The Painterly Image

For most photographers, taking pictures is only a part of the creative image-making process. The other part, and for some photographers, even the most important part, is enhancing their pictures in the digital darkroom.

Image enhancements aren’t new. Famed landscape photographer Ansel Adams and noted portrait photographer Yousuf Karsh of Ottawa spent way more time working on a picture in the wet darkroom than they did taking a picture.

Photoshop is the most powerful image-editing program, and the program I use most often, although I’m using Lightroom more and more. One of the advantages of Photoshop is that you can use the program to create just about any image you see in your mind’s eye. That’s why I chose to use Photoshop to turn my postcard shot of Sénanque Abbey in Provence, France, into a painterly-type image. Here’s how I did it—and how you can use the program to create your own personal works of art. This column also illustrates how to change a specific color in an image, and how to apply a filter selectively, as opposed to applying a filter to the entire image area.


But first, the opening image for this column, taken on one of my Provence workshops, was inspired by a workshop participant’s comment: "I’m disappointed that the lavender fields aren’t in bloom. We’re here two weeks too early!" I told her, "Fear not, Photoshop to the rescue!"

Here’s my original shot, and here’s a quick photo tip: For maximum depth of field, use a wide-angle lens (35mm, here), set a small aperture (ƒ/11, here), and focus one-third into the scene. Remember, just because you have an autofocus camera doesn’t mean that your camera knows where to focus.

The first step in Photoshop was to change the green lavender leaves to lavender (a color defined as a pale shade of violet). I created a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer (Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Hue Saturation) and then adjusted the Hue slider until the green leaves turned to lavender.

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