Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

5 Gotchas in the Lightroom Print Module

When you’re setting up single or multiple image printing in the Lightroom Print module here are some things to be aware of:

Nonexistent Drag and drop

You can drag and drop pictures onto a print template in Lightroom in some circumstances but not in others. This can be confusing but there is some logic behind it.

When you select a Lightroom template from the Template Browser, make sure to open the Layout Style panel on the right at the same time. Templates can be one of three layout styles and each operates differently. Knowing what style a template is will help you understand its behavior.

If it is a Single Image/Contact Sheet template then you must select images on the filmstrip to add them to the contact sheet and they appear in the layout in the order they appear in the filmstrip. You can’t drag and drop images from the filmstrip into a Single Image/Contact Sheet layout.

If the template is a Custom Package then you can drag and drop an image into any of the containers on the screen. You can also drag and drop an image into any position in the layout and it will sit on the screen even overlapping other images.

If a template is a Picture Package, then you can fill it by clicking an image in the filmstrip. A picture package prints multiple images on a single sheet of paper. If you select two images in the filmstrip, you’ll then have two pages in your picture package – one for each of the selected images. You can drag and drop an image into a Picture Package but when you do, you’ll create all sorts of issues. Not only will you add a new image to the layout page you are seeing on the screen but you’ll do the same for all the pages in the current layout. It’s generally best not to drag and drop images into an already tightly designed picture package layout.

Understand Border behavior

If you have a Photo Border enabled for a either a Custom Package or a Picture Package then the width of the border will make the image smaller. The color of the border is the color of the page background if you have a page background selected. If not, it will be white. If you set an Inner Stroke then it too will reduce the size of the image but it can be set to your choice of color.

So, for example, if you want a black page background but a white border around your images, set the page background color to black and use the Inner Stroke rather than the Photo Border to apply the white border to the image.

Identity Plate Behavior

When you add an Identity Plate to a Custom Package it appears once on the page and you resize it to suit and place it where you want it to go. However, it only appears once in the layout so, if you add a second page to the print layout, the identity plate will appear only on the first page.

Alternatively you can add the identity plate to every image by selecting Render On Every Image. Now the identity plate will appear on each image rather than on each page but it will appear in the very middle of the image and  you can’t move it.

So, if what you want is your name on each printout as an Identity Plate, create a Custom Package design with an Identity Plate but not set to render on every image. Make sure the identity plate is in the correct position and fill the page with images and print or save it. Then fill it again with a new set of images and output the result and repeat as required.

On the other hand, an Identity Plate added to a Single Image/Contact Sheet prints on every page of the document in the place you position it in.

Any size JPG output

You can print your layout to a JPG file that you can then upload to the web or send out for printing. To do this, from the Print Job panel, click the Print To: dropdown list and choose JPEG File.

Set the File Resolution and then the Custom File Dimensions for the page. Then, when you’re done assembling the images, click Print to File to print the layout to an image file rather than to a printer.

Crop your images

When you’re working with a Single Image/Contact Sheet, if the image is set to Zoom To Fill it will be made large enough to fill the container on the page. If the image height and width does not match the size of the container then part of the image will be removed. You can adjust the positioning of the image within the container by dragging on it with the mouse.

If you have a Picture Package or Custom Package selected you can move an image within its container also, but to do so you must hold the Ctrl key (Command) on the Mac.

The different behaviors of images within what appear to be similar layouts in Lightroom can be confusing but once you understand that different layout styles bring with them different key combinations and behaviors you’ll be on your way to creating great looking prints in Lightroom.

Helen Bradley

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Winter Photography Tip #8 – White balance

When you are photographing in snow conditions there are situations where you’ll need to adjust the white balance so that snow is white and so it doesn’t have a blue cast.

On the other hand the colourcast you get when you shoot in the early morning or at sunset is desirable so don’t remove it or your sunsets and sunrises will be ruined.

To capture the colour of the light set the camera’s white balance setting to sunny day – the camera makes almost no adjustment to white balance when you do this. This makes it a good setting to use when capturing sunsets, for example.

However, when there is a colour cast that you don’t want to capture such as blue light on snow, then adjust the white balance setting in your camera to remove it. To warm up an image, set the white balance to shade as this adds a pink/ orange warming cast to the image and counteracts the blue/colder light.

