Thursday, April 30, 2009

I Printed A Layout!

I don't usually print layouts. Not digital ones. I keep them in digital format. But Stitch had had an accident riding his motorcycle and was feeling a bit under the weather. I thought a copy of a layout that I'd made would cheer him up. Because I knew that Bill, who is also in the layout, would not like it if he didn't also get a copy, I printed two. My printer can't do 12 x 12 layouts, so I printed them at 8 x 8. I don't think the guys cared. They were thrilled.

All the elements and papers are from Wintry Blues, by Lie Fhung of Ztampf!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Fits and Starts

A victim of their own success? I dunno. But the 5.5" x 7" stamp protectors are getting difficult to come by. Everyone wants packages of them for the photo carousel and none of my local scrapping stores have any packages of them in stock. Hello? It's like going to a fabric store and not being able to find any needles, scissors or thread.

I had a 40% off coupon for the local scrapbooking store and there were no stamp protector pages in stock. Sigh.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Carousel Progress

Thank goodness for sketches! I'd been doing a few rather lousy layouts for the carousel and hadn't felt inspired to create many more. Then I looked back through earlier layouts and I remembered that using sketches and embellishments helps avoid lousy layouts. I want to go back and perk up those lousy layouts.

Yesterday I was able to complete 11 layouts! That's not to be sneezed at. The sketches really made a difference. I also put photos on some of the layouts that I'd created earlier. I'm still attempting to use up my stash and not buy any more paper scrapping items. I can't tell that I've put much of a dent in the paper pile, nor the drawers, boxes and albums full of embellishments. The layouts for the carousel are small.

I also find myself counting layouts frequently. I have got 36 protectors in the first section and I'm not going to move any around. Today, I should be able to finish off the first 72 layouts for the carousel and I will be 1/3 complete. Tomorrow, with a little luck, I'll get to a sale and pick up a few more page protectors.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Final Numbers

I have finally finished enough layouts on the 7 Gypsies Photo Carousel to come up with some numbers.

I am putting 35 page protectors on each of the three sections, for a total of 105 two-sided pages. That will be 210 layouts. My carousel will be full and balanced. A carousel with fewer pages, as in perhaps 30 or 25 per section would also be full and not skimpy. I'm on the side of almost, but not quite overstuffed. Since the page protectors come in sets of ten, I might squeeze in a few more, so I don't have extras to store.

I printed out photos that chronicle the two and a half years Bud and I have been together. I included pictures of our family and friends. I still need at least 8 more to fill the carousel and I have even printed out pictures from yesterday, when we were up in West Virginia, hiking around. I'm not worried. By the time I finish all the layouts and am looking for more photos, there will be plenty for me to choose from. The deer didn't make the cut and are not on the carousel.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Still Not Full

I have just printed out 94 more photos for the carousel. Because of the size, 5.5" x 7", there will be one photo per layout. My hubby had to learn to take photos, so in our early time together, there aren't a lot of pictures of either of us. I've gotten 2006 and 2007 printed out. If I add in the photos from 2009, the photo carousel will be full. I had been watching for sales and using coupons to get the page protectors, a few at a time. I will need a lot more.

Wow! Almost three years worth of photos to fill this carousel. And in 2008 and 2009, I got out the camera for almost every sneeze and hiccup. Mowing the lawn? I've got pictures of it. Making dinner? Sleeping on the sofa? Yup. I can't imagine trying to fill this carousel if I weren't such a shutterbug.

On a slightly different note, I'm realizing that there is one group of photos that I don't know where they are. I thought they were all on my external hard drive, but since I've gone through the sets, I haven't found them. They are probably on my back-up drive. At least they should be. I don't always keep every single photo on my external drive. But now that I've finally gotten them all organized, I know that there are some missing.

Off to West Virginia today. I'm hoping to get photos of rocks, trees and flowers, along with a few of people.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Printing Photos

Because I couldn't solve my file organization issue, I started to work on something completely different.

