Monday, March 30th, 2009

Create a Faux Fisheye image effect in Photoshop

A fisheye lens is a wide angle lens which captures a lot of detail both in front of you and to the side – often as much as a 180 degree radius. While other wide angle lenses capture rectangular photos, a fisheye captures images which are distorted and which bulge in the middle and curve in at the edges.

While there is no real replacement for capturing an image using a fish eye lens on your camera because the field of vision is hard to duplicate you can still create a realistic faux fisheye effect in Photoshop.

Open the image in Photoshop and enlarge the canvas. To do this, drag the edges of the window containing the image so you can see plenty of the grey space around the image and click the Crop tool. Drag over the entire image to select it and let go the mouse button. Now drag outwards on the crop rectangle handles to select an enlarged area all the way around the image. You want a good amount of extra canvas. When you have done this double click to add the extra area to the image. It doesn’t matter what colour this is as you’re going to discard it later.

Choose Filter > Distort > Spherize to display the Spherize dialog. Set the Mode to Normal and set the Size to 100 percent and click Ok. This distorts the image by blowing up the middle of it to give a typical fisheye type effect.

Click the Crop tool, drag over an area of the image to retain and double click to crop to this size.

If necessary, clone areas of sky or other elements to fill the photo frame. Here I cropped the image so it would be nice and tall and knowing there was a little bit of work required to fill the missing areas of the sky.

Alternately, for a circular result, drag a circular selection across the image, choose Select > Inverse and choose Edit > Crop to Selection. You will now have a photograph which looks like it was captured using a fisheye lens.

Before you shoot (if you can!)
If you know you want to create a faux fisheye effect with the images you are capturing, then plan ahead and capture a 2 row by 3 column grid of images from a stationary point using a tripod and the widest angle that your lens can shoot at – in other words, don’t zoom in at all. Overlap the images around 25% on the edges so you can assemble them into a panorama later on.

Back in Photoshop or your software, assemble the images into a panorama. You may need to do this in three steps first assembling each row into a panorama and then assembling the two rows into a single image. This will give you more image data than you would typically have and will make the final result more believable.

Helen Bradley

Friday, March 27th, 2009

3 Step Photoshop Every Image Quick fix

Ok, so not technically Photoshop only – this tip works for any image software that supports layers, has layer blend modes and can do a gaussian blur. That includes Photoshop, Photoshop Elements and Paintshop Pro as well as lots of other great photoediting programs.

This is a very quick fix for boosting and image and giving it a really nice look.

Step 1
Start by duplicating the image layer by choosing Layer > Duplicate Layer.

Step 2
Add a Gaussian blur to the top layer by using Filter > Blur > Gaussian blur. You need to use enough radius to get a nice light blur on your image. For smaller images you need only a small value blur – say 2-4 and for larger images you will need a higher value. Click Ok when you’re done.

Step 3
Now set the Blend Mode for this blurred top layer to Soft Light or Overlay. You’ll get a nicer looking image and the colors will get a nice boost. Reduce the layer opacity a little if necessary.

This is a simple and effective fix and isn’t that the best type?

Helen Bradley

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

7 steps to throwing a Photo Party

Forget Photoshop for a day and put away your Digital SLR then grab a point and shoot, some photo paper and a lunchbox size printer and host a photo party that everyone will remember.

Make any occasion more memorable when you make it a photo party too. Instead of just taking photos, print them on the spot so everyone takes home a memory of the occasion. From weddings to birthdays and from retirements to anniversaries here is my 7 step approach to take any party to the next level.

1 Gather your tools
You will need one or two cameras – any digital camera will do and older ones are great because they take smaller images. If you have a newer camera, adjust the file size down to around 1200 x 800 in size and the quality to good (not superfine) as that is all you need to print a 6 x 4 photo quickly. Just remember to set these values back to normal after the party!

2 Grab a printer – lunch box size
To print the photos a small lunchbox photo printer is a great choice – it will print 6 x 4 and it can operate without needing to be connected to a computer. Simply pop the camera card or memory stick into the printer and start printing.

3 It is all in the planning
Test everything well before the party and get set up early on the day – you want to be able to enjoy the party not have to trouble shoot problems! I like to use one camera and two or more camera cards – in fact the piteously small cards you got with the camera are great for this job. Using it you can capture your first dozen or more photos, switch it out for a second (empty) card and get started printing.

4 Print and shoot
As the first photos are being printed, you can start capturing the next lot. Take one photo of each person or couple and don’t waste time editing or cropping photos – just set them up to print and get on with capturing more photos.

5 Share the wealth
Once you’ve finished printing them – hand out the photos to all the guests. I like to keep a laptop to one side to copy the images to so I can delete them from the cards and still have them as a permanent record in case anyone wants duplicates.

