Tag Archives: how to

A Simple Method for Creating Composite Photos

[tweetmeme]Composite photos are made up of two or more different images. There are several different types or styles of composites, but I’ll be focusing on just one in this tutorial.

The type of composite we’ll look at is made up of multiple images with exactly the same framing, exposure, and lighting. Using this method, you can add or subtract objects from a scene. Obviously, this isn’t something you want to do in photojournalism, but it does have applications in other sectors of photography.

Here are seven basic steps for creating simple composite photos.

1. CAMERA SETUP

First off, you need to use a tripod so each frame doesn’t move. To make your post-processing easier, you’ll want to shoot in manual mode if you can. This will give you the ability to produce multiple images with the same exposure (assuming your lighting situation is constant).

2. CAPTURE MULTIPLE EXPOSURES

Once you have the camera ready to go, take as many images as you think you’ll need. Then take a bunch more. You can always throw out the extras, but you can’t go back and get one or two more after you’ve taken the camera off the tripod. I shot 29 different poses for my example composite.

3. OPEN IMAGES

If you shoot raw format, just be sure to process the images with the same settings. After raw processing, open them all in Photoshop, The Gimp, or any other software that allows you to use layers and layer masks.

4. CREATE LAYERS

Choose one photo to be the base image for the composite. Place all other images in layers above that base image. We’ll be grabbing bits and pieces from these layers to create the composite.

5. MASK LAYERS

On each layer above the base image, add a layer mask and hide all or fill with black. The black layer mask will block out the pixels from that layer, so you should only see the base image at this point.

6. PAINT THE COMPOSITE

Now you can go back to each layer mask and paint white over the areas that you want to show. This could be the addition of objects present in that layer, or the subtraction of objects present in the base layer. If you need to see what’s in your working layer, press “shift” and click on the layer mask. This will temporarily disable the mask and show just the image. Press “shift” and click the layer mask again to enable it again.

7. FINISH POST PROCESSING

After you get the composite image looking good, you can either save it out as a new image or continue working with it in Photoshop. Any adjustment layers that are applied above the composite layers will act on the composite as a whole.

And here’s the finished product.

I See Three of Me

That’s about it… there’s not a whole lot to it. If you get the initial shots identical in composition, exposure, and lighting, the rest is pretty easy. Here are some other examples of composite photos.

Mirrored self-misidentification
Creative Commons License photo credit: eqqman

paradox v2.0 (1 of 2)
Creative Commons License photo credit: pochacco20

Composite
Creative Commons License photo credit: j-william

Kestrel Composite
Creative Commons License photo credit: markkilner

04/50 - everyday is a mindless routine.
Creative Commons License photo credit: eleven days into april.

bmx stunt
Creative Commons License photo credit: katiew

Too many babies
Creative Commons License photo credit: PhotoBlackburn

Anthony Equals Three?
Creative Commons License photo credit: Ben Chau

366 • 65 • Shadow monster
Creative Commons License photo credit: Pragmagraphr

Fool-Proof Photoshop Airbrushing for Dummies

Guest post by Alexis Bonari… A quick and painless way to “airbrush” a picture in Photoshop. I showed a method for digital airbrushing using Photoshop in a past article, but this method takes a slightly different approach.

[tweetmeme]Hi dummy! So glad you could join us today. Just kidding, just kidding. With the advent of Myspace, then Facebook, and who knows what’s coming next, the whole world has become an endless source of perfect skin and magazine cover worthy supermodels. Now that Photoshop is a verb and household name, you might as well get in the know and make yourself (or your girlfriend/boyfriend) uncommonly perfect.

Here’s what you do.

We’ll be using this image, available through Wikimedia Commons:
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bangalore,_India_Model.jpg

Save it to your computer.

1. Open your image in Photoshop. ( FILE -> OPEN )

2. Immediately duplicate your image’s layer. ( LAYER -> DUPLICATE LAYER )

3. Make sure your new layer is selected, and then Surface Blur that layer, so that your image looks like this one. Play with the Radius and Threshold to achieve this effect.

4. Now, create a layer mask with this newly blurred layer, and make it set to HIDE ALL.

5. Select your paintbrush, make it big, and reduce its “hardness” considerably. Then change your brush color to WHITE (#FFFFFF).

What has happened so far? You will notice now that you are back to your original image. What has happened behind the scenes is that that blurred image is still there, only that it is now hidden behind the layer mask. This mask will only show parts of the image that are painted in white. So, your next step is where the fun begins!

6. Making sure that your blurred layer’s Layer Mask is selected, you will now generously paint over the areas you want to “airbrush”. You will notice that as you paint, the blurred image will start appearing. Be cautious to not paint over eyes and lips, as you will want their defined textures. You will also find it useful to change your brush size to accommodate around the eyes and lips or any other nooks and crannies that might need you to get in there. It doesn’t have to look perfect at this point. We’ll fix that in a minute.

7. This is what my layer mask actually looks like.

8. Now, with that all done, we’re going to smooth this out even more. Select your GAUSSIAN BLUR filter and blur stuff even more. I like setting it to about 5.0 pixels for this image.

9. Finally, making sure that your blurred layer is selected, adjust that layers Opacity, to blend the blurred effect with the original. In this case, I settled on 72%

Once your image looks the way you want it to, it is ready for saving or exporting for web, or whatever you would like to do.

