Thursday, April 30, 2009

Photoshop Crop...Cutting for Clarity

The final entry in this series on my Photoshop workflow process is CROP.

If you've been following, you remember that I'm working backward from CURVES where it all started (or ends). I know it's a bit confusing so let me restate the workflow.

#1 Crop...#2 Levels...#3 Curves That's the process 99% of my photos go through before I do anything else in Photoshop. And today I'll discuss CROP and it's importance.

Above you'll see the before (left) and after (right) of my goose friend here.

One key element that makes for a good photographs is a clearly defined subject. One element in your photo that the eye is instantly drawn to. One clear focal point telling your eye exactly what to look at. Photos that have too many objects, arranged in random order, distract and confuse the eye which then tells the brain, "I don't like it."

So the function of cropping is two fold.

One is to cut out the distractions or excess items that draw the eye away from the main subject and two, to place the supporting object and main subject into a position on the photo that has been proven to please the eye.

Cutting out distractions using the CROP tool is really just zooming in. We attempt to create the smallest size picture that still shows the main subject of our photo (which we hopefully chose when we originally took the picture) and the least amount of supporting items that still tell the story. A good photo never leaves the viewing thinking, "What's that supposed to be a photo of?"

In the example of the goose above, you can see that I cropped (zoomed in) on her head and neck.

That's because the original scene had too much wasted space, too much that wasn't my subject- which of course, was the goose.

The second consideration when using the crop tool is placement, where is your subject located on the page. Imagine your photo is divided by three equally spaced lines, both horizontally and vertically. Ideally, you will want your subject to lie where a horizontal and vertical line intersect. (Red dots)
Dead center is usually not best. But rules are made to be broken, sometimes. On the diagram you can see why it's called the Rule of Thirds. Three lines up, three across. Put your subjects there.

And the last element of good composition ( and function of the CROP) tool is to get some diagonals working. That is aligning some elements of your photo to form a diagonal line which helps to draw the viewers eye into the scene, hopefully concluding at your subject.

Be careful when positioning faces. The viewers eye naturally seeks out other eyes, even if that's not where you want the viewer to look.

Going back to my crop example above, you can see that the beak (a bright orange, eye drawing color is on the lower left thirds line, and the other main feature is the goose's neck detail, also located on a thirds line (right/lower). The eye lies in between. You can see the diagonal line created by the gooses neck. And also a diagonal from (lower-left /up) created by the beak and eye combination.

So to recap, I used CROP to zoom in and feature the main subject. I used CROP to position the subject in the photo along the rule of thirds. Both considered Composition actions.

Also, consider what size you wish your final photo to be before you crop. You can define the size in the toolbar once you select the crop tool - standard sizes like 4x6, 5x7, 8x10, 10x14, 16x20.
Set your size before you crop, click and draw your crop lines on the photo. Photoshop will work from the dimensions you chose. If you change you mind, right click inside your box and left mouse click CANCEL to start over. Or left click CROP to keep. You can use the ENTER key to crop as well.
You can also click (CLEAR) on the toolbar and freeform any size rectangle you wish for cropping.

That concludes my series on workflow. I hope it was helpful.

Remember, CROP - LEVELS - CURVES. A great way to start your Photoshop day!

Also, if you've ever had a dream, pop over to: for what might just be the most inspirational story in our lifetime.
"I Have a Dream!"

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

LEVELS: Secret to Pin-point Accuracy

In the previous post on CURVES I made mention of my Photoshop workflow process. Many of you wrote asking me to describe my workflow so I thought I would do that today.

Since I described the third step in my process, CURVES, a bit already, today I'll work backward and describe a little tip on my second sequence in processing, LEVELS.

First, to give you the playbook, I always begin optimizing my photographs in Photoshop this 3 step way:

Ctrl-J to duplicate the background so I'm not working on my original. It's automatic to me, a must do, so I'm not even giving it a step number.

1. CROP: Here I compose the photo. Getting the subject where I want it and getting any clutter or distractions out of the picture. More on CROP tomorrow.

2. LEVELS: I use the histogram in LAYER - NEW ADJUSTMENT LAYER - LEVELS.
Today I'll give you a neat trick that lets you optimize your levels adjustment to retain all the pixels.

