The great Adobe Photoshop rip-Off

hand-holding-pistol copyDoes Adobe have a gun to your head? No, thought not.
No one HAS to sign up for the Photoshop subscription package,

I’ve been looking at buying a car recently, and have been slightly alarmed at how much what I would like to buy costs. My ten-year-old Peugeot is worth almost nothing now as a trade-in, so the reality is that I’m starting from scratch, just as I did when I was 20.

I’d quite like a new car for once, but as the value of new vehicles plummets the moment they leave the forecourt I’ve been investigating lease agreements. That too seems alarming at first, but it may be better than being robbed by a finance company – and when the time is up I can just give the car back and get another new one. It seems a neat way to avoid ever owning an old car that costs a fortune to service and which has no value other than its fading function.

For £2500 a year, in today’s money, I can drive a nice up-to-date, comfortable and reliable family car every day until it is my children’s turn to drive me to parties all over the country.

Ctrl C, Ctrl V

Is this the business model that Adobe is presenting us with in its subscription-based services? We always get to drive the latest photo software, but instead of shelling out a fortune to buy it as a one-off purchase, we lease it?

Doesn’t that sound good? Well, yes, in theory, but of course in practice we don’t always need the latest version of any software package, as we only need the version that works with the camera that we own. Photoshop gets updated to a new version every 18-24 months, but most enthusiasts update their camera only once every four years, and professionals once in every two.

To continue reading this article I wrote for Techradar head to the website

hand-holding-pistol copy


Raw vs JPEG: You Decide

raw verses jpegEver wonder whether you should you be shooting in Raw or JPEG? Damien Demolder explains the pros and cons of each to help you decide

Shooting in Raw format will allow you to get the very best from your camera’s sensor, but the benefits have to be weighed against the extra time spent processing and how involved you want to get with working in software. There is a lot of mystery about Raw files and what they are, but there really doesn’t need to be. It’s true that shooting in Raw means more work for the photographer, and that it gives those prepared to do that work in software more options and greater potential for better quality images, but that doesn’t mean this way of working is the sole preserve of the professional photographer. It also doesn’t mean that you have to shoot in Raw format to get good quality images, as with a modern camera set to save files in best quality JPEG mode, excellent pictures are more than possible.

Read more of Raw vs JPEG: which should you be using? here on the Wex Blog


One-to-one classes with Damien


One-to-one photography and



One-to-one tuition for all levels of experience. Sessions fully customised to your needs

£499 – including lunch and refreshments

My one-to-one days are designed around each individual student’s needs and are tailored to fill specific gaps in knowledge or experience that we identify before the day starts.

The day usually begins with a chat about the type of photography we will be doing or the techniques and modes we’ll be using. Then, to put into practice what we’ve discussed we go on to a series of great locations to so we can both be sure that the lessons stick and are really learnt in a concrete way.

Damien Demolder's one-to-one photography courses
The whole time I’ll stand next to you delivering instructions and instant assessments, in a friendly and constructive way that so you can see exactly what your mistakes and successes are. By the end of the day you will have thoroughly grasped the concepts and skills covered and you will be a much better photographer and a wider experience and a more open mind to future progress.

Working on a one-to-one basis is an ideal way to fast-track your photography skills and your understanding of how your camera works. You get all the attention and you can ask all the questions you like – in the comfort that there are NO silly questions, and that everyone has to start somewhere and from a position of hardly any knowledge.

I have 15 years practice teaching photography, from writing practical and technical articles for Amateur Photographer magazine, Photo Technique magazine and DP Review, as well as from working with countless individual students. I am fully familiar with every brand of camera, having tested and used DSLR and compact models from all manufacturers over the last decade and a half. So I’m in a perfect position to help you to understand how to find your way around your camera if you are a beginner, or how to get more out of it and your manufacturer’s system if you are a more experienced user.

Understand and control basic and advanced settings and photographic skills
• Apertures and shutter speeds
• Exposure modes
• Exposure metering
• Depth of field
• Editing techniques

Visual Concepts
• Composition
• Framing
• Subject placement
• Camera angles

One-to-one classes take place in London, and students can request a weekday or a weekend. Please email me for more information, available dates and with details of the areas of photography you’d like to learn about.

You can see a galleries of former student’s work in the One-to-One Students’ Gallery and in the One Day Street Photography Classes Gallery.

