Monday, November 14th, 2011

Photoshop – convert a black background to white

backgroundchange before after smaller Photoshop   convert a black background to white

I was recently asked how to convert the background of an image from black image to white. It isn’t a trivial task so it got me thinking. One of the problems is that things shot against a black background actually pick up black or dark reflections so it’s not enough to merely remove the black – you also have to solve some of the reflection problems as well.

This method won’t work on every image but provided the subject is well lit so there are minimal dark reflections to deal with, it is quick and effective.

Step 1

Start by making three copies of the background layer of the image by right clicking it and choose Duplicate Layer three times.

Set the top layer’s blend mode to Color and the second top layer’s blend mode to Lighten.

PS black to white background change 1 Photoshop   convert a black background to white

Step 2

Target the third top layer and choose Image > Apply Image. Set the Channel to Red as it is typically lightest in the areas where the data is that you want to retain. Select Invert and make sure the Blend mode is set to Normal. You will see the image now with the background removed. Click Ok.

PS black to white background change 2 Photoshop   convert a black background to white

Step 3

Now all you have to do is to tidy up the problems. Typically this is problems with color or the edges. For this I make yet another duplicate of the background layer and drag this to the top of the layer stack. Make a rough selection of the background using a tool like the Quick Selection tool and then hold Alt (Option on the Mac) as you click the Add Layer Mask icon at the foot of the layer palette. You can now use this layer to add color or to fix other problems.

In this image I reduced the opacity of this layer to around 30% to bring back some missing detail in the flower.

I also added a new layer, set its Blend Mode to Color, sampled some color from the flower and painted over some of the petals where they showed pink once the black was removed.

PS black to white background change 3 Photoshop   convert a black background to white

The image is © Lars Sundstrom from sxc.hu

 

 

 

Helen Bradley

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

Personalize Lightroom with identity plates

 

personalize opener Personalize Lightroom with identity plates

If you’re a professional photographer, teacher, someone who routinely shows off images in Lightroom or if you just like the personal touch, why not personalize your Lightroom interface? The Lightroom branding which appears in the top left corner of the screen is customizable using the Lightroom Identity Plate feature. Identity Plates are usable throughout Lightroom to brand your prints, slideshows and some web sites but what suits one of these modules won’t necessarily work for customizing the interface.

The Identity Plate that appears in the top left of the Lightroom screen is configured by selecting Edit > Identity Plate Setup (on the Mac choose Lightroom > Identity Plate Setup).  To create a simple Identity Plate, choose Use a Stylized Text Identity Plate and type the text into the text area. You can select and format the text in the font, font size and color of your choice. Click the Enable Identity Plate checkbox and the changes you make will appear in place so you can check how they look. You may need to size the text to fit the space – Lightroom won’t scale it to fit automatically.

personalize 1 Personalize Lightroom with identity plates

To save the Identity Plate, choose Save As from the dropdown list and type a name for the Identity Plate. You can then select and use it in one of the modules later on – for example you can add it to a print layout.

If you prefer to use graphics in your design such as your signature or a graphical design element you can create a graphical Identity Plate in another application such as Photoshop. The file you use should be no more than 60 pixels in height so it fits in the space available – there is no option to scale it to a smaller size, for example. For this reason, if you plan to use a Graphical Identity Plate such as this for more than just customizing your Lightroom interface you will need two of them – one small image for customizing Lightroom and another one sized appropriately for printing at a high resolution.

When creating your Identity Plate in an application like Photoshop, build it in a layered file and make sure the bottom layer of the document matches the color of the Lightroom interface – ie make it black. This way you test the Identity Plate to make sure it will look good when placed on a black background. Then turn off the visibility of the black background layer and save the file as a .png, .psd or another format that maintains transparency (not jpg). If you save as a .jpg image the transparent background will be white and you will probably also have small unsightly artifacts in your design.

personalize 2 Personalize Lightroom with identity plates

Back in Lightroom, open the Identity Plate Editor and choose Use a graphical Identity Plate, click Locate File and browse to find the file on disk.

personalize 3 Personalize Lightroom with identity plates

Save this Identity Plate so you can always reuse it if you change the Identity Plate in future.

personalize 4 Personalize Lightroom with identity plates

You can use this same process to create a transparent image in your graphics program to use as a graphical Identity Plate for the other modules. In that case make sure that the Identity Plate is created at an appropriate size for printing. Crop closely around the image so that it can be easily sized and moved into position later on. You need to do this because it is not possible to size an Identity Plate any larger than the screen or page size and you cannot skew an Identity Plate out of shape when resizing it – its proportions will be constrained as it is sized up or down.

