Friday, October 28th, 2011

3 Cool tips for working in Adobe Bridge

Do you open photos direct into Photoshop or do you use Bridge? If you don’t use Bridge, there are some good reasons for changing your habits. You may not realize it but some of how Camera Raw behaves depends on whether you open an image from Bridge or from Photoshop. Here’s how:

Freeze Photoshop or not?

Open a Raw image in Photoshop and it opens, of course, in Camera Raw. But look at the screen – Photoshop is open but the window is frozen. You can’t minimize it and you can’t work in Photoshop at the same time as work in ACR.

Close the image and now do the same thing from Bridge – right click a Raw file and choose Open in Camera Raw. See the difference? When you open a Raw file from Bridge it opens in Camera Raw but without seizing the Photoshop window as well. You can still work in Photoshop at the same time as you work in Bridge.

In short, if you want the best of both worlds – Photoshop and Camera Raw then head to Bridge to open your images from there.

Bypass Camera Raw

If you’re in Bridge, you can bypass Camera Raw entirely and open a Raw file direct in Photoshop by holding the Shift key as you double click the image in Adobe Bridge. The image opens automatically in Photoshop. This is handy, for example, if you’ve already processed an image in Camera Raw in the past and if you now want to work on it in Photoshop.

JPGs to Camera Raw

In Camera Raw you can make adjustments and craft images often much more quickly and easily than you can in Photoshop. This being the case, you may want to use Camera Raw for your JPG files as well as your Raw files. In Photoshop CS3 and later versions, you can open any JPG in Camera Raw by right clicking the JPG in Bridge and select Open in Camera Raw. You can’t do the same thing from inside Photoshop.

As a bonus the changes you make to JPG images in Camera Raw are undoable. So, for example, if you convert a JPG to greyscale in Camera Raw and click Done, the photo will show as greyscale in your Bridge thumbnails. However, open the JPG in Camera Raw again and you’ll see the changes aren’t permanent – you can undo them and return the image to full color – don’t try that in Photoshop!

So, if you’re not using Bridge – there are three good reasons for considering changing your workflow habits.

Helen Bradley

Monday, October 24th, 2011

Lightroom toolbar techniques

If you’ve seen items come and go in your Lightroom interface and if you’re confused about what exactly is happening chances are you hit a keyboard shortcut that displays or hides one of the interface features. When I was new to Lightroom it was the Toolbar – I could make disappear in a heartbeat – problem was it took a lot longer to work out what had gone and how to get it back.

As I soon learned, the toolbar can be hidden and displayed using the T shortcut or you can choose View > Toolbar. The toolbar is visible in Library, Develop, Slideshow, Print and Web view – but here’s the catch – there is a separate toolbar for each module and hiding one doesn’t hide them all – likewise displaying a toolbar only does so for the current module not all of them.

That said, you’ll want to have the toolbar visible in most of the modules most of the time because it has some handy features that you will use regularly.

The toolbars in the Library and Develop modules are customizable – those in the other modules are fixed in what they display. To add to the general confusion, the toolbar you see in Grid view and the one you see in Loupe view in the Library module are both toggled on and off as if they were the same toolbar but they are separately customizable so you can select which tools appear in which view and they can look very different in each view as shown in these images of firstly Loupe view then Grid view:

To customize a toolbar click the down pointing arrow at its far right and select the options to display and hide. When you are working on a laptop, for example, and where screen real estate is a valuable commodity, you’ll need to be judicious about what tools are visible and which are not.

One option on a laptop that I like to disable is the rotation tool in Grid view in the Library. The reason is that I can set the thumbnails in Grid view so they show rotation icons so I don’t need the additional tool on the toolbar. However, in Loupe view this rotation tool doesn’t appear so I add it to the toolbar.

If you often resize your thumbnails then including the Thumbnail Size slider is a good idea – if you need the space it takes up for other tools then hide it and learn the = and – shortcut keys for managing the thumbnail size instead.

One gotcha that is a guaranteed disaster in the making for new Lightroom users is the apparent duplication of rating, color and flags on the Toolbar and on the bar across the top of the Filmstrip. These are NOT duplicates and instead they are each very different options. The tools on the Toolbar are used to apply a flag, color and rating to images in the Grid or Loupe views. Those above the filmstrip are filters that you use to filter your images based on the flags, colors and ratings you have applied to them. It is important to understand the difference. If you get into trouble and some of your images disappear, selecting Filters Off from the dropdown list above the filmstrip will display all your images again.

