Friday, March 30th, 2012

Print Contact Sheets in Lightroom

By Helen Bradley

Historically a contact sheet was a page of images each printed at the same size as the film negative – they were used as a reference for the images on the film roll. They were called contact sheets because the film was placed in close contact with the paper when printing them.

These days the term contact sheet loosely means an arrangement of multiple, small, same size images on a single page usually with some identifying information such as the image filename placed under the image. The purpose is to provide reference to a larger number of images. You may print them to keep or give to a client as a catalog of the images from a shoot, for example.

You can create a contact sheet inside Lightroom and here’s how to do it:

Select a template

Start by selecting the folder or the collection that contains the images that you want to add to the contact sheet.

Launch the Print module and, from the Template Browser, select one of the contact sheet options. There are a few grid layouts including two with square image cells – a 4 x 8, and a 5 x 8. There are two with landscape orientation cells – one 5 x 9, and one 5 x 11.

I chose the 5 x  8 one.

Set up the print job

If you plan to ‘print’ the contact sheet to a jpg file, from the Print Job panel on the right of the screen, choose Print to JPG File. As contact sheets are just that – a contact sheet and not full scale images – select to use Draft Mode Printing to speed up their creation.

The page dimensions will be preset for 8.5 x 11in. You can set your own Custom File Dimensions but increasing the size of the page simply changes the page size not the size of the cells – you have to adjust them separately.

Adding images

If you have only one image selected in the Filmstrip then the contact sheet will only display one image.

You’ll need to select all the images on the filmstrip to add them to the contact sheet. To do this, either click on the first image and Shift + Click on the last or select All Filmstrip Photos from the Use: list on the toolbar. If the Toolbar is not visible, press T to display it. You can also select Flagged photos, if desired.

The Toolbar shows you how many pages you will use and you can click the arrow keys on the toolbar to navigate the pages.

Add image captions

To add information below the images, from the Page panel on the right, select the Photo Info checkbox and choose the field to display. You can use one of the preset options such as Caption, Date, or Filename or click Edit to create your own field.

In the Text Template Editor, you can access to fields such as the filename, a sequential numbering or date as well as EXIF and IPTC data. You can also type your own custom text to create detailed photo info to add to the contact sheet. Here I typed some text, added a sequential number and the filename.

Customize the Contact Sheet

The template contact sheets are a starting point but you do not need to strictly adhere to their design if you don’t want to and they can be easily customized.

For example, from the layout panel if you click the Keep Square checkbox you will find that in some layouts your images may change orientation so the page will be a mix of portrait and landscape images.

You can adjust the maximum cell size and width using the Cell Size Height and Width sliders in the Layout panel. As you adjust the cell size, notice that the Cell Spacing values will change.

You can decrease the number of rows and/or columns using the Page Grid options. By decreasing the number of rows or columns, you can increase the cell size.

Adjusting margins

If you increase the Bottom or Top margin you can give yourself room to, for example, place an Identity Plate on the page.

Here I’ve reduced the number of rows and increased the bottom margin and added an Identity Plate from the Page panel options. In the Page panel, select the Identity Plate checkbox and then select the Identity Plate to use.

The Identity Plate will appear, by default, in the middle of the page so drag it into position on the page. Adjust its scale by dragging on the Scale slider.

You can adjust its Opacity if desired and, if it is a text identity plate (rather than a graphic), you can also select Override Color to make it any color you like.

Print the result

When you’re done, you’re ready to output the result. If you selected to print to a JPG file click Print to File and type a name for the file and select a location for them. The pages will be printed to a JPG file and if there are more than one they will be sequentially numbered.

Print to PDF

If you want to print to a PDF on a Windows machine you will need to have a PDF printer driver installed such as Adobe PDF or one you have downloaded from the web.

Select Page Setup, select the pdf printer driver and configure the page size so it matches the template size – such as letter paper portrait orientation. Then set the Print to: option in the Print Job panel to printer and click Print to print to a pdf.

Save the Template

If you have customized a template and want to be able to use it again in future, save the design as a new template.

