Friday, May 25th, 2012

Add a Photo Border in Lightroom

One hidden feature of the Lightroom print module is the ability to add a frame to an image. In this post I’ll show you how to add a frame to an image before exporting it as a JPEG image ready for uploading to the web or printing.

In Lightroom 3 you can create an image and export it as a JPG image from the Print module – however before you set this up, it’s a good idea to create a frame to use. I’m going to use a hand drawn border but you can use anything of your own design.

Step 1

Start in a program like Photoshop and create a new image the size that you want to print from Lightroom. This is a critical step because the border image that you’re about to create cannot be resized any larger in any dimension than the Lightroom file dimensions that you plan printing to.

So, for example, if you want to print a landscape image on letter paper you need to create a frame image of the exact dimensions (or at least the exact ratio of dimensions) of an 11 x 8.5 inch sheet of paper. If you do this, the frame can be sized to the full size of the image in Lightroom.

Set the resolution of the new image as desired – I do this so it matches the resolution that I want to print from Lightroom at – so I use 300 dpi

Step 2

Design your frame making sure the inside of the frame is transparent if you plan for your frame to be placed over the image in Lightroom.

When you are done, choose File > Save As and save the image as a PNG format file so that the transparency information is retained – the JPEG image file format doesn’t support transparency.

Step 3

Close Photoshop, open Lightroom, select the image to print and click to open the Print module.

From the Layout Style panel select Custom Package. In the Print Job panel select Print To: JPEG File. Select Custom File Dimensions and set the size to the same 11 x 8.5 inches that you set the frame to be.

Set the File Resolution to the desired resolution – I’ve used 300 dpi.

Step 4

You will add the frame as a graphical Identity Plate. So open the Page panel and select the Identity Plate checkbox. Click on the identity plate box and, from the menu which appears, choose Edit then select the Use a Graphical Identity Plate option button. Click Locate File, select the frame png file you just saved and click Choose. You will most likely be warned that the file is very large – if so, click Use Anyway and click Ok.

The frame will appear as an Identity Plate over the top of the image. Adjust the Scale slider to size it up to 100 percent which should ensure the frame fills the page size that you are working with.

Step 5

As the middle of the frame image was created as transparent, the image underneath it shows through it.

You can use the Render Behind Image option to place the frame under the image if that’s the way you have designed it to work.

Once you’ve added your identity plate select to print to file and the framed image will be printed to a new file.

Before I am done, I click the Identity Plate box again and choose Edit and then from the Custom dropdown list I choose Save As to save the graphic frame as an Identity Plate I can use at any time in the future.

Armed with Photoshop you can create any sort of frame and import it as an identity plate to add a border to an image in Lightroom.



Helen Bradley

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

Faux HDR effect in Lightroom 4

I just uploaded a new video tutorial on how to create a faux hdr image in Lightroom. This image really didn’t inspire me when I first looked at it, but clearly at the time I captured it something had caught my eye. When I applied this faux hdr effect to the image it just came to life. The process is very quick and very simple, and the video is very short – only just over 5 minutes and you’ll know all you need to know to salvage your own images.



Helen Bradley

Sunday, May 20th, 2012

Hand drawn frames in Photoshop

One technique I’ve seen used a lot lately on blogs, websites and even email newsletters is a hand drawn frame effect.

In this post, I’ll show you how to create an effect like this and save and use it for your images.

Step 1

Start with a new image in Photoshop. A good size frame is important to create as you can size it down but not size it up as successfully. Start with an image around 4,000 pixels square with a resolution of 300 pixels RGB color and transparent background.

When the image opens, fill the background with a color of your choice, I’ve chosen a blue fill color.

Step 2

Add a new layer and then select the brush tool and a smallish brush. You want something that is going to ‘paint’ looking a little bit like pencil marks so I chose the Chalk 11 pixels brush and sized it up to around 57 pixels.

Select black or a dark brown or dark gray color as the foreground color and hand draw your frame. It will help if you use a tablet to do this although that’s not necessary and a mouse can be used.

Draw the frame so it has closed inside and outside edges to make the next step easier.

Step 3

Target the Magic Wand tool and click inside the frame. This selects the inner portion of the frame.