 

Helen Bradley

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

Photoshop CS5: Oil Painting with Pixel Bender

Pixel Bender before after e1317676964686 Photoshop CS5: Oil Painting with Pixel Bender

One of the cool new tools from Adobe Labs is Pixel Bender. This free extension lets you apply any one of a series of filters that comes with the extension to your images in Photoshop CS5. But that’s not all – Adobe also provides a simple interface for Pixel Bender that lets you create your own filters. As a result a community is building around Pixel Bender with users sharing custom created filters with others. In this post I’ll show you how to get started with Pixel Bender.

You will find the Pixel Bender extension here for download: http://labs.adobe.com/downloads/pixelbenderplugin.html this is the version for Photoshop CS5 and CS5.5. Go to this site to find the Pixel Bender download for Photoshop CS4 you will see the link in the top right of the page. Make sure to download the version that matches your operating system and your version of Photoshop CS4, or 5/5.5 (32 or 64 bit). The extension is an .mxp file and you need to install it using the Adobe Extension Manager.

Pixel Bender step1 e1317677030964 Photoshop CS5: Oil Painting with Pixel Bender

You can install the extension by double clicking on the file to launch the Adobe Extension Manager. If you’re using Windows Vista or Windows 7, you should run the Adobe Extension Manager as an Administrator. So, from the Start menu, locate the Adobe Extension Manager entry, right click it and choose Run as Administrator. The reason for this is that the extension needs to be placed in a folder that you can only access if you have administrator privileges. If you launched the program manually choose File > Install Extension and locate and select the extension that you just downloaded.

Accept the license terms and the extension will be automatically installed inside the appropriate Photoshop CS5 program folder.

When you’re done, close the Extension Manager, close Photoshop and reopen it.

Pixel Bender step2 e1317677014117 Photoshop CS5: Oil Painting with Pixel Bender

Pixel Bender won’t work on images larger than 4096 x 4096 so start by resizing your image if necessary. If desired, you can convert an image to a Smart Object before applying a filter.

To run Pixel Bender open an image and choose Filter > Pixel Bender > Pixel Bender Gallery. You’ll see a list of filters in the dropdown list which currently displays CircleSplash. Select the OilPaint filter and then adjust its settings. Using Stylization, you can adjust the length and bend of the brush strokes – the larger values look best.

Cleanliness will adjust the smoothness of the effect and typically looks good at around 7 or 8. Colorization allows you to apply more or less color to the image. BrushScale changes the size and length of the darker brush strokes – a small value gives thin long lighter brush strokes and a larger value gives shorter thick very dark brush strokes. BrushContrast will adjust the contrast of the brush strokes and is probably better left at a value approaching 1.

Pixel Bender step3 e1317676997619 Photoshop CS5: Oil Painting with Pixel Bender

In short, adjust the sliders until you get a result you like. If you are unsure how a slider is affecting the image drag it all the way to the left or right to see the effect. Then adjust from there.

When you’re done, click Ok to apply the result to the image. Unlike most filters which convert images to look like an oil painting, this one does well at identifying edges in the image so the painting looks more realistic.

 

 

 

 

 

Helen Bradley

Friday, October 28th, 2011

3 Cool tips for working in Adobe Bridge

opener e1317676338409 3 Cool tips for working in Adobe Bridge

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

Freeze Photoshop or not?

