Back to the Future

By Matt Pasant on September 23rd, 2010   |    Posted in:  Processing   |    12 Comments

I take a lot of pictures on a Disney trip. Surely, I am not alone. On an average five of six day trip it would not be unusual for me to capture as many as 3,000 pictures. The temptation we have as photographers when we arrive home is to give our attention to the “winners” from the trip.

Over the past few months I have made it a point to hit the vaults up for treasures I have missed over the years. I find this rewarding for a number of reasons. First, our “eye” develops as a photographer overtime. We’ll see things years from now with a discerning eye that we did not have before. And second, we will find treasurers overlooked. I believe this shot is a combination of a discerning eye finding a new treasure. With the added layer (pun intended) of new processing techniques.

Imagineering the Shot

What stood out at this picture that sent me to process further was the stillness of the family in the lower third, on Main Street USA, ready for an adventurous day in the parks, juxtaposed by the stillness of Main Street. I saw this shot, but it did not come out of the camera that way. It needed help.

Magical Post Processing

1) The first step was to adjust the layers in CS5 to bring out whatever pop and colors I could in an otherwise dull shot. To achieve this I created an adjustment layer and over-satured the the vibrance and saturation.

2) I needed the clouds to come out in greater detail. To achieve this desired affected I adjusted the contrast and levels and masked out Main Street to draw more attention into the clouds.

3) Remembering the focus of this shot was the family I created a duplicate layer and then blurred the new layer. I then masked the family out to put them in focus and the anticipation of the day slightly out of focus.

4) Still lacking the “pop” I wanted; my next step was to send this through the Topaz Adjust filter in CS5 to give the image the surreal effect I thought it deserved.

5) Last touch was to add a vignette to the frame to draw the family into focus even further.

6) Hit save.

And here is the original, just for reference:


  1. Isabelle Boivin   |   Sep 23, 2010

    Really nice. To put the original was a good idea. Wish someday I could do something like this !

  2. Todd Hurley   |   Sep 23, 2010

    Great post, Matt. Excellent processing work. I’ve just started digging into the archives trying to find some hidden treasures. It’s amazing what I’ve been able to “see” now as opposed to 2+ years ago.

  3. Alan   |   Sep 23, 2010

    Amazing shot, and great way to illustrate how some photos deserve a second look. I’m going to have to dig back into my archive and see if I can find some new life in some old photos.

    It’s great to read what processes went into the photo, especially when you post the original as well. Thanks & kudos again on a great shot.

  4. Larry White   |   Sep 23, 2010

    Beautiful work!

  5. Scott   |   Sep 23, 2010

    Awesome work – nailed it!

  6. Mark Roman   |   Sep 23, 2010

    The finished product is amazing. It’s too bad you don’t know the family in the picture, I’m sure they would have loved what you’ve done.

  7. Keith Kolmos   |   Sep 23, 2010

    Great job and great advice. I just recently started looking through my old shots. Yes you can find gems and also you can go back and learn from yourself… far you’ve come as a photographer and what you still need to work on.

  8. Christian Lambert   |   Sep 23, 2010

    great job with the processing!!

  9. Greg Stevenson   |   Sep 23, 2010

    Such a great lesson on finding those special shots that we pass by the first time we go through our images.

  10. Marlene Fast   |   Sep 23, 2010

    I love the image – explanation of how you did it was great – anyone with a bit of Photoshop knowledge could follow it. What I love the most of this photograph is this is the way I see Disney when I go visit my favorite place in the world! Thank you for sharing.

  11. Doug Saletnik   |   Sep 23, 2010

    Great write up Matt! I like this image even more today than I did yesterday when I viewed it through sleepy eyes. Your processing skills really brought out every bit of magic that is in this shot!

  12. Brian Hubbard   |   Sep 24, 2010

    Nice post and photo, Matt. I especially like that you included the original and the processing steps you used. The end result is amazing, and even better when you see where it came from.



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