Click the plus symbol opposite the Template Browser panel header and type a name for your template. You can store it in User Templates or create a new folder for it. Click to create it.

In future you can save yourself the time setting up the template by starting with your customized version.

Helen Bradley

Sunday, March 25th, 2012

Use Lightroom Presets in Adobe Camera Raw

If you’re like me, you have some presets that you’ve created in Lightroom that you would like to use in Adobe Camera Raw. Unfortunately the format of the preset files in each program is different so you can’t just install a Lightroom preset in ACR. However you can make an ACR preset from a file that has had that same preset applied to in Lightroom. Here’s how:

Apply the Preset

To begin, open an image in the Develop module in Lightroom. Without applying any other changes to the image, apply the Preset that you want to take to ACR. Here I have applied one of the free Wonderland presets from

Export the Image

Now export the image as a DNG file so that the changes will be written to the file. To do this, right click the image and choose Export > Export to DNG and export the image to folder of your choice.

Open in ACR

Launch Windows Explorer and locate the image on disk. Right click it and choose Open With > Photoshop CS5. Because it is a DNG file, it will open automatically in ACR.

Create the Preset

Click the Presets tab and click the Create New Preset option at the foot of the Presets panel. Type a name for your preset and then select the options that you want to include as part of the preset. Type a name for the preset and click Ok.

The preset will now be available from the Presets panel in ACR and will be able to be used to adjust any image.

Features not included

You should note that while most of the Lightroom adjustments that can be stored in a Lightroom Preset can also be saved as an ACR Preset, one exception is any Graduated Filter adjustment.

In Lightroom any adjustments you make using the Adjustment Brush cannot be saved in a Lightroom preset and in ACR those made using the Graduated Filter cannot be saved either. You will see the Graduated Filter adjustments that you made in Lightroom in ACR if there are any but you cannot save them in your preset as a Graduated Filter adjustment. What you can do however, is to save the settings for the Graduated Filter but not its placement as a separate setting. To do this, click the Graduated Filter icon in ACR to select the tool then click the Graduated Filter to save the settings for. Click the icon in the top right of the Graduated Filter panel and choose New Local Correction Setting and save it giving it a name.

You can apply this to an image in future using the Graduated Filter tool – just select the setting to use from this menu and drag to create the Graduated Filter for the image. The solution isn’t perfect but it can save you some work as shown here with the two Graduated Filters which are part of my Orton Preset for Lightroom. I can apply the preset then switch to the Graduated Filter and quickly apply the two Graduated Filter adjustments with their individual settings.

Advantages of taking Lightroom presets to ACR

One of the reasons you may want to take presets from Lightroom to ACR using this process is to take advantage of the free presets available for Lightroom. There are lots more of these than there are presets for ACR. If you use ACR as well as Lightroom then having your favorite presets available in both program will be useful.

Helen Bradley

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

Shoot right at night – Tip #8 – Closed shops

After dark you will find many shops completely blacked out but those which are lit or partially lit offer unique opportunities to photograph empty places.

Without people around to question what you are doing you can spend the time you need to do to find great subjects to capture. Look for different colours of light and repeated objects – here the local laundromat provides a moody subject which is only enhanced by the grain from the high ISO setting used.

Helen Bradley

Friday, March 16th, 2012

Shoot right at night – Tip #7 – Night activity

In busy cities and even in country towns you will find that the activity at night differs from that during the day.

Tankers deliver fuel, people clean areas that aren’t cleaned during the day and they are all great subjects to shoot.

Take the time to search out unusual activities to capture them. Here a cleaner was throwing up a cloud of steam and water and, captured in the night lights of the shops it made for an interesting shot.



Helen Bradley

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

Content aware resizing in Gimp

In a previous post, I looked at content aware resizing in Photoshop CS4 which is the same as in CS5. I also mentioned the online application called Rsizr Today I’m going to show you a plug-in for Gimp that does pretty much the same thing.

The tool is called Liquid Rescale which you can download from here: Close Gimp, install the application and then reopen Gimp and you will see the application on the Layer menu.

