September 21, 2010

Photo Editing - Getting Started!

Hi, Tiffany (Tiff) here. Liz recently asked me if I edit my photos or if I use photo actions on them. I do both, depending on my mood. Lately, I probably edit (either by hand or with an action) just about every single photo that I put in a layout. I consider myself pretty new to photo editing, but I think I can share with you two basic things you can do to improve your photos.

I probably started using photo actions about a year ago. I use the free photo actions available from The CoffeeShop Blog (most will work in PSE, and to show your appreciation you can donate to the author to help finance her site) and from Pioneer Woman (it looks like she might have Elements version of her actions now!). After using actions for a while I started to notice a pattern: using a Screen blending mode will brighten a photo, and using a Soft Light blending mode will boost the colors a bit - two things most of my photos need.

I will step you through an example. I'm working in Photoshop CS4, but the same steps should work in Elements, too. I'm starting with a photo that I took outside in the afternoon shade.

It looks really dark. Two years ago, I wouldn't have thought there was anything wrong with this photo, but today I would not consider it acceptable to put in a layout. Six months ago, I would have thought there was nothing I could do for this horrible dark photo, but that was before I learned about Screen.

The general process to edit a photo is to duplicate the photo on several layers and then apply different blending modes to the new layers. The blending mode is accessed in the Layers Palette. At the top, there is a box, which in the default is set to "Normal." Click on that, and it will pop up a list of about 25 different blending modes you can choose from.

First, I will duplicate the image, and apply a Screen blending mode to the top layer. Here is the result:

I'd say that is 100% better already. But, it is maybe a little washed out, so now I will go back to my photo layer and duplicate it again, this time applying a Soft Light mode to the newest layer (which is just above the original photo layer):

That last step isn't a huge difference for this particular photo, to my eye anyway, but I think it makes him look more real. If any of the effects are too dramatic, you can bring down the opacity of the layer to tame it a bit. On that last Soft Light layer, I would probably take it down to about 60%. On the other hand, if the effect isn't enough, you can make extra copies of the layers. You can also change the layer order. I found that with the Screen layer on top, the combined effect was a bit lighter than having the Screen layer on the bottom.

Here is another example of just using the Soft Light layer - to help you get a feel for what it does. This original photo looks real flat and pale, maybe because it was taken through a window screen. It is a picture of my mom's back yard, specifically where her septic tank is. (I won't go into the details of why I took this photo; let's just say we had a stressful couple of days last Christmas.) Here is the photo with two Soft Light layers:

Soft Light works great on black and white photos too. If I were to describe the effect, I would say it darkens the darks and lightens the lights to give a more dramatic look:

I think the edited B&W above looks a bit more polished, although I suspect that being a newbie at it, I often overdo the editing. It's all a learning process!

That's about all I know about photo editing, and I hope it gives you a nice starting place to begin editing your own photos.

September 1, 2010

Tutorial - Turning 12x12 Templates into 8.5x11 Templates

I like to write a tutorial every once in awhile so I thought this one might help you all out with your Calendar Temps that you might be making for 2011.

On Thursday I'm coming out with a whole bunch of Calendar Templates for you in all kinds of sizes! I had thought about doing a set of my favorite 12x12 templates and turning them into 8.5x11 templates so that you could easily use them as Calendar Toppers.....but instead I thought I would show you how to turn them into your own 8.5x11 Templates. That way you can choose any template (hopefully mine ;-) and use them for your calendars. Don't worry, I did make a couple of new 8.5x11 template sets made especially for calendars if that's the way you want to go. But here's a simple tutorial to show you how to turn a 12x12 template into an 8.5x11.

I'm going to start with a 12x12 Template. I'm using the Star Shaped one from my Scrap Strip Templates. I thought it might be good for a July Calendar Topper. So the first thing I will do is rename the template so that I don't save over it. Once it's renamed then I need to go to Image>Canvas Size.

Then you'll enter your width and height. Then you'll hit okay and you'll get a pop up that will say "The new canvas size is smaller than the current canvas size; some clipping will occur." Just click proceed.

Then you'll have to adjust all the layers to fit into the size of the 8.5x11 Template. Grab all the layers except the background. An easy way to do this is click on the first layer, hold down the shift key and then scroll up and select the top layer, then all your layers (except the bottom) should be selected. Then all you have to do is resize them and move them a bit to be in the center of the template. Then you are good to go and you can finish the template like you normally would.

This will work with most templates. Some templates with stuff closer to the edges might need a little bit more adjusting.

So I hope this helps. Now you can go grab some of my 12x12 templates and make your own calendars with them. ;-) Or you might want to wait until Thursday so you can see the Calendar Temps I made!

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