Friday, March 30th, 2012

Print Contact Sheets in Lightroom

By Helen Bradley

LR contact sheets opener e1331138212741 Print Contact Sheets in Lightroom

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.

LR contact sheets 1 Print Contact Sheets in Lightroom

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.

LR contact sheets 2 Print Contact Sheets in Lightroom

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.

LR contact sheets 3 e1331138269451 Print Contact Sheets in Lightroom

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.

LR contact sheets 4 Print Contact Sheets in Lightroom

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.

LR contact sheets 5 Print Contact Sheets in Lightroom

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.

LR contact sheets 6 Print Contact Sheets in Lightroom

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.

LR contact sheets 7 Print Contact Sheets in Lightroom

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.

LR contact sheets 8 Print Contact Sheets in Lightroom

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.

LR contact sheets 9 Print Contact Sheets in Lightroom

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.

LR contact sheets 10 Print Contact Sheets in Lightroom

Helen Bradley

Sunday, March 25th, 2012

Use Lightroom Presets in Adobe Camera Raw

lightroom presets in ACR opener 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

lightroom presets in ACR 1 e1331138958918 Use Lightroom Presets in Adobe Camera Raw

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.

lightroom presets in ACR 2 Use Lightroom Presets in Adobe Camera Raw

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.

lightroom presets in ACR 3 e1331139051961 Use Lightroom Presets in Adobe Camera Raw

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.

lightroom presets in ACR 4 Use Lightroom Presets in Adobe Camera Raw

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

lightroom presets in ACR 5 Use Lightroom Presets in Adobe Camera Raw

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.

lightroom presets in ACR 6 e1331139121736 Use Lightroom Presets in Adobe Camera Raw

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

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

Content aware resizing in Gimp

gimp content aware resizing liquid rescale opener 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.

gimp content aware resizing liquid rescale 1 Content aware resizing in Gimp

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.

gimp content aware resizing liquid rescale 2 Content aware resizing in Gimp

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.

gimp content aware resizing liquid rescale 3 Content aware resizing in Gimp

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.

gimp content aware resizing liquid rescale 4 Content aware resizing in Gimp

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:

gimp content aware resizing liquid rescale 5 Content aware resizing in Gimp

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.

gimp content aware resizing liquid rescale 6 Content aware resizing in Gimp

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.

gimp content aware resizing liquid rescale 7 Content aware resizing in Gimp

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.

gimp content aware resizing liquid rescale 8 Content aware resizing in Gimp

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.

gimp content aware resizing liquid rescale 9 Content aware resizing in Gimp

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

gimp content aware resizing liquid rescale 10 Content aware resizing in Gimp

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

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.

Delete lightroom catalog backup 1 Deleting catalog backup files

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.

Delete lightroom catalog backup 2 Deleting catalog backup files

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.

Delete lightroom catalog backup 3 Deleting catalog backup files

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

droste filter pixel bender 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

Monday, March 5th, 2012

Templates in Photoshop

PS collage before after 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:

PS collage step 1 Templates in Photoshop

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.

PS collage step 2 Templates in Photoshop

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.

PS collage step 3 Templates in Photoshop

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.

PS collage step 4 Templates in Photoshop

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.

PS collage step 5 Templates in Photoshop

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.

PS collage step 6 Templates in Photoshop

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

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Adobe Launches Photoshop Touch for the iPad

Photoshop touch first looks opener Adobe Launches Photoshop Touch for the iPad

It has been a long time coming – way too long – but Adobe finally launched Photoshop Touch for the iPad.

I have reviewed it here for PC World and I wrote a how to for creatively editing images with it for

The app costs $9.99 so it isn’t cheap by iPad app standards but I think it is worth it. Downsides are non editable text, 1600 x 1600 px file size limit, no true editable masking tools and no adjustment layers. But it does have good layer tools (unlike Adobe Ideas you don’t have to shell out 99c for each new layer!), blend modes and it is easy to use.

Helen Bradley

Saturday, February 25th, 2012

Photoshop – Replace a Face

Photoshop replace a face before after Photoshop   Replace a Face

A reader recently emailed me a couple of photographs of her children. Unfortunately, as often happens with small children, one image had two of the three children looking at the camera and smiling and the other image had the exact opposite combination – only one child looking great. Her question was – could she take the good face from one of the images and paste it into the second image.

