Above is a photo of a black cap chick that I took the other day. It was very overcast and the lighting wasn’t good at all, but I decided to take the shot anyway. It’s very grainy because I had the ISO on my camera set to 800 and the lighting conditions were poor. What I’ll do is hit CTRL-J on my keyboard to make a duplicate layer. It will be called “Layer 1″. Just double click on the word and change it to whatever you’re working on. I’m going to call my layer “Bird”. The next thing I’ll do is go to Filter, Blur, Gaussian Blur. The dialog box for the Gassian Blur will come up. You don’t need to get crazy with the blur, unless you have a lot of distractions in the background. In this case, I just want to get rid of the noise behind the bird where it’s most obvious. Here I set the blur to 4.0. When you’ve decided how much blur is good for your photo, then click OK. Now it’s time to put a mask on the â€œBirdâ€ layer. Using the mask will make it easier to bring back the sharpness into the bird and still keep the noiseless background untouched. I’ll then click on the mask icon at the bottom of the layers palette. You’ll see the mask box appear in the “Bird” layer. Now all I have to do is paint back the parts of the photo that should be sharp. Make sure that you click on the mask box in the layer to make it active. You’ll see a border go around the small white box when it’s active. I’ll start painting with a black brush to bring out the original image. If you make a mistake and paint the wrong thing, no problem. Switch to the white brush to bring back the blurred layer. Don’t forget you have total control over the brush. You can lower the “Opacity” of the brush while you’re working. Then you can bring back some of the original image. For example, when I brought back the branch the bird is standing on, I used 50% opacity. The main focus is the bird. I don’t want a blurry branch, but at the same time I don’t want the graininess of the branch to pull the viewers eye away from the bird. The opacity brush is located on the tool bar at the top of your screen when you are using the brush. When you are finished you can save the layers as a .psd file, or you can flatten the layer by going to Layer, Flatten Image. Here are the before and after images. You don’t want what you’ve done to be obvious; you want it to be subtle. If you overdo the blur, your photo will looked worked on and you don’t want that. Here I zoomed in closer to the backgrounds so that you can see the difference between the before and after. You can definitely see the difference between the two. The original photo on the top is very grainy and the fixed one under it isn’t grainy. Try this with some of your photos and see how it works for you.
Above, I have a photo of my neighbor’s cat. I turned it into a black and white photo, but it’s not quite right. It needs a little “pop” to make it more interesting. There are a few simple ways to do this without getting too crazy. The first way is very easy. First I’ll go to Image, Adjustments, Exposure: Here the Exposure dialog box comes up: I grab the slider that’s called Offset and bring it slowly to the left. You can see the darks in the image getting pronounced. Then I go to the Gamma Correction and bring that to the left just a little bit. Already you should see a difference. Then I go to the Exposure slider and bring that to the right to brighten the photo. Here are the settings I used for this image: Look at the before and after to see the difference: Here I’ll use a different method, with a shot of my family room that I turned black and white: First I’ll go to Image, Adjustments, Selective Color: Once the Selective Color dialog box comes up, I go to the top of the box and pick the color black: The only slider I touch is the last one, the black slider. In this case I’ll make it a +10: Then I’ll pick white from the color selections and again I’ll only use the black slider. The white slider I’ll bring to the left, making the whites whiter. For this I use a -8. Then I’ll click OK: Next I’ll go to Image, Adjustments, Brightness/Contrast: With the Brightness/Contrast dialog box open, I’ll push both sliders to the right. Try not to have a heavy hand. Just a little should do it. For this image I use a +11 for both brightness and contrast. Then I’ll click OK: Here are the before and after pictures: Try both methods and see which one works best for you. Remember every picture is different. The numbers that work for me might be different for you. So, play around with the sliders. Have fun and keep playing with Photoshop.
