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Alter Images this Winter

Connie Cassinetto (Via the Lens)

Keywords: nikon, d500, d800, z7, altered, images, software, processing

For some photographers it’s winter weather where they live and finding a good subject to photograph when it’s cold and raining or snowing outside can be difficult. Certainly, pulling on boots and jackets and braving the winter weather can result in some astounding snow or winter images.  But, that is difficult for some people to do.  You can, instead, use winter weather as a reason to interact with your existing images in a different way if you have software you have not grown accustomed to or yet used.  Cold winter weather is a great reason to take advantage of the time to further learn existing software or to learn new software that you’ve always wanted to learn. Additionally, learning to create altered images with software can be quite fun and rewarding.  Don’t despair if you can’t get outside, instead sit down and delve into all of the software you’ve bought and learn how to create new renditions of your images.  


Pier, Bay Area, California: Nikon Z7, 24-70 Z lens, 1/25 second, f/20, ISO 100.
This image was shot on the north coast of California. I created several variations of this typical pier scene. The weather that day was not helpful in creating an interesting sky and the light was not great so I rendered the image in a paint-like way and added a black border. I liked the final softness of the image.
Click for an enlargement


I have a lot of software, like many others, and some of it I know fairly well but there are several programs I don’t use often so in inclement weather I’ll sit down at the computer and bring up the program just to see what it might offer. As a Mac user I can easily and inexpensively pick up programs at the Apple store that are fun and creative to use and sometimes I’ll peruse the store to see what it offers.  My current programs from the Apple store include Cartoonist, Collage Factory Free (a collage program), Color Strokes, Essentials Edit, iGreeting Card Deluxe, Intensify, Pic Frame (another collage program), Pic Sketch, Pixelmator, Postcard, Romantic Photo, Sepia Artist, and a few more. Obviously, I like software!  I also use Photoshop, ON1, Topaz, Nik on occasion, and Smart Photo Editor at times.  It’s fun to see what I can create with each program.  I’ve also used Affinity and Luminar and have both of the programs but don’t use them for this reason as often as some other programs.  My favorite software for artistic rendering of images is Topaz.  


An Abundance of Cherries: Nikon D800, 105mm Nikon macro lens, 15 seconds, f/22, ISO 100.
This image was created in Sketch. I set up a bowl of cherries on top of a piece of paper with a design. Then I played with the resultant image in the Sketch software. If I recall correctly, I added the border in ON1.
Click for an enlargement


Once you learn a software program like Adobe’s Photoshop, you’ll find that many other programs work in a similar fashion or use similar commands. It does take a degree of skill to create the look you want but skill can be developed over time as you learn.  Knowing a little bit about the elements of art can be helpful and reading almost any art book can help you learn more about color and what might look artistic to a viewer.  Of course, as we all know, what looks artistic to one person may not look the same to another viewer.  It’s important, when altering images, to have a goal in mind and to know what it is you want to accomplish and who your viewer might be; it’s always nice to create for ourselves, but it can also be fun to create for others to view and enjoy. 


Egret: Nikon D800, 1/320 second, f/5.6 ISO 200.
This image of an egret was taken in the California Delta. I put a background layer of the eucalyptus tree that it was resting in behind it using layers in Photoshop. This image was entered into a photography competition and won a third-place award.
Click for an enlargement


These altered images can make nice gifts for family and friends.  Recently I created two posters for a friend based on the decorations in her newly acquired home and a couple of blank wall spaces that were not yet filled.  Her home’s motif, while varied, had a somewhat Asian feel as many of her pieces sported an oriental flair.  I created two posters whose colors and subject matched her interior and, when hung, were a wonderful addition to her home that her family and friends have commented on in a positive way.  I do like it when my images spread joy to others and this is one way that I can do that.  To create these posters, I used Topaz and Photoshop, working with Topaz to get the style I wanted and then Photoshop to add text the way I wanted it.  


Almond Flowers: Nikon Z7, 24-70 Z lens, 1/6400 second, f/5.0, ISO 500.
This image was shot in an almond orchard, then played with in Topaz until I got a look I wanted. After that, I used Photoshop to include text and put it where I wanted it on the image.
Click for an enlargement



Aspen Leaves: Nikon D500, Nikon 24-120 lens, 1/60 second, f/13, ISO 1000.
This image, of aspen leaves, was shot in the Sierra foothills on a windy day. Again, I placed it in Topaz, played with it, and then added the text in Photoshop.
Click for an enlargement


Most often, when I create these altered images, I’m just doing it for me as I find it fulfilling.  I like to create and working with all of the different software programs gives me a chance to do that. At times, I’ll take a photograph and know at that point how I want to alter it in the software I have.  I recently worked on an image that I took in Cuba, knowing when I took it that I would want to play with it at a later date to soften the image.  I created several altered variations of the image and I liked all of them. I’ll often also play with different borders, I like the borders in ON1 best, but have recently discovered the borders in Topaz, too. I think adding borders to an image that will be used online can be a nice addition and it sometimes sets off the image nicely.


