Image Architect: I

Hello! David Talley here... Welcome to my new photoshop and image creation series, "Image Architect," episode... 1!

This entire blog series came from the desire to expand upon the 3 secrets to perfect Photoshop videos on my training website. It's such a huge pleasure for me to encourage other artists around the world - something I got to do in full when I taught in 6 countries over 3 months last Autumn. 

I want to capture for my audience an inside look at why and how I create my images to encourage YOU to go out and do the same. I think as a photographer and a teacher, it's important to share what you learn with others and help then as much as you can. Here's to hoping this blog series will help you create better, faster, and more beautifully than ever before. 

Without further ado, let's get right in to what "Image Architect" is all about... Centered around a single image, I.A. is comprised of 4 things (for now...): 

1) The image pre-sketch and notes
2) The mood or emotion I wanted to convey
3) The "Big Tweak" - basically, the main edit I made in Photoshop that had the biggest overall effect on the image
4) A before/ after of the edit of the image

And that's it! For this week's Image Architect, we're going to look at one of my all-time favorite images I've created:

"End of an Empire", (2016)

"End of an Empire", (2016)

1) The image pre-sketch and color notes:

This was an image I created because I needed to create and communicate emotion. I was in a dry season of creating as the wet season outside in the Pacific Northwest U.S.A. sent torrential downpours on my photoshoots (...and my spirits.) I sat down and ran myself through my basic list of things to create a photo, centering myself on a story of power, pain, and resolution, and building my photo around it.

I gathered up my fiancee and my best friend and we jetted out to the Columbia River Gorge just outside of Portland to stop and create at a photo spot we always passed, but never shot at. While I was drafting the idea for this image, I made sure to sketch out my thoughts both visually and textually before ever picking up my camera. SO, we'll tackle the image pre-sketch and notes for this section.

Here's what that looked like for "End of an Empire":

I know, it's not incredibly beautiful... in fact, it looks like I just writhed about my pen on the grid. But there's something here that works for me. Do you sketch your shoots out? Even if they're family shots or wedding imagery? 

I know, it's not incredibly beautiful... in fact, it looks like I just writhed about my pen on the grid. But there's something here that works for me. Do you sketch your shoots out? Even if they're family shots or wedding imagery? 

2) The image mood or emotion I want to convey:

Like I said earlier, I knew that my concept was centered around: a need for resolution, but a peaceful, yet powerful disposition for the main character to work through. You can see in my sketch and notes for this particular photo, I drafted it with dark but resolute feelings... power yet humility.... "cut off from people, exiled, wrongfully accused, looking for resolution..." 

Ultimately settled on a blue color palette to edit with in Photoshop for my "Color Mood Edit." If you don't know what a color mood edit is, make sure you check out my "3 Secrets to Perfect Photoshop" video and watch through to at LEAST the third video, where I explain this exact concept (it's about 45 minutes or so all together).

Anytime I go out to create a photo like this, I know 80% of what I'm going to do in Photoshop when I get home to edit it. In this case, I made sure to shoot the image in a way that complimented the Photoshop work I was going to be doing later, which made my life way easier and made the image not only successful for myself and all involved, but also for my audience (you!) to enjoy, connect with, and understand the image. 

3) The "Big Tweak":

Next up, we're going to talk about the SINGLE edit I made that made ALL the difference for this image.... can you guess it?

When we went out to create this image, it was a rainy, moody February day in Portland up on the AMAZING Columbia River Gorge. Like I said, this is normally a super difficult time of year for me to create anything, but we used it to our advantage to capture the mood and story we wanted for this image. We set out to shoot in these exact conditions to render the mood we desired... and nearly 10,000 people tuned in for the live shoot! It was an incredible experience and if you were there, you know how much fun that shoot was. 

However, we were missing ONE thing... INTENSE STORM CLOUDS. It was one of those little details that lead to a perfectly photoshopped edit. The clouds I had were just... "okay" at best that day... they might have worked, but they definitely wouldn't have given the mood and feeling I wanted to convey. I had some storm clouds I had a shot to use from that exact spot a few days prior, so I put those in an voila! It worked magnificently. I masked everything out and it went off incredibly well. You can see it (sped up) in this video: 

This was my "Big Tweak" for this image, and as you can tell in the before and after below, it made ALL the difference! I also made sure to use my color moods action that I created to help me balance the colors of the new clouds to the original image (I talk about this on my training site at 

That's the Image Architect for "End of an Empire." I made sure that I looked at ALL the details possible and then edited the photo according to my pre-shoot sketch and notes. If you want to learn more about some of the techniques I used to create this image how you see it above, you can watch my "3 Secrets to Perfect Photoshop" videos here.

Thanks for reading along! Look out for Image Architect II next weekend! If you have any questions, comments, or requests you'd like to see in this series, shoot me an e-mail to

To the explosion of light that follows, 

I'm on a mission to show that the light will always pierce through the darkness.