How To
Dark III


This tutorial is a step by step explanation how to create a fine art photo from scretch.

Creation of source picture
I’ve planned to make a picture in a Joel Tjintjelaar style since a long time based on great architecture. And what is one of the best places to do some kind of photo? Yes, it’s Frankfurt! That’s how the plan raised in my head hence I planned to make my first trip to Frankfurt for an architecture adventure day end of 2013. I’m always using, google picture search and to find interesting architecture objects in unknown cities. I’ve planned to take a lot photos that day, especially to make long time exposures course weathers forecast was sunny with some clouds. Main objects were handled by afternoon including some underground stations and I decided to walk a little around near Messeturm Frankfurt.
I found this lantern between this two amazing skyscrapers by accident and I decided to take this picture. So I had to lay on the ground simultaneously half on the street, always kept an eye on the lantern to bring it into the middle and shot two pictures. There was luckily not so much traffic between Christmas and New Year’s Eve otherwise it wouldn’t be possible to make it.
It implies that I didn’t use a tripod but one thing which I used was a polarizing filter which is mandatory for me in almost every situation if I meet such sunny conditions. It’s a good method to steer reflections which are caused by the sun which came from right backside. It was bright enough to keep ISO 100 and the shutter speed of 1/30 was not too long to shot lying. The challenge was to keep the lantern in the middle and to let the ends of the buildings slide into the edges of the sensor. I always try to do this before to avoid unnecessary transformations during the post-processing process.
You will find a map and a link with exact coordinates below.
Google Maps -> Standort
Post processing in Lightroom
I’m always using Adobe Lightroom to catalogue my pictures and to use the easiness of this tool to make the first adjustments on the pictures. Here is the outcome which I used to make all further work with Photoshop CC. As explained before it was not necessary to crop a lot.
Please find a table with all parameters below:
Noise Reduction26
- Saturation+6
- Luminance+12
It is also and always important to enable “profile corrections” and to “remove chromatic abbreviations” under tab “lens corrections” to remove lens contortions and color displacements due too lens lacks.
I’ve exported the picture in full resolution as a 32 bit and uncompressed TIFF file.
Post processing in Photoshop
My first step in Photoshop after opening the converted file is to do the perspective control and the cleanup of picture errors like sensor spots and so on. After I’ve copied the layer with STRG+J I used the function “Transform->Distort” to make the latern exact vertical. I’ve also used “Guides” for assistance as shown in the picture below.
I’ve produced an empty layer above to remove spots on the picture with the stamp tool. In this case it is important to switch “Sample” to “Current&Below” to get picture information from below.
Next step was to convert the picture to black and white. I’ve used Silver Efex with a standard template. After that I used the “Blur” filter with a high value to blur the sky on the right upper side. I used the Sky mask which I’ll explain later to limit the filter on the sky.
To go further it was necessary to create exact masks from the left, the right building, the latern and the sky. I’ve used the “Polygonal Lasso Tool” to create this masks manually. The “Quick Selection Tool” was not precisely enough. Here are the four masks:
These masks where used on layer groups with additionally adjustment layers below. I’ve created four sub groups for the two buildings, the lantern and the sky.
I’ve used a mixture of dodge&burn, luminosity masks and Joel Tjintjelaars “Selective Gradient Masking” technique to create the final versions of the different masked picture pieces. These techniques were used to create presence, defining the edges and to balance the relationship between lights and shadows. To get more details regarding luminosity masks I recommend Tony Kuyper’s tutorials. He also offers a great action set to deal with this methods in an easy way as to create every mask manually.
Here are the four versions after each adjustment:


Left building:

Right building:


Finalize picture
The picture was now ready for finalization. I’ve used a 50% grey layer to dodge&burn some lights and shadows. You can use the “Brush Tool” with a opacity of around 5-10% and a flow of 10% to paint with white and black. Layer mode has to be “Soft light”. I’ve used the already created masks to avoid to paint in non-wanted areas (Click on masks with STRG key selected). This is the D&B layer:
Last step was the sharpening process where I used the “Nick Sharpener Pro 3” with the following parameters and a special “high pass layer” to highlight the edges.
The trick is here to create two identical copies of all layers, turn upper layer to linear light, invert it and decrease opacity to 50%. “Surface Blur” upper layer to find the edges and combine both layers to one and turn layer mode to “Overlay”. This is to avoid halos.
The last step was to increase the brightness with a “Brightness/Contrast” layer a little bit to get the final result,
You can use the slider to switch between basic and final picture.

[baslider name=”DarkIII”]

  • Make a plan but use accidental situations as well

  • Use a polarization filter to steer reflections

  • Be informed in advance of weather situation and light situations
    (there are a lot of tools to find light angles at different locations and times)

  • Divide your workflow in different sections

  • Add presence to your picture

  • Have Fun 🙂