Today’s post is all about trying something a bit different. This Fauve technique I found in a magazine a few years ago is quite cool and can add impact to an image that might not be quite up to par. I’m fairly sure this technique will work on all versions of Photoshop from CS3 up to CS5. I’m not sure about Elements but as it requires Layers, I suspect that it’s Photoshop. Lastly, if you’re just interested in what to click and aren’t interested in the commentary, you can just skip to the list at the end.

So this is what it looks like before and after. It’s not the best image I could find to work with, and if you’re planning on doing this, try it with an image that’s got some big colours, and lots of things going on. The blurring of the technique means that if you have a plain expansive landscape, this won’t add anything. Find an image that has lots of things going on, and also has lots of nice bright colours. If necessary, take the image into Photoshop/LR beforehand and really saturate things similar to what I’ve done with my “before” image above.

Step 1: Find Edges



Begin the process by duplicating your base image (CTRL+J). Click on Filter>Stylize>Find Edges. This should give you a detailed map of all the lines and edges in your shot.

Step 2: Threshold



Add a new Threshold layer to the image. Play the slider back and forth so that you have a reasonable amount of detail in your image. If you find that there’s either too much or too little, you may need to tweak your edge layer. To do this, go back to your “Find Edges” layer (Layer 1 if you haven’t changed anything) and apply an extremely small (1-5px) Gaussian Blur to the layer.

Step 3: The Fauve Bit



You have to do several things here.

1. Highlight your background layer and duplicate it (CTRL+J)

2. Drag it to the top of the layer stack.

3. Change the Blending Mode to “Multiply”

4. Reduce the Opacity to whatever feels right for you. It will depend on the image.

5. Add a Filter>Noise>Median to this multiplied layer. Your aim here is to remove any distinctiveness/definition from the objects within the lines. Your “Edges” layer has provided the definition, the blur here is just putting colour and shape within those lines. The amount of noise you add here is up to you and will depend not only on your preferences but on the px size of the image.

6. (Optional) Use the move tool to shift the colour layer a few pixels up and right (or down & left, or any combination thereof!!)

And that’s about it! Simple!

To recap (and for the tl;dr people!)

– Duplicate your image

– Filter>Stylize>Find Edges

– New Threshold Layer. Adjust to taste. Add blur to Edges layer above if necessary.

– Duplicate Background image again. Move to top of layer stack. Blend mode to Multiply, Opacity reduced to taste (start around 65%)

– Filter>Noise>Median to Multiplied layer. Adjust to taste.

– Move tool to shift the multiplied layer off-centre (start at 3px vert & horizontal)

Playing around with the various sliders is obviously going to garner different results. Here are some I did earlier, and thanks for reading!



Joy Division, NME Anniversary SpecialIf you’ve seen Twenty Four Hour Party People, then you’ll know that it’s considered that the Sex Pistols’ gig at the Free Trade Hall in 1976 was a key moment in British music history. New Order were there, as well as some other music-to-be legends. If you’ve ever seen that front cover of the NME, then you’ll have seen the work of a photographer-to-be who was also at that gig. His name was Kevin Cummins. I never read the NME – I though it was too pretentious, and all my peers read it, so Sounds was my magazine of choice. I also didn’t properly appreciate art. I was a teenager.

Joy Division were a massive influence in my life, even though I was born a shade too late. I was only just turned 11 when Curtis died in 1980. The album “Closer” though was my teenage anthem album with the haunting ‘Martin Hannett’ drums at the beginning of Atrocity Exhibition hooking me within the first few moments. Music aside though, my only real visual connection to Joy Division has been through the photographs of Kevin Cummins, Bernard Pierre-Wolff, and through the very stylized graphic design of Peter Saville.

This article isn’t about Joy Division though.

Part of doing an A Level in Photography revolves around research. So it was research that drew me to Kevin Cummins’ work. When faced with topics and themes to shoot, it’s easy to begin by looking at the work of big named photographers like Bresson, Adams, Avedon, Erwitt or Parr. Photography is art, and art is all about appreciation. There are rules, guides, recommendations and theories, but at the end of the day it’s all about what you think and/or feel when you look at an image. That’s how it works for me anyway. Do you like to look at it?

