Photoshop Forensics in France

Welcome to our extra-special, Thanksgiving-week contest. This one revolves around the 21 images that I posted in my two-part “Southern France Rocks” travelogue. For the sake of reference, here are links to Part 1 and Part 2. And just for fun, here’s a graphic of one of the images in progress.

The idea is this: Either I or a friend of mine shot nearly all the images using one of two cameras: an Olympus E-30 digital SLR, or an Olympus Stylus 1030 SW point-and-shoot. (Just one image comes from another camera; can you tell me which it is and the camera model?)

I selected from the best photographs. Even so, they needed Photoshop’s loving care. Now as you know, Photoshop isn’t just for fixing mistakes or creating elaborate compositions. In fact, its first and foremost mission is bring out the best of what your photographs naturally have to offer. Which is what I did. No switched-out skies. No artificial reflections. No slimming with the Liquify filter. Just some elbow grease and lots of good old-fashioned image correction.

Your job, should you choose to accept it, is to select any one of the 21 images and tell me what I did to it. In other words, you’ll work as a kind of image detective, inspecting the photograph and looking for enhancements. By way of example, consider the image below (not one of the 21). Click on it to see a high-res version. Captured as a raw image with an E-30, I opened it in Camera Raw, warmed up the Temperature value, added generous amounts of Recovery and Fill Light, increased the Contrast and Vibrance, and opened the image as a smart object. In Photoshop, I reduced the height of the image to about 85% to make some of the sky visible inside this panoramic aspect ratio. I also cropped the image, darkened the midtones using a combination of Color Range and Levels, and applied a bit of the Smart Sharpen filter.

Do I expect you to give me that much detail? Of course not. Make your best guesses; there are no wrong answers. That said, the ten answers that come closest to being right will each win a week of free training at And the best answer of them all will win copies of my recent One-on-One books, all three of them, for CS4!

Here are the rules:

  • Pick one image from “Southern France Rocks” Part 1 or Part 2.
  • Add a comment to this post or one of the “Southern France Rocks” posts telling me which image you’re writing about and what you think I did.
  • (Only members can add comments. You can become a member by clicking the Create New Account link in the top-right corner.)
  • Include your full name with the post so we can contact you in the event you win.

So much for the rules. How easy is that?

Here are a few hints to help you on your way:

  • Every high-res image includes metadata which can prove helpful for identifying the camera model.
  • I shot all photos from the E-30 as raw files (ORFs converted to DNGs) and all photos from the Stylus 1030 as JPEGs.
  • I used just one lens with the E-30, a standard 14–54mm. The Stylus sports a built-in 5.0–18.2mm lens.
  • I sharpened all images using either the Smart Sharpen or High Pass filter.
  • Several images were stretched or rotated. And a few were distorted—using either the Warp function or the Spherize filter—in the name of creating a fish-eye effect or filling the panoramic aspect ratio.
  • Just one image was upsampled (enlarged beyond its natural resolution).
  • Two images are the result of combining multiple photographs with the Photomerge command.
  • The night shots and some shadow details required noise reduction.
  • No skies are faked. But I was not above darkening or increasing the saturation of a sky or river.
  • In some images, I used masking to modify one group of luminance levels from another.
  • I did not clone away any details (there’s even a distant sign left over inside one of the images). But I did add a slender shadow effect to enhance the depth of one of the images.
  • I applied the healing brush to just one photograph. This image also happens to be the most elaborate enhancement, weighing in at four layers in the final file.

I have no problems with you making guesses about multiple images, but please do so in independent comments. Feel free to help each other and riff off other people’s guesses. My decisions in selecting the winners will be final. Please, no whining. The contest will end on a random day next week, essentially whenever I feel like it, so write your comment(s) soon.

Best of luck, and happy image sleuthing!

Next entry:Photoshop Top 40, Feature #21: The Gradient Tool

Previous entry:Southern France Rocks, Part 2


  • Beautiful images!

    The Théâtre Antique d’Orange was a panoramic stitch? I love that shot!

  • Arles’ Coliseum

    Was “Arles’ Coliseum” one of the images you used the Photomegre command on? The fish-eye effect is very prominent in this one too.  Lovely images btw!


  • The Odd one!

    That one image is the Riding in Camargue (Horse-and-I-big.jpg). It was shot with “Fuji FinePix E900” smile

  • The \“Au revoir mes amis\”

    This one is a trick one…you obviously didn’t change anything on this picture, right ? (except, of course, removing hair from your right pinky, but that is obvious).

    Carmina One

  • Palais des Papes

    That one was blown up beyond the original size?