3. CURVES: After cropping to size and compose, after using LEVELS to set the proper exposure I next move to CURVES to give a little more sharpness and contrast to the photo. On rare occasions I will vary from this, but mostly my curves adjustment will look like this:

Using these three steps lets me very quickly improve the visual and technical qualities of 80% of my work. The other 20% will need some blemish repair, maybe a little more hue, maybe a little more sharpness, maybe a little Gaussian blur on the background to highlight my subject.

I don't include specialty stuff here, like subject transplants, or creative works like the statue in the previous 2 posts. And of course fun stuff like Scott's NewPhotoBiz 1.0 . But those project all still start out with my 3 step process. Crop, Levels, Curves.

OK, OK! Today's tip on LEVELS.

Often times when you open the levels window, you will see that histogram does not run complete from left to right (aka, dark to light). Maybe it doesn't reach to the dark side, which means you need to move the left slider arrow towards the middle to darken your photo. Maybe the histogram doesn't reach to the right side which means you need to drag the slider arrow toward the middle to lighten your photo.

But if you move it too far, you begin to let pixels drop off. You inadvertantly loose the lightest or darkest values. Sometimes, that's ok. But what if you want to keep everything?

Here's the tip!

Hold the (Alt) key down while you move the sliders.
Watch your photo now as you move the sliders.

If you are moving the right (lightest) slider arrow your photo will start out as black. As you move it left, towards the middle of the histogram to lighten your photo, you will begin to see a light appear from your subject. As soon as you see the first light, stop. That is the lightest pixel.

If you are moving the left (darkest) slider arrow your photo will start out white. As you move the arrow right, towards the middle of the histogram to darken your photo, you will begin to see colors appear. Stop. At that point you are revealing the darkest values in your photo.

There you have it. Now you know exactly where the lightest and darkest values lie on your photo. That's not to say it's bad to go past that point. It's OK to knock a few pixels off if it makes for a better photo in the end. But at least you won't inadvertently be losing them because you GUESSED where you should put the slider. now you can KNOW!

Be sure to sign up for my Tip Cards at the upper right of your screen. In addition to getting a FREE set of Photoshop Tip Cards for handy desktop reference, next week I'll be letting my Photoshop Tip Card Members in on a new book I co-authored with another very well known photographer and marketing expert.

In the book you'll discover great new ways to boost your photography income
(or even get yourself started in this great business with very little expense!)

Go ahead now...SIGN's free!

And tune in tomorrow for more CROP!

This is Robert Schwarztrauber, signing off to go Photoshop something.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Sexy Curves Turn Granite to Gold

Normally you would never see a photo this bad on my site. After all, isn't that what separates the amateurs from the pros...the pros only show the good photos?

But I thought it was educational in many ways. Lots of tips I could glean from one photo disaster.

If, upon seeing today's photo you thought, "That looks familiar?" You would be correct... it's the same photo I showed on the last post as teaser for today. (Look back to "Simple Starburst Effect" as we go along to compare)

So here's the tips that come to mind:

1. We don't always get to choose our backdrop. Sometimes we must shoot a beautiful subject surrounded by junk. So we must learn to deal with it! (aka cut out the subject with Photoshop and drop it into another background, whether that be plain white, textured colors, fresh scenes, or as in this case, plain black.

2. Sometimes our lives need more pizazz!
A little excitement! A little glitz!
In many cases where our subject contains only a little color (as in this granite statue) it looks better to switch to black and white letting the shadows and lights add dimension. But sometimes it would be great to really jazz it up.

Wouldn't it be great if you could have the "Midas Touch" where everything you Photoshop'd turned to gold?

O.K.. Here it comes! The part where I show you how sexy CURVES can be while at the same time giving you the "Midas Touch."

A digression. Isn't it ironic how Photoshop allows us the ultimate freedom to be creative, and yet we want someone to show us how? Hmmm? ( I still search the internet daily to find new techniques, new discoveries...someone to show me how to use the tools to be more "creative")

Well because I love to push the boundaries and because I "hate rules", I had an opportunity to discover something cool in Photoshop curves that I wanted to share with you today.

Normally, as part two of my standard workflow, just after the levels adjustment, I go to
Here I find the diagonal line that flows from dark at the lower left corner to light at the upper right corner. I do a couple of minute tweaks to the line (usually creating a very slight S curve) which improves the contrast in my photos. That's it.

But on one particular occassion I knew I had a great subject (this statue) but I couldn't get it to "POP". It was just too average. So I started tugging on the curve's line.