6 Fancy a part time job?
Affix pre-printed sticky labels with details of the date and occasion to the back of the photos. If you’ve had fun being chief photographer at the photo party, it’s a great sideline job so capitalize on the occasion and stick your details on the back of the photos too!

7 An album of Memories
For some parties like small weddings, showers, graduations, anniversaries, retirement parties and farewells I purchase a small album and add the printed photos to the album instead of giving them to the guests. Everyone then writes a message to the guest of honour beside their photo and the album is then given as a unique parting gift. If someone can’t make it to the party, have them send a note and a photo ahead of time so you can include it in the album.

Photo Party Check list
-Check everything works before party day
-Train a friend to use your printer and camera so they can help out
-Photograph everyone as they arrive
-Print contact sheets – they’re great for mini photos
-Have plenty of paper and ink on hand
-Delete bad photos in the camera so you don’t print them

Helen Bradley

Saturday, March 21st, 2009

Better Hash Tags with

While hash tags have been around on Twitter for ages (at least ages in Twitter time!), they’re a little bit difficult to manage. Hash tags are like this #psw and they’re used as a way to tag a post with its contents. This one, #psw is for Photoshop World – using this in our Tweets lets us share messages during the conference. Problem is to find the hashtag tweets. You can do it in Twitter search but it’s cumbersome to say the least.

Enter which gives you an interface for setting up hash tags and monitoring the tag content. The idea is that someone registers a tag at for an upcoming event. So there’s already one #PSW set up for Photoshop World. Once the hash tag has been created anyone can go to the site using the tag as part of the URL, for example and view the tweets that mention this tag.

Even if you’re not following someone you’ll still see them in the list and see their tweets. This is a great way to monitor activity at a tradeshow or other event where there is lots of activity in a short period of time. You can find everything relating to the hash tag you’re interested in at one easy to find (and bookmark) location.

Helen Bradley

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

Calculating printer costs

If you own an inkjet printer it won’t be long before you realise that the cost of the printer is far less than the cost of consumables for it.

I have a great HP printer which has separate colour cartridges for 5 colours and black so I only change cartridges when I run out of a colour – it’s more cost effective than replacing a composite cartridge which has multiple inks in it because you only replace a colour when you’re out of it.

However, I’m always curious about what ink costs and how much my printer really costs to run. I found, courtesy of this calculator from the American Consumer site which helps you calculate what your printer costs. You type in how many pages in black and white, colour and photos you print a week and it calculates the cost of your printer over 3, 5 and 7 years. It’s an eye opener!

Helen Bradley

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

Stupid Photoshop tricks #1 – hold your own photo

There are heaps of creative things you can do with your images in Photoshop and one I think totally rocks is a collage technique that turns your photo into a photo of itself. If you’re totally confused, check out the image – you’ll see a hand holding up what appears to be a Polaroid image in front of a scene – the Polaroid image itself shows part of the background scene and it’s all done in Photoshop – here’s how:

To create this image you will need a photo with an interesting subject. I’ve used a spring landscape.

You will also need a photo of your hand held as if you are holding a photo in it. Take the photo of your hand with your point and shoot camera held in one hand and your other hand stretched out in front of you. You may need to use macro mode to ensure that the hand is in focus and not the scene behind. The ideal setup for photographing your hand is with a road or carpark as the background – the contrast between your skin and the road will make it easy to select around your hand.

While you can create your own faux Polaroid image, there is a good one you can download from

Open the photo of your hand, the landscape and the Polaroid image in Photoshop. Crop the hand to remove excess background.

Select around the edge of the Polaroid image and remove its excess background so you have only the image itself.

Drag the background layer from the Polaroid image and the hand image into the landscape image. Each element will appear on its own layer.

Drag the hand to the top of the layer stack and hide the other two layers. Use your favourite section tool to select around the hand and add a layer mask by clicking the Add Layer Mask icon at the foot of the Layer palette (use Alt + Add Layer Mask if you selected the background rather than the hand). Using a layer mask makes it easier later on to remove parts of the hand so the Polaroid will look like it is held in your hand.

To transform the Polaroid image so it is the correct size, Ctrl + click on its layer thumbnail and select the Move tool. Press Ctrl + T to select the free transform tool and then Ctrl + 0 (zero), to scale the image so that you can see its sizing handles. Drag the Polaroid into the approximate position it should appear in the image and size it to suit. It should appear partially covered by the hand.

Make a selection around the inside of the Polaroid image and delete it or add a mask to hide it. Select the background layer and hide the two top layers. Move the selection over the underlying image – choose Select > Transform Selection and resize it in proportion if desired.