Choose Select >  Inverse to invert the selection.

Now hold the Alt key and click with the Magic Wand tool on the outer area of the image so you remove the outer edge from the selection.

To eliminate any anti-aliased edges, choose Select > Modify > Contract and contract the selection by around 12 pixels.

Step 4

Add a new layer between the frame drawing and the background and fill it with white.

Return to the frame layer and select the inside again, this time choose Select > Modify > Expand and expand the selection by around 12 pixels.

Add a new layer and fill the selected area with a black/brown or dark color. This is the template for your image.

Save this image as a layered .psd file so you can use it anytime in future.

Step 5

To frame an image, open an image to frame and this frame too.

Drag the background layer of the image into your frame image holding the Shift key as you do so to center it. Press Ctrl T + Ctrl 0 to size the image to size. Make sure the image layer is directly under the drawn frame and above the dark template layer.

Now, with the image layer selected choose Layer > Create Clipping Mask to clip the image to the size of the inside of the frame.

You can move the image layer using the Move tool so it is positioned as desired.

Now size and save the image for print or the web.


Helen Bradley

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

Create a Fisheye Effect in Lightroom

If you don’t have a fish-eye lens or don’t have yours on hand when you need it, don’t worry. With Lightroom (or Adobe Camera Raw) you can create a fish-eye effect with any photo. Here’s how:

Start with an image that lends itself to being made a fish-eye image. You want something that was shot with a fairly wide angle lens to begin with so you don’t want to be zoomed in very close on your subject.

With the image open in Lightroom go to the Develop module and select Lens Correction and then the Manual tab. You’ll see the Distortion slider at the top of the Transform tools. Drag the Distortion slider to the left to blow out the middle of the image.

Deselect Constrain Crop and decrease the value for Scale so that you can see the image edges very clearly. If you like the result you can stop at this point.

Alternately if you want to give the image a bit more punch, you can go one step further by exporting the image and importing it again and repeating the process. To do this, right clicking the image and choose Export. Export the image as a non-lossy format image such as TIFF, enable the Add to This Catalog checkbox so the image comes back into Lightroom automatically and select a folder for the image – the same folder that the original image is stored in is the best choice. Click to Export the image.

The exported version will then be automatically imported back into Lightroom. You can find it by returning to the Library module, open the Catalog panel and click the Added by Previous Export collection – it will be in that collection.

Select the newly imported image, return to the Develop module and again drag the Distortion slider to the left to increase the bowing in the image. Make sure Constrain Crop is not selected and decrease the Scale until you get a good result on your image.


Helen Bradley

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

A “Happy Snap” Lightroom workflow

At Halloween last year I was asked to photograph some kids I’ve shot from time to time since they were born. Basically their mum likes to have some up to date photos of the kids and Halloween seemed like as good a time as any to get some shots.

When I’m shooting like this, my aim is to get some good shots but nothing formal and I prefer not to use a flash because I get a better response from the kids without one. I captured the images in raw and I chewed through three small size camera cards in about an hour and a half.

My deal with their mum is that I get to use the photos for my work and she gets a disk of pictures. To keep this fun – so it doesn’t feel like work for me – I need a fast and effective processing workflow.  I need to get the images off my camera, sorted, processed, burned to a DVD and delivered to mum in time for her to enjoy them.

Thanks to Lightroom the process was simple and, in all, I reckon I spent less than 2 hours getting the photos from the camera cards to a DVD. Here is what I call my Happy Snap Lightroom workflow – it’s what I do to quickly process casual snapshots:

Step 1: Determine a plan of attack

To begin with I have some criteria I work by. I never give away substandard photos so anything blurry, out of focus or over exposed gets permanently deleted. Then I sort out the best of the images intending to give mum around 50-60 photos of the kids – it’s a nice range of images for her to use to scrapbook and post to Facebook and it doesn’t over burden her with too many photos to choose from.

Step 2: Download the images

To begin, I download all the images from all three cards into a single folder on my hard drive (if there were only one card I would omit this step).

From there I import the images into Lightroom at the same time copying them to their permanent storage on my external photo drive and making a backup to a second drive. Copying rather than adding images to the Lightroom catalog lets me make backups and also add my metadata to the images so, when they popup on Facebook my copyright details are embedded in them.