You can create many points to pull that line up and down. You can control where dark begins and light ends. You can even (take a deep breath or look away as I break the "rules" now)
TOUCH THE BOTTOM! TOUCH THE TOP! ...the walls of the box which are normally out of bounds (because they max-out the software and allow uncontroled events to occur... like wicked color changes!).

And therein lies the secret. You can create metallic-like colors and bold expressions when you step off the path and really get creative with CURVES. Because each photo contains pixels of every shade and hue, I cannot tell you exactly what setting will do what. But what I can tell you for certain is that you can really add some spice to your works when you start banging that line around in CURVES. Experiment, Try it today!

3. An important note on experimentation. Tip number three is to ALWAYS start your Photoshop workflow by DUPLICATING your original layer. Just start by pressing the shortcut Ctrl-J. Once that is done you never have to worry about experimenting. You can play to your hearts desire without ever effecting your original. You can always go home. And your original is safe.

(sorry for those of you who thought today might be about shooting sexy photos of expecting moms, although she was the subject in the photo, today was just about Photoshop curves.)

That being said...CURVES are sexy!
So go break some (Curves) rules today!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Simple Starburst Effect

As I promised yesterday, today I will explain how to create a simple starburst effect on your photos, like the subtle one shown on yesterdays Sunrise photo.

This technique works best if there are many points of light (highlights, pinpoints of bright white in contrast with a darker surrounding). It is those points that will ultimately create the effect.

The simplest way to do it, is by using the FILTER mode.

But first we must prepare out workspace by duplicating our original two times.

Step 1 : DUPLICATE your background twice (I like to use keyboard shortcut, Ctrl-J

Before we begin to create the effect we must now have 3 identical layers showing on layers palette.

With the top layer selected,

Step 2 : Filter - Blur - Motion Blur
on the pop-up box we need to set the angle to (45)
and max-out the distance to 999

Turn off that top later and select the Middle Layer next.

Step 3 : Filter - Blur - Motion Blur
on the pop-up box we need to set the angle to (-45)
and max-out the distance to 999

Step 4 : Go back up to the top layer and turn it on, then change the Blend Mode to Screen

Step 5 : Go up to the menu and choose LAYER - MERGE DOWN (shortcut Ctrl-E)

Now you should see the starburst effect (criss cross)

Step 6 : On the newly merged layer (top one because at this point you should just have two layers showing on your layers palette) change that Blend Mode to Screen

You should now be seeing a pretty good image formed showing the starburst effect, but it is probably too light because we have been changing blend modes to screen (remember screen mode is a lightener)

To get the exposure looking right,

Step 7 : go to IMAGE - ADJUSTMENTS - LEVELS and lets move that left hand slider over towards the right a bit to darken up our photo.

Wow! That's it. Seven simple steps to starburst stardom!

With that 7 step system now in your toolbelt you'll be creating cool photos like the sunrise shown on Sunday's Shortcuts in no time! Or something even better I suspect!

One note though. If you find that the starburst are over-powering your subject, take the ERASER (set at 10-20%) on your top layer and lightly erase the effect from over your subject
(or you could use a layer mask as well if the eraser tool scares you.)

I was reminded of this from a post on Scott's NewPhotoBiz forum, (one of the members posted the link) If you haven't checked out NewPhotoBiz 1.0 yet, check over in the right margin where you'll find a link to Scott's site. Really, every photographer who wants to create great images and make money doing it the easy way should be a member of Scott's group
( I know I jumped at the chance when I found out!)

And remember to sign up for your free tip cards here too, top right.

Tune in tomorrow to see why CURVES are so sexy and what that has to do with the "Midas Touch"

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Photoshop Shortcut Sundays Begin!

Welcome to Shortcut Sundays!

Each Sunday I'll be posting some of my favorite keyboard shortcuts. Some of them you may know, some you may not, and some of you may not even be aware that there are keyboard shortcuts. ( I know I played with Photoshop for 8 months before I first learned!)

So, to keep it goes:

Ctrl + press the control key (Ctrl) and the (+) plus/equals keys to zoom in on your photo
Crtl - press the control key (Ctrl) and the (-) minus/underline keys together to zoom out

Hold Spacebar when zoomed in to turn your curser into a hand tool. Then just click and hold the left mouse key to move your selection around to see all the parts.