Photoshop replace a face step1 Photoshop   Replace a Face

The answer is yes, and here’s how to do it in Photoshop without any need to cut and paste:

Step 1

Open both images in Photoshop. Drag the background layer from one image onto the other – in my case I dragged the background layer from the image with two out of the three faces correct and dropped it into the image that has only one good face.

You will have an image with two layers – the top has two good faces and the one below has the other one. Close the other image.

Step 2

Photoshop replace a face step2 Photoshop   Replace a Face

Select both layers in the image that you’re working on and choose Edit > Auto-Align Layers and select Auto.

Photoshop will now align the two layers so that the faces in both layers will be aligned on top of each other. To do this you need to have two images with very little difference between them and this image lined up pretty well as a result.

Step 3

Photoshop replace a face step3 Photoshop   Replace a Face

Click on the topmost layer and add a layer mask to it by clicking the Add Layer Mask icon at the foot of the Layers palette.

The mask is filled with white by default which means that the entire contents of the top layer is visible and the bottom layer not visible at all.


Photoshop replace a face step4 Photoshop   Replace a Face

Select black as your foreground color and choose a soft edge brush. Target the mask by clicking on it so you’re painting on it and then paint over the child’s face in the image to reveal the face from the layer image below.

Step 5

Photoshop replace a face step5 Photoshop   Replace a Face

You’ll need to make some small choices about how much of the layer below you reveal with the mask – if you take too much you can paint back on the mask with white to reveal the top layer again.

I made some small adjustments around the child’s collar to hide the fix. The red portion of the image shows the mask – I turned this on – it won’t typically be visible to you as you work.

Step 6

Photoshop replace a face step6 Photoshop   Replace a Face

Finish by taking a critical look at the final image and, if necessary, adjust the mask or add a new layer and clone elements from the layers below to fine tune the image.

I had to do a small amount of cloning of the little girl’s shirt to fix a small problem and then I cropped the image and it was complete.

The entire process took all of around ten minutes.

Photoshop Elements

Photoshop replace a face step7 Photoshop   Replace a Face

You can get similar results in Photoshop Elements 7 and above by opening the two images and choose File > New > Scene Cleaner and follow the instructions there.

Helen Bradley

Friday, February 10th, 2012

Ho-Hum to Wow! in Gimp


ho hum to wow in Gimp with LAB opener Ho Hum to Wow! in Gimp

Some time ago I wrote a blog post which involved using the LAB color space to adjust an image. In the interests of those of you who use Gimp, this blog post is a revisit on the topic of dragging color out of lackluster images this time using Gimp.

One of the hidden secrets of Gimp is that it supports the LAB color space so you can get access to the L, a and b channels in an image. This adjustment therefore produces similar results to those you can achieve with my earlier post using Photoshop it’s just that the process in Gimp is a little different.

Start out with an image that could use a color boost. This image of a statue over a door in Paris is very monochromatic so it’s a great contender for this process.

ho hum to wow in Gimp with LAB step1 Ho Hum to Wow! in Gimp

Start by making sure your Layers panel is visible – if not, choose Window > Dockable Dialogs > Layers (or Control + L) to display it. Right click the Background layer and choose Duplicate Layer. Select this new top layer.

ho hum to wow in Gimp with LAB step2 Ho Hum to Wow! in Gimp

To convert the image to LAB color, choose Colors > Components > Decompose. From the color model dropdown list, select LAB. You will want to decompose to layers so select Decompose To Layers and click Ok.

ho hum to wow in Gimp with LAB step3 Ho Hum to Wow! in Gimp

You’ll have a new image on the screen with three layers. Right now you’ll be looking at the L channel and below it in the Layers palette are the A and B channels.

ho hum to wow in Gimp with LAB step4 Ho Hum to Wow! in Gimp

Disable visibility on the L layer and click the A layer to select it. You should have a dark murky almost negative looking image on this layer. Choose Colors > Curves and adjust the curves by dragging the top right and bottom left points on the curve one, two or three boxes inwards on the grid. You can read off the values so pairs of values  like (30,0) and (225,255) or (64,0) and (191,255) are good.

