Home Aviation Videos Equipment & Software Tutorial Links Weather Contact



If you've visited my site before you may have noticed it's changed a bit. It has been renamed and I've created new banners to show this. I've also moved my blog to a new provider and the two sites tie in quite nicely together. Take a look by clicking on the link below

I haven't done much photography recently, well not aviation anyway, but I'm hoping that will change this year. I already have a couple of trips planned but it's finding the time to process the images that is difficult at the moment

Keep an eye out too for a new feature to the site which will be happening soon. I'm adding an online shop where you'll be able to buy limited edition prints of my work

For more up to date news and articles take a look at my blog:


This is a run through of my workflow for processing my pictures. It doesn't work all the time but I'd say it has a pretty good record so far

Before I start though, I'd just like to say how important it is to calibrate your monitor. I use the xRite Eye-One Display2 and calibrate my screen every 4 weeks. This way you can be certain that the colours on any printouts you might do will match what is on your screen.

I have a computer dedicated for using Photoshop CS6. There's 2 Samsung HD monitors connected to it, one is a 24in, the other a 22in and both are widescreen. The 24in is used for all the editing with the 22in having all the menus; this way the editing screen isn't cluttered with lots of windows

I also have Adobe Dreamweaver for creating this website and Sony Vegas Movie Studio installed. There's plenty of RAM (8GB upgradeable to 16) and I use a Wacom Tablet for editing.


This tutorial is using Photoshop CS3 but I'm pretty sure everything can be done on Adobe Elements.

So, to get things started, open the file you wish to edit in RAW. CS3 gives you the option to open JPG files in RAW so if you have this option give it a go. Otherwise you can skip the first few stages until we get into opening the file in Photoshop proper

You'll see that the image above is not too bright and the colours aren't that great either. That screen shot is taken from my editing screen, with the one on the left from my menus screen


The first thing we need to do is boost the Exposure a little. You do this by sliding the Exposure slider to the right. If you press the Alt key at the same time as doing this you'll notice the screen turns black with a few colours here and there. This shows where the image is starting to get over exposed in red. I tend to move the the slider until a faint shape of the aircraft starts to come through. Once you're happy, realease the Alt key and take a look. You can always adjust a little with your naked eye. What you're looking for is a good peak in the centre of the histogram
Next I go to the blacks. This is good for bringing out the darker areas in pictures, especially tyres and engine intakes. Again using the Alt key as you move the slider changes the screen colour, but this time to white; with the dark areas coming through as blue. I adjust till the shape of the wheels or the engine intake can be seen
This is what I've ended up with already with just a couple of tweaks. The image is already brighter with a +.85 boost to the exposure and the Blacks of the engines and the tyres are looking a lot better too with an increase to 20. This is actually a lot higher than normal, the Blacks normally are around the 9 or 10 area but it was a dark day, and with the high Exposure increase these were turned a lot paler than normal

Next stage is to bring out the colours. First I go down to Saturation and use the slider again. The Alt key doesn't work for this and it's really all down to judgement, but I've found that 10 to 15 is about right, trying to get as close to 10 as possible. Then it's the Contrast which I aim for between 10 and 20 but again as close to 10 as possible. Finally I change the Brightness and this I set to half of the Contrast. Why this works I don't know but it does

That's it with the RAW side of things. Just a note here though, with some lenses you can get some vignetting. You can elimate this by using the Lens Corrections panel, the third tab from the right underneath the Histogram

At the bottom right there's 3 choices; Open Image - Cancel - Done. Hovering over them gives you the explanations of what they do so I won't go through it here, but the one we want is Open Image

The first thing we want to do is make sure the image is level. Using Ctrl-' brings up the grid. Try to find things you know should be level or perfectly upright and gauge how level the image is. Sometimes you're lucky and nothing needs doing, but for the most a little rotation is needed

Under Image-Rotate Canvas-Arbitrary you'll end up with a window as in the image above. You will only need small rotations normally, but experiment and you'll soon get to know how much you need to apply

You'll see from the image here that I used the roof of the building and pole to determine the level of the image. I actually used 3 rotations till I was happy, each at 0.1 rotation

Next we'll need to crop the image. Once you've clicked on the Crop symbol in the tools palette you just need to amend the dimensions of the crop. Changing the width to 14.45cm and the height to 9.64cm gives you the same dimensions as a standard photo print

Left click the mouse and drag over the image until you have the aircraft dead centre of the image. A little tweaking here and there will probably be needed to get it just right. Then just right click to finish the crop

In some cases you may have had to extend the crop outside of the image. I sometimes use this if there's plenty of sky. To fill in the "empty space" created I use the Clone Stamp tool. Alt-left mouse on a bit of sky close to the empty space and then holding left mouse on the empty space start drawing in sky, cloning from the first click

In this case, however, there isn't the need to Clone, but there is plenty of dust spots to remove. They're very faint, and normally need the image to be taken to 100% in size to be seen. Take your time here, slowly moving the image around looking for blemishes. I tend to drag the image back and forth as things seem to stand out a bit better.

