Photography, Still LIfe

Fixing up Angel with her Great Grandmother – Tutorial

Marie from My Little Corner of Rhode Island asked if I could help her with an image. I said, I would, and asked if she would mind if I used it for my tutorial today.  Do I need to say she said yes?

Marie didn’t like the glare that was coming through the window.  When she described it to me I thought it was a massive about of glare, but I am pleased to say that my first thought was, that it wasn’t too bad.

So let’s see what I can do to this image.

I decided to use Photoshop CS6 for this tutorial, I know it best and am more aware of what I can do in it.  I opened the image up on camera raw to do some normal adjustments.  I tried to tone down the highlights and the whites, but if you look closely at the view through the window, you can see that it has burnt out, and there is no way of making it darker.

I’ve been reading up on doing some burning in camera raw and the above image shows my attempt.  Burning is a term that was used for the darkroom, and it refered to giving one part of the image more exposure to the light.  So I wanted to try and do some burning on the view outside the window.  You click on the adjustment brush at the top and then change the sliders on the side.  You go over the area you want to be burned in.  It is quite handy, you only have to go over the area one, and then you can adjust the sliders as much as you want to get the effect you want.

As you can see, the burning, as I suspected did nothing to change the white areas.  It did make the rest darker, which was slightly better.  I then opened the image into Photoshop.

Hopefully, you will notice that the big white bit at the bottom of the window is gone.  I used the patch tool on Content-Aware and used what was in the pane above to replace the large white area.  I think this works a little better.

The next decision was whether or not to get rid of the other white part.

I decided that I need to burn in those other parts so I used the burn took, circled in red.  You have to be careful with this tool, it can make it very patchy.

Next I selected the area, the window with the selection tool, I have circled the tool in the left.  You can see the area that I selected on the right in the window, and I also did a rough outline in red.  I then used the curves adjustment and made it a little darker.  I didn’t want to go too dark, I just wanted the highlights out there to be toned down.  I also thought the bottle on the cupboard right next to Angel’s face was a little distracting, so I darkened it as well.

This next bit might seem a little strange, but I darkened the who image with curves.  Not a lot, just a little bit. I need to start working on other parts of the image now.

I decided to try and get rid of the highlights from Anna’s glasses.  I couldn’t get rid of all of them.  Removing the one on the left seemed funny, so I left it there, but I like that you can see the other eye better now.  To remove the reflections I used the content aware tool, though I tended to use it more like a patch, picking an area and then covering the reflection with that patch.  I might have to do a tutorial on it sometime.

Next I used the lasso tool, circled in red, and drew around the outside of Anna.

I did Shift F6 to select feathering, and made it 300 pixels, and then selected the curves tool again.  I lightened up Anna, so she wouldn’t be so dark.  The feathering stops the curves from only going to the edge of the selection, but it will soften the edge outwards.

I did exactly the same thing with Angel.

I don’t want to go to much further with the lighting now.  I was thinking of making the background darker, but have decided that adding a blur layer may help distract us from the background more.

I added a new layer, then applied the image (you do this under image at the top), went to the filters, selected blur, then Gaussian Blur, I have made the blur quite heavy, but there is always the option of making the layer less opaque, which will tone it down afterwards.  I have added a mask and selected the brush.

I used the brush to take away the blur on Angel and Anna.  Now only the background is blurry, and I also reduced the opacity to 77%.  I have saved this version, because this is probably going to be the best one.  Though, there is one more thing I want to try.  Gradient, not sure it will be any good, but it can’t hurt to try.

I haven’t added a lot, you can see the tool I used, and I circled the opacity at the top so you can see that it was done at 51%.  I didn’t want to make it too strong.  I used the gradient that will go from black to transparent.  Of course, you have to make sure the black is in the front of the colours at the bottom of the tools, or you will get white instead.

I guess the test now is to see if I made a difference.

So the original again.

Now the edited one.

I suppose the only person who can say whether or not it is any good is going to be Marie, so I will have to wait to hear from her to see what she thinks of what I did.  I am happy, and I do think the edited one looks better than the original.