Less than 10 easy and quick steps, and you’ll have your images looking like the pros! I knew you could do it. Great job!

Bio: Alexis Bonari is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at onlinedegrees.org, researching areas of online degree programs. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.

Photoshop Technique: Digital Airbrush

[tweetmeme]Airbrushing is (or was) a process typically used to remove minor imperfections in portrait, model, and fashion photography (among other uses in photography). I’ll be presenting a digital airbrush technique in Photoshop intended to slightly smooth out skin textures in close up portraits. Sharp lenses and good lighting can produce very detailed captures, including all the small wrinkles and pores. Sometimes you just want to smooth out all those little things.

I’ve also created a Photoshop action to speed up the process described below. All you have to do is open up the original image and run it. The action stops at the filter dialogs and allows you to adjust them before proceeding. At the end of the action, you’re all set up and ready to start airbrushing.

DOWNLOAD THE DIGITAL AIRBRUSH PHOTOSHOP ACTION

I should also mention that I learned this technique from at least one or two other sites out there (can’t find the source for the life of me right now). I’m definitely not the originator — I’m just passing along my own interpretation of the process.

So here’s the image I’ll be working with… a very close-up and well-lit portrait. What you see immediately below is the final image after applying this airbrush technique. I’d show you the before image, but you wouldn’t be able to see much of a difference at this size.

Amazing Portrait of Merunisha Peel

A couple of things to remember before I get into it: don’t go overboard with the processing, experiment with the numbers to suit your image, and what I’m showing here is not the only way to do it. So let’s get started.

1. ORIGINAL IMAGE

This is a crop of the original image after being processed in ACR for exposure, contrast, white balance, etc. The crop is a 50% zoom so we can see more of the image while retaining some of the important details. Take note of the small skin wrinkles and pores — these are the things we’re going to smooth out a bit.

2. DUPLICATE BACKGROUND

When you open it up into Photoshop, duplicate the background layer. We need to do this because we’re going to apply some destructive modifications to the top layer, and we’ll be applying a layer mask later on. Essentially, we’re going to make a “new skin” that can be airbrushed over the existing image.

3. SMOOTH IT OUT

Now it’s time to make that skin into plastic. Apply the “Dust & Scratches” filter (Filter >> Noise >> Dust & Scratches…). Start with a 5px radius and adjust until you get something almost cartoon-looking. You want to get rid of the small details while maintaining the bigger details.

4. ADD BLUR

After smoothing out the little things, we want to add some blur to soften up the bigger things. Apply a “Gaussian Blur” filter (Filter >> Blur >> Gaussian Blur…). Again, start with a 5px radius and adjust until you lose that cartoon look. You want to soften the hard edges while maintaining some amount of contrast in the larger details.

5. ADD NOISE

This one is nearly impossible to see even at a 50% zoom — it’s very subtle. Apply a small amount of the “Noise” filter (Filter >> Noise >> Add Noise…). Start around 0.7px with a uniform monochromatic noise and adjust until you can barely see it at 100% zoom. You want to break up the plastic look just a tiny bit with some texture.

6. MASK IT

Now that you’ve completely destroyed the working layer, mask it all out. Add a layer mask and fill it in black (Layer >> Layer Mask >> Hide All). Now your image should look like the original because we’ve masked out the modified layer.

7. AIRBRUSH TIME!

Grab your brush tool, soften up the edges, set the color to white, put the opacity to around 10 or 20%, and select the layer mask we just created. Adjust your brush size to suit your needs and start painting in some of the fake skin. The key here is to do a little bit at a time while varying your brush size and edge hardness. Paint over the areas where you want to remove small details. You want to brush in a little more fake skin than you need — we’ll fix it in just a second.

The image above shows the mask applied to the image. You can see that we’ve removed most of the skin texture while keeping the details in the eye.

The image above shows the mask for the entire image. You can see that I focused mostly on the areas… in focus. I also made it a point to avoid the eyes, mouth, and hair. We don’t want to soften up these areas.

8. BACK TO REALITY

At this point, you probably have something slightly resembling a plastic doll. No biggie — we can fix it. Simply adjust the opacity of the modified layer until you bring back some of the original skin texture. I ended up with an opacity of 70%, but you’ll need to judge and adjust your own image based on how heavy you modified the skin during the airbrushing.

9. BEFORE & AFTER

As you can see from this split image, the final adjustment is not very harsh. The intent was to smooth out the very small wrinkles and skin pores visible in on the face.

And for those of you viewing this on the site, you can mouse over the image below to see an after and before effect. RSS and email readers will need to visit the site to see it (there’s a JavaScript mouseover making it all happen).

I don’t use this technique very often, but it’s a good one to know. Useful for close up portraits, but that’s about it. And don’t abuse it — soft and subtle is the key here. A bit of skin texture is actually a good thing!

Three Ways to Control Depth of Field

My Sunshine

Depth of field (DOF) refers to the amount of a scene in the “sharp” range. Shallow DOF is typically characterized by heavily blurred backgrounds that you might see in outdoor portraits. Deep focus (opposite of shallow DOF) is typically characterized by tack sharp landscapes with no visible blur.