Ctrl T press control (Ctrl) and the letter (T) to bring up Free Transform to resize your images

Crtl J my favorite! Pressing (Ctrl) and letter (J) will duplicate the layer you are on currently

Crtl I pressing (Ctrl) and letter (I) will Invert, or change your foreground and background color palettes. Great when you are working on a layer mask to change quickly from white to black.

D one key shortcuts...doesn't get any shorter than that! Pressing letter (D) quicly changes your color palette back to the default, black and white

Q pressing letter (Q) brings up the Quickmask feature. then use your brush tool to paint over the area you wish to mask/select. Pressing (Q) again will SELECT the area (dancing ants) and then you can copy it into another layer. Works great as a selection tool for taking subjects out of one scene and putting them into another. Great for the folks in Scott's NewPhotoBiz group.

Well, there you have it. Eight great ways to save yourself precious time when working in Photoshop.

You'll find these shortcuts and more included in my Photoshop Tip Cards. If you haven't already, be sure to sign up at the top right of your screen to join our group. You'll receive your first pack
of Photoshop Tip Cards in the mail FREE just for signing up. Plus you'll get insider tips on many more photography and Photoshop related resources! Go ahead and sign up's free!

Be sure to check back tomorrow when I'll tell you a quick way to get those cool sunrays you see streaming across the Sunrise photo featured today.

Friday, April 24, 2009

2 Popular Blend Modes

Here's a little behind the scenes look at 2 popular blend modes and how they work.

But before I begin, I received so many nice comments on the previous stained glass photo in "Dead Colors Come Alive" I thought I would post another of my favorites here today. Again, this rare bit of secular stained glass was found in Forest Lawn Cemetery. It is on the list of national historic places - President McKinley was buried here. Aside from being the eternal resting place of many famous Americans of the 1800's, it also houses some of the most beautiful outdoor artworks in the city. I hope you'll enjoy today's selected photo! A sunrise full of hope.

And as an additional note for those who might be straining to look for some connection between the tips being offered in this blog and the photos beside each piece, there is none. Except to say that all of the photos have been put through a Photoshop enhancement of one kind or another...and probably many.

That said, let's talk about two popular blend modes, how they work, and what they can do to make your photos more appealing.

First up is MULTIPLY.

You will find that Photoshop's default blend mode is NORMAL. If you change the blend mode to MULTIPLY, Photoshop will take out the light (white) pixels and multiply the dark ones. If you have a photo that is dominated by too much lightness, maybe outdoors on a sunny day, or a bit too heavy on the flash, a quick way to darken it up is to change the blend mode to MULTIPLY. Be sure to use the opacity slider to fine tune it because in most cases just switching blend modes here will make your photo too dark. Decrease the opacity for a better effect.

Next up is SCREEN.

The SCREEN mode is basically the opposite if MULTIPLY. In screen mode Photoshop takes out the dark pixels. When you change from NORMAL to SCREEN you will see your photo appear washed out, too light. Again, adjust the opacity to gain a more favorable effect. If you find your prints always come out too dark, despite looking great on your monitor, SCREEN is a great way to lighten your photos after you have made all other adjustments in Photoshop and are ready to print. (click for more details on using screen to correct dark prints)

These two blend modes can be great time savers when you know how they work. And now you do! So whenever you want nice control over your lights and darks get out your own Photoshop and experiment with blend modes...and their opacity slider.

Be sure to check back on Sunday. This week I'll begin "SHORTCUT SUNDAYS".

Each Sunday will now be dedicated to showing you the hidden keyboard shortcuts in Photoshop. Great tips to shorten your time on the computer so you can spend more time behind the camera.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Quick White Balance Using Levels

Here's a quick way to adjust the white balance on your photos, in Photoshop using the LEVELS adjustment.

Open your photo in Photoshop, hit Ctrl-J to duplicate as always so we are not working on or changing our original.

Then go to: LAYER - NEW ADJUSTMENT LAYER - LEVELS and hit OK at the pop-up window

Left mouse click on the center eye-dropper to activate.

Next take that over to your photo and left-mouse click on a neutral colored location (anything metal usually works very well, if not available, look for something of a neutral gray or beige tone)

You will see your photo change, hopefully for the better! If it looks good, click OK in the levels box and move on.

If it looks awful, click around a bit more, experiment as you try to achieve a better look.

Need more options?

The far left eye-dropper will set your black point. Use this to acheive really black blacks. The far right eye-dropper will set your white point. It's like bleach for photographs, it gives you whiter whites.

