After Before Forum; One Photo Focus Loré

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis weeks “After and Before Forum” is sponsored by Loré at Snow’s Fissures and Fractures and today is March’s one photo focus. Usually the “After and Before forum” is a post where we share an image before and after editing and share how we get the wow in out photographs. One post a month av member of the forum gives us all a photo to edit. In previous editions I have edited  Emilio’s Old Truck picture and Manal’s street scene.

Upon opening Loré’s picture I wasn’t sure how to tackle this picture, there were many different approaches but none seemed right. In the end I decided to edit the picture with the idea of why I would take such a picture.
I imagined being in an Italian café on holiday and seeing the geometric pattern of the tables arranged around the statue. I am sure at that moment I would have whipped out my phone taken a picture for Instagram.

Of course for the forum I wouldn’t share an Instagram edit; I did though started to like the idea of a square crop and some kind of vintage toning.


I cropped the image to a square format using the guides to help create a balanced composition.


I then cleaned away distracting elements in the background; the chair, sign, fire hydrant and the pole. I did this by using the pen tool to select the chair and the sign to create a selection, and filled the selection with a content aware fill. I used the patch tool to remove the fire hydrant and the pole. I made these adjustments on a separate layer, duplicated and merged them together to create a clean copy.


I wanted to create the Instagram style and a kind of image. I thought a lomo look would fit quite nicely. I duplicated my clean copy layer and set the blending to overlay.


I then created a curves adjustment to brighten the whole image.


I created a channel mixer adjustment layer. I went to the blue channel and reduced the blue slider to +90. This has the effect of adding a creamy yellow tone to the highlights.


I needed to create a vignette. I selected the whole canvas and modified the border by 200px (select-modify-border), I then inverted the selection and modified the feather to 100px (select-modify-feather) and filled the selection on a new layer with black. I set the blending to multiply and reduced the opacity to 70. I duplicated the vignette layer and set the new layer’s blending to overlay. I created a folder and put both vignette layers inside. I then adjusted the opacity of the folder to make the vignette blend with the whole image.


For me the image wasn’t vintage enough, I decided to add a half sepia tone to add a bit of age to the image.

I added a hue and saturation adjustment layer setting; hue to 25 and saturation to 25. I set the blending to hue.


I then created a gradient map choosing a light blue for the shadows and an orange/yellow for the highlights and set the blending to overlay.


The image felt a little too smooth and clean, I decided to add some noise for texture. I created a new layer and filled it with 50%grey and converted it to a smart object. I used a smart object because I would be applying filters to this layer and if I wanted to come back and tweak them I could. If I used a normal layer tweaking the noise effect would mean starting this step from the beginning again.

I first applied a noise filter with a low setting and then blurred the noise with a small Gaussian blur.


I felt I had lost details in the face of the statue and burnt the detail back in (new layer, 50% grey, black brush low opacity)


I sharpened the image with high pass sharpening. I selected the original clean copy layer and moved it to the top. I applied a high pass filter (set to 10) and then set the layer’s blending to overlay. I didn’t want to sharpen the whole image so I added a layer mask (hide all) and painted white to only add sharpening to the statue and plant.


I added a finishing touch with a frame. In this case I used a medium format film frame to add to the vintage effect. Something I did add since sending the file to Stacy was a drop shadow to the frame to make it blend in a bit more.


Overall I like the editing; it has the Instagram, faux vintage feel that I was going for. I feel the crop and the cleaning makes the statue more the focus of the image and the warm tones add a feeling of a pleasant memory.

What do you think? Feel free to let me know in the comments below.

Also remember to check out how other members of the forum have interpreted this image.

If you would like to take part in the forum you can do so and find out more information here.

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39 thoughts on “After Before Forum; One Photo Focus Loré

  1. great edit. I love the rich brown colours in the leaves.
    I basically did do an Instagram edit for my edit this get a vintage feel in a square crop with just touching a few buttons in some apps(I know..the cheater’s way to edit!!)

