After and Before Forum; One Photo Focus Emilio

The After and Before forum is organised by Stacy Fischer, it is a place where amateurs as well as seasoned photographers explain the wow and how about their photo and editing decision.You can read more here about how to take part.

This is the  “After and Before Forum” since Christmas and we have a special twist. Each month one member of the forum will put up an image for the whole forum to edit. This may sound familiar I hear you say. Yes it is, for the 6 month anniversary we did something similar but voted on the picture. With the idea originally being Emilio’s he has the honour of having his picture edited first.

The picture to start with is very much an Emilio image (In my opinion) and I have seen other images of his with a similar theme and subject. With this in mind my creative subconscious may have been trying to channel Emilio during the creative process. When I first looked at the picture I knew there needed to be a HDR like effect to create some contrast.




I am not a fan of making single image HDRs as they feel a bit like a cheat. I did remember however that I had a recipe in my collection for creating a topaz feeling image without the use of the topaz filter, which would give that classic HDR feel to an image.

First I started in Camera Raw and changed the Process from 2012 to 2010. In 2012 there was a major shakeup in the Camera Raw settings going from recover and fill in light to Shadows and Highlight sliders. Although they pretty much do the same thing they did create a slightly different effect when applied.


With the new settlings I pushed; Recovery, Fill in Light, Contrast, and Clarity to 100% and increased the vibrance by 40.


I applied some capture sharpening and reduced the noise as well before creating a custom vignette using the elliptical adjustment tool. I used a large elliptical adjustment and set the feather to 56 and then darkened the area outside of the selection by reducing the Exposure -0.15 and brightness -42, as well as increasing the saturation slightly.


I opened the image from Adobe Camera Raw into Photoshop as a smart object. I created a hue and saturation adjustment layer and desaturated all the colours, -61. The yellow truck was now looking a bit drab so I used the hue and saturation selection tool and selectively increased the saturation of the yellows. Increasing yellow saturation always has an effect on greens in nature for example in the trees and grass and as a result this also became more saturated.


I needed to apply some aggressive sharpening to give that over sharpened feel but I didn’t like how the image looked. In the end I preferred a normal high pass sharpening and then selectively applied this through a layer mask to the yellow truck. In doing this I exaggerated the focus on the car leaving everything else looking soft.


A lot of these classic HDR images have a strange softness to them. I created this by applying a gaussian blur to the back ground image. Because I kept the image as a smart object I was then able to change the blending of the filter to multiply within the smart object. This added a dark glow to the whole image.


Since the whole image was much darker now I created a burn layer ( new layer, filling it with 50% grey and then setting the blending to overlay) and used a low opacity white brush to burn in some details of the truck paying attention to the metal work and lights.


Finally I cropped the image slightly to remove something on the right.



The final image has a HDR contrast feel without being too aggressive and leaves the truck some room to breathe. The great composition and focusing is all Emilio’s work and there was nothing to be improved upon there.

Tell me what you think in the comments below.

Also please head over to Stacy’s blog to see the other participant’s version of the image.

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28 thoughts on “After and Before Forum; One Photo Focus Emilio

  1. Hey Ben thanks for taking the time to take us through your process in such detail, all stuff I didn’t know you could do. I quite liked your saturated colours and the almost painterly effect on the blurred background, with the dark glow throwing the yellow truck into prominence. So much to learn!

  2. Hi Julie, you don’t have to use Photoshop to take part in the forum, some use do and some don’t. The forum is for everyone to share how they make their pictures go wow be it photoshop, lightroom or mobile apps. I hope you get the confidence to give the forum a try.

  3. Excellent discussion, Ben. I like your approach to the image and the result is impressive. It’s interesting that there are so many different ways to add a blur effect as shown by your technique and those of other participants. And while the goal in each case was similar, the results were quite different.

    • Fromnlooking at the other images every one seemed to enhance the texture in the shot and the manipulate in some one through blurring. I wrote a few years ago about a collective photographic self consciousness, people choosing similar compositions with the same subject maybe I shoukd expand that to cover editing as we all found something appealing with this approach.

  4. So, you think you know me well enough to channel me? What an insult. I’ll show you. Just wait for the next photo I post. It will blow you out of the water! It will not be a single image hdr cheat! (By the way, I love what you did with my photo. You’ve captured my essence. Whatever that might be!)

      • Have I got a surprise for you! I think. My next post was taken in America, but not in the wilds. In the civilized (up to a point) parts where they have indoor plumbing and hot water!

  5. I loved Emilio’s comment – what a hoot! Actually, you got a bunch of good comments here.

    I’d especially like to echo the thanks for showing how you edited the picture. I soooo do not have those kind of Photoshop skills, so I definitely want to try out “the formula” just to see how it works.

    Thanks also for stopping by my blog – that was greatly appreciated!


    • Emilio is a very amusing guy. I learnt everything I know about photoshop from books and web tutorials. For me the best way to learn is just experiment and try, sometimes things don’t work but you learn something every time.

      • Shoot, I thought you were going to say “I learnt everything I know about photoshop from him (me)….” But then, I don’t use photoshop so that wouldn’t have made any sense. But it sure would have sounded nice.

    • Part of that is due to Emilio’s shooting of the picture as we kept the focus point there. I exaggerated it in the editing especially when adding creative sharpening and burning in the details.
      Thanks for popping by and commenting.

  6. Ben, you’ve done it again. Wonderful post processing, coupled with a great explanation. You achieved what I envisioned when thinking about trying to create a “Cars” feeling, but you did a much better job of it. I would so love to have your skill set!

    • Hi Stacy, I am not sure what happened with wordpress but non of my comments made on my phone have been registering, I a apologize that this comment is late. I am really happy you like the edit and I love the idea of a cars feel. I only watched the film once but I think I remember the colours and contrast the film had.

    • Hi Shane as with Stacy WordPress has been eating my comments and I am having to repost them. I also love the pop in the image, although I had to make sure I didn’t make the colours explode. I am glad you like the processing.

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