Drying Sheets: Nikon Z7, 24-70 Z lens, 1/250 second, f/4.5, ISO 64.
This image was shot in Cuba. I played with it in Topaz and put a border on it in that program, too. I liked the poster-like look of the altered image. (Original image on left, altered image on right).
Click for an enlargement


I photograph a lot of wildflowers, both near where I live and in my travels. Flowers can be wonderful to play around with in almost any program as can almost any natural object or plant. I often add backgrounds to flowers and plants, using purchased backgrounds, such as from Flypaper backgrounds, or from backgrounds I’ve shot through time.  If I see a colorful wall or any textured surface I’ll take a quick shot, even with my cell phone.  Flowers can make a wonderful photograph to use as needed to put onto a special card for family or friends.  They are generally cheerful and sunny and might make someone feel better quickly just by seeing them on a card made personally for them.   


Dogwood Yosemite: Nikon D500, Nikon 2.8 70-200mm lens, 1/15 of a second, f/9, ISO 100.
I put a green background behind the image using layers in Photoshop.
Click for an enlargement


There is no end to what you can create and to how you can use it.  Posters, cards, a standard framed image, or an image viewed online, all can be enhanced by the personal creative touch of the photographer using a variety of software programs. Have fun, be creative, play and push your brain to learn and create.  There are no rules when creating an altered image and it allows you to learn new ways to use your images to share with others and create joy with the beauty of your image.  And, it will help to pass the time pleasantly until the weather outside improves and you can get out and take more images!

(11 Votes )

Originally written on December 22, 2019

Last updated on December 22, 2019


Neill Graham (NDGraham) on June 15, 2020

Congratulations on the award for the terrific egret rendering and I really enjoy the Dogwood Yosemite image. What really got my attention, however, was the "Pier, Bay Area" "painting". I rarely enjoy "doctored" images as much as I like yours. I have learned some technique from you, too, so I thank you for sharing your knowledge and tools. I'm going to give it a try with some of my latest Z7 shots. Best regards.

Paul Blais (PBlais) on February 25, 2020

Donor Ribbon awarded for his generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015 Ribbon awarded for his generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2017 Ribbon awarded for his generous support to the 2017-2018 fundraising campaign

Images are made by Hand even if using digital tools. Focus and color are all relative to the intent. As an Artist you do things for only one important reason - "You mean to!" I think you you do it quite well and are having fun too. When it is no longer fun, it is time to say "good bye".

Adam Carnol (adamsc) on January 21, 2020

As a photographer, first, we need we want to shoot sharp and clear photos! We’ve also given time in learning techniques, tips, and tools for discovering sharp photos. Your ideas about a lot of tools have surprised me. Keep me motivated to continue sharing great resources and ideas!

Connie Cassinetto (Via the Lens) on January 12, 2020

Ribbon awarded for her valuable contributions to the Articles Section.

I think you are referring to the pier image? I used Topaz. They have a couple of choices for a painterly look. It's now called Topaz Studio 2, the Impression filter works well for this.

Michelle Yamaguchi (DivotDiva) on January 7, 2020

I love the dreamy quality the resulting piece has, although I'm sure the original photo was nice also. Can you share which software you used to create the brushstroke look? Thanks for an excellent article, hoping warm weather comes your way soon!

Eva Borbas Dr (evi1709) on December 22, 2019

Thank you for your ideas!

Connie Cassinetto (Via the Lens) on December 22, 2019

Ribbon awarded for her valuable contributions to the Articles Section.

And thank you, Fred, for your response. Yes, I forgot about the really hot months, too, as a time to have fun with software. It never gets that hot where I live! For me in photography it's an "anything goes" approach. I love being creative with my images. I do believe that in this new digital age it is difficult for some people to master the available software so they may resort to SOOC (letting the camera software decide their fate, so to speak) and nothing else, although, of course, they could also just like this approach. One of the things I love best about photography, however, is that I get to do it my way as it's not a group sport or a by-committee approach.

Fred Crowden (freqflyerfred) on December 22, 2019

Connie, I greatly appreciate your treatment of this topic. I too use the weather to retreat to my post processing studio, especially when the temperature soars over 115 degrees! That is when I learn new Photoshop techniques by watching the wizards on YouTube. I believe there are two lives to a photograph - the out of camera faithful rendition (with tweaks) and the artist's interpretation to further create mood and emotion. Thanks for contributing a terrific article!