couple of times with a client for coffee and a chat before the day of the shoot. This time is so important to me for not only gaining a clearer understanding of the purposes of the shoot and the look that the client is after but also because it’s during this time that the friendship develops; and with friendship come feelings of trust, confidence and being relaxed.

Lighting Setup
We decided for this shoot, rather than ‘spin too many plates’ and try to squeeze in a whole multitude of set ups and looks, we’d concentrate on one lighting set up with just a couple of wardrobe changes…Chanel not me:)

Here’s a BTS (Behind the Scenes) shot of the lighting which consisted of two Profoto 1000’s in strip boxes for rim lighting and the main key light being another Profoto 1000 in a Beauty Dish and fitted with a Honeycomb Grid [Link]

For the close up head shot of Chanel, lighting was kept exactly the same all except for bringing a Silver Lastolite Tri Grip Reflector into the mix, held just out of frame at chest height.

Shooting Tethered
As is always the case when I’m working in the studio I’m shooting tethered into Lightroom 3 on my Apple MacBook Pro; a system that works faultlessly 99% of the time. Now I say 99% of the time because on this particular shoot I encountered a few issues where some images weren’t showing up and an error message saying ‘Error working with file’ or something like that. Anyway the result was that I ended up for some of the shoot having to review the images on the back of the camera; not ideal despite the screen on the back of my Nikon D3 being a fairly decent size but hey it doesn’t happen all the time.

I’ve a sneaky suspicion that this hiccup with the tethering is going to be down to me turning off my camera from time to time during the shoot so that’s something I’m going to have to look into.

At the end of the shoot the folder of images containing all the RAW files that did make it into Lightroom were then copied over onto my LaCie Rugged External Hard Drive which, once home, was then plugged into the iMac and imported into Lightroom. The images that were captured onto the camera’s memory cards were also imported into the same folder using Photo Mechanic which totally ROCKS! Seriously if you haven’t tried it out I urge you to give it a spin; you’ll be amazed how quick you can view and import images off your memory cards!

Post Production in Photoshop

In a word ‘minimal’ …

  • Remove unwanted dust spots, hair etc…
  • Brighten & Sharpen Eyes
  • Add Contrast to Skin
  • Soften Skin
  • Adjust Colour / Tone using a Colour Balance Adjustment Layer
  • Add ‘Cookie Lighting’

Next week I’m going to be adding a couple of posts covering some of the editing techniques I use in Photoshop and that I’ve mentioned recently such as ‘Cookie Lighting’ in the list above and also the technique for adding high contrast using, of all things, the Unsharp Mask Filter that I briefly touched on in the Ice Hockey Shoot.

Before I forget, BIG thanks to Andreea Gli Gioia for doing a great impression of the Invisible Man during this shoot and taking some great BTS (Behind the Scenes) photographs that I’ve been able to make use of rather than subject you once again to my questionable drawing skills:)

Also, thanks to Ian Baker, Chanel’s Partner, Bodyguard, Number 1 Fan and all round Good Guy for helping out with lifting and shifting some of the kit and also for trusting me not to do anything inappropriate with the lighting test shots that he stood in for…ooopps:)

Right, that’s all for now so have a great weekend and I’ll catch up with you soon.

•    •    •

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  • March 11, 2011 - 10:41 pm

    Noel Hannan - Excellent shots, full of drama, style and presence! Thanks for sharing. Just great,

    All the best

  • March 11, 2011 - 10:55 pm

    Glyn - Thanks for that Noel :)

  • March 12, 2011 - 3:16 am

    Matthias Spadin - Very nice look and feel for these images. Really look forward to see more about your editing techniques. I like this style…

  • March 12, 2011 - 9:11 am

    Ian Baker - Glyn yet again a wonderful blog really had a great day your talent always amazes I must agree that the client photographer relationship is so important you always make sure that we are happy with every aspect of things even the coffee lol thanks again mate truly great shots even the one of me ahhhhhhhhhh 

  • March 12, 2011 - 5:47 pm

    David Kelly - Hi Glyn,

    Thanks for another insightful posting.

    As you say building up the relationship with a client outside the photoshoot is an important aspect that is probably either overlooked or not possible for many other togs, but it pays dividends in getting more for the client in front of the camera.

