Saturday, January 21, 2012

Barns: A Tutorial

I love barns. If I have my camera with me, I try to snap a picture of every barn I see. Sometimes, those pictures are just a blur, and I'm forced to delete them immediately. Other times, there are those images with a bit of possibility...Like this one:


I open it in Photoshop, my first step is to deal with the composition. It's not perfectly composed (difficult to do in a speeding car), but it's relatively free of blur and with a little creative cropping, I'll have an image that I can work with:


The next problem, for me, is the sky. It's too gray and flat. Sometimes, that works perfectly when  you're doing texture work, but I want more contrast and interest. Looking through my personal stock, I find a shot of sky and clouds that I'm fond of: 

Interesting Skies

I add a layer of sky to my barn image and set the layer opacity to "Multiply" since I want the sky to seem like it's really a part of the image. Using the eraser tool, I erase the parts of the sky that I don't want (on the mountain, barn, silo). Then, I merge the image together:

Now we're getting somewhere...

Next, it's time to start adding textures. For the ease of this tutorial, I am using two free textures that are available from Distressed Jewell. The first texture is called "Moody Fall Sky":

I add the texture as a layer and after playing with the different opacities, I decide on "Overlay." This part is really a personal preference. We'll be doing more edits later that will enhance the choice, so go with your gut:

Overlay Texture

I really like how this looks, especially the taller, white silo. But I am rarely content with just one texture, so I add one more. This one has a canvas appearance that I really like. Again, it's a free one from Distressed Jewell:


I add this layer, and after playing, I decide on "Soft Light":

Soft Light Layer

Now, it's time to adjust the original image. Click on the original photo in your layers toolbar. Once it is highlighted, go to "Adjust>Brightness/Contrast". I rarely touch the brightness slider, but I almost always adjust the contrast. In this case, I slid it up to +10 so that the lines and shadows would stand out, but not so much that there were gaping black holes in my image. A trick I learned from Distressed Jewell was to do these adjustments after I added the textures so I could see how much adjustment I actually would need:

Contrast Adjusted

Next, with my original image still highlighted, I go to "Adjust>Saturation". This is another matter of adjusting to your liking. After sliding the saturation around (take it all the way to 100 for fun), I decide that +20 is just the right amount of color without looking psychedelic:


Finally, because I can't resist, I use a bird brush by Distressed Jewell to add a bird to the wire. A wire is often wasted without a bird perched upon it! Then, I flatten the image and save it:

"For Storage"

Ta da! That really is it. I don't have any real magic trips that I use. I just play and go with my gut. I find that simplicity is best. The more complex methods I've tried, the more unhappy I have been with the results. I'm a simple girl. I use simple tools (Kodak Z981 set to sport mode and PhotoShop 7.0). And I get some pretty cool images that make me happy!

Have fun!


  1. This is awesome! You do such amazing barn work and I should know being a proud owner of your barns book! Thanks for sharing your steps...can't wait to try one using your tutorial...and I just love your quote about a bird and a's so true! :)

  2. Laura your works are truly wonderful and inspiring. I enjoyed your tutorial and thank you - jimmy