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Using Adobe Lightroom© to Organize, Edit & Export Your Digital Photos

In the last few years, Adobe© has been rolling out some new pieces of software aimed towards digital photographers and designers alike. One of Adobe©’s newest pieces of software is targeted towards professional photographers, and is called Adobe Photoshop Lightroom© (or just Adobe Lightroom© to most). When Lightroom© first hit the market, those of us schooled in Photoshop© since Version 3 looked upon the newcomer as a mismatch of features we already used. We wondered who would want to use something that didn’t have all the “power” of Photoshop©. We couldn’t have been more wrong. Lightroom© offers not just the ability to sort and perform “global adjustments” on digital photos, but also offers many “local” corrections. What does that mean, in plain English? It means less time spent editing your photos and more time away from the computer. How It Works So what is Lightroom©? It is a type of organizational software where you view your images for editing and sorting. Lightroom©’s interface uses a nondestructive editing process built on the RAW processor used by Photoshop©. What this means is you can do a multitude of color and tone adjustments to an image without affecting a single pixel. These adjustments are stored as a small binary file with the image called a “sidecar,” or XMP file. You can always go back to the original image anytime during the editing process. And just because it is a RAW processor doesn’t mean you can’t adjust other types of images. Lightroom© also can process JPEG and Tiff files using the same sliders and features that it uses for RAW files. Organizing Your Photos When you open Lightroom©, a dialog will pop up asking you for you the location of your image files. From there, Lightroom© will create a “catalog” of these images (shown in the image below). A catalog is different than just a file viewer – a catalog references where the image is and lets you group the images into even more catalogs. For example: let’s say that you were in a large national park and you shot a ton of images of mountains, trees, streams, wildlife, and your family having a cookout. In the past, you could copy these images onto a folder on your computer. Then you could either name each file according to its subject matter or put them into different folders for trees, mountains, wildlife, water, and family. When you “import as” in Lightroom©, you can rename your photos as something that makes sense, like “Nationalpark2012” (by this I mean the name of the park and year) and even put extra information (copyright, name, contact info, etc.) in the “Metadata” section of the image file. Once you’re in the “Library” section of Lightroom© you can separate the images into categories that make sense. You can set up categories like Parks, Mountains, Trees, Animals and Family, and under these you can even set up sub-categories like Deer, Rabbits, or whatever your heart desires. Just select the images and click/drag them into these categories. When you click on these categories you will then see only the images that you tagged with that category. You can always go back to the larger groups of images, plus you can add keywords to the images to make searching for images even easier. In the latest version of Lightroom© you can even use GPS locations or tag them from a Google Map to make it even easier to locate that scenic spot. Editing Your Photos Outside of offering better organization for your images, Lightroom© can also correct your images much like the original...

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Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop, or Photoshop Elements – Which One is Right for You?

Adobe© is known for being the “big dog” when it comes to digital corrections and changes to images. In recent years, Photoshop© has even become a verb: for example, “Look at that photo – I bet they ‘Photoshopped’ it.” However, with so many software products out there, it seems to harder and harder to know which Photoshop© program will work best for us. Let’s take a step back and weigh the pros and cons of each program so you can decide which will work best for your needs. The Classic: Photoshop© Photoshop© has been around for the longest amount of time, and it is still the go to program for professionals. The latest version is Photoshop© CS6, CS standing for Creative Suite and 6 meaning it is the sixth one under this banner. There has been 14 versions released and each one has added new features and tools, along with a steeper learning curve. In the past, when you purchased a new version of Photoshop©, the box not only contained the disk of the program but a book referencing the program and tools. This is not the case today, so in effect when you purchase the product you are on your own for trying to figure out just how to use it. That is why we have classes, books and teachers out there to help. So is Photoshop© CS6 only for professionals? Not really: Many talented photographers are using Photoshop© every day. This powerful program does have a number of sub-features that work great for professionals when dealing with a large number of files or working on an image in great detail. The most important thing to remember is that if you want to put the time in to learn it, you can use Photoshop© just like the pros. Most photographers will use Photoshop© for include color correction and exposure – some images might need some (or a lot) of work to make them suitable to prints or web posting. Other tools in Photoshop© are selection tools. These tools make it possible to cut out parts of the image to put in another image. There are also many blending tools that keep the cut-outs from looking like you took a pair of dull scissors to them and that the people or objects were really there. To do this takes many hours of training and practice. Because of the power of most of the tools and features, Photoshop© requires a lot of practice. However, for those who truly want the control or a strong artistic or creative soul it really is worth it. There is a cold truth for those of you on a budget, however: the latest version of Photoshop© costs about $800. For the Casual User: Photoshop Elements© Adobe© did come out with a Photoshop© program geared toward to the more causal shooter – this program is called Photoshop Elements©. Some may even remember that this program used to be given away with scanners and digital cameras. You can still find it at Costco or Sam’s Club for about $80, you may even find it online at Amazon for less. Does cheaper mean less effective? The short answer is no. Photoshop Elements© has about 80% of the tools and features of its big brother. What it doesn’t have are some of the sub-features that the pros use, such as special color spaces and the ability to work on many images at one time. The good news is that Photoshop Elements© does have a number of “Easy Buttons” and ways to automate processes. Plus, many of the major tools,...