I sorted through my photos from meeting Bud forward and got them into year files, subdivided into events, and everything is filed by date and name of event. I pulled out copies of files that I wanted in my photo carousel and I'm printing them.

At least, I'm trying to print them. The problem I ran into was that I didn't use sequential numbering in my cameras at the time and I've got different photos with the same number/name. I can't select all the pictures that I want and put them into one directory or I'll overwrite them. Great. I only have to do the last five months of 2007.

We were really busy for that period, with house guests for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. I've got a lot of photos to print.

Finding Problem

I had been sorting my digital scrapping files by kit and it is now turning into trouble. When I need an eyelet, I have to dig through things to find it, because my files don't search well. They should, but it takes a lot of time. Drat. It is the external hard drive problem, as well as the sheer number of files I've now got. I'm thinking about the problem. I might want to have some files in two places, so I can find them by type.

The other problem is that I scrap for men more often than not, and there just isn't a lot of stuff out there that isn't ribbons, roses and lace.

I've been haunting the Previews pages, seeking designers that don't to the average stuff. No luck.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Cropping Tonight!

I'll be heading off to the GNO (Girls Night Out)crop at Angela's tonight. Good fun. I'll take my motorcycle, as I'll be doing a digital crop. I really like not having to haul loads of supplies and tools when I go cropping. I'm uploading last night's photos to play with, too. There was a farewell party for our favorite waitress at Bike Night.

What could be better, than to be preparing to do something you like with a bunch of people that you like? Happy, happy me.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


This layout is my version of one that Lie Fhung of Ztampf! created to showcase her kit, Burnin'Love. The flames for the photo shape were a mask. The mask came with the kit, and I had to work with it a bit to learn how to size and align the photo the way I wanted.

A mask is a way to hide or reveal part of your image. You can also use a mask to hide or reveal part of your image to the adjustment tool you are using, like color or exposure adjustment. In that case, you'd be using a masked adjustment layer. Most of the time, you want to add your mask as a separate layer so you can edit the mask and work with more or less of your image without editing the image itself.

There are several types of masks. The layer mask shows up as black, on a white or transparent background. The mask that came with Burnin' Love was black on a transparent background. A vector mask is gray, not black. A vector mask is one that you can scale to any size with no loss of detail. The quick mask shows up as pink that you can see through. If you can't see it because your image is already pink, you can set a different color for the quick mask.

To create a mask you have many options. You can also change one type of mask into a different type of mask. But usually, you start with a selection. The marching ants are great, but they are temporary. One mouse click on the image outside the selection and you have nothing. To save that selection so you can work with it, you need to convert it to a mask. To make things really interesting, don't forget that you can change a mask into a selection as well. But try to think of selections as temporary and masks as persistent.

What used to confuzzle the dickens out of me was that I was never sure if the area covered by the mask would be affected or if the area not covered by the mask would be affected. The correct answer is, "It depends." In general, you make sure that the layer mask is the active layer. Then use a paintbrush to paint with black to hide parts of your image or paint with white to reveal parts of the image.

To use a mask that you just downloaded, you want to open the mask in Photoshop as a separate document, then select all and copy. Go to your layout and turn on the Quick Mask mode. Then paste in the mask. Transform or edit the mask to make it the size you want and make sure that it is positioned where you want it. Exit Quick Mask mode and you'll have marching ants instead of the mask. Make sure the layer you want the mask to affect is active and then click on the Add Layer Mask icon at the bottom of the layers palette. Poof! You are done!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Learning Curve

If something is very hard at first, the learning curve is said to be steep. I thought that digital scrapping would have a steep learning curve. I flattened the curve and made it easier by going slowly. I also had a lot of general computer skills. I didn't need to learn how to create a file structure to store my files, or even how to click and drag a mouse. I had a base to start with. The skills from one area support skills for another.

When I look back on my first digital layouts, I have no desire to do them over and correct my beginner mistakes. There's nothing wrong with making beginner mistakes when you are a beginner. If I could not look back and see progress, then I'd start to worry.

