Friday, May 17, 2013

Hard to believe, but even a photo from your smartphone can look incredible

I usually don't do "shout outs" but when one is in order, I do. And one is definitely in order in this case.

The family all got together Mother's Day weekend to celebrate my mom's birthday and while sitting outside around the pool with the girls, the youngest of the group (my 10 week old niece) got propped up for her first "tummy time" outside by the pool. I only had my iPhone with me and not my "big gun" camera. I had to take advantage of the moment because the light was great and the subject adorable.

Once I was back home, I decided to try my hand at making the casual shots look like studio shots. I turned to my handy arsenal of tools comprised of:
I cropped the shot and then started to work on getting rid of the icky background. I'm not a fan of masking in Photoshop because the edges often look unnatural. I prefer to step into the taboo world of "destructive editing" where I erase with a soft-edged brush all along the edge of the subject. Yes, I know... it's "wrong". But I always work on a duplicate layer and never the original so I'm covered. 

After I erased away the background, I added two of Kim Klassen's textures as layers underneath--"Life is Good" and "Isobel" (flipped over so the dark edge was down) from her Downton II Collection. I took each layer through a Gaussian blur filter so they looked like they were naturally blurred in the background of the photo. I reduced the opacity of the "Life is Good" layer to 30% and put it on top. Then on the "Isobel" layer, I painted in some shadows in a similar shade of blue as the "Isobel" texture with a soft brush set at 10% right along the edge of the pillow and the babies elbows.

With the background taken care of, I was able to focus on the subject and making sure she was in the best light possible. 

I saved my file first. Then I did "Save As..." and saved a copy of the file with a slightly different name. I worked off the  "Save As..." file from that point forward. I did this because in order to use Oh So Posh's PS actions (and most others) it is necessary to flatten the file which gets rid of all the layers. This is necessary because almost all actions look for a layer named "Background" to perform their "magic" on. When you flatten a file all the layers in that file are merged into one layer and that layer is automatically named "Background". I like to retain a copy of the file with all the layers in case I need to go back and perform more edits. 

So... I flattened the "Save As..." copy of the file...

... and then started running the actions I've purchased and loaded in the past.

I ran four actions in total on this particular photo. Oh So Posh's actions allow you to tweak a great deal so I tweaked where necessary. I used: 

"Innocence" at 100% opacity
"Sheer Beauty" at 80% opacity
"Barely There" at 80% opacity
"Wispy Pink" at 75% opacity

I saved the file. 

Then I performed another "Save As..." so I could retain a copy of the layered file and work from a copy that I could flatten in order to work with the final actions "Lovely Eyes" and "Twinkle Eyes". I flattened the new copy of the file as before, and ran the two final actions.

And that's how I turned a casual shot taken with my iPhone into a shot that looks like I had my "big gun".

Happy creating and remember...
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Friday, May 10, 2013

Take a plain cube vase and make it special for Mother's Day

Simple cube vases are quite inexpensive and a great staple to have around for floral arrangements. But what if you want to dress one up for a special occasion or holiday?

I dug into my stash of scrapbooking paper and paper punches and constructed this fun solution following these simple steps:

  1. I cut out four frames from a pretty colored card stock that would coordinate with the flowers that would be in the vase. For mine, I used a Sizzix Bigz die cutting frame (654446), but it isn't essential to use that equipment to achieve the same effect. You can even cut out the frames with scissors.
  2. I taped each of the frames end-to-end on the back with scotch tape.
  3. I taped together the ends of the end-to-end chain of frames to form a "box" of frames that slides nicely over the top of the cube vase.
  4. To embellish one of the frames for the front of the arrangement, I took one of the centers that had been cut out of one of the frames and used my other paper cutting equipment to make fancy corners. You can do those by hand with scissors too. I just happen to have some fun hand-punches.
  5. I cut out a smaller square out of white paper and embellished it with fancy paper punches then tape it on the front of the purple square using double-sided adhesive tape.
  6. I found a decorative font on my computer (I used "Romantiques" that's a free download at
  7. In a simple MSWord document (any word processing software works), I typed out the word "Mother" in the font type I chose and made it a pretty shade of purple.
  8. I printed out the type onto purple paper using my inkjet printer.
  9. Using scissors, I freehand cut around the shapes of the letters without getting too close to the printing.
  10. I stuck adhesive pearl embellishments I had in my stash (I got mine at the craft store) on each letter (the wider letters got more than one pearl).
  11. I stuck a couple evenly spaced foam adhesive squares (also from the craft store) on the back of the "mother" cut-out and stuck it to the front of the glued squares at an angle.
  12. I stuck foam adhesive squares to the back of each corner of the whole front decoration and stuck it on the vase sleeve frame at an angle.
  13. For an added touch, I hot-glued simple pearl beading trim in little swags around the top edge of the vase sleeve.
  14. At the apex of each swag of pearl trim, I hot-glued a single tiny silk flower pulled from its stem (I got a whole sprig at the dollar store).
  15. As an added touch, after I placed the flowers in the center of the vase (using a floral frog is great for getting the look I got) I filled the vase with white liquid marbles and added submersible LED lights to make it glow from the inside.

Voila! I created a removable sleeve vase to doll up the plain glass cube vase for a special occasion. What's great is, I can do the same thing for other holidays and seasons and use the same vase over and over.

Happy creating and remember...
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