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Fun With Photoshop Smart Brush: Vintage Processing

Out of the hundred of fantastic tools available in Adobe Photoshop, there are a handful that are purely artistic; and while these may not make the cut for a professional’s gallery, they can be an exciting addition to your photo editing repertoire. Using certain filters and actions can make your photos look interestingly vintage in just one sweep of the brush. Whether you want to mimic the gorgeous characteristic blues of a cyanotype, or harness the faded yellows of an antique print, the Smart Brush tool can help you out.   You can find your Smart Brush tool in the side toolbar, along with the other photographic tools like the spot healing brush, clone stamp, and red eye removal. Then you’ll notice on your bottom bar, a menu of presets will become available (including all purpose, artistic, portrait, and nature, to name a few) from a selection bar. For today, we’ll be working from the “photographic” preset menu, and we’ll be exploring a few different photo processing techniques that have remained popular through the decades. First, I’ll open a sample photo that has already received the basic editing adjustments for color, lighting, contrast, and tone. From there, I’ll make sure the Smart Brush is selected in my side toolbar, and my preset menu is set on “photographic”. I’d like to then start with my personal favorite, the tin type process!   The tin type was first made popular in the late 1800’s, and it used a direct transfer of the image onto a thin piece of metal coated with a colloidal silver or gelatin emulsion. It produced soft, warm tones of browns and grays, and is still a beautiful look for modern photos. But nowadays, no toxic chemicals are needed- just the tin type preset for the smart brush!   Because this is a brush and not a full layer, you’ll need to “brush on” your tin type. Granted, this is kind of cheating, but is a very easy and fast way to get the look without piling on layer upon complicated layer! So make sure your mouse icon is large, and sweep over your entire image until it is all covered. From there, if you wish, you may adjust the opacity settings if the filter is too strong for your tastes (for the purpose of this tutorial, all filters are at 100% opacity). Here is my before and after with the tin type:   As you can see, the lovely brownish tones create both a timeless and romantic look, great for things like portraits, landscapes, or even architecture!   Next up, one of the most iconic alternative processing styles: the cyanotype. This is where the original “blueprint” came from back in the mid 1800’s; the chemical reactions of ammonium citrate, potassium ferricyanide and UV light create the rich color called Prussian blue. You may remember creating something similar as a child, using pre-coated paper and laying plants or other objects on it, and placing it out in the sun! This process is incredibly simple, but can be replicated in Photoshop even more quickly, like so:   The unique shades and tones of this type of process pair especially well with architecture, botany, and other scientifically-leaning pursuits.   Lastly, for anyone who has enjoyed sifting through a box of old photographs in their parent’s attic, the “yellowed” process is a fun and nostalgic twist on a modern digital image. Most prints made these days do not yellow over time, as they are typically made from cotton fiber papers: the cellulose-based paper of decades ago contained a compound that would...

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Are You Making These 3 ISO Mistakes?

When a photographer makes the courageous leap away from the “auto” setting on their camera, they have to keep a dozen things in mind every time they compose a shot. Shooting in manual mode allows for individual control of shutter speed, aperture, ISO, and focus point (among other things), and often takes a while to get the hang of. One must master the concepts and execution of all the technological aspects of digital photography, but once that happens the quality of work can improve exponentially. Of the main pieces that go into making a digital image is the ISO, which represents your camera’s sensitivity to light. It has a direct correlation, meaning that a low ISO reflects a low sensitivity and a high ISO indicates a high sensitivity. Taking that one step further, an image shot with a low ISO is going to be darker than one shot with a high ISO. Most digital cameras on the market today have an ISO range of 100-6,400, and since it is an international standard, you can know that a setting of 800 is the same everywhere, whether your camera came from China, Russia, or anywhere else in the world. Many photographers understand the basic function of ISO, but fail to really grasp its nuances and fail to finesse its settings to give more depth and quality to their images. Regardless of whether you’re a brand new beginner or a semi-pro, chances are good that you’ve made at least one of these mistakes. Using the same setting regardless of light conditions Yes, there are plenty of people out there who focus all their time and energy on the shutter speed-aperture relationship and ignore their ISO altogether. Sadly, this third component is so crucial in balancing everything out and resulting in a more deliberate photo quality. When you leave your ISO at say, 1000, your outdoor images may be grainy and your indoor images may still be too dark. This puts a lot of burden on the aperture and shutter speed to try and make up the difference here, and the results are rarely nice. Don’t be afraid to move around your ISO and find the right balance where you can still get the action or movement you need and the depth of focus you want. Never touching this setting is a surefire way to disappointment. Only using extremes Some new ‘photogs’ only consider light in its two extremes: bright sunlight and dark; or more simply, outdoors and indoors. And while those two light environments will require vastly different camera settings, much of our lives happens somewhere in the middle. Most places are neither bright nor completely dim, so it’s important to know how to use the middle swath of ISO to best complement these scenarios. There are a lot of beginners who think the lowest setting of ISO100 is the only one appropriate for outdoor work, while the highest possible ISO (3200 or 6400, typically) is what’s needed for any kind of indoor photography. Both instances are wrong and can lead to poor image quality and yet many people immediately jump to how they could have changed their aperture or shutter speed in order to have avoided it. But ISO has more power than people think- don’t get stuck in the “all or nothing” game with light sensitivity. Learn to play around in the middle.  Don’t assume that every house party needs an ISO of 6400, and don’t assume that every landscape shot is bright enough to get away with an ISO of 100. Relying on post-processing to fix it There are...