Helen Bradley

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

Photoshop: Working with Locked Pixels

If you’ve ever wondered what the small icons in the Layer palette do, you might be surprised at how useful they can be. Here’s what the Lock Transparent Pixels icon does and how you can use it.

There are times when you are working with content on layers in Photoshop that the layers can do things that you don’t expect them to do. For example, in this image, I have extracted the background to a layer of its own by selecting it and then choose Layer > New > Layer via Copy.

I now want to blur this layer so if I select it and apply a Gaussian blur filter to it, you will see that the Gaussian blur filter pushes the background over the edges of the flower.

This time, instead of selecting the layer contents I selected the Lock Transparent Pixels icon in the layers palette.

Now when I apply the same heavy blur filter you’ll see that the edges of the background are maintained.

The layer is blurred but only the area that was covered by the original pixels is blurred and the blur isn’t permitted to ‘bleed’ into the area that contains fully transparent pixels.

This option is useful when painting over details to change their color. For example, when you photograph someone against a green screen background you will find hairs and areas around the very edge of your subject may have a green tinge.  Or when you extract a subject, like a building, photographed in bright sunlight it may display some chromatic aberration around its edges.

If you select the layer by Control + Clicking on it (Command + Click on the Mac) and sample a color from adjacent pixels you can set the Brush to Color mode and paint over the edges. The problem is that, as you paint, the color is built up on partially transparent pixels which, if you paint too many times, begin to lose their transparency.

If, on the other hand, instead of selecting the layer, you click the Lock Transparent Pixels option and then paint with the brush set to the same Color blend mode and sampling colors from the image as you go, you’ll paint out the problem colors but without affecting transparency.

The same option can be used when you fill a selection with a foreground or background color by pressing Alt + Backspace (Option + Delete on the Mac). If the selection is partially transparent and if you simply Control + Click on the layer to select it, the more you fill it the more transparency is lost. On the other hand, if you select Lock Transparent Pixels you can fill it over and over again and no transparency is lost.

In short, using Lock Transparent Pixels ensures that an object on a layer can never become more or less transparent than it was when first created and that its edges won’t change if you, for example, add a blur to it.

Helen Bradley

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

How to set up your PC and your iPad for the free iWork and iCloud

If you have an iPad and if you have upgraded to the new iOS 5 then you can take advantage of the free iCloud and iWork tools for synching files and storing them in the Cloud. iCloud allows you to synch not only photos but also data such as files across your devices. So you can use this new technology to share Microsoft Office documents with Numbers, Keynote and Pages on your iPad. And you do this on your PC using a browser and by passing iTunes – something I for one am really glad about.

So, if you’re using a Windows PC, you can automatically access documents that have been sent from the iPad to the iCloud without needing to plug your iPad into your computer or use iTunes. It is a long over due technology and it provides a more professional approach to the task of file exchange – not to mention it will solve the problem that some users experience where their network administrators block iTunes.

Getting this all configured is simple but it is far from intuitive. Nowhere could I find step by step instructions so I had to piece this stuff together bit by bit. Hence this post – it will explain all you need to do. From start to finish, I’d allow about 1.5 hours – if you finish early that’s a bonus but none of this stuff is totally trivial so allow time to get it all done.

Start by updating iTunes to 10.5 on your PC. If you haven’t done this – you do this from inside iTunes. Then, connect your iPad to your PC and update the iPad to iOS 5 – this might take some time depending on how much data you have on your iPad as everything will be backed up – then reinstalled once the operating system is updated.

While iTunes is updating and iOS 5 is being configured, you can – on your PC – visit the Apple site at and download and install the iCloud control panel for Windows.

Back on your iPad when everything is running again, go into Settings and create your iCloud account.

On the iPad, in Settings > iCloud you can set up syncing for email and other items such as your Photo Stream and Documents & Data. For Documents & Data you have a choice of using your cellular data plan to upload or Wi-Fi only – for your Photo Stream you can only synch this using Wi-Fi.

If you have Numbers, Pages and/or Keynote installed, in Settings select these each in turn and enable the Use iCloud option – you need to turn this On before any of these apps will access iCloud.

iCloud can be accessed on your PC by opening the system tray and clicking on its icon – if it isn’t there, choose the Start menu and type iCloud. Use the settings to configure how and what you want your iCloud and iPad to share. For example, click Photo Stream and configure a folder for images to upload to the iPad and one to use to download into. On the PC you can select whether email, contacts and Calendars & Tasks should be shared with Outlook. I suggest you backup your Outlook pst file before you even consider enabling this!