    Loving the headset above of Chanel – great catchlight in the eyes.



  • March 13, 2011 - 10:51 am

    DaveT - Hi Glyn,

    I think the BHS pullback shots are a great addition.

    I agree the relationship thing is essential; having a clear idea of what is going to happen in the shoot really helps both the photographer and client, and the pre meet is going to tell you whether you are going to be able to work with the client or not.

    Glyn- a suggestion for you. People (myself included) have asked about various techniques you have used in this excellent blog, and you have kindly supplied links to past posts or You Tube tutorials that you have created. Could you perhaps put up a consolidated index of the various techniques along with the list the links to the explanatory post/video.

    Adjust Colour/Tone using a Colour Balance Adjustment Layer – Link
    Soften Skin – Link

    If this was included on the links at the top of the blog, readers could quickly find the technique they needed additional information on.

    Thanks for another great post.


  • March 13, 2011 - 4:24 pm

    Rick Wenner - Great work here Glyn. As I’ve said before, Chanel is indeed quite awesome…just didn’t think she’d actually have a shirt as additional proof. All joking aside, very nice images and I’m looking forward to seeing more. All the best to ya!

  • March 13, 2011 - 10:05 pm

    Glyn - @Matthias…Thanks so much for that mate and I’ll be posting some editing techniques on the blog this week.
    All the best to you,

  • March 13, 2011 - 10:06 pm

    Glyn - @Ian…Thanks for stopping by and commenting mate. It was an absolute pleasure working both Chanel & yourself on more Promo material, as is always the case. Here’s to the future!

    ps> I see the piccie of you has certainly gotten some interest on Facebook :)

  • March 13, 2011 - 10:07 pm

    Glyn - @David…Such an important part of the shoot mate; not only helps the client to relax but me too which is always a good thing; well that a VR lenses…lol :)

    Thanks for the kind words,
    Speak soon,

  • March 13, 2011 - 10:08 pm

    Glyn - @DaveT…Thanks for stopping by mate and yeah I’m liking your suggestion re the links to editing techniques. I’ll have a think about how best to do it.


  • March 13, 2011 - 10:11 pm

    Glyn - @Rick…Cheers Buddy, that’s real nice of you to say.
    Hope all is well with you,
    Speak soon,

    ps> We’re planning the trip to NY so hopefully will be able to buy you a pint on your own turf v.soon :)

  • March 14, 2011 - 2:22 pm

    Rick Wenner - Looking forward to it buddy. Keep me posted.

  • March 16, 2011 - 5:38 am

    Glyn - @Rick…Will do mate, cheers

  • March 17, 2011 - 3:02 pm

    Govind Vekaria - I love the pull back shoots showing all your lights. For the side lighting you state strip lights but I see a square softbox with flags on it. What is the size of the square softbox if you don’t mind me asking? Wouldn’t a full length strip light be better to get edge lighting 3/4 length? I am considering more studio purchase and would love your input.
    Thank Glyn.

  • March 17, 2011 - 4:31 pm

    Glyn - @Govind…Thanks for commenting mate :)
    Re the side lighting the softboxes are infact oblong as opposed to square and measure about 1 metre in length I believe. Also on the front of them are Profoto Covers to create a strip of light as opposed to flags as it may actually look like in the photo. Re the size of them as you mention about full length maybe being better that all depends on the look you’re after; for this shoot I didn’t want rim light the full length of Chanel and also this size of ‘strip light’ is one that I tend to use for most of what I do. I guess when all is said and done, it’s like everything in photography i.e personal taste and the overall look you’re aiming to achieve.

    Hope that helps,

Photo Shoot & Technique: “You’ll be a Man, my Son”

Ok so you may be thinking what on earth the title of this post has to do with the following photos; well let me explain…

Without going into too much detail I’m not a Dad nor did I have what could have been described as a ‘close’ relationship with my own Dad. Maybe it’s for these reasons that I regularly find my heart strings being pulled when I see anything be it on TV, in a movie or in day to day life where there’s a strong relationship between father and son. Geez even now as a 30 something I can find myself ‘welling up’ and having to either try to hide the fact or turn away so whoever is near me doesn’t notice; I guess it’s a self preservation thing. Funny how no matter what age I get, these feelings never leave…I can deal with them in my own way, but they never leave.