Choose Edit > Copy to copy the selection onto the clipboard, then Edit > Paste to paste it into a new layer, size it to fit the hole in the layer above. Brighten this layer if desired. Select this layer and the Polaroid image by Shift + clicking on each of them and choose Layer > Link Layers. Rotate the Polaroid slightly.

Make the hand layer visible again. Select the brush and black paint, click on the layer mask for the hand layer and paint out portions of the hand that should be behind the Polaroid. Add a new layer below this layer and paint a small drop shadow along the edge of the fingers over the Polaroid.

Helen Bradley

Saturday, March 14th, 2009

Solving printing problems in Excel

I’ve seen adults brought almost to tears over printing worksheets. Big worksheets consume lots of paper and when things go wrong they do so in a spectacularly wasteful way. Sometimes the best you can do is hit the printer Off switch to at least achieve a short term solution to the problem. A longer term solution is to understand how you can control what is printed and that’s what I’ll cover this month. I’ll look at the basics of printing a worksheet and then explore some more advanced options which offer better control over your printouts.

Troubleshooting problems
When you choose File > Print or click the Print button in Excel, the program determines what to print and does so. By default it prints everything on the currently active sheet. So, if you have a small set of data in the top corner of the worksheet and have accidentally typed something into a cell way below this (even if it is just a single space), you’ll get your data and everything else between this and the one cell with the mistaken entry printed. It could be pages and pages of blank paper – or lined paper if you have gridlines enabled and it’s perilously hard to track what went wrong.

You can see ahead of time that you’re about to have problems if you use the Print Preview tool. When the Next button is visible there are more pages to print than the one you can see. Of course, you should take care to never place a space in a cell. If you need to remove the cell’s contents, click in the cell and press Delete never use the spacebar.

If you can’t find the problem cell to delete it, you can try to fix the problem by deleting all the rows below your data and all the columns to the right of it and try again. In the long term this will avoid the problem happening when you print the workbook again next time. If this is a one off worksheet, you can select the area to print before printing it. Drag over the area to print and choose File > Print (don’t click the Print button on the toolbar as it prints the entire sheet regardless of what is selected). When the Print dialog appears, click Selection so only the selection will be printed.

Adding Page Breaks
To preview the page breaks on the worksheet to see where the data will be broken up into individual pages, choose View > Page Break View. Lines will appear on the screen indicating where the page breaks are. You can change these by adding your own manual page breaks but you have to do this inside the current page breaks – for example you can add a break inside a page but you can’t configure a page to be longer or wider using this method.

To add a manual page break, click to select the entire column or row where the break should appear and choose Insert > Page Break – the page break will be added to the immediate left of this column or immediately above the row. You can also click a cell and choose Insert > Page Break and a page break will be added above and to the left of that cell. When in Page Break View, not only are page breaks visible on the screen, you can also move them by dragging on them with your mouse.

Headings on all worksheet pages
Another issue when printing is that as soon as a sheet prints on more than one sheet of paper, the column headings or row headings appear on the first page but won’t appear on the other pages. This makes the data on the second and subsequent pages almost impossible to understand unless they’re taped together to form a single large sheet.

To avoid this, configure Excel to print column and row headings on every page of your printout. Choose File > Page Setup > Sheet tab and click in the ‘Rows to repeat at top’ box – type the row letters in the form $1:$1 (to print only the first row) or $1:$2 for the second etc.. If preferred, you can click the Collapse Dialog button to hide the dialog while you select the rows to use. Likewise you can set the columns that contain the row titles – generally these are in column A and you specify it in the ‘Columns to repeat at left’ box with an entry like $A:$A to use just the first column or $A:$B for the first two, etc..

More printing controls
When printing a worksheet that is wider than it is tall, you can print onto paper in landscape orientation to take advantage of the dimensions of the paper. To do this, choose File > Page Setup > Page tab and select Landscape. At the same time, make sure you’ve selected Letter or A4 paper depending on what you’re using as each has different dimensions.

Shrink to fit
When you have a worksheet that is just too large to print on a single piece of paper you can shrink it to fit on a single sheet by choosing File > Page Setup > Print tab and click the ‘Fit to 1 page(s) wide by 1 page tall’ option and it will be reduced to fit on a single sheet.

If your data is very long and you want to print it one page wide but on many pages long you can use the same option – in this case set it so it reads ‘Fit to 1 page(s) wide’ and delete the entry in the second box – Excel will constrain the width to a single page but print on as many sheets as are needed length-wise.

The same can be done for a worksheet that is wider than it is tall – remove the entry from the first box so it reads ‘Fit to page(s) wide by 1 page tall’. Of course, you can also set the value to 2 pages wide or tall or more as required.