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

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

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

step1 e1317676362232 3 Cool tips for working in Adobe Bridge
Bypass Camera Raw

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

step2 e1317676412370 3 Cool tips for working in Adobe Bridge
JPGs to Camera Raw

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

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

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

step3 e1317676432670 3 Cool tips for working in Adobe Bridge

Helen Bradley

Monday, October 24th, 2011

Lightroom toolbar techniques

toolbar opener Lightroom toolbar techniques

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

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

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

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

toolbar 1 Lightroom toolbar techniques

toolbar 2 Lightroom toolbar techniques

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

toolbar 3 Lightroom toolbar techniques

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

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

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

toolbar 4 Lightroom toolbar techniques

Helen Bradley

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

Photoshop: Working with Locked Pixels

opener2 e1315923721560 Photoshop: Working with Locked Pixels

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

step14 e1315923736852 Photoshop: Working with Locked Pixels

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

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

step24 e1315923753619 Photoshop: Working with Locked Pixels

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

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

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

step34 e1315923766421 Photoshop: Working with Locked Pixels

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

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

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

step43 e1315923783656 Photoshop: Working with Locked Pixels

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

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

Helen Bradley

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

Photoshop CS6 – What’s on your wish list?

opener1 e1315922753580 Photoshop CS6 – What’s on your wish list?

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

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

Give me some Clarity

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

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

step13 e1315922771982 Photoshop CS6 – What’s on your wish list?

Paste into a Selection

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

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

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

step23 e1315922789314 Photoshop CS6 – What’s on your wish list?

Print Multiple Images

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

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

Adobe has some workarounds to this problem available: Lightroom 3 has a multiple print feature which is reasonably flexible and simple to use and which I wrote about in this post http://projectwoman.com/2010/02/lightroom-3-print-improvements.html. You can assemble multiple images for printing on a single page through Adobe Bridge but the tool is a little cumbersome and it’s in Bridge and not where most people will expect it to be – in Photoshop itself.

You can add the Picture Package tool back into Photoshop CS4 and CS5 (which Adobe removed in these versions) as I explained in this post: http://projectwoman.com/2011/03/multiple-image-printing-in-photoshop-cs4-cs5.html.

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

step3 2 Photoshop CS6 – What’s on your wish list?

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

Helen Bradley

Friday, October 7th, 2011

Round tripping with Lightroom

LR roundtrip step1 e1315922314455 Round tripping with Lightroom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LR roundtrip step2 Round tripping with Lightroom

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

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

LR roundtrip step3 e1315922336254 Round tripping with Lightroom

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

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

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

LR roundtrip step4 e1315922354159 Round tripping with Lightroom

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

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

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

LR roundtrip step5 e1315922374803 Round tripping with Lightroom

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

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

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

LR roundtrip step6 e1315922392730 Round tripping with Lightroom

Helen Bradley

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

Batch resize images in Photoshop Elements

before after2 e1315921474353 Batch resize images in Photoshop Elements

Some time ago I wrote a post on batch resizing images in Photoshop. You can find the link here: http://projectwoman.com/2009/09/batch-resize.html. I also wrote an article on resizing in Lightroom which you can find here: http://projectwoman.com/2009/10/resizing-images-in-lightroom-2.html.

Someone then wrote to me explaining that they are using Photoshop Elements and that the resize feature in Photoshop does not work in Photoshop Elements. They are correct, but there is a way of batch resizing in Photoshop Elements and here’s how to do it.

Step 1
In Photoshop Elements, choose File > Process Multiple Files. This opens the Process Multiple Files dialog.

step12 e1315921613421 Batch resize images in Photoshop Elements

Here you can select which images to process. You can select either a folder of images, all opened files or you can click import and import images from an external device such as a camera card.

Typically, the best option will be to place all the images in a folder and process the files from that folder. To do this, click the Browse button opposite the Source box and choose the folder to process. Enable the Include All Subfolders checkbox if desired.

Step 2
Select the destination folder for the resized images (you can create one from this dialog), or, if desired, select Same as Source.

In the file naming area, select Rename Files if this is desired. You can then choose the naming convention such as typing a document name and the sequential numbering system to be used.

step22 e1315921631929 Batch resize images in Photoshop Elements

Step 3
In the image size area, select Resize Images as that’s what we came here to do.