The most widely accepted method for controlling DOF is aperture, or f-number. This is certainly a feasible and convenient way to control DOF, but there are other factors at play. Just like exposure is controlled by three factors (ISO, shutter speed, and aperture), DOF is controlled by three main factors. Let’s take a look at these three factors and how you can use them to your advantage.

[tweetmeme]The examples shown below were taken on a 1.5x crop factor dSLR and the stated focal lengths are actual focal lengths of the lens rather than a full-frame equivalent.

F-NUMBER

The f-number is probably the most widely known and used method of controlling DOF. Most intermediate/advanced cameras have “aperture priority” which allows you you set the f-number. If you’ve toyed with this mode on your camera, you probably found that lower numbers result in a narrow depth of field (blurry background), while higher numbers result in a wide depth of field (everything in focus).

F-NUMBER ⇓ == DOF ⇓

F-NUMBER ⇑ == DOF ⇑

cropped version:

TRY THIS: With a “normal lens” (40-80mm range), find a subject about 5-10 feet away from you and make sure there’s some background object(s) in view behind it. Use your aperture priority and set the lowest f-number you can, and take a shot focused on the main subject. Now stay in the same spot and use the same focal length, but set the highest f-number you can (without bringing your shutter speed too low), and take another shot focused on the main subject. When you compare the two, the main subject should be in focus for both, but you’ll see a difference in the background blur or the amount of focus on objects in the near distance.

SUBJECT DISTANCE

Another way to control depth of field is to change your distance from the subject in focus. If you’ve ever shot macro, you know that the DOF is extremely narrow for 1:1 magnification. This is because you’re so close the subject. On the other hand, if you’ve shot landscapes you’ll know that it doesn’t take much stopping down of the aperture to get everything in the distance nice and sharp. This is because you’re so far from the subject.

DISTANCE ⇓ == DOF ⇓

DISTANCE ⇑ == DOF ⇑

cropped version:

TRY THIS: With a “normal lens” (40-80mm range), set your aperture to a value around f/4 or f/8. Again, find a subject that has some background element in view. Now get as close as your autofocus will allow you and take a shot. Keep the same focal length and the same f-number, but back up about 5-10 feet. Focus on the subject again and take a second shot. When you compare the two, you should see a difference in the depth of field by the amount of background blur.

FOCAL LENGTH

The last factor in your control for DOF is the focal length of the lens you decide to use. Telephoto lenses have a shallow depth of field as compared to their wide angle counterparts. Anybody out there have a sub-20mm lens? It’s pretty hard to get background blur, right? Any super-telephoto shooters out there? Just the opposite.

FOCAL LENGTH ⇓ == DOF ⇑

FOCAL LENGTH ⇑ == DOF ⇓

cropped version:

TRY THIS: Use a zoom lens that reaches from wide angle to telephoto (something like an 18-200, 28-135, etc.) or use two lenses (wide angle and telephoto). Again, find a subject that has some background element in view. Position yourself approximately 5-10 feet from the subject and set your aperture in the low-mid range (f/4-8, but make sure to find something that can be used for both lenses). Take the first shot with the wide angle lens or at the shorter focal length of the zoom lens. Now, hold your position and your f-number, and switch to the telephoto or use the longer focal length of the zoom lens and take the same shot with focus on the same subject. You should see a wider depth of field with the shorter focal length.

PUTTING IT INTO PERSPECTIVE

All this technical stuff is fine and dandy, but how does it translate to real world photography? The answer depends on what you’re shooting with and what you’re shooting at.

If you have a compact camera with no manual controls and you want a shallow DOF (say, for portraits)… zoom in all the way, get as close to your subject as possible (still preserving a decent composition), and take the shot. Also, less light will force the camera to use a smaller f-number and decrease the DOF. If you want a wide DOF (say, for landscapes)… zoom out all the way, get far away from your subject, and take the shot. Also, more light will force the camera to use a higher f-number and increase the DOF.

On the other hand, if you have a dSLR with manual controls and you want a shallow DOF… use aperture priority, set your f-number low (f/2.8-), get close to your subject, and/or use longer lenses. If you want a wide DOF… set your f-number high (f/16+), step back from your subject, and/or use wide lenses.

If you want to do some theoretical calculations on this topic, check out this handy Depth of Field Calculator. You just choose your camera, focal length, f-number, and subject distance. The calculator outputs your DOF, hyperfocal distance, and circle of confusion.

Links from around the web:

Back to Basics – Depth Of Field
Aperture: How It Affects Your Photography & Why You Should Care
Photography 101.5 – Aperture
HowTo: Use The Depth-Of-Field Preview On Your Camera

ANY OTHER TIPS?

How do you prefer to control your DOF? Any SLR shooters out there have a set of numbers that work well for narrow and wide DOF? How about some good examples of DOF in either extreme? We’d love to see ‘em!

Also — any questions on this stuff? I might be jumping over a few concepts, so let me know if anything doesn’t make sense.

How to Wet Clean Your Lens

Lens wipe
Creative Commons License photo credit: ant.photos

Just admit it… you haven’t cleaned your lenses in a while, have you? Let alone a good wet cleaning. I know, it’s easy to let it go and forget about it. So go do it now!!!

Here’s a little refresher course on wet cleaning your lens elements (and some product suggestions in case you don’t have the stuff already). Keeping your equipment clean is a important part of basic maintenance and it will make your gear last longer. Lenses are no exception, and it’s easy to forget about deep cleaning the front and rear elements because they usually appear to be quite clean at a glance. But if you haven’t given them a good wipe-down for a while, it’s more than likely that you’ve accumulated some dust and grime.

