Guest Blog: Photoshop World Instructors, Part 2!

If you are still If you’re wondering if you should join Photoshop World, here are some more examples of what our instructors could teach or inspire you. Below are excerpts from a few of our favorite Photoshop World instructors’ guest blogs. Click on their names to see the full messages. And if you find the inspiration, imagine what awaits you in Photoshop World! It runs from August 30 to September 1, so don’t wait to register.

Often when I style newborns, I include seasonal elements. I think about the cyclical nature of life and documenting a baby’s entry into this world seasonally adds interest and meaning to my images. Since I live in an area where the seasons are so distinct, I am rejuvenated throughout the year with the transitional colors and textures and my images constantly changing.

I do it either through natural elements, in autumn for example: pine cones, leaves, pumpkins and apples, or with colors: gold, brown, orange and red.

To fall

Likewise, I do this for all seasons with various natural items or textures inspired by nature.




However, remember: one set, many images. I recognize that not everyone will necessarily want an image focused on the seasons, or they won’t want a lot of it. So I start with the full set and then remove the elements for a simpler look.

Point: Don’t invest a lot of money in seasonal pieces because they are only used for a short time and trends change quickly. Find natural objects outside that you can incorporate (i.e. holidays and seasons for discounts.

Kirk Nelson: special effects for photography

Smoke is usually a difficult item to work with because real smoke is dangerous. According to the National Fire Protection Association, more people die from smoke inhalation than from fires. Smoke is also hard to control as it usually comes from fire and not something I like to have in my studio!

There are products on the market that do a great job of creating safe smoke, and I’ve used smoke grenades before for fun setups with models, engaged couples, grads, and more. But to create digital assets to use in composition, I like using something a little more controllable, cheap, and easily accessible: dry ice. Mixing dry ice and water does not produce smoke, it produces water vapor, but it looks like smoke and behaves very similarly. Plus, it’s completely safe to breathe! The main difference is that smoke rises and water vapor descends. It just means you have to find a way to elevate the vessel producing the steam, and it can be as simple as a cookie sheet on the edge of a table.

Dry ice is readily available at most grocery stores and is relatively inexpensive. There are, however, a few caveats you should be aware of before working with it. It’s so cold that it can burn our skin with prolonged contact, so gloves are highly recommended. Plus, it evaporates quickly, so be sure to use it within hours of getting it or it will literally disappear on you.

Working with the dry ice images in Photoshop turns out to be one of the easiest effects to manipulate. White smoke on a black background means screen blending mode becomes our best friend! The other benefit of these images is that if the focus is slightly off or the images are too grainy, it is easy to correct as the smoke is a very forgiving medium. Our eyes don’t expect to see crisp detail in smoke, so blur that grain, use those slightly blurry images, use the Distort transforms without fear, it all works!


Sian Elizabeth: find out who you are as a photographer

You should be able to see the improvement in your work, although it may take you longer than others to see it. A great way to track progress is to keep a separate portfolio of your top 5-10 images each year, and explain a bit on the side why you chose those images. They don’t have to be the ones you got paid for or someone else loved – it’s for YOUR own development.

I found that once I looked back and saw how far I had come, it gave me a sense of self-accomplishment, a feeling that I hadn’t stopped and enjoyed before.


We all have depressed days, and in this industry there are a lot of them. This is why we need to stop and look at our own accomplishments, however small they may seem at the time, and notice our incredible abilities and self-esteem.

Plans and goals are important to establish, but I was so caught up in trying to always reach the next goal that I forgot to just enjoy the here and now and take everything into account.

Photography is horribly competitive and can sometimes be exhausting to maintain, especially keeping up with social media. Your online presence (both on the website and on social media) is extremely important and is an area I am working on improving this year.


My next goal will be to offer beauty and fashion photography workshops after my “test” workshop days went wonderfully well. Teaching is something I’ve always been interested in, but it took me a while to feel confident and ready – now that I am, I’m excited for what the future will bring!

Bret Malley: Five tips for creating and editing composite images

  1. To create in-frame composites (those where all the material is in the same frame), lock your camera and settings, and use either an intervalometer, or better yet, your device’s wifi or bluetooth wireless connection capabilities. photo and phone/tablet app if it has it. Not only can you see and control the live image on your phone or tablet screen, but you can easily see exactly how to best position each element and take your concept and preview to the next level.
  1. Again, for the in-frame composition, select each piece you want to incorporate into the composite using the Rectangular Selection Tool (M) and give plenty of room around each element as you drag to select , then copy (Cmd + C / Ctrl + C) and use paste in place (Cmd + Shift + V / Ctrl + Shift + V) in your master composite file. This will paste the selected content exactly where it was copied from, leaving out the guesswork and wasted time having to tediously move the element around to properly match the background content. Mask as needed – you may not even need to use Select and Mask, and instead just paint with a soft brush around the subject and the edges of the copies (if there is nothing overlapping behind).
  1. Sometimes a single layer can be slightly too light, too dark, too warm, cold, etc. than others (even those taken during the same setup!) – use clipped adjustments when this happens. This trick is obvious to some, but if you’re not yet using clipped adjustments, you’re definitely missing out on the amazing potential of isolating adjustments from layer to layer without globally adjusting your composite from top to bottom. To clip an adjustment layer to affect only one layer, place the new adjustment (or any layer with a changed blending mode that you want to affect only the one below it) directly above the one on which you want to cut; then hold Alt/Opt while you click directly between the two layers. Just before clicking, you should see the mouse pointer turn into a cutout icon indicating the hotspot of this killer feature. Adjustment layers also come pre-equipped with this functionality in the form of a button at the bottom of the adjustment layer properties panel.
  1. When creating composites such as adding a subject to a completely different background (like those shot in the studio transported outdoors or a different location in general), don’t just match the direction and lighting quality (should be a given, hopefully ;-), but both match the focal length of the original background image (check essential metadata in Bridge or Lightroom to see your settings) as well as the position of the frame and the distance of the subject to the camera. This will not only make your compositing so much easier in post, but it will definitely make it more believable as our eyes will pick up on even little things that are wrong, even if we can’t quite put our finger on it.
  1. A trick I use to improve color continuity in all composite scenarios is to desaturate all the different elements, then bring in your own color cast effects or filters, then increase vibrance as an overall adjustment ( no saturation). For warmer tones, try something like a new Solid Fill Layer which is a yellow-orange. Change its blending mode to overlay and reduce the layer saturation to less than 15%. This still adds a nice warmth to a composite without blurring the highlights like the Photo filter often does. Another thing to play with is the Color Lookup adjustment layer as this adjustment has some pretty cool presets that you can toggle through much like phone photography app filters. You can always use the adjustment layer’s opacity slider to bring in whatever amount you want or don’t want for the desired effect.

See the full list of instructors, schedule, and register for the conference at!

Leave a Comment