Select Constrain Proportions as you will want your images to be resized in proportion and not skewed or distorted out of shape.

Now type the largest Width or Height to use for your resized images. If you enter 600 for the Width you will be unable to enter a value for the Height and vice versa. This is because you can only set one value – width or height (in this situation this resizing tool works differently to the corresponding tools in Photoshop and Lightroom).

So if you enter, for example, 600 as the Width all images will be sized so their width is 600 and their respective heights will be adjusted in proportion. Portrait images will be taller than 600 pixels and Landscape ones will be shorter.

Here too you should set the resolution for the images. If you plan to send your photos to an online sites for printing, you may want to match the resolution to what that site requires. For the web select 72 dpi.

step32 e1315921644592 Batch resize images in Photoshop Elements

Step 4
To convert the files to a different format or to compress them, from the File Type dropdown list, select the file format to use. For JPEG format images, you can choose Max, High, Medium or Low quality.

step52 e1315921669302 Batch resize images in Photoshop Elements

Step 5
You can also apply a Quick Fix to your images as you process them. These fixes include Auto Levels, Auto Contrast, Auto Color or Sharpen.

You can also apply Labels to your image such as adding a watermark or caption by configuring the options in the Labels area.

When you are done, click Ok to process the folder of files or the group of files that you had selected for processing.

step61 e1315921681382 Batch resize images in Photoshop Elements

Tip
If you want to resize images so their longest edge is a set value such as 600 then you will need to presort Landscape and Portrait images into separate folders and process them separately.

Helen Bradley

Friday, September 30th, 2011

Secrets of the Lightroom toolbar

toolbar opener Secrets of the Lightroom toolbar

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

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

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

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

toolbar 1 Secrets of the Lightroom toolbar

toolbar 2 Secrets of the Lightroom toolbar

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

toolbar 3 Secrets of the Lightroom toolbar

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

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

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

toolbar 4 Secrets of the Lightroom toolbar

Helen Bradley

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

Color Correction in Photoshop

before after1 Color Correction in Photoshop

One of the most difficult things to do when you’re starting out in digital photography is to recognize and remove a color cast from an image. Not only do you need to work out that you’ve got a color cast, but you also need to find a means of fixing it.

One method of color correction is one that I learned from Photoshop gurus, Dan Margulis and Taz Tally – any errors in this process are mine and not theirs. The process relies on reading data from the image and then adjusting the numbers that the image provides. It’s a way to remove a color cast that is relatively simple and which involves reading and setting RGB values rather than making objective decisions about an image. I’ll show you how to do this using an image shot in the early morning and which is hazy, underexposed and which has very poor color.

Step 1
To get started, open an image that you think has a color cast. Choose Window > Info to display the Info palette. This gives you information about the pixels in your image and, if you’re working with a standard photo, you’ll have RGB mode displayed in the upper left corner of the dialog.

cc step1 e1315920016971 Color Correction in Photoshop

Step 2
To make the color correction I’ll use the Info palette to display information about the image. To do this I’ll need to make some color sample points on the image and I’ll do this using the Color Sampler tool which shares a toolbar position with the Eyedropper. Click the Color Sampler tool and, from the toolbar, select the 3 x 3 Average Sample. This is important as you’ll want to sample a larger area than just a single pixel.

cc step2 Color Correction in Photoshop
Step 3
Now locate a place on the image which should be white or a light neutral gray in color. Click on it with the color sampler tool and you’ll see a marker appear on the image with the number 1 beside it. Make sure the point you select is one which should be white or light gray and don’t select an area of the image which is blown out such as a light spot.

Repeat the process, this time clicking on another point which should be either white, black or a neutral gray. This gives you a second sample point. You can continue and add a total of four markers if desired. Each should be placed in an area of the image which should be white, black or a neutral gray.

cc step3 e1315920038897 Color Correction in Photoshop

Step 4
Check back in the Info palette to read the color information for each of these points. For the lightest points you should see values of around 245 for the R, G and B channels. For the darkest points the value should be around 15 for each of the channels. For gray points you should have equivalent values of R, G and B, although they can be any value, they just need to be roughly the same for each.

cc step4 Color Correction in Photoshop

Step 5
If your image has a color problem you’ll find that the numbers at each point are not within a range of 2 or 3 values of each other. To color correct the image what you’ll do is adjust the curves for each of these channels to bring them closer to each other. Choose Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Curves and click Ok. You’ll be correcting individual channels so from the Channel dropdown list select Red and then Ctrl + Click on the first point that you marked in your image. This adds a small marker on the curve line which shows you where this point in the image appears on the curve.

