Photoshop (PS) is a tool we have regularly use over the last 20 years. The image editing software has made it possible for us to improve photographs, create new images, banners, gifs and even layout websites.

Although the software is relatively easy for beginners to pick up, mastering all its features can take years. Layers, Filters, Color Correction and Masking, are just a few of the areas that can become baffling. A situation not helped by Adobe developers who like to move, combine and hiding once familiar tools.

One area that new PS users enjoy playing with is the various Filters built into the software. My first experiment with PS was converting a photograph to painting using the Oil Painting filter. I looked ok, but not great. The truth is many pre-rolled filters in PS are lame and overused. To get professional results from them, you will need to do significant tweaks and corrections to the basic application of the filter.

The ability to create your own filers can overcome the limitations of the included ones. However, building them is time-consuming and beyond the technical knowledge of most new users. One way around this is to use Actions, Brushes and Textures created by others. You can find free and paid resources which can be loaded into PS and utilised via the actions palette. Again, this can be a clunky way to work. If you forget to load the right brush or select the correct layer, the actions will not work. 

I’ve discovered the best way for novice and intermediate users to enhance photos is using the ‘Extensions’ panel. This panel makes it easy to extend the features and power of PS with virtually no fuss. I recently found a great resource over at Envato. You can purchase 1000s of actions and 100s of great extensions. The prices are competitive, around £7 per action and £15 for extensions.


To use these extensions, download the zip file, open it and click on the JS loader. This will install the extension in Photoshop, and you’ll have instant access via a dedicated control panel—no messing around loading Brushes or Textures.

A couple of weeks ago downloaded two extensions from Envato. I will share the results with you below. The extensions are called ‘Draftum’ and ‘Perfectum’ they convert images/photos into artistic renderings. Draftum can create various types of sketch looks, and Perfectum transforms photographs into Watercolor paintings. 

I will use the same photo across all filters so you can judge the results.


Base Photo





I purchased a GoPro Hero4 before a recent trip to Iceland, I knew the weather would be extreme and I didn’t fancy changing lenses in minus -11 or lugging my Nikon D3x around for hours on end. I planned to use the GoPro as a durable stills camera which could also take some scenic video when needed.

A GoPro is normally associated with extreme sports, you’ll often see them strapped to a surfboard or a skydivers head. I had no plans to throw myself out of a perfectly serviceable aircraft but the rugged reliability and tiny size of the camera appealed to me.

I’d purchased the GoPro less than 24 hours before departing for Iceland, leaving little time to familiarise myself with the camera settings. However, once I figured out how to pair the GoPro with my iphone I was able to adjust the camera settings for still photography. It’s much easier to adjust these using the app than attempting to do it via the tiny touchscreen on the back of the camera, especially if you have sausage fingers like me.

The app also allows you to remotely control your GoPro, so you can position the camera almost anywhere and then use your phone as a live view finder! A neat feature which should give some interesting POVs. The app can also transfer photos wirelessly from the GoPro onto your smartphone camera roll, from there you can upload them to Facebook or Twitter directly.

So how did the GoPro Hero4 perform as a stills camera? Well, I found the picture quality remarkable given the size of the camera. Photos taken in daylight were crisp and sharp, night-time shots did contain a fair amount of noise but that’s not uncommon in any camera. Along with the legendary image stabilised video capture the other main advantage of a GoPro is size – it really is tiny. The waterproof casing bundled with the camera means you can take it anywhere, the casing will also protect against damage in hostile enviroments.

Above I’ve added a couple of photos taken using my GoPro, If you want to read more about using the Hero4 as a stills camera I can recommend this detailed post. Hopefully I will get a chance to experiment more with the camera over the summer holidays, I’m already pricing up a drone!

The new LYTRO camera may well change the way we take photos forever. First let me say that I’m a big DSLR geek, my camera bag is full of Nikons, lens, compact cameras and even the funky retro Fuji X100. I love all types of camera gear and gadgets, but the prospect of LYTRO has me more excited than the day my Nikon D3 arrived in the post.

The LYTRO isn’t just a new camera, it’s a completely different way of capturing images. The project started at Stanford University has been 15 years in development and produced a camera so revolutionary, it even had the late Steve Jobs admiring the LYTRO. Apparently Jobs phone the LYTRO team to ask if Apple and LYTRO could work together (new iphone camera – maybe?).

So what’s all the fuss about? Well, and here comes the science bit… Unlike a conventional camera that captures a single plane of light, the Lytro camera captures the entire light field, which is all the light traveling in every direction in every point in space. Giving the ability to capture living pictures with the press of a single button. By instantly capturing complete light field data, the Lytro gives you capabilities you’ve never had in a regular camera.

Since you’ll capture the color, intensity, and direction of all the light, you can experience the first major light field capability – focusing after the fact. Focus and re-focus, anywhere in the picture. You can refocus your pictures at anytime, even after you’ve snapped them.

If you own a compact camera then you’ll know about shutter lag, it’s that horrible pause between pressing the button and the camera taking the picture. If you own a DSLR camera then the shutter lag is vastly reduced, but the weight of the equipment is the price you pay for those extra one hundredths of a second.

What’s great about the LYTRO is it has no auto-focus motor, which means no shutter lag. Allowing you to capture the moment you meant to capture. The Lytro Light Field Camera boasts an 8X optical zoom lens with a constant f/2 aperture, capturing maximum light across the entire zoom range.

If you’re into cameras then you’ll be amazing by the constant f/2 aperture – A DSLR zoom lens with that capability would cost you £1000s, the constant f/2 also means the camera doesn’t need a flash! No more horrible shadows and startled expressions! Plus you can use the camera in situations when flash would be prohibited – musuems, concerts, sporting events.

I’d be the first to admit that the LYTRO looks shit! but this camera isn’t about looks, it’s about the pictures. We won’t know if the camera lives up to the hype until it’s released, which is penciled in for early 2012. Like most things these days, the camera will only ship to the U.S. on release – Hopefully us Europeans will be next to get our hands on this exciting new camera. combines my two favorite hobbies, horse racing & photography. The site is not strictly commercial, it doesn’t feature advertising or editorial for casinos or bookmakers. It’s just a showcase for the various photos I take around the UK’s racecourses.

I started taking photos seriously about five years ago, after failing to find any good stock photos for my other racing websites I decided to take some myself and headed off to Bangor-On-Dee racecourse. After much trail and error I finally started taking some decent photos, mainly thanks to the expertise of Nikon than my own skill.

HorseRacingPhotos also features news and tips on getting better pictures at race meetings and a couple of plugs for our other racing sites.