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

Friday, December 16th, 2011

Blow it Up with Alien Skin Blow Up 3

alien skin blow up 3  step2 Blow it Up with Alien Skin Blow Up 3

I’ve never used an upsizing or enlarging program before. Instead, when I need to enlarge an image, I perform the age old trick of increasing an image’s size by 110 percent multiple times in Photoshop to enlarge it. It seems to do a reasonable job of the enlarging process.

However, recently I was offered Alien Skin’s Blow Up 3 to test – since the folks at Alien Skin make some really cool applications I thought I’d give Blow Up 3 a try. I actually had an image that needed of blowing up for a magazine article. The image I had was a totally cool image but from a very old camera phone so it was a tiny 479 x 640 pixels in size. Not only was it very small but it had some very obvious jpg artifacts so when I enlarged it 300 percent it showed not only those artifacts at an enlarged size (the result was horrible) but the image also showed some distinct pixelization.

This was a perfect image to try out with Blow Up 3 – if I succeeded with the task the image would be acceptable quality for the magazine, if not, I needed to find something else.

Alien Skin Blow Up 3 with Lightroom

I had already installed Alien Skin Blow Up 3 for Lightroom, so running it is as simple as right clicking the image in Lightroom and choosing and choose Edit In > Blow Up 3. You get a choice of opening the image from Lightroom either as a copy with Lightroom adjustments, you can edit a copy or edit the original. You just select the option to use and click Edit and it opens automatically in Blow Up 3.

alien skin blow up 3  step1 Blow it Up with Alien Skin Blow Up 3

Blow Up 3 really couldn’t be easier to use. In fact I was a little confused at first because I kept looking for more options where there really weren’t any. I selected the Before/After option at the foot of the main screen so I could see the before version on the left and the after version on the right. I wanted to see as I worked just how effective the program would be. I then selected the Crop & Resize option and set it to Percent. I selected 300 percent for width and height and a resolution of 300 pixels per inch.

alien skin blow up 3  step2 Blow it Up with Alien Skin Blow Up 3

With the Before/After view on the screen, it was clear that the result would be a significant improvement for this image. The settings you can choose from include grain and sharpening. I checked out the grain slider. For this image, if I didn’t add grain, the jpg artifacts were still very apparent and they really detracted from the image because they were so visible. I opted to add a lot of grain to the image so I set the value to around 30 to soften and blend the artifacts.

I also checked out the Sharpen Edges setting to see how that would affect the image. For this image, I really didn’t want a lot of sharpening so I opted to set it to 40. This gave me some sharpening around the edges such as in her eyes but not really obvious haloing which the higher values produce.

alien skin blow up 3  step2A Blow it Up with Alien Skin Blow Up 3

Then, it is as simple as clicking Ok to blow up the image and be taken back to Lightroom where the blownup version appears in the same folder as the original so I found it alongside the original in the filmstrip.

From its original size the image is now nearly 1500 x 1900 pixels in size well suited to being used in a magazine and way more pleasing to look at than it was originally – sans artifacts. If you need to enlarge images significantly this application has the goods.

Helen Bradley

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

Things to know about Lightroom Collections

LR Collections opener Things to know about Lightroom Collections

Collections in Lightroom are a key tool for organizing images. There are some benefits to working with collections and some things that it helps to know about working with them.

Collections: Smart or regular?

There are two types of collections in Lightroom, Smart Collections which are populated according to a filter which you define to identify images that you want included in that collection. For example, a Smart Collection might be defined as 5 star images which have a keywords that include the word Rome.

Smart Collections are dynamic so if an image no longer matches the filter you have defined for that Smart Collection it will be removed automatically from it. Likewise, newly imported or edited images which fulfill the criteria will be added automatically to that Smart Collection.

Regular Collections are collections that you populate with images that you choose to put in them. Images remain in these collections until you chose to remove them.

LR Collections 1 Things to know about Lightroom Collections

Sorting images in collections

You can sort images in order in a regular collection but you cannot reorder images in a Smart Collection.

LR Collections 2 Things to know about Lightroom Collections

Target Collection

You can set a regular collection – but not a Smart Collection – to be the Target Collection. There can be only one Target collection and to make a collection a target collection, right click on its name and choose Set as Target Collection.

In future, you can add images to the Target Collection by pressing the letter B. Press the letter B again to remove the image from the Target collection.

You can identify which collection is the target collection by the plus (+) symbol which appears after its name.

If you deselect the current Target Collection by right clicking its name and disabling Set as Target Collection then the Quick Collection, by default, becomes the Target Collection.

LR Collections 3 Things to know about Lightroom Collections


Gather images without duplication

One of the benefits of using collections to organize images is that the images in a collection can come from any location of your choice. You can create a collection of images from a number of different folders or even drives on your computer. Collections are simply a pointer to the original image, not the original image itself, so they require little additional space on your computer to store them. An image can belong to multiple collections and it will still only exist in one physical location on your computer.

