Tag Archives: photoshop

Repurposing Your Software Tools

Photoshop or your editor of choice actions can  help you cut time corners to make a better end product like blog entries. Say what?  Oh yes, you can adapt tools normally used for a task  like making albums into a killer tool for making story boards for blogs or displays or whatever else comes to mind. I just used my favorite album software from Fundy to make a batch of story boards for my blog here. Yes I could buy actions to do this but I wanted to see if I could do something close on my own with Photoshop.

I already have a couple of flavors of album making software, LumaPix, You Select It (YSI) and FundySOS Album builder. Since I’m on a Mac, I prefer to use Fundy Album builder. While LumaPix would do a really nice job, it’s Windows only and I need to start up XP just to make these. It’s more work then I want right now. Fundy means I never leave my workflow.  This is not intended to be a review of Fundy’s software but suffice to say it’s pretty powerful and is adaptable to virtually anything that requires arranging images, not just wedding albums.

Here is a sample of a three by three story board of a shoot in Colorado that I shot last year.  I tossed together in Fundy Album builder in a few minutes. Not only can I make the grid but I can save it as a design then load it back up and automatically fill the grids or fill them by hand. It can takes less than 5 minutes to make the entire grid and fill it this way. And I just have to insert ONE picture into the blog instead of a dozen or more.

3x3 Wedding Story Board

3x3 Wedding Story Board

And it does not have to be squares, it can be any shape I want, singles, squares, grids, puzzles and more. Also,  this is not just for blogs, this technique of story boarding or building paneled images  can be sold to a client or used in an album or picture book. So the time invested in making the templates can be time well spent. And yes, I had to buy the software but I had bought it  to make my wedding albums so now I’m using the same software for two or three other uses without having to buy anything else. That is money saved and in your pocket.

Here is a type of grid that is called a “puzzle” with several images from a local coffee house in the city of Orange  called Chapman Coffee. My business, Michael Sweeney Photography, had some art hung on the walls  there for a while and I had taken pictures for their website. Now I’m using them to illustrate a second type of collage that you can put into your blog by using album building software. I started with a blank canvas set to 1024 pixels square and used Fundy’s Album Builder Ninja layout and CS4 to make the puzzle. You can of course, make the squares manually using just Photoshop.

Chapman Coffee House Puzzle

Chapman Coffee House Puzzle

And you can take a single picture and use the panels as a design element. Use a strong picture and add a bit of space between the sections and you get a very cool effect. In this case, I made a quad panel and used a picture of a 1957 Chevy Bel Air automobile that I shot at the “Cars and Coffee” car show in Irvine, California. This image of the car works well spread across  the four panels with a visual break between each panel and gives an idea for a wall hanging upsell to the client.

1957 Chevy Quad Panel

1957 Chevy Quad Panel

If all this is cool but you either dont have existing tools like FundySOS  or you just dont want spend the time to mess around with Photoshop, then you can buy actions from a variety of places such as MCP who has the “Blog It Boards” among others. The actions give you a very fast way to get started on this type of presentation of your images.  You can find some free ones at coffeephotography.blogspot.com but keep in mind that free is good, sometimes paying for something is better.

So the take away is that for your blog, instead of fighting with posting a dozen images which can also be swiped, make a storyboard of them and post that. Everyone gets to see the pictures, admire your artistic skills in layout and you can shave time off the editing of your post.  You can also incorporate your album software or actions into your workflow as design elements.

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Posted in Album Software, Business Aids, editing, editing software, photography, portraits, technique, training, wedding photography, workflow Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Free is always good

Just a quick post today with some free links from CreativeLive. If you have not heard of them, you need to. They have been putting on some amazing training sessions live on the internet with an option to buy it for a very cheap price. How cheap? How about three days of  Vincent Laforet and his class on shooting movies with HD DLSRs of  for 120  bucks? Oh yeahh..  champagne info and beer prices.

So here are are few more to check out – These are free for now!!!

Creating PDFs and eBooks with CS5

Photoshop CS5,  0 to 60

Watercolor 101

Right now I’m watching a three day treat with Zack Arias called

Studio Photography with Zack Arias

If you have not been to one of Zack’s training classes, you owe it to yourself to get this one given how cheap it is and the amount of information he presents.

And yes, these videos are iPad friendly. I download them to my iPad and play them during my “school time” which is really my lunch break 🙂

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Posted in Business Aids, commercial photography, equipment, osx, photography, technique, training, video Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Why edit snapshots?

