Deep Greens: Easier

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This photo is slightly more challenging in SOME ways, but easier in others. You WILL need to know how to mask two images together in Photoshop… but if you’re using ANY of my Photoshop techniques, you should already be familiar with masking. There are other green-focused Lightroom only tutorials if you would rather tackle this in Lightroom. That would also work perfectly well.

Again, remember, you don’t HAVE to do all the steps listed below. You don’t have to edit the photo the way I did. You don’t have to do the same layers, with the same settings. In some cases, I’ve provided you with the exact settings I used… but also feel more than free to make this edit your own. Take what you want from the process below, and leave the rest.

What I loved about this photo was this real curving tunnel wrapping around Journey in the background, with the light area directly behind him – something we see so often Photoshopped in behind the dog. 

Of course, he is too funny with his leaf, but we’re going to ignore it and make it a nice deep green photo. 

We want a little bit more space under him, to give him some more presence on the stump, and make better use of rule of thirds by placing his eye on the thirds line.

How to Do it

Lightroom/Camera Raw/Whatever

  1. Adjust the white balance. Journey was very cool and EXTREMELY magenta SOOC. Remember, he’s much more of a brick colour, not pink.
  2. Overall exposure up a bit. The photo is rather dark and we don’t have a lot of highlights to worry about.
  3. Highlights down a bit, shadows up a fair amount (I had -40 highlights, +60 shadows). I especially want to get some light in that black-hole in the top-right of the photo. It’s EXTREMELY dark and unbalanced.
  4. Selective edits
    1. Clarity and texture over the eye area
    2. Brighten the eyes by raising whites
    3. Brighten the face by raising whites either side of his stripe
    4. Brighten catchlights by raising whites and shadows
    5. Remove colour cast on chest by desaturating and raising whites
    6. Lower highlights in the bokeh spots above his head
    7. Remove contrast & raise blacks in that dark area to the right
    8. Add yellow to nose as it was blue
Here’s how it looks after the selective edits in LR.

Photoshop: Setting Up the Image & Composition

Since we want some more space below him/a bit more foreground depth, we’re going to use a different photo of the location and mask it in.

This is somewhat optional as you could just crop the image so his eye is on the 3rds line and not worry about it. But I wanted some more depth from being down lower. 

I didn’t have any lower photos of Journey on the log, so we’re using a photo of Loki instead. 

  1. Open the image as Smart Object in Photoshop. 
  2. Open the Loki layer and get them into the same workspace. Put the Loki layer down the bottom and move it into position. Add a layer mask to the Journey layer. Use a black brush to merge the edges of the the two layers.
  3. Make either a smooshed layer (shift + cmd/ctrl + opt/alt + E) or a new blank layer and fill in the empty lower right hand corner that will likely be missing. Content aware fill will work perfectly with a smooshed layer, or you could use clone stamp.
  4. Make a new blank layer. Use the spot healing brush and clone stamp to tidy up some of the dead grasses and twigs.

Photoshop: Shaping Light

Ready for some curves layers?

  1. One curves layer to darken pretty much the whole image except bits of that dark branch to the right. Blacks pulled slightly up. Mask out the dog by hand.
  2. Open vignette. Curves layer to darken the two sides and lower part of the image. Brushed off that dark branch. Blacks pulled very slightly up, but not much.
  3. Curves layer very slightly pulling up blacks, anchored at the shadows area. Masked in only over that dark branch to pull some black/contrast out.
  4. Another curves layer, sort of another vignette but wider this time – mostly just darkening the lower part. Curve pulled down near shadows. Blacks left alone.
  5. Spotlight from directly above. Curve pulled up, anchored near shadows.
  6. Brightening curves layer just on his shoulder to brighten it (not sure why! Whoops)
  7. Levels layer to add contrast.

Photoshop: Colours

  1. Selective colour layer working on yellows. Add cyan by about +25. Mask out the dog with a proper mask.
  2. Selective colour layer working on yellows. Add cyan by about +30, lower yellow by about -10. Use on areas of background that have a slightly more yellow tinge to unify colours toward the cyan/green tone. This is very subtle.
  3. Hue saturation layer, working on greens with the slider extended into yellows. Desaturate by about -10, shift hue by about +2. Mask out the dog.
  4. Another hue/sat layer, again working on greens extending into yellows. Desaturate by about -30, shift hue by about +2. Mask in over areas of the lower part of the image that are quite fluorescent green.
  5. Gradient fill layer. Linear style. From the top, a very pale white/green, to the bottom, a very deep dark green. More toward the cyan side of the green spectrum rather than in the middle. Set to Soft Light blend mode. Opacity 20%. Mask out the dog. 
  6. Selective colour layer working on yellows, adding a TON of cyan (+85) and removing yellow (-20). Mask it in on the little fallen tree in the lower left corner that is likely very yellow.

