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We are always looking for that Easy Button in Photoshop where you just click and magic happens. Well the only Easy Button I have ever found was at Staples for $5.99. There are some things that do work in the Auto Mode with one of them being the Match Color Tool. This is found under Image>Adjustment>Match Color (near the the bottom of the list). Here is how it works, have a couple of images open, one to correct and one to match it with. Select the soon to be corrected image and go to Match Color. In the bottom section is a box for Image Statistics. Here is where you will pick the Source (the other open image) and even the Layer if you want. Click Ok and you are done. Does a pretty good job of matching up the colors using complicated magic Adobe pixie dust. Bonus Tip...You don't have to use an image from the same session but any image you can find. In fact I have known PS dudes who use images of paintings, other captured images, even abstracts for wild colors.

One request I get more than any other is on color correction. Well I will be covering this but first lets start with the most simple way and build up to complex over the next few weeks. First unless you really understand color values and have faith that no matter how bad your monitor you can do it by the numbers you do need to have your monitor at least up to about 90% correct. There are other lessons on Photoshop 101.5 on that and of course white balance is very important. But I will not harp on that right now. You hear that enough (However it is very important so do it). So you think you know where the auto color correct button is? Well unless you know the secret Photoshop handshake you would be half right. On both Levels and Curves there is an Auto Correct button but to tell the truth it works only half the time. For a better Auto correct you have to do another click on the Options Button to get to another menu. This is really the Auto Correct the Auto Correct... read more

The Cloning or Stamp tool. One of the most common tools that everyone picks up on for “fixen’” photos is the Clone or Stamp Tool. This handy tool is most commonly used for those pesky little problems like zits, moles, and stray hairs. All you do is just select the tool, (looks like a rubber stamp in the tool bar) move your cursor next to the problem, hold down the Alt (Option Mac) which changes the cursor to a cross hair and click. This will be the area where the Clone tool will copy from pixel by pixel to over the problem. However there are ways to make this tool more efficient and with more control. More Control First the clone tool can work on a blank layer giving you opacity control and a nondestructive method of retouching. Make sure that at the top of the workspace on the menu bar you have change the menu box to Sample all Layers. This will let the Clone Stamp select the pixels on the layers below your blank layer.. That way if you want to reduce the effect... read more

This week there was a question on building a template for class photos. I posted a rather long post showing how you can do with Photoshop but I do agree that if you have never done anything like this before there is software and templates you can buy which would be a better idea. However it does bring me to a little Quickie and that is the Move Tool. Found at the very top of the tool bar (see image at bottom) for most of the time it is used for just repositioning a small image or text on a layer. It can be used to clean up composites and templates saving many hours of trying to do it by eye. If you click on the Move Tool and look up at the top you will see there is more on the menu bar than just a basic tool. On the right hand side are alignment tools for lining up your layer objects. Here is how you can use it. Lets say you have some text layers than need to be in straight line across the template. First select the text layers by either using the Ctrl (Command MAC)... read more

This past week I had a discussion on a very common problem which is “What do I do when I need more backdrop than I shot?” This will happen when we have larger groups than shooting space or something gets in the way like a light, light stand, Uncle Joe, or we just run out of background. Well let me first say that Photoshop was not conceived to make our lives harder but to help. Many times we make it harder with easy 83 step solutions or over-thinking the problem. My approach to any project is to first look at what might be the easiest way to fix it. This can be anything from just one or two tools or even re shooting. After all if it is going to take 5 hours, two supplemental software programs, and home delivery from the local Starbucks wouldn’t it make more sense to just call the client and schedule a one hour re shoot. So here are some super easy Friday Photoshop Quickies for those times when we need to stretch a background or cover a problem. First, the next... read more

Pretty much since Photoshop came out it copied many of the tools and ways of film photography. One of these was the old Darkroom trick of Burning and Dodge. In the darkroom we would use our hands, arms, cardboard or pretty much anything we could get our hands on to hold back the light from the paper to make an area of the print lighter or concentrate the light to make something darker. Photoshop carried this over with a couple of tools for burning (a hand with a circle in the fingers) to darken and something that looks like a black lollypop for dodging (makes things lighter). Unfortunately these tools never worked very well for a couple of reasons. When you used the Dodge tool would make a white haze and the Burn tool would sometimes cause color crossover as it darken. Plus you could only use them on an image layer which means if you make a mistake you could only correct it by going back in the History state or starting over. With CS4 and CS5 Adobe did improve these... read more

