Monday, January 31, 2011


Tip #31. The History panel is your friend. Instead of using ‘undo’ click on a line entry in the history panel. If you went back too far, you can always click on a different entry in the list. As long as you are just clicking and looking, all of your possible choices are available, with the actions after the one you have gone back to in fainter text. As soon as you start working again, what you undid will be really gone.

Sunday, January 30, 2011


Tip #30. Save. Save early and often. Just finished a fiddly bit and got it perfect? Don’t sit there and admire it, save it! Then, admire all you want. The keyboard shortcut to save is Command or Control and an s. To Save as, add a shift, so it's an S.

Saturday, January 29, 2011


Tip #29. Photoshop wants you to use the same light source for all of the drop shadows you add to an image. That’s the little ‘Use Global Light’ checkbox in the Layer Style Drop Shadow pop-up window. It’s checked by default. This means that unless you un-check that box, all of your drop shadows will fall the same way. If you adjust the angle of the light for one drop shadow, Photoshop will make the same change to all of the drop shadows in that image. It looks odd to have a cup casting a shadow to the left, while the pitcher on the table next to it casts a shadow to the right. This will happen if you use some elements that come with drop shadows and add your own shadows to other elements. The pre-shadowed elements cannot be managed by Photoshop.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Just Do It

For a long time, I've not felt comfortable with adjusting areas of photos using masks. I felt I had to understand the process a lot better before I started using it. As far as I knew, I had to paint with black and it would show up pink to show what I did NOT want to change, I had to create a new layer, click on a button I could never remember the location of, and do it all in the right order! Ugh. I'd try it, get frustrated and not want to try it again for a while.

In CS5, the creation of an adjustment layer is automatic. It isn't a separate process. I was just dinking around with a graphic while I watched Dave Cross as he demonstrated the difference between selections and masks. I got it. They made it so easy that even I can do it. I can now create an adjustment layer and mask the area I don't want to have adjusted.

People often tell me that they are 'just fine' with an older version of an application. But when the new version makes tasks that you didn't want to tackle into something easy, I can't understand not updating.


Tip #28. Just because you made a selection on one layer it does not mean that you must perform an action on that layer. For example, you can select the pixels of a shape. Then you can create a new layer and fill the area with a solid color. Or make a different layer active and delete the area that is inside the selection.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


Tip #27. When you want to select an entire object you can do it using the layers panel. Just make the layer with the object on it active and then Control-click or right-click with your cursor over the graphic for that layer, and choose Select Pixels. Everything that is on that layer will be selected.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Tip #26. It is easy to move an area or object that you have selected. Just press and hold the Command or Control key. When you click inside the area and drag, what you have selected will move. Or you could use the arrow keys, if you just want to nudge it a pixel or three.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Tip #25. There’s usually more than one way to do anything in Photoshop. Some folks like to use menus, some folks like to use keyboard shortcuts, and others prefer panels. If you can remember it and it got you the results you wanted, then that’s your way of doing things and that’s OK. If you find a different way and you like it better, that’s OK, too.

Monday, January 24, 2011


Tip #24. If you are in the middle of doing something and you want to zoom in, just zoom in. Your tool won’t change into something else and start doing what you didn’t want. You can also press the space bar (if you aren’t making a selection) and move your image over to where you can see what you are doing, too. Yep, right in the middle of painting a mask, you can adjust what you are looking at!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Photoshop Tip of the Day

Tip #23. If you are in the middle of drawing a selection, and you want to make that selection move over a bit, press the Space bar. While you are pressing it, the selection moves instead of changes size or shape. This is amazingly useful when you are trying to get an Ellipse to be in exactly the right place and exactly the right size. You can press the space bar, move it a bit, enlarge it or reduce it , move it some more and keep doing this until it is just right.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Photoshop Tip of the Day