So far you have everything working except your documents. For this, confusingly enough, you head back to your PC and crank up your browser and visit Sign in using your Apple ID. If prompted you should download and install the browser plug-in.

Here you will find links for Keynote, Numbers and Pages. Click on one of them to view the documents synched from your iPad – first time you do this it might take a while as the synching takes place.

In future, every time you create a document on your iPad or edit one it will be synched automatically and will appear in this list.

Although it is not obvious that you can do this, you can also drag and drop a document, spreadsheet or PowerPoint document into the appropriate panel and it will be synched with your iPad. You can double click a document in the list to download it to the appropriate application on your computer – here I’ve chosen a Pages document which will open in Word.

You can also now share documents with others who have Apple IDs using iWork. So, on your iPad, open a document, spreadsheet or presentation and click Share and Print (it looks like a spanner) and choose Share via Type the email address of the person you want to share it with and they will receive an invitation to view the shared document:



Helen Bradley

Monday, October 17th, 2011

Shape images and Clip Art in Word 2010

There is a healthy range of free clip art available from Microsoft and it includes some photos including content from However, the process of getting them into your document any other way than by choosing Insert > Clip Art is not always obvious.

Here’s how to add a clip art image to a circle shape:

Choose Insert > Shape and select the Oval. Hold Shift as you draw to create a circle on the screen. If you choose Drawing Tools > Format > Shape Fill you get the option of applying a picture to the shape but not clip art.

Instead, right click the shape and choose Format Shape to get access to the new to Word 2010 – Format Shape dialog. Choose Fill > Picture or Texture Fill and click the Clip Art button.

Browse or search for an image. You could also have placed a Clip Art image into your document using Insert > Clip Art and then selected it and cut it to the Clipboard. Here in this dialog you can choose Clipboard to add the image from the clipboard – in short you have more options here for using image than you have using the Shape Fill list.

If the image is skewed out of shape – and it will be if it is a portrait or landscape image inside a circle which is pretty much a square with the corners cut off – you can adjust it.

Select Crop and, for a landscape orientation image inside a circle, increase the Picture Position Width value. For a portrait orientation image inside a circle, increase the Picture Position: Height value.

Then adjust the Offset X or Offset Y values, if desired, to control which portion of the image shows up inside the circle.

Helen Bradley

Friday, October 14th, 2011

Reformatting pasted text in Word

I recently grabbed some text from an email that I’d sent to someone. The text was in numbered point form and I wanted to add some more items inside the list of points. This is where everything started to go hair-raisingly wrong.

It seemed as if my list was no longer reformatting correctly and the numbers were everywhere. Worse still, that old standby of copying and pasting formats using the FormatPainter didn’t fix the problem.

By selecting the Show/Hide¶ icon on the Home tab in Word I immediately saw the problem. Instead of paragraph marks at the end of each paragraph there were bent arrows indicating a manual line break. I didn’t put them there but the email software had.

To get my list back to something that I could work with, I needed to quickly replace the manual line breaks with paragraph breaks.

If you open the Find and Replace dialog and click in the Find What: box you immediately see the problem – how do I tell it what a manual line break is and what a paragraph break is? The solution is to click the More button to show more options. Then click Special to get access to the Manual Line Break character. It’s actually a carat and what looks like a pipe symbol but it’s easiest to get this by clicking  this by clicking Manual Line Break because the pipe symbol on the keyboard isn’t the right one – go figure!

Then click in the Replace With box and select the Paragraph Mark  – this one you can type manually as it is carat + p (^p) but since you’re there why not click to insert it instead. Now click Less to return the dialog to what it looked like before and click Replace All to turn all the manual line breaks back to regular paragraph marks. Now my numbering worked just fine.

Helen Bradley

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

Photoshop CS6 – What’s on your wish list?

When you’ve been using a program like Photoshop for a length of time, you begin to develop a wish list of things you’d like to see in future versions. Sometimes these are addressed by new releases and sometimes they’re not.