I get teased alot for taking the time to edit my snapshots. I tend not to hand out any images that I have not make a quick pass for color adjustments, cropping and minor clean up. Sometimes though, my cleaning up can pay off nicely. In the following example, my six year old was jumping on a air powered rocket that would trail bubbles. But the bad news was she had her back to me for a good bubble shot. But then as I kept shooting, she flipped sides and now she was facing me but the bubbles did not have a nice look. Can’t win huh?  Not exactly!  Through the magic of Photoshop, I was able to make a decent snap in just a few minutes of work.

The trick is to pick the keeper image and then swap out the subject for a better version. Portrait shooters do this all the time in swapping out heads, eyes, smiles and more to get that perfect portrait. I just wanted a nice snapshot of a fun moment so I swapped out Sara’s back side shot to the one of her facing me and put it on the good bubble shot. The magic in this type of swap job is in how to use masks and the pain brush. This tip is pretty much effortless since we do not have the cut out the subject, just get around the subject.

Here are my  two original shots.

Bubble rocket Backside

Bubble Rocket Back View

Bubble Rocket Jump

Bubble Rocket Jump Front View

You can see that the front shot is more interesting since it shows her face but the bubbles are more fun on the back shot. Here is the final product after I used CS4 to paint in the correct version of Sara on the right bubble background.

Final version after painting

FInal version after painting

So how did I get there from the two originals?  Easy..

Photoshop Masks

Photoshop Masks

I made two layers, each with one version of the image and each with a mask. The first image is my subject or the subject I want to see and the second is my background I want to keep. First, we need to put the two images into alignment and to do that, you can use auto-align to line up the images or you can do it manually. I used auto-align and painted (blended) manually. You can find the auto- align tool at EditAuto align layers and choose automatic. Do not blend, you need to do that part by hand

The subject I want

The subject I want

Here is the second layer with my background.

The wanted background

The wanted background

With the two layers in place, I paint in my top subject layer at 100% on the subject and then fade in the borders at 50% and 25%. I also use a Wacom which lets me blend with pressure which gives me considerably more control over the blending. Once I have a good blend job, I then apply global adjustments for color/contrast etc. And whammo!  I have a nice snapshot of my daughter launching her bubble rocket with good bubbles AND her face showing. Total time was about 10 minutes in Photoshop.

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Further Development Using Corel Painter

So I’ve been on a high key kick of late with Lightroom and Photoshop. I mean, EVERYONE does black backgrounds or vignettes and it’s old.. very old. I stumbled over something of a Hybrid High Key look while working on a junk image several weeks ago. I even posted an entry here on it and how I made it from junk to art. That just got my interest up as a new business angle. So for the past weeks, I have gone from fooling around with it to writing a Lightroom preset called “White out” to working in Photoshop to “paint” the final image.

Now I’ve extended it further with the use of Corel Painter 11 or you could use Corel Painter Essentials 4 which is considerably cheaper to get started with. I love digital painting. I love taking a sharp and detailed photograph and turning it into a painting or close to a painting that lacks the sharp details but has a wonderful texture and feel to it that a photograph is lacking. I will also add that a Wacom or other graphics tablet is pretty much required to do this well. A mouse is painful to use when you want to paint and you will get frustrated with it. In my case, I did try painting without the tablet and then I bought a used tablet for a cheap price to see if I really wanted to stay with it. I just bought a new medium Intuos 4 Wacom so I have committed myself to this style of post processing.

Photoshop CS5 has some basic painting elements now built in but I find them more of a play toy than anything ready for serious painting. But, they will get you by on the cheap if you already have CS5 and would not rather not sprint for Corel’s software OR you would rather not learn a new software package. I also feel that these basic brushes in CS5 are just the opening move for CS5 to move into Corel’s space. I think if Corel were smart, they would offer plugs for CS5 that extend CS5 more into the Corel way of painting. At least the 800lb gorilla is not quite as ready to step on you if you are a partner of theirs.  Just my opinion and I dont know diddly about what goes on in the backroom of Adobe or Corel.

White out conversion

White out conversion

So here is a picture that shows my original image plus the basic reworked image that has the background replaced with white and the levels reworked using my Whiteout action plus some manual tuning. I also used Portraiture to smooth out the skin.

