Behind the Scenes

Behind the Scenes of Dragonfly

You’ve got all your in-camera settings set, and you have captured a great picture. Now it’s a few hours later and you are looking at your picture on your computer. The picture is just not popping like you thought it was on your camera’s little LCD screen. If you have photoshop there are a few settings that you can use to make your great picture amazing and pop just like you want it to. There are other post processing programs and there are even some free ones (GIMP), that work just as well, but today I will be showing you in Adobe’s Photoshop CS5. No I have not upgraded yet to Creative Cloud, but you can use these little settings in any of the Photoshop CS versions.

Longwood Gardens has a beautiful summer spectacular going on. The water lilies are in full bloom and the Open Air Theatre is playing for all to see.

Today I’m using a picture I took at Longwood Gardens the other day. I was using my Canon EOS 70D with a EF 70-300mm USM lens. I had my settings at

  • Manual exposure
  • Shutter Speed: 1/400 sec
  • Aperture: f/16
  • ISO: 500

I was at the end of my lens, because this lily was towards the middle of the pond. What would a pond be with out a few dragonflies? A few took some time to pose for me so that I could practice quick focusing and exposing to better my skills, but that is for a different blog. Any picture that I adjust the levels or make minor changes to I like to duplicate the layer so that I can see the difference in the two pictures quickly as I work. Next I manually adjust the layers to bring out the blacks and whites a little more. This is really playing with the levels to create the base look you want.

I added a warming filter to the picture.

I added a warming filter to the picture.

In Photoshop in Windows you will see “Adjustments”, from there a window will open up. Within the adjustment window, I like to play with the exposure, vibrancy, curves, and photo filter. I started with exposure, and adjusted all three of the settings adjusting to my liking. As I was doing this I saw that some of the highlights became much brighter than I wanted them. To help with this without changing my new settings, I used the burn tool only on the highlights. The burn tool will “burn” or darken the areas of the picture you want it on. For the burn tool to work you need to be on the background layer or a layer with an image. I’m using the background layer since it is the base of my photo and the picture that is being adjusted.

Bruning petals

I used the burn tool to darken some of the petals.

Once I finished doing minor burning to the picture, I added vibrance with layer.  I pushed it up, this way some of the details in the dragonfly’s wings get a little boost. I boosted vibrance to +28, which gives the picture a warmer, more colorful feel. To get an even warmer feel, I ran photo filter, keeping the default setting warming filter (85) on but dropping the density of it to 15%. I finish my adjustments with curves, for this I choose a point in the middle of the line and pulled it diagonally down just a little bit to give the blacks some more black, instead of the picture being bright.

Using a black paint brush, I painted the corners before I changed the blending layer.

Using a black paint brush, I painted the corners before I changed the blending layer.

Now, for my finishing touch I’m adding a vinaigrette to the corners. Now there are many way to do this but since I only want a little bit, I am going to create a new layer and paint black onto the four corners. Since it is kind of dark and I don’t want to lose the details in the corners I blend the layer to darken and drop the opacity to 44%. I also colored a little too far into the picture so I created a mask to the layer I created so that I could pull the vinaigrette back without losing what was already there.


(I did continue to play with the layers along with adding a few other things to get this image, and you can do the same to get the look you want).

Straight out of the camera shot.

Straight out of the camera shot.


Tonya Moken created TLM Productions, LLC because of her love of story telling through the mediums of videography and photography. Everyone has a story to tell, and Tonya wants to help you tell yours.

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