 One to one photography lessons with Damien Demolder

The power of eye contact – Dean looks up

Boy looking up at first communion

Catching the attention

I had been asked to take pictures at a First Holy Communion by the father of the boy in this picture. I’d done all the usual shots and had more than enough pictures to keep daddy happy. With the job safely covered I was able to hunt out some different angles, and to take a few risks that may or may not have paid off.
I’d reckoned the organ loft would produce a few good pictures anyway, as I could get the children posing for the congregation at the end of the service, and get that wider view to include the families and guests crowding round to give a fuller account of the story. I used a focal length to just include the kids at first, as I wanted to catch some of their excitement and their interactions with each other. For many of them this was the first special occasion in which they had been the centre point, so they were buzzing.
As I framed the group the boy in the middle, who was my subject, looked up and saw me above him. As his eyes met the lens I checked the focus was right on him and I took the shot. All I got was the one frame, as he quickly reverted to facing forward at the crowd of other picture takers.
I hadn’t known that he would look up, and if he hadn’t I’d have just got some nice pictures of the whole environment, but because I was there and ready, when he did look up I got a picture that I couldn’t have prayed for.
His eye contact demonstrates how we react to other humans. The eyes make us look at him first, and we find it hard to look away for a while. We do, and we investigate all the other things that are going on in the frame, but the first and the last things any viewer will see are those eyes. They are only small in the picture, but their power is undeniable.
As usual I shot this in colour, and converted the file to black and white using the Channel Mixer. The more detailed channel is always green, and its more moderate contrast suits this subject very well. I tempered the bias to green with a touch of red and some noisy blue, but the green channel accounted for 80% of the information.

Colour toning for reality – Palm Tree Reflections

Palm Reflections

Palm Reflections

I took this picture of palm trees reflected in a swimming pool on the last day of a two-week trip to The Dominican Republic. For the whole fortnight I’d been taking pictures of the beach, the blue sky, the swaying palms and all sorts of views and scenes that to me typified the sense of the place. In the end though, looking back over them as the end of the trip came in to sight, I wasn’t convinced that I had really captured what it all meant to me. I had some great images, even if I say so myself, that were laden with messages and atmosphere, but I hadn’t made the shot that reflected my own personal experience of the country or what I would want to remember most.

Sitting by the pool after another excursion along the coast to take more pictures I was wondering what it was I had liked the most about the place and what view I would want to take back with me to remember. It had been a very relaxing trip that was very much needed at the time. I’d been knackered before we left home, and it had taken several days of doing nothing and pure relaxation to bring me around to a normal human state. Work had been pretty hectic and long days had been running into late nights and early mornings, and I’d needed this holiday.

Sitting there, drinking up the atmosphere I realised that what I’d enjoyed most was staring back at me. The reflection of the palm trees in the rippling surface of the water, and the deep blues of the sky enhanced by the blue tiles of the pool’s floor. It is the kind of view you can sit and stare at for hours with nothing going on between your ears.

Adding  the right colour

I made this image to include enough pool edge so that it could be seen to be a pool but with the majority of the frame occupied by the palm reflections and the lines of the tiled floor. I shot in colour, of course, as one would with such a scene, but was surprised when reviewing the images later on at home that the blue I remembered was not as dominant as I had sensed at the time. I resolved this issue by taking a sample of the blue that I remembered from the image using the sampling tool and then switched the colour file to black and white. I did this using the green channel, in Channel Mixer, and then used the Curves tool to lift the contrast a little. Next I created a new colour fill layer, which I flooded with my watery blue, reducing the layer opacity to 10% to allow the detail of the scene to show through.

The final result is not actually a technically accurate representation of the scene I shot, but it is an extremely accurate representation of what I saw, of what I remember and of the essence of being there, in that place at that time. The camera never lies, of course, but it is a dumb instrument that is not capable of understanding emotion and the way the human eye filters what it sees. The camera often needs help to make a picture that conveys what is happening in the mind behind the viewfinder rather than in physical form in front of the lens – and it was one of those occasions.