Now I know Photoshop CS5 isn’t that old but there are still things on my wish list that aren’t in Photoshop. Here are some things I’d like to see in the next version of Photoshop:

Give me some Clarity

While Vibrance, which first made its appearance in Lightroom, has now been included as an adjustment in Photoshop, Clarity has not yet made the grade – it’s available in Camera Raw but not in Photoshop itself.

In Lightroom and ACR the Clarity slider lets you adjust the midtone contrast and it gives a much needed boost to the midtones in an image with quite spectacular results. At the top of my list for the next version of Photoshop would be the inclusion of a Clarity adjustment.

Paste into a Selection

One thing I’d love to see in Photoshop is the ability to paste a copied item from one image in Photoshop into a second image but with the copied selection being pasted in at a specific size.

In short, I’d like to make a selection on the target image with the marquee tool and have Photoshop paste the clipboard contents into the marquee area at a size that fits it to the selection.

You can make a selection and paste the clipboard contents into it but the pasted image isn’t resized to fit – I’d like the option to do both.

Print Multiple Images

Having used PaintShop Pro for many years, the feature that I’d love to see Photoshop ‘borrow” from that program is some means of easily assembling multiple images to a layout for printing on a single sheet of paper.

PaintShop Pro has a very smart Print Layout tool which displays images down the left of the screen which you can drag and drop into a page for printing. You can drag to resize the images, right click and size them to a fixed size or add them automatically in position on a pre-designed template – built in or custom made.

Adobe has some workarounds to this problem available: Lightroom 3 has a multiple print feature which is reasonably flexible and simple to use and which I wrote about in this post You can assemble multiple images for printing on a single page through Adobe Bridge but the tool is a little cumbersome and it’s in Bridge and not where most people will expect it to be – in Photoshop itself.

You can add the Picture Package tool back into Photoshop CS4 and CS5 (which Adobe removed in these versions) as I explained in this post:

But, workarounds aside, I dream of the day a really smart multiple picture print tool appears in Photoshop.

So, now you know the top three things I’d like to see in Photoshop CS6 – now it’s up to you – what’s on your wish list?

Helen Bradley

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

Excel – get the day or month name from a date

Often you will want to extract a month or day of the week from an Excel date. This is extraordinarily easy to do using the text function.

To get the name of the day of the week from a date in, for example, cell A1 type this into another cell:

= TEXT(A1,”dddd”)

This will give you the full day name spelled out such as Monday or Tuesday.

If you want a three character name use:

= TEXT(A1,”ddd”)

The same basic formula can be used to get the month of the year from a date. Use this to get the month name spelled out in full:

= TEXT(A1,”mmmm”)

Use this to get the month of the year spelled out in three characters:

= TEXT(A1,”mmm”)

and this for a single letter month:

= TEXT(A1,”mmmmm”)

This formula can be easily constructed and copied down a column of dates to extract just the information you want very quickly and easily.

The Excel help file has some information about the different formats you can use to extract data using the TEXT function.

Helen Bradley

Monday, October 10th, 2011

Recover images from a damaged SD card

A friend turned up recently with a curly question. She’d been using a SD card in her point and shoot camera for some time and now the card had stopped functioning. If she put it in her computer she was told to format the disk to use it – sensibly she didn’t do this. However, she was sure she’d lost the shots she’d taken on her recent vacation.

She took the card to a camera store and was quoted $25 to look at the card and then $15 for every 25 pictures recovered from it. Even though she only wanted the most recent images – some 30 or so – she’d have to pay for all the images they recovered. As she had over 1,000 images on the card – the math wasn’t pretty – over $600 to get her images. The shop owner explained the process was time consuming and complex – hence the cost.

For my friend, the thirty or so photos just didn’t justify the expense. Luckily she called by to ask if she should she simply put the disk in the trash or was there an alternative? I grabbed the disk and sent her to get coffee – before she got back I had her images off the damage disk and burned to a DVD.

Here’s what I did:

The program I used is called Zero Assumption Recovery or ZAR. You can find it at I opted for this program because it allows you to recover digital pictures from digital camera memory free of charge – for other uses it is a for fee program.

Start out by downloading an installing the ZAR Recovery software. Insert the damaged disk in the card reader and launch the software. When prompted that antivirus software may impact performance, click to accept the warning and go and disable your antivirus software.

When prompted, click the Image Recovery (Free) option.

The program looks for devices that are installed. This is probably the most confusing portion of the exercise because you’ll need to identify which of the devices in the list is your camera card. It’s not really that difficult and, in my case, Disk 4 shows as an SD card with 1,876 MB of data on it – pretty clearly it is the SD card. Select the disk and click Next.