Helen Bradley

Friday, January 27th, 2012

Smarter Content Aware Fill

If you’re like me, you’ve tried out the new Content Aware Fill feature in Photoshop CS5 and you’ve been left just a little bit disappointed.

What Content Aware Fill does is to replace unwanted areas of an image in a smart way. It can reduce the amount of time you spend working with the Clone Stamp and other fixing tools when you have something you need to get rid of in an image. However, where the Content Aware Fill feature appears to fail is when you want to remove a large portion of an image – those very times you wish it would work perfectly.

Well, last week I learned a cool technique to use with Content Aware Fill that solves these problems, thanks to Adobe’s Bryan Hughes. So here’s a way to make Content Aware Fill behave a whole lot smarter.

In this balloon image, if I want to remove the trees at the bottom of the image, I would make a selection around them with, for example, the Lasso tool.

Then, in Photoshop CS5 – even though the bottom layer of the image is a Background layer I would press Delete to open the Fill dialog. Here I can choose Use: Content Aware Fill and press Enter to have Photoshop remove the trees for me.

The problem is, that as often as not, part of one or more balloons will appear in the filled area. What I want is blue sky and not balloons. I could repeat the “Select and Delete” process until the image looks as I want it to but there is an alternative way to use the Content Aware fill feature. This way of working is great when you are trying to remove a large object and where there is not a lot of clean image data for Photoshop to use to do the fill with.

This solution involves removing any part of the image I don’t want the content aware fill feature to use – here that is the balloons – temporarily leaving only the content I want it to use – here that is blue sky. To do this I converted the background layer to a regular layer by double clicking it and pressing Enter.

Then I added a layer mask using Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal All and painted on the mask in black to remove the balloons – a hard edge brush is a good choice here.

Now I’ve reselected the image – not the mask – and made a selection around the trees again using the Lasso tool. Pressing Delete this time won’t work – it just deletes the selection so, instead, I need to press Shift + F5 or choose Edit > Fill to open the Fill dialog. Make sure that Use: is set to Content Aware and click Ok.

This time Photoshop uses only the visible content to fill the area and because the balloons aren’t visible they aren’t used to fill the area when the trees are removed.

Once you are done, you can bring back the balloons by dragging and dropping the layer mask into the trashcan – select Delete when prompted so you remove the mask – don’t apply it.

Now the content aware fill tool works as you would expect it to – allowing you to remove large portions of an image and have the area filled in an intelligent way.

Helen Bradley

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

Winter Photography tips #7 – Work with what you have

Winter scenery typically lacks the bold colors of the other seasons. However, there’s still plenty of good subject matter to photograph. Look for the contrast of bare trees against wintry skies or soft snow hanging from the boughs of prickly conifers.

Contrast in line and texture make a great focal point for your images.

In the city, look for winter fogs and mists that partially hide buildings and in the country, look for elements which break the landscape drawing your eye to them such as a stream running through snow, a fence, hoof prints in icy paddocks or early bulbs.

Helen Bradley

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

Do you clean your own Sensor?

Every digital camera user will have confronted or will confront one day the issue of sensor dust. Every time you change the lens on your SLR there is a chance that dust will enter your camera. Some of this dust finds its way to the camera’s sensor with the result that you see unwanted and distracting spots on your images.

Built-in dust removal

Most cameras have some sort of dust removal feature built in. For example, my Pentax K7 has one that applies (according to its manual) “ultrasonic vibrations to the filter on the front surface of the CMOS sensor for approximately one second”. Sometimes this is all it takes to remove the dust. Just as often, however, the dust remains stuck fast.

This isn’t unusual because there are different ways dust can get to the sensor area and not all of it is ‘loose’ in the sense that it can be shaken off. Some particles can actually become stuck to the sensor.

Also, just to be clear, when I am talking about dust on the sensor, it isn’t really on the sensor itself but rather on a thin glass plate that is on top of the sensor. It’s just easier to call it sensor dust and to talk about cleaning the sensor than talk about cleaning the glass filter on top of the sensor.

When built-in methods fail

If your camera’s on board dust removal feature fails, the recommended solution is to send your camera to a service center that is authorized by your camera manufacturer and to have them clean it.

