Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
- An easily downloadable JPG for printing (Click here for the 150 dpi Printable Collage Sheet)
- A higher res PNG with a transparent background for easy digital cropping
- A layered TIFF available with objects on separate layers for maximum edit-ability (like if someone wants to remove the title "Green Plaid & Pink Roses" from the pink frame to have a blank tag to play with). (Click here for either the PNG or TIFF 300 dpi Digital Collage Sheet)
Thursday, August 25, 2011
Since the increase in the popularity of recreating the look of vintage photos (e.g., Polaroids), the square cropped photo has increased in popularity as well. The square crop can really make a huge difference in a shot that would otherwise have less impact compositionally.
IMPORTANT TIP: To proportionally resize a photo ALWAYS hold down the Shift key and only pull on the resizing boxes in the corners. You will avoid a distorted photo this way. No more photos that look like they were taken in a carnival fun house.
"The rule of thirds is a compositional rule of thumb in visual arts such as painting, photography and design. The rule states that an image should be imagined as divided into nine equal parts by two equally-spaced horizontal lines and two equally-spaced vertical lines, and that important compositional elements should be placed along these lines or their intersections. Proponents of the technique claim that aligning a subject with these points creates more tension, energy and interest in the composition than simply centering the subject would." Wikipedia
Saturday, August 20, 2011
in the helpful glossary of photographic terminology definitions
Click on the word and you'll be taken to the glossary
"Photographic serendipity" is a phrase I've coined to describe what happens when me and my camera are in the right place at the right time. It also describes the phenomenon of my camera capturing something that my natural eyes don't see. And the term also encompasses the instances when a photographic "mistake" actually yields something I like.
The latter is what happened when I shot the above photograph in winter 2009. I was out in the garden, enjoying a weird January heatwave and taking some shots of the few blossoms that were around. The orange and yellow gazanias (a native flower of South Africa that grows well here in the San Francisco Bay Area of California) were in bloom. Low to the ground and planted among rocks and other protectors, these stalwarts often bloom at odd times during the winter when everything else is dormant.
I was shooting the orange gazanias when I realized that I wanted to get some good "bokeh"* shots of the flowers. In order to create a shallow depth of field*, I switched my camera to a setting where the aperture* setting was dominant over everything else. Well, apparently in doing so, it also overrode any automatic white balance* adjustment my camera would perform which meant that since I was shooting in a slightly shady area of the garden, everything in the background behind the orange flower that was normally made up of greens and russet burgundy tones turned blue!
When I first looked at the photos in preview mode on the back of my camera, I thought, "Well, those are throw-away shots." Fortunately, I have learned to not delete shots in the camera and wait until I get them back to the computer to toss out rejects. When I got back to the computer and looked at the shot bigger on my computer monitor, I realized that the white balance* "problem" was actually "photographic serendipity".
The first thing that crossed my mind was that the orange gazania had a perfect backdrop of blue. The reason it is the perfect backdrop is that orange and blue are complementary colors.
A quick color theory lesson from my art school days
Every color has a perfect complementary color. Complementary color pairs are determined by the simple circular color wheel. Colors that are directly opposite each other on a circular color wheel are a complementary pair. In a very simple color wheel there are the following complementary pairs: orange and blue; red and green; yellow and violet.
The human eye likes looking at complementary colors together. Why? Because the human eye is the most comfortable when it can see the presence of all three primary colors (red, yellow and blue) in the same composition. The only way this happens when viewing just two colors is for one of the two colors to be a mixture of two primary colors. Orange is a mixture of red and yellow. Green is a mixture of blue and yellow. And violet is a mixture of blue and red. When one of these mixed colors is viewed with its perfect complement from the opposite side of a circular color wheel, the human eye just loves it and tells the brain, "Ahhhh... I like what I'm seeing right now. Everything is right with this picture."
Now back to my photograph
When I saw this "mistake" of a photograph up on the computer screen I realized that if I could brighten the oranges and deepen the blues, I could possibly have a really cool image on my hands because it was a perfect complementary color composition.
With the color adjustment features in Photoshop, I was able to pump up the orange tones from the original image that came straight out of the camera ("SOOC" is the acronym). But it also made the blues a little greener than the original, lessening the complementary color impact.
Then I got the idea that I should try using one of my Photoshop actions* on it.