Here's one of my early layouts. I was making an almost exact copy of a paper layout from a Club Scrap plan. I was also using all Club Scrap digital paper. I was thrilled that I could cut shapes and create drop shadows. Putting in text was not easy, but I could do it. The text isn't centered, but that was beyond me at the time. I remember having difficulty centering things and having to figure out how to use a grid to line things up.

This is one of the layouts I recently completed. I'm not thrilled with the feathered edges in all areas, but I know the contrast from photo to background paper is such that I can't get it perfectly the way I'd like. Aligning the text was easy. So were drop shadows. The papers and embellies are from Teri Hanson's American Soldier kit. I desaturated one paper and decreased the opacity when I placed it over a fill layer to create a background in the green that I wanted. Teri only provided that pattern in blue. I used a section of another paper and made it a bit less opaque for the eagle. I don't think of this layout as a fancy one, though.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Developing a Style

I was cropping digitally at a friend's house on Friday and she commented that I was developing my own digital style. I agreed. There are a lot of things that I don't know how to do digitally, and I'm slowly working on that, but I'm no longer just making digital copies of paper layouts. I'm making digital layouts.

Was that my original plan? Nope. I just wanted to be able to play on my computer and make layouts. At first, I worked to learn the basics of Photoshop. That was difficult enough that all I really wanted to do was stick to what I knew, design wise, which was paper layouts. Adding a completely different style was out of the question.

Once I had a few basic skills in Photoshop, I could easily create a copy of a paper layout in a digital form. A drop shadow here and there, and my layouts were complete. I was using 'paper' in the way that I knew, only via my computer.

Then I started learning digital techniques like feathering edges and warping shapes. I learned how to use masks and brushes. Since I knew how to do that, it only made sense to include them in my layouts. They are becoming digital layouts, not digital copies of a paper layout.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

8 Bit, 16 bit, Who Gives a Bit?

You have a choice of working in 16 bit or working in 8 bit with your photos. The advice I just read was to work in 16 bit. Why? To prevent lost data. There were histograms from a photo that was originally shot in 16 bit and then taken down to 8 bit and edited and then brought back to 16 bit. Hmmm. The histogram for the photo edited in 8 bit looked like they'd taken a smooth curve, sliced it into strips and then spread it out over twice the space. But they hadn't filled in between the strips. It looked like there was a lot of data missing and that's exactly what had happened. There was no way to fill in between the strips by guessing or calculating based on nearby data. There's just too much information that was lost.

But, on the other hand, the finished files are twice the size in 16 bit that they are in 8 bit. If you have a slow computer, working in 16 bit will be slower than working in 8 bit. (But if you have a slow computer, you are already resigned to a less than speedy result.) And there are "some functions in Photoshop" that are not available in 16 bit. That's from a different author, but he doesn't list the functions that are not available.

Now, looking at the actual photo, the average person is not going to be able to tell if you worked in 16 bits or 8 bits. Currently, no digital cameras actually work at greater than 14 bits, so you aren't actually working with 16 bits of data in the first place.

I have a fast computer, my camera shoots in 14 bits and I don't use all the functions in Photoshop. So, I'm going to do what I can in 16 bit and see how that works out.


In my slogging through files to burn backup CDs of digiscrapping files, I discovered two zipped files that I'd never unzipped! I downloaded them and I hadn't ever used them. I hadn't even prepped them to be used!

When I get files from Ztampf! I tend to download a lot of files at one time. I go to my wish list and I put files from the wish list into my basket until I reach the dollar amount I've set. I know I'm getting files that I want, but I don't always remember all the different files. Sometimes I write down a list and then I check off the files as I unzip them and tag them for use. But I must have skipped these somewhere.

I'll change how I track what I've bought, so I don't do that again. I've heard that many shoppers find themselves purchasing and downloading files a second or even third time. I haven't done that yet and I hope I never do.

Computer Maintenance

I'm late this month, but my excuse is that I was on the road. I like to do a monthly check that my files are correctly and completely backed up, that they are organized and that I've run an actual, complete scan. Do I trust automated schedules? Most of the time, but if you are on the road and your computer hasn't been turned on 24/7, the automated scans might not have run.