Where is that image?

To find where an image in a collection is stored, right click on the image and choose Show Folder in Library to go to the folder in the Lightroom catalog. Alternately, choose Show in Explorer to see it in Windows Explorer (Show in Finder on the Mac).

LR Collections 4 Things to know about Lightroom Collections

 Collections not in the Collections Panel

While most collections are listed in the Collections Panel, there are some collections that are not. In the Catalog panel you will find the All Photographs collection which is a collection of all the images that you have in your Lightroom catalog.

LR Collections 5 Things to know about Lightroom Collections

Quick Collection is a temporary collection that you can create as needed.

Previous Import is a collection containing the images in the most recent import – it changes every time you import new images into Lightroom.

Added by Previous Export is a collection of those images that were most recently added to the Lightroom catalog as they were exported from Lightroom. There is an option in the Export dialog that lets you automatically import exported images back into the catalog.

LR Collections 6 Things to know about Lightroom Collections

Three Handy Collections

There are three handy collections that are automatically created by Lightroom and which appear in your Smart Collections set. The Without Keywords smart collection contains every image in your collection that does not have keywords associated with it. It’s a handy reminder of the keywording work you still have to do.

LR Collections 7 Things to know about Lightroom Collections

Recently Modified is a collection containing images that have been modified within the last two days. You can alter the date range by right clicking the collection, choose Edit Smart Collection and change the number of days listed. You’ll see that by default it reads Edit Date… is in the last…. 2….days. You can change Days to Hours, Weeks, Months or Years and change the physical number from 2 to any number of your choice.

The Past Month collection is all the images that you have shot in the last month.

LR Collections 8 Things to know about Lightroom Collections

Managing temporary collections

If you often make collections that you only want to keep for a day or two to complete a particular job, either create a Collection Set to contain them or add the word “temp” to the collection name. This makes it easy to see collections you can easily delete to remove clutter from your Collections panel.

Helen Bradley

Monday, December 5th, 2011

Work in the Lightroom Quick Develop panel


Lightroom quick develop module opener Work in the Lightroom Quick Develop panel

In Lightroom you can fix a series of images all at once using the Quick Develop Panel in the Library Module. While this tool lacks the precise adjustments you can make to an image in the Develop Module, it offers a quick solution for getting started fixing your images.

To make use of the Quick Develop panel you should be working in the Library Module, in Grid View. So open the Library module and click G to select Grid view. If you are in Loupe view the changes you make will be applied only to the most selected image regardless of how many images you have selected in the Filmstrip.

Lightroom quick develop module 1 Work in the Lightroom Quick Develop panel

If you typically use the Auto Tone feature in the Develop module to quick start fixing your images, select all the images to fix in grid view and click the Auto Tone button. Every image will be assessed and then adjusted according to its particular needs.

Lightroom quick develop module 2 Work in the Lightroom Quick Develop panel

How fixes are applied

In the Quick Develop module, when you choose to adjust, for example, the Exposure on a series of selected image, each image will be adjusted by the same relative amount. So, if you select a series of images and click the single right pointing arrow, you will add +0.33 to the current Exposure value for each image. So, if an image had a starting Exposure setting of 2.00 it will be increased to 2.33. The single left pointing arrow moves Exposure -0.33. If you click the double arrows you will increase or decrease exposure by 1.0 for every image. Each adjustment works in a similar way although the relative values will vary.

Lightroom quick develop module 3 Work in the Lightroom Quick Develop panel

One feature of the Quick Develop module which is useful is the White Balance tool. If you have a series of images all shot in similar light you can select them and adjust the white balance for all of them by choosing a different White Balance setting from the dropdown list or by adjusting the Temperature (Blue/Yellow) and/or Tint (Green/Magenta) sliders.

Lightroom quick develop module 4 Work in the Lightroom Quick Develop panel

Hidden Options

There are some options hidden in the Quick Develop panel. If you hold the Alt key (Option on a Mac) the Clarity and Vibrance adjusters change to allow you to adjust Sharpening and Saturation. Notice that Sharpening is an all in one setting and that it lacks the ability for you to alter the Radius, Detail and Masking which you can do with the Detail panel sliders in the Develop module.

Lightroom quick develop module 5 Work in the Lightroom Quick Develop panel

How I use it

I use the Quick Develop panel to make quick edits to a series of images at one time. I’ll assess the images to see if they need a particular adjustment such as increasing the Exposure if they are all a little underexposed. I also like to increase Clarity and Vibrance.

So, I’ll select the images in the Grid, click to increase Exposure and then again increase Vibrance and Clarity.

Using the Quick Develop panel to make fixes to all images saves me a little time later on when I switch to the Develop module and apply additional fixes on an image by image basis.

