Tuesday, March 29, 2011

MCP Actions

The MCP Actions blog is celebrating their 1,000th post!  I've enjoyed following that blog over the past couple of years.  I would say the post that was most pivotal for me was the Soft Proofing post by guest blogger Phillip Mackenzie.  When I was first learning Photoshop, one of the aspects I really struggled to wrap my head around was colour management.  This blog post gave me one of the first "a-ha!" moments regarding this confusing realm.  I even linked to it in this blog post.

Thanks, Jodi, for providing photographers with valuable information for the last 1,000 posts.  Here's to 1,000's more!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Embrace the Flash!

A lot of people prefer to term themselves as "natural light photographers" since they don't use flash in their photography.  Natural light does afford dramatic colours and creamy, natural colours.  However, there are times when flash is just necessary.  If you call yourself a professional, you need to be able to provide a light source if you come into a situation where you really need one.

The pop-up flash on your camera body just doesn't cut it.  It's head on (casting harsh shadows behind your subject) and virtually impossible to manipulate.  An external flash is the way to go - look on kijiji or craigslist for one if you can't buy it new.

OK, so you have your flash now.  But what in the world do you do with it now?

For on camera flash techniques, this book comes highly recommended by many photographers:  On Camera Flash Techniques for Digital Wedding and Portrait Photography by Neil van Niekerk.  I personally have not read it yet, but I am eagerly awaiting it's arrival to my mailbox (my local library didn't have it - booooo).

For off camera flash techniques, there are lots of great online resources.  Have a look around YouTube or read this fantastic series of how-to articles at Inspire Me Baby:
Off Camera Flash, Baby!: Lesson 1, Get You Flash Off Your Camera!!!
Off Camera Flash, Baby!: Lesson 2, Exposure
Off Camera Flash, Baby!: Ambient Light

MCP Actions Blog also just ran a great series on flash (both on and off camera):
PART 1: Flash, the natural light photographers “dirty word”
PART 2: What Equipment You Need to Get Your Flash Off Your Camera
Part 3: Control Light and Get the Look You Want Using a Flash
Part 4: Ready To Start Shooting With a Flash? Here’s Where to Start!
Part 5: Avoid the “Flashy Look” ~ Learn To Use Fill Flash

Another excellent source for off camera lighting techniques is Strobist's blog.

For Nikon users, there is the Creative Lighting System you can use to get your flash off camera without the use of Pocket Wizards or third party triggers.  Here is a great article by Scott Bourne outlining how to do this.

Enjoy learning and experimenting!

And just for fun, here are some I took today as I was experimenting:
Danielle before lunch:

Rachel & Danielle after lunch. They had Zoodles. Can you tell? :)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


OK, so you bought Photoshop.  And you want to get straight on to editing your photos all nice and pretty.  But where do you start?

**DISCLAIMER: Before buying any action sets, always make sure they are compatible with your version of photoshop, especially if you are buying for photoshop elements.  There are photoshop action sets that cannot work in PSE.**

The first place I would send you is The Coffeeshop.  Rita has a host of free actions from Photoshop and Photoshop Elements users.  For actions specifically for editing photos, see the "Retouching" section.

After you've downloaded those actions, watch the second video on this page of tutorials by Kylie Banks entitled "Deconstructing Actions."  This will help teach you how to use actions to teach you specific aspects of Photoshop, for free!

Once you are more comfortable and are ready for something more, it will be time to maybe purchase some actions.  There are actions for may different things, from basic retouching steps to creative editing to preparing images for the web.

For retouching actions, I can recommend My Four Hens.  She has two sets called The Photographer's Tool Box and The Photographer's Tool Box II that will get you well on your way.  For $16 each, they are a steal!

Another retouching set I can recommend is The Essentials by Paint the Moon.  This set will definitely cover all the basics.

