08 April 2021 (A Photoshop Retrospective)

This week we were delighted to welcome Libby Smith of Carluke Camera Club and the Scottish Photographic Federation.  Libby had last visited the club in 2018, only this time she didn’t need to trek from Carluke to Musselburgh in the foul weather. Libby’s talks are always fascinating and enlightening and usually contain valuable snippets of information about Photoshop techniques. This time Libby gave us a complete Photoshop perspective, describing how she first got into digital photography in the 1990s by scanning slides and film.  Photoshop began as a digital alternative to darkroom techniques. It could be used to correct the tones and colours from digitized slides, or combine slides together for special effects. Colour slides could be converted to black and white. Using Photoshop to add film grain noise to the digitized images helped lower the contrast and create an atmospheric effect. Libby learned that you can’t use the same effect on everything, and it pays to experiment and find which techniques work best for your own style of images. For example, a watercolour art effect can enhance some images by removing background detail, as long as the effect doesn’t destroy important detail in your subject. The “find edges” filter can also be used for special effects. A layer mask can be use to apply the effect only to certain parts of the image (e.g. to some tulips but not the sky behind them). You can experiment with different brush textures for creative effects. You can also change the mood by hand-colouring parts of your image.

Libby moved on to show us how she learned to make composite shots using Photoshop layers. Composites give you more creative freedom. You can take components from several different images (a lighthouse from one place, a clifftop from another place, a dramatic sky from somewhere else…) and combine them. Libby warned us that if you become well known for making composites, people will start to think every image you show is a composite! Dramatic images can be made by blending a portrait or still life image with a textured background. Libby makes textured backgrounds by photographing interesting objects (such as dried petals, plants, seed heads and feathers) against a plain white background. The white background helps you to select the objects. You can also capture images of flat objects using a flat-bed scanner. The backgrounds can be placed in separate layers and combined using “soft light”, “hard light” or “overlay” blending modes. These blending modes tend to add contrast, so it is important to reduce the contrast in the background before blending. Libby went on to show us some stunning landscape images, dramatic images of derelict cottages and mining equipment, and some beautiful portraits; all enhanced by Photoshop techniques.

During the evening we also learned the following hints and tips:

  • When using a digital camera with Photoshop, try to expose so the peak of your histogram moves as far to the right as possible without losing highlights. Unlike slide film, which is best exposed to give rich dark shadows, digital cameras give the best results when the shadows have as much light as possible.
  • Photographs tend to look darker when printed than when viewed on the screen. Libby lightens her images by half a stop before printing them.
  • The “magic wand” selection tool can be used to select a white background, enabling objects placed on that background to be selected without leaving a halo around them.
  • If you are applying special effects to a portrait, make sure the face is not affected.
  • Using a negative clarity setting in “camera raw” can create a soft focus effect (as an alternative to blurring).
  • Try removing just a subset of the colours from an image to create a black and white image with a little bit of colour. Libby often removes green to reduce the distracting effect of grass but keep the subtle colours of rocks and stones.
  • A colour print can sometimes be improved by boosting the saturation in yellow and red (using the “hue and saturation” adjustment), which will emphasise the light on the print. A sunset image can similarly be improved by reducing the saturation in the blue.

Libby was our final speaker of the season, but she gave us lots of creative ideas to try over the summer and take to next season. Thank you Libby for a very entertaining and fascinating talk.

Software and Licencing for Audio Visual Presentations

After the audio visual evening we discussed the software used to create audio visual presentations. I use Proshow Producer, which has now been replaced by Photopia (https://photopia.nl/proshow/), a subscription-based application. Beeslack recommended a utility called WNSoft PTE AV Studio 10 (https://www.wnsoft.com/en/pte-av-studio/), which can generate shows for Windows, Apple and Android devices.


Stephen Williams has also found the following free video creation applications for people interested in creating AV presentations and sends this message to members:

They are relatively intuitive, but they each have their pros and cons.  They are available as portable versions (PortableApps.com) which I prefer, or you can download installable versions directly from the provider’s websites.  Both of these struggled to work on my 7-year old AMD laptop (running Windows 10), but ran on my 2-year old i7 laptop (also running Windows 10).