Photoshop: Finishing Touches

  1. Two curves layers: one lightening, one darkening, for dodge and burn. If you’re in the Learning Journey, see Exploring > Exploring Editing > Face Contouring for more information.
  2. Colour balance layer, working on midtones, adding yellow (about -10 toward yellow), and magenta (about -2) on the shoulders and cheeks to offset some blue colour-casts from the light.
  3. Selective colour layer, working on yellows. Lower cyan by about -10… mask in over the leaf to give it a little extra colour.
  4. New blank layer, remove eye booger using spot healing brush (yes, I should have done this earlier, or put it right down the bottom of all my layers, but I got lazy)
  5. Another selective colour, lower cyans/add red by about -60. Mask in over the leaf. More red!
  6. Hue/saturation layer. Desaturate by about -40. Mask in places on cheek, chest and legs where you notice colour-casts.

Deep Greens: Intermediate

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The steps, & things to look out for

This photo was taken by the lovely Teresa Ullmann (@everfawkes) so if you want to share it on your socials, absolutely do, but make sure to tag both @inspawrationphotography and Teresa in the caption 🙂 There are SOME steps in the Photoshop section that may be a bit tricky if you’re new to the program, and you may find the “intermediate” photo easier, especially if you already know how to mask

Here was the editing process:

  1. White balance. Journey is very cool and quite magenta to begin with so you’ll want to correct that.
  2. Global adjustments: the normal things. Drop highlights a bit, pull up shadows a bit to get some more light on Journey’s face. 
  3. Selective edits (note, some of these required more than one radial filter):
    1. Drop highlights and clarity on those bokeh spots
    2. Brighten the face, ear, and cheek (pull up whites)
    3. Get rid of green/yellow colour casts on chin, chest and cheek
    4. Defringe radial filter on nose/snout to get rid of fringing/chromatic aberration
    5. Drop highlights on back shoulder
    6. Make nose less blue
    7. Clarity & whites on eye
    8. Brighten catchlight
    9. Brighten whole subject

This is how it looked when I was finished in Lightroom

Look, I labeled the masks just for you all. 

Into Photoshop!

There’s a few things here you can skip if you’re still finding your way around Photoshop.

Setting up the photo & fixing composition

  1. Make a new smart object copy of your original layer
  2. Use content aware crop to give him a bit more space below his paws. You’ll need another copy of the layer, and you’ll need to rasterise it to do Content Aware Crop. Fix any bits that Photoshop makes weird
  3.  I ended up copying that whole left side of the image, pasting it, and going to Edit > Transform > Flip horizontal, then masking it in over the top of that dark tree trunk. I wanted him to have open space to look into.
  4. When you’ve done all your composition fixing, make a smooshed layer (cmd/ctrl + opt/alt + shift + E), Go Filters > Convert for Smart Filters, then Filters > Blur > Motion Blur. Add some motion blur going straight up and down, 90 degrees. Whatever amount you like. I think mine was 300-400. Mask it in over the top and bottom edges of the bokeh spots to make them “melt”.

Shaping light

  1. One curves layer darkening pretty much all of the image except Journey. Blacks pulled slightly up.
  2. One curves layer darkening the two sides and lower part. Curve pulled down, blacks pulled up slightly.
  3. One curves layer acting as a spotlight shining down from above/top left. Curve pulled up, anchored near the shadows.
  4. One curves layer just darkening the right-hand edge and the lower part of the image.
As always, brush these masks on and off of areas that need them. 


As you can see above, we’re already halfway to getting our deep green tones just by darkening up the photo. I actually liked these red/brown trees in the back except that they cut right directly through the middle of the photo and felt distracting to me. If they’d been on the edge of the photo I probably would have left them. 

  1. Selective colour layer, adding a bit of cyan to yellows (not much!). Mask out Journey
  2. Selective colour layer adding a LOT of cyan to yellows, removing some yellow. Masked in where needed – mostly left side of the photo
  3. Hue/saturation layer working on yellows into greens. Desaturate a bit, and pull hue slider very very slightly toward blue.
  4. Whoops a mystery levels layer. Add contrast.
  5. Selective colour working on greens. Add magenta. This will desaturate them.  

Special/fancy stuff to finish

  1. Gradient layer. Linear style. Angled from top left to bottom right. Top left white, moving down to deep green in bottom right corner. Make 100% opacity across the whole gradient. Set to Soft Light blend mode. Mask out Journey. Opacity 40%. 
  2. Hue saturation layer, desaturating globally. Mask in chin/chest.
  3. Gradient layer. Soft pale green/white in Radial style. In mid/top left corner. 20% opacity. Mask out Journey.
  4. Dodge & Burn Curves layers. One darkening, one lightening. 

Deep Greens: Advanced

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I knew as soon as I saw this location that it would be something special. With those trees framing either side, and the tunnel of light behind the dog, it was close to perfect (if perfect exists).

But… I wanted to change up a few things, if only to make my life difficult, but also because I know what I like.

So what was supposed to be a reasonably simple edit for anybody to have a go at became a massive undertaking, hence why the Deep Green Editing Challenge got split into three levels. It was all thanks to this photo.