In one of the forums I moderate on Photoshop we got into a discussion on if any Photoshop should be done to images before showing them to clients. I feel that before showing clients images, some work should be done so that you work is presented in it’s best light. Others felt that there is not enough time to do touch up work on each image and if they tell them work can be down later then everyone is happy. While I understand time constraints there should still be even just a small amount done just so your work will stand out from the photographers who don’t do anything. Plus in today’s world of digital photography some Photoshop is almost required by clients. I came up with a very quick touch-up that takes just a few seconds and improves the look of what we old time photographers called proofs. Proofs were those images from a session, about 4x5 inches that clients would pick from for their orders. Since they were small, details were very hard to see so minor imperfections... read more

It may seem strange to ask if there is a difference between Normal People and Photographers but how often does someone see the work of a professional photographer and wonder why their images look so much better. Well I thought I would tell you, it is because we have sold our souls to the devil. No I am kidding, only a few of us have. The real reason is that as photographers we have spent a lot of our time thinking about and shooting images plus learning our craft. This is not to say that we are better than a normal person just that we have no real life. Once again only kidding. However just like a musician who practices everyday will sound better than someone who only picks up their instrument once a month because we shoot and process more of our images tend to be better. This is not to say you can’t improve but with better knowledge and understanding even a weekend shooter can start get better images. Here are some examples of differences and how to get better images... read more

One of the upgrades that really help Photoshop Elements users is in current version 9 and that is the Layer Mask. Masking on a layer allows you hide part of the image or effect. This hiding or even pulling back gives more creative expression for images and makes placing cut out images easier. For example, lets say you want to put a person or a fuzzy object like a tree in another image. In the olden days we had to make a selection and try to make it tight or using the Refine Edge tool a softer edge so it would not look like it was cut out with a dull pair of scissors . This would take a lot of time and/or frustration to get right. And then sometime it would still not look right. This is where the new Layer Mask comes into play. While making a good selection are still a good thing to have in many cases you can now just make a rough selection around your object, copy then paste it onto the new image. This copy will come in on it’s own layer and in version 9 you can... read more

It is no secret that I am big fan of RAW shooting. No I don’t mean going on pants optional photo outings but shooting in the RAW format as opposed to the standard Jpeg format. I have been in photo groups where fights almost break out on this subject but there is much to be said for each format. 1. You should only shoot in format, not true.Both formats have very strong reasons for using them. RAW does allow you more flexibility for bringing out details in both shadow and highlight areas but they are much larger files which means less shots on a camera card. And with that larger size you are less able to shoot faster or in continuous shot mode. Many sport shooters only shoot in Jpeg just for this reason. After all when a once in a lifetime shot comes along you better be ready or go back to shooting things that won’t move. Plus with today’s cameras you can go back in forth in format as the subject call for it. 2. RAW format will save you every time, sometimes. RAW... read more

In my camera classes I sometimes get a number of questions concerning the Days of Films and how to relate to our current state of Digital. Some started with film and have a camera bags full of lenses and other interesting stuff and are wondering if any of this can be used with digital. Well unless you want to go back to the wet plates a lot of this stuff can’t be used on digital cameras but some can. Here is a short list of a few of them. Can’t be used; Many of the lenses will not work (or worst can get stuck) on newer digital cameras. This is often the most painful truth. The digital computers in the camera will not communicate with that expensive and high quality glass. All those little gold plated contact points on both the camera body and the lens are there for better F stops and auto focus. There are some high end camera bodies that can take some of the lenses from the last few years of film but in general both film bodies and lenses only will work as a team... read more

In the last two posts I talked about Shutter Speed and F stops for both light control and creative expression. The third part of the exposure triad is ISO or the sensitivity of the chip in the camera that records the image. Right out of the box you may have noticed that the camera was set on Auto ISO which means the camera picks the sensitivity as it perceives the light falling on the scene you are about to photograph. In fact for many cameras any one of the program modes (those little icons on the dial like the running man or the head) will go into this mode without any changes from you. Otherwise you will need to go into the menu to change the ISO. So just what is this and why should we care if the camera can take care of it? ISO (or for some of us who remember the days of yore of film ASA) was the rating of film as to how sensitive it was in different lighting setups. Slow film was ISO rated at 100 or 64. This was called daylight because it was used for outside daylight... read more

Last week I wrote about shutter speed, that mechanical opening in the camera that for a specific time will stay open to allow light to come in to make your exposure or image. Fast shutter speeds like 1/250 of a second or higher will freeze action while lower shutter speeds of 1/4 or slower will let more light in or allow the image to show blur for that artsy look. There is a second part of exposure for the control of light that does add an artistic look and that is the F stop or aperture in the lens. It looks like an iris of an eye and by making the hole bigger or smaller allows a set amount of light through the lens before it gets to the shutter. Some liken it to a window blind that depending on how much it is open or closed controls the amount of light in a room. The reason it is important is since the shutter is opened for a set piece of time you do not want too much or too little light coming through since that would make the image too light or too dark. The... read more