  • Buried cities of Glanum

    I think you did the following on that one :
    1. tweaked in Camera Raw :
    - exposure, recovery, blacks
    - turned down the saturation and up the vibrance.

    This would lead to the chromatic aberrations on top left.

    2. Fake-HDR-ed the picture

    For folks not knowing what i’m talking about, it’s on Dekepod :
    - LAB
    - Smart object
    - Highlights and shadows
    - Curves (yellow does make it warm, indeed…)

    - HighPass (may i guess linear blend mode ?)

    3. guesses

    - Maybe you manually added a couple of ruins to what was at first a fotolia picture of the yankee stadium, but i might be wrong about it.

    - More seriously, it feels like the picture has a vignette on top corners (don’t know if it was this way originally, or if you added it in Camera Raw or in Photoshop with, for example, a gradient).

    Carmina One

  • Stage Wall With Augustus

    I’ve only been using PS for under a year but am having a blast with it.  I’ve wanted to create art but didn’t have the manual dexterity for it - computers and skills I learn from people like you have made it possible.  I would say “The Masters” but don’t want to be accused of butt kissing for the contest. Oops, it seems I said it anyway - oh well.

    This is an interesting challenge that I hope I can learn from as well.  Thanks Deke.  Beautiful photos - makes me want to visit France now.

    This is my guess for this shot.

    With Camera Raw:

      Fill Light up.
      Added Recovery
    (Either Fill or Recovery was *cranked* but I’m not sure which - if I had to guess I’d say recovery but both were used.)
      Added contrast
      Pushed up vibrancy and maybe a bit of saturation
      Crop and Resize unless you had a bucket truck or a very tall ladder
      Smart Sharpen
  • Theatre Antique D’Orange

    Elementary my dear Deke: judging by the colour cast, the angle of shadow, the playful glint of sunlight on the bread knife, the traces of flour on the hilt and the faint waft of croissant there can be no doubt that the murderer of Lady Delfont was in fact ....... the pastry chef acting in a fit of intense rage following her ladyshp’s rebuke of his boulangeric finesse.

    But seriously, I believe you did the following to this theatrical image:

    - Stitched two images together to form a panorama with photomerge

    - Applied spherize filter to create the fisheye effect
    - Darkened the sky by using a black to transparent linear gradient layer in multiply mode set at say 30% opacity with a mask revealing only the sky; the mask was created using the quick selection tool on the sky area
    - Enhanced the blue of the sky using a curves adjustment layer on the blue channel and again using the mask from the previous step
    - Enhanced the contrast in and brightened the theatre wall using a curves adjustment layer in RGB and enhanced the orange of the stone work by increasing the red and decreasing the blue channels thereby making the wall stand out against the sky and the curved seating; creating a mask for this adjustment by selecting the building using quick selection
    - Sharpening the whole image with Unsharp Mask

    - The above not necessarily in the right sequence or indeed anywhere close to the smaller number of different steps you probably actually took to refine the image.

    Some very fine photographs and a great idea for a competition.

    By the way I am not sure how I get to find the metadata from the high res images; I tried looking but failed ..... help grin


    Vernon Nash

  • Au Revoir Mes Amis

    To create this film noiric ending you:

    - generally desaturated the image with the hue/saturation adjustment layer and then applied a tint with the tick box setting the colour of the tine to yellowish/orange

    - masked out the hue/saturation adjustment in the petals and the blue of the sky
    - created another hue/saturation adjustment layer to boost the saturation of the petals; masked so only the petals were affected
    - turned the image into a smart object

    - applied unsharp mask as a smart filter to the image but masked of the background so that the sharpening was applied to your face and hands


    Vernon Nash

  • Théâtre Antique

    Metadata reveals: Shot with E-30, 100 ppi
    Aside from your revelation that all your images were sharpened (smart sharpen here, my guess), it’s clear that the horizon is perfect across the image… a result of using the ruler? Then rotate > arbitrary. Color is a bit on the warm side, some yellows are strong… could be simple color adj. layer or done in raw. Question: Is raw in the metadata revealing only that which is done on my system? Or would your adjustments be recorded?
    Also, you may have had to “tweak” the columns somehow to make them so perpendicular to the horizon… hmmm, my “spidey-sense” tells me you’re not that lucky, so… more ruler work or use of guides.
    I realize this is a bit lame, Deke, but, I just can’t find any obvious work here. Stitching? Nicely done, can’t find any remnants. Then a clean crop. I would have pushed the contrast some more, a bit on the dark side to me.
    Nice of you to share the experience of France with us, appreciate your images very much and your sense of humor is certainly a gift. THANKS!

