Faking snow in Photoshop Elements

To superimpose falling snow on a scene in Photoshop Elements is fairly straight forward. However, I don’t think the effect works equally well on all images. Ones that include highlight & shadow areas appear to be the best but a little trial & error is probably recommended.

First, we need to resize the image (this is important for the snowflake size later). Image>Resize>Image Size & set the resolution to 72ppi. Make sure the “Constrain Proportions” & “Resample Image” boxes are ticked.

Create a new layer (Layer>New>Layer or the “New layer” button) then Edit>Fill Layer & set the “Contents” to black with 100% opacity.

Filter>Noise>Add Noise tick “Gaussian” at 100% & make sure “Monochromatic” is ticked also.

Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur & set the radius to 1.0 pixels.

Enhance>Adjust Lighting>Levels set the slider input levels to 140 low & 142 high.

Change the blend mode to “Screen” & adjust the opacity to make the effect look convincing.

Now copy that layer (Ctrl + J) & put the blend mode back to “Normal”. Image>Transform>Free Transform, grab the bottom circle & rotate the whole image 180 degrees. Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur & set the radius to 0.5 pixels. Change the blending mode back to “Screen” & reduce the opacity. Make sure the opacity of this layer is lower than the previous one. This will add some depth to the snow effect. You could repeat this previous step again (reducing the pixel radius further & lowering the opacity) as many times as you wish. It all depends upon the look you’re trying to replicate (blizzard white out or casual snow fall).

Depending on the original image you may need to alter the opacity of the two snow layers accordingly to make the effect realistic. The end result may also benefit from adjusting the “Hue/Saturation” of the original image after you’ve resized it to give it more of a winter feel (eg. lowering the hue & saturation, slightly increasing the lightness etc.) but this will vary from one project to the next.

Original image.
Photoshop snow effect


Wind turbine flower

Wind turbine flower, moorland, energy

Scout Moor wind farm located just outside Rochdale in Lancashire, is the second largest onshore wind farm in England. Love them or loathe them, these wind turbines dominate the horizon in the surrounding areas. It was while walking around here recently, I decided to see if I could create something a little more aesthetically pleasing out of them & this is the result.

This image is the combination of six separate photographs taken using “continuous shooting” mode. Once they’re uploaded onto the computer open them all in ACR & click “select all” so that any alterations you make apply to every photo. Now open them in Elements & start combining them. To do this select the Move tool, hold down “Shift” & click the image you want to move dragging it onto the background image. This should create a new layer. Quickly check the alignment of this new layer by clicking its eye icon to hide & reveal it. If any movement has occured, reduce its opacity & use the Move tool to re-align it. With the opacity back to 100% (& the new layer selected) hold down Alt & click the Add Layer Mask icon. This adds a ‘hide all’ layer mask so you can only see the background image. Now select the Brush tool & with a soft edged brush (ensuring the foreground colour is white) paint the additional turbine blades in. Repeat these stages for each photo in the set until you have the completed image.

Smoke trails

A smoke trail portrait

After reading an article by Caroline Schmidt in January 2016’s edition of “Digital SLR Photography” magazine I was keen to attempt this technique. It’s fairly simple to do & although it can be somewhat hit or miss during the photography stage, the editing side is very easy.

Set up. Ensuring you have a black background (a cloth or as I used, sheets of black cardboard) place the incense stick & tray at least two to three feet in front. With your camera on a tripod, shoot in RAW, in Manual mode with ISO 200, shutter speed of one second & aperture f/8 to start with. If you find the smoke drifts towards the camera you may need to adjust the aperture to keep it all in focus. Place the flash gun behind & slightly lower than the incense stick. Make sure none of the flash illuminates the backdrop or hits the lens. With the room lights on, use single-shot AF to focus on the tip of the incense stick before switching to manual focus to prevent the camera from hunting. Now recompose the shot so the incense stick is out of the frame. Turn off the room lights & shoot away.

Editing. Open the image in Adobe Camera Raw & increase the “Clarity” slider to draw out the detail. Next increase the “Highlights” & “Whites” sliders before decreasing the “Blacks” & “Shadows” sliders until you’re happy with the contrast. Don’t worry if the image turns blue due to the ‘clipping warning function’ as there is no detail in the black backdrop anyway. To colour, create a new layer (Layer>New), set the blend mode to Color & use the brush tool to paint the smoke trail in your chosen colour. Adjust the Opacity of the layer to obtain the desired effect. You can add additional layers with different opacities if you wish.