Samsung GX20 with Pentax SMC FA 43mm f/1.9 lens. ISO 100

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Palm Tree reflections - the original version

Palm Tree reflections - the original version

Palm Reflections

Palm Reflections

Back lighting graphic shapes – Bus Stop girl

Backlighting • Graphic shapes • Channel mixer • Cropping

The best way to show graphic shapes is to reduce the scene you are photographing to its most basic and fundamental elements. In this case that reduction process meant removing the colour and producing a level of contrast that would show exactly the lines and curves that caught my eye in the first place. I couldn’t control the light, obviously, and the scene only worked from one angle, but it is the element of back lighting that really helps, even in these overcast conditions, to create a semi-silhouette of the bus stop structure and the waiting woman. So I got lucky.

The backlighting reflects off the road and the pavement, making both brighter than they would be from any other angle. This backlighting has also brought out the pattern of the paving and has emphasised the straight edges between each slab. This creates a mass of lines travelling towards the camera and which also lead the eye back into the picture.

Contrasting shapes
The woman stands out as she is the only element in the scene not made up of straight lines, which makes her come forward as the obvious subject. Even the roof of the shelter, which we know is curved in reality, is represented here by straight and solid edges. The only random shapes are made by the pigeon about to land, but as that is quite hidden it doesn’t take too much away from the subject.

Having shot this with low contrast settings in-camera I took the image into the Curves and created enhanced mid-tone contrast to strip out some of the image’s greys. In Levels I enhanced the blacks, and reduced the highlight output to inhibit true whites and to soften the visual effect.

Keeping it level, and cropping
At the time of shooting I was very careful to keep all the uprights absolutely straight and level, as they are an essential part of the picture. If you find yours are not quite straight they will distract the viewer’s attention and make them miss the point of the picture. I know I say it a lot, but keeping uprights completely upright is so important.

The last thing I did to the picture was a crop it to 5x4in proportions. I chose this format as it has a classic feel that introduces a quite formal atmosphere that compliments the neat and rigid linear structure and patterns of the scene.

Choosing the moment
Picking the right moment is especially important in this type of scene, as we want to keep things as simple as possible. With people and cars in the background the scene becomes cluttered and we loose the sense of what the shot is supposed to be about. With all these extra shapes that over lap it becomes difficult to see the woman, the back lit road is blocked and the pavement falls into shade. Even one additional element is enough to spoil the picture and create a distraction, as you can see from the these additional shots shown here.

About the black and white conversion
I converted this image to black and white using the channel mixer tool in Photoshop. I chose to use the green channel as it produces the more moderate contrast of the three available. The red channel showed blown out highlights, as does the blue channel. The green channel is also the sharpest and more detailed, and it displayed the right tonal differences between the coloured elements in the scene to make hedges and the grass verge stand out.

Sony Alpha 700, with DT 16-80mm F3.5-4.5 ZA Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T*. 

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Back lit girl at bus stop in Warsaw, Poland. By Damien Demolder

Black and white portraits – blue channel man

Using filtration in male portraiture • channel mixture conversions • shooting in colour for a black and white result

Black and white blue Channel conversion male portraitWe automatically think about using channel filtration to create black and white images when we are shooting landscapes, because we are all used to the idea of fitting filters for this type of subject. The reference pictures that stick in the mind that demonstrate what filters do to monochrome images – the deep black skies and fluffy clouds of the red filter – are generally landscapes in which we can see how blues darken and green grass lightens. In fact, you probably wouldn’t shoot a black and white landscape without thinking about filtration.

We don’t associate lens filters with portraiture in the same way, unless warming or adjusting a colour picture, but sometimes red filters are used to reduce the effects of skin blemishes. With this in mind when converting a colour portrait image to black and white I often use a red channel bias in Channel Mixer (Image>adjustments>channel mixer) to lighten the redness of spots, skin patches and veins close to the skin surface. This looks great for women, as it can leave a flattering facial glow as well. But it really doesn’t look macho enough for portraits of men.

A portrait converted to black and white via the red, green and blue channelsI have found the channel that delivers the more manly effect is the blue channel. It adds depth to the skin and presents a more tanned, or weathered, look (I know, but you can still see it in black and white!). The blue channel makes men look stronger and more heroic, which I think is what most men prefer. And the deeper and more complex shades of this kind of conversion provide the ideal base for adding a colour tone too. There is so much more grey in black and white images converted using the blue channel that toning and staining colours have much more impact.
A male portrait converted to black and white using the green and the blue channels. By Damien Demolder If you find a blue channel conversion produces too strong a result remember that you don’t have to use it on its own. My favourite channel of all is the green channel, as it has lower contrast and better sharpness than red or blue, and I like to mix it in with the others to rein in any over-blown effects. Try mixing 50% green and 50% blue for a more restrained image.