Because this is a service, you’ll be charged appropriately for it. You’ll also be without your camera for the length of time it takes to get it cleaned. Inspite of these issues, for most camera owners this is the safest and best solution.

Another option is to utilize the cleaning services provided by your local camera store. However, this is not without its risks – if the service technician isn’t authorized by the camera manufacturer to clean the camera then the cleaning could void your warranty -even if the cleaning doesn’t cause damage to the camera.

However, for a lot of photographers these options are just plain expensive and inconvenient.

For me, the issue is just that – cost and convenience. To get my camera cleaned at the local camera store costs $75 a time and it involves a one week turnaround – the service technician picks up and delivers to the store only on Tuesdays. In addition I have two one-hour round trips to drive to the camera store to drop it off and pick it up and I have to strip everything off the camera including the camera strap before it goes out and then put it all back together when it is done. All of this I was content to do until Mike from my local camera store suggested an alternative – cleaning the sensor myself.

Not for the faint of heart

On Mike’s recommendation, I bought a sensor cleaning kit which included a vacuum, wipes and cleaning solution as well as a magnifying light all packaged in a padded toolkit. The cost of the kit was a little more than one cleaning so on my second cleaning I stood to be ahead on cost.

Kiss your warranty goodbye

I’m not recommending self-cleaning to anyone. It is a decision each camera owner needs to make themselves. You need to do as I did and ask yourself if you are prepared to shoulder the cost if you damage your camera and void your warranty? If not, then pay your money and leave it to the professionals.

I accepted I would be up for the cost of a new camera body if I damaged it because that’s about what it would cost to fix the damage I would do if the cleaning went wrong. I also acknowledged that I have probably voided my camera warranty by cleaning the camera myself even if it isn’t damaged by the cleaning. However, for me it made sense to see if I could save some time and effort by doing my own cleaning.

Scouts’ motto: Be prepared

Here is what I suggest you do if you plan to clean your own camera:

1 Read the Manual

However you behave and whatever you do in any other aspect of your life this is the one time you should read the manual for your camera and your cleaning kit before you get started. In fact, read it four or five times until you’re completely familiar with what you’re about to do and the risks.

I also found a good deal of useful information at the Cleaning Digital Cameras website (http://www.cleaningdigitalcameras.com).

In short the better informed you are the more likely you are not to fail. And if it all sounds too risky and beyond your skills, then don’t do it – after all that’s why they have service centers that do it for you!

2 Power it up

If your camera has an AC connector, connect it to the AC so that you won’t run out of power in the middle of the cleaning. This is an extremely dangerous situation as lack of power will cause the camera to shut down and if it shuts down on your cleaning tool then you are almost guaranteed to damage something.

If you don’t have a mains power connector for your camera, make sure to charge a fresh set of batteries and put these in the camera before you begin.

3 Make sure you have a problem

This probably should really be step 1 – you need to make sure you have a problem before you start. If your camera is not dirty then don’t clean it.

Many cameras will have some form of dust alert system that will show you dust on the sensor. For the Pentax K7 there’s a dust alert setting that requires you to set the camera in C or AF.S shooting mode and point at an evenly lit even color subject such as a white wall or an empty word processing document on a computer screen and take a shot. The resulting image shows you if there is dust and where it is.

You will need to read your camera’s manual to see if you have a similar system and how to capture an image of the dust.

Of course, some of us will be in no doubt that our camera needs cleaning because we can see the dust on our photos. My own cleaning efforts were driven by a particularly large gob of dust stuck in the middle of the sensor which showed up on nearly every image I shot and which just wouldn’t move inspite of numerous attempts to vibrate it free.

4 Check your tools

Check your tools before you begin making sure that you have everything that you need arranged on a clean work surface in a clean environment. Because you’ll be removing the lens from the camera you don’t want to risk getting dust into it while you are cleaning it.

5 Prepare the camera

Your camera will have a sensor cleaning feature in it. You use this to raise the mirror so you can access the sensor to clean it. Check your camera’s manual for instructions as to how to access this feature and how to return the camera to its usual setting when you are done. On my camera, simply powering it off resets it – so I have to be very careful not to touch the power button while cleaning it and that’s why freshly charged batteries are critical.

6 Clean the sensor

Clean your camera following the instructions in your camera’s manual and those in your sensor cleaning kit (all the time having regard to the terms of your camera’s warranty).