I took this image, added about two inches around it in white and saved it as an eight bit TIFF file and brought it into Painter. I cloned the image and added a layer to the clone. Then I used the basic blender brush called “grainy watercolor” and painted out the edges. Then I used the same brush in various sizes to brush out fine details and to blend tones. I did add some color to places like the nose and lips which had blown out to white in the processing. I used black to add some lines to other blown areas, just a touch of a line, a hint as it were. I might add some color background but that defeats the point of a high key look in white.. but I might do it anyways. I also did some heavy retouching on the reflections in the glasses. Since I wanted the black dots on the hat and the black glasses to provide a counter point to all the white, I needed the glasses to be almost solid black with just a bit of reflection to provide the texture. Smooth black in my mind would be too much.

white out then painted

Whiteout when painted

You can see that while the painting looks good, there is still some room for improvements here and there. That is the trouble with this style of post reworking, you can get so caught up in refining things, you never finish it. I love to paint and I have several ideas for my business revolving around using painting as a tool. But like the basic art of photography, this will require a fair amount of practice on my part or yours if you want to try it also. I would warn you not to get too discouraged at first. Painter is not intuitive or at least I dont find it that way. Some of my Photoshop commands transfer but by in large, it’s a completely new set of skills and commands to learn. This is the attraction of trying to see how far I can push the new bristle brushes in Photoshop CS5 where I already feel comfortable.

Tools used in this article:

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Posted in Business Aids, commercial photography, editing, editing software, highkey, lightroom, painting, photography, technique, training, workflow Also tagged , , , , , , |

Painting or how to soften your portraits

I’ve always been fascinated with graphics tablets. I had one of the early ones called a “Kola Pad” for my C-64 even though I never had a real use for it. It was fun to doodle around with. I also goofed with a lightpen that let me draw on the CRT directly. It never worked as well as it should even though I spent a hundred 1983 dollars on it.

Now days I have a nice Wacom Intuos 3 tablet and I also picked up a copy of PainterX from Corel. The end game to all of this is to “paint” portraits and other pictures. I’ve seen enough “paintings” done to know if done well, they sell well. So I’m trying to get my skill set up to speed on using the tablet and software. Many people I know swear by the tablets and I have to admit in just goofing around, it is certainly easier than my mouse.

So to the end of figuring out how to make this work and how to paint with PainterX, I found a very cool book by Karen Sperling who knows much about PainterX since she has written many of the manuals for it. She has a new book out called “Painting for Photographers” and it’s very good. You can buy it in paper or as an EBook or both in a combo deal. I personally went for the combo because there are times I just want to hold the book and not worry about kill my screen’s batteries.

Karen has an entire line of stuff thats worth looking at if you are at all interested in using PainterX in making very cool portraits. Tutorials, video clips, webinars and so on. The one that I suspect most people should watch is the beginner’s tutorial to get used to using PainterX and the whole of idea of “painting” with a digital graphics tablet and software.

I’m also working my way through Jeremy Sutton’s DVD on using PainterX called “Learning Corel PainterX”. Not the best presentation in my opinion. He’s stiff on the screen and his voice tends a bit to drone which wants to put me to sleep. It’s not that the information is bad, it is really not, it just the presentation. One of the more useful tidbits aside from how to program the tablet to do useful things, was to learn that there different nibs for my Wacom pen. A princely sum of 25 bucks gets me some new nibs and cushions for my fingers. I had no idea this was available or even other “pens” were available.

I was able to get a nice Wacom preference pane dated 2009 from the Wacom site at no charge. Here is a screen shot of the interface along with the buttons programs to how Jeremy likes to use them. His button layout does make sense when you think about it.

wacom programable buttons

wacom programable buttons

Right now I’m using the tablet instead of my mouse for even the normal window open/close and so on just to get some time in on using it. The first thing I noticed is that my back is happier leaning back and having the tablet in my lap instead of one hand resting on the table top with the mouse. I may have to find the wacom mouse that came with the tablet.

I should have book and some videos in my hands in a day or so and one of them is to paint using Photoshop. It will be interesting to see if PainterX is really worth the money to paint with or can Photoshop easily do it also. I know it CAN do it, the question in my mind is Photoshop the RIGHT tool to paint with. I dont mind using more than one tool, I tend to collect tools but using just one and upgrading just one and so is appealing.

Using PainterX is very exciting since I have several images that I think will make very nice paintings once I learn how. I also feel that it will be a nice “up sell” for weddings and portraits. I knew a photographer in Chicago that offered this service and did quite well as an outsourced vendor for some of the major photographers in the area. In some ways, I think that would be a cool thing to back fill some of my hours when I’m not shooting.

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