Anyway the relevance of all this is that a recent shoot saw me photographing an Ice Hockey Player who just happen to be a good friend of mine and his 8 year old son who also plays.

Now I’ll leave all the ‘techy’ side of the shoot to the end of this post but for now I just wanted to say that the relationship between Mike and his 8 year old son Laurence is everything a father and son relationship should be. Just talking to Mike and knowing him as I do, you can just feel the love and strong bond that he has with his son; the two of them are inseparable and it’s clear that the solid values instilled by both parents has shaped Laurence into a wonderful young man.

It was actually my suggestion for the shoot knowing that Mike was an ice hockey player and me having a clear idea of the kind of images I wanted to make and bringing Laurence along was something we spoke about a couple of days beforehand. It just seemed the perfect subject to shoot on the white seamless set up and reflective floor that I use which could give the impression of being on ice; but more of that in a short while.

Having worked through the shoot I asked Mike if there was any kind of logo or saying that he could think of that would be relevant to a ‘Father and Son’ and that I could maybe incorporate as text beneath one of the photos.

Mike immediately suggested a poem titled ‘If’ by Rudyard Kipling as being one that would fit perfectly and is used regularly across the sport world, and my how right he was as each time I listen to this the hair stands up on the back of my neck…

It’s at times like this I’m reminded just how important photographs are as I find myself thinking that in say 20, 30, 40 years time Laurence will be able to look back at this series of images remembering the days shoot and proudly saying ‘That’s my Dad'; and that’s something really special and something I thank photography for.

•    •    •

Ok so let’s move on and cover a little bit of the lighting and editing involved…

White Seamless
First off the shots with the white background were taking in the studio using my white seamless set up and reflective flooring…

The reflective flooring which is basically two 8′ x 4′ sheets of glossy white PVC is starting to show signs of age now having been used on many occasions but for this particular shoot this was ideal as the scratches helped to give the effect of being on ice…

One thing to note when trying to get decent reflections using this set up is that your shooting position is vitally important. Shoot from too high and you won’t catch enough of the light reflecting off the back wall to turn the floor to brilliant white nor will you catch a good reflection; best results for me always come from shooting towards the subject from the kneeling position.

Composite Image
As for the composite image at the top of the page, this was a 3 light set up…

Editing in Photoshop
To give you an idea of some of the editing involved here’s a couple of ‘Before’ and ‘After’ images showing what the images were like straight out of camera and then once they’d been edited…

So what was done?

  • New background added
  • Brighten/Sharpen Eyes
  • Add contrast to skin
  • Dodge and Burn face and clothing
  • Enhance details using a blend mode and blurring technique
  • Alter the overall colour using a colour balance adjustment layer
  • Increase contrast using the Unsharp Mask filter
  • Darken edges with a vignette

The same techniques all except for adding in the background and altering the colour were done to the image below too…

•    •    •

So there you have it, a breakdown of the lighting and post production for some of the shots from this Ice Hockey Shoot in the studio.

As always if you have any questions or comments about anything within this post then please feel free to make use of the comments section below. Also if there’s a Photoshop technique you’d like me to explain then again, feel free to ‘shout out’ in the comments section and I’ll look at putting together a walk through or video covering it.

In the meantime,

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  • March 9, 2011 - 8:25 am

    DaveT - Inspiring, emotive, technical and detailed – a great mix. Thanks

  • March 9, 2011 - 8:32 am

    daniela - dear glyn, as usual thank you so much for your inspiring and interesting explanations.
    could you go a bit more into detail regarding the step “Enhance details using a blend mode and blurring technique” i’m a bit surprised that a blurring technique would enhance detail… and i’d be interested to know which blend modes can lead to more details..
    also, is there any advise you can give on posing people? these two were no pros so i imagine you had to give them instructions on how to stand, how to look, how to do this and that. my own experience in this field is _very_ limited and i often find that i overlook a detail that will ruin the whole picture or that by giving too many instructions the subject will tense up and not look natural anymore…
    once again, thank you!

  • March 9, 2011 - 10:31 am

    Mark Robinson - Glyn, as usual superb images. One question for you – can you explain how you increase contrast using Unsharp Mask. I apologise if you have explained this before, but I am relatively new to your blog (never miss a post now though!!).