Take care – this is a delicate piece of equipment and needs to be cleaned with a light and steady hand. A half cleaned sensor in a camera that still works is better than a squeaky clean sensor in a broken camera.

7 Check the results

When you have finished cleaning, check the results to make sure the dust is gone.

Now for the good news

The good news is that many people do clean their sensors successfully.

If you do it yourself and if you do it right, you will find the cost of sensor cleaning is much less than sending the camera away to be cleaned. It’s also very convenient because you don’t have to be without your camera for a period of time and it feels good to know you can deal with a dust problem yourself.

For me, it will be a task I’ll always approach with some trepidation and mindful that it’s one that needs to be done carefully and not hurriedly or under stress. It does however give me a new sense of freedom particularly when traveling. With my cleaning kit I’ll never be caught on day one of a two-week trip with a nasty gob of dust on the sensor and no way to remove it until I get home.

Helen Bradley

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

Winter Photography tips #6 – Light and Shadow

The light in winter is different to light in summer and because the sun is lower in the sky you get longer shadows.

When taking photographs in winter, take notice of where the shadows are falling.

If you photograph with the sunlight falling across the scene you can capture detail in not only the light but also in the play of light and shadow.

This contrast adds detail and interest to a landscape or anywhere where you have objects large enough to cast shadows and the sun to create them.

Helen Bradley

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

Winter Photography tip #5 – Play with Depth of Field

Winter is a great time to capture images taking advantage of your camera’s ability to create depth of field effects.

Get close to your subject and use an aperture setting of f2.8 or f4. When you use a wide aperture you achieve a very small depth of field so there will be a small amount of the image in focus and most of it out of focus. This is a great way to turn an otherwise humdrum subject into something a lot more interesting.

Helen Bradley

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

5 Top Tips for Lightroom Develop Presets

Develop Presets are powerful Lightroom tools. You can use them to quick start your editing in Lightroom and to apply creative fixes to your images. You can create your own presets and you can download them from the web. Here are my top five tips for harnessing the power of Develop Presets.

1 Create Disconnected Presets

Instead of creating a preset which, for example, applies a split toning effect as well as a vignette to an image, split this into two separate presets. Then you can use the split toning effect as well as the vignette if you want to do so but you also have the ability to apply one and not the other. If both effects are applied with one preset, you’ll have some work ahead of you to undo one of the effects. In addition when they are separate presets the vignette, for example, could be used on images where you would not consider also using the split toning effect.

2 Create Undo Presets

When you create a preset that adds, for example, grain or a vignette to your image, consider at the same time creating a preset that removes that effect. If you call the two presets the same name such as Grain_heavy and the delete preset Grain_heavy_del they will appear side by side in the list and it will be obvious that the second preset cancels out the effect of the first. Then, when you apply the preset and subsequently make other changes to the image you can easily remove the effect of the preset without having to wind back all the changes you’ve made.

3 Choose the Right Tools

I recently downloaded a great preset which applied a cool effect as well as a vignette. Unfortunately the designer applied the vignette using the Lens Vignetting tool in the Lens Correction panel. This isn’t a post crop vignette so, while the preset worked fine on some images it failed spectacularly on images which had been cropped. When you want to add a vignette, do this using the Effects panel’s Post Crop Vignetting options so your preset will work on any image cropped or not. Testing your presets with a range of images will tell you if they have problems that using a different solution may avoid.

4 Organizing Presets

If you’re creating a lot of presets or downloading a lot of presets from the web, it will help to organize them neatly. For this purpose, I like to create separate folders for preset sets that I download from the web. This allows me to open or close a folder of presets to display all its contents or shrink the list to show just the folder title. Be aware that the folder  hierarchy for presets is very flat and you cannot create folders inside folders for example.

If you have a lot of your own presets consider grouping them in folders too – so you might have a folder of editing presets and then a second folder of more creative presets. You can drag and drop presets from one folder into another in the Develop module.

If you download or create presets and you know you will never use them, right click the preset and choose Delete to remove it from Lightroom and from your disk.

5 Apply them on Import

Here’s a good reason for ignoring Tip #1 (at least for now) and for creating a Develop Preset that applies all the changes you typically apply to your images. So, if you typically apply some extra Brightness, Clarity and Vibrance and some noise reduction to your images, make all these changes to an image and save them as a preset. Now, in the Import dialog’s Apply During Import panel you can choose this preset and have it applied automatically to all images as you import them.

