Blueprint of a Surfing Senior – Photoshop Actions Save the Waves

This guy wanted a hip, fun senior photograph.  And thanks to Dan Treviño of Shooting Star Photography, he is getting one.

Unfortunately the lighting was less than ideal and the original photo was kind of gray (the water, the sky, and the subject).  When he sent this in, I knew just the blueprint formula to try on it. 

Step 1: Ran Extreme Fill Flash from the MCP Quickie Collection – masked back parts of the water and 80% and sky at 30%. Then duplicated the Extreme Fill Flash layer a second time.

Step 2: Ran Noiseware (which can be found here).

Step 3: Ran Touch of Light/Touch of Darkness Action – painted Light on the white waves, Darkness on the blue water.

Step 4: Ran Crackle from the Quickie Collection at the default opacity.

Step 5: Ran Color Explosion to find the hidden colors in the water and sky.

Step 6: Flattened – then duplicated background and used the patch tool to get out sensor dust spots.  I am not sure if you can see them on the original but they were very noticeable when viewed at 100%.

Step 7: Made a New Blank layer and added gradient sky (see sky tutorial here). The sky was not blown but it needed a little lift as it was still a little gray. Adding a blue gradient was the perfect enhancement.

Step 8: Wanted a different crop with more room to the right.  So I stretched the canvas as explained in this video.

Dan Treviño bp

There was only one thing I did not love about this edit.  The photo still has some grain since it started out underexposed and since I did so much with the color and brightening it.  But as I look at it I think it still can work since many times photographers add texture to achieve this very effect.  What do you think of this extreme before and after play? I would love your thoughts.

Jodi Friedman, MCP Actions

Jodi Friedman is the founder of MCP Actions. She designs popular Photoshop actions and Lightroom presets that make editing faster, easier and more fun.

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  1. 6


    I love it! The noise doesn’t bother me at all, as it gives the picture character. I am kinda sad you cropped the wave out on the left though… that’s my only thing I would have done differently. The colors are amazing though! I am in awe!

  2. 7


    Jodi, you did an amazing job as always. I have one quick question about your actions. when I run an action it flattens the entire image so I cannot get back to anything before that action was run. When you are doing this many things to a photo are you duplicating the image as a means of stepping back?

    I hope I’m making sense. in this example if you had decided after completing step 5 that your crackle needed to be at a lower opacity can you get back to that?

  3. 8

    Donna says

    Ooooo, thanks for this. I have two dozen shots of my DH and nephew who just got back from wakeboard camp and they were shot into the sun, leaving them underexposed. I love your actions and run them on just about everything :-)

  4. 9


    I think it looks great. It really pops! I’m going to watch that video, too. I don’t mind the grain, but I might have tried a slight blur over the less detailed areas (such as the sky and water at the top) to deal with some of it.

  5. 10


    Leesa – it depends on the actions – some have steps where it is necessary for flattening to occur. I usually work an image in stages anyway – so that if crackle was too much – I would lower at that point. But in the end, if you can learn to read an action – you can learn how to turn steps off, like flattening, if it is not necessary. As I said for certain things like Lab Mode, Duotones, etc – you do need to flatten.

  6. 14

    stephanie says

    I didn’t even notice the grain until you pointed it out, the color is so stunning that you kind of just looked past it!

  7. 15


    Thanks Jodi. I did look thru one of the actions the other day and noticed the conversion to Lab…it didn’t register that this would require the flattening. I still tend to “overdo” my action applications so I’m learning for now to duplicate just in case I need to get back after looking at the final image. :-)

  8. 19

    Julia Shinkle says

    Wow! Noise, what Noise? This is so inspiring to know that some of my images that look too dark and lack color can go from this to that…Excellent work! Thanks for sharing this.

  9. 21


    Saw the headline in my Google Reader and I swear I expected to see a 70 year old man surfing. My goof. Love the before and after, excellent edits.

  10. 22


    I think the after is awesome! The only only thing I might have done is to clone out that person in the water by his hand. I caught myself looking at the tube they are floating on more than once for some reason. I think it is amazing. Thanks for sharing.

  11. 23

    Ashlee says

    I love it! The grain MIGHT bother me on a print, especially around his arms and shoulders, but this would rock on canvas! I would totally show this either way though. Great save!

  12. 26

    Sherri LeAnn says

    WOW that looks incredible !
    As soon as I get my new computer – I am buying tons of your actions

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