How to Photograph and Edit a Snowflake + A Free Sparkle Brush

Free Photoshop Actions and Lightroom Presets by MCP™

How to Photograph and Edit a Snowflake + A Free Sparkle Brush


As the first snowflakes touched down here in Ontario, Canada I snuck outside to snap a few quick shots on my back deck. The snowflakes were big and fluffy and moving very slow, and didn’t last more than a minute or so once they landed. I have been playing around with macro free lensing and just recently received my macro reverse ring adapter. The adapter makes the process much easier (without the adapter you have to hold your lens up to the body, which can become tricky at times). Using my Canon Rebel T2i, the adapter and my Canon 50mm 1.8 lens I assembled them like so:

carly bee photography reverse macro instructions

While in manual mode, I set my shutter speed to 400 and kept my ISO on auto (for this shot it was at 100). Once I found the snowflake that I liked, I simply moved in until it appeared sharp through my viewfinder and snapped away. The technique itself is very simple and with such a shallow depth of field it’s actually very easy to see what is in focus, it’s just a matter of holding still enough (if hand holding your camera) and using the right settings to get it right SOOC. This was my raw SOOC shot (not perfect, but it was good enough):



And here is the after image:carly-bee-sparkly-snow

To edit I opened the RAW image in ACR and applied basic adjustments:

  • Straightened and cropped, adjusted exposure value to +0.40, adjusted contrast value to +75, adjusted highlights value to -100, and adjusted blacks value to -36

I then opened in Photoshop CS CC and applied the following edits:

  1. I de-noised.
  2. Adjusted levels and curves for a rich matte finish (on blurred background only). You can use one of the many matte actions from the MCP Inspire Actions Set for Photoshop and Elements to get this look quickly.
  3. Using the white eyedropper in levels, sampled the snowflake and then reduced the layer opacity until the color looked correct (to 32%).
  4. Applied a grey gradient fill layer → created new fill layer → gradient → style: reflective → angle: 90° → scale: 40% → checked off “reverse” → then dragged the gradient until it was placed over the in focus strip of wood and snowflake correctly (sort of like a faux tilt shift effect) → masked any of the gradient off the snow flake and adjusted the layer opacity to taste (to 33%). MCP Inspire also has two powerful actions to accomplish this: the Shallow Depth of Field action and Custom Depth of Field action
  5. Ran the FREE MCP Touch of Light and using a large (2500 px) brush clicked on the snowflake area a couple times then decreased the layer opacity (to 25%) until it looked right

The last step was adding the faux sparkle that I created by hand. Want to use this on your images? Use the “share box” here. If you do not see it, please try another browser:

[socialshare-download href=””]THE FREE SPARKLE BRUSH FOR PHOTOSHOP[/socialshare-download]

Carly Benjamin is a natural light photographer based out of the Toronto area. You can see more of her work on her website Carly Bee Photography and follow her on her Facebook page.

Free Photoshop Actions and Lightroom Presets by MCP™
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  1. January 21, 2014 at 4:20 pm —

    Thanks so much for your tutorial! I FINALLY got to take a stab at it!! Here’s my first attempt. I didn’t use the sparkle brush on this one.

  2. January 6, 2014 at 1:33 pm —

    Hi! I successfully downloaded the sparkle brush but can’t find it in my brushes in PSE 11. Is there something I am missing or didn’t catch on to? Is it named Sparkle Brush or something different. Any help you can offer I really appreciate! 🙂

  3. December 11, 2013 at 7:55 am —

    Where do I find the sprarkle brush in Elements 9? I shared, the download was successful and when I click to open the file my Photoshop Elements 9 opens….but where do I find the brush?

    • December 11, 2013 at 8:54 am —

      In your brushes section – probably the last brush.

      • December 12, 2013 at 10:44 am —

        Well, I have looked and looked. I do not find the brush. I clicked on the brush tool. Then at the top left went to the drop down where it lists all the brushes, basic, special effects, assorted, etc. I looked through all of those. I do not see the sparkle brush. Is it named sparkle? Any other suggestions as to how to find it? I closed Elements, and restarted my computer, still did not find the brush.

  4. December 9, 2013 at 6:16 am —

    I don’t see the download button for the brush either. Did we miss it? This is the first time I am seeing this post.

  5. November 20, 2013 at 6:32 pm —

    Wow, that result is amazing! I’m fascinated by macro photos, but REALLY a terrible novice with photography… 13mp smartphone camera what I’m stuck with. Sigh. I’ve been hunting like mad for a decent low cost macro lens for a smartphone, but having no luck at all. If anyone has suggestions, I’m all ears! Mostly interested in getting details on jewelry I make, so not taking teensy tiny macro photos or anything that detailed. And thanks so much for the lovely sparkle brush! Love the way yours is shaped!
    rachel of OddModicum

  6. November 20, 2013 at 9:29 am —

    I love this! However, I was searching for a way to adjust the dof and found this suggestion in a comment on amazon. It works great! Reverse mounting the lens on my T1i this way, I was able to change the dof while using my 50mm 1.8 in reverse.

  7. November 20, 2013 at 3:33 am —

    Did I miss it, 🙁 I don’t see the download for the brush. Thanks

  8. November 20, 2013 at 12:35 am —

    can you do this reverse macro adpater thing with a 70-200mm lens? I tried looking inot it but everything I read said I would need to attach my 70-200 to a 50 and do it with two lenses attached…any ideas?

  9. November 19, 2013 at 3:19 pm —

    This is great! Thank you!!!!

  10. November 18, 2013 at 11:23 pm —

    Thank you Jodi!

  11. November 18, 2013 at 5:20 pm —

    does the sparkle brush work in Lightroom?

  12. November 18, 2013 at 2:57 pm —

    Thank you!!!

  13. November 18, 2013 at 2:31 pm —

    I am having trouble being able to open the zip file for the brush. Anyone else? It wants me to chose what software to open and it doesn’t even look like a zipped file. Help! I did share and pin the link. I use PS CS6 daily so it’s not like any other brush file I’ve loaded before.

  14. November 18, 2013 at 2:22 pm —

    Thank you for the sparkle brush.

  15. November 18, 2013 at 2:11 pm —

    what kind of adapter?

  16. November 18, 2013 at 1:59 pm —

    Thank you so much for the fun sparkle brush!! How do I go about using it so that it looks as neat at yours in the photo?

  17. November 18, 2013 at 1:54 pm —

    Thank you. This will be fun to play with. And I pinned it.

  18. Veronica
    November 18, 2013 at 1:18 pm —

    What do I do with the sparkle brush after it’s downloaded in Elements?

  19. November 18, 2013 at 12:53 pm —

    What a totally fantastic photograph and a great “How To” as well!!!

    Thanks Carly xx

  20. November 18, 2013 at 12:21 pm —

    Is that a real snowflake!?

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How to Photograph and Edit a Snowflake + A Free Sparkle Brush