Archive for A La Carte Albums

gee, maybe I should make some books for me…

I am in a take-a-breath moment in the holiday album design onslaught at the moment, and when I was putting some client albums up on blurb, I saw (clever them) a little popup about how they were doing notebooks now.  I tend to have 2-3 notebook/sketchbooks going at any one time, and it bums me out that the only ones I can usually find with gridded pages are moleskine, which aren’t the right size and aren’t pretty.

So I made one. It took maybe 10 minutes, and that’s NOT my book design expertise talking. I am pleased.  It’s mostly photos from the Oregon coast landscape photography workshop from 2009 because well, my camera and I don’t talk too much lately with all the busy.

The default layout has a picture every 7ish pages, and all the rest grid. On uncoated paper that can be written on. Yay!

(Yeah, that is an affiliate link, because I don’t mark up the blurb books I make, but I send them lots of business, so one of my colleagues pointed out that a bonus for me that doesn’t cost my customers anything is a good thing. And while I’ve got the business hat on, if you wanna go gonzo and make your own, HOLIDAYTHANKS gets you 25% off through “cyber monday” on books you make, and MERRY will work on other people’s books.)

And that is just a little something on top of this big gorgeous thing:

I started carrying a new kind of flush album; it’s really stripped down as flush albums go, with superthin pages, limited cover design choices, mostly things you only notice if you make a lot of albums, really, and all streamlining rather than quality reduction. And the pricing is amazing as such things go, right in the range a lot of my more “budget” clients are aiming for. (Budget being a relative term when you are talking about custom designed, handmade photo-page books.) So I needed samples, stat, but I was in love with the 12×12, and I didn’t have any 20 page 12×12 designs hanging out that I could use.  But, well, I did have a set of really awesome photos that are intended to be seen only REALLY LARGE and this thing is 2 feet wide when open, so …. I made myself a super luxe artist portfolio. That I totally got the studio sample discount on because I really am going to use it to show wedding album clients.

(Pictures are craptastic because it is raining and I haven’t fetched my lights back from the person I lent them to yet.)

12x12 skinny basic flush with black linen and cover inset, abstract botanical portfolio

12x12 portfolio open to purple tulip

for scale, that’s my cell phone:

Isn’t it pretty? I want to pet it. (You can see the whole design here if you like). The photos are smaller than they are when I show them as framed prints, but still big enough to get the right SO MUCH BIGGER THAN LIFESIZE effect.

(Sorry if this sounds super-promotey, but you have to understand, BOOKS! that I get to KEEP and USE instead of mailing away! It’s like working in a chocolate shop and never getting to eat any to do what I do normally. )

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It’s an A La Carte Album Holiday Special!

*cue Bing Crosby and fake snowflakes*

I have, at of course entirely the last minute, found, and added to the A La Carte product line, these adorable mini albums; they come in sets of 3 and are surprisingly affordable:

Mini Accordion Albums

$50 for a set of three with linen or leatherette covers, or $60 with a photo cover. They can accommodate 4-10 images in the design; hi-res copies of the post-processed versions of your images are, as always, included.

Also, they have a super-fast turnaround, so I can take orders up until Dec. 12th and still deliver by Christmas (in the U.S.)

And for the Special in the holiday special, right now I am waiving the design fee on these entirely (normally $20), or I will make you a set FREE with an album design order of 72 images or more until the end of the year.

(I know what how my folks are getting their yearly “pictures of the grandkids” dose this year! Luckily, none of them read my blog.)

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Giveaway and Charity Auction Deadline Reminders

Ending November 7th: Saving Grace Charity Auction: Any print, your choice. (Bid stands at $20 as of this writing)

Ending November 9th: A La Carte Albums Giveaway (on the blog): 221 entries to date.

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I love white space.

Before and After magazine has a lovely tutorial video about how to design without images; I spend almost all of my time designing without words, but I find that the use of white space, as discussed here, to be just as crucial. Often, a single image on a page with a generous blank border is more effective at bringing out the story in that image than would be the same image, full bleed, and certainly better than the page filled with small images with no room to breathe. White space (which is not necessarily white, of course) is crucial to directing the eye and giving your actual content space to speak.

And, completely unrelated, but hey, it’s also a video, one of my favorite giclee clients, Lynnette Shelley, has done a new time-lapse video of her recent painting The Forest King:


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How to improve the legibilty of an image using Lens Blur (photoshop tutorial)

I’m currently constructing an album for my friends Tree & Marcus’s handfasting, and one of the shots of mine they selected for inclusion was this shot of Marcus putting the ring on Tree’s finger. It’s a lovely moment, their expressions look nice, but, well, it’s awfully busy with all the people in the background — a danger of the “ceremony in the round” approach. Since I can’t go back in time and switch from f/9 to f/2.8, or tell the cute redhead to wear a more subdued shirt (I totally picked that out for him — talk about hoist on my own petard!) it’s time to do some photoshop to make the image all about the moment.

I don’t want to change the reality of the image; it was a lovely circle ceremony, and the people watching are important to the overall story, so just replacing them with trees and grass is not an appropriate strategy. So the biggest change I’m going to make is to make those people less obvious by, essentially, “faking” the wide-open aperture that would have been better in the first place.

Our starting point, straight from camera other than cropping:

Step 1: Unaltered Image

Step 1: We want to make this a realistic lens blur, rather than an impressionistic effect, so we want everything within the same distance range to stay in focus. Make a selection of the lovely couple, and also the flowers on the table, since they are much closer to the couple than anything else. I used the Quick Select Tool for this; in earlier versions of photoshop, I would have just brushed in the mask using QuickMask mode. It doesn’t need to be perfect, especially if the edges are a little soft. Err on the side of blurring edges of the main subject, since we can mask out extra blur out later if need be.
Step 2: Save the selection as a channel named “bride and groom”. Deselect All.

Step 3: Duplicate the background layer, and name the new layer “lens blur.” Then go to Filters -> Lens Blur. Tell Lens Blur to use the “bride and groom” channel as it’s Depth Map, and click “invert” so it works on everything *but* the bride and groom. Then, fiddle with the sliders, particularly radius, until it looks right; the edges may be wonky (i.e. the groom’s glasses are now missing), but don’t worry, we’ll fix this in the next step.

Step 3: Lens Blur Added

Step 4: Cleanup: Add a layer mask to our “lens blur” layer, and with a soft round brush and black as your foreground color, carefully brush the edges of our main figures so that they have crisp edges and the falloff to the blurred area looks natural. I also roughed in their bodies with a big brush out of habit, which proved useful later.

Step 4: After Mask Cleanup

That’s a definite improvement, especially at print size, but not quite as much as I would like, so let’s take it a step farther:
Step 5: Ctrl-click on the mask of our “lens blur” layer to pick up the selection, then make a Hue-Saturation Adjustment layer, and slightly reduce the saturation and the lightness of our background players. (I used -11 Saturation and -12 Lightness, but it’s strictly an adjust to taste thing.)

Final, after lens blur and saturation changes

And there we are. Is it an earth-shaking retouch? No. Does it make the picture — and the story being told by the album the picture will be in — easier to read? Definitely. Completely worth the two minutes.

(Note: I am using CS4, but I believe all the techniques in this, and certainly the general theory, will work in any version of photoshop/photoshop elements with lens blur; if you have a much earlier version you could probably make Gaussian Blur work as long as you are careful.)

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