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Discussion Starter · #1 ·


I promised I'd do a tutorial, so here it is. It's mostly about layers and layer masks, and I didn't really elaborate on hue/saturation, brightness/contrast, levels, or color balance-- but you guys can figure those out, right?

Hope this was helpful to someone, because let's face it:

Making a tutorial is like presuming that I actually know something others don't, which is something I'm not so sure about . . . :icon_lol:
 

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jbvkasdbvaosdbv

Steven, you crack me up. You are already in Photoshop, you could easily click on the "T" icon in your toolbar and type out the instructions, rather than handwrite it all out. . . haha:icon_lol:
 

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From top to bottom... ?? means I don't know what it says.

1. Open original photo

2. Anticipating doing ?? , I copy and paste the image on itself in 2 or 3 extra layers.

3. This area was too dark. Use shadow / high light on one of the new copies.

4. Layer Mask. With a layer mask, only the areas colored white will be seen. Hit to make a layer mask.

5. Color the layer mask so that only the parts you want are seen. New layer has lighter foreground with original background.

6. Copy of layer 4 with ?? blur. Layer masks make these only visible where mask is white. Copy of layer 4, it has increased sharpness. Layer with composite image after levels/hue and saturation/brightness and contrast/etc.

7. Image now has right settings, is sharp in foreground and blurred in background. Remember, higher layers overlap lower ?? .

8. Filters. For sharpening, I use unsharp mask filter. Next step 13 to use polygon lasso to get the image in a new file. Do ?? some with blur. ?? The layer mask you can make sure only some parts get sharpened. This avoids extra noise.

9. After pasting into a new file, color the background white. Use paintbrush to redraw top rim of the aquarium. Use this to darken and lighten the lip of the tank to make it look real.

10. If you resize to post on a forum, use this setting.

11. Done!!


Okay, there it is. I hope Steven Chong won't get mad at me!! :hihi:
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
LOL!! I'm sorry guys-- I should have made it 2 pictures instead of 1. I thought I had to make it one picture though, and if I made it bigger, it'd probably make my computer blow up while trying to save it. The original dimensions of this image were 1000 x 8000, and even here the height is 3000! :hihi:

For now, let me fill in the gaps:

From top to bottom... ?? means I don't know what it says.

1. Open original photo

2. Anticipating doing edits, I copy and paste the image on itself in 2 or 3 extra layers.

3. This area was too dark. Use shadow / high light on one of the new copies.

4. Layer Mask. With a layer mask, only the areas colored white will be seen.
Hit to make a layer mask.

5. Color the layer mask so that only the parts you want are seen. New layer has lighter foreground with original background.

6.

Purple: Copy of layer 4 with increased blur.

Blue: Layer masks make these only visible where mask is white.

Red: Copy of layer 4, it has increased sharpness.

Orange: Layer with composite image after levels/hue and saturation/brightness and contrast/etc.

7. Image now has right settings, is sharp in foreground and blurred in background. Remember, higher layers overlap lower layers.

8. Filters. For sharpening, I use unsharp mask filter.

Next step 13 to use polygon lasso to get the image in a new file. Do the same with blur.

Using the layer mask you can make sure only some parts get sharpened. This avoids extra noise.

9. After pasting into a new file, color the background white. Use paintbrush to redraw top rim of the aquarium.

Use this (dodge/burn) to darken and lighten the lip of the tank to make it look real.

10. If you resize to post on a forum, use this setting. (bicubic sharpen)

11. Done!!


Tropicalfish-- thanks for help with the interpretation! :hihi:
 

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In my personal opinion a lot of your photos end up a little over-processed.. Thats fine if its your aesthetic, but it sort of stops being a photograph once you're drawing in the rim of your tank with the paintbrush tool.

Disclaimer; I'm a designer and work in Photoshop twelve hours a day so I'm probably more opinionated than I should be when it comes to tarting up photographs. I'd just rather see the raw beauty of the tank. I have the same reaction to the obvious staged hair dryer ripples. If you're making a final shot for competition, obviously you're going to want to touch up the levels and enhance the colors a little bit, but redrawing the rim of your tank is going a little too far into the Playboy-esque airbush world for my taste.
 