So, I run a manual scan and a manual check of my patches and updates. Then I make sure I've done a backup, and I'm happy.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Carousel Progress

It's slow. This thing is so incredibly huge a project that I don't have photos enough to fill it. Not yet. I'd thought to do layouts from the year 2008 and fill it. I selected a sampling of photos from 2008 and got them printed out. I'm done through August of 2008. The spinner will be about 1/3 full when 2008 is done.

OK, time to go back through and get photos selected from 2007. I can do that. But I need to purchase more paper to print them on. Sigh. It never ends. 2007 won't fill the spinner, though. I'll need to include photos from 2006, as well as some from 2009. And then I'm going to stop. The spinner will be declared to be full at that point. I don't care if it is or isn't. I've got to draw the line somewhere.

I also discovered something else. If I put in a layout that's a special thing, like a piece of cardboard cut to the right size, the spinner does not open as I think it should. The cardboard doesn't have a hinge where it should for the pages to be as easily visible.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Weekend Away

Bud and I spent the weekend either driving to NC, or sitting around a hotel room in NC, keeping Will company. The guys watched TV. I tried to ignore the high volume they set and work on layouts. It isn't as much fun without my dual monitor setup, but I managed to finish four layouts, even with the programs' annoying laugh tracks.

The good news was that I was able to work in the truck for a little bit, as I finally have an inverter that will power my laptop. It will live in the truck and not in my laptop case, as I don't need it if I'm not in the truck.

Saturday, April 11, 2009


When you go to the 'image size' pop-up in Photoshop, you'll often see a bunch of options that you don't understand. You know you should choose something that will make your image look good, but you aren't sure which one will work better. Here's what is happening.

When Photoshop changes the size of an image, it doesn't just randomly delete or insert pixels. It takes a look at the pixels surrounding the pixel to be deleted, or the space where one will be added and makes a decision based on what the surrounding pixels look like. If you are using bicubic, the pixels to each side, above and below, and even the diagonal pixels are factored into the decision. That will give you the best result. Your other options are Nearest Neighbor and Bilinear Interpolation. Bilinear is faster than Bicubic, but you won't get as good a result. Nearest Neighbor is good if you are working with relatively small images that you want to scale larger and you don't want to lose detail. Imagine a screen capture of an icon that you want to have just a little larger. Nearest Neighbor will be a good choice.

There are other options as well. You can choose Bicubic Smoother or Bicubic Sharper. Smoother is suggested by Photoshop, but it's better to use Bicubic Sharper if you are reducing your pixel resolution to make your image smaller. It retains detail and sharpness. If you are making your image larger, you want to use Bicubic Smoother, to avoid inadvertent 'pixelation' of your image. You'll have that anyway, but it will be reduced. I think of Bicubic Smoother as being able to smooth out the stairstepping of a diagonal line. It helps me remember which one I want to use. Stairstepping isn't ever an issue when you are going smaller.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

What is RAW?

Photographers talk about 'shooting in RAW' and non-photo nuts can only think about a lack of clothing. Nope, that's not it. RAW is a format for digital graphics files with no formatting. If you are taking photos and they are .jpg format, the camera has made some edits to your photo, before you even see it. Someone at the camera factory made decisions on how much data to save, how to tweak the photo to capture the 'most important' information and how to make it look 'better.' But photographers don't always like those decisions. They want to be able to decide what data to save and what to toss. What does some programmer know about photography?

Because there haven't been any decisions made on what data to save and what to toss, RAW files are many times larger than the same photo in .jpg, even .jpg super fine and mega huge. And Olympus RAW isn't quite the same as Nikon RAW. Each camera manufacturer does slightly different things to the data to turn it into a file. And they have changed it over the years. There is a big push to move to a standard for RAW, so photographers don't need to save a 6 year old computer, running 6 year old software, to open a file that they took 6 years ago. But RAW is so useful that you shouldn't let that deter you from using it now.