Importing all the images in one step also means that when I’ve started the import process – which includes rendering standard previews – I can start working through the images and I don’t have to do it multiple times or switch out cards as I work – (the process works for me – your mileage may vary).

Step 3: Eliminating the duds

The first time I run through the images I am looking for images to delete as well as getting a general look at what I shot.

As I work through the images I’ll press X for images to delete and use the right arrow key to move past everything else. I’ll select to delete all out of focus images, anything where someone has their eyes closed or similar, and anything I don’t want to put my name to!

Once I’m done I choose Photo > Delete Rejected Photos to delete the images from my primary external photo drive. There are still copies on the backup drive and my hard disk but not on my main photo drive.

Step 4: Sorting the usable images

On the second run through the images I pick those I want to use. By now I have a rough idea as to what I have and what I might want to give mum. So this time I run through the images pressing P to pick an image and using the right arrow key to move past those she won’t be getting.

Step 5: Create a Collection

Once done, I isolate the picked images by clicking the first of the filter flag icons above the filmstrip. Then with only the picks visible I press Ctrl + A to select all of them and then click New Collection > Create Collection and type a name for it. Because the images are already selected, I leave the Include Selected Photos checkbox enabled and click Create.

Step 6: Apply initial processing to the images

Now I have a collection of the picks and it’s time to process them. I start out by selecting all the images in Grid View in the Library and from the Quick Develop panel I select Auto Tone. This gives me a head start on fixing them but, because of the lighting, pretty much all of them needed a white balance adjustment.

Step 7: Process in the Develop module

Switching to Develop module with the filmstrip visible I selected the White Balance Selector and then made sure that Auto Dismiss was disabled. This allows me to adjust the white balance on one image and then click on the next one in the filmstrip and continue to adjust the white balance from one image to the next without having to reselect anything. Basically all that most of these images needed was some white balance adjustment.

For those that needed cropping, I cropped as I finished with white balance adjustment and then moved on to the next image. This ensured that each image was dealt with only once as I progressed across the filmstrip.

Step 8: Make one off fixes

So, having fixed the worst of the problems I work backwards through the filmstrip to see if any of the images warrant special attention. If so, I make a call to fix them or simply remove them from the collection. To remove the image, right click it and choose Remove from Collection .

Here I had one issue with a couple of images where one child’s face was in shadow. For this, I used the Adjustment Brush tool at a small size with a large feather radius. I brushed over the areas where her face was in shadow and then adjusted the Brightness and Exposure to lighten to her face. In the same images other faces were overexposed so I added a second Adjustment Brush adjustment with the opposite settings to attempt to deal with this. The final result wouldn’t  stand up to close scrutiny but is just fine for the web and 6 x 4 printing.

Step 9: Export and burn

Once this was done it was time to export the images. Because they’re all in a collection, Ctrl + A selects all the images. I chose File > Export and then exported them as JPG images, 80 percent quality at the largest size and I added sharpening to them in the process. I made sure these images all went to a new folder so that they would be isolated from everything else and easy to find.

From there, it was a matter of launching Ashampoo Burning Studio, grabbing all the images and burning them to a DVD.

This workflow is one giant step better than simply burning the images direct to a DVD. It takes only a little more time with Lightroom to sort and apply some basic fixes to the images and it also means that only the best of the images get circulated and those that do have my copyright information embedded in them.

So now it’s over to you. What’s your “happy snap” workflow? Do you capture snapshots in raw? Do you process using Lightroom? And how do you get your images processed quickly so you’re not spending hours on images that are really just family snapshots?

Helen Bradley

Friday, May 11th, 2012

5 top tips for working with Gimp

I know that a lot of you use Gimp and, in the interests of taking a step away from Photoshop for a minute, here are 5 of my top tips for working with Gimp.

Rounded corners

Gimp makes it dead simple to round the corners of an image. To do this, choose Filters > Décor > Rounded Corners. A dialog will open. Select the Edge Radius, which is the amount of curve, and if desired, click to add a Drop Shadow and then set the Shadow Offset and Blur Radius. You can select to work on a copy of the image (rather than the original), and select whether or not to add some background behind the curved corners – the current background color is used for this. Click Ok to round the corners of the image.