    A Friend from Pasadena…

  • \“Truly-it-refreshes\” Forensics

    Hi Deke,
    Looking at “Truly-it-refreshes” I note that the histogram is both full and smooth so I assume if any tone correction has been applied you have done it using a larger colour space and possibly LAB colour, before returning it to its 8 bit mode. This however is no more than speculation on my part. The tonal range may just have been exactly, Olympus u1020SW size for all I know!
    The one bit of the image that looks very suspicious to me however is your right upper arm (picture left). The jacket/road intersection is somewhat false. The line and tone of the jaket looks healed, cloned or brushed. So I suspect something has been removed from this area. Am I right?
    Bob (BRB in the UK.)

  • Marche Les Halles

    Deke, I think with this one you:

    - warmed up the whole image with curves adjustment layer on red channel and increased contrast on RGB channel.

    - painted a mask of background using soft edged brush and sharpened foreground with unsharp mask filter

    - inverted mask and softened background with gaussian blur filter


    Vernon Nash

  • Free Training at

    Quote: “That said, the ten answers that come closest to being right will each win a week of free training at”

    Quote: “Fully ten of you will win one free week of training at my esteemed video publisher”

    Make that anyone (and everyone) who simply clicks the link…

    Enjoy the leftovers!

    Craig P

  • Riding in Camargue

    The camera: Olympus Stylus 1030 SW point-and-shoot
    Temperture +2
    Fill Light +9
    Blacks +6
    Brightness +6
    Contast +4
    Clarity +2
    Vibrance -2

    Saturation -1


    drop 255 down to 235

  • Come visit in Paris next time

    First of all, i’ll be glad to have a beer with you, and then i’d tell you that, if you want to see some photogenic buildings in Paris, try “La coulée verte”; that’s a walk you take in Paris (quite lovely), but the thing is, the lane you walk on is 4 floors above the buildings around, and so you have a great view on the buildings roof (and in Paris architecture, they’re just amazing); here’s what i mean:

    Carmina One

  • La-Mere-Germaine-me (Last photo)

    Hey Deke, I’m probably late on my post but gonna try for fun, The last photo in the series (file name: La-Mere-Germaine-me). I’m gonna guess that you warmed up the photo as you mentioned above with the hints, with camera raw. I imagine you sharpened the image with a highpass filter in photoshop, to bring out the details in your shirt, hands, and face. Then used the healing brush to take out some problem areas in the face. To make the skin a little more smooth with out making it look fake, or make up’d. You could of also use the heal brush to maybe make the flower pedals smother as well, so when you selected the flowers with the pen tool (or with channels) to make your selection you were able to make better color transition on the flower pedals with a hue and saturation, or maybe a selective color tweak. Along those lines you also brought out the vibrancy (with the vibrence slider) in the color of the photo, to give the pedals a rich color, still i think some of the pedals are hue’d and saturated. After or before you got the pedals the color you wanted you did a shift+ctrl+i to make a selection inverse then applied a color overlay to get the copper toned feel for the main bulk of the image, and then just turned the opacity of that layer way down, probably to something like 10%. You may have even put a mask on the fill layer to bring out the color of the sky in the top right where it is bluest. It looks like you may have done some dodging and burning to the image as well, but very very suttle, to add some hard shadows and light. Or it could of just been in camera raw were you darkened the shadows and brought out the light on your skin. If you did burn however, i’m guessing it was in and around your eyes do add more dynamic depth so that people would notice the color in the flower pedals and not the color in your eyes. Also some burning on the hands to give hard shadows and smooth transition over the flower pedals. I think you dodged some of the parts on your fingers to bring out the light that you might of lost with your fill layer, to brighten the photo. Also to help set the focus to the front of the photo, you selected yourself with the pen tool, or Calculations and then did another selection inverse on the back ground to select everything behind you. Then threw on a blur filter to add depth to the background so people would notice you and not have much eye movement to the background. So in total you had 4 layers: The original file, a copy of the file (to do work on such as adding blurs to the background, and using the healing brush), Fill layer (copper color, with a very light opacity…say 10%), Last is the flower petal layer (that was used to bring out the colors in the flower pedals with hue and saturation, and vibrance)
    Thanks for your time Deke.

    James aka Fangoriously

  • Nice!!

    These photos are awesome.

  • It’s really great!!

    It’s really great!!

    apartments paris

  • Difficult task

    It is quite a difficult task. I think that a good photographer will make the best shots with any camera. I think all the photos you’ve done in Paris are amazing. As for the one photo it is Theatre Antique D’Arles, I guess.

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