Tip #22. There are keyboard shortcuts for adjusting selections. If you press the Option (Mac) or the Alt (PC) key, you will Subtract from the selection. Pressing the Shift key will add to the selection. Pressing BOTH keys will give you the intersection of the two selections. Press and hold the key(s), and then click and drag to create a selection, then release the key(s) after you are done.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Photoshop Tip of the Day

Tip #21. Once you have made a selection, you can add to it, subtract from it or even go back and forth, adding here, subtracting there. You can indicate if you are going to add or subtract by clicking on the pictures of shapes that are at the left on the Status Bar. The first one on the far left is create a New selection, the second is Add to selection, the third is Subtract from the selection and the fourth on the far right is the Intersection of two selections.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Evaluating a light meter

This sounds like one of those horribly techno-gadget-geek-oddball-persnickety things to do to a camera. But it isn't really all that difficult. It's just a matter of taking a photo of an 18% gray card that should be well lit. Then you look at the photo in Photoshop and check that your RGB values are all relatively close to each other. You want all three numbers to be as close to 128 as possible. If your light meter is working correctly, when you are taking the photo, the camera will say it is 'just right' and then the photo will actually BE 'just right'. If your meter is reading incorrectly, the photo will be over or under exposed.

What can you do? You can set your exposure compensation to correct for this. Instead of it being 'neutral' at 0.0, it will be neutral at -0.3 or +0.3. To get a full stop of + compensation if your new neutral is +0.3, you will need +1.3 now.

If that drives you nuts, and I know it would send me right around the bend in short order, just set your ISO to be a tweak higher if your meter reads too high, (it thinks there is MORE light than there is), and to be a tweak lower if your meter reads too low (the meter thinks it is darker than it actually is).

Does this matter for shooting snapshots in natural light? Not really. When it matters is when you are in a studio with highly controlled light and fine tuning is desired. A little bit of shine goes a long way when you are talking about highlights for a portrait. And overexposed skin always looks lousy. In a studio, I would set my flashes differently to compensate for the metering issue.

Tip of the Day

Tip #20. When you are making selections with the Marquee Tools, take a look at the Status bar. There are three choices in the Style drop down box. If you select Normal, you will create a selection that has any dimensions for width and height. If you select Fixed Ratio, you will be able to create a selection that is any size, but it will always be the same in proportion. You have to enter the width and height that you want to the right of the Style option. If you were to select 4 for height and 6 for width, no matter how large or small an area you select, it will always have that 4x6 ratio. A 1 to 1 ratio will give you perfect circles or squares. If you select fixed size, you can enter a specific size. You can use ‘px’ for pixels, ‘in’ for inches, or ‘cm’, for centimeters. When you click on your image, a selection appears in marching ants that is the size you told it to be. This works for both the Rectangular and the Elliptical Marquee tools. For example, an image that I want to use as wallpaper for my laptop would be ‘1920 px’ in width and ‘1200 px’ in height if I’m using fixed size. If I’m using a ratio, it would be ‘8’ wide and ‘5’ high.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Photoshop Tip of the Day

I am going to get caught up, pretending that I started this for New Year's. I need to remind myself of these things, too. It's been too long since I used Photoshop for digital scrapping. I don't promise these tips will work for Elements, just Photoshop.

Tip #1. When you want to change quickly to the Move tool, press and hold the Command(Mac) or Control(PC) key as you click and drag your mouse. No letter needed, just that button by itself.

Tip #2. If you want the Move tool to automatically activate the layer of the object you click on (which is amazingly convenient) you must select the checkbox for Auto-Select that shows up on the left side of the status bar when the Move tool is active. Pressing Command or Control will not change the status bar. If you have it selected, then pressing Command or Control will allow you to use the Move tool with auto-select. This becomes a super quick way to make a layer the active one, without using the Layers Palette.

Tip #3. If you want to enlarge your active image to as large as possible inside the Image Window, press Command or Control and 0. That's a zero, not the letter 'o'.