Reassign keys

When I use Gimp, I sometimes forget and use Photoshop keys for things like deselect. Unfortunately in Gimp, the Photoshop deselect keystroke duplicates an image! You can, however, remap your keyboard shortcuts by choosing Edit > Keyboard Shortcuts. So, for example, to map the Ctrl + D keystroke to the Select > None option, click to open the Select menu, locate the None option and click it so that the words New Accelerator appear in the Shortcut column. Then press the keystroke to use – I chose Ctrl + D, which is the Photoshop equivalent. Because this key combination is already used a warning appears – if you are ok with replacing the shortcut, then proceed to assign the new shortcut key.

When you change or reassign a shortcut, Gimp is smart enough to add the new shortcut to the appropriate menu so the Select menu here shows the newly assigned shortcut.

Move the selection mask

It is so much easier in Gimp than in Photoshop to move the actual selection marquee once you have made it. To see this at work, make a selection, then click the Move tool. Make sure that the Move option is set to Selection in the panel and you can now drag the selection into a new position. This works for circles, rectangles as well as selections made with the free select tool. Once you’re done, return to the tool to perform another task such as Ctrl + Alt + drag to move the selected area or Shift + Alt + drag to copy it.

Merge to a new layer (and keep the original layers)

One command that is useful when you need to flatten an image but where you don’t want to lose the layers you have already created is the one which flattens the visible portions of an image to a new layer. This layer is at the top of the stack but is created in a way that leaves the original layers still in place. In Photoshop you do it by pressing Ctrl + Alt + Shift + E. In Gimp, choose Layer –> New From Visible. Now you can, for example, sharpen the image but, if you need to make changes to the image, you can delete the top merged layer, adjust the image on the layers below and then remake the new merged layer and sharpen it.

Crop Tool Smarts

The Crop tool in Gimp includes a range of cool options. When you select it, check out the panel options. You can, for example, crop just the current layer (or all the image) or you can select the crop area from the middle out (rather than drawing from one corner). You can crop to a fixed aspect ratio or a fixed width (height is variable), fixed height (width is variable), or set both height and width. From the list which shows No Guides, you can choose to display a Rule of Thirds overlay, Center lines or Golden Sections to help you create a well composed image. Enable Highlight to see a dark border around the area you plan to crop to.

So, there are my 5 top Gimp tips. It is over to you. What is your favorite Gimp tip to share with others?

Helen Bradley

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

Lightroom – flagging in the Develop module

As you probably already know you can flag an image in the Library module in Lightroom using the Toolbar options.

But did you know you can also do it in the Develop module?

Check for the toolbar in the Develop module, if it is not visible press T to display it. Here you will find a series of options including some for flagging the image.

If the flags are not visible, click the down-pointing arrow at the far right of the toolbar and select Flagging from the menu. Click a flag to flag an image from here without having to go to the Library to do so.

The toolbars in the other modules: Slideshow, Print and Web while partially don’t have this same feature but it is a customizable option in the Library and Develop modules.

Helen Bradley

Monday, May 7th, 2012

Crop to fixed ratio in Photoshop

By Helen Bradley

If you’ve ever tried to crop an image to a fixed ratio in Photoshop you may have run up against an issue. There is, it appears, no option for cropping to a fixed ratio such as 4 x 6, 5 x 7 or even 1 x 1. You can crop to fixed sizes like 4in x 6in and you can set a resolution for the image but you can’t on the face of it just crop to a simple 1 x 1 without specifying a unit of measure. Here I’ll show you how to do this, but first things first…

The risk you run if you don’t watch how your settings are configured and if you don’t watch what you enter in the dialogs, is that Photoshop will not only crop, but also determine the units of measure and resample the image for you.