So, get ready to flex your technical fingers, fire up your tablet, download the RAW files, and let’s get into it. 

Remember, you don’t HAVE to copy my edit, or my steps. As I said on the intro page though, I feel like some of the times I’ve learnt the most are when I’ve attempted to copy a certain technique or look.

So, before you start: have a look at the before/after. Is there anything about the edit you’re not sure you know how to do/you’re not sure how you’d do it? That should be where you focus your attention. The rest you could edit yourself in your own way, if you want!

Final note before we start: it’s possible that at some point throughout this process I jumped back into Camera Raw to my RAW file and LR edits.. (though not likely given all the extra layers). If I did it would have been to lower the exposure, or slightly change the WB.

How to do it

Get all your panorama parts. I merged mine in Lightroom as the very first step, but you could do it in Photoshop if you want. For me, LR did a good job so it was the least fiddly, lowest-effort option. I did the panorama BEFORE making any other edits, so that from the beginning I was just working on one single image file.

Reasonably few edits in LR since it was a pretty great photo to begin with in terms of exposure etc.

Adjust white balance. It needs more warmth and less magenta.

Drop highlights a bit.

Selective edits

  1. Increase texture & clarity on the face
  2. Lower highlights & exposure on his stripe
  3. Increase clarity on eyes
  4. Raise whites & lower saturation on catchlights
  5. Lower highlights, exposure and clarity on tunnel behind dog.

Photoshop: Fixing Composition & Things

Make a Smart Object via copy of your original layer. 

Let’s move those branches on the right closer to Journey so there isn’t such a dead space there.

Make another duplicate of the layer (this one can be a duplicate). OR just select the whole right hand side of the image & do a copy paste of it. Move it toward Journey so the edges of those branches have a small gap between him and them. Mask this layer in.

Either make another copy of your layer, or copy/paste the whole tunnel section, OR just make a new blank layer and use the clone stamp, to fix up the Y-shaped tree growing out of Journey’s head.

I made a duplicate layer, flipped horizontally, it and moved a section of the light tunnel over the Y-shaped tree and just masked it in. 

Crop it kind of more or less to size – having it bigger is probably better than having it smaller in case you want to change it later. But we want to know where the edges are so we can fill them in if needed (I had several little corners to fill)

I actually opened my “Green advanced side” image in PS to use to fill in the lower left corner but you could also do this with the clone stamp tool, or a content aware fill (you’ll need a rasterised image layer to use Content Aware Fill – see below for the next step). If you’re in the Learning Journey you can see my big layers process flowchart in Exploring > Exploring Editing)

My photo ended up a bit taller than the original, so I had to fix the top right corner. I made a “smooshed” layer with Cmd/Ctrl + alt/opt + shift + E and did content aware fill. 

One blank layer to finish filling in the Y-shaped tree, as I still had the top of it left over – my layer from earlier  didn’t cover the whole thing. I just used clone stamp to cover it up. You can also remove Journey’s little eye booger here.

I ran a high-pass filter action over the image to get Journey super sharp and crisp, opacity down to about 40%.


Photoshop: Shape Light & Add Fern

Two curves layer darkening pretty much the entire image (apart from Journey/Journey’s head/back)

One levels layer increasing contrast.

Now we add the ferns overlay. I got this overlay from Etsy. I don’t have the rights to sell or share them. You can find them here if you want to purchase them. I added the ferns AFTER the two darkening layers because I didn’t want them to also end up extremely dark and nothing but black blur. I wanted them to keep some of their green.

Another curves layer, darkening the sides and ground.

Another curves layer, darkening some bright/pale parts of the stump.

No spotlight! He is already light enough and the background is VERY light.

Photoshop: Colours

One selective colour layer working on yellows, increasing cyan.

A selective colour layer working on yellows. Pulling up Cyan to 100, removing some black. Masked in over the light tunnel behind Journey to take out the yellow tint.

A hue/sat layer working on greens extended into yellows. Desaturating a bit and shifting the hue slightly cooler.

Hue/sat layer working on yellows, extended toward oranges. Desaturating a bit and shifting the hue toward reds. Masked in over some weird yellowy-green bits of the stump.

Hue/sat layer desaturating globally. Masked in over colour casts on neck, chest, legs, chin. 

Hue/sat layer desaturating some colour from the moss on the stump.

Photoshop: Last Things

First, get the lasso tool. Make it a soft feather, ~ 300 px. Draw a kind of triangle, with the base of the triangle at the top of the stump and the top of the triangle outside the top of the image. Make a gradient fill layer. Soft pale green/white in colour. Reverse it so it’s coming from the top down. Pull it downwards if you want it to have more strength, or adjust the opacity slider. Adjust opacity. Put the layer inside a folder. Add a layer mask to the folder. Use a mask of the dog. 

One more vignette/lower edge darkening curves layer, which I also used as my burn layer.

Dodge layer  (curves, lightening).

Colour balance layer to add a bit of yellow to his nose.


Finally, add a little contrast in Lightroom before export, and you’re finished!