And if you're the type that never tires of tinkering, fine tune your results using the Black/White Output Level slider bar below the histogram, or adjust any of the three arrows directly under the histogram to adjust your white, mid-range, or black values.

LEVELS - more than just a tool to lighten or darken your photos!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Dead Colors Come Alive!

To begin, let me say that I just love photographing stained glass windows.

The vibrant colors created as the light plays through some phenomenal artist's work inspires me. I am humbled that I can only capture his talent, not produce it.

There are a great many 19th century churches in Buffalo, NY - housing some of the finest stained glass creations anywhere in the world, One by the original creator of the chemically treated glass coloring process himself, Louis Comfort Tiffany.

You may have heard of Tiffany glass? Imagine how expensive an entire church wall of Tiffany Glass would be. Unimaginable. Priceless.

But in reality, the stained glass windows in churches, while beautiful to behold, are not as well suited to decorate the more traditional walls in my own home. This leads me to the illusive hunt for more secular stained glass. Something that can be used to brighten any room in the house.

This is one of my favorite's here. I discovered ths bright and cheerful garden scene in a most unlikely place... a cemetery.

And that leads me to today's Photoshop tip.
Getting maximum impact "PoP" from the colors in your photographs.

Often times, folks use lightness or brightness to try to make the colors more vivid. But that only tends to wash out the whole image. While the colors may seem brighter, they lack the 'pop'.

It can be confusing, what with options like COLOR BALANCE, BRIGHTNESS/CONTRAST, HUE/SATURATION and SELECTIVE COLOR. While these options are all useful in their appropriate places, only one is best suited to improving the overall color pop across the entire photograph.

For adding overall color 'pop'...think SATURATION. You're going to saturate your photo with color pixels until they can just barely hold any more without bursting.

Using only the center SATURATION slider you will find that moving the slider all the way to the left turns your photo to black and white (remember this as an easy way to create a b/w image ...and also a great way to create those images of the b/w bride who is holding the brightly colored red bouquet. You need to add a layer mask for that. I'll cover it another time, or if you can't wait it can be found in the Photoshop Tip Cards)

So, moving the SATURATION slider left reduces the color intensity. Conversely, moving the slider right increases the saturation, ie. adds more color 'pop'. It doesn't take much either. Up to +10 usually is sufficient to add pop without noticeably changing your colors. Get beyond +10 and you may start changing your colors in ways that are unattractive.

When you think bolder color, think SATURATION.

And if you need to add just a bit more 'POP', don't go for the lightness or brightness sliders, try increasing the CONTRAST instead.

Side note. If you consistantly find yourself having to increase the saturation because you are not pleased with the output from your digital camera, you may need to consult your owners manual.
Most cameras (including my favorite Nikon) have adjustment for image color and saturation in the custom settings mode. I leave the color mode at its default setting, but crank the saturation to its highest level.

Photoshop saturation...soaking the pixels with vibrant color.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Notes on History

At some point in our lives, we all wish we could go back in time and do things just a bit differently.

We'd like a do-over.

Well, as photographers we know we can stop time with our cameras, right? So, is it really a stretch to think we can use our great software, Photoshop, to actually go back in time?

In reality, the creators of Photoshop, in their infinite wisdom (how they actually created such a thing in the first place boggles my mind!) realized that occasionally, we might make a mistake, an errant keystroke perhaps. When this occurred we might be frustrated if we couldn't go back and "undo".

And so they gave us the power to go back in time. The almighty "UNDO". In fact, they not only gave us one UNDO, but through use of a built-in memory system called HISTORY, they let us have several whacks at UNDOing"

Alas, though they were generous to a (de) fault, sometimes we find that we just can't go back far enough, right?

But perhaps you have been imprisoned by your own thoughts?

You CAN change "HISTORY"!

You can change it from it's default of "20" to a much more reasonable number for us mortals, like between 50 and 100. (However, don't get carried away with your new-found power. If you get crazy and decide to set the history to 999, you'll pay the ultimate price. Photoshop will eat your every last gigabyte of memory trying to keep track of what you are doing. Ultimately, your system will slow to a snails pace. Just remember, the higher default you set, the more memory is consumed.)

So here's the simple HISTORY tip that will save you many hours of frustration and deleted layers:

("PERFORMANCE" might be "GENERAL" on versions 7 and earlier)
Look for HISTORY STATES. Change the number from 20 to anywhere, say 50 -100, and click, "OK".