Default Settings

The default units of measure and the default resampling method are set in the program preferences which you can locate by choosing Edit > Preferences > General (Photoshop > Preferences > General) and then read the image interpolation method being used. In this set up it is set to Bicubic:

The default units of measure are set in the Units & Rulers options or the Panel options for the Info Palette as the ruler measurements:

If you type a number in the Width and Height boxes when you select the Crop tool in Photoshop then the default units of measure are used unless you also type the desired units of measure. This might not sound like it is a problem but if the default units of measure are pixels and you type 6 x 4 and have the Resolution set to 300 dpi you might end up with a very small size image indeed!

It is not possible to type a number in the Width or Height box for the Crop tool without a unit of measure being applied to it. So, what do you do if you want a 1 x 1 ratio crop not a 1 in x 1 in image?

The solution is to type 1in or 1cm in each the Width and Height boxes and ignore the units of measure. Then, remove anything from the Resolution box. When Photoshop is told to crop to a fixed size/ratio and is not told the Resolution to use it crops to the size requested, it doesn’t resample the image, and it simply adjusts the Resolution of the final image to suit the image. It might sound weird but it works to let you crop to a fixed ratio. The problem is of course, that the resulting resolution can be very large indeed.

Here I cropped this image to 1 in x 1 in with no resolution set:

Here are the final image dimensions – the size is 1 x 1 but the resolution is very large:

Change Resolution but not Size

If the resolution of the image is important to you then you can change it by choosing Image > Image Size, disable the Resample checkbox and set the desired Resolution and click Ok to adjust this. This resizes the image to the chosen resolution but does not resample it in the process.

Crop and Resample

On the other hand, if you set a width and height for the image in the Crop tool options and if you set a resolution, Photoshop will crop the image to that size and resolution.

If the image is very large and the desired size is comparatively small then Photoshop will downsize the image and in the process resample the image. If there are insufficient pixels in the image to crop to the desired size and resolution, Photoshop will upsize the image resampling it as it does so.

An Alternate Method

There is an alternative method that lets you crop to a fixed ratio without altering image resolution. It is a little longer but it works well and is bypasses the crop tool entirely. Instead, target the Rectangular Marquee tool and select Fixed Ratio from the Style list and then set the Width and Height as values without measurements. Select the area to keep – if necessary, hold the Space Bar as you are drawing the shape to move it to a new position.

When you ‘re done choose Image > Crop to crop it.

Next time you need to crop to a fixed aspect ratio, one of these methods will ensure you get the result you expect.

Helen Bradley

Friday, April 27th, 2012

Edit images on the iPad with PhotoPower

Download: PhotoPower on the iPad – 2.99

This is an iPhone app that runs on the iPad. It totally rocks and it’s an example of what a photo fixing app should do. It is simple to use but extraordinarily powerful it even includes a curves tool!

Open an image, crop  it and then adjust it. There are tools from Exposure to Vibrance and in many tools you can adjust the separate color channels or the composite channel.

Tap any of the Adjustments, Effects or Filters and you’ll see a long list of options to choose from. This is a seriously awesome program with heaps of cool features. It’s a pity it isn’t available for the iPad at full screen size but that gripe aside it is well worth looking at as a tool for adjusting your images.

Helen Bradley

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

Create spot color effects on the iPad with ColorUP Lite

Download: ColorUP on the iPad – Free

This free program will only let you adjust images captured by the iPad – if you want to be able to use images from your camera roll you have to upgrade to a paid version.

Here, because I wasn’t online to get the upgrade, I just shot the cover of a copy of Vanity Fair which I was reading on a flight home from Washington DC!

The app turns the image into monochrome and you then paint over the areas of the image to bring back color.

You can adjust the brush size and see the mask. If you make a mistake just erase the brushstrokes.

You can blur the background, adjust its contrast and even change the color in the image by adjusting the hue.

If you like the effect it is worth shelling out for the full version as not many programs let you do this as easily as this one does and the extra features for adjusting the background are great.

Helen Bradley

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

Quickly adjust color in a photo on the iPad with Auto Adjust

Download: Auto Adjust in iTunes – 0.99

This is a no nonsense tool that has a few sliders and not much more. You can adjust Brightness, highlights, midtones, shadows and color saturation. The app won’t scale your photos so you don’t see everything on the screen and you can’t move the image around.

The tool really doesn’t do enough to warrant using it – there are plenty of other tools that have a broader feature set.

