Photographing the Milky Way

Your content will be up shortly. Please allow up to 5 seconds

Dark and Dramatic | Behind the Scenes Video and Review of PHLearn Photoshop Tutorial

By Jules Ebe on May 9th 2013



In one of Phlearn’s recent Photoshop tutorials, Aaron Nace takes on creating a dark and dramatic image from a bright, cloudless outdoor photograph. In this two-part tutorial, you learn how to take an image straight out of camera and turn it into a moody, dark stylized portrait with a dramatic sky. The overall effects result in a highly stylized image. The 1 1/2 hours worth of tutorials are designed for individuals that have a cursory knowledge of Photoshop and focuses on the specifics of concept, workflow, and editing techniques.

Behind the Scenes: Dark and Dramatic

Basic Information


Website: Phlearn
Title: PRO Dark and Dramatic
Run Time: 1:25 hours
Difficulty: Intermediate
Price: $24.99 (on sale for $14.99 until Sunday, May 12)


The size of this download is going to take up 743.7 MB and will be in a .zip file. You are going to find 5 main folders:

    1. Brushes
    2. Lighting Diagram
    3. Support
    4. Tutorial Images
    5. Video Tutorial

Along with tutorials, the download contains a new brush, tutorial images, a texture image, lighting diagram, help files, and additional reference tutorials. The video tutorial folder contains two .mp4 videos that total just under 1 1/2 hours of instruction.

The mp4 format works well with most players and the video/audio quality was clean, even though it had been compressed in the .zip format.



Use of Adobe Photoshop CS6 accommodates individuals with a solid foundational understanding of post-processing in Photoshop. Most of the tools used in the tutorial are a few generations old, so if you are running a Photoshop version that is slightly older, this tutorial will still work for you.

Though Aaron’s style is conversational and he explains the “what” and “why” of everything he is doing clearly, this tutorial is still geared towards individuals with an established background in post-processing and Photoshop. It can go pretty fast if he is covering a tool you have not used before. He is clear and concise with what he is doing as you watch, so if you feel lost, pause and rewind. With that said, if you are just beginning with Photoshop, this tutorial can easily become overwhelming. It is rated as “Intermediate” on the website, so prepare a little before tackling if you have never touched Photoshop before.

Favorite Features:
In 1:25 hours, a lot of material is covered. For me, a few points stood out that can easily be applied to several different types of post-processing scenarios. I actually plan on using a few this weekend for an assignment I’ve been working on.

Using the liquify tool without making your subject appear fake or too “Photoshopped” is quite the accomplishment. It did not come across as obvious, which is something I feel is very important when learning how to use this tool. It is one of those processing techniques that can make or break your image. Utilizing layer masks, blend-if, and clipping masks to retouch specific features of the image, such as a sky with a tree in the way, are useful techniques no matter what your composition challenge is.

Dark-Dramtic-Dark-Sky-Before-After copy

As with many tools demonstrated, they can be used in many different ways, and Aaron is able to breakdown why and how he uses each tool to accomplish different looks. He even breaks out the pin tool in order to create advanced selections to get rid of things like the stick right behind her shoe in the original image.


Use of reference photos when setting up a photo shoot and approaching post processing alongside lighting diagrams are also a great addition to this specific tutorial. I like to see how the concept was initially created and designed. In all of Phlearn’s tutorials you will see the benefits of planning your post processing from the start and the importance of non-destructive editing. Sometimes plans need to bend, so your post processing workflow should accommodate that.

Final Thoughts & Conclusion

Each of Phlearn’s tutorials are specific in content and subject. The concise and conversational way in which the material is taught is key to their success. If I’m falling asleep during a video, can’t understand what is being said, or feel lost, I’m not going to learn much. Simply put, Aaron’s teaching style keeps me engaged and intrigued throughout the videos. It was also nice to have a material split into two defined and logical video sessions. I was able to step away for a while and come back without feeling like I needed to watch parts of the tutorial to remember where I was in the process.

One of features that I appreciate most about this tutorial is that many of the techniques discussed can be translated into your own style. Whether it is adding a little drama and punch to a styled shoot or playing with textures, there is a lot to keep you inspired. I’ve already got a few ideas percolating.

Click here to view more details

Until next time . . . .

Stay Inspired ~ Jules


is a Southern California based Conceptual Artist and Photographer. Her work has been featured in several print publications and selections can be seen in local gallery exhibitions. Connect with her on Facebook and Google+.

Q&A Discussions

Please or register to post a comment.

  1. Juan Carlos

    Thank you for reviewing PhLearn Dark and Dramatic Tutorial. I have been debating buying it gor a few days. After your detailed description it seems that it would be a great buy for me.

    Thank you for your work.

    | |
  2. Maria Teresita alunan

    How about if I don’t have cs6 ,I only have Lightroom 3.5 and I don’t even know how to used it…thank you .i want to buy this but I have to make sure I could this in lr…

    | |
    • Jules Ebe

      This is a more advanced tutorial. I would look at a Beginner Level tutorial to start. I can give you a few suggestions if you are interested.

      Best ~ Jules

      | |