You need to make sure the line goes through the middle of the grid, or you will get an unwanted color cast in the final image. This A channel controls the Magenta and Green in the image and you’re boosting it now to very high levels. Click Ok.

ho hum to wow in Gimp with LAB step5 Ho Hum to Wow! in Gimp

Repeat this by disabling the visibility on the A channel and do the same on the B channel. This is the Yellow/Blue channel. When you’re done, turn back on the visibility of all three channels. You should see no difference in the image at this stage.

ho hum to wow in Gimp with LAB step6 Ho Hum to Wow! in Gimp

If desired, you can adjust the contrast in the L channel using curves – this will give you some additional boost in contrast in the final image. The L channel is the luminosity channel and it has no color in it at all so you can create a different shape curve here and there is no requirement for the line to go through the middle of the grid.

ho hum to wow in Gimp with LAB step7 Ho Hum to Wow! in Gimp

When you’re done, choose Colors > Components > Recompose. The layers will be recomposed back into the original image.

ho hum to wow in Gimp with LAB step8 Ho Hum to Wow! in Gimp

To see it, you will need to close the LAB version and return to your original image. Because you’re working on a duplicate layer, you can now blend the top layer by selecting a different blend mode such as Overlay for the top layer and then adjust down the Opacity to suit.

ho hum to wow in Gimp with LAB step9 Ho Hum to Wow! in Gimp

Helen Bradley

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

More Flexible Lightroom to Photoshop editing

lightroom to photoshop opener e1326308705318 More Flexible Lightroom to Photoshop editing

If you work in Lightroom, at some stage you’ll probably want to take an image to Photoshop for some additional processing. How you send it to Photoshop will have an impact on the options available to you. One option in Lightroom is to take an image to Photoshop as a Smart Object and that has some advantages. Here’s how to do it and why you might consider using this feature.

Open as a Smart Object

In Lightroom, when you’ve finished processing the image and you’re ready to head to Photoshop, right click the image and choose Edit in > Open as Smart Object in Photoshop (this is available if you’re using Photoshop CS5, CS4 or CS3 – Smart Objects weren’t available in earlier versions of Photoshop).

lightroom to photoshop 1 More Flexible Lightroom to Photoshop editing

Photoshop will open with your image open on the screen. If you look at the Layers palette you’ll see the layer has an icon in the bottom right corner of its thumbnail. This tells you the image is a Smart Object.

lightroom to photoshop 2 More Flexible Lightroom to Photoshop editing

If you want to make further adjustments to the image you don’t have to start over. Instead, double click the image thumbnail in the Layers palette and the image will open in Adobe Camera RAW (ACR). The processing options in ACR are the same as you have in Lightroom so you can change how the image is processed.

lightroom to photoshop 3 More Flexible Lightroom to Photoshop editing

When you are done making changes, click Ok. The changes to the image will appear in the Smart Object back in Photoshop.

Double processing

The obvious advantage of opening an image in Photoshop as a Smart Object is being able to make changes to the image even after it has been brought into Photoshop and even after you have made changes to it – such as adding an Adjustment Layer, for example.

lightroom to photoshop 4 More Flexible Lightroom to Photoshop editing

In addition you can use this feature to process an image in more than one way and to blend the two versions together. To do this, right click on the smart object layer and choose New Smart Object via Copy. This creates a copy of the smart object layer.

Double click on the thumbnail of this second Smart Object to open it in ACR and now process it a second time to bring out detail in another part of the image. In this case I adjusted to get a better sky. When you’re done click Ok to return to Photoshop.

lightroom to photoshop 5 More Flexible Lightroom to Photoshop editing

The changes have been applied to only the second copy of the image and not the first so there is a different version of the image in each layer.

To blend the two layers together add a Layer Mask to the topmost layer – to do this, select the layer and click the Add Layer Mask icon at the foot of the Layers palette. Target the mask by clicking its thumbnail in the Layers palette and paint on the image with black to bring back detail in the layer below.

lightroom to photoshop 6 More Flexible Lightroom to Photoshop editing

If any of the layers still needs fine tuning, return it to ACR to fix it.

Because the two versions of the image are on separate layers you can blend those two layers together using a blend mode or adjust the Opacity of the top layer.

lightroom to photoshop 7 More Flexible Lightroom to Photoshop editing

When you are done, click Save to save the file, close it and return to Lightroom. Your edited version of the image will be saved in the same location as the original image and will appear in Lightroom too.

lightroom to photoshop 8 More Flexible Lightroom to Photoshop editing

If  you want to edit this image again at a later date and have the Smart Objects still in place, when you right click the image and choose Edit In > Adobe Photoshop CS5 (or CS4 or CS3), choose Edit Original.