Identify whether you need to increase or decrease the value at this point. To increase it, drag upwards and to decrease the value drag downwards. You’ll see that you’re not making subjective judgments here; you’re simply adjusting the curve to bring the numbers closer together and closer to the desirable value of 245 for a white point and 15 for a black one.

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Step 6
Repeat this last step for all the sample points that you created on the image and then repeat it for the Green and Blue channels so that you end up with all the sample points containing values that are within 2 to 3 values of each other.

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Step 7
When you’re done, click Ok to close the Curves dialog. You can now apply other fixes such as adding contrast to the image with a further Curves adjustment or use the new Brightness/Contrast tool in Photoshop CS3.

Using the Info palette combined with sample points on the image makes it easier to remove color casts by reading and adjusting numbers.

cc step7 e1315920124390 Color Correction in Photoshop

Helen Bradley

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

Photoshop: Applying fixes using masks

before after e1315871525642 Photoshop: Applying fixes using masks

Sometimes a photo needs two opposing fixes applied to different areas of the image. This poses a dilemma – if you fix one area you’ll make the other areas far worse than they started out being and vice versa. The solution is to apply both fixes but to do this on different layers and to blend the results together using a mask. Here’s how to do it:

starter1 e1315871701701 Photoshop: Applying fixes using masks

Look at this photo – the sign in the middle is dark and hard to read and the area behind it is lighter than it should or could be. The camera has exposed primarily for the lighter areas in the image but the entire image needs work.

Step 1

Make multiple duplicate layers

To fix the image make two copies of the background layer so that you do your work on duplicate layers. To do this, right click the Background layer in the Layers palette and choose Duplicate Layer and then repeat this step a second time. Disable the visibility icon on the topmost layer and select the middle layer.
step11 e1315871542738 Photoshop: Applying fixes using masks

Step 2

Using Shadow/Highlights to lighten the darks

To bring detail out of the darker area in the sign, I’ll use the Shadow/Highlights tool. To do this choose Image > Adjustments > Shadows/Highlights and adjust the Shadows but leave the highlights settings untouched. Typically the default setting will be all you need but you can fine tune the settings using the sliders which appear when you click Show More Options if desired. Ignore the impact that this fix has on the lighter areas of the image.
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If you prefer to use another tool for this fix, do so. The important thing is to fix the shadows and ignore any changes to the highlights.

Step 3

Levels to fix the highlights

Enable the visibility icon on the top layer and select the top layer – this hides all the changes you have made so far. Choose Image > Adjustment > Levels and adjust the levels to improve the contrast in the lighter areas of the image – this time ignore the darker areas entirely as they are not part of this fix. You can also adjust the saturation using Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation if desired.

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Again, if you prefer to use another tool, do so. The important thing is to fix the highlights and ignore any changes to the shadows.

Step 4

Blending the results with a mask

The top layer contains the adjustment for the lighter areas of the image and the middle layer contains the adjustment for the dark areas of the image. To blend these layers, I’ll use a layer mask to selectively adjust the opacity of the top layer so I can see the fix applied on the middle layer through it.

Unlike the layer opacity slider which sets every pixel to the same opacity value, a mask lets you adjust the opacity selectively so one area can be 100% opaque and others can be partially or fully transparent.

To add a mask to the top layer, first select the topmost layer and click the Add Layer Mask button at the foot of the layer palette. This adds a white layer mask to this layer. When working with masks, “black conceals and white reveals” so the white mask reveals everything on the top layer and the image is unchanged.