Here are the basic steps for wet cleaning your lens. If you’ve never done it before, make sure you’re comfortable with the process and you understand the risks involved. As for the products involved… we’re talking less than $40 and the only consumables are the cleaning solution and tissues which should last a year or more.

1. BLOW

Before you even think about touching your lens with any type of cloth, blow off all the big stuff that might scratch your glass. My favorite blower is the Rocket Blaster from Giottos — these things put out a great stream of air and I use mine for lens cleaning, sensor cleaning, film cleaning, and scaring the kids when they least expect it. If you don’t have one already, you can purchase a Giottos Rocket Blaster at Amazon.com for about $10.

2. BRUSH

Even if you blow off the lens, you’ll still have some particles hanging on for dear life. A lens brush will help pull off the rest of the “big stuff” before you hit the glass with a cloth. You can purchase a lens cleaning pen with brush on Amazon.com for about $8.

3. WET

Wet the wipe, not the lens! This is important! Don’t drop any kind of liquid straight onto your lens — it could cause damage to the inside parts. Instead, wet a lens tissue with a few drops of lens cleaner or alcohol (which is what lens cleaners are for the most part). You can purchase Eclipse Cleaning System Solution at Amazon.com for about $10 — this stuff is amazing, plus you can use it to clean your sensor.

4. WIPE

They make these special little wipes called lens tissues that are super soft, ultra clean, lint free, and intended for single use. This is exactly what they’re made for, and they’re cheap — so use them! You can purchase PEC-PAD Lint Free Wipes at Amazon.com for around $8 per 100 pack.

A WORD OF CAUTION: Just be careful when making physical contact with optical quality glass — this stuff is really smooth and it can be scratched with something as small as dust. Just don’t be careless. But at the same time, don’t be afraid to do this simple task on your own. When done correctly, you should have nothing to worry about. Here’s a pretty good instructional video I found that should boost your confidence.

And listen, there’s always more than one way to do the job — so don’t take this stuff as the Gospel. For you seasoned photographers out there, how do you clean your lenses?

How to Become a Sports Photographer

The following guest post was contributed by Christine Howell who frequently writes about online photography schools and college related topics for Online College Guru, an online college directory and comparison website.

THREE STEPS TO SUCCESS

Ramon Nunez kicks
Creative Commons License photo credit: Jason Gulledge

If you are interested in photography, you may wish to specialize in a particular field, such as sports photography. Sports photography can be a very lucrative field, but just like professional sports, it’s not all fun and games. You will need to put in the work to become a professional sports photographer, and this article will help introduce you to the rewarding world of photographing professional sports.

1. Get the Right Equipment

Sports photography calls for different gear than other types of photography. The action can be explosively fast, and the shot can be over in fractions of a second, so you will need a camera with a continuous-focus servomotor to capture the athletes as they move closer and farther away from you without having to constantly refocus.

Also, it is necessary to have a continuous shutter function (burst), so you will have several photographs of the rapid-paced action from which to choose the best shot. 8 frames per second is the professional standard for continuous shutters.

Slam Dunk - college basketball
Creative Commons License photo credit: Abdullah AL-Naser

Try to also find a camera with the highest ISO settings that produce least amount of noise. Last but not least, a zoom lens or prime lens, preferably with the largest aperture you can find with IS.

2. Get Some Experience

Number 8
Creative Commons License photo credit: OskarN

Vantage point is more important than venue, so clearly you will be better off on the sidelines of your local high school baseball game than in the stands at the World Series. Start local and get a feel for your subject matter. Concentrate in a sport you understand, because then you can anticipate where the action will be. If you don’t quite “get” baseball strategy, you won’t be able to anticipate where the fielding team will choose to throw the ball or where the batter is likely to aim it. On the other hand, look for shots that are less obvious: an emotional reaction from the stands or from the bench might have more impact than a clean slam-dunk or a runner crossing home plate.

3. Plot Your Career

Arsenal v Liverpool
Creative Commons License photo credit: toksuede

Obviously Sports Illustrated isn’t going to be flying you to the Superbowl without a lot of experience under your belt. You will have to start small, local, and yes, probably free, to build up your portfolio. Volunteer to take some official photographs at a little league game or school match. Once you get some nice shots, you can pursue paying gigs, eventually working your way up to the big leagues. It is very worthwhile to subscribe to industry magazines for tips from established sports photographers, and registering on a website like http://www.sportsshooter.com/ will give you access to forums, contests, tips and a classified section to buy and sell equipment or advertise for jobs.

Motion Blur Frozen
Creative Commons License photo credit: Mariano Kamp

So there you have it. Each step will take an investment of time and a bit of money, but if you want to become a sports photographer, it will certainly be worth it to end up with an exciting career that pays well and is a lot of fun—what’s not to like?

How To Participate in Photography Projects

weekend07_04.jpg
Creative Commons License photo credit: smallritual

Photography projects are a great way to improve your skills and expand your creativity (plus they’re fun). These projects can take many forms and have many different requirements for participation. It seems like everywhere you look, there are group projects being hosted by bloggers, forums, and other online clubs.