    • I wouldn’t say using apps is a cheaters way as it can be quite easy to over do adjustments.
      The leaves were a something I did spend some time on going over a few times to make sure they weren’t lost in the frame. Glad you like them.

    • Hi, yep removing distractions is my name and removing them is my game. 😉 the off centre crop for me was a must with what I was doing to create a rule of thirds balance to the image.
      I’m glad you like the edit and thanks for taking the time to comment.

  2. Very cool to see how you get that Instagram feel using “first principles”. You have great editing skills, I realise how much I have to learn. Great job Ben!

  3. your final image is a great success, your editing skills are great gift to all of us. I learn something every week.
    On the topics of phone apps, I wouldn’t say they are cheating either! I have seem some wonderful images created by digital artists, but just like the HDR programs or actions in photoshop it is easy to overdo and miss the mark.
    Again your work is wonderful, and I really appreciate the time to take to explain your editing, it gives me more to aspire to.

  4. Hi, Ben:
    Great approach and an excellent description of what you did. I always learn something(s) from your posts. One quick question on the addition of the film frame: is that something you did in Photoshop or is it a plugin?

  5. The colors are wonderful. As always, I learned tons from reading your post. Plus, I now have some things I want to work on with my photography instructor 🙂 thank you for your step by step instructions!!

  6. Definitely like your edit to this image. Really appreciate the step by step of your process but also the thoughts as to why you were applying the change/enhancement. Great post!

  7. Really cool edit Ben, you have warmed up the image in a different way with great results. The square crop worked really well for this image, nice touch with the film border!

  8. I think it’s so important for me to read your explanations as well as to admire your processing. I was so impressed with myself for removing the same poster that you felt was a distraction! But, I never noticed the light pole and fire hydrant until I read your explanation and now that’s all I see in my version! I think you got closer to what I was hoping to achieve than I did myself! And I learned that you really have to be aware of your surroundings and all the distractions in a photo. Thanks for another great lesson, Ben!

    • Emilio I am always happy to share my views and ways of doing things and I am really happy you found it useful. The pole and the fire hydrant were kind of hidden so I wouldn’t kick youself too much I am just a stickler for those things. At the same time I do have an internal debate if removing such things is going to far. I would be disqualified from the world Press awards for such actions.

  9. Ben, I really appreciate your knowledge of colors and how to balance them. You have taken an image that evokes a spring or summer day and turned it into one reminiscent of fall. And in doing so, you have separated the cherub and its flowers from the background foliage without the need to blur or cover up. I like the addition of the frame too, which of course, adds to the vintage feel you achieved with your processing. I also was interested to read about your use of smart layers as I think I’m finally beginning to grasp their use 😉 Thanks for sharing all your steps!

    • Hi Stacy, I love smart objects and layers before them I used to have so many duplicates with different filters applied my file size went through the roof. I also use smart object if I have a lot of layers and the file looks to be getting on the large size. Zip it all in a smart and then later you can open the smart object and all your layers are there again.
      I really didn’t want a blur in my image; it would be time consuming to accurately select the leaves of the plant and the statue. Since the statue was in the highlights I could use colours to create depth and separate the background and foreground that way.
      FOr me these one photo challenges are a challenge and I love it.

  10. Ben – I echo the other commenters when I thank you for all your work in showing the process. It was fascinating and I learned a lot by walking through the steps here.

    I very much like the final look – I think the vintage Instagram really brought it home. Like Emilio, I didn’t notice that fire hydrant either, but when I looked at mine again, the crop took it out. Of course, I didn’t see that stupid sign until I was nearly done and then it was too late to successfully clone out. I had to go back to the beginning, clone it out and then reprocess (which of course took a lot less time the second time).

    Ya’ did really good.


    • Thank you, as I said to Emilio the fire hydrant was hiding it was quite easy for somebody to miss it. I am happy that you have learnt something from the steps. I have a few instagram presets yet what I did here feels more real for some reason.
      Thank you for taking the time to comment.

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