I only have a few Photoshop actions in my arsenal. One is to make a photo look like it was shot with a Lomo camera*. I happen to have a few Lomo actions that were free downloads. So I used one of my Photoshop actions that fakes the "lomo effect", and then the image really popped with the blue deepening behind the relatively untouched brilliance of the orange.
As happens with a lot of my photographic work, if I stare at it too long I begin to doubt my own judgment. So I asked Hubby to come take a look. His reaction of "WOW! I think that is my favorite photograph you've done of all time!" was confirmation that I had done the right thing by following my instincts.
So next time you think you've got a "mistake" photograph on your hands, you might want to take a second or third look at it. You could actually have a perfect candidate for a bit of "photographic serendipity".
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Then I duplicated that photo layer as a safeguard by right-clicking on the new layer and selecting "Duplicate Layer" like this:
I always work with the duplicate layer from this point on so that I've got my original photo to revert back to if need be.
Why did I choose this texture? Notice how the aqua blue color compliments the color of the wall in the original photo. All those little grainy elements in the old book paper are another reason I chose the texture. Textures like this can make a photo look like a pastel drawing if applied the right way. Finally, the brownish aged edges of the paper will create an awesome vignette (soft frame) around the edges of the photo.
NOTE: Because I used the "Place" command to import the texture, that layer is a static "smart object". In order to make it an editable layer, I need to "rasterize" it. "Rasterize" is just a fancy term for the act of converting the little bits of digital data into something that can be manipulated. I rasterize the texture layer by right-clicking that layer in the layers controls and selecting "Rasterize Layer".
Next is the part I love most. I selected the eraser tool and in my eraser options and chose a soft edged brush like one of the airbrushes. I reduced the opacity of the eraser to 10-20%.
Using gentle drawing strokes on the texture layer, I started erasing away the texture in shadows I could see in the photograph peeking through from beneath. In this technique, each stroke erases away slightly more of the texture layer to reveal the details of the photograph underneath. I focused my eraser strokes on the shadows, highlights and edges of the flowers and vase the most with less erasing on the background elements.
Dodging and burning
Monday, August 15, 2011
- A photograph of fruit
- Photoshop CS3 (any version of Photoshop or Photoshop Elements will work)
- A scan of an old piece of paper (I used a free download called "Torn" from a flickr friend)
- A Wacom 12" Cintiq digital tablet and stylus (Since I was trained as a hands-on artist before being a digital artist, the stylus and tablet feels more natural to me. But if you have fantastic mouse skills, a mouse works just as well.)
I select a photo of fruit that I think is a good candidate for use with a texture. It doesn't have to be a perfect photo. I usually use my "second string" photos and they turn out the best. Sometimes an out of focus photo works great. I pay more attention to whether the photo is composed the way I'd like it to look in the final art.
I chose this one because it looked like it would work nicely...
Open up Photoshop and get to work
I open from photo file from within Photoshop (I use PS CS3)
Usually the photo will open as a flat file with only a background layer
In order to edit my photo, I right-click on the background layer in the layers menu and select "Layer From Background"
Now I duplicate that layer as a safeguard by right-clicking on the new layer and selecting "Duplicate Layer"
I always work with the duplicate layer from this point on so that I've got my original photo to revert back to if need be
Choose and adding a texture
I choose a texture that looks like it will compliment the photo. If it's a delicate photograph with light colors I'll use a lighter paper texture. If it's a deeper toned photograph like this one then I use a darker paper texture. With this one, I chose a nice tattered old paper texture from my flickr friend Renee called Torn (click here to see it and her other great old paper textures)
After downloading the texture onto my hard drive, I place it as a new layer into my current Photoshop document using the "Place" command in the File menu.
If necessary, I resize the texture layer so it covers the entire photograph. Think of the two layers as two separate pieces of paper with one laying on top of another. The texture layer doesn't erase the photograph layer. It's just laying on top of it like one piece of paper on another.
Using my layers controls again, I adjust the opacity of the texture layer to be more transparent so I can see my original photograph through it. Usually 50-70% opacity does the trick. Now it's like a piece of tracing paper over my photo.
Because I used the "Place" command to import the texture, that layer is a static "smart object". In order to make it an editable layer, I need to "rasterize" it. "Rasterize" is just a fancy term for the act of converting the little bits of digital data into something that can be manipulated. I rasterize the texture layer by right-clicking that layer in the layers controls and selecting "Rasterize Layer".
"Drawing" with the eraser
Now comes the artistic fun stuff.