Online projects can be vastly different from one another, but they all have one thing in common: you need to publish something. Sometimes the host will publish for you, and sometimes they require you to find your own avenue for publication. If you have your own blog or website, it’s pretty easy to meet the publication requirements. But if you don’t have your own site, things can be a little more difficult.

This article will show you a few of the methods you can use for self-publication when it comes to these projects — even some free ones. We’ll also take a look at some general points to remember when participating in projects. So if you’ve been holding back from participating in online photography projects, pay attention and take notes.

HOW TO BE A GOOD PLAYER

First and foremost, you need to be sure that you read the project requirements and rules very thoroughly. If you don’t follow the guidelines set by the project host, you’ll run the risk of disqualifying yourself from the project or having to do it over again the right way. Hosts set the rules to ensure that participants produce similar project entries and keep everybody on the same playing field. Hosting a project is a very big task that requires a lot of work and organization. If you submit a project entry that doesn’t conform with the project requirements, you’re making more work for the host and for yourself. So read the rules 2 or 3 times before you even begin the project.

Secondly, you need to make sure that you meet the deadline set by the project host. Late entries cause a lot of hassle, especially if the host will be publishing the results of the entire project. Aside from just hitting the deadline, it’s also a good courtesy to submit your entry prior to the final days before the deadline. A lot of people submit entries on the last day or two of the project and it puts a strain on the host. You may run the risk of getting overlooked or having your project get lost in the shuffle. Besides, most of the post-project publications from the host will be in some sort of chronological order — so if you’re an early bird, you’ll get a top spot on the list and your work will be seen by more people.

And the last topic is more of a suggestion than anything. It’s always nice to have project participants post a link to the project requirements with their entry. It allows your audience to be informed about the project and it will give them a chance to participate too. Like I said, it’s a nice thing to do but it’s generally not required by the project host (unless they specify that it is).

The following points are a few methods for self-publication of project entries. Like I said before, each project will require different things of the project entry — some will be completely published by the host, while others will require you to publish something yourself.

PUBLISHING ON YOUR BLOG

It’s my opinion that a blog provides the best avenue for project publication. You have total control over what you publish, how you publish it, and how it looks. The ease of self-publication is downright scary. The project entry can be published as a regular post and it will have its own unique URL that the project host can reach easily.

Even if you have a blog, this may not be the best route for you to use. If your blog topic is very much different than the photography project or even photography in general, you may have reservations for what you publish. If this is the case, read on for some of the free options that may suit you better.

If you don’t have a blog of your own, also check out some of the other methods for publication. What I wouldn’t suggest doing is starting up a blog just to publish the project entry, especially if you have no intent of keeping up with the blog. This will eventually result in broken links and non-existent project entries if you ever decide to delete the one-post blog. But if you’ve been meaning to start up a blog anyways, then I say go for it!

PUBLISHING ON OTHER BLOGS

Oh no, here come the Bloggers
Creative Commons License photo credit: Brett L.

If you don’t have a photography blog that you can publish your project to, that doesn’t mean that you can’t publish on another blog out there. Most bloggers are fairly open to guest posts, and their audience is usually full of other photographers like yourself. If you want to guest post on another blog, make sure it’s one that fits well with the content you’ll be providing. It’s also a good idea to go after a blog that you read and interact with on a regular basis. The blogger will be much more open to your post if you have an existing relationship with them.

There are a ton of photography blogs out there, so don’t limit your sights to the big mainstream sites. Bloggers with smaller or newer sites will generally be more approachable because they’ll be less tied up with running a large website. It also helps if you get your project finished early and have your publication written and ready to go before you approach them.

PUBLISHING ON YOUR WEBSITE

A typical website would be the next best option to the blog. Publishing something like a project entry isn’t quite as easy, but it’s not totally impossible. If you’re accustomed to creating your own web pages, then posting a project entry should be no problem. The nice thing about a standard website approach is that you can post something and have it remain unseen by the rest of your website. Why would you want to do this? If the topic of your website isn’t photography, it might seem a little out of place.

PUBLISHING ON FLICKR

Friday Night Tribute to Flickr! (a.k.a. Things To Do With A Mobile Phone) :)
Creative Commons License photo credit: dsevilla

Flickr is actually very accommodating to publishing a project that requires photos and/or written portions. Obviously, Flickr is built for posting photos, but you can also post text and links with those photos. Add in the ability to tag your photos and create sets, and you’ve got lots of options for publishing a project entry.

If the project requires only a photo, then just post the photo to Flickr as you normally would. Like I said before, it’s also a good idea to write a little about the project (or why you took the photo) and possibly link back to the project page so other people can participate. You can just post this text in the description for the photo, and now you’ve got your own project entry on a single web page.

If the project requires more than one photo (like a portfolio), then a Flickr set is the way to go. Include all your photos in a set, and you can also describe the project in the set description. If the project requires a larger portion of written work, then include that text on one of your photos in the set and link to it from the set description. You want to make sure that the project host can find your entire project entry easily.

If you don’t want to include the project photos in a set (because the free Flickr accounts limit the number of sets you can have), then a common tag will also work. Then you can submit your project entry as the collection of photos with that common tag. To do this, you just add the following text to the end of your photostream URL: “/tags/[tag name]” — here’s an example.

