Sean’s Favorite Photoshop Techniques: A new video course from Sean Bagshaw

I recently finished watching Sean Bagshaw’s new video course, “Sean’s Favorite Photoshop Techniques,” and have written a review below. For those familiar with Sean’s videos, it will come as no surprise that the series is very good. I am pleased to be able offer this course on my Panels & Videos page, and Sean says I can give readers a 15% discount code. Here it is: Bagshaw15. Enter that code in the PROMO CODE field in the shopping cart to save 15% when purchasing this item. (NOTE: If you are a previous customer of mine, I likely sent you an email with an even better discount on Tuesday or Wednesday, January 29 or 30. If you missed it, please check your junk/spam folder. Contact me if you can’t find it. Include the email address you used for your previous purchase, and I’ll privately email you the other code.) Sample videos can be viewed here. The review below will give you an idea of what to expect from the new series.

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Sean Bagshaw has put together another excellent video course focused on the Photoshop workflow. “Sean’s Favorite Photoshop Techniques” covers a lot of territory, but instead of concentrating on developing just one image, like in his other recent courses, this one takes a closer look at several different methods that can be used on almost any image. He explores these techniques in a way that helps you understand how he’s able to achieve the rich color and perfect balance that characterizes his images.

Three main categories of techniques that are discussed and demonstrated:

  • Color Palette
  • Exposure and Tonal Balance
  • Light Sculpting

These are broken down into chapters that show multiple ways to achieve a specific image developing goal, like color-grading, tonal balance, and midtone boost, to name a few. And while this isn’t a sequential image developing workflow course, my sense is that the chapters are more or less arranged in a start-to-finish order. The early chapters will generally work best near the start of the Photoshop workflow and the later chapters will be more relevant near the end of it.

While I consider myself pretty adept at Photoshop, I once again realized I still have a lot to learn after watching all these videos. For example, color-grading with hue, saturation, and lightness isn’t really part of my workflow, but I can now see the advantage of using it near the start, maybe even in LR/ACR as Sean demonstrates, to set the overall color foundation for the image. I’m also thinking of trying to do more with split toning after watching the videos to see what it might add to my landscapes that have a wider perspective.

Not surprisingly, luminosity masks are a powerful tool in Sean’s techniques arsenal, and he makes good use of them in the Exposure and Tonal Balancing chapters. Luminosity masks aren’t just for exposure blending, and Sean shows the many ways they integrate into the workflow to create the right balance of light and contrast throughout the scene. And, while this video series isn’t a course on how to use the TKActions V6 panel (Sean also shows the menu commands called by the panel’s scripts), it’s obvious watching Sean work that the panel can play an important role in the creative process by short-cutting many Photoshop functions and by providing a rapid method to create, modify, and deploy the necessary luminosity masks. Sean is very familiar with the panel, uses some of its advanced features in the videos, and shows how it improves workflow efficiency.

The Light Sculpting section is probably my favorite part of the course. It starts off showing basic and advanced burning and dodging and how it can be used to reveal the contours of light in the scene. The “Digital Light Painting” chapter, however, takes these concepts to an entirely new level. The image Sean had been using to demonstrate different burning and dodging techniques is totally transformed into a completely new image with this light-painting process. Sean describes it as “re-imagining the light,” and it is indeed this and much more. It’s also a challenge, I think, to look deep into your images and find a personal light in them that only you, as the individual photographer who took the picture, can see. Sean shows what’s possible when you engage in this re-imagining exercise and does a great job explaining how to do it. It’s up to you to decide how far you want to take it.

The last two chapters in the Light Sculpting section cover vignettes and spotlights, and this also had a lot of new info for me. Sean shows how this process can be much more than just making the edges of the image darker or the interior lighter. Many of the techniques discussed in the previous chapters are put to use. Color balance, brightness, contrast, clarity, and various adjustment layers are all employed to enhance the light in order to focus the viewer’s eye. The last section of the vignette/spotlight section is essentially another digital light painting demonstration. It’s nice bonus to get to see how this magic works again, and the results are equally impressive the second time through.

Don’t expect to absorb everything in these videos all at once. Sean’s teaching style has the perfect pace, but these videos are information-dense. They cover a lot of ground, and you’ll likely want to work along with him on the practice images for some of the less familiar concepts. I can almost guarantee you’ll learn several new and very useful techniques while watching this course and practicing along with Sean. Hopefully you will also discover how to find some new light in your images as well. By the end, you should be better equipped to express the art and beauty you find in photography.

TK Actions Quick Tip: Split toning

Sean Bagshaw posted another great Quick Tip video on his YouTube channel. Split toning is the topic this time and the new video shows how to customize the technique using luminosity masks. It goes well beyond the split toning capabilities of Light Room and highlights how the TKActions V6 panel and Photoshop provide a more refined approach to this process. Sean covers a lot of territory in this one. Here are some key steps to watch for in the video below:

  1. Separately tone two copies of the same image in Light Room/ACR−one warm, one cool.
  2. Open them as smart objects in Photoshop and stack them as one document.
  3. Use Layer Mask Mode in the V6 panel to make a luminosity layer mask for one of the images that correctly reveals the desired toning in that image.
  4. Modify the layer mask using things like a Curves adjustment and the Paint Brush tool.
  5. Use the smart objects to take the images back to LR/ACR to enhance the effect as needed.
  6. Fine-tune the split toning even more in Photoshop by adding adjustment layers specific to each images’ toning.

There’s an incredible amount of control possible with the steps Sean demonstrates here. I was impressed how the whole mood of the image changed as a result of the split toning process. The sun was above the background mountains in the original image, but not low enough to be casting a lot of warm light into the scene. However, with split toning, Sean essentially took this light and created an image that in the end has a strong golden hour feel to it, even creating some warm backlighting for the trees on the ridge. It’s a very pleasing transformation. I’m sure you’ll enjoy seeing how Sean does this.

Quick Tip: Split toning
Quick Tip: Cloud sculpting
Quick Tip: Exposure blending
Quick Tip: Favorite new V6 features
Be sure to subscribe to Sean’s YouTube channel for more tips on photography and post-processing.