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That came off sounding crabbier than the mere difference in aesthetic taste I meant to imply. ;)

And I do applaud your attempt at providing a tutorial. I would suggest in the future saving each screen as a large seperate image so they can load individually, and typing the instructions as actual text. That should work out pretty well.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
It's also a lot more work. XD Both doing the tutorial that way, and . . .

Well, I didn't even have to say that I like to draw in the rim-- I could have lied and said that I just spent an hour erasing cleanly around the rim. I mean, I could do that and get the same result-- it'd just take a lot more work! I'll admit that I like the way tanks are presented in aquajournals etc., and if you look at 'em carefully, you can tell that Amano at least colors over/in things around the borders of photos with white-- pretty much the same thing.

Nat, if you have an easier way of doing these types of things, we'd all love to hear-- me included of course. :D
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Natx-- I do realize you meant just a mild expression of a difference in taste, so I'm not blowing up at you-- this rant I'm about to throw of did get triggered by your comment, but please realize this is not blowing up at you-- it's just blowing up.

[Rant]
I don't want to sound like a whiny, annoying, brat (who can't take the heat of being an artist)-- though that's exactly what this is going to sound like-- but I mean, I do get tired of getting so much criticism all the time.

Don't get me wrong, critique is very useful, and I count myself fortunate that I get critical feedback at all--

But I do get quite a bit of bashing thrown my way, sometimes with little or no justification (like low blow 1-star rate-and-runs). I know I rub in an opposing direction to a lot of members on these forums, and there's reason for friction, but I also know that I have reached a good level of aquascaping-- and am proud of it, and would hope that I could earn some respect from it. I respect others opinions, but quite frankly I don't think that I deserve to be despised at every turn (not saying that I am, it just feels that way sometimes).

I mean, I've started this like everyone else-- two years ago, as a kid in a fish shop spell bound by the first planted tank I ever saw and thinking-- "I got to do that."

But I've worked hard, endured a lot (on various levels), taught myself to do things on my own, and reached out to learn things that I knew nothing about but knew I needed to know. I still remember last May when I went to my uncle and said,

"I don't know anything about photography-- but I need to learn. I have 2 months-- please teach me enough to get into it, and I'll take it from there."

Then, now, and in the future-- I'm just a guy who loves the art of aquascaping, and has done everything he saw fit and within his power improve himself, and to help aquascaping grow and become a more serious art. That includes helping others learn what I've learned.

That also includes having very high expectations-- for myself and others. People get miffed when I critique because they're not used to it, and many do not have the same expectations. Also because my critiques can be harsh, blunt, easily mistaken for containing maliciousness-- so maybe I'm just getting a taste of my own medicine and proving myself a hypocrite by not being able to take it. Well, I have faith in them, and whether they listen or not, I'd hope that I could push them to do even better-- because we all can.

Including me. I know I got a long, LONG ways to go too, and that I am using tools that may not be the greatest in the world, and methods that might not be the best either. Maybe Amano can make those phenomenal photos without ever touch photoshop (which I partly doubt), but I'm doing the best I can with I what I got.

And I know that I've got a lot-- been given a lot-- and am grateful to everyone who has helped me. Which is a lot of people on and off these forums.

I'll continue improving, (because quite frankly I am still pretty bad at this) and continue growing and trying no matter what though-- doing what I can do, and sharing what I do with everyone. I can't be like the CAU guys, or the European aquascapers, or Amano. I can't, and don't want to be like the ever distant artists that have all our admiration. I can't be an aloof entity like them. So sorry, I'll be in your faces. :hihi:

I'm an American. I speak English (decently), and am not afraid to share-- want to share!! I realize my seriousness can be the source of some animosity, and I'm not saying people don't have the right to hold it-- but geez, a bit of appreciation and compliments is nice here and there (and yes, I do realize I do get those too-- here and there).