PUBLISHING ON FORUMS

Forums are another great avenue to publish content for free. You can start a new thread, post some project photos, and complete the written part of it all in one spot. Other photographers will then be able to comment on your entry piece, and they’ll also have an opportunity to participate if they choose.

Just like guest posting on another photographer’s blog, posting project entries on a forum will go over much better if you have an existing presence there. Don’t just use the forum as a way to publish the project and never return.

PUBLISHING ON OTHER FREE SITES

Now I’m going to turn the discussion over to you. I’ve presented a few methods of publishing photography project entries, some free and some not. I think it would be useful if some of you offered up some additional suggestions — the cheaper the option, the better.

Link Roundup 05-10-2008

  • 15 Fun Fabulous Fisheye Photos
    digital Photography School
    If you’ve ever been interested in fisheye photography, check out this article packed with great examples and explanations by Neil Creek.
  • 11 Things To Do With Your Cameraphone While You Wait
    Beyond Phototips
    We have our cameraphones with us more than our real cameras, so why not use them to explore the world around us and shoot it up?
  • DSLR Viewfinder Size / Coverage Comparison
    Photolectic
    Here’s a neat little chart that shows crop factors, coverage areas, magnification, and effective sizes for the viewfinders on just about all dSLRs.
  • 5 ways to deal with negative photo-critiques
    Photocritic
    Dealing with criticism is a difficult thing to do as a photographer — we have a strong connection with those photos. But critiques will happen, so here are five ways to deal with them.
  • 13 of the best flickr silhouette pictures
    All Day I Dream About Photography
    A very nice collection of silhouette photos from the creative minds at Flickr.
  • How to frak your next digital camera purchase
    1001 Noisy Cameras
    Wanna screw up your next camera purchase? Here are some tips to help you accomplish that.
  • Do you know what Hyperfocal Distance is?
    PhotoWalkPro
    Do you like to photograph landscapes? Do you know what hyperfocal distance refers to? Check out this great technical explanation, complete with some fun charts.
  • 70 Free Photoshop Actions
    Reyns Wim Photography
    Wow, a very nicely done package of Photoshop actions. The download page also has a preview functionality so you can see what all the actions do. Most of them are for “normal” editing techniques, but there are a few “artistic” ones in there too.
  • Color Junkies
    The Online Photographer
    “The Online Photographer” takes a stance against color photos. Somewhat humorous, but he makse some very good points for b&w and how to evaluate if a color photo is really worth pursuing in color.
  • If You Put That Picture On The Internet I’ll Call My Lawyer
    Jeremy Brooks
    Jeremy Brooks runs into a crazy guy on the street and writes about his confrontation. Here’s a good example of when to stand up for your rights against people who think they can bully photographers.
  • And here’s a neat photojournalism video/slideshow from Richard Wong.

How To Create Photoshop Actions

Photoshop Actions

Photoshop actions are the best — they save time and make you more productive during post-processing. They can be used to speed up repetitive tasks, make quick work of time consuming edits, and give you a little creative inspiration. In several of my previous Photoshop articles I’ve given the option to download a set of actions that cover the topics discussed here on the blog.

DOWNLOAD THE ACTIONS

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As I mentioned in my “Actions Teaser” post, I’ll be going through the basic steps of creating actions and give you some examples of how they can be used. I’m going to rely on my regular readers to fill in any gaps that I might miss, and discuss the Photoshop actions they typically use. So let’s get to it — open up Photoshop and follow along!

1. FIND YOUR ACTIONS PALETTE

Before you can do anything, you need to have the right tools in front of you. Make sure that your actions palette is activated and visible. It typically shows up as a tab on the history palette, but this may vary depending on your workspace.

If your actions palette is nowhere to be found, you can activate it under the “Window” menu. Once you do this, you should see a palette similar to the one in this photo. If you don’t have any actions defined yet, you’ll probably just see the “Default Actions” set.

Sets are a way to group actions as you see fit. To create a new set, pull down the palette menu and click “New Set…”. Give your new set a descriptive name. Also note that when you import and export actions, it’s the whole set rather than a single action.

2. CREATE A NEW ACTION

OK, you’ve got some sequence of events you want to record and you’re ready to start the action. As an example, I’ll walk through my “Flickr Horizontal” action that I mentioned in the teaser post.

Before we can begin recording the action, we’ll need to create the action. Pull down the action menu and click on “New Action…”. Give it a name and a keyboard shortcut if you want. Now we have a new empty action that we can record to.

3. BEGIN RECORDING THE ACTION

To begin recording the action, simply select your action in the palette and click on the “Record” icon in the lower action menu or select “Start Recording” from the pull-down menu. Once you click this button, every event you perform will be recorded. This includes menu items, adjustments, layer selections, and any of the Photoshop tools.

There’s no need to hurry through your sequence of events, because the action is not time based. If you’re not doing something to the image, it won’t be recorded. So take your time and get it right.

4. DO YOUR STUFF

Now do whatever it is that you wanted to do. Perform all the tasks, clicks, option settings, and image adjustments that you want included in your action.

If you mess something up or if you accidentally skip a step — don’t worry. After recording the action you can go back and edit the steps, add steps, and re-record steps.