  • March 9, 2011 - 10:45 am

    Chanel - Superb as usual Glyn. The before and after pics are fab!!

  • March 9, 2011 - 6:47 pm

    kelley - Great instruction as always. Of course my favorite part was the beginning of the blog and the poem. You know me I like the story behind the people. Thanks for the morning tears, and inspiration.
    Such rich stuff!

  • March 9, 2011 - 7:16 pm

    Christopher - Wow you really livened those pictures up. Those are excellent images. They depict more then just clean shot pictures too!

  • March 11, 2011 - 9:36 pm

    Photo Shoot & Technique: Chanel Fusco (Promo) » Glyn Dewis Blog - [...] adding high contrast using, of all things, the Unsharp Mask Filter that I briefly touched on in the Ice Hockey [...]

  • March 11, 2011 - 9:45 pm

    Glyn - @DaveT…Thanks for that mate

  • March 11, 2011 - 9:53 pm

    Glyn - @Daniela…Thanks for dropping in and taking the time to comment; it’s great to ‘hear’ that the posts come in handy :)

    Re the technique for enhancing details using a blend mode and blurring technique, you can see a video on my YouTube page that covers exactly that. The video shows me working on bringing details out in a car but the technique is exactly the same; here’s the link:

    With regards to posing people, to be honest what I’ve found helps me is spending time with the ‘client’ beforehand and getting to know them. This goes a long way into them becoming more relaxed with you and in turn not being so tense infront of the camera. I’ll also have a good 15 minute or so of shooting at the start for no other reason than for us both to get ‘in the zone’ and most times these images aren’t ones I’ll end up using but it helps again to get whoever you are photographing to start to become ‘less’ aware of the camera…does that make sense.

    100% of the time though I do tend to get really into the shoot; music blasting out and I’m really quite vocal at times which I’ve been told on more than one occasion by who I’m shooting helped alot because I wasn’t just holding a camera and shooting.

    Hope that makes sense, but if all else fails bring along some bottles of wine…only kidding :)
    All the best to you,

  • March 11, 2011 - 9:54 pm

    Glyn - @Mark…Thanks for commenting mate. Re your question about adding contrast, I’ll have a walk through tutorial on the blog covering exactly that on Monday.

    Cheers :)

  • March 11, 2011 - 9:54 pm

    Glyn - @Chanel…Thanks for that :)

  • March 11, 2011 - 9:55 pm

    Glyn - @Kelley…Totally hear you there; thanks :)

  • March 11, 2011 - 9:56 pm

    Glyn - @Christopher…Very kind of you to say; thanks

  • March 12, 2011 - 10:41 am

    Dmitriy - Hi, you work inspire me, watch youtube with you. Thanks for sharing secrets.

  • March 13, 2011 - 10:06 pm

    Glyn - @Dmitriy…You’re welcome mate; thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  • March 14, 2011 - 7:59 am

    daniela - thank you so much! i had actually seen that video of course, but hadn’t paid so much attention to the technique back then. that is some crazy stuff there glyn, you really are a magician with photoshop. unbelievable. thank you very much for sharing, sir!

  • March 14, 2011 - 9:50 am

    Glyn - Daniela, thank you for checking back in on the blog and for the continued support; I really do appreciate it :)

Photo Shoots, iPads and Photography Shows

I’m just about to head off up the motorway to the Focus on Imaging Expo [Link] at the NEC but before I do I thought I’d leave you with a short post…

Photo Shoots
First of, this week I’m going to be including a couple of ‘walk throughs’ from some recent shoots; one with talented female singer Chanel Fusco who I’ve had the great pleasure of working with before and the other being an Ice Hockey player.

Both shoots were done in the studio and I’ll be covering all the set ups and some of the post production involved, particularly for the Ice Hockey player where we came up with an ingenious way of keeping warm using the white tile board; I’ll explain all later:)

Photography iPad App
If you’ve got an iPad and appreciate great photography then you’re definitely going to want this new App from National Geographic.

Called the ‘50 Greatest Photographs‘ the App showcases some of the most incredible images that have graced the pages of National Geographic Magazine over the years plus information on the photographer and the story behind each shot.