You'll see from my image that the spots are very faint indeed. To remove them I use the Spot Healing brush. This is very easy to use; all you need to do is draw over the spots and they are removed by averaging out all the other pixals around
  The next stage for Sharpening is slightly time consuming, but I got around this by creating an Action. Instructions on how to do this is within the Photoshop help area so I won't go into this. I will explain the full process though. This isn't a discovery of mine, but picked up from the book "Adobe Photoshop CS3 for photographers" by Martin Evening

1. If you're making an Action, press Record now. Create a Background copy by dragging the Background layer onto the New layers button in the layers palette. Set the layer opacity to 66% and layer blend mode to Luminosity. Double click in the layer on the far right, which opens the Layer Style option. You then need to change both the This Layer and Underlying Layer sliders to the following: Min Black - 20, Max Black - 75, Min White - 185, Max White - 235. Click Ok

2.Change the name of the layer to Presharpen layer. Then go to Unsharp mask and use the settings shown in my demo image. Use this radius setting for a 11 megapixel camera or more, an 8MP camera use 0.5 and a 6MP camera use 0.6 (I have to change mine if I use my 300D for instance) If you're recording an Action click on the stop button here and insert a a pause so that you can change the settings as above if needed. Either way, click on OK to finish the first Sharpen stage

3. The next stage is to run another sharpen but this time to concentrate on the fine edges of the image. This brings out the airframe a lot better.

So, if you're recording start it up again and then click on Image - Calculations. Source 1 needs to be the original file name, Layer set to Presharpen and Channel to Red. Source 2 needs to be the copy filename (it'll come up when you click on it), Layer again is Presharpen and the Channel is Green this time. Set Blending to Pin Light and Opacity to 100%. Result should be New Channel

Go to Filter - Stylize and choose Find Edges. Then make a levels adjustment by selecting Image-Adjustment-Levels. Change the settings to Channel: Alpha 1, and then the three boxes under the histogram need to be 200/1.00/255 respectively. The Output Levels need to be 255/0. Click on ok and then select Filter-Blur-Gaussian Blur and change the amount to 0.4

Then its another Levels adjustment with settings Alpha 1, 15/1.00/195 and 0/255


4. Click on the Channels tab in the Layers window and drag the Alpha 1 layer into the make Selection button (like a little sun at the bootom of the window), then click the Layers tab and select Add layer mask.

Now, in the Presharpen layer click the left thumbnail and then run an Unsharp mask with the settings: Amount - 200, Radius - 0.8, Threshold - 0. Click on OK. And thats it. Click on stop if you've been recording. As you can see, it's a long winded process so creating an Action means you can just reuse this all the time - it takes approx 10 seconds to run the Action instead of about 5 minutes the long way

The last thing to do is to remove any jaggy edges that may have been produced. The main areas I find are the tail-logo, wheels, titles, engines and leading edged/flaps. Now, you don't want to over do things otherwise the last sharpening stage would have been a complete waste of time.


So first, click on the right thumbnail on the Presharpen layer and then select the Brush tool from the tools palette. Make sure the settings are: Mode - Normal, Opacity - 50% and Flow 100%. Then draw over the jaggy edges as required, with the 50% opacity it doesn't change that much so you can go over any areas again until you're happy

And that's it. All you need to do now is save the image. Personally I save the image as a PSD file. That way if you ever need to change anything you can do. For the website or for magazines I also create a JPG version. So once saved as a PSD file, I then save as a JPG if required.

If you've been working on a 16Bit image like I do you need to adjust it to an 8Bit one as in the image to the left. And then just save the image

Of course if you need to resize the image then do it before saving

I hope you'll find this tutorial interesting and useful. There's bound to be other and easier ways of doing this, but I've got to say that this method has bought me the best results to date. You can compare the original and final image on the left

More Albums

Lossiemouth, April 2012

Nellis AFB, March 2012

Leuchars, January 2012

Lossiemouth, October 2011

Faro, September 2011

Lossiemouth, October 2010

Dubai, March 2010

Japan and China, October 2009


© Tony Roper 2013