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: http://projectwoman.com/articles/45PhotoshopTemplates.html

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 Digital-Photography-School.com.

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.

Step4

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 http://projectwoman.com/2009/03/photoshop-color-that-packs-a-punch.html 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 (http://projectwoman.com/2009/07/creating-a-triptych-in-lightroom.html) and here (http://projectwoman.com/2009/10/how-to-select-and-compose-a-triptych-in-lightroom.html)and 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: http://projectwoman.com/articles/45PhotoshopTemplates.html

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: http://projectwoman.com/2011/11/personalize-lightroom-with-identity-plates.html 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 (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

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

5 Top Tips for Lightroom Develop Presets

lightroom presets opener 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.

lightroom presets tip 1 5 Top Tips for Lightroom Develop Presets

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.

lightroom presets tip 2 5 Top Tips for Lightroom Develop Presets

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.

lightroom presets tip 3 5 Top Tips for Lightroom Develop Presets

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.

lightroom presets tip 4 5 Top Tips for Lightroom Develop Presets

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.

lightroom presets tip 5 5 Top Tips for Lightroom Develop Presets

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.

10 photoshop shortcut keys 1 Ten best Photoshop shortcuts

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.

10 photoshop shortcut keys 2 Ten best Photoshop shortcuts

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.

10 photoshop shortcut keys 3 Ten best Photoshop shortcuts

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.

10 photoshop shortcut keys 4 Ten best Photoshop shortcuts

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.

10 photoshop shortcut keys 5 Ten best Photoshop shortcuts

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.

10 photoshop shortcut keys 6 Ten best Photoshop shortcuts

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.

10 photoshop shortcut keys 7 Ten best Photoshop shortcuts

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.

10 photoshop shortcut keys 8 Ten best Photoshop shortcuts

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.

10 photoshop shortcut keys 9 Ten best Photoshop shortcuts

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?

10 photoshop shortcut keys 10 Ten best Photoshop shortcuts

Helen Bradley

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

Photoshop – 6 “must save” settings

Photoshop saving presets and settings  Photoshop   6 must save settings

One feature of Photoshop is its ability to store things like custom shapes, brushes and workspaces so you can use them again and again. Saving settings you use a lot in Photoshop will save you time in future when you need to repeat the process.

Here are six handy ways to speed up your work in Photoshop by saving custom settings:

 
Photoshop saving presets and settings 1 Photoshop   6 must save settings

Curves (and other) Dialog presets

One of my favorite fixes is one involving a curves adjustment in the LAB color space which I introduced in my blog post “Turn Ho-Hum Color into WOW! with Photoshop” http://www.digital-photography-school.com/turn-ho-hum-color-into-wow-with-photoshop. The fix involves taking an image to LAB color mode and then, on a duplicate of the background layer, applying a particular Curves adjustment. Once you’ve done this once, you can speed up the process next time by saving the Curves settings as a preset. To do this, click the down-pointing arrow icon to the right of the Presets list, choose Save Preset and type a name for the preset. Next time you need to apply the same adjustment all you need to do is to select the preset from the list in the Curves dialog to save yourself the effort of creating the curves manually.

As you work in Photoshop, look out for dialogs that offer the ability for you to save your settings as presets you can use anytime in future.

Photoshop saving presets and settings  Photoshop   6 must save settings

Image Vignette Layer Style

Another type of preset you can save to reuse is a layer style such as one that applies a vignette to an image. To configure this, convert the background layer of an image to a regular layer and choose Layer > Layer Style > Inner Glow. Configure an Inner Glow with settings such as Blend Mode: Multiply, Opacity: 50%, Noise: 0%, Color: Black or Dark Brown/Grey. Set the Technique to Softer, Source: Edge, Choke: 10%, Size: 250px (or to suit the image).

Click the New Style button and type a name for your style. Select both the Include Layer Effects and Include Layer Blending Options checkboxes and click Ok.

In future, you can apply this effect to an image by selecting Window > Styles to display the Styles Palette. Your new layer style will be the last one in the dialog and you can apply it to any image by clicking on it.

 
Photoshop saving presets and settings 3 Photoshop   6 must save settings

Saving the Presets themselves

Certain Brushes, Styles, Gradients, Shapes and Tool presets need to be saved to disk or your run the risk of losing them if, for example, you reinstall Photoshop, delete your preferences file or choose Replace instead of Append when adding presets to a panel.

To save these presets to disk as files, choose Edit > Preset Manager and select the type of feature to save, such as Styles if you have created a custom style. Select the style or styles that you want to save, click Save Set and give the style set a name.

Once they’re saved as file on disk, you can load them into Photoshop at any time in future using the Preset Manager dialog or the feature’s own flyout menu.

 
Photoshop saving presets and settings 41 Photoshop   6 must save settings

Save a record of your work

Sometimes what you want to save in Photoshop is not preferences or brushes but, instead, details of the work that you’ve been doing on your images. You can save details of the steps you have performed to individual files or to a log file by choosing Edit > Preferences > General and enable the History Log checkbox.

Select to save the Log Items to Metadata, Text File or Both. If you choose Text File, a dialog will open from which you can select the folder and text file name to save the information to. Select Sessions Only, Concise or Detailed – to learn more about these options check out this blog post: http://www.digital-photography-school.com/how-to-keep-a-log-of-your-work-in-photoshop. Click Ok and in future the work you do on all your files will be recorded and stored for you.

 
Photoshop saving presets and settings 5 Photoshop   6 must save settings

Save your Actions

When you create Photoshop Actions to speed up the work that you do in Photoshop, like Brush and Presets, these will be lost if you lose your Photoshop settings. To make sure that these are backed up to external files so that you can recover them if they are lost, view the Actions palette, select the group of actions that you want to back up and click the flyout menu. Select Save Actions and, when the dialog appears, save your actions in a file so you can load then into Photoshop at any time.

 
Photoshop saving presets and settings 6 Photoshop   6 must save settings

Save your Workspace

I like my Photoshop workspace to be a certain way so I use the workspace feature to store my preferred layout for the Photoshop window and Palettes. To see how to do this, arrange Photoshop the way you want it to look, including hiding any palettes you don’t want to see and showing those that you do. Choose Window > Workspace > Save Workspace (New Workspace in Photoshop 5) and give your workspace a name. Select whether to include Panel Locations, Keyboard Shortcuts and/or Menus.

In future, you can use your Photoshop workspace by choosing Window > Workspace and select your saved workspace. Unlike other preferences, workspaces are automatically saved as external files.

 

Helen Bradley

Friday, December 30th, 2011

Lightroom – help my import dialog just shrunk!

Lightroom import dialog shrunk 2 Lightroom   help my import dialog just shrunk!
I just got a help! email from a reader who lost her import dialog. It had shrunk to a small size and none of her regular options were available. She is using Lightroom 3 and this shrinking dialog is actually a feature – it’s just she wasn’t seeing it that way – and who can blame her?

If something happens to change your screen and you don’t know how to undo it all of a sudden a feature becomes a disaster. Here is what her screen looked like:

Lightroom import dialog shrunk Lightroom   help my import dialog just shrunk!

There is a small button in the bottom left of the Import dialog shown circled here and it switches you into this mode. All you need to do to get back to where you want to be is to click on it again and the import dialog goes back to its regular size.

When you know how, it really is a feature, until then… help! my Lightroom import dialog shrunk.

Helen Bradley