Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Before and After - Two

Since November is a not-so-lustrous photo month, with the ground dead and brown and the snow yet to arrive, I've taken to editing photos more than I have been taking them.  Fortunately, the Pioneer Woman is hosting yet another "Edit This" contest, which I am eagerly participating in.  One of  my photos was already chosen for Group One (its a 'funny' edit!), but that isn't stopping me from continuing to play with the same photo and doing even cooler, less silly, things to it.

Here is the original photo the Pioneer Woman has chosen for the challenge.  Its simple, beautiful, and full of creative possibilities.  Even without editing it is a great photo...

There are a couple of things I look for in a photo that I'd like to edit and play with in photoshop.
  1. Simplicity.  Its best if it is simple with few complex/competing details
  2. Interesting subject.  This can be the main subject of the photo or a small part of the photo you'd crop and focus on for editing.
  3. Anything that can be made to look old/rustic
  4. Heck, almost anything can be edited with patience and the right know how.
For this photo I wanted to do something dramatic.  If you noticed, there is no "sky" in the photo.  Actually, there is of course a sky, but it is blue.  Completely blue, and nothing else.  How boring.  I wanted to spruce it up and went Google Searching for "clouds", "Storms", "Storm Clouds", "Sky", "Stormy Sky", "Sunset Sky" and so on until I found an image I thought I could work with.

This is the image, credit to this website.  Remember, to be careful when using Google images because they are someone else's images!  Always try and obtain permission first and cite where you obtained your images from if they are not your own. 

This photo was exactly what I was looking for.

I loaded both images into photoshop and began a good two hours straight of editing.  Its not piece of cake when it comes to digital photo processing, but it can be fun!  I'd post a step by step tutorial except you'd all run away screaming in agony from the eight bajillion steps it took me to get to the final result so I simplified it for you.


You can click on this to view the full sized version!

Ok. If you are SERIOUSLY interested in knowing how I edited these photos and merged them into the final image I've condensed a list into a few steps below.  
  1. Opened the lightning photo as the background
  2. Created the horse photo as a layer
  3. Inverted the horse layer so the horses in the forefront were on the right of the photo where the lightning bolt is. (as if they are running from it)
  4. Painstakingly erased the sky from the horse layer, even around all the little hairs on every pony's head. (this was the longest part of the entire process.)
  5. Sharpened the horse layer.
  6. Adjusted the contrast/brightness, layers, curves, and saturation of the background layer.
  7. Adjusted the contrast/brightness, layers, curves, saturation, exposure, and color balance of the horse layer.
  8. "Burned" around the cloud producing the big lightning bold
  9. "Dodged" around the couple of horses leading the pack
  10. Merged the horse and lightning layer into one
  11. Adjusted the contrast/brightness, levels, and curves of the total image
  12. Added a texture, overlay at 100%
Just twelve steps really doesn't seem so bad. Its not, really, when the end result is so cool.  It makes you forget about all the individual hairs you were editing and all the blue sky that you were erasing.  It never ceases to amaze me the transformation you can make with photos and makes me question whether some photos you see are even real at all, because as cool as this edit is there was never a stampede of wild mustangs running from thunderous lightning bolts.  Too bad, because that's pretty epic. 


  1. Love this ! It has been fun to see what everybody else has done with this picture from amazing to absolutely funny.

  2. Very Cool. This would make an awesome poster. I have to admit I'm very intimidated by the "Edit This" Contests and haven't even tried. But I love to see what others have done.

  3. Hello, I'm curious about what version of photoshop you use. I thinking about upgrading. Thanks!


I love and appreciate all comments! If you have a question please ask away and I will certainly reply.