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Adobe Photoshop Tutorial: How to Perk Up Your Digital Images

As a Photoshop© instructor, one common complaint I get a lot from older photographers is that their digital images just don’t have the “snap” and “color” of their film images. In the days of yore when we shot only with film, we would sometimes even pick up certain brands of film for those special looks. In fact, it was said that if you wanted good-looking portraits, you used Kodak. For landscapes, it was Fuji film. With today’s digital cameras you no longer have different films, but you can still get just the look you want – either by using the dialed-in settings on your digital camera or by using Photoshop© to enhance your images. Or both! Get to Know Your Camera’s Internal Picture Settings If you have a point-and-shoot or even a DSLR camera, you can usually go to Menu > Picture Style. These are special settings with names like Landscape, Portrait, Fireworks, Outdoor, and the like. By picking one of these settings, your images will have some in-camera pre-processing done to make them just a bit “snappier.” Some settings increase saturation, while others might increase the sharpness. To be sure about what each setting does, you might have to dig up the book that came with the camera, or just experiment with each setting to see which ones you like best. Another setting in the camera that might help is the White Balance. A lot of cameras default to AWB, or Auto White Balance. This is where the camera tries to figure out the correct color setting for each shot, and 8 out of 10 times it does a pretty good job. But if you want more control, you can set the White Balance yourself either through the menu or from other buttons on your camera. Some of the other settings are Shade, Cloudy, Sunshine, Fluorescent, and the like. These settings give more control and sometimes even a more creative looks. Shade and Cloudy will give a warmer look, even in full sun. Just remember to always check your White Balance setting before taking a shot since the camera will remember the last setting that it was on. Using Adobe Photoshop© to Enhance Color and Sharpness in Your Images Now let’s look at what you can do once you have taken the photo and have opened it in Adobe Photoshop©. One of the easiest ways to “punch up” an image is with saturation. I like to use Adjustment Layers since they allow readjustments and will help you avoid that “Oh shoot, I wish I could change that back” scenario. Just go to Layer>Adjustment Layer to find this option. Here you will find an Adjustment Layer titled Vibrance – let’s try that one first. The Vibrance Adjustment Layer is made up of two sliders: one for Vibrance and one for Saturation. Vibrance will punch up the image’s dull colors, leaving the more saturated colors alone for a while. Saturation will saturate all of the colors at the same time. I like to start with the Vibrance slider because it does a great job of subtly increasing color. All of this is visual, so you’ll need to use your best judgment to create an image that “pops” for you. If you are an old Fuji fan, increase the Saturation slider to +5 for that familiar Fuji look. Play with these sliders to your heart’s content – they’re not hurting the background image below. Once you have the color how you like it, it’s time for the “snap” – or sharpening – needed. Before you can sharpen an image in Photoshop©,...

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Five Quick Tips for Taking Better Photos

