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Product Spotlight: Photoshop CAFE “Photoshop Secrets: Photographic Effects” Tutorial DVD

As a portrait and event photographer based in San Francisco, I’m known for my youthful and playfully dreamy effects. I grew up on analog photography and developed my aesthetic through experimentation with my own filters; shooting through fabrics, using double exposures and props to create different levels of perception. Most of the effects in my work are created with the camera lens. I’m not a “fix it in post” kind of gal.

Things you are likely to see me with: Lensbaby, homemade filters, toy cameras.

Things I rarely use: Photoshop.

However, I like to think I subscribe to these words:

“The further you get away from yourself, the more challenging it is. Not to be in your comfort zone is great fun.” ― Benedict Cumberbatch

So, after challenging myself to try Photoshop CAFE’s Photoshop Secrets: Photographic Effects tutorial DVD I realized I could recreate several of my favorite “analog” effects after the shoot on my computer. What appealed to me the most were the effects that would mimic film, old photographs, toy cameras and tilt shift lenses.

Photoshop CAFE offers many training videos on a wide variety of topics. I looked through the titles and started with what sounded the most interesting, Photoshop CAFE’s Photoshop Secrets: Photographic Effects, created by Colin Smith (a major Photoshop guru). You can tell that Colin enjoys teaching and wants you to not only learn his secrets, but also experiment and discover your own. The tips are great for users of all levels and the lessons were easy to learn and follow. If I got stuck I could always stop, back up or start over.

The lessons I found most fun to explore with were Zoom Blur, Toy Camera and antique. These mimic my favorite effects from filters, toy cameras, tilt shift lenses like Lensbaby.

There are a couple great ways to get an out of focus, blurry, dreamy fuzzy feel to your images through the lens. Sometimes photographers deliberately use a shallow focus technique to create images with prominent out-of-focus regions. The Zoom Blur and Tilt Shift lessons in Photoshop CAFE help copycat what depth of field, lens filters and Lensbaby lenses can do.

Zoom Blur:
The Zoom Blur effect is something I would normally create with a homemade filter or a Lensbaby. I use a store-bought clear filter and smear deodorant around the outside of the filter. When you shoot through this on your camera lens, you get a blurred edge. You can always change the amount on the filter, adding more or less smudging as needed. Also, this effect can be created in the camera when you use a slower shutter speed and zoom in on your lens as you release the shutter.

Tilt Shift:
I use a Lensbaby tilt shift lens for when I want a dreamy look, which I most often do. Lensbaby is a line of camera lenses for SLR cameras that combines a simple lens with a bellows or ball and socket mechanism that is used in special-effect photography. You can adjust the blur to give a selective focus and an extremely shallow depth of field or a vignette of a blur that you have control over. The lens itself actually moves and bends so you have control over what you want in focus. During the Tilt Shift lesson, Colin creates a strip of area that stays in focus while the rest goes out of focus. Selected blurring can sometimes give the illusion of miniaturization(I did not know that magic tricks were going to be included in this DVD).

Toy Camera:
For film cameras, my current favorite is my ultra-stylish Diana F+ Flash. I adore medium square format images, altogether too familiar these days (thanks Instagram!). With plastic toy cameras and lenses, you can get a more “Lo-Fi” feel, which usually forms a slightly blurry image with light leaks. Photoshop CAFE showed me how to get that toy camera look with my digital images with a quick and easy process.
As my interest and confidence grew, I decided to try some lessons that I in no way could create in my camera body or through the lens. I was most interested in the Old Antique Photo look, a Vintage look, Pencil Sketching and a Painting effect.

Old Antique Photo & Vintage:
Looking at old photographs reminds us of times gone by. In Photoshop CAFE you can learn how to make your full color images into old antique images from the 1800s. For wedding images this simple effect is a nice added touch for the bride and groom.
In addition to the old antique look, there is also a lesson on making your image look vintage. By reducing the saturation, changing the color temperature and adding some grain, your images can have a vintage feel. This is fantastic for landscapes, old buildings, and wedding images as well as portrait sessions.

Pencil Sketch:
Making a card for a friend or need a fun birthday gift idea? Why not try something whimsical, like a pencil sketch. After you are done with this lesson, you can print the image out on a card or get the print framed.

Lastly, I tried the painting effect on some of my portrait sessions with my friends. I went nuts with this one and sent examples to anyone involved in the photos. My buddies freaked out over these, and the photos quickly became their Facebook profile pics and cover photos. 
Saying that is was easy for me to step out of my playful analog props box and dive into using Photoshop is an understatement. Like I said before, most of what I do is through the camera lens and body; all those effects that everyone can now do in Photoshop (get off my lawn kids!). I had fun learning some more technical digital skills with this DVD. Colin encourages you to learn his techniques but also to be adventurous on your own. He wants you to use the lessons to explore and come up with your own creations. There is no doubt in my mind that I will use these effects in my photography post editing. The best part of all is how much fun I had playing and learning the lessons.


Shanna Doherty is a photographer with creative flare and an artistic eye. She has photographed weddings, portraits and events for more than 16 years. Shanna believes that displaying detail is crucial to portraying the feeling of the event to the viewer. She utilizes themed environments with the use of filters and props to create different layers for perception. Shanna’s mediums include digital and film and her images embody humor, playfulness and spontaneity. See more of her work at her website,