Using Multiple Digital Tools to Enhance Dark Photos


One of the great things about digital scrapbooking is that you have the ability to change the look of your photos using a combination of Photoshop tools and digital elements. For this layout, I began with a photograph that was not quite a silhouette, but close to it. I knew that I could use the Photoshop command curves (or maybe levels) to modify the image, but I find that it often works better if I play around with curves, the shadows/highlight command, blend modes and clipping masks and/or fotoglows as well. In this layout, I used a little of all of these, playing around with the effects until I was happy with the result.  I felt that the original photo was too dark to really tell the story, so I set out to change the image to make it easier to see the various details within the photo.
Begin with a template.  This one is Anna’s Artsy Layered Template no. 152.

Artsy Layered Template No 152

1.  Prepare your photo.  Turn off all of the layers on the template except for the 3 frames and frame shadows. Add a vector mask to each shadow, and  removed the shadow portion on the inside of each frame (as the photo clipping masks will not be used, due to the photo extending beyond the frames). Insert a background paper of your choice in a soft neutral color.  Keep in mind that using many of the blend modes will cause the photo to mix with the background paper colors, so choose your paper color accordingly.  Insert, and position the photo under the frames.

JSchaefer_Seaweed - Discover_1a

Place the photo on blend mode ‘Color Burn’.  It will wash out the photo, blending with the color from the background paper to give it a soft neutral, golden cast.

JSchaefer_Seaweed - Discover_2e

Apply a vector mask to the photo holding down the ‘ALT’ key and clicking on the vector mask.  This will cause the photo to disappear.  Then, making sure the ‘layer mask thumbnail’ in clicked in the layer stack, paint back in the portion of the photo you wish to show, using a soft white brush, at an opacity of about 15%, slowly building up the image. Duplicate the photo, and place the photo highest on the layer stack back on the ‘Normal’ blend mode. This, of course will show the original (dark) photo. Use the shadow/highlight command on this photo, to show more detail from the shadowed areas of the photo, and then use curves, to lighten the photo.  Now begin gradually painting out areas of the photo using a soft black brush to allow more of the photo layer below to show through.

JSchaefer_Seaweed - Discover_3e

2.  Begin adding glows.  Add the various fotoglows, to deepen the color of the water, to enhance the beach and to create a sunset. Add a vector mask to the glows and paint out (erase) the area of color in the white of the waves, and the little girl, so that the color stays looking natural.

JSchaefer_Seaweed - Discover_4e

3.  Use Template layers.  Begin turning template layers back on, manipulating their color and blend modes.  Add various other brushwork and transfers from other kits if desired.

JSchaefer_Seaweed - Discover_5e

4.  Embellish.  Add elements along the edge of the frame.  Add the UrbanStitchez.

JSchaefer_Seaweed - Discover_6e

5. Finishing Touches.  Add the DISCOVER BigWord.  I was lucky that the O encircled the little girl, otherwise I probably would have shifted the photo a bit. It could have been consider finished at this point, but often times a pages which have a great deal of brushwork and texture can benefit by adding an edge overlay to frame the page. Two were added here, one in a deep aqua, and another in a golden yellow.

JSchaefer_Seaweed - Discover_final-e

Click on image for layout supplies

So, before you decide to bypass that “too dark” photo, which holds a special memory you wish you could scrap, try some of these techniques.  You may be pleasantly surprised to find that that special memory can be scrapped afterall.  Be sure to experiment with other blend modes as well.

Need a helping hand for some of these blending techniques, see AnnaBlendz 1, 2 and 3




Taking Things to the Next Level.

It has been quite a while since I have posted. I have been quite busy, but I have recently decided to set some goals for myself. The hope is that I up my game as far as the things I love in my life. I have decided that I would be more proactive in taking my interests to the next level. I do understand that I am quite the perfectionist. It takes me hours on some pages, to get to the final product that I am totally happy with. This does not mean that I never post a layout that is not perfect, but there are times when I look at a page and say that I know it is not perfection, but in my heart I feel I have done the page and subject justice, and have other pages in my head and heart that are waiting to be created.