OpenShot (https://www.openshot.org/)

Bright, intuitive interface (drag images, videos and audio files into the project file area, then drag down to the timeline, right click to add transitions and effects – see the quick user guide before you start at https://www.openshot.org/user-guide/).  I found that the software kept crashing, but it seemed to remember where it was when it reloaded.  However, maybe I was just trying to push it too hard.  I was unable to access the Preferences menu where I might have been able tweak the settings to stop this happening – I don’t know why, this may just be a bug with the current version.  Others might have more luck.

Shotcut (https://shotcut.org/)

This has a more cluttered interface on first opening, but ultimately the process is more or less the same as OpenShot.  Check out the short video on how to use it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JtsB2iZRb9c&feature=emb_logo – this is essential even just to get going.  Adding effects are a bit more fiddly – you need to create Keyframes and how you want the image to look at both the start and end of the effect period and the software then interpolates, but ultimately this is more flexible than OpenShot.  Transitions between slides were easier to implement, but the options were more limited than OpenShot (but there are only so many garish transitions that you can tolerate anyway).  One other nice thing was that once you reopened a saved project and added more slides to the end of the timeline, as long as the original audio track was long enough it filled in the gap – with OpenShot you were left with blank audio and would need to reimport the original longer audio track.  Crucially for me the software was stable, not crashing during use.  So although it took longer to learn how to what I wanted it to do, this was the better choice for me.


Finally, Beeslack member John Barnett has drawn our attention to the website of the IAC Film and Video Institute (https://www.theiac.org.uk/),  where you can find advice and purchase an audio dubbing licence for video presentations.

 

Making Audio Visual Presentations

There is an audio visual evening with Beeslack scheduled for 4th February 2021. Last week I was asked about software for creating audio visual presentations from photographs. Microsoft Powerpoint can be used to make a presentation, but it can be tedious to use. I gave an introduction to audio visual presentations back in 2018, which you can find by clicking this link.

https://musselburghcameraclub.org.uk/2018/11/26/22-november-2018-introduction-to-audio-visual-presentations/

At the time, the recommended software to use was Photodex ProShow Gold, which was available for Windows only.  There was a Mac alternative called “Photo Theatre Pro” (which may or may not still be available in the Mac store). Sadly, Photodex Proshow is no longer available and has been replaced by “Photopia”.  The good news is the new software now works with both Windows and Mac. It has a subscription-based licence, so you could subscribe only when you need to make a show. Click the link below for more information.

Transition from ProShow to Photopia

However, if you have Windows 10, the free Microsoft Photos program also contains some of the basic elements that Proshow Gold used to have. You can combine images into a slideshow or video, add a title slide, add captions and add background music. I think this is now a better option than Powerpoint for Windows users. You can start the program by selecting the images you want to show, clicking with the right mouse button and selecting the “Create a new video” option shown in the menu.

When the program starts you will see a screen like this (which looks remarkably similar to the Proshow screen). You can drag photos from the library window on the left onto the timeline at the bottom and view your show using the preview window on the right.

I hope this helps. Have fun, whichever tool you use.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shots of the Pink Supermoon

Malcolm Roberts would like to draw members’ attention to this tweet showing a photograph of the recent “Pink Supermoon”. Malcolm asked how to create a “10 shot stack”. You can read a tutorial on the subject by clicking on the link below.

Astrophotography Tutorial: Image Stacking in Photoshop


31 January 2019 (How Did You Do That)

This week members shared their image processing hints and tips, revealed how to make some special effects or brought in questions to be answered. Here are some highlights from the discussion.

Removing unwanted objects.

Quiet often an image will lose marks because of a distraction in the background or a bright spot near the edge. The easiest way to remove the distractions is to crop the image, but what if you can’t? If cropping the image would remove something important, the other way to remove distractions is to used the “patch”, “clone stamp” and “healing brush” tools in Photoshop. The patch tool is great for removing distracting objects against a plain background (such as sky, grass or water). Look for the tool that looks like a sewn patch as shown here.