Many of the books and podcasts on Photoshop will always have the term Key Board Shortcut in it. What these are are keyboard combination to do is perform certain functions like copy and paste. For a lot of people just starting in Photoshop it is enough to remember where the commands are in the menus let alone obscure key combos. While helpful they can be daunting. There are over 278 different official keyboard shortcuts and another two dozen that seem to pop up at will. Some of these seem to have more fingers and functions than on a human hand. This including the undocumented Ctrl + Alt + Shift + K (for Mac Cmd + Opt + Shift + K) which brings up the key board short cut menu in Photoshop. However I do use about a dozen KBS (Keyboard Shortcuts though you would think the abbreviation would have been shorten to just KS) which are helpful in everyday Photoshop operations. If you only play in Photoshop once a month then don't worry but if you are... read more

When you have a great image and want to share it what if you have a parent or relative who does not have the internet or you would just like a print of your work, is it easier or harder than it used to be? There are a lot of choices for making prints. A number of local one hour printers from the chain drugstore to big box shops like Costco and Sam's Club are out there. Some make it easy with computer setups that you just have to put your camera card in and with some minor corrections and cropping you are done. But if you like to use Photoshop and Photoshop Elements (why else would you buy them?) what happens if you work on an image or a group of images and now want prints. There are a number of horror stories about lousy prints or bad color and while many of these stories are true but they don't have to be. First and foremost you should check if your monitor is giving you good color. I will cover this in some future post in more detail to talk about calibration vs... read more

Way back in the days of film pro photographers had this little known secret for getting better in their craft. It was called editing. Be it with roll film or slides we would go through every session and toss out all the images that were to put it nicely S&#. But we did not stop there. Sure it was easy looking at a contact sheet or a light table of slides to see which frames were blank, over / under exposed or shots of our shoes and cross them out with Sharpe or toss them in the trash but we would go even farther. My choice of editing was the Good/Bad/Maybe work flow. The first pass was quick and painless. Look at all the images and toss out the really bad ones leaving only the Good and Maybes. Here is the hard part. After the first pass there were two more passes with the same thought in mind, Good/Bad/Maybe. Sometimes after a stroll in the park with 3 rolls of 36 exposure slide film I might end up with twenty really good shots and about 40 maybes. This would frustrate... read more

As a Photoshop teacher it seems that during a class someone will always ask what is the need for good camera technique? After all it seems that Photoshop can do everything from correcting exposure to cut and paste objects to create a wholly new image. Plus today’s digital cameras are doing more of the heavy lifting that once the photographers had to take into consideration like ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. To that I always ask them back, how much time do you want to spend at the computer correcting problems rather than just playing with Photoshop? It seems that as our digital cameras and programs get smarter we tend to think that these improvements will take the place of creativity and composition. Getting it right in the camera saves more time than all the knowledge and computer skills in the world. It always amuses me whenever I am with a group of photographers and there is one guy who is shooting like a gangster on Valentine Day that keeps saying after ever click of... read more

"Why can't photography today be as simple as with film?" This is a question I get everyday from students in my class. I remind them that even in the good old days of film that photography wasn't that simple. If you only shot and drop your film at a local lab all the work was hidden in the darkroom. This included processing and someone sitting there printing your images. Most of this work nowadays is done at your computer with you sitting there and making the choices that will affect how your images look. What they may also be forgetting is in the days of yore we also had to chose which type of film to purchase (daylight or Tungsten) film speed (do I want slow or fast film) and if we out shooting under different lighting conditions how many different lens filters will I need to have in my bag. Let alone if you processed your own film then you had to decided what type of developer you wanted to use, how long do you leave the enlarger on for exposure and even paper... read more

I was really amazed to see in the latest edition of the Oxford Dictionary that Photoshop is now listed as a verb. The fact that the dictionary is listing it as a verb is not that amazing but that it took so long to do so. For years we have heard people say “Can you Photoshop this?” or “I bet that was Photoshopped” meaning that the image was changed using Adobe Photoshop. Adobe Photoshop has now been with us for twenty years and has been used to not only “fix photos” but to change how we perceive photography now. No longer do we say seeing is believing when it comes to images. Models get thinner on the page and people or things can disappear with just a few clicks. On TV they seem to work magic with blurry images from video cameras in parking garages that in real life are lucky to be able to tell the difference between daylight and night. So it is no surprise that in class my students are always looking for that one click fix or the easy button for anything they... read more

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