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Step 5
Set the foreground color to black, select a soft round brush and set its Opacity to approximately 20%. Click on the mask to select it – it will have a small border around it showing that you have it selected. Now paint over the darkest areas of the image to reduce the opacity of the top layer where you are painting – this reveals the fix from the layer below. Using a low opacity brush lets you reduce the opacity gradually to build up the effect.

Continue and paint over the darker areas of the image to reveal more of the layer below through the mask. It can help to see how much more detail you can still recover if you turn the visibility of the top layer on and off. Make sure to select the layer mask again before painting on the mask – if you don’t do this, you’ll paint on your image.

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If you go too far, make white your foreground color and paint on the mask to bring back parts of the top layer of the image. This is one of the benefits of using a mask – simply by painting you can apply or remove the fix. You wouldn’t have this flexibility if you used the Eraser tool on the top layer, for example.

To finish, I rotated the image to straighten the sign and cropped it to remove the distracting elements on the left side of the image.

Helen Bradley

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

Stacking images in Lightroom

stacking starter e1315870728284 Stacking images in Lightroom

When you have a lot of similar images from a shoot, you can organizing them using the Lightroom Stacks feature. This allows you to stack images together so that only one image representing the stack appears in the Grid, Filmstrip and Loupe. This can clean up the screen reducing the number of images you see.

Get started with Stacks in Lightroom
To stack images, in the Library module, select the images to stack, right click and choose Stacking > Group Into Stack. This stacks the images on top of each other.

In Grid view you will see a small number in the top corner of the image at the top of the stack showing the number of images in the stack.

stacking1 Stacking images in Lightroom

You can add an image to a stack by dragging and dropping it on top of a stack.

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Expand a Stack
To expand a stack, right click on the number showing the number of images in the stack and choose Expand Stack from the Stacking shortcut menu or click the double line marker either side of the stack. Click the double line marker again to collapse the stack or right click an image in the stack and choose Stacking > Collapse Stack.

When you expand a stack, the images from the stack have a darker color underneath them indicating that this is an expanded stack.

stacking3 Stacking images in Lightroom

There is some important terminology to know about stacks. You collapse and expand a stack to view or hide the images in the stack. If you unstack a stack you permanently remove the stack – you do not remove the images just the stack. There is no restack command so, when you unstack a stack, your only option for getting it back is to reselect the images and stack them again. You also cannot create a stack in a collection – you may only stack images in a folder.

Change the visible image
To change the image at the top of the stack, expand the stack, click the image to use as the top image and choose Stacking > Move to Top of Stack. The topmost image is the one that is visible when you collapse the stack again.

stacking4 Stacking images in Lightroom

Remove an image from a Stack
You can remove an image from a stack by expanding the stack, right click the image to remove and choose Stacking > Remove from Stack.

stacking5 Stacking images in Lightroom

Stack for HDR
There is another stacking option you can use, for example, where you have captured a series of images to use for a panorama or where you have captured a series of bracketed exposures for HDR processing. Because these images will have been captured within a short period of time, you can stack them based on capture time. To do this, select all the images, right click and choose Stacking > Auto-Stack by Capture Time. Set the time between stacks value – as you do you will see an indicator telling you how many stacks this will give you and how many images will remain unstacked. Use this as a guide to the optimal value to use. Click Stack to have Lightroom create your stacks for you.

stacking6 Stacking images in Lightroom

Once this is done, right click and choose Stacking > Collapse Stacks to view the stacks that you have made. This is a quick way to group images that are most likely to be part of the same sequence of images and if one or more stacks aren’t correctly formed, you can either unstuck them or split a stack in two by right clicking the image at the point that the split should be made and choose Stacking > Split Stack.

Stacks are a useful way to restore order to a large folder of images containing a lot of similar images. By stacking images you’re not altering the images in any way, simply organizing them a little more neatly.

Helen Bradley

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

Color correction in Lightroom

LR color fix opener e1315869917482 Color correction in Lightroom

Lightroom has tools for correcting color not just across the entire image but also for correcting individual colors.

This image was captured in New York’s Time Square where the light is unpredictable at best especially at night because of the bright advertisements and neon signs. Because the colors of the lights change constantly it’s impossible to correct the color in camera using its white balance adjustment. Instead this has to be handled in post production.

