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Transform A Vacation Snapshot Into Art Using Photoshop Actions

Free Photoshop Actions and Lightroom Presets by MCP™

Transform A Vacation Snapshot Into Art Using Photoshop Actions

Yesterday, I shared information and images of my family vacation to the Southern Caribbean.  Today, I’ll show you an edit where I transform the image from a snapshot into a photo I am printing on a gallery wrapped canvas.

I took the following photo in Curacao, while on board a trolley.  I could not stop and compose it properly.  I was in a moving vehicle with 50 or so people. As such I quickly snapped the image and figured I’d see if I had something workable later.  I often hear photographers on my blog and on Facebook say to other photographers, “you need to get it right in camera.”  Some even think Photoshop action makers, or even Adobe Photoshop in general, enables photographers to cheat and not learn to take great pictures without editing.  I do agree Photoshop is a tool that sometimes helps less than perfect photos.  But sometimes, for example when you are on a tour and cannot stop to get a better shot, it is the only way to not miss capturing an image.

To me it is more important to document the moment, especially on vacation, than just forget it because things were not ideal.  What do you think?

Now for the edit:

  1. I started by using MCP Fusion Actions Set – and ran One Click Color. I left everything at the default opacity.
  2. Next I ran the Magic Markers Action. Normally you paint this action on just where you want it. But I wanted it everywhere so I inverted the layer mask instead (Ctrl + I: PC or Command + I: Mac). It was a bit strong, so I lowered the opacity of that layer to 45%. I loved the pop of color – do you?  The buildings, if you’ve ever visited Curacao, actually are very close to the intensity in the after.  The original snapshot did not truly capture how vibrant they were.
  3. Lastly, I cropped it to a 20×10 ratio.  There was so much sky in the original and that guard rail was pretty ugly too.  So as I cropped I also rotated the image slightly.
  4. I am printing this as a 30×14″ gallery wrapped image, but am having the lab digitally stretch the sides, as I do not want to lose any of the print.  I could stretch it myself but it’s quicker to have them do it.

colorful buildings in Curacao

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58 Comments

  1. Alice C.
    April 12, 2012 at 3:16 pm —

    Oh wow! What an amazing difference!

  2. Lonna
    April 12, 2012 at 2:50 pm —

    Like I said, I LoVe this photo shot. Jodi, I will look on the site to purchase those actions, just a little support.

  3. Lonna
    April 12, 2012 at 2:44 pm —

    I do not have to write a book here,it is wonderful. I LoVe it.

  4. Elly
    April 12, 2012 at 2:06 pm —

    ps…Beautiful pictures! 🙂

  5. Elly
    April 12, 2012 at 2:05 pm —

    Jodi! Wow! Wonderful post… I am a newbie in the photog world…sigh…and it sure is frustrating, exciting, overwhelming…and I could go on…but I’ll stop there. 🙂 Anyway, I appreciated your post…it was on a topic that I think we all wonder- the best way to capture a vaca with HQ photos IN the overwhelming world of photography- but never think someone would actually take the time to share their approach/perspective! Thank you so much! I love posts that share how THE PROFESSIONALS are THINKING when they take pics…”First priority is this, then this, and so on…” It helps me gain perspective of how to organize all the different settings in my head! Haha!

  6. Donna
    April 12, 2012 at 1:05 pm —

    I love this shot and I have several vacation pics in my home that would probably not impress many people, but they do mean something to me and I love them because they are part of my journey as a photographer. Although, I do wish I could go back to a few places and take them now that I have improved!

    On a side note, how do you get the printer to digitally stretch the edges. I tend to really fill my frame when I shoot and have run into this issue with several canvases. I ended up doing black edges so that I didn’t sacrifice the image, but I’m intrigued by this digital stretching you speak of here.

    Thanks for all of your great advice and information!!!!

    • April 12, 2012 at 1:44 pm —

      It is something you can often pay your lab to do if you do not want to. Or some have it as an ordering option. For example Color Inc has that as an order option – they take the image and cover the sides without losing the frontal image.

  7. April 12, 2012 at 12:08 pm —

    Thank you for sharing, I am gearing up to go to Cuba for my wedding this weekend then off to the Philippines and knowing what I should and shouldn’t bring is huge! Especially since I am bringing a dive camera as well 🙂

  8. Liz
    April 12, 2012 at 12:01 pm —

    And shame on the people who are being so critical. We should be helping each other out and lifting each other up. Not everyone is going to like every photo, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t “art”. I don’t care for a lot of images that I have seen taken by “professionals”. Everyone’s style is so different. We can’t judge others work like that.