Tip #4. If you want to zoom in, press Command or Control and the + key. I remember it as a 'plus' to make it larger. You don't have to use the shift to make it a +.

Tip #5. To zoom out, press the Command or Control key and the - key. Think of it a 'minus' to make it smaller. Again, no shift needed.

Tip #6. When you have zoomed in and you want to move your image to another area, press and hold the space bar. Whatever indicator you have will turn to a hand, and you can click and drag to move the image so a different area is visible.

Tip #7. The more a person uses keyboard shortcuts, the less time they spend moving the mouse all over the place. This makes Photoshop faster and more comfortable to use. Clicking on a menu, then choosing a sub-menu and selecting an option takes forever compared to pressing a few keys.

Tip #8. To create a copy of the layer that is active, press Command or Control and the letter 'j.'

Tip #9. Turn off that warning message about 'Are you sure you want to delete this layer?' That way, all you have to do is press the Delete key and poof! the layer is gone.

Tip #10. There are all kinds of complicated instructions available about how you can set points in your history so you can try different things and then revert to where you put the fork in the history. I do not do this. It's too difficult for me to remember. I simply 'save as' and use a descriptive name. I'd rather go looking for "Big Drop Shadows.psd" than try to remember which Drop Shadow in the history was large.

Tip #11. If you want to move something a teensy amount, use the arrow keys. The object will move one pixel at a time. Pressing Command or Control and tapping the arrow keys also works.

Tip #12. Pressing the Shift key will keep what you are doing in a straight line. If you are selecting, moving or transforming a thing, it will be a perfect square or circle, keep the same aspect ratio (it won't distort and become too fat or too thin)or will stay on a horizontal or vertical line.

Tip #13. To save the way you like Photoshop set up, with the panels and tabs and so on, go to Window | Workspace | New Workspace and give your set up a name that describes it. I have two, because when I'm doing digi-scrapping, I want different stuff visible than when I'm working with pictures from my camera. Sometimes I want Styles and sometimes I want adjustment layers.

Tip #14. Instead of killing yourself dragging panels here and there and trying to re-size them perfectly, try using one of the default workspaces available. Go to Window | Workspace and click on one of the options. If you don't like it, try something else.

Tip #15. Don't forget Help when you get stuck. Photoshop has an extensive and clearly written Help document. Ever since Photoshop first came out, right-brained people have been trying to use it and left-brained people have been writing instructions so they aren't pestered to death with questions. Your answer is probably in there.

Tip #16. There is a complete (more or less) listing of the keyboard shortcuts available in Photoshop. Go to Window | Workspace | Keyboard Shortcuts & Menus. One tab is keyboard shortcuts and the other is Menus. Click on the arrows to expand the lists and you'll find more keyboard shortcuts than you could ever hope to memorize.

Tip #18. Photoshop is a processor and memory hog. No matter how much you have, it will always run better with more. However, it is polite enough to follow limits. In the Preferences pop-up, under Performance, you can see how much Memory is available on your computer. Photoshop will even suggest an ideal range. I suggest that you allow Photoshop to use the maximum possible of the ideal range.

Tip #19. While we are looking at preferences, if you have Photoshop installed on one drive and you store your images on a different drive, set Photoshop to use the same drive it is installed on for the scratch disk. Especially if you are using an EHD to store your images, as is popular.

I'll try to write up a bunch of tips when I have time and then all I'll have to do is post one each day. Heck, I might even figure out how to do this on my Droid!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Smoother Process

I hooked up my card reader and had no trouble importing my recent photos into Lightroom. They went exactly where I wanted them to go on my EHD, too. Score! The next step is to scan through and delete the duds, then put keepers into collections. If I put photos into collections first, it is much harder to delete duds.