In the past few months, I have taken two steps to better my skills. The first was a webcast which I have been listening to, where I hope to find out more in the way of new resources. Through this webcast I learned of Peppermint from One Little Bird. I am always looking for new and different designers out there, and upon seeking out her blog came across a fabulous tutorial on creating shadows. The biggest thing with me is that I want my pages to look like the items used on them are real – therefore they need impeccable shadows. True, Photoshop has a shadow fx, but I know they can often look even more natural. My method of creating shadows on my pages were to use a standard shadow as I placed each item. This gave me an idea of how I wanted the items to look. Once the page was complete, I would go back to many of the items, and replace the shadow with a custom one, allowing me to use the smudge tool to make it look more accurate.

I have to say, that I was impressed with Peppermints’ blog tutorial, and have been using her technique ever since. Here method uses a dual shadow, plus it creates te shadow in a color which mimics a true shadow (not just black with a lowered opacity). The page above was one I created using this tutorial, and I spent hours working on each and every item, until I was happy with them, and then decided I wanted to move the line of shells, and papers from the left edge to the right edge. This meant that I had to redo each and every shadow, but I think it was the right thing to do. I have been using this technique, without creating any actions for some time. I really wanted to cement the process in my brain, and to also gave myself some time to think about just how to go about creating a set of actions that will work for anything from thin paper to larger/deeper elements requiring larger shadows. I will do this shortly, and this will hopefully speed up the shadow making process.

This is a heritage photo of my mom and her brother and sister in law, and although the photo itself is a bit blurry, I have learned that sometimes those blurry photos are acceptable to scrap, especially when they tug at your heart, as this one does mine.

Beside learning this new shadow technique, I decided I would take classes online that would better my skills. I signed up for an 8 week class on scrapbook page design, and although I did come away from the class with a new tidbit here and there, most that was taught were things I already knew. In fact, I was surprised that many of the scrappers taking the class were ill prepared for this class, as the description of the class was one that would allow the digital scrapbooker to take things to a new level, which was what I was looking for. In the end, I believe those students came away from the class having learned quite a bit. It was kind of a sink or swim type thing for many, but I have the feeling they learned a lot. I walked away from the class with the reinforcement that I had those design skills down, it was just that much of the time I didn’t have a word for what they were teaching in the class, I just knew what worked and what didn’t. I also learned that I like a line layout, where there are more than one photo on the page, and on a page with just one photo, I liked a somewhat small photo usually in the lower left or lower right portion of the page with quite a bit of white space, as in the Myrtle Beach layout above.

The page below was created during this class. I had been loving the style of page where there were loads of layers, but would find that I would get caught up in how to put it all together. In addition, I had been using Adobe Bridge to find all my supplies, and I have come away from that with the realization that it just wasn’t working to my advantage, so it would often times take me hours to locate the elements that I had in my mind, but couldn’t remember what kit it came from. I have since begun using ACDSee 12, having learned you could in fact open items up in Photoshop rather than ACDSee. I am currently in the process of tagging all my supplies in catagories, and we will see when I am done, if it crashes the system. I am hoping that it will make pages like the one below much easier to put together.

Baby you can drive my car

I was really proud of this layout as I had used multiple layers of items, all of which needed custom shadows, and I had used a scallope edged mask to attach some crumpled paper unto, and then feel that I added custom shadows that worked well enough to make it look like real paper. I also tried to make the real look of a viewfinder film by adding the slight white highlights. I don’t feel they look as realistic as they could have been, but my hopes are that I can someday better that technique and go back and change the page.

This page caused me to not agonize over color as much. I struggled over the fact that my daughter’s dress was aqua, and that the car was bright red. In my mind I felt that color combo was a poor one. No matter what I did, I just couldn’t get past the red and aqua, but I eventually just said to live with it, and added the brackets in red. What I didn’t notice was that many of the pages being created right now use the red and aqua or turquoise color combo – I am seeing these colors on many pages, so this taught me to be more observant of what is out there in the galleries. I was honored to have this page be chosen as a GSO for June 25th, as well it was chosed page of the week at, plus was listed as a favorite in their forum, and used as a scraplift page, so I found it funny to see a dozen or so pages similar to this – all using the slide reel in some way, and most with many layers. I have since found it on Pinterest as well, which surprised me, but I guess all in all, that website is for all things you like, so it was a compliment.