Wait as the program analyzes the disk. You’ll see a list of the recovered files. In my case I wanted all of them because not only did I not know which images she wanted but this dialog really isn’t the place to start getting fussy about which images you want and which you don’t – it’s simplest to take them all. So click the Root checkbox to select all the images.

Click Next and you can then select the folder into which the recovered files will be placed. Because I selected the Root folder on the SD card these images will all go automatically into a subfolder called Root. Make sure you always recover files onto a disk other than the one they came from – it sounds self-evident but the busted SD card is not the place to put the recovered images.

I left all the options set to their defaults and simply clicked Start Copying the Selected Files. The software copied 1099 files to my hard drive in a few minutes.

Open the folder in Windows Explorer and set it to view thumbnails to see what you have. I found a handful of images were unreadable and a few images were only half full of data with half the image missing but well over 1000 of the files were there and most of those my friend remembers taking on her vacation.

The moral of this post is to never throw out a camera card until you’ve tried to recover the data from it. There is good and free software out there that can do the recovery for you and it isn’t difficult or time-consuming to attempt it yourself. Oh! and don’t format a card if it has images on it that you want to download –  even if your computer prompts you to do so – it’s not being helpful and the results might reduce your chance of recovering your  images.


Helen Bradley

Friday, October 7th, 2011

Round tripping with Lightroom

One of the most confusing things for new Lightroom users is understanding how documents get round tripped from Lightroom to Photoshop and back.

Step 1
To start, open Lightroom with the image displayed in the Develop, Library, Slideshow or Web modules. Right click the image and choose Edit In > Adobe Photoshop.

If you chose a raw file then the image is sent direct to Photoshop.

Step 2
If you chose a jpg or tiff file, then other options are available. You can choose Edit a Copy, Edit Original or to Edit a Copy with Lightroom Adjustments. If you want to take the changes that you’ve made to the image in Lightroom with you to Photoshop, then use the Edit a Copy with Lightroom Adjustments option.

This is exactly what happens if you are working with a raw image – you don’t see the dialog – and the image is sent direct to Photoshop with the Lightroom adjustments in place.

Edit Original ignores any changes that you have made in Lightroom and sends the unedited original image to Photoshop.

Edit a Copy sends the image direct to Photoshop ignoring any changes you’ve made to the image in Lightroom but at the same time it creates a copy of the image so you won’t be editing your original.

Step 3
When you’ve finished editing the image in Photoshop, click File > Save to save the image.

The one thing you should avoid when saving a photo that you have taken from Lightroom to Photoshop is to rename it when you save it. If you rename an image by choosing File > Save As then the link between the image in Lightroom and Photoshop won’t be retained and the edited saved version won’t appear in Lightroom catalog. To get the image back into Lightroom you have to find it and then import it into the catalog. This is typically the step where new Lightroom users fall foul of the process and get understandably frustrated.

Step 4
When you return to Lightroom, if you were editing a raw file or if you chose to Edit a Copy, you will find your original file and the edited version in place in the Lightroom catalog. The edited version of the file is stored in the same folder as the original.

The edited version has the same file name as the original but with -edit added to it. In the case of a raw file, the edited version will be saved by default as a tiff file.

If you chose Edit Original then only the original file with its edits will appear in Lightroom.

Step 5
If you wish to do so, you can send also send an image to Photoshop as a Smart Object by right clicking it in Lightroom, choose Edit In > Open as Smart Object in Photoshop.

This opens the document in Photoshop with the image on a layer converted automatically to a Smart Object. You can do this for tiff, raw and jpg images.

When you save the file it is saved as a tiff with –edit added to the filename – the tiff file format supports Photoshop Smart Objects so the Smart Object will be there when you edit the file again.

Step 6
You can determine how Lightroom sends files to Photoshop by choosing Edit > Preferences and click the External Editing tab. Here you can select the file format to be used, the color space that will be applied to the image, the bit depth, resolution and any compression available for the chosen file format.

From the foot of the dialog you can also configure the file naming convention used for files sent from Lightroom to Photoshop. By default, it will be the original file name with –Edit attached to it, although you can change this if desired.

Here too you can add other programs to the shortcut menu so you can take your images from Lightroom direct to programs such as Photoshop Elements or your favorite editor.

Helen Bradley

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