I select the eraser tool and in my eraser options, I choose a soft edged brush like one of the airbrushes. I reduce the opacity of the eraser to 20% or less.
With the eraser tool, I begin making gentle drawing strokes on the texture layer where I can see the deepest shadows on the fruit in the photograph below. Each stroke erases away slightly more of the texture layer to reveal the photograph underneath. I focus my eraser strokes on the shadows, highlights and edges of the fruit the most with less erasing on the background elements like the leaves. This erasing process is a trial and error exercise. If I don't like something I've erased, I just undo that stroke and put it back. Little by little as the photographs more pronounced features show through the texture, it begins to look like a vintage print.
Once I've revealed enough of the photograph so I can see it through the texture layer, I adjust the opacity of the texture layer back up so it hides more of the photograph again.
I go back in with the eraser at about 10-20% opacity and continue to gradually erase away the texture layer to reveal the photograph underneath, making sure to leave enough of it so that the texture of the paper is still there. Only a few small spots end up having 100% of the texture erased away.
Dodging and burning
When I'm satisfied with the erasing results, I select the photograph layer (with the texture still visible on top of it), and using the dodge and/or burn tool with an airbrush setting at about 20%, I enhance some of the shadows with the dodge tool and some of the highlights with the burn tool. I do this ever so slightly on the main subject matter (i.e, the strawberries) so that it gets an illustrative feel to it. The lower opacity setting lets me do this gradually and finesse everything in like I want it.
The result ended up like this...
Remember, this is one of those artistic endeavors that gets better with practice. It took me a while to find my groove with what worked and what didn't. If you don't like what you've done, duplicate the original photograph and add a new texture layer on top of it to take another stab at it. Eventually, your technique will begin to take shape and you'll like the results.
The art photo of the strawberries shown above was the first photograph I created using this technique I created. Since then I've expanded my subject matter beyond fruit. And almost all of my art photos use the "drawing" with the eraser technique in them. With every photo I work on, I discover something new that I like or don't like. The creative process is like that. Don't give up and chalk up every creative endeavor as a learning experience.
Friday, August 12, 2011
My brother and his wife have an adorable purebred Shiba Inu puppy named Sachi. Shiba's are a Japanese breed so her name, Sachi, is a Japanese name that means "girl child of joy, bliss, happiness or good fortune". At 16 weeks old, Sachi lived up to her name in a big way! Although capturing video of her was pretty easy, getting portrait photos of her was a bit challenging.
To begin, I'll show you the shot SOOC ("straight out of the camera")...
Taking photos in indirect sunlight is good, but it can cause color issues. You can see there is a blue tint to the photo. This is caused by inappropriate white balance.
Clicking the shutter to take the shot with a digital camera is really only half the work. The other half happens once the shot is brought back to the computer and downloaded for post-processing.
So with a bit of color balance tweaking in our post-processing software of choice, look how you can bring the colors out of the blue range and back to what it looked like in person...
The next step is what I call "playing" with PS actions. Actions are a way for a Photoshop user to record a long list of steps they've performed so they can use them later or share them with others. I've collected a few actions from various users that share via their blogs or websites. I often will take a shot and run action after action on it to see the results I get--hence the term "playing". As long as I've saved the file up to the point that I start running actions, nothing is permanent and I can undo anything I don't like. It's really fun to watch the image as it goes through the action script and wonder how it will look when it's done.
For the shot above, I used the PS action "Soft Autumn Glow" by Rita at Coffee Shop Photography. I really like Rita's actions because Rita writes her actions so that the layers aren't merged once the script is done. That way I can go back and tweak any layer and customize for the specific image I'm working with.
For the shot above, I used Omar the Radwan's "Lomo Effect" action (another fave resource of mine). His lomo effect action always produces a cool, dramatic, and edgy look. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. I never know until I run the action. [If you're wondering what the "lomo effect" is, click here for a great wikipedia write-up.]
There are many wonderful PS action creators out there with lots of fun "toys". Some charge a fee for their actions while some offer them for free. Those that offer them for free are being extremely generous. Don't assume that you should get everything for free. The particularly intricate and involved actions are worth the money because of all the time and effort the designer put into creating them. Make sure to only download free actions from creators that intended to offer them for free. Otherwise, you are cheating an artist out of what is rightfully theirs--compensation for their talent and vision. Despite my skills in post-processing photos, I have yet to create a PS action script of my own and probably never will simply because it requires a unique talent to do so.