Obviously to make use of these effects and options you need to be shooting your portraits in colour. I find that shooting everything in colour gives me the most flexibility, so I shoot in colour even when I know I will only want a black and white final result.

Nikon D40 with 55-200mm f/4-5.6G IF-ED AF-S DX at f/16 and ISO 200, with Bowens flash heads.

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To see more of my pictures
visit my photo galleries site

Black and white blue Channel conversion male portrait

The final version of the portrait convertedto black and white via the blue channel. Sepia toned portrait

The deeper tones of the blue channel conversion make a better base for accepting sepia and other colourised effects.

Making a frame – matting and adding text

Improve your on-line presentation – add titles to your images


Creating a virtual photoframePictures should be able to stand on their own two feet without embellishment, but there are few that don’t look at least 30% better when they are mounted and framed. Obviously, this sort of treatment is reserved for prints, but even those who show their work on-line or in an electronic form can benefit from this form of presentation. We don’t frame every picture we take, only the best, so when we add a frame to an image, even electronically, it sends the message that we think the picture in question is special. Framed images have that prestigious air about them.

When ‘framing’ this picture I decided to go for a multi-layered effect to add depth to the mount. This just echoes the effect you get when you use a double window mount, with two shades of card and the white edge that shows in the cut. When working this way it’s best to create the outer-most mount first. There are a number of ways of to create these mounts, but I’ll show you a simple one.

Make a bigger canvas

First you need to make the background mount, which you do by enlarging the canvas the image sits on. Go to the top bar of Photoshop and selectCreate new canvasEdit>Canvas Size. Ensuring the central square is selected as the Anchor, type in the size you want the final picture to be leaving a bit to spare so that you can crop later on to the final dimensions. If your picture file is 7x5in @ 300ppi, for example, create a background canvas that measures about 10x10in @ 300 pixels per inch.

With the image sitting on a bigger plain background use the magic wand tool to select the out line of the image so you can add the faint shadow effect.

Add a stroke – or two

Select image for strokeTo create this first grey layer, that will look almost like a shadow in the final image, we’ll use the ‘stroke’ feature of Photoshop. With the whole image selected head to Edit>Stroke. The box offers several options, one of which is width/colour. The width of the stroke you will need at any point depends on the size of the picture you are working on. Obviously a 20 pixel stroke is proportionally bigger on a 600×800 pixel image than it is on a 2000×4000 pixel image, so you may have to try a few different settings before you find the right width for the picture in question. Picking a colour is comes down to your own personal choice, but I find shades of grey most effective and the least offensive to the majority of people. Also in this position, between the picture and the white ‘card’ the effect is supposed to be shadow rather than anything that has a colour.

Stroke colour pickerThe box below the width/colour options asks you to determine where the stroke goes. ‘Center’ places the stroke on the selection line, so half of the stroke’s width covers part of the image, and half falls outside of the image, while ‘Inside’ places the stroke entirely on the picture area, and ‘outside’ places the strokes thickness on the ‘card’. If you want to avoid losing any picture area select the ‘outside’ option.

Once that’s done deselect the image and reselect it to include the new much wider stroke, and then add the extra stroke to create the white area shown in my example. I didn’t actually use white, but a very light yellow/grey instead.

Colour the ‘card’

Then you need to add a colour or tone to the rest of the ‘card’. To do this use the rectangular selection tool to draw a box around your picture leaving the amount of white showing that you want. Go to the top bar and click on Selection>Invert to select everything other than your picture and the amount of white you want showing. You now need to add the colour or tone to the card. You can pick any colour you want to compliment your image, but I tend to stick with neutral shades to grey. Dull perhaps, and to everyone’s taste, but grey has the benefit of working with every picture. Select your colour using the colour picker, and then use the paint bucket tool to flood the colour onto the card

Add text to record the details

I like to write on these frames, especially for portraits, so the picture can have a name or so we can all remember when the picture was taken and who is in it. I’ve been doing a series of birthday pictures of my family, so I use this space to record the date, name and age of the subject so the piece becomes more of a historical record.

