Archive for Technique

Handout for “A Print by any other Name” (Norwescon 2013)

Since last year the discussions got technical, I’ve made a handout covering some of the vocabulary and issues, with links to various tutorials and resources.

Notes on making art prints/reproductions for sale

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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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Fix-It Friday #70 (my first)

This is my first try at a Fix-It Friday (from “I Heart Faces”)

We started with this adorable color image (straight from camera) of a little girl by Amy of Atomic Egg Photography:

Fix-It Friday #70

And this is what I did to it in Photoshop CS4:

What I did:

1. Cropped to square, because I’m in a square mood. 🙂
2. I used the channel mixer to use the green channel only for Luminosity
3. Used curves (and a soft brushed-in mask) to burn down her forehead and concentrate attention on eyes
4. Used another curve layer with a mask to brighten her eyes, and make them the highest contrast part of her face, which draws more attention to them.
4. I used the patch tool to significantly reduce her undereye bags (adding 3 hours of sleep)
5. Reduced saturation in magentas and reds under eyes only (adding 1 more hour of sleep)
6. And then toned the entire image to sepia with a chocolatey gradient map set to “Color” mode.

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Photo Friday: Bloom (Lumen Prints!)

Since my only digital camera is currently dormant and awaiting the delivery of a new battery charger *sigh* I had to go a little more … old school for this Photo Friday (but how could I miss Bloom, really? I should practically put flower photographer on my business cards…)

So, today, little Miss Elisabeth, age 5, and I made a quickie contact printer out of a piece of plexi and some cardboard, grabbed a box of Ilford Multigrade Cooltone RC 5×7 paper that is older than she is, and made some lumen prints. (quick version: photograms made by catastrophic overexposure of otherwise normal b/w photo paper. Alternative has more concrete info.)

The colors are unaltered.

This one is probably my favorite, and yes, it was done by the 5 year old. 🙂

Dandelions, Lumen print

Dandelions, by Elisabeth

Fern and Clover Bud, Lumen print

Fern and Clover Bud, Lumen print

These are using a really adorable yellow-flowered weed I have not been able to identify; I thought it was odd that the stems disappeared entirely.

Mysterious yellow flowers, lumen print

Mysterious yellow flowers, lumen print

Dandelion and Leaf, Lumen Print

Dandelion and Leaf, Lumen Print

Fern, my first lumen print

Fern, my first lumen print

2 Leaves, by Elisabeth, Lumen Print

2 Leaves, by Elisabeth, Lumen Print

I didn’t actually have any fixer on hand, so I scanned them immediately and stuck them in a dark drawer; we will see if there is any image left on them by next week. I also tried to contact print some color 120 negatives, but that was pretty much a train wreck.

I am, however, delighted to have something to do, on very sunny days at least, with the many boxes of not-refrigerated photo paper I have left over from my darkroom days.

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Changing your world via photoshop

This video from David Yoon’s “Narrow Streets” project (which I found via photojojo) is a marvelous example of compositing, in this case to realize a vision of Los Angeles as a smaller city. I love that you can watch the “trial and error” process and all of the detail work into doing even this simple two=image composite.

Spring Street, Los Angeles, narrowed. from David Yoon on Vimeo.

(If I learned to make videos like this, would people be interested in seeing how, say, something in mode of Atlantis Vogue or Nigella Nebula comes together?)

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Calling my fairy godmother…

If someone showed up right now and offered me one wish (and, you know, world peace and good health weren’t options) I would want to *poof* into my studio any one of about 10 photographers who know me and my aesthetic well, point them at my “Possibles” folder (currently numbering 58, with at least 5 shots known to not yet be in it that must be rescued from archive) in Bridge and say “please edit that into a show.”

The really sad thing is, with the exception of one of my professors, I don’t think any of them live in this state. And while the professor would put together a good show, I know it would vary most from the show I would edit.

I really really really miss my thesis group right now. Having that kind of informed, in-sync feedback is just invaluable.

(I also miss the 96 square feet of table space to lay out the prints on.)

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You’d think, as often as I am matting pieces, that I would remember to go get a water dish for the linen tape before I end up with the taste of glue on my tongue.

(I’ve tried the “self-adhesive” variety, but it is three times as expensive and leaves you with a roll of sticker backing to send to the landfill.)

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Nigella Nebula

Maybe it’s just all the summer flowers in bloom, but I started making my floral space whimsy pieces again and I’m not inclined to stop. Here’s how the latest one evolved:
Read the rest of this entry »

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Quick Tip: Getting the right color when photographing your art

One of the complaints I hear most often from artists is that they can’t get the color of their art/craft project to look on the computer the way it does in real life. This is a super-quick technique that will get you at least 90%, if not 99% of the way there without setting up lights or a softbox. (I wouldn’t say this is good enough to make reproductions from, but it is probably plenty for most web purposes.) My partner has started uploading my shots of her works-in-progress to Ravelry, and this seemed like a good opportunity for a mini-tutorial; this yarn is quite gorgeous, but the colors are complex and easily misread depending on the light.

The project was just draped over a kiddy chair and placed in open shade (an open doorway). The trickiest part was getting the “final” shot and the “with card” shot to happen close enough together that the movement of the clouds didn’t change the exposure too much.

Project with camera "auto white balance"

Project with camera "auto white balance"

Project with correct color balance

Project with correct color

Project with color checker in front; Auto white balance was still wrong, but using the nuetral patches on the color checker, we could get to the correct colors in about 5 seconds.

Project with color checker in front; Auto white balance was still started it at the same place as the first shot, but using the nuetral patches on the color checker and the white balance eyedropper in photoshop, we could get to the correct colors in about 5 seconds.

Total time, from initial draping to finished picture being uploaded to Ravelry? Less than 10 minutes. (And another 7 for this blog post. 🙂

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