Kevin Cummins was really the focus of my first research based project and the photographs in his book are subjectively brilliant. It’s not so much a picture book about Manchester, but more a trip down memory lane for me as a dedicated Peel listener. “This is what life was like”, I tell my daughter as we leaf through black and white images of Hulme in Manchester. When we get to the image of a lad in a crowd, with a can of evo-stick in his hand and a spaced out look, I pause. Another drug of the late 70’s. Glue. I’d forgotten about that. The shot of the Happy Mondays’ Bez later on in the book continues in this vein of the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. As Stuart Maconie puts is in his piece speaking about 1986: “Rampant privatisation meant that you couldn’t even rely on a bus to get you out of town, though you could count on the cheap brown heroin coming up and down the West Coast main line to get you out of everything else.

These aren’t just rock photographs. This is a book of social documentary. And it’s not just the “It’s grim up north” crowd that will appreciate it. The book itself through from the mid 70’s to the mid noughties which is a whistlestop tour over 30 years in 380+ pages – it’s a weighty tome, and it’s not all about the pictures. Commentary from the likes of Paul Morely, Stuart Maconie and even John Harris (of Sounds fame!) really add some wrapping to the photographs themselves. Even the Afterword supplied by Tony Wilson, three days prior to his death, has a poignant part in the book.

© Kevin Cummins, William Kent Crescent, Hulme, 1981

Taking the book apart, it’s broken down into four sections. Each section heralded by a writer speaking about that era. The first “Phase” starts at the beginning and covers a time period of late 70’s to early 80’s. Iggy Pop, The Fall, The Buzzcocks, and of course, the iconic Joy Division shots. Wooden floored rehearsal studios, grey concrete housing and overpasses covered in snow. Cummins worked with what he had and looks like he shot exclusively in B&W. As he states in the forward “I rarely shot more than one roll of film. I couldn’t really afford to.” This was “My Manchester”. By the time the mid eighties arrived, I wasn’t fussed for the Smiths or the Happy Mondays. I was 5 years behind everyone else and listening to my extremely thick vinyl copies of “Still” and “Closer” mmixing it up with “Three Imaginary Boys” and the Stranglers’ “No More Heroes”. We’d moved “dahn sahth”. I was no longer a northerner and I was probably more than 5 years behind everyone else…

And that’s where the second “Phase” of the book begins. Covering ground from New Order, through the Smiths, the Mondays and the Stone Roses. In fact the next three “Phases” cover these bands as they age, moving into the “Britpop” 90’s with Oasis lest we forget.

Taking the book as a whole, and leafing through a 30 year career, it’s easy to see how Cummins has progressed and improved as a photographer. It’s also easy to see that he’s not lost his touch on/back stage (or out front!) managing to capture the musicians with some remarkable portraits in undoubtedly difficult shooting conditions. Looking for the Light through the Pouring Rain is a real slice of Manchester over the course of three decades. This isn’t a “rock portrait” book, and it isn’t a Manchester promotion. It is what it is. One man’s view through the lens, of a city, as it created what would turn out to be some of the biggest influences on modern music. I’m glad I’ve seen the world through Cummins’ eyes.

Having recently been released in soft cover (I’m fortunate to have a hardback copy) this is an absolute steal for £13 at Amazon (September 2013) and would grace the shelf of any photographer with an interest in music or Manchester.

© Kevin Cummins. Peter Saville, Tony Wilson and Alan Erasmus @ the Russell Club, Hulme, 1979.

© Kevin Cummins. Peter Saville, Tony Wilson and Alan Erasmus @ the Russell Club, Hulme, 1979.


The smaller the attendance, the bigger the history. There were 12 people at the last supper, half a dozen at Kitty Hawk. Archimedes was on his own in the bath!

Tony Wilson speaking about the Free Trade Hall gig

You can see more of Kevin’s work here or you can have a look at the video below. Be warned though, it contains strong language (it has real live Mancunians in it) and may not be safe for work!


Let’s start with this image.

Photography_learning_curveI really do empathise with this image. It makes me smile because – for me – it’s so true. The fact that it is quite widely propagated around the web makes me think it’s true for other photographers too… So why is this diagram here? Well it’s here because of the “HDR Hole”. What does that have to do with filters? HDR can replace filters – specifically graduated filters.