You're done!

It's a really simple tip but one that's often overlooked.
Doing this can really make your time with Photoshop a much more pleasureable experience.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Simple Shadows

Shadows offer a great way to add depth and dimension to otherwise flat objects. They can also help subjects stand out from similarly colored and textured backgrounds.

Creating simple, subtle shadows is easy.

First, to preserve the integrity of your original, it's always good to work from a duplicate. So to begin, press Ctrl-J to duplicate your original.

Now your layers palette is showing two layers. Your original and the duplicate.

Next, using the magic want tool, SELECT the subject you want to add a shadow to. (You'll know it's selected when the "ants" are dancing all around your object.

Once selected, go to LAYER-NEW-LAYER VIA COPY. At this point you will have three layers on your palette. The top layer should be just your subject on a checkboard background.

Now use Ctrl-J again to duplicate your cut-out. Now you have 4 layers. SELECT your object again on this top layer and paint it completely black with either the bucket or paint brush.

Next, in the layers palette, left mouse click on your blackened subject layer, hold and drag that level down one level. Now you don't see the blackened layer anymore. Next comes the magic!

With the blackened layer selected in the palette, use the arrow move tool to drag your shadow out from behind what is now your top subject. You should start to see the black appear as soon as you begin moving with the move tool (arrow). Place your shadow just a little offset, in a place where you would expect the shadow to be (opposite the lightest side of your subject.)

To make it appear real now, on the layers palette, adjust (reduce) the OPACITY of your blackened image to around 20-35%. It will now appear a shadow!

Ta-da! You did it.

The secrets here are you need at least three layers to make it happen. Your background on the bottom(1), your shadow in the middle(2), and your cut-out subject on top(3). The other secret is to reduce the opacity of your shadow to make it look real. And always watch/ examine your photo for how you would expect the light to create a shadow.

Once you've created the basic shadow, you can get fancy by using EDIT-FREE TRANSFORM to lengthen or distort your shadow layer. Remember that to create perspective (non-90 degree angles with the free-transform, hold down the (Ctrl) while dragging the corners. That will create a skew which can be used to make a really long shadow which reaches on to the horizon line.

Works great on text layers too. Can really make your words stand out. Something often needed when trying to write on multi-colored backgrounds. In that case, you can change your shadow to any color you chose to contrast with the surroundings.

BONUS! Use this three layer technique when you want to have kids or pets "peaking" out from behind things. Simply replace the blackened shadow layer with your child or pet subject. This "sandwich" method is the easiest way to insert subjects realistically into scenes. Because your subject is in-between you can move them around to the best position without trying to "cut" your subject in. Leave your subject whole, resize as needed to fit into the scene. Then, when you like its position, erase any parts of your subject that stick out where they don't belong.

Experiment...have fun. Go Photoshop something!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Pop Eyes

Here's a quick and easy 3-step technique that can really give life to the eyes.

1. Use Ctrl-J to duplicate your background layer, you can rename it "pop eyes" or whatever you like.

2. Use the DODGE tool (looks like a ball with a pin stuck in it) set to a small enough size to lighten the iris, between the pupil and outer edge of the iris. Setting should be MIDTONES, with the exposure less than 20% so as not to over do it.

3. Use the BURN tool (opposite of dodge) set to a small enough size to just darken the outer edge of the iris and also the pupil. Settings should be SHADOW and exposure less than 15%.

You can also use the BURN tool to darken the eyelashes and around the edge of the lids for a bit more "pop".

Essentially, we're just using the dodge and burn tools to "paint" a little lightness and darkness contrast to key areas around the eyes. Keep in mind that when using the dodge and burn tools here, the strokes cannot be reversed...unlike the non-destructive dodge and burn method shown in an earlier post

It's great to have these tips right beside your computer so you don't have to search for them when you need them. You'll receive a FREE pack of TIP CARDS and email updates on cool Photoshop stuff when you join our TIP CARD GROUP. Sign up today, up at the top right.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Digital Wake Up Call

On Thursday night I attended one of the most intense seminars on photography. This guy hit the ground running and didn't stop until nearly 5 hours later. Yes, it started at 6pm and didn't end until nearly 11pm. My head actually hurt from straining to take in all the info. This guy knew so much about digital photography, cameras, lighting and the software that makes everything pop...he could have gone on all night, probably all week without notes.