Warning: If you’re anything like me, you’ll find yourself totally immersed looking through the images and at a high risk of missing your train stop; but the least said about that the better:)

The App costs just £2.99 and can be downloaded direct from iTunes at this [Link]

‘The Grid’ Premieres Today!
Don’t forget to set your alarms for ‘The Grid'; the new LIVE Photography Show hosted by Scott Kelby and Matt Kloskowski.

The first show airs today 12.30pm EST (5.30pm UK) and news is that Jeremy Cowart is the show’s first Guest.

You can watch the show over on the KelbyTV website [Link] and if you’re a Twitter user, the guys are taking questions during show at @thegridlive

•    •    •

Right, I’ve gotta dash so have a great day and I’ll catch up with you soon.

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  • March 8, 2011 - 6:48 am

    DaveT - Hi Glyn,

    Looking forward to seeing the posts on the ‘shoot’.

    I was at Focus yesterday (Monday) – pity I didn’t bump into you. I watched the Dave Cross talk on the On One stand; as you rightly said in an earlier post, a very good speaker. He spoke about the cool device you can get whereby you can use an IPad to shoot remotely- looks really interesting.

    Did you see that Ist Cameras were selling the AC3 Controller for Nikon at the show?

    Sorry for going slightly off post.


  • March 11, 2011 - 9:45 pm

    Glyn - @DaveT…Yeah shame we didn’t get chance to meet up at Focus mate; question is did you spend out at all??? :)

    Glad to hear you caught up with Dave Cross too; did you get to have a chat at all? The OnOne App for shooting via the iPhone and iPad is a clever piece of’s actually what I used to take my profile piccie.

    Didn’t get hold of an AC3 at the show but I’m sure I’ll get my hands on one soon enough…lol

    Thanks again for stopping by and commenting mate; I really do appreciate it.
    All the best to you,

  • March 13, 2011 - 11:04 am

    DaveT - Hi Glyn,

    No, didn’t get a chance to talk to Dave Cross, I was off to another talk/ demo somewhere. I think it was David Honl at the TFC stand. I also pulled in demo/talks by Adam Duckworth and Jim Marks on the Lastolite stand. There never seems to be enough time at Focus to look at products yet still take opportunity to watch some of these great speakers.

    Did I spend out? Yeah- I came away with an Eazybox Hotshoe kit and and AC3 controller for my Canon. Looking forward to the spring and trying out some outdoor shots with the new kit.

    What about you – any new kit? Or did you resist?


  • March 13, 2011 - 10:10 pm

    Glyn - @DaveT…Sounds like you made some worthwhile investments there mate (sounds better than purchases huh :) )
    I actually managed to resist (first time for everything) but I’ve a feeling there’s a couple of things I’ll be getting in the near future i.e. strip boxes for speedlights would come in incredibly handy.


New Weekly Photography Show ‘The Grid’…Coming Soon!!!

Ok so if you’re into Photography, and I get the sneaky suspicion that you are, then you’re definitely going to want to tune into The Grid; a new weekly ‘LIVE‘ show brought to you by Kelby Training.

With hosts Scott Kelby and Matt Kloskowski this brand new show which premieres this coming Monday 7th March has the following format:

  • It’s LIVE
  • Each week the hosts will be joined by a Guest
  • Talking about the topics happening that particular week in the world of Photography & Photoshop
  • Questions can be sent in during the show from viewers via Twitter

What’s more is that if you’re unable to make it to the LIVE show, then you’ll still be able to watch it after it’s aired via KelbyTV and the iTunes Podcast plus if you have any questions you can still send them in via Twitter and the guys will look at working their way through them as the shows progress.

So there you have it, another weekly date for the diary and a great way to keep up with all the latest goings on in the industry.

When: Mondays @ 12.30pm EST (5.30pm UK)
Cost: Nil, Nowt, Nothing!
Rebroadcast: KelbyTV, iTunes etc…

>Note: I’ll update this post with all the Twitter details etc… as soon as they’re confirmed before the big launch.


•    •    •

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  • May 19, 2011 - 3:52 am

    Ken Worland - Love the show. I’m always looking forward to the next episode.

  • May 19, 2011 - 10:12 pm

    Glyn - @Ken…Yeah totally agree with you there; great show indeed :)