Club Meeting 12 Nov 2015 (Photography and Creative Retouching)

What a great evening we had yesterday. Lee Howell enthralled us with video-based presentations showing how he creates the most amazing digital art using Photoshop. Art that is sufficiently innovative that Adobe chose his work to advertise their Creative Cloud! Anyone who missed the evening can see his work on his web site ( The videos he showed us are available here (and on YouTube). Lee describes himself as an “image maker” as well as a professional photographer. He uses his photography to build a collection of shots with which he assembles his digital images. Lee uses photographs and Photoshop in the same way an artist uses paint and a paint brush. Models are given elaborate hair pieces made from feathers copied from photographs of birds! Stark African scenes are conjured from plain-looking portraits taken in Edinburgh. The most impressive part of Lee’s work for me was seeing how he made a consistent lighting pattern by carefully dodging and burning, paying careful attention to tiny details.

Lee is inspired by the work of Annie Leibovitz, Romain Laurent and Irwin Olaf. He took up digital image creation as a way of recovering “the one that got away”. If you see the perfect shot in front of you but miss it, remember the moment and digitally recreate the elements that made that shot work. Lee revealed some of the Photoshop techniques that he uses in his work:

  • Photograph a light subject against a black background. If you add this shot as a Photoshop layer and use “screen” blending mode, the black background disappears and only your subject remains. This technique works especially well for smoke.
  • Non destructive dodging and burning: If you add a mid-grey layer above the layer you want to modify and change the blend mode to “soft light”, you can then paint the layer with white to lighten the underlying image or with black to darken the underlying image. (Note: “overlay” and “hard light” blend modes also work but give a harsher effect.)
  • To add a shadow, select your subject and convert the selection into a black shape. Add the shape to a new layer and distort into the shape of a shadow. Change the blend mode to “soft light” and the shape makes the image look darker where the shadow falls. Lee blurs the shape and feathers the edge to make the shadow look more realistic. He builds a better effect by adding several shadow layers.
  • Add a texture to a surface (such as a model’s skin) by applying a new layer in “overlay” mode. This is how a lot of the feathery head-dresses were created.

Photoshop Workshop?

I will be giving a Photoshop presentation on 31st March 2016. If anyone has been inspired by Lee’s work and would like to learn more about Photoshop earlier than then, I would be happy to start a Photoshop workshop on a mutually convenient evening. If you are interested, please let me know.

Musselburgh Riding of the Marches

The Club has been invited to participate in the exhibition of “Musselburgh Life” at Loretto Primary School as part of the 2016 Musselburgh Riding Of The Marches. We need to collect about 40 images connected with Musselburgh or Fisherrow. The display is scheduled for July 2016, but we need to tell the RoM commitee what we intend to display by the end of January. Please look into your image collections, digital or prints, or perhaps be inspired to take some new photographs in and around Musselburgh or Fisherrow. We may display some pictures of Club members in action !

Diary Dates

  • Saturday, 21st November 2016: There will be another “Girls’ Day Out” (open to any member of the club, not just girls) to explore Cockenzie/Port Seton. Tell Liz if you would like to go, or otherwise meet at 10:30am in the lounge of the Wemyss Hotel, opposite the Co-op store in Port Seton.
  • Sunday, 22nd November 2015 around 10am. SPF Digital Image Championship at the Stirling Court Hotel, Stirling.


Joe Fowler has the unenviable task of following on from Lee Howell. Joe will show us how to turn dull and unexciting shots into good images. Joe’s presentations are a must-see for newcomers, or anyone wanting to improve their photography skills.

3 thoughts on “Club Meeting 12 Nov 2015 (Photography and Creative Retouching)

  1. Thank you Mike. I didn’t mention that Lee also enhances his images using a colour blend effect. I didn’t catch what kind of colour effect he uses.

  2. Brilliant speaker and great report of meeting. We have had an excellent programme this year so far. I’ve tweaked the ROM para to include Fisherrow as I know members have some fabulous shots of the harbour.

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