Actually, when people criticize me they often do it by saying things like my work is junk because it doesn't live up to Norbert Sabat, or Justin Law, or Oliver Knott or whoever-- darn! Maybe the biggest compliments I receive are in the insults because those insults are comparing me to such high standards!! :icon_lol:

I want to see myself grow-- and of course, to see aquascaping grow.
[/Rant]
:icon_lol:


PS-- Oh, and just in case people decide be cute and communally not respond to my ravings, I'll say it here: Ouch, that hurts, that stings. I really am insignificant. TT-TT And the funny thing is that even as I say that I'm typing in the URL for APC, or maybe I'll go work on the Japanese aquarium blog I'm working in hopes of communicating with Japanese hobbyists-- because I just can't help it. I just care about aquascaping too much . . . TT-TT
 

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and if you look at 'em carefully, you can tell that Amano at least colors over/in things around the borders of photos with white-- pretty much the same thing.
Not true. Look at how amano shoots and you can see he does not need it. Amano uses real studio strobes to illuminate the whole area, including the background, with a quick burst of light. That is how he gets those white backgrounds and gradients (using gels) on his photos. He doesn't have to fill in anything.

As far as the big huge post above - I think you over - analyze people sometimes and think too much about it, then write it all down into a post. Sometimes it's a lot more simple than that, and you just have to let it go. Dont be your own worst enemy by venting it all like that. People who like you will keep liking you and the rest who dont, you wont win them by doing that :) Chill.
 

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One thing I learned the hard way in art school is that taking criticism of your work in a professional manner, be it photography, anime, or aquascaping is the most important thing you can learn. Realizing that if your peers care enough about your work to offer up their opions on it, you've already accomplished something. They aren't attacking you, they are evaluating your work.

Being able to stand up in a class critique and accept, most importantly learn from, the comments of others who at first may seem to be tearing apart the thing you just spent two sleepless days working on is very important. One of the things that bothers me on this forum is that people tend to sugarcoat their responses to stuff. Thats good in the encouragement it provides to folks who are new to the hobby, but I personally wouldn't mind seeing some more useful and critical comments in the photo threads.

That said, in regard to the artistic motivation behind aquascaping as a whole, there was one passage from Amano's first book that I always go back to:

The Dutch style of aquatic plant layout is based on the Western esthetic of ideal forms and symmetry, while the natural style intentionally upsets the balance of the composition and seeks harmony among disparate parts. As I have emphasized in this book, nature itself is the best model for this style. The orderly beauty that can be found in the chaos of nature if it is observed closely and carefully is amazing. It is the best teacher.

When I see things excessively photoshopped, rigged with hair dryers, meticulously pruned, trimmed and teased.. To me, personally, it gets away from a lot of the real beauty of the planted tank. Sometimes the ugly can be just as visually rich as the perfect show tank. I think even Amano sort of moved away from this original idea with his later work, but I don't know enough to comment on that.
 

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Also regarding photos: you should feel that the raw file as it comes off the camera is 95% to where you want the photo to be. I think a lot of the good photographers here and elsewhere (believe me, I'm not one of them ;) ) will tell you that trying to make up for more than that in Photoshop isn't the best way to go.

Whoever it is that takes those gorgeous macro shots should chime in on the process.. I'm willing to bet not much happens to those photos in Photoshop aside from level tweaking and basic color adjustment.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Paradize-- do you have an ADA catalogue? There are some photos (taken from an angle) where rims that should be there above the water surface aren't there. They are just gone, it's white.

natx-- thanks, and I do understand that all well-- I just needed to blow off some steam in a little tantrum. Even "real" art students feel that way sometimes. BTW-- as amazing as say, Paradise' macro shots are--

But I really admire stuff like this:







I just pulled these images off of my favorites list at Deviantart, so all credit goes to their respective photographers.

In any case, there are photographers who take photos because they want to capture reality, and there are photographers who see photography as a way to art. Hey, there are photographers who aren't at all afraid to use photoshop to whatever means.

I'm not saying that I myself am that necessarily, but hey, some of this stuff is pretty awesome (and not saying that I know exactly how these particular photos were made, but there are a bunch in my fav list that I highly doubt could have been made without help in photoshop).
 

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"Maybe the biggest compliments I receive are in the insults because those insults are comparing me to such high standards!!"

:icon_wink You've solved your own problem.