Step 1
To start off color correcting an image in Lightroom’s Develop module, open the Basic panel and click the White Balance Selector which is the eyedropper in the top left corner of the panel.

Deselect the Auto Dismiss checkbox on the toolbar so the tool remains visible. Click on the image in a place that should be neutral gray to adjust it. If you don’t get the right correction the first time, click again on a different area of the image until you get an adjustment that looks correct to you. What you’re looking to do at this point is to remove the overall colorcast in the image.

Notice as you hold the White Balance Selector over the image that the Loupe shows a gird of pixels around the area you have the mouse held over and it also shows the relative percentages of red, green and blue in the pixels over which the mouse is hovering. Where the color in an image should be neutral grey, these values should be the same and if they are not, there is a color cast.

When you have a result you like, either return the White Balance Selector to its position in the Basic panel or press Escape.

LR color fix step1 e1315869939421 Color correction in Lightroom

Step 2
If some individual colors are still incorrect you can adjust these using the HSL panel. To do this, select HSL and then Saturation and use the Targeted Adjustment Tool to drag on an area of the image downwards to decrease or upwards to increase the color saturation at that point in the image. In this case, the skin needed to be desaturated because of the color of the light reflected on it.

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Step 3
When you have adjusted Saturation, click Luminance and, if necessary use the same Targeted Adjustment tool to increase or decrease the Luminance in areas that are too dark or too light.

For this image I decreased the Saturation and increased the Luminance of the skin tones until I had a result I liked.

Once you’ve fixed the color problems, you can return to the Basic panel and continue to adjust the image using the tools there.

While sites like Times Square will never be an ideal place to capture images you can compensate at some level for poor color using the tools you have at hand in Lightroom.

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Helen Bradley

Monday, September 12th, 2011

Targeted adjustments in Lightroom

opener e1315869211144 Targeted adjustments in Lightroom

Many of the features in the Lightroom 3 Develop module have targeted adjustment tools available to help you make the adjustment. Here’s where to find and how to use these on image adjustment tools.

Tone curve
When you select the Tone Curve panel you can adjust an area of the image by clicking the targeted adjustment tool and then drag on the area of the image that you want to lighten or darken.

Click and drag up to lighten and click and drag down to darken.

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If you click the Point Curve icon at the bottom of the dialog, you will change the look of the Tone Curve panel and the sliders will disappear. Now if you drag on the image using the targeted adjustment tool you will create control points on the curve. You can adjust these control points by dragging on them.

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Control points are not added if you do not have the Point Curve icon enabled. So if you’re seeing the sliders, you’re not in this point curve editing mode.

To delete a control point, double click on it or right click it and choose Delete Control Point.

When you are working on the point curve in the tone curve panel, you can decrease the mouse sensitivity by holding the Alt or Option key as you drag on the image. This decreases the sensitivity so you will make smaller changes in the curve with even quite significant movements of the mouse.

HSL Adjustments
There is also a targeted adjustment tool in the HSL adjustment panel.

Here you can select Hue, Saturation or Luminance and then select the targeted adjustment tool and drag on the area of the image that you want to change. If you’re working in Hue, you’ll be applying a color shift to the selected area of the image. If you’re working in Saturation, you’ll be adjusting the saturation of the color under the mouse pointer as you drag on the targeted adjustment tool. Drag up to increase saturation and down to decrease it.

Lightroom targetted adjustment tool 3 e1315869358941 Targeted adjustments in Lightroom

If you’re working in Luminance dragging up will lighten the color under the cursor and dragging down will darken it.

B&W Adjustments
In the B&W or black and white adjustment area there’s also a targeted adjustment tool. In this case, when you drag up or down on a selected area of the image, you’ll lighten or darken that area so you can craft your own greyscale image.

Lightroom targetted adjustment tool 4 e1315869372346 Targeted adjustments in Lightroom

Unlike in other versions of Lightroom, when you exit a panel while you have the targeted adjustment tool enabled it will be automatically disabled and you don’t have to remember to turn it off.

Helen Bradley