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Creative Photo Editing: Antiquing

Last time, we explored the steps needed to achieve the effect of the famous Holga camera of the 1980’s and, if you remember, it is quite a hefty tutorial! So this week, we’re going to learn a very simple and highly applicable technique that only takes three steps: the antiquing (or aging) process. Our slick and modern digital photography may excel in capturing sharpness, detail, and color balance, but there is a growing movement to revert back to some of the images of old. Everything vintage, antique, and rustic is making a serious comeback, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t add this technique to your photo-editing arsenal!   In essence, to “age” a photograph, you need to apply three basic things: a vignette, some kind of texture/grain, and an alternative color profile. Granted, there are many steps you could choose to add like adjusting curves, cross-processed color casts, or even incorporating pre-made textures and patterns. If you are looking for a painstaking and meticulously accurate vintage-ifying of your image, this will only be your jumping off point. But for the rest of us, let’s get on with it! As always, begin by opening your base image- preferably one that you previously edited for basic things like tone, color, and sharpness. Most photo subjects will work well, however, keep in mind that contemporary items like iPhones or clothing logos might look a bit strange with this technique. Timeless things like posed portraits, architecture, and old cars will jive a bit better. For example, I chose an image of an old church in Santa Fe:   I like the sharp angle as well as the incredible detail in the windows and masonry. Base photos with a lot of contrasting shapes, colors, and lines will really shine with this antique process! And, like I said, there are only three easy steps to go: Add a sepia color layer Go up to your Layer menu and choose New Adjustment Layer > Hue/Saturation. Check the Colorize box, which will settle your image colors along a spectrum. I’ve found that a Hue setting of around 30 is a good approximation of the sepia tone, but use your own judgment here. Saturation should be moderate, meaning not too high (like with Holga and Lomo) nor too low- a setting of around 25 is good for preventing a bleached look.   Add Noise A defining feature of any old photo, whether it was fresh out of the darkroom or a long attic storage, is texture. Heavy grain, streaks, water spots, and scratches only add to the charm and can all be added to your faux vintage photo. We will only cover the basic grain here (if you want more intense textures, you’ll have to ask Google!). Go to your Filter menu and choose Noise > Add Noise. In the pop-up menu, be sure to check Monochromatic – sepia is a monochrome palette, so the colored grain option wouldn’t look right. Now, choosing between Uniform and Gaussian distribution is really a thing of personal preference; pick whichever you like best. As for the grain amount, I’ve found that a value of anywhere between 4 and 5 gives a realistic result, but play around a bit here.   Add a soft vignette Before it was a trendy editing technique, the vignette was just an ordinary product of old-timey photography. The sharp light dropoff towards the edges of the camera were just something to be “dealt with”- how different it is now that we are adding that back in as a desirable element! To easily add a vignette, go to...

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Windows 8: Adobe Photoshop Express

Peeking in on Photoshop Express using Windows 8 The words “free” and “Photoshop” are rarely used together. But, Adobe Photoshop Express changed all that when it launched on Android, iOS tablets and smartphones. Photoshop Express offers one-touch controls for basic photo-editing tools and simple effects. If you are looking for a good way to get a taste for Adobe Photoshop or other Adobe CS software, Adobe Photoshop Express might be the perfect doorway. Recently, Adobe added Photoshop Express to the Microsoft Store, making the app available for Windows 8 devices. Its features can be put to use with as little as a single command on a touchscreen or with a mouse. The beauty of Express on Windows 8 is that you can use Photoshop on a Windows tablet or on a Windows 8 PC. Full-screen Photoshop for free?! Sounds good to me. Before you get too excited, keep in mind that Photoshop Express is a lite version of the full Adobe CS6 software. But, there’s nothing wrong with dipping a toe in before taking the leap. Here’s what you can expect while testing the waters: Quick Adjustments Fixing an image with a single click (or tap) has a certain appeal, doesn’t it? If you don’t have much experience or free time to manually adjust color levels, Photoshop Express offers the Auto Fix tool. Clicking on Auto Fix automatically adjusts the contrast, exposure and white balance levels of your image. If you want to roll up your sleeves and tweak anything Auto Fix did to your image, you can use the ‘Correct’ menu to find eight sliders that adjust any value Auto Fix changed. Another fast fix comes with the Red Eye tool. It’s pretty simple stuff–this tool makes red eye go bye-bye. However, I did have some trouble removing the green-eye effect you get when taking photos of animals, so the tool isn’t perfect. Effects The Looks panel includes 20 free photo effects. These filters can help juice up a photo or add a fast black and white effect. Adobe offers additional filters for purchase if you want to expand your palette of effects for Express. Also, you can purchase a Reduce Noise tool to alleviate graininess in your image. Editing Tools Within the Crop menu you’ll find other editing tools such as Rotate and Flip to complement the requisite crop tool. You can manually click-drag an area to crop, or you can use any one of the crop presets offered within the tool. The Rotate and Flip tools are pretty straightforward. If your image or photo needs to be straightened, you can use the Straighten slider to level your image. These tools are only a sliver of the deeper tools available in full blown Photoshop, but the ease of use can be advantageous for newcomers or offer sheer efficiency for anybody who needs a quick fix to an image. Finishing Up At any time, you can check your progress against the original image to get a glimpse of your hard work paying off. If you don’t like how things are shaping up, most of the tools offer a reset button or an undo button to step backwards. Within the Elements you can share your creations on Facebook or save them to your hard drive. If you feel like you’re neglecting any of your toys, you can use Adobe Revel to access your work across any device with Express loaded on...

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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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