I have never done a tutorial like this before.  It is probably a bit scratchy, I hope you can understand what I have done to it.  If you have any questions, then please ask.  It is quite a complicated process all this.  Pretty normal for me though.

I must thank Marie for allowing me to do this.  Next week, I’ve had a request to do some still life and how I do the backgrounds, like with the lilies.


  1. Another excellent tutorial Leanne. I’m looking forward to next week’s one, as I am also interested in knowing how you do the background in your still life photos.

  2. hutchphotography2020 says

    Great tutorial, Leanne. I ocassionally get hot areas in my shots and have to deal with them. This helps a lot. Thanks

    • Those hot spots are horrible, I hate them when the whole sky is just that. Hard to work with. Glad you got something out of it Hutch. Thanks

  3. Nice little tutorial. It’s important to think about areas of light in the composition. I’m much happier having my attention drawn to the girl’s face rather than away out the window. Great job.

    • Yes, it is important to think about that and to think about all aspects, that is one of the things I am trying to teach my students, to look at the whole scene. Thanks.

  4. Thank You, Thank You, Thank YOU! I LOVE it…
    (Sorry I didn’t get her sooner to tell you – the Subject of our photo there has a nasty cold. And an attitude to match…)

  5. What I love about your blog is how much care you take to show people how to help their photos shine. I really appreciate it. I am learning so much!

  6. Wonderful tutorial, Leanne…and a beauty of a shot to work on! Your steps are intriguing and logical, so easy to follow because of the great screen captures. Kudos!!!

    I would have tried one more thing, though. Lasso Angel’s right arm and rotate so it looks more like her left, then do a bit of cropping on image left, then do touch-up to make the arm look ‘natural’. Of course, I’d have done this on a day when I have plenty of time and patience!

  7. saymber says

    Great tutorial Leanne and you did a great job on that picture! As I was moving through the steps I was wondering if you would lighten up Grandma’s face and of course you did lol!

    • The window and grandma’s face were the two key points for me, the things I needed to edit the most. Glad I didn’t disappoint, thanks saymber

  8. I like what you’ve done. With your help we can all take ordinary snapshots and turn them into studio images :)

  9. Your knowledge of post-production and willingness to share it with the world are truly impressive. Thanks for putting so much time and energy into doing it. And who knows — maybe one day I may actually have time to put one of your tutorials to good use. :)

    • Thank you ag, I like doing it, helps me learn as well. How wonderful if you could do some too, let’s hope you find the time eventually. :)

    • Thank you, I think lots of visuals are really important, it is how I learn, and I suspect it is the way many of us who are artists learn as well.

  10. A very helpful tutorial…I love following someone’s thinking process as they go through editing a photo…I always learn something. You put a lot of time and effort into these , it’s obvious!

    • Thank you Sherry, I do wonder if my thought processes are logical sometimes, they seem all over the place to me at times. It makes me happy that people learn from me.

  11. Much thanks for this and for all your tutorials, Leanne. This in particular is very illustrative and helpful. Now I just have to give some of this a go.

    • Thank you Sid, it has been a great for me as well. I have learned that I can do this, and I enjoy doing it. I hope you can have a go at doing some of the stuff I’ve been doing.

  12. Leanne, it’s interesting to be one of your pupils here ;-)
    Now I just need to acquire and jump out in working with Photoshop!

    • Thank you Truels, well, I don’t know about photoshop, but there are lots of other things out there. If you don’t have a copy and can’t afford it, then get Photoshop Elements 10, you will be able to follow everything I do then. Good luck.

  13. That’s amazing! Thank you so much for explaining it all, I have no idea what exactly you did lol, but that’s just because I’m new still and I don’t know what all Lightroom 4 has. But I love being able to go back on your lessons and reading up on it :)

    • This one looks complicated, but it isn’t really. Not what I did anyway. I hope you will be able to do a lot of this one day Amanda. Good luck with it all. :)

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