For my “Flickr Horizontal” action, here are the steps I take:

  • Save (optional)
    Since I’m creating an action that eventually closes the file, it might be a good idea to quickly save the original prior to running the rest of the action. I don’t include this step in my action because of long save times for large files, but I could lose information if I forget to save prior to running the action.
  • Flatten Image
    Since I’ll be resizing the image, I flatten everything to create a single composite layer. This prevents all of my adjustment layers and whatnot from being scaled separately.
  • Image Size
    I prefer to keep my Flickr photos at 800 pixels on the long edge, so I’ll type in “800″ in the appropriate dialog field.
  • Convert to Profile
    I work in Adobe RGB, so I need to convert everything to sRGB for the web.
  • Convert Mode
    I also work in 16-bit mode, and JPEGs don’t support this. So I switch to 8-bit.
  • Save As
    I didn’t like the results from the “Save for Web” option, so I just use a “Save As” now. Here, I specify that the image should be saved in a “Flickr Upload” folder located on my desktop. I don’t rename the image, so it retains its original name. I also save at a quality of 12 since there are no limits on storage space with Flickr.
  • Close
    After I save the image, I have no need for it so I close it out.

Some of these events are specific to my personal preferences and my computer’s file structure, so if you’re following along with my example you’ll need to adjust a few values.

5. COMPLETE THE ACTION

So once you’re done with the sequence, its time to stop the action. Just press the “Stop” button at the bottom of the action palette and Photoshop will stop recording.

For some actions, this is the end of the road. But many of my actions are set to require input from the user at specific points along the way.

6. SET YOUR TOGGLE DIALOGS

An action with no stop dialogs will run through the sequence of events without stopping or asking for anything. So if you have a step that requires some human input or uses a setting that must be adjusted for each photo, you must tell the action that this is the case. To do this, simply click on the box next to the step and you’ll see the icon appear.

When this box is active on a given step in the action, Photoshop will present you with the dialog box pre-filled as specified by the action. You’ll then have a chance to make adjustments to anything in that dialog before moving on. Once you hit “OK” for that dialog, the action continues as it normally would.

In the example of my “Flickr Horizontal” action, I don’t set any stops for the dialogs. I can do this because each time I use it I want to produce the same results. For my other actions such as “LAB Sharpening”, “LAB Saturation”, or “High Pass Sharpen” (as shown in the image above), I set stop points to adjust certain settings that vary between photos.

7. INSERT ANY MENU ITEMS

Inserting a menu item (via the pull-down menu) is similar to recording the action, but it forces a dialog that can’t be toggled off. When the action arrives at that menu item, you MUST interact with it to continue. These menu items also have no preset values like the recorded actions do, so you’ll get whatever shows up by default.

I personally don’t use menu items very often, but they can be useful for certain situations. If you record an action and you find that the presets from the action item are causing more work for you, delete that step and insert a menu item.

8. TEST AND REFINE

I usually don’t get my actions right the first time around unless they’re extremely simple. I find that if I run a few different Photoshop files through the action, I usually uncover some mistakes or find the need to insert additional steps to ensure the action runs smoothly. If you find a mistake with one of your steps, just select that step and “Record Again” (via the pull-down menu). Or if you want to re-order some steps, just drag them up or down the list until they land where you want them.

I’ve also noted a few quirks about running actions, such as error messages that can occur if something is not possible to complete. Or the fact that working with multiple files, renaming layers, and selecting layers are cumbersome tasks with actions because Photoshop is looking for specific file names or layer names each time the action is run.

For complex actions, what you’ll end up with are a few extra steps that ensure a robust action that can handle many different files. But hey, it’s an action — who cares?

IDEAS FOR ACTIONS

So… I think that covers the basics of how to create an action in Photoshop. If I missed something or if I didn’t explain something well enough, let me know and we can follow-up in the comments.

These action things are great, but what can you do with them? It can be hard to think of those repetitive tasks when you’re not performing them, so I’ll share a few of my action needs. I would say that my actions are grouped into three main categories: administrative tasks, specific tasks, and creative boosts. Here are a few of the actions in my arsenal.

ADMINISTRATIVE TASKS

These are things that will drive you nuts because they’re no fun at all. Like every time you want to save a JPEG or TIFF file. Or every time you want to downsize for Flickr or email. I use actions to speed up the process and prevent me from making mistakes.

  • Resizing and saving for specific destinations
  • Basic adjustment layer setups
  • Converting color space and bit depth

SPECIFIC TASKS

Actions are good for little items that consist of a few steps. By using an action, it not only bypasses the need to click on menus or type keyboard shortcuts, but it also allows you to set default values that you commonly use.

CREATIVE BOOSTS

These are more of starting points than anything. I use actions for this type of stuff so I can quickly evaluate if a certain technique has any potential with the photo. Often, I’ll not only run a few b/w conversions, but I’ll also run most photos through at least 3 or 4 other creative techniques in Photoshop and take snapshots of the initial results. This allows me to decide which direction I’m going and I don’t have to waste a lot of time getting there.

So all you Photoshop gurus out there, pipe up and give us more examples of what can be done with these things. What are some of your most useful actions that you couldn’t live without?

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Photoshop Techniques: Cross Process and Redscale

I gotta hand it to the film guys, they sure know how to have a good time. I’m fascinated by the many methods and techniques they can use to produce some very interesting images, all of which are only possible with film. As digital photographers, we can only try to mimic what they can do in hopes that our work will turn out half as interesting. Here are a couple of my favorite film photography techniques that can be (sort of) reproduced with Photoshop.