As a professional photographer, one of the questions I get asked a lot is, “Why do your photos look better than mine, even when we are standing right next to each other?” Just a little bit of photography know-how can take your photos from mediocre to marvelous. Here are five quick tips on improving your photocomposition skills so that you can confidently capture better images. #1 – Depth & Framing Landscape photos should have a sense of depth. Having something in the foreground, middle ground and background will give the impression of real depth. Without some of these features, you end up with a “flat” image. Place a rock, tree, or flowers in the foreground so that the mountains in the background seem much further away. Some photographers will even frame their images with overhanging branches from a tree or shoot through an archway or window. A photo illustrating foreground, middleground and background. #2 – Time of Day Time of day can also be important for not only setting the mood but also for better contrast and lighting. Early morning or afternoon has the sun close to the horizon which will give you deep shadows for texture and tone.  Also, you might find that early morning will also give you much less cluttered images, as only a few brave souls will actually get up that early. A beautiful example of early morning photography. #3 – Move Around Move your feet! It sounds simple, but how many time have you been guilty of walking up to a landscape or building and just snapping one shot? After all, if you got the shot, why bother with getting a few more? Two reasons. One is that the bare piece of ground you are standing on will give you the exact same shot as hundreds or thousands before you. It is said that if you go to Yosemite Park and view the famous Yosemite Falls, you can find where Ansel Adams photographed them. Just look down for the three holes in the ground where thousands of photographers have placed their tripods in the exact same spot. Now I am not saying not to get that iconic shot, but move around and get a number of other photos too. Who knows – you might even come up with your own vision of the landscape that is pretty good too. Also, don’t be afraid to move or zoom the focal length of the lens for different looks. Yes, wide angle is the norm for landscapes, but who says you can’t zoom in too? And speaking of moving your feet, don’t get too comfortable. So many times we look for the easy shot. Start walking around and really seeing the area you want to photograph.  Drive down the road a little more. Walk up the hill and turn around; there might be something interesting behind you too.  Don’t just stop to smell the roses – photograph them too. #4 – Experiment If you are photo geek with more than one lens in your bag, why not challenge yourself? Pick one lens and shoot with it for an hour or two. Got a zoom lens? Rack it all the way out and don’t move it, then move your feet to get a different look. Experiment and have fun with your photos! Experiment with your photos! You never know what you might get! #5 – Set Yourself Up for Success One last bit of wisdom comes from a National Geographic photographer I know. If you are complaining that you can’t find anything interesting to photograph, go and stand...

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Intro to Your Digital Camera: Changing Color Photos to Black & White

Black and white has been a classic photographic style ever since the first print came out of the darkroom. There is something about the tones and shapes that draws one into the image. However, with digital cameras, many have said that unless you want to invest in hours of work and study or expensive plug-ins, you cannot take good black and white photographs. This is not the case! With just a little knowledge and a few clicks, you can create stunning black and white images using both Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Photoshop Elements. Why Not to Do What the Books Tell You Let’s start with the most common way that some instructors tell us how to create a black and white image from a color digital image. A lot of them will say to go to Image>Mode>Grayscale. This will not only change the image to black and white, but will also change the color mode of the image. This is not the best way to make a color image black and white, however – It tends to make the image look flat. Contrast is key to making a striking black and white image! (*A Note on Color Modes: Modes are important when you are trying to print, since some printers can only print certain color modes. RGB and CYMK are the most common color modes, and some printers can only print in one of these modes. Know which mode you need to be in, and change it at any time by going to Image>Mode.) Why It’s Easier to Always Shoot in Color While on the subject of converting images from color to black and white, let’s talk about cameras that offer the option of shooting in black and white. I tend to only shoot in color and change the images in Photoshop or Photoshop Elements (rather than shoot them in-camera as black and white) for two reasons. There are more creative ways of modifying the color of an image that will produce richer, more dynamic black and white photographs. As a portrait photographer who used film for many years, it seemed that whenever I got creative and shot with black and white film, someone would always want that same image in color too! That’s kind of hard to do when the image is only in one format. This is true for some digital cameras too. For me, it is easier and faster to shoot in color and have the option for different looks later. The Best Way to Achieve Stunning Black & White Photographs So what is a better way to get black and white from color if we are not going to use Grayscale? In both Photoshop and Photoshop Elements there is an Adjustment layer called “Gradient Map.” Using this handy tool will help you create richer, fuller black and whites in your image. Here are the steps that you will need to go through: Open your color image in Photoshop. Be sure that it is in the correct mode (RGB or CYMK). Click on the little black and white squares above the larger squares in the left-handed toolbox (pictured here). This changes the palette colors to the default: pure black and white. 3. Move over to your Layers pallet (it is normally on the right-hand side of the screen) and click the Adjustment Layer button (a circle that is half black, half white). Choose “Gradient Map.” You’re done! You should have a black and white image that is dynamic and vibrant in tone. The reason that this method gives such better tone is that his adjustment lays...

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