If you are a Photoshop power user, you will have a regular editing workflow that perhaps could be more automated.  Then you'll want to look for actions that have specific purposes for your workflow.  For power users, you cannot go wrong with any of the sets from MCP Actions or Totally Rad Actions.  Both are very pricey, but very high quality, time-saving action creators.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Focal Length

Do you have a zoom lens on your dSLR and want to know more about the different focal lengths?  Focal length can make a big difference in portrait making.  Generally speaking, a longer focal length is more flattering.  Here is a great article from the MCP actions blog about focal length, which includes some great examples for us visual learners!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Textures AGAIN

Well, you all know how much I love textures:) I just came across another great tutorial on applying textures to your images in photoshop.

And, just for fun, here are two recent favourite images with textures applied:

Thursday, May 13, 2010

De-mystifying Lenses

I was asked a while ago to do a post about lenses (don't worry, I didn't forget, Jody!) but haven't made time for it yet. I just came across a great article that deals with some basic lens knowledge that you might find helpful --> HERE.

As for personal preference, I like the 28-70mm f/2.8 zoom. It is a versatile lens, and affords me the much-needed zoom capabilities with preschoolers. I also love the 50mm f/1.7 as it gives the really shallow depth of field (blurry background).

If money were no object, I would buy:
1. 24-70mm f/2.8 in the camera brand (i.e. Sony/Nikon/Canon - NOT a third party lens manufacturer brand like Tamron or Sigma, although these are still solid, cost effective alternatives).
2. 50mm f/1.2 or f/1.4 in the camera brand
3. 85mm f/1.4 in the camera brand

I will keep dreaming:)
Let me know if you have specific questions in the comments section!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Paint the Moon Textures

So, you all know I love textures. I don't buy many, but the ones I own, I LOVE. These are no exception. They are from Annie Manning of Paint the Moon, and it is the Texture One Set. They are high-res, high quality textures, and the icing on the cake is the amazing action set included. One action will help you apply the texture to your photo quickly and efficiently, and the other will allow you to brush away the texture from desired areas (like your subject) - without losing colour! A lot of times, a texture will change the colour (temperature) of your photo, especially once you use a blending mode on it. And then when you mask out your subject, it looks funny because the colour change is far less natural. This action is a HUGE time saver and it makes for a fabulous end result. By the way, you can also use these actions with any other textures you have.

Here are some before and afters for you to take a look at. Enjoy and make sure you check out Paint the Moon if you're in the market for textures or actions for Photoshop or Elements.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Getting Comfortable with Selections

I'm sure you've heard these words before: "oh, I'll just photoshop that out later." But how many of us can actually do a good job of that? That is why advanced selecting is a very good skill to acquire on your quest to becoming a photoshop "power user."

There are many ways to do this, but I suggest becoming friends with the pen tool. It's a tricky tool - probably one of the most difficult to master - but once you do, you won't go back. Here is a great YouTube tutorial on the pen tool. Elements does not have the pen tool, but the Magic Extractor tool can get you most of the way there.

And here is an example of how using advanced selection methods can take your photo from a snapshot to a work of art!
After cropping, selecting with the pen tool and using masks & cloning:

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Fix It Friday

Time for another edition of Fix It Friday (or in this case, Saturday).
Here is before:
Here is after:
I used actions from the MCP Actions "Bag of Tricks" set.
a)  Magic midtone lifter  - but changed it to an "s" curve to add a little more contrast while brightening it up.
b)  Magical clarity - masked out her hair and the dolls hair as it looked too "crunchy"
c)  Magical contrast  - lowest setting
d)  Magical color finder brush (vivid) - set my brush to 50% and brushed over everything except skin.  Then went over it again, brushing everything except skin & hair (also avoiding the doll's hair).
e)  Opened Patti Brown's Watercolor Vignette 2 texture from The Gallery Collection and desaturated it using a hue & saturation conversion layer.  Brought it onto the photo, resized and set the blend mode to soft light and masked out the girl with a soft brush at 100% opacity.
f)  Finished off with a texture from Emily Powers' Photology v.6 set.  I duplicated the texture.  The bottom one was set to hard light and 60% opacity.  Masked out the girl with a soft brush at 100% opacity.  The top one was set to soft light and 100% opacity.  Masked out the girl with a soft brush at 50% opacity.
g)  Then flattened the photo, and did a very slight sharpen.

That's all!  Thanks for visiting:)