Helen Bradley

Saturday, January 14th, 2012

Winter Photography tips #4 – Capture Reflections

When you’re looking around a scene for photographic opportunities take the time to look down as well as out and up.

Winter brings with it not only stiller waters but also puddles created by rainfall.

On any day when rain has fallen a wealth of photographic opportunities exist at your feet. Capture a scene in a puddle to get a reflected image with artistic qualities that simply aren’t there when you take a photograph of the object itself.

Helen Bradley

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

Ten best Photoshop shortcuts

Photoshop has a huge range of shortcut keys for speeding up your day. Here are my ten best shortcut keys that I suggest you add to your Photoshop toolkit:

Find the sizing handles

When you paste a layer or selection into a Photoshop image – if it is larger than the current image it can be difficult to find the sizing handles.

To find them, press Ctrl + T, then Ctrl + 0 (zero) or on the Mac – Command + T, Command + 0. This selects Transform and sizes the image inside the window so you can see the sizing handles.

Flatten layers but keep them too

Sometimes you need, for example, to flatten the layers in an image to sharpen the result but you don’t want to get rid of the layers either. Here’s how to have your cake and eat it too (or more accurately, flatten your layers and keep them too).

Add a new empty layer to the top of the layer stack, click in it and press Ctrl + Alt + Shift + E (Command + Option + Shift +E on the Mac). This adds a flattened version of the image to the new layer but leaves the layers intact too.

Fill a layer

To fill an empty layer with the current foreground or background color use Alt + Delete or Option + Backspace on the Mac to fill the layer with the Foreground color or Ctrl + Delete or Command + Backspace on the Mac or to fill with the Background color.

Select a color from the image

When you’re working with a Photoshop brush and you want to sample a color from the image, instead of clicking the Eyedropper tool and then the Brush tool again, you can do it with a keystroke.

Hold the Alt the key (Option on the Mac) to switch temporarily to the Eyedropper tool and click to select a new foreground color. Let go the Alt/Option key to return to the brush.

Move a selection

Moving a selection is notoriously cumbersome without this keystroke: to move a selection while you are still drawing it, press and hold the Spacebar. Continue to hold the it while you move the selection and let it go when the selection is in the correct place.

Adjusting brush size

When you’re using a brush as an eraser, to paint with or in any tool that uses brushes, you can size the brush up or down using the [ and ] keys on the keyboard. In Photoshop CS5, you can hold the Alt key and the right mouse button (on the Mac use the Control + Option keys) and drag up to increase or decrease brush hardness and drag left and right to size the brush.

Scrubby sliders

Not technically a keystroke but a “must know” tool are scrubby sliders. In Photoshop CS3, and later, most options in most dialogs that can be adjusted using a slider can also be adjusted using a scrubby slider. Scrubby sliders appear as a hand with a pointing finger icon when you hold your mouse over the slider name. Drag on the name to adjust the slider value.

Zoom and Move with dialogs open

When a dialog such as the Layer Style dialog is open you can access the Zoom and Move tools by using Ctrl (Command on the Mac) to zoom in and Alt (Option on the Mac) to zoom out of the document. Use the spacebar to access the Hand tool to move the document around.

Hidden tools

Tools that share a tool palette position and a shortcut keystroke letter can be easily selected using the keystroke letter. So, for example, to access the Mixer Brush which shares a tool position with the Brush tool and if the Mixer Brush is hidden, press B to get the Brush tool. The press Shift + B until the Mixer Brush appears. In a similar way press M to get the Rectangular Marquee tool and Shift + M to get the Elliptical Marquee tool.

Precise and crosshair cursors

Finally, not so much a keyboard shortcut as something that can go horribly wrong –  pressing the Caps Lock key switches the Brush cursor into precise mode. This is a small crosshair cursor and hides the actual size of the brush. To return to the regular normal or standard brush tip, press the Caps Lock key again.

If I were helping a new user learn Photoshop, these are ten keystrokes I’d be teaching them. Do you agree or what keystrokes do you think are the most important to learn in Photoshop?

Helen Bradley

Page 1 of 212