Taking your images to Photoshop as Smart Objects gives you additional tools for working with your images in Photoshop – it’s a handy technique to add to your Lightroom/Photoshop toolkit.

Helen Bradley

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

Create a collage in Gimp

template collage in gimp opener Create a collage in Gimp

One task I perform regularly in Photoshop and Lightroom is to assemble multiple images on a single page for printing.  I love displaying my photos, for example, as triptychs –which are three side by side images.

I’ve posted before on the process in Lightroom here ( and here ( today I’ll show you how to do this in Gimp using a set of templates I have created for you and that you can download free.

These templates work with both Gimp and Photoshop and you can find them here:

template collage in gimp 1 Create a collage in Gimp

Unzip the files and open the one to use in Gimp along with the images that you want to use. I’m using the Triptych.psd file.

template collage in gimp 2 Create a collage in Gimp

Start by viewing the template you are using and, in the Layers palette select and discard the top three layers which include the instructions for using the template in Gimp and in Photoshop and Photoshop Elements.

template collage in gimp 3 Create a collage in Gimp

Select the first of your images, choose Select > All  and then select > Edit > Copy to copy the image to the clipboard.

In the template click on the layer marked A and choose Edit > Paste as > New Layer. This pastes the image from the clipboard into the layer immediately above layer A.

Click the Move tool (set it to Layer) and drag the image over the top of the shape on the right. If desired, click the Scale tool and scale the image to size it larger than the black rectangle.

template collage in gimp 4 Create a collage in Gimp

Move the portion of the image that you’re most interested in seeing over the shape.

Now, to crop the image to size, click layer A, right click and choose Alpha to Selection.

template collage in gimp 5 Create a collage in Gimp

Now select the Clipboard layer that you’ve been working on, choose Select > Invert and press Delete.

template collage in gimp 6 Create a collage in Gimp

The image will be clipped to size using the template shape as a guide to the size. Choose Select > None before continuing.

template collage in gimp 7 Create a collage in Gimp

Repeat this process for layers B and C – select and copy the image to use, click the layer you’re working with (B or C) and choose Edit > Paste As > New Layer.

Move the image into position and scale it if desired. When scaling, making sure to lock the width and height so that the image is scaled in proportion.

Right click the layer you’re working with – Layer B (or C) and choose Alpha To Selection. Click your newest clipboard layer and choose Select > Invert and then Delete.

When you are done you should have all 3 images in position.

template collage in gimp 8 Create a collage in Gimp

This image has a background layer behind the pictures which currently shows white. If you prefer to add a solid color behind everything, delete this layer and add a new layer filled with your choice of color. Here I’ve added a new dark grey filled layer.

template collage in gimp 9 Create a collage in Gimp

You can finish off the design with some text or simply save the resulting image.

These storyboard templates are a good place to start with your picture layouts. You can find similar templates elsewhere on the web so start with a search for “Free Photoshop Clipping Mask Templates” or “Free Storyboard templates”


Helen Bradley

Saturday, February 4th, 2012

Slideshow Titles with Identity Plates in Lightroom

LR identity plates and slideshows opener Slideshow Titles with Identity Plates in Lightroom

Identity plates are one of the best kept secrets in Lightroom. There are lots of ways that you can use Identity Plates in Lightroom not only to customize the interface as I discussed in this post: but also customize your print, web and slideshow applications.

In this post, I’ll show you how to create and use identity plates to create custom title and ending slides in the Lightroom Slideshow module.

Create a slideshow

For a slideshow, it is a good idea to start by placing all the images in a collection – then select the collection and switch to the Slideshow module.

From the toolbar choose All Filmstrip Photos to set up the slideshow with all those images.

From the Template Browser choose the Default template. Chose a background color by opening the Backdrop Panel and choose Background Color and sample a color to use.

LR identity plates and slideshows 1 Slideshow Titles with Identity Plates in Lightroom

You can add a background color with or without a color wash. You can also set a background image – for example use an image from your slideshow with a reduced opacity as the background.

Here I have settled for a plain dark gray background.

From the Layout panel select Show Guides and make sure Link All is selected and then drag in on the guides so you have some space around the images.

LR identity plates and slideshows 2 Slideshow Titles with Identity Plates in Lightroom

By unlinking the guides, you can set one guide to be smaller than the others – I like to make the top margin smaller than the others to push the images higher on the screen.