I create a text box and write whatever I want to in white. I then align the text with the picture, usually in that bottom right hand corner,Fade text layer and then fade the text layer so reduce the text to a grey rather than a bright white. White tends to stand out too much and can take away from the picture. Obviously you want people to be able to read the text, but it shouldn’t be the first thing they see.

Although really designed for web use, these frames, if done neatly, work well in print too. I saves actually cutting window mounts (or matts) and is a quick and effective way of presenting your images in an album or portfolio.

If you don’t have Photoshop you can create these effects in a wide range of other programs. I have used the simple application Paint to do the same thing just by creating backgrounds that the image is pasted onto, as well as Gimp – which offers for free much of what you pay for in Photoshop.

Sony Alpha 700 DSLR

Sony Alpha 700 with DT 16-80mm f/3.5-4.5 ZA set to 50mm (75mm on 35mm) 1/5sec @ f/4.5 ISO 1600, tungsten white balance.

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To see more of my pictures visit my galleries at

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visit my photo galleries site

The original image, in colour and unframed

Creating a virtual photoframeHut on the Blackwater navigation
Another example of how this technique can be used. In this case
I printed the image with the frame and text together. The text adds a formality to the shot, making it more of a record or postcard.

Create new canvas
Create a new canvas size that’s bigger than the image. Here the image
is just under 7in square, so I made the canvas 10in to allow a 3in border.

Select image for stroke

Select the image area with the magic wand tool ready
to apply a ‘stroke’

Stroke colour picker

The stroke size you need depends on the image size, so experiment
to find what is right for your picture. Choose the ‘outside’ option and
then pick the colour you want to use. I tend to stick with neutrals

Select the outside of the first stroke to create the second. Make this a
big one, as you can crop it away when you create the
background ‘card’ colour later.

Fade text layer

Write your text, and then fade the layer to create a
more subtle effect

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Converging Verticals – software fix

Sloping Flats with converging verticals

If you have a picture you’ve already taken that has slight converging verticals the effects can often be corrected using the features contained in a number of popular software applications. The tool you should be looking for is usually called ‘Transform’, which will probably have sub sections that will be called something like ‘Perspective’ and ‘Distort’.

The idea is that the whole image is selected and then the top is stretched horizontally to counteract the inverted V shape of the building. This is a quick and effective solution to convergence in any direction, but users need to be Altering perspectiverealistic about what can be achieved before image quality suffers to badly. Obviously pixels are being stretched and made larger in one part of the image, and although the image will remain the same size detail resolution in the stretched part of the picture will suffer. If this area is mostly sky you don’t need to worry too much, but the stretch may be quite easily seen in areas of more fine detail. distorting the image

As this is the case only minor effects should be attempted, but the advantage of the method is that you will end up with a larger image than you would using the cropping method. In this example I have used a picture that is just too distorted to be able to correct easily, so you can see just where the limits are. The perspective is not only looking up, but also twisted. The correction is almost there, but the final image has a strange look to it. sloping flats with converging verticals corrected

Of course, the method relies on you having a software application that provides a ‘Transform’ tool. If yours doesn’t there is a free download application called GIMP that does – it is also a very good general purpose imaging application that offers an enormous amount of control.

Shot with Samsung GX10, with Rikenon 28mm f/2.8 lens. Exposure 1/4sec @ f/2.8 ISO 1600

To see more of my pictures visit my galleries at

To see more of my pictures
visit my photo galleries site

Sloping Flats with converging verticalsAltering perspectiveYou can find the ‘perspective’ tool in Photoshop by clicking on ‘Edit’ and then ‘Transform’. I have overlaid the image with a grid screen to help me to get things straight. This is hidden under the ‘View’ menu, after which you need to select ‘Show’ and then ‘Grid’. You can set the preferences for the grid – such as the spacing between the lines – in the main ‘Preferences’ menu. distorting the image‘Distort’ is also under the ‘Edit>Transform’ menu and can be applied without having to finish the ‘Perspective’ adjustments. I needed ‘Distort’ Here as the camera was not square-on to the subject, so we have a twist as well as converging verticals. I’ve pulled the top of the image out and pushed the bottom left in and the bottom centre to the right. It is almost a rotational movement. Obviously the adjusted image now has chunks missing from its corners – some cropping will be in order. sloping flats with converging verticals corrected

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