I've only been here for a few months, but so far what I've noticed about your postings here and your work is that you take aquascaping and the hobby in general to a much more personal level than some of the rest of us. I think it is an art form, too. And I think it is great that you are really striving to spread the word and share this art form with others who might not know it exists. You REALLY love this and your passion shows and is inspiring.

But you have to be careful how you come off sometimes. You are extremely eloquent and well spoken, however when you mix that with comments referencing only getting one rating star and not 4 or 5, then it comes off as elitist. There's a lot beginners here that post with a lot of questions. I think you should dive into some of those threads where people aren't at the ADA calibre or creating mind-boggling artisitic statements with Toninas.

Remember.. this is a forum where people came come together to have fun and discuss a hobby we all enjoy. This isn't an e-popularity contest or a competition of who is better than who. We all have different styles and tastes and when people express those opinions, don't feel attacked. I understand you may feel belittled because you are so in love with this art. But a lot of us are here to have some fun. If someone creates an aquascape with just Ludwigia, then good for him. Sure, it's not a nature-style aquascape with ratios and poetic overtones, but at least it's something fun and different. Why not, ya know?

You're very liked here. Your opinions are valued and your work is marveled. But don't expect everything to be tulips and daisies. Maybe people critique you to open your eyes to something new and maybe unlock some new doors of inspiration? :) Keep doin what you're doin, you'll have a coffee-table book one day, I'm sure.
 

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IMO, these star ratings really don't mean much. One mean spirited person can throw off a rating, so we should consider taking them with a few grains of salt.

At my studio, we usually make a duplicate layer for basic level adjustments and select the area we want to work on with appropriate pixel setting for feathering, then make the adjustment to that area alone. We do this on a tremendous number of files and its very fast. Just basic levels and color balance stuff. There is an old saying in photoshop regarding adjustments. "If it looks OK, then use it.

I agree with Nat on over using photoshop for effect - IMO far too many scenics and images today are over manipulated and I personally prefer more raw captures with basic adjustments for level and color balance. I can spot a PS manipulated image in a heartbeat.

The only other things I'll add, is on sharpening. I agree the sharp unsharp mask is the preferred sharpening method.. A good general place to set the radius setting is between 1 and 2 pixels. Then sharpen till its sharp enough, but not too much!

Beware over sharpening I see a lot of that and IMO it kills the sense of space and softness that film could capture. I prefer digital pictures which look like they were shot on medium format film.
 

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Steven, you referenced this type of abuse here before that you felt on APC and I was curious and read the thread and gave my defense of you from my own amateur persective. As I said in that thread and I agree w/others perspectives here: It's not always about a perfectly manicured lawn and shrubs or the perfect lighting situation w/a $5k photography setup. I love photography, landscaping, aquascaping, and many other forms of art. I'm not great at any of them(not even good at most). I do heowever have a good eye for the beautiful. In some artforms, symetry is good(whoever looked at a piece of furniture w/5 different sized drawers and said "WOW...that's beautiful...yes I consider handmade furniture an art" While aquascaping can be a "planned" ordeal...I prefer those who stumble upon the long process that truely creates beauty. A genreral idea is wonderful, but its life and experience w/in our own tanks that usually creates the beauty that we the forum members either see or don't get at all. To me and all the people that come into my home, my tank is beautiful(granted... none of them have aquariums) but to many who have looked at my woefully photographs, it looks too wild and unorganized and overpopulated(2 outa 3 I'd agree w). I have posted pics of my tank and even had to beg to get comments at times. I can accept criticism b/c I know my own limitations(some of its time and resources, some of its just laziness) and therefore don't take offense at it and tend to learn from it.
I agree w/some that you're photographs are overexposed, but I also understand the intent. I also appreciate your tutorial although I don't have time to do all that. I would prefer to learn how to get my photos to that 95% right point to begin w...I'd let eveyone's imagination do the other 5%. I would love for those like Betowess to start a thread or the forum to start a new section where those w/the gift for photography might be able/willing to share w/we neophytes.
Steven-continue to create your art, give your wonderful opinions when asked(in general or specifically), and when asking opinions of others remember opinions are like backsides(some are beautiful and some should never wear spandex(mine included:hihi: ).
 
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