    • April 12, 2012 at 5:32 pm —

      They must not have been taught the expression, “if you donot have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” When I ask for opinions, I know I am opening myself up for critique. For example if I say “do you like the colors or composition of this image” but when I or others post to share, it is interesting what people will still volunteer.

      I am pretty used to it, but I sometimes feel bad when someone posts a photo on my facebook wall and people attack it. If I see something they could easily tweak I may help and advise, but not just say unproductive comments to make them feel bad.

  9. Aimee Hernandez
    April 12, 2012 at 11:58 am —

    Wow its really great that you can get a final product as that from the original photo! well done!
    I agree with what ile g has to say!
    As for me its also a work of art while you are adjusting the colors or how it will look in the end..It’s like in painting if you don’t get the colors that you wanted you add some more..

  10. Liz
    April 12, 2012 at 11:58 am —

    This is really impressive! If I didn’t know any better I wouldn’t even guess this was derived from the before shot. Awesome! I wish I could edit my photos like this. I have some from Italy that I would love to make pop like this! Beautiful!

  11. lisa Wiza
    April 12, 2012 at 11:54 am —

    I Agree that art is subjective, this for me is a reflection of Jodi,s creative talent. the gifting is in taking a decent shot from a moving vehicle and then having the eye and creative talent to transform it postproduction into some thing worthy of hanging on the wall. Id definetly hang it on mine 🙂

  12. Chris Moraes
    April 12, 2012 at 11:38 am —

    Wow! I can’t believe the before and after. I am new to Photoshop so really impressed to see what can be done. It looks great Jodi and will make a beautiful canvas.

  13. ile g
    April 12, 2012 at 11:22 am —

    The comment from the ever-perfect-commenter Cort above,”We should be encouraging photographers to take the time do it right, to wait for the light, find the right angle and yes, get it right in the camera. Instead we encourage so-so images, excuses and excessive post processing in Photoshop.”

    The author’s disclaimer in her post above, “I could not stop and compose it properly. I was in a moving vehicle with 50 or so people. As such I quickly snapped the image and figured I’d see if I had something workable later.”

    Any photographer can say the first statement above. Any excellent photographer can say and admit the second statement that follows. If there is a photographer in this world that can get it right EVERY time and in every exposure then I sure as heck don’t want to meet them. People like that can’t grow, they can’t learn, they cannot expand. Even in the years of film even some of the best photographers dodged and burned in the darkroom. You can bet your butt Ansel Adams worked some pieces of his photographs to pull out a little more horizon.
    So now, people adjust in Lightroom or Photoshop. Big deal. It’s evolution. Sometimes getting the shot is much more important than getting it right and if it takes a little work afterward to make it breathtaking then so be it.

    • April 12, 2012 at 11:47 am —

      Ile – maybe he did not read before commenting… Thanks for recapping for Cort.

      I totally agree on the evolution and that LR and PS are tools. Why not use them?

      Thanks for chiming in. Come back soon.

      Jodi

  14. Saundra McClain
    April 12, 2012 at 10:08 am —

    This photo is so nice. Your photography and photoshop skills are amazing!!!

  15. April 12, 2012 at 9:54 am —

    Beautiful! Way to catch the image in the moment and then make it fantastic! Thanks for sharing. I always learn so much from your blog.

  16. Angela
    April 12, 2012 at 9:45 am —

    I love it! I have some images that would make great art. May have to give this a whirl!!! It is going to be a great canvas!!!

  17. April 12, 2012 at 9:43 am —

    It is still a snapshot, a better looking one, but for me it isn’t art. Getting it right in the camera is important, the problem with too many photographers today is they think the image is created on the computer in Photoshop not in the camera.

    We should be encouraging photographers to take the time do it right, to wait for the light, find the right angle and yes, get it right in the camera. Instead we encourage so-so images, excuses and excessive post processing in Photoshop.

    • Dawn
      April 12, 2012 at 10:11 am —

      I say boo to this comment and bravo to Jodi for capturing a memory that will remind you of the great time your family had on vacation. And bravo to you for letting your vacation be a VACATION and I’m sure your family appreciates that you did not stop to perfectly set up and compose every shot since that would have taken time from making memories for your family. I did not read that she was claiming it to be perfect or that she expects it to hang in a gallery. Jodi, keep up the great work!

      • April 12, 2012 at 11:43 am —

        Dawn, exactly – yes – I want nice images, but I was not on a photo expidition, I was on a family vacation 🙂 And being able to make something better is a good thing, not bad, in my opinion. Thanks, Jodi

    • Bob
      April 12, 2012 at 10:55 am —

      A snapshot is an “amateur photograph.” This is by far not a picture from an amateur. Sometimes, you have to take what you can get when you can get it. I would rather have a picture of something, than nothing at all. If you only take the ones you can get at just the right angle, with just the right light, with the right pose….you are missing out on so much more.