Lightroom quick develop module 5 Work in the Lightroom Quick Develop panel

One Gotcha to be aware of

If you want to remove the settings applied to an image you can do so using the Quick Develop panel. Select the image and choose Reset All. However, be aware that when you do this, you will remove not only all settings applied to the image using the Quick Develop panel but also any changes made to it using the tools in the Develop module.

Lightroom quick develop module 6 Work in the Lightroom Quick Develop panel



Helen Bradley

Friday, November 25th, 2011

Craft great Black and white images in Lightroom

opener1 Craft great Black and white images in Lightroom

Most of us know we can convert and image to black and white in Lightroom by simply pressing the letter V. However, for the exact same image, your version of Lightroom might give a very different result to my version of Lightroom. The explanation is that there are two settings available for black and white conversions in Lightroom.

I’ll show you what these are, how to configure the one you want to use and how to quickly switch between them.

Lightroom black and white step1 e1317686230583 Craft great Black and white images in Lightroom

With a color image on the screen in Lightroom’s Develop module, press the letter V to convert it to black and white.

Open the B&W panel – it’s called Greyscale in Lightroom 2 – and check out the color sliders.

Lightroom black and white step1a e1317686256700 Craft great Black and white images in Lightroom

Depending on the preferences that you have set, the sliders might all be set to zero or they might show a black and white adjustment tailored to the image itself which Lightroom calls Auto mix.

The auto mix adjustment applies an auto exposure adjustment to the image as well as a conversion that maximizes the distribution of the grey tones in the image. This is customized for the image so every image will be given a custom adjustment much as you will get if you click the Auto Tone button in the Basic panel. Notice the subtle differences in the histograms in each of the adjustments here.

Lightroom black and white step2 e1317686276303 Craft great Black and white images in Lightroom

Whether or not you see this Auto mix applied to a black and white image is controlled by your Lightroom preferences. To see these, choose Edit > Preferences (or Lightroom > Preferences on the Mac), select the Presets tab and there’s an option there which reads “Apply auto tone mix when first converting to black and white”.

If this is checked you will get the auto tone mix applied to the image, if not, you will see a black and white adjustment where each color is given the same adjustment value of zero.

Lightroom black and white step3 e1317686289526 Craft great Black and white images in Lightroom

Regardless of which setting is in place you can switch between the two in the B&W panel.

If an Auto mix has been applied, hold the Alt key (Option on the Mac) and you will see an option Reset Black and White Mix. Click this and all the sliders will be set back to zero.

Lightroom black and white step4 e1317686303375 Craft great Black and white images in Lightroom

On the other hand, if your sliders are all set at zero, click Auto to apply the auto mix adjustment to the black and white image.

Step 5

You can further adjust the black and white regardless of whether you have an auto mix applied automatically to it or not by adjusting the sliders.

Lightroom black and white step5 e1317686316931 Craft great Black and white images in Lightroom

You can also select the Target Adjustment Tool and drag on an area of the image to adjust whether it is light or dark. Dragging downwards will darken it, dragging upwards will lighten it.



Helen Bradley

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

Lightroom’s Selected and Most Selected Images

LR most selected image opener e1317685133283 Lightroom’s Selected and Most Selected Images

One of confusing things when you’re getting started in Lightroom is understanding the concept of selected images and the most selected image in Lightroom.

Step 1

To see this at work, start in the Library module and press G to move to Grid view. Click on any image to select it and Shift + Click on another image. You’ll now have a sequence of images selected.

LR most selected image step1 e1317685167198 Lightroom’s Selected and Most Selected Images

Notice that in both Grid view and on the Filmstrip the first image that you selected has a lighter border around it than all of the other selected images and notice that the unselected images have darker borders.

The image with the lightest border is the most selected image and it is the image that will be affected by changes that you make to various settings, in particular when you are working in Loupe view with multiple images selected.

Step 2

What you have selected in Lightroom and the view you are in impacts how changes are applied to an image.

LR most selected image step2 e1317685201950 Lightroom’s Selected and Most Selected Images

In Grid view if you select the Quick Develop panel and choose a different white balance setting then all the selected images that are selected will be altered.

Step 3

However, if you are in Loupe view and if you make the same change only the most selected image will be altered and not all the selected images.

LR most selected image step3 e1317685244387 Lightroom’s Selected and Most Selected Images

Grid and Loupe view work very differently and it’s important to understand, particularly in Loupe view, that when you have multiple images selected, there is one that is most selected.

Step 4

When you have all images in a folder or collection selected it can be difficult to see just how to deselect the images. To deselect a selection, click outside the thumbnail area of any of the selected images in an empty area of the cell it is in. This deselects the current selection so only the image that you just clicked will be selected.

LR most selected image step4 e1317685271509 Lightroom’s Selected and Most Selected Images



Helen Bradley

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