Use your Identity Plate

The first place you can use an identity plate is in the Overlays panel. This Identity Plate will sit on each slide and it will show as the slideshow plays. For this, I like to use a plain text identity plate so make sure Identity Plate is checked and then click the down-pointing arrow and select an identity plate that you’ve already created.

LR identity plates and slideshows 3 Slideshow Titles with Identity Plates in Lightroom

Alternatively, click Edit and type identity plate information into the box and then select it and select a font, font size and color. When you’ve done this, click the Custom button, click Save as and give your identity plate a name.

LR identity plates and slideshows 4 Slideshow Titles with Identity Plates in Lightroom

It doesn’t matter what color you have selected for the Identity Plate text because you can select the Override Color checkbox and select an alternative color for your text identity plate. Adjust the scale to a large value so that you can see the identity plate text on the screen, drag it into position and then fine-tune the scale and opacity to suit.

LR identity plates and slideshows 5 Slideshow Titles with Identity Plates in Lightroom

Identity Plate for a Title

Another place you can use an Identity Plate is the Titles panel. Here you can add an Intro and Ending screen to your slideshow. While you could use a simple identity plate configured for the purpose, you can also use an image.

Here I have taken one of the images from the slideshow into Photoshop by right clicking it and choose Edit in Photoshop.

I cropped a portion of the image and used it to create an interesting starting slide for the slideshow. Here I added some text to the image to introduce the slide show. Where possible, it’s a good idea to leave as much of the image transparent as possible so you keep the file size small.

Size the image to approximate the size of the slideshow window – I used 1408 x 800 pixels.

Save the image in Photoshop as a PNG file so it retains its transparency. Later you can control the background color for the title slide by selecting a color from the Intro screen color selector rather than having the color already in the Identity Plate image.

LR identity plates and slideshows 6 Slideshow Titles with Identity Plates in Lightroom

Now, back in Lightroom, in the Title panel click Add Identity Plate and select Edit and this time select Use a Graphical Identity Plate. Click Locate file and either drag and drop the image into the window or find the image on disk. Click Ok to load it as an identity plate – you may be prompted that it is very big – click Use Anyway to continue.

The image will appear for a second or two on the title slide and it will then disappear from the main screen but you will see it in the Titles panel. It will probably be too small so adjust the Scale slider to increase its size.

LR identity plates and slideshows 7 Slideshow Titles with Identity Plates in Lightroom

You can go ahead and create a similar graphical identity plate if desired for the ending screen.

LR identity plates and slideshows 8 Slideshow Titles with Identity Plates in Lightroom

By creating a second Photoshop image in the same way and importing it as a Graphical Identity Plate you can have a different and custom ending screen for your slideshow.

To view the slides and your new titles, click the first image in the slideshow and click the Play button.

Helen Bradley

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

5 Gotchas in the Lightroom Print Module

5 gotchas lightroom print module 5 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.

5 gotchas lightroom print module 1 5 Gotchas in the Lightroom Print Module

5 gotchas lightroom print module 1a 5 Gotchas in the Lightroom Print Module

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.

5 gotchas lightroom print module 2 5 Gotchas in the Lightroom Print Module

5 gotchas lightroom print module 2a 5 Gotchas in the Lightroom Print Module

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.

5 gotchas lightroom print module 3 5 Gotchas in the Lightroom Print Module

5 gotchas lightroom print module 3a 5 Gotchas in the Lightroom Print Module

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.

5 gotchas lightroom print module 5 5 Gotchas in the Lightroom Print Module

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

Friday, January 27th, 2012

Smarter Content Aware Fill

Photoshop content aware fill before after 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.

Photoshop content aware fill 1 Smarter Content Aware Fill

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.

Photoshop content aware fill 2 Smarter Content Aware Fill

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.

Photoshop content aware fill 3 Smarter Content Aware Fill

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.

Photoshop content aware fill 4 Smarter Content Aware Fill

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.

Photoshop content aware fill 5 Smarter Content Aware Fill

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.

Photoshop content aware fill 6 Smarter Content Aware Fill

Photoshop content aware fill 7 Smarter Content Aware Fill

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

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

Do you clean your own Sensor?

clean your camera sensor opener 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.

clean your own camera kit Do you clean your own Sensor?

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 (

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