Make a selection around the object you want to remove, click in the middle and drag the patch somewhere else in the plain background. When you release the mouse the object will be removed. If your background has a pattern, such as waves or stripes, line up the pattern as best you can before releasing the mouse. Hint: You can remove a large or oddly-shaped area by patching it a bit at a time.

The clone stamp tool can be used for trickier patching jobs, like the image below. Select the tool looking like an ink stamp. Move the tool to an area you would like to copy and click while pressing the ALT key. Then move the tool to the place you would like to erase, line up the edges and start painting.

The “clone source” window (above) can help you to match the edges. If you are copying the top of the mountain but it is at the wrong angle, try changing the rotation. If you are cloning a background with a gradient, use the “Mirror horizontal” button to flip the gradient so your painted strokes don’t leave a sharp edge. Here are some more cloning hints:

  • After cloning, go over the same area with the healing brush to smooth over the edges and remove artefacts. Look for discontinuities and unnatural straight edges.
  • Try to clone from many different sources to avoid creating repeating patterns. When you have finished, look for duplicated objects and similar patterns and change the duplicates by passing the healing brush over them.

Local Tone Corrections

We have all been told to use the “brightness”, “levels” or “curves” tools in Photoshop to adjust the brightness and contrast, but what if your image only needs a partial correction? “camera raw” comes with a selection of very useful adjustment tools. The first is the “gradient tool”, shown below. First select the adjustment you would like to make (in this case a reduction in exposure and darkening the highlights) and then sweep with the mouse away from the part you would like adjusted (in this image from bottom to top). The adjustment darkens the foreground highlights.

The second is the “adjustment brush” shown below. This tool uses exactly the same sliders as the gradient tool, only this time you can paint the adjustment anywhere on the image. Ticking the “auto mask” box prevents the adjustment accidentally leaking across a sharp edge. Hovering the mouse over the point reveals which parts of the image have been painted over (as shown below in red).

This adjustment is particularly useful for brightening the faces in a portrait or for darkening bright distractions near the edge of an image. The secret is to make only small adjustments so your image still looks natural. You can change the adjustment at any time.

Content Aware Scale

The content aware scale is a little used Photoshop utility (which has been available since CS4)  but its results can be absolutely magic. It is ideal for compositions with several subjects spaced out against a plain background. If you would like to bring the subjects closer together, or to change the aspect ratio of the image without cropping it, a content aware scale may work for you. First select the part of the image you would like to scale with a rectangular box (or use “select all”). Then select “Edit/Content Aware Scale” as shown below.

Now move the edges of your image inwards and watch the magic happen. Look carefully and make sure non of the main subjects are compressed by the effect. The vacated parts will be filled with background colour, but you can remove them with a crop.

Correcting Horizontals and Verticals

One member asked how to correct an image where the main subject is tilted at a strange angle. There are alternative two ways of doing this. The first and simplest method is to rotate the image and crop it. This method is best used for an image, such as a seascape, where the horizon is tilted or an image, like the one below, where an object which should be vertical (the church tower) is leaning to one side.

The example shows the crop tool in “camera raw”. Right-click on the image and ensure that “Show overlay” is ticked. Move the mouse outside the crop area and drag the edges to rotate the crop until the overlaid lines match up with the horizontals and verticals in the image.

If your image is more complicated, such as an architectural shot, the second method is to use the lens correction filter, as shown below. The “camera raw” lens correction filter is easier to use. Click on the tool which looks like a lens schematic “()()”. The “rotate” slider rotates the image, just as before. Use this slider to line up the horizontals and verticals in the centre of the image. The “vertical” and “horizontal” sliders can be used to correct the horizontals and verticals at the edge of your image. (The “distortion” slider can be used to straighten lines if your shot is taken with a wide angle lens.)

The lens correction filter in Photoshop itself has the same controls, but the “rotate” control is very fiddly to use.