I’m getting ahead of myself here though. Why do you need any of this stuff anyway? Let’s go back to basics with the eye. Most people have more than the average number of eyes, and our heads are wonderful cameras in a way. Light enters the eye and is processed by the brain into an image that we see in our head. Look at any landscape on a bright day and you can see the clouds in the blue sky as well as the detail in the shadows under the rocks. The amount of bright light and deep shadow we can see in the same scene is called dynamic range. Eyes have a great dynamic range. Cameras don’t. In order to reproduce a scene (in a camera) that has a high dynamic range (brightly lit areas and deep shadows in the same scene) one needs to use HDR techniques or turn to graduated filters.

HDR techniques are very good. However they require an amount of time spent post processing, and require multiple images of the same scene. My “What is HDR” post explains this in more detail, but suffice to say that you probably need to spend a few minutes in post production exporting your images, importing them into your HDR tool of choice, making the HDR, then re-importing back into your photo library. With the use of graduated filters, this can be reduced down to one photograph. Some scenes really don’t benefit from HDR. Street scenes with moving traffic or people, for example can be quite tricky to HDR-ise, as well as windy days with moving tree branches that end up being in a different place. This “ghosting” can cause some software problems and may require a bit of extra intervention.

nd grad

Graduated filters typically come as shown here. You get the filter itself which is usually a piece of glass (usually square or oblong). This sits in a holder which is attached to the camera lens by means of an adapter. You get adapters of varying sizes that match the filter diameter of your lens.

There are several manufacturers of filters – as you’d expect from cheaper brands such as Cokin, through to more expensive brands such as Lee. I have owned the Cokin system and now own the Lee system and can say without doubt that the Lee filters offer better build quality and general photographic quality. Research on the internet will allow you to make the decision yourself, because Lee filters are quite expensive, but having moved to the new Seven5 system for my Fuji X-E1, I’m very happy.

A graduated filter starts off dark at the top and fades through to clear at the bottom. The effect of this is to darken part of the frame. Now I deliberately avoided using the word “top” there as the Lee system rotates on the adapter allowing you to put the graduation at any angle. You can also move the filter within the holder up or down to place the graduation at any point in your scene. There are generally two type of graduated filter. A “Hard” grad and a “Soft” grad. The difference between the two is the degree of transparency change. A Hard grad changes from dark to clear quite dramatically. A softer grad has a much more gradual change throughout the filter. Lee starter kits ship with a hard grad, and various internet sources seem to prefer them as the amount of light blocked by the darker part of glass is available across more of the filter. Grads are graded in terms of “stops” of light filtered. So a “0.6 ND” will block 2 stops of light in the darker part of the frame. The filter holder has two or three slots so you can “double up” filters for more of an effect. Stacking a 0.6ND and a 0.75ND for example will give you 4.5 stops worth of dynamic range across your scene.

Be aware though, that the harder you filter your landscape, the more likely you are to see a dark “band” across the frame if you’re not careful. On horizons with features that stick out, you may end up losing detail. I currently just have the 0.6ND though and have only noticed this on one image and this was more likely down to user error!

The Seven5 System is smaller than Lee’s standard square filter system… 75mm in fact… One of the main aspects of downsizing to the X-E1 was to reduce the carry weight, and the smaller aspects of the Lee Seven5 system seem to work well here. The holder fits neatly into a side pocket of your camera bag, and the filters themselves stow away quite easily. I’ve been using the system on my Fuji X-E1 with the 14mm f2.8, and the addition of the filter holder, adapter and filter itself doesn’t add much to the bulk of the camera. Of course it is impossible to use the standard lens hood with this system, but Lee helpfully make their (rather expensive!) version here.

In terms of buying the system, Lee filters historically have been hard to obtain, with UK suppliers often “Awaiting stock”. I bought my set from Wex Photographic as they showed it in-stock at a competitive price. Lee filters are unlikely to be sourced cheaper from elsewhere as they are a British product. Still – it’s always worth checking around before buying.

Using filters rather than “in-computer” darkroomery has also slowed me down and made me consider my composition and lighting before shooting. One other benefit to this is that my hard drive is no longer filled with many images of the same scene to be used for HDR post-processing. I also feel like a proper photographer!