Base ImageGreen ProcessedRed Processed

Cross processing is a film photography technique whereby the film is deliberately processed in a solution intended for a different type of film. The effect is usually heavy color shifts, increased contrast, over-saturation, and a funky greenish-yellow tint.

Base ImageGreen ProcessedRed Processed

Redscale is another film photography technique whereby the film is loaded into the camera facing the wrong direction. This causes the red layer of the film to be exposed first, thus absorbing more light than it would normally. Blue now becomes the last layer to absorb light, so it’s nearly non-existent. These images have a very distinct red color shift, but can range from yellow to maroon.

Here are some of my previous cross-processed photos.

PED XING Piña Refresco Benched Smoker The Dog in the Bike Reading Material

Keep in mind that these techniques are highly subjective, so many cross processed and redscale images will have similar traits while being drastically different. I’ve put together a couple of Photoshop actions that will help start the process for these techniques. These have been added to the previous actions for LAB Sharpening and LAB Saturation.

DOWNLOAD THE PHOTOSHOP ACTIONS

These actions will lay down three layers to get you in the right direction, but think of them as more of a starting point than an ending point. Dig into it and start tweaking the layers until you find something that works for that image. Since the layers are non-destructive adjustment layers, you can edit one at a time, little by little, until you get the photo where you want it.

CROSS PROCESSING TECHNIQUE

Cross Processing Steps

This is a fairly simple process, it just takes a lot of time if you don’t use the Photoshop Action provided. I picked this up at PhotoshopSupport.com, made a few tweaks, and wrapped it up in a Photoshop Action.

1. PROCESS THE COLOR CURVES

Cross Process Color Curves

A curves adjustment layer (Layer >> New Adjustment Layer >> Curves…) is typically used on the composite channel to boost contrast. We’ll be ignoring the composite channel and working on each of the color channels. As you get into the setup dialog box for the curves, be sure to set the blend mode to “Color” and leave it at 100% opacity for now. So here are what my curves look like in the red, green, and blue channels. This isn’t an exact science, so don’t worry if it’s not perfect — you’ll want to tweak on things differently for each image anyways.

2. ADD THE COLOR CAST

Cross Process Color Fill

Here, we’re just adding a fill layer at a low opacity (Layer >> New Fill Layer >> Solid Color…). Again, in the setup dialog box for the fill layer, be sure to set the blend mode to “Color” and bring the opacity down to about 10 or 15%. Start off using the color “#E1FF00″ and work from there — it’s kind of a lime green/yellow. This will give us that green tint.

3. BOOST THE CONTRAST

Cross Process Contrast

At this point, the image is probably looking pretty close, but a little dull and flat. We’ll use another curves adjustment layer to boost the contrast. Be sure to set the blend mode to “Luminosity” and leave it at 100% — this will ensure that we keep our colors and our brightness separate. Throw in a nice “S” curve and adjust to your liking. Don’t be afraid to blow out some highlights, since that’s fairly common in cross processed photos.

4. (OPTIONAL) SATURATION BOOST

This isn’t usually necessary, but if you want to give the color a little more punch, run my LAB Saturation action (included in the download set) and adjust the parameters until you’re happy with it.

REDSCALE TECHNIQUE

Redscale Steps

I based this one off of the cross processing technique by altering the colors and curves. It may not be the best way to accomplish this, but it works fairly well and it gives you great control over your colors.

1. PROCESS THE COLOR CURVES

Redscale Color Curves

Again, we’ll be ignoring the composite channel and working on each of the color channels. As you get into the setup dialog box for the curves, be sure to set the blend mode to “Color” and leave it at 100% opacity for now. So here are what my curves look like in the red, green, and blue channels. The main thing you need to know here is that the blue channel will give you the most control over the final color of the image. Drag the point in the middle of the curve up and to the left, and you’ll get more of a magenta tone. Drag the point down and to the right, and you’ll get more of an orange or yellow tone. These are all feasible outcomes of redscale film photography.

2. ADD THE COLOR CAST

Redscale Color Fill

Here, we’re just adding a fill layer at a low opacity (Layer >> New Fill Layer >> Solid Color…). Again, in the setup dialog box for the fill layer, be sure to set the blend mode to “Color” and bring the opacity down to about 15 or 25%. Start off using the color “#CC4400″ and work from there — it’s kind of a brick red/orange. Most of the red will come from the previous layer, but this will add some. Here, you can also adjust how yellow or magenta the layer is along with the opacity.

3. BOOST THE CONTRAST

Redscale Contrast

Redscales are typically less contrasty than cross processed photos, but this step will give you control over that and let you play around a little. We’ll use another curves adjustment layer to boost the contrast, just like we did with cross processing — but this one I’ve set the shadows to be less dark. Be sure to set the blend mode to “Luminosity” and leave it at 100% — this will ensure that we keep our colors and our brightness separate. After you’re done with this, you can continue to boost the saturation, sharpen the photo, etc.

So there are two techniques to mess around with. Use them sparingly, otherwise it’ll start to lose it’s magic with your onlookers. I’ve found that street scenes tend to work well with these techniques, but you’d actually be surprised at how many different images could benefit from a little artistic flare such as this.

If you use one of these techniques on some photos in the near future, leave a link in the comments below — I’d like to check them out!