After using the lens correction filter you will need to crop the image. If the sloping edges mean you lose something important outside the crop, it is possible to crop slightly outside the boundary and use a “Content Aware Fill” (available from CS6 onwards) to fill the missing parts. You should treat this fill like a clone and repair any odd-looking artefacts with the healing brush.

Don’t Make The Mistake I Made

Here is an image showing a mistake I made when creating a black and white image. The black and white conversion tool in Photoshop can be used to convert a colour image to black and white. The tool lets you adjust the colour sliders, or apply one of a number of presets, until you get the effect you want. Sometimes you will find different conversions work better in different parts of the scene. In the image below I applied two different black and white conversions to the bottom and the top of the image.

The mistake I made? The opacities of the two conversion layers don’t add up to 100%! Right in the middle there is a patch which looks black and white but actually has a tiny hint of colour. The mistake is revealed by boosting the saturation. To ensure you never make this mistake, always add a black and white conversion or desaturation layer which acts on the whole image.

Solarization Effect

Finally, here is a special effect you can try on an image with boring highlights, such as a blank and uninteresting sky. Applying a curves adjustment in the shape of an upside down “U” will create a solarization effect in which the dark parts of the image are shown in positive and the lighter parts are shown in negative.

You can vary the effect by dragging the top of the curve left or right, and you can use a layer mask to confine the effect to just part of your image. For example, the mask in the above image prevents the effect changing the white parts of the stones.

I hope these hints and tips will help members to adjust their images or have some fun with the special effects.

 

22 November 2018 (Introduction to Audio-Visual Presentations)

On Thursday, 22nd November I gave club members an introduction to making audio-visual presentations. Audio-Visual presentations are another way to show your work, in addition to prints and digital projected images. Click on the following link to download the notes from my presentation.

MCCIntroductionToAudioVisualsNotes

You can create a slide show with captions, animation and basic sound effects using PowerPoint. Clive Davies showed us how PowerPoint can be used to present a large number of images within a surprisingly small file size. The image compression is sufficiently good that the image quality on screen looks just as good as the original.

To make a full audio-visual presentation you will need extra software. The club recommends Photodex ProShow for Windows PC users. You can download a trial copy from http://www.photodex.com/proshow. Mac users can try Boniten Photo Theatre Pro, which is a similar product.

The evening finished with some example audio-visual presentations. Gus Langlands showed us one of the first presentations he and John Knox had put together, taking the viewer on a tour of the sites around East Lothian. The images for that presentation were scanned from slides. Gus and John create their sound track using Magix Sound Forge audio editing software, which can edit a sound track in the same way that Photoshop can edit an image. Unwanted clicks and pops can be “healed” out.

This coming Thursday, 29th November we have a knockout competition on the theme of “transparency” (i.e. subjects which are transparent or evoke the theme of transparency, not slides). Please bring along 1, 2 or 3 JPEG images on the night. If you can’t be present please email your images to George Todd. Members will vote for their favourite images on the night, and the best image will win a prize!

 

Adobe Giveaway

If there’s anyone been considering buying Adobe Photoshop but didn’t know if it was for you or not Adobe are giving away some of their older versions of some of their products and they are available for download here

http://www.adobe.com/downloads/cs2_downloads/index.html – remember to copy the serial numbers as well because they will still need activated on install.

The fact they are giving them away means they are probably no longer going to recieve any updates etc but will give a novice a good feel for the product before deciding if it’s something they could use.

The big download is CS2, it’s got three files so i’m not entirely sure if it’s the extended version or not. For those not familiar the current version is 6.0

There’s also Photoshop Elements 4/5 (current version 10 or 11?) so that gives you an idea that they are older versions but hopefully of some use to some of the members.

There’s also some other products going free on that link as well.

Having downloaded one or two of the versions for another PC I’d advise that they are more suited to non Windows 7 pc/laptops, if you do use Windows 7 be aware when you open one of the older programmes they change your coulour settings while the programme is open but change it back once you close it.