How I made this: Photo Impressionist Waves

There is a balance in impressionist photography between the moment you remember and the  precise instant of the photograph. My exploration has focussed on finding approaches that expand time to become that moment. Opacity Blend Image Stacking produces a result that comes close to that balance. This is what I do.

1. create the stack using Lightroom


The images are selected for the stack. © Stephen D’Agostino
  •  The images for this photo impressionistic wave were shot at 60 fps using Nikon’s N1 V3. I shoot hand held being careful to maintain a constant point on the subject even though the camera is panning. The images are then imported into Lightroom.
  • The images are then selected for the stack. The more images you use, the more impressionistic the effect.
Open as layers in Photoshop. © Stephen D’Agostino
  • Right click to reveal the menu then select +   .
  • Since I often use Starcircleacademy’s Advanced Stacker app to create additional texture I also export the images to a separate folder at this point.

2. digital darkroom in Photoshop

Opacity blend to create the photo impressionistic effect. © Stephen D’Agostino
  • In Photoshop the stack has to be blended to produce the base image. A good blend can be achieved by starting at the bottom of the stack and then reducing the opacity of the layer above it by about 50% until you reach 3-5%. Don’t be mechanistic with this step. Creativity with opacity significantly impacts on the finished result.
At this step you have a good base image. © Stephen D’Agostino
  • I merge the stack after balancing the opacity to produce a manageable file size. Note the blend results in a flat image. I address that later in my workflow.
The Advanced Stacker App creates some nice textures. © Stephen D’Agostino
  • If I am going to use the Advanced Stacker App I run it here and then drag the layer over to my stacked image for blending. Note that the App is really just another opacity blend using the lighten mode. In doing so I find it often emphasises movement.
Create the base image using an opacity blend. © Stephen D’Agostino
  • Again I opacity blend until I am happy with the image.
This white point/black point was achieved using Vincent Versace’s action. © Stephen D’Agostino




  • The more traditional darkroom work begins at this point. I colour balance using the black point/white point/midpoint  technique.
Balance the white point/black point layers. © Stephen D’Agostino



  • Often the black point/white point layers have to be balanced.
Add contrast. © Stephen D’Agostino



  • The process to this point has produced a flat lifeless image as a result the image averaging that has taken place. I add dimensionality to my photo impressionistic images using Nik’s Pro Contrast filter.
Nik’s Tonal Contrast Filter. © Stephen D’Agostino
Midtone Contouring. © Stephen D’Agostino
I lie to crop at the end of my process. © Stephen D’Agostino
  • While many photographers crop at the beginning of their darkroom process to reduce the file size, I like to see what emerges and crop based on the results.

3. the final image

Waves breaking on a St Lucian beach. © Stephen D’Agostino


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