This program would have to be gobsmacking great to justify opening images in it since you’ll generally want to do more than just these adjustments.

Helen Bradley

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

Quick and easy grunge effects with TtV PS Lite

Download: TtV PS Lite on the iPad – Free

This app doesn’t do much at all but it’s pretty nice none the less. It comes with 4 camera effects, three colour filters, an opacity adjuster and brightness and contrast adjusters.

It is simple to use and can be upgraded to a paid version. For that you get 30 viewfinders and full resolution output.

The grunge effects are pretty nice while limited.

This isn’t a fancy app but it is easy to learn and to use.

Helen Bradley

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

Age an image on the ipad with OldPhotoPRO

Download: OldPhotoPRO on the iPad – Free

This free app doesn’t promise much and doesn’t disappoint, in fact quite the opposite. You simply open an image and it applies an old photo effect to it. Click Edit and you get a heap of edits you can make from Brightness, Contrast, Tone and Color intensity and a couple of options for Sepia and Cyanotype.

Tap Papers / Edges and you can add edge effects and scratches.

This is a no frills app. It is simple to use and can crank out some fun effects for aging images.

Helen Bradley

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

Photo editing with Snapseed on the iPad

Download: Snapseed on the iPad – 4.99

Snapseed comes from the folks at Nik Software. It’s an interesting app but can leave you more confused than enlightened regarding what you did to your image.

When you open the image there are selectable options all down the left of the screen – big icons to click on. Then everything gets really small and not a little confusing.

Some features let you add a control point to the image that you use to adjust just that position on the image – in others you swipe across the image to apply a change.

In the brightness fix, for example, you will drag across the image to adjust the brightness.

In other cases you swipe down to reveal different options. In Tune Image this means that options for Brightness, Ambience, Contrast, Saturation and White balance are all hidden from view and you have to ‘discover’ them to use them.

All these features are hard to discover when you first start working with the program and eave you wondering just who designs iPad interfaces and why they think that  hiding features is smart? There is plenty of room on the screen to put some sliders or options which would make this program much easier to use than it is.

The Grunge fix has thousands of Styles which all tend to morph into each other – they aren’t different enough to even care too much about. I’d settle for 20 really different effects to choose from than this range of thousands of similar ones. Worse still, if you choose Shuffle to apply an effect you can’t easily see what number it is so you can reuse it. When applying styles you can also apply textures but the preview shows nothing about what that texture will look like!

The program doesn’t really seem to be too clear as to whether it is a serious fixing tool or a fun one for applying effects – it tries to take a bet each way and misses a bit on both counts.

At first looks it appears to be serious and the sample image is very attractive and well shot so grunge and vintage aren’t the first things that come to mind when you open the app. The tools however, lend themselves more to the fun side with the Vintage, Grunge and Tilt shift features.

In the scheme of things, this isn’t an app I’d use much. It is a bit too messed up for me and doesn’t do anything well enough to be a tool of choice for general day to day work. Perhaps for the occasional photo it might offer something but this will be occasional only.

I don’t dislike Snapseed I just don’t really understand the point of it – it seems a bit haphazardly put together. I think if you used it a lot you could grow to like it, I just don’t want to put that much effort into something that isn’t feature rich.

Helen Bradley

Friday, April 13th, 2012

iPad Photo editing and sharing with Instagram

Download: Instagram on the iPad – Free

Instagram is more about a photo sharing community than fixing photos per se. It is also an iPhone app so it’s tiny and runs in portrait orientation on the iPad.

Instagram crops everything to a 1:1 crop and offers 13 filters with a range of removable borders.

There is a one click contrast enhancement and you can apply a soft focus effect or a faux tilt shift and that’s about the sum of it.

This app is ridiculously popular with iPhone users and probably better used on the iPhone where you’ll be able to share images online from there and where the tiny interface makes more sense.

Behind Instagram is a web site for sharing Instagram photos. You can share your images so others can view them and you can view other people’s photos too.

If you are into photo sharing this is a great app. If you love the Instagram look then this is the app that gives it to you.

If you want to be more creative with your images then look elsewhere – this app is free and it is good but it is far from great as a photo enhancing tool.

Helen Bradley