    • Jenn
      April 12, 2012 at 11:03 am —

      I agree with you cort. I live in an area where every day I struggle to make business against people who take so-so images and get away with busibess from excessive photoshop. The fact that I can compose and have great images in camera excites some people, but not enough to drag business away from those so called ‘photographers.’

      I went to school, learned to properly shoot, and can take a decent image in camera. Heck, i can compose and shoot with film – most of these cheapies are so used to shooting in auto and fixing in photoshop that they would not be able to shoot in film.

      On the other side of it, i do like to do a lot of snap-bys on vacation and fix later. Its really hard for me to take time away from family vacations and fun and compose shots all of the time instead.

    • April 12, 2012 at 11:40 am —

      Cort, Art is subjective. It is art to me, and I am making a print for my wall. To you it may not be. That is fine.

      I fully admit and explained that it was created from a snapshot taken while on a moving trolley tour of the island. The trolley did not stop for me to compose an image. I took what I could.

      I encourage people to capture memories. My readers are both hobbyists and pros. When you are with your kids/family on vacation, the goal (or mine anyway) is to document the time not spend minutes or hours composing photos.

      So yes, for a professional portrait or landscape image, we should encourage lighting, composition, etc. Though those often can be enhanced in Photoshop too.

      For everyday lifestyle images I feel using a tool like Photoshop can make snapshots look better – whether they are “so-so” or incredible.

      • Jenaroo
        April 12, 2012 at 12:52 pm —

        Cort (and other haters) you know that the site is called MCP Actions, right? It is about enhancing your images with tools like photoshop. If you see no use for these tools, you can go elsewhere.
        A few comments – I think Jodie offers a good mix of providing tools and posts to help people become better photographers so that they can get it right, the first time, in the camera. And….I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure the vision for this website isn’t about “encourag[ing] so-so images, excuses and excessive post processing in Photoshop.”
        Shitty Photoshopping is shitty photoshopping, and many of us have been guilty, but sometimes it is part of our own personal journey…and…if I over process my shots, is it really hurting anyone but the people I force to look at my pictures?
        As an aside, I have some of my daughter’s ‘art’ on my fridge. I think the pieces are beautiful and each one has meaning to me (and probably only to me – but isn’t that what makes it art, it speaks to me and elicits an emotional response?). I personally don’t care for any of Degas’ work, but does that lack of appreciation mean that he’s not truly an artist?
        Anyway, I’ve probably lost you by now, you probably had a rage black-out when I called my daughter’s fridge art ‘art.’ Are you itching to tell everyone that her lines aren’t straight and her composition is off….. ??

      • Jenaroo
        April 12, 2012 at 12:52 pm —

        Cort (and other haters) you know that the site is called MCP Actions, right? It is about enhancing your images with tools like photoshop. If you see no use for these tools, you can go elsewhere.

        A few comments – I think Jodie offers a good mix of providing tools and posts to help people become better photographers so that they can get it right, the first time, in the camera.

        And….I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure the vision for this website isn’t about “encourag[ing] so-so images, excuses and excessive post processing in Photoshop.”

        Shitty Photoshopping is shitty photoshopping, and many of us have been guilty, but sometimes it is part of our own personal journey…and…if I over process my shots, is it really hurting anyone but the people I force to look at my pictures?

        As an aside, I have some of my daughter’s ‘art’ on my fridge. I think the pieces are beautiful and each one has meaning to me (and probably only to me – but isn’t that what makes it art, it speaks to me and elicits an emotional response?). I personally don’t care for any of Degas’ work, but does that lack of appreciation mean that he’s not truly an artist?

        Anyway, I’ve probably lost you by now, you probably had a rage black-out when I called my daughter’s fridge art ‘art.’ Are you itching to tell everyone that her lines aren’t straight and her composition is off….. ??

        • April 12, 2012 at 1:45 pm —

          I bet your daughter’s art is beautiful. Art is in the eye of the beholder. And when I look at my canvas of Curacao I will have warm memories and a smile.

  18. mark
    April 12, 2012 at 9:42 am —

    Hmmm, would love to try this with some of my pics…

  19. April 12, 2012 at 9:36 am —

    So love this image! Will make a fabulous canvas!!!!

  20. Diana
    April 12, 2012 at 9:04 am —

    I think the ‘after’ image is spectacular and a great way to capture the memories of your vacation… amazing!!!

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Transform A Vacation Snapshot Into Art Using Photoshop Actions