I'm talking about internationally known, professional photographer David A. Ziser and his "Digital WakeUp Call Tour 2009...A New Dawn." Mr. Ziser is a professional wedding and portrait photographer from Cincinnati, Ohio.

Here's a brief rundown on what was included in his phenomenal seminar (taken right from the cover of his full-color, high-gloss seminar wookbook:

- 32 Ways to use your on and off camera flashes for creative and dramatic effects
-10 of the best lens choices and camera settings for creating striking images on every job.
-7 ways to use DSLR video capabilities to transform your product offerings.
-10 "Magic Bullet" techniques to make your digital workflow nearly effortless, highly efficient, and fun with today's top software from Adobe Lightroom 2, Photoshop, NIK, and more.
-20 new product and solid business building ideas targeted to today's customers to add substantially to your bottom line.

You'll absolutely come away from his seminar brimming with ideas that you'll want to try right now. Saddly, after cramming your head full of information, you're too tired and it's too late in the evening to do another thing tonight. But there's always tomorrow!

David puts lighting and camera technical babble into quick, easy to understand lessons that anyone can follow. He's got a PowerPoint presentation up on the screen where he shows you exactly how he got the great shots, step by step. That's what we all like to see, right!

Before I get too long here, let me just say it's a great program and if you get the chance, go see him. (It's less that $60 for a whole night of great professional instruction!) Plus he's handing out $1000's of real value door prizes each night. PLUS, you get a DVD full of additional tips!

If you want great tips on lighting, on camera settings, on shooting weddings, on PHOTOSHOP, LIGHTROOM 2 and more...check out his webpage at:

PS: This is just a great tip for y'all, not an affiliate link. I get nothin' if you go there except the satisfaction of knowing I passed along some great tips. And that's what this blog is all about!
With about 60 tour dates and cities, he might just be coming near you!

Robert Schwarztrauber

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A Better Way to Dodge & Burn

Dodge and Burn, meaning to selectively lighten or darken certain parts of your image rather than to apply changes to the whole photo. Generally used to hide or highlight, or to give a more overall pleasing effect to a photograph.

You could lighten parts of the face which may have lost detail from shadow. Or, you might darken an area that was too light from reflection or flash.

Photoshop provides a dodge and burn tool on the left hand toolbar, just below the paint can. Looks like a ball with a pin sticking out.

However, when you use that tool on your layer, the result is irreversible. If you make a mistake you cannot go back and easily change what you did. As one prone to making mistakes, or at least changing my mind, that does not appeal to me.

A better way to selectively darken or lighten parts of your photo can be achieved by working from another layer. Call it a "dodge and burn layer" over our actual photo. It will act as a filter to control just how much light we'll actually see when the adjustments are made. It will not in any way change our original, only how we view it.

Now here's how we do it:

From your background layer, or it's duplication, on the layers palette, click to add a new layer while holding down the ALT key. You will get a dialog box pop up saying "Layer 1"

Now down below that we're going to change the MODE from normal to SOFT LIGHT. Then click (turn on) the option box that says, "Fill with Soft-Light neutral color (50% gray).

What you have done is create a layer (50% gray filter) over your original. We can alter that gray in two ways with the paintbrush. Wherever we paint on this layer with white, our original image appears lighter. Wherever we paint with black, our image appears darker.

So here's what we do. Select the PAINTBRUSH and set the OPACITY to 15%. (that will allow us to gently apply the effects. For more intensity, just keep brushing over the same area.)
If you want to lighten an area, select the color white for your paintbrush. If you wish to darken an area select black. Generally, choose a brush size slightly larger than the area you are working on and select a harness around 10. Then just "paint" over the area you wish to change. (it's're not actually "painting", you're merely changing the "grayness" of your filter layer to let more or less light show through)

Now here's where the magic comes in. Here's why this method is better. If you make a mistake you can just reverse the color and automatically undo what you did. Like say if you were using the white to lighten an area and it's now too light...just change the brush color to black and paint your area back. Or if you were using a black brush to darken and now it's too dark...just change the brush to white to get it right!

Cool stuff, eh?

Of course if you have any questions, or need additional help, feel free to email me anytime at:

If not, then get busy. We've got stuff to Photoshop!

Robert Schwarztrauber

Monday, April 6, 2009

Straighten Up or Else

Most every photographer quickly learns that if you're going to have a good photo you better get one thing straight. The horizon.