It’s one thing to take a picture, but another to take a photograph. There are some basic rules that can help you take more interesting and eye catching photographs. Once you have the basic rules down, you’ll become more observant of the photographic opportunities that are around you. This is important in creating your “eye” for photography, and in creating your own style. It will be the difference between a snap shot and a photograph. Rule of Thirds: The “rule of thirds” has been around for centuries, and is the most recognized rule of composition used in photography and the arts alike. The rule of thirds states that the frame can be divided into three horizontal and three vertical sections. Photographs work better when the area of interest is placed off-center. I took this photograph using the rule of thirds. The balloon is off to the left. I usually put my center of focus on the left because in most parts of the world we read from left to right. This is more appealing to the viewer’s eye. They see the center of focus to the left and continue to look toward the right, taking in the rest of the image: Simplicity: The “simplicity” rule is just that. You should keep your photo relatively simple. If you’re zoomed in close to your main subject, make sure that the background is out of focus or make sure that nothing in the background stands out, causing any distractions. You don’t want anything pulling your eye away from your main subject. Here I have a photo of a tulip’s base, a very simple composition. I came in close, and whatever background you see is blurred out — there are no distractions: Leading Lines: The “leading line” draws your eye deeper into the photograph, and commonly to the main subject. The leading lines also direct your eye to an area of the photo that might not have been noticed otherwise. You have to be careful using leading lines. You don’t want them to distract the viewer or lead them away from the main subject. Here’s a photograph that I took in Death Valley, California. In this photo, there are a lot of lines leading up to the top of the mountain. The lines keep your eyes moving up the image. Lines can also go horizontal or vertical. Leading lines can also be rivers, roads, tree branches, bridges, or even building architecture: Straight Horizon: Talking about “straight horizons” may seem a little obvious and not necessary, but you’d be surprised to find how often it’s forgotten. Good thing this is an easy fix in most software programs: Framing: “Framing” natural surroundings thoughtfully can add more meaning and focus to your subject. The surrounding can be just about anything, from tree branches, bushes, and even doorways. Make sure that you are focused on your main subject, and use a high f/stop for depth of field. Here I took a photo of a golden monkey at the Bronx Zoo. I zoomed in close to get rid of any distractions behind the monkey. Then I used the tree branches to frame the image: Perspective: Sometimes a change of perspective can add impact to a photograph. Think about changing from your norm. Try crouching down, or moving to the left or right. Better yet, try to take a photo from a different angle, through a window, or a doorway, or even an archway. Experiment with lenses. You could even invest in a fisheye lens, which will give you a whole new perspective on everything: Color: Color in a photograph can create emotion and mood. Blues and greens are cool. Yellow and orange are warm colors. You can also use colors to create certain effects. Like a “wow” factor when colors jump out at you: Symmetry: Sometimes you just have to forget about the rule of thirds, and just plop your focus dead center, just because it works. Symmetry can come at a price; some may say it’s not interesting enough or even boring. Don’t listen to that. Subjects that work well with symmetry are landscapes and flora: The most important thing to remember about photography besides the rules, are “have fun” and enjoy what you’re doing. Then you can think about the rules. When you’ve finely tuned your skills, you can go ahead a break the rule. Now that’s a lot of fun.
Above, I have five images exposed for HDR. That means one properly exposed image and one to two over- and under-exposed images. The images are of a tree showing off its fall foliage: Open the Dynamic Photo HDR program. You can get a free trial version on their web site. Go to the File menu and bring in the images that you want. This is what it looks like: A dialog box opens up called Create New HDR Image. Click OK: The next dialog box asks to “Align Files”. Click on each image and use the dials to align them. Even if the images don’t need aligning, click on each image or the program won’t let you go to the next step. Then click OK: This next step will take a few moments while the program creates the HDR image: Here, you can correct the exposure and gamma by moving the sliders: Now it’s time to click on Step 2 – Tone map HDR file: Here the “Tone Mapping” dialog box opens up. Go to the left side of the box where it says “Method”. Check out which one you like best. Then go to Setting. This is where you can tweak the brightness, shadow/highlights, saturation and radius. On the right of the box there are the curves, color equalizer and the hue shift: If you want more options, you can click on the Kelvin tab, which brings up this dialog box. There are a lot to choose from. The thing I don’t care for is that the boxes are too small, and there is no way to make them bigger: Then there’s the Match Color tab. Another cool feature, but again the boxes are too small: When you’re happy with the way your image looks, click Process. This will take a few moments. You can see the blue line going across as the image gets processed. When it’s done, your computer will ask you which folder you’d like to save your image in, and to name your image: The program won’t close, or even seem like anything happened. You should check the folder where you saved the file before closing the program. There are a lot of different features in this program. I’m still learning them, myself. This is just another HDR option for your creativity. Here’s the finished image: Don’t forget to download your free trial version to check it out. Enjoy!
Ever take pictures of friends and family inside or even outside, and your photos have a blue cast while using a flash? Maybe you even got used to the color and thought that it’s just the way the camera takes the photo. Well, it is the way the camera takes the photo, until you change one easy setting. The white balance — no matter what other setting you have set on your camera, while using the flash it’s important to have the flash setting on your camera “on”: Here I have an image of a mannequin head. I took this with my flash, but the setting on my camera was set to “Auto”. The image has a blue cast: Here I have the same image that I took with the flash, but I also had my camera setting set to “flash”. See the difference between the two images? The same goes for outside photography. Here I took a shot of a bird feeder I have in my backyard. For the first image, I used a flash with the camera setting on “Auto”. For the second image, I used a flash, and had my camera set to “Flash”. See the difference? In some images the difference is subtle, but in other cases the blue cast is overwhelming. Just remember when you are finished using your flash, to put it back on “auto”. Simple, easy tips can be very useful.