The Horse of Paradise – Photoshop tutorial

Hi, thanks for checking out this Photoshop tutorial. I hope you find it informative. Your feedback is greatly appreciated.


This shot came about when my wife and I were driving along an Upcountry road in Maui. Scenes like this are all over the place. The time was just before sunset, I pulled over to get some photos of this horse in Paradise. The sunset was too beautiful to miss. They all are.

When processing images, my process is, I always start big, then refine. So the first step is opening and tweaking in Camera Raw, then we go in and tweak with tools, and finally finish off with some filters and a touch-up pass.



Camera Raw

Here’s the original image opened in Camera Raw. Obviously it’s underexposed. I had no idea what I was doing at the time. But that’s ok, I’m going to show you how something like this can be salvaged. Also, notice the fence post under her chin. I’ve always been told, not to let things ‘grow’ out of your subjects. So, I generally try to avoid this kind of thing. I realize it doesn’t look like it’s actually growing out of her chin, but it is distracting, so I’ll remove it as well.


Here you can see my adjustments. I usually start with the white balance. In this case, it was on auto and I felt it looked good. I left it alone right up until the end and I decided to warm it up a little. Next I move onto the “Recovery” slider. The sky right behind the horse was blown so I pulled the recovery up to 100% to get that detail back. The information is there, Camera Raw allows you to use that pixel data to your advantage. After that I work down through the sliders. I adjust them to their extreme and back to see what it’s doing to the over all feel of the image. Just like a painting, you want to ‘rough it out’ then refine. So digitally, you push the sliders into place, then slowly go back down through them and fine tune them. This is as far as I’ll push this in Camera Raw.

Now onto some tools :)

First off, let’s get rid of the fence post. Use the patch tool, it’s great for this sort of fix. Here I make a jagged selection around the fence post. This is to break up the edge and make it less obvious. You can see in this closeup there is a halo type effect happening at the horizon line and over the background horse. I’ll deal with it later.

The patch tool, blends your selection over a new sample of your choice. So in this case I used an area to the left of the post. This allows me to maintain the same size of grass and shading for the surrounding area.

I left the fence post because I wanted more control over the wire. After the bulk of the fence post was dealt with, I came in and used a clone tool to grab pieces of wire and build a connection that was missing. Here you can see in the red circle where I was cloning from and where I was adding it on the right. My goal is to build a natural looking connection.

I work in small areas at a time. The connection is trickier than it looks, I have to used curvy bits of wire to make the connection appear to be natural. If the height changes, and in this case it does a little, I have to force a curve to keep it from looking suspicious. Now just a little bit of the fence post remains, and that will be easy to get rid of.

Chin post removal

During the Camera Raw stage, I could see that the fence post and the chin had a little bit of light between them. It’s not much, but it’s enough to separate┬áthe two.

In this closeup of the chin and post, I saw that there was enough of the bottom lip for me to clone over the post and maintain a natural curve.The cross on the right of the circle indicates where I’m cloning from.


Fixing the halo/double edge effect

Because I lightened this image so much in Camera Raw, I ended up with a thin halo effect at high contrasting edges. So for example, the horizon line earlier, and the ears. I don’t have a closeup of the entire edge, but this effect happened over the entire horse. It’s a simple fix. I start with a small clone brush and sample an area just above where I want to fix. This allows me to maintain the proper colors and tone values. Like I said, this part isn’t hard, just time consuming. My goal here is to only get rid of the halo, so working a small area at a time seems to work best for me.

Fun with filters

I dropped on a Viveza control point and pushed those sliders, again starting at the top and working down. This is a 3rd party filter. If you don’t have it, you could achieve the same effect with layer masking in photoshop.

After I was happy with the image, I cropped and shared. :)

Before and after


Thanks for reading the tutorial. Your feedback is greatly appreciated. Got ideas or requests for future tutorials? Email me your suggestions, or post them here.