This plug-in is an alternative to the crop tool. You use it to reduce an image’s size but, where the crop tool removes the data from one or more sides of an image, content aware resizing removes it from the middle of the image. This gives you basically the same looking image but smaller in one dimension. You might use this, for example, to remove some empty area from the middle of an image where the more interesting parts of the image are to either side of it.

The same tool can scale an image up to make it larger in one direction – and this time it will create extra data in the image to fill the space. You might use this, for example, where you have a rectangular image that you want to make into a square image without losing any detail.

To see how this can be done, I’ll take this beach image and size it down from 3571 pixels wide to 3000.

Open the image in Gimp and choose Layer > Liquid rescale. When the dialog appears, click the Output tab and set Output Target to a New Image. Enable the Resize image canvas checkbox and click Ok.

Set the new image width – I set this to 3000 but made sure that the link icon was disabled as I don’t want the height altered. Click Interactive and wait as the image is resized.

The program resizes the image by removing unimportant details from it and keeping what it understands to be the important bits. This is the result:

If you find that some elements in the image are squeezed or damaged by the process, you can create a mask to prevent this from happening.

To do this, click the original image again and choose Layer > Liquid rescale and set up the Output tab options.

Click Feature Masks and, to create a protective mask, click the Feature Preservation Mask option and click New. The paint color will be set to green so select a brush, enlarge it to an appropriate size and paint over anything on the image that you do not want to change as the image is resized.

In my case, that is the swimmer at the front of the image and the lifeguard and boards at the back. I’ve added some other bits I don’t want skewed out of alignment like the vertical poles too. Anything else can be adjusted except these elements. When you’re done, click Ok.

Type the size for the new image and click Interactive and wait as the image is resized. Here I chose for the image to be reduced from 3571 to 2500 pixels wide, and the surfer, boards and flags have all reduced well. The protected areas have not been touched.

The plug-in also has a tool that you can use to remove elements from the photo. In my image let’s take out the large pole in the foreground. In this case you use a Feature Discard Mask – and paint in red over the area that you want removed from the image. Adjust the strength to the highest value, set the width value by clicking Auto size: Width so that the image is scaled to the appropriate width for the item you are removing and click Interactive.

In this case, the flag has gone but we’ve got a bit of a repair job to do with the rest of the image to fix it up. It would require some work with the clone tool to fix up the image but Liquid rescale has got us some part of the way towards where we are headed.

You can also use the plug-in to enlarge an image. In this case, we’ve enlarged the image to create a square image.

The rescaling process isn’t perfect but generally you’ll get a good enough result that with a small amount of cloning afterwards using the clone tool you’ll be able to produce a realistic result.

Helen Bradley

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

Shoot right at night – Tip #6 – Early Morning Sun

If you’re shooting after sundown or if you are up early in the morning before the sun is up look for drop dead gorgeous skies.

If you can capture the last rays of a dying sun or the first rays in the early morning you’ll get great color and wonderful silhouetting of anything between you and what light there is. Look for interesting trees, buildings and other features to capture as silhouettes.

Use a slow shutter speed, wide aperture or a high ISO (or all three) and be ready to capture the hues as they change from minute to minute across the horizon.

Helen Bradley

Monday, March 12th, 2012

Deleting catalog backup files

I’ve been talking to a few people lately about deleting catalog backup files. If you backup and optimize your catalog every time you close Lightroom then, over time, you will end up with a lot of excess catalog backups.

Each of these backups will consume disk space so the question becomes – what is in these backups? What use are they? And can they be deleted safely?

Backup your catalog

When you set Lightroom to make a backup of the catalog what it does is to make a backup of just the catalog and not your images, or your previews, or the sidecar xmp files for your raw files, or your presets. While having a catalog backup is undoubtedly a useful thing, it is incomplete so you will need to have a system backup system in place to backup what Lightroom does not.

In fact, because Lightroom’s backup is only a catalog backup, some people don’t do a backup this way and instead rely on their regular system backup to take care of backing up everything – catalog included. I prefer to at least have Lightroom do a regular catalog backup but that’s my personal preference.

Which backups to keep?