I did not sweat the naming of the directories on the EHD. I renamed the photos as I imported them and I'll be picky about naming the collections. This may change, as my ability to share photos might require it. I'm still blurry on exporting photos from Lightroom. I've only learned how to import and edit inside Lightroom so far.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Baby Steps

The first thing to do in Lightroom is import photos and put them into Collections. I had no trouble importing existing photos from my drive, but importing new photos from a CF card took a couple of tries. I had to adjust my thinking.

Lightroom does the organizing for me. I don't have to work with my file structure. Lightroom creates a file structure just like I would. Importing from a CF card using Lightroom is actually a lot faster and easier than my old method. I do a few clicks, enter a file name, enter a folder name and then sit back and Lightroom does a lot of work.

Since I used to copy photos onto my drive using drag and drop, I never renamed my files. As of 2011, I'm renaming files. It makes no sense not to. My naming convention is Activity-Sequence# And I place the pictures in a year directory, inside a folder with the name DateActivity

Next, I need to learn exactly how to remove my flop photos. If I understand it correctly, Lightroom has at least three levels of 'remove.' I can remove a photo from a collection, which will keep it in Lightroom, but not in that set. Photos can be in more than one collection at the same time. I can remove the photo from the Catalog, which will remove it from Lightroom, and as a result, from any Collections it might also be in. I can remove the photo from my drive, which removes it from Catalog, Collection(s) and Lightroom.

To remove photos, I must do so from inside Lightroom. If I try to remove a photo from the drive without using Lightroom, Lightroom will keep it in the Catalog, and in Collection(s), but Lightroom will tell me that it doesn't know where the actual image file is.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Which One to Learn?

Gaahh! I keep flip-flopping between learning more Photoshop tricks and learning more about Lightroom. They both are tantalizing. I'm motivated and eager to learn them both. I have an e-book on Photoshop, I have a DTB for Lightroom, and a whole lot of videos for both.

I sit at my computer, pull up something instructional and I'm able to put it to work shortly after. I'm not going through any of my references from start to finish. By bouncing back and forth, I'm afraid I'm going to skip something important, or speed past a very useful tip.

I didn't retain enough of the important information out of the first few videos I watched. I wasn't working along with the video and pausing it frequently to practice. I need to go back and take more time for practice. If I don't do the 'homework' I haven't really learned it.

I learn best in small, specific sections, with repetition and breaks. But I'm so eager to learn both of these applications, I try to gulp down several sections at once and my brain chokes.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Chromatic Aberrations

These are also sometimes called 'fringe' or 'fringing' and it is because they look like a fringe of an unwanted color between a very dark and a very light transition. Say I took a photo of a person wearing a black shirt against a bright sky background. Right at the edge of the shirt, I might see a faint line of red, green or purple fringing out into the sky. It isn't very large, but it gives the shirt this funky outline. Sometimes it appears at the edge of a mountain peak, or the line of a roof. It's a problem only in bright/dark edges. It is a flaw that can't really be avoided, but it can be decreased if you have more expensive lenses.

I don't have horridly expensive lenses, but they are from Nikon. I have some chromatic aberration, but not a lot.

I've seen some extractions that are subtle fails because the person doing the extraction decided to include just a few pixels of the background inside the area they extracted. I'm considering the use of the de-fringe option in Lightroom to see if that background can be treated like a chromatic aberration and dealt with.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

See it, Fix it!

Yep. All that studying is paying off. I've got some slight chromatic aberrations in a strongly sunlit photo. Just the teensiest hint in one area, but I can see them and I just fixed them! I am loving this. Absolutely loving this. I knew what chromatic aberrations were, but I'd never been able to see them in one of my photos. Partly because I hadn't pushed the envelope to the point where they'd show up (they don't happen in the average snapshot) and partly because if I didn't know how to correct for them looking for them wasn't going to be of much use.

Lightroom is allowing me to make the correction for this lens issue and even fine tune it. Yay!

I'm also finding that all my years of working with film are paying off. When I set my camera the way I like it, I get pictures that don't need a lot of adjustments to look really good.