What do you do with a RAW file? First off, you get it onto a hard drive and backed up onto a second hard drive. That's what you should be doing for ALL of your photos. Hard drive space is cheap. Make a backup copy!

Once you've saved your file, you aren't going to be able to do anything to that RAW file. HUH? Let me explain. When you edit a .jpg and save the changes, the .jpg file actually changes. You can't change a .jpg back to it's exact, original state. But with a RAW file, when you make edits, you are creating a separate file with a list of changes. That file and the original RAW file are opened together, and it will look like you changed the RAW file. But the list of changes, often called a 'sidecar' is not permanently changing the original RAW file. If you don't like your changes, you can go back to the original and start over. We still talk about making changes to a RAW file, because it is too weird to say, "Make changes by creating or editing a sidecar file."

You are not stuck with trying to keep track of your RAW files and your sidecar files when you are done with your edits. You can create a .jpg of your beautifully edited shot and use that. Just use your 'save as' function and select .jpg. That RAW file and the sidecar can sit quietly on the hard drive while you send the .jpg file off to the photography contest.

What kinds of changes can you make to a RAW file? Pretty much the same type of changes you can make to a .jpg, or any other type of graphics file. You can change colors, crop, brighten, sharpen, apply filters, adjust tones and so on. But the original file is safe. You can't damage it by accident with your edits. You can also make many adjustments that the camera might try to make, and you can make those adjustments extremely precisely. You can't take a badly exposed RAW file and turn it into a decent exposure. There are still limits on what you can do.

One such adjustment is light balance. You know, that setting for daylight, indoor light, partial shade, cloudy or flash? The one you always forget to set and get blue or orange people? That's the one. If you've got a mix of daylight from a big window and fluorescent light in the kitchen, your camera is going to have trouble with the white balance. It might be close, but it won't be perfect. Fluorescent is 3800, and daylight is 5500. Using RAW image manipulation software, you can set the light balance to be exactly what you want and not some preset or an incorrect, automatic guess. Take a sample from an area that should be off white, if you can find it. If not, adjust so skin tones are correct.

An adjustment that I love to use is fill flash. When I take a photo of my niece, Chrissy, if I don't use a fill flash, her face will be in shadow. It's a combination of her hairdo, her height, and her skin tone. To make Chrissy look like Chrissy, I adjust in a bit of fill flash and she doesn't ever have red eye and her face looks like it should.

What software can you use to edit RAW files? Your camera might have come with software for RAW included, or you might have to purchase the software from the camera manufacturer. For the home user, they are fine, but for a professional photographer, they don't do enough and they are slow. The one that I'm learning is Photoshop CS3. It isn't critical that your software be the best available. Use what you can get your hands on.

Another Reference!

OK, I found another Photoshop reference text. This one is "Adobe Photoshop CS3 for Photographers" by Martin Evening. This one blows any Scott Kelby reference for Photoshop right out of the water. Scott Kelby is a really skilled amateur photographer. Martin Evening is a pro. There is a world of difference. It shows. I've never been able to get a decent set of directions for the RAW handling in CS3.

Using the first few pages from the chapter on RAW, I've just opened a set of files from Bridge, set the white balance and set them all to save as .jpg files, with a numbered sequence appended, so I won't confuse them with the original .jpg files. I'm thrilled I tell you, thrilled. Yes, many of the photos need further editing, but the worst of it is done. I'm setting up a directory of pics to be burned to a CD for my brother in law and then I'm going to pat myself on the back again.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Was I Complaining?

I'm in Phoenix, at my sister's house. She's got three kids, all very photogenic. One plays baseball, one dances, the third is just a miniature Mr. Muscles. I'm taking upwards of 150 photos a day.

Was I complaining that I didn't have pictures to scrap? Hah! I've got more pictures than I can shake a stick at and no time to go find a stick to shake. It's a good thing I was more or less caught up with my digital scrapping before I got on the plane tot come out here and it's also a good thing that I'm only staying for a week.