Whether you're shooting the edge of the Earth or the outside of buildings or inside of rooms, our eyes
get very annoyed if things are not straight.

But what's a photographer to do?

We're only human. And sometimes a bit tipsy.

We'll, for us digital shooters equiped with Photoshop, it's no worries! We can automatically have the software correct our mistake.

Here's how to make sure all your images are dead on straight from now on...

Buried under the eyedropper tool you'll find something called MEASURE (just right mouse-click on the EYEDROPPER tool). Select the MEASURE tool.

Next, bring the curser to your photo. It will look like a + sign with a ruler tagging along.

On the left end, of the longest edge you know should be straight, LEFT mouse-click on that edge and drag a line over to the right end of that line. If your line was indeed off level, the line you drew should be a bit jagged, that's ok.

Next, go up to the toolbar and click, IMAGE - ROTATE CANVAS -ARBITRARY

You'll now see a dialog box showing how many degrees off-level your edge was.
Click OK and your image will automatically be rotated to level.

Wow! That was easy!

Addendum...If the photo still looks a little off to your eye, you can run the sequence again or else use FREE TRANSFORM to suit your eye. Also, once rotated you will likely need to do some cropping. But in my experience, 9 times out of 10 the image comes out right the first time, just as you see in this sunrise photo here.

Also, if you're just popping in, notice the matching border? Matching borders on your prints are so easy to make, and make such a bold difference in showing your work, you definitely should have a look below at how to make them. Here's the link:

The world loves a straight shooter - that's what I'm typin' bout.

Robert Schwarztrauber

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Ring Around the Cut-outs

Here's a common problem experienced when you are cutting a subject from its background or cutting and pasting your subject into a new scene.


When you use the magic wand or whatever your favorite separator tool, often the cut does not reside exactly along the edge. It's close give or take a few pixels. And that's why when you enlarge to view your cut-out image, or you place it in a background that contrasts with your edge you notice that it has an undesireable border - an unwanted ring around the edge of your subject.

Well here's a quick Photoshop fix for you.

While you have your cut-out subject selected,
on your toolbar go to:


You will be shown an option for pixel size. That is to designate how
many pixels Photoshop will automatically remove from the edges
of your subject. I find 2 pixels is a good place to start. If it's not enough, go back and run the sequence again.

Pretty cool huh? I'll bet you never got that far down the menu
in Layers before! So many options and no one to sit beside us!

Remember, if you can't wait until the next blog post,
sign-up for a FREE sample deck of my Photoshop Tip Cards
on the form to your right (top right).

I'm here for ya!
Now lets go Photoshop something!

Robert Schwarztrauber

Friday, April 3, 2009

Prior Prep Prevents Dark Prints

You spend hours sitting at the computer. You compose, you adjust, you tweak it in Photoshop until the photo is just perfect.

However, when it comes out of the printer or returns from the lab you find yourself holding this extremely dark print, possibly devoid of all the detail you worked so hard to obtain.

Ever happen to you?

Always happen to you?

I wrestled with this for a long time. Always trying to find a way to either correct my screen, or have the lab up the exposure or use another program to lighten after Photoshop.

But everything was hit or miss until I came across this really cool tip...that works!

And the best part is that it is so simple to use!

Here's what you do. Work your photograph in Photoshop just the way you usually do.

When you feel you've got it just perfect, use Layer-Flatten Image

Next, hit Ctrl-J to duplicate the image. Then, on the Layers pallet, change the blend mode from NORMAL to SCREEN. You should see your photo instantly become too light, washed-out.

Next, reduce the OPACITY to between 20% - 50%. Now your photo should look crisp and bright. You can toggle between your original and the new "screen" lightened version by turning the duplicated layer on and off to compare. You'll probably be surprised at how much this simple change has made your photo brighter.

Finally, use SAVE AS to save your adjusted photo as jpg for printing. I usually will add the letter J at the end of my file name to let me know later that this is the one to print. You could use P or whatever designation lets you know it is for printing (so you don't mix it with one for web use or for editing).

You'll still have to use a little judgment regarding how much you should reduce the opacity. If your original was pretty dark you'll be closer to 50%, but if it just needed a little lightening reduce it to around 30%. With a little practice you'll be making perfect prints in no time!

This will save you a bundle on either printer ink or wasted lab costs! And it's so simple to do!

Try this for no more dark prints!

Robert Schwarztrauber