Images With Impact

One of my digital photography workshop participants, Gary Potts, strives to make images with impact. That’s an admirable goal, and it’s something to add to our photo hit list when we’re out shooting.

Like Gary, I enjoy making images with impact, but that’s not always possible. What’s more, not every image should have a strong or dramatic effect on the viewer. It’s a personal choice.

When I’m working and playing in Photoshop and Lightroom, as well as with plug-ins, I also like to create images with impact, using some cool techniques that you can try on your images.


Here’s the file from which I created the opening image for this column. It’s a nice enough, soft and pleasing shot that I took during a recent workshop in Merritt Island, Fla. With my photographer friend Gary in mind, I thought about making an image with impact. My idea was to create a much more dramatic sky, the kind created when a neutral-density (ND) filter is used for a long exposure. During a long exposure, moving clouds appear as soft and dreamy streaks in the sky.

To create my altered-reality sky, I decided to use Photoshop’s Radial Blur Zoom filter (Filter > Blur > Radial Blur > Zoom).

First, I cropped my image. Cropping often results in an image with more impact because it draws more attention to the main subject. Never underestimate the power of cropping, which gives us a second chance at composition.

I only wanted the blur effect in the sky. Had I used an ND filter for an in-camera photograph, the water in the foreground would also have been softened and blurred. I could have created that effect in Photoshop, too, but I thought the blurred and sharp areas of the picture would produce an image with more impact because an image with a global blur (entire image), rather than a selective blur (sky only), isn’t the standard long-exposure image that we normally see.

To apply a filter, any filter, in Photoshop selectively, go to Filter > Convert for lgart Filters. A lgart filter lets you mask out (paint out) and mask in (paint back in) select areas of an image, a technique I’ll outline in just a moment.

Leave a Comment