Because the catalog backup files are all stored in different folders by date they will build up over time and keeping them all is not a necessity.

You can be selective about which ones you keep – you should, at least, keep the most recent backups because if your catalog is corrupt you will want to be able to recover using these. If the most recent backup has issues then you would progress backwards until you get one which isn’t corrupt.

So, if I use Lightroom every day, I would keep the backups from this week and then one from last week and one from last month and beyond that I could feel pretty safe about deleting the others.

Delete a catalog backup

To delete a backup, locate the backup folder and identify the backup folders to delete and go ahead and delete them.

You will find your catalog backups, if you didn’t change the default location for them, in a folder called Backups inside your Lightroom catalog folder.

If you changed its location you can find the location you selected when you’re next prompted to backup Lightroom – the location is reported in the dialog prompting you to backup. Here too you can change that location if desired.

One issue with the Lightroom catalog backups is that the location, by default, is inside the folder that contains the Lightroom catalog. So, if the disk containing the catalog becomes corrupt you could lose your Catalog backups too. You may prefer to backup to a different disk to protect against this likelihood.

Every one of us will have different preferences for how we backup, where we backup to, the frequency of backup and what we backup. It’s over to you now – do you use the Lightroom Catalog backup tool? If you do, do you store your backups in the default location? Do you delete excess backups regularly?

Helen Bradley

Saturday, March 10th, 2012

Pixel Bender Droste Filter video tutorial

I work for Practical Photoshop mag in the UK which is a totally cool job. One of the projects I did recently is creating a spiral image using the Droste filter for the Pixel Bender extension for Photoshop CS4 & CS5 – try saying that quickly 5 times!

The guys at the mag – Ben and James have added my video tutorial to the magazine’s YouTube channel. Here is the video in all its glory and I highly recommend you subscribe to the channel there are some terrific tutorials there (if I say so myself!):

Helen Bradley

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

Shoot right at night – Tip #5 – Capture movement

When you’re capturing shots with a slow shutter speed of a half a second or more, look out for things that are moving in an interesting way to capture them.

The tail lights of cars moving away from you look great when they are caught as parallel strips of red light.

You can get a similar effect with cars and other traffic which moves perpendicular to you – in this case you will catch both the light from headlights and tail lights as they move across your path.



Helen Bradley

Monday, March 5th, 2012

Templates in Photoshop

A short while ago I wrote an article on using templates to create a collage or montage of images in Gimp. Sometime after, the templates that I suggested you  could use were taken down from the original website.

To help out our Gimp readers, I created a new set of templates and as I was making them, it seemed like a good idea to include instructions for Photoshop and Photoshop Elements as well as for Gimp. Here, therefore is how to use a downloadable template to create a montage of images:

Start by visiting this site and download the template zip file:

Then unzip the templates, save them where you can find them when you need to use them and open one of them. I’ve used the template triptych.psd.

When you open it, you’ll find that there are a series of layers. The top layer can be disabled or deleted at this point. The next two layers are instructions for Gimp and Photoshop users. Again, you can discard these two layers.

Open up the three images that you plan to use for this triptych. Images that are in portrait orientation will look best but you can use anything that you like – just be aware that you’re going to take a portrait orientation slice of the image.

In the template, click on Layer A and then click on the first of your images and drag and drop the background layer from the first of your images into the main image.

Click on the Move tool and size and position the image so that the interesting portion of it is over the black background. Click to accept this size and positioning and then with the new layer still selected, choose Layer > Create Clipping Mask. You’ll see that your layer is clipped to the size of the underlying shape.

You can fine-tune the placement and sizing by moving the contents of the new layer.

Now click on Layer B and again drag and drop the background layer from the second image into this template. Again, position the interesting portion of the image over the underlying background, sizing the image if desired. Create the clipping mask for that layer by selecting the image and choose Layer > Create Clipping Mask.

Repeat this for Layer C using your third image.

When you’re done, you can adjust the background of the image if desired by recoloring the layer marked background recolor if desired. You can now save and print the image or upload it to the web.

This same process can be used in Photoshop Elements.

Helen Bradley

Page 1 of 212