When a worksheet will print over multiple sheets in both directions the order in which the sheets are printed may be important. You have two choices – you can have Excel print down the left side of the worksheet first and then across to the next series of pages to the right or you can have it print the width of the worksheet first then the pages below this. This order can be controlled using File > Page Setup > Sheet tab – and select either ‘Down, then over’ (the default) or ‘Over, then down’.

Helen Bradley

Saturday, March 14th, 2009

15 ways to size a Tweet to 140 characters

If you’re a twitterer you know Twitter gives you only 140 characters to get your message across. So you have to be short and sweet – but not so much so that no one gets your message.

Lance Ulanoff editor of PC Mag (an organisation I have had a long and very happy association with as a Contributing Editor to the mag), has a great post 14 Tricks for making 140 character Tweets.. to which I am going to add my 15th!

What are you trying to say?
Focus on what you are trying to say first and add descriptive extras later. I do a lot of posts mentioning cool free Photoshop brushes so I put Free Photoshop brushes first in my post as that’s the most important part. Then I briefly describe the set so folks know if it might be of interest to them and finally I’ll add a tinyurl link.

I know there are other link shortening services like the that Lance mentions but, personally, I’ve had problems with using links created by just about every service except TinyURL – somehow, TinyURL has never let me down. I prefer to use up a few extra characters and stick with what works.

I also assume that folks know that if I’m putting up a link to free brushes that the brushes are worthy of notice, but sometimes I can’t help myself so I add that I like them. In future I’ll be putting in place Lance’s suggestion to do ME:They Rock type additions… ME: I think that suggestion rocks!

I’m also always stripping out extra spaces and full stops when I post. I’m a big fan of using ellipsis… if you haven’t noticed but on Twitter they just gobble up precious space. Instead I use dashes between words-they still give me the change of pace I need but don’t take up any more space than a space would.

As for one of Lance’s suggestions that you remove unnecessary vowels, I’m reluctant to misspell words by removing vowels. I am a little old school here and I prefer to spell correctly – it’s all about my brand – I pride myself on accuracy – technical and otherwise so I never want my tweets to go out in a way that might have someone look at them and think I don’t know how to spell or that I’m careless about accuracy. That said, this is my pet peeve – you make your own choices!

Helen Bradley

Thursday, March 12th, 2009

PowerPoint slide show file – PPSX vs PPTX

What is in a name? Is there a difference between a PowerPoint 2007 PPSX and a PPTX file? (or a PPS and a PPT file in PowerPoint 2003 and earlier versions?)

The simple answer is, of course, yes there is a difference.

The long answer explains that difference so sit tight, here’s the long version:

The PowerPoint Slide Show files (PPSX and PPS) are files you can double-click on in Windows Explorer and the presentation will launch and start to display automatically bypassing PowerPoint itself. When you exit the presentation you will be taken back to Windows rather than left in PowerPoint with the presentation layout visible on the screen.

On the other hand, when you double click to open a PPTX or PPT file, it opens inside PowerPoint ready for editing or presenting. When you’re done, you get dumped back in PowerPoint with, you guessed it, your presention visible on the screen – not very professional if your audience is watching.

To save a presentation as a PPS file in PowerPoint 2003 and earlier, choose File > Save As and from the Save As Type dropdown list choose PowerPoint Show (*.pps) and click Save. In PowerPoint 2007, choose File > Save As > PowerPoint Show and the correct format will be automatically created for you.

PPSX and PPS files can be edited in PowerPoint in the same way as PPTX and PPT files can – you just have to open PowerPoint first and then choose File > Open to open the PPSX or PPS file as you can’t double click to open it.

So, now you know.

Helen Bradley

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

Instant text boxes in Microsoft Word

Just a short tip today, I just tripped over this and thought “WOW! I didn’t know that!” so I wonder if you know it too?

Ok.. step back a bit. I’m doing a column on columns in Word and I’m showing how to place a text box or image in a document laid out in 2 columns so the text box or image travels with the text and how to take it out of the line of text so it floats independently.

To create the text box, I select my text, then realize I need to create the text box first and click the Text box button without deselecting the text. [insert WOW moment in here].

What happened was that the text box got created automatically and the selected text appears inside it – just like that – how cool is that?

So, next time, instead of creating a text box and then copying and pasting text into it, select the text and click the Text Box button on the Drawing toolbar in Word 2003 and earlier and it will all be done automatically for you in one smooth step. The same process works in Word 2007 too but you must click the Insert tab, click the Text box button and choose Draw Text Box for it to happen.

Instant text in text boxes in Microsoft Word – can’t ask for anything more simple than that.

Helen Bradley

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