Preserving Memories, One Frame at a Time

February 16th, 2007


Crooked House

Have you ever photographed a house only to find later that it isn’t straight? The best answer is a tripod and a nifty little bubble attachment. This is like a carpenter’s level, but it fits your camera’s flash shoe. These tools used when you take the original photo helps make sure all your shots are straight from the beginning. (The only exception I’ve found is the Grand Canyon. More on that at the end.)

What about the photo that is already crooked? Photoshop has a rotate feature that lets you input the exact degree of rotation you need. How much do you need? Well, there’s always the trial and error method. But there’s another way that takes away all the guesswork. Hiding behind the eyedropper tool is a little ruler icon called the measure tool.

Find a part of the photo you think should be straight – something like the roof line. In this example, I used the lines on the side of the building. Click and drag the measure tool along this line. Now go to Image, Rotate Canvas, Arbitrary. Photoshop has calculated the angle for you! Just click OK and you’re done.


Re-crop to remove the white edges.

And Cropped

So what’s special about the Grand Canyon? Most people don’t realize that the canyon’s rim is NOT straight and level. To keep your camera level gives you a photograph that LOOKS crooked. You actually get a better looking – if not totally accurate – photograph by matching your camera angle to the slight angle of the rim.

February 9th, 2007

Digital Fill Flash

img_2169.jpg img_2169a.jpg

I loved the sky and mountains in this shot, but the trees in the foreground were too dark. To lighten the entire photo to correct for the trees meant losing the sky color and detail. How do you open up only the shadows? I suppose I could have created a mask for the sky area and lightened the trees. But I’m all for letting Photoshop do the work for me.

For this photograph the answer was as simple as using the Shadow/Highlight option under the Image, Adjustments menu. When you select Shadow/Highlight, a dialog box appears with sliders. The program has already calculated the adjustment. If you like the result, simply click OK. If you want to play a bit with the sliders, you can do so to get the exact look you want. It couldn’t be any easier!

February 2nd, 2007

Complex Selection Tools

This is a continuation of Paula’s post from January 19th. This example uses complex selection tools, layer masks, multiple layers and several other advanced techniques.When I saw what Paula started with the patch tool example, I began to see several additional enhancements with this image. Paula already suggested that she’d like to consider removal of the road, but that was to be another entry. When I suggested that she remove all remnants of the modern building (including the shadow) as well as the road, Paula suggested it would be my turn to do the blog entry.
np015054.jpg Getting rid of the modern road was just a continuation of Paula’s technique to remove the building. Using the same Patch Tool (sewing patch) I selected a rough shape including the road and a little of the trees, being careful to get close to the stone wall without including it. Then moving the selection to an area with just trees. Voila! no more road. It just looks like more trees. It truly is that simple.
Patch Tool Example
Now removing the shadow was another story altogether. The technique is simple, just select the shadow area, use levels to adjust the tones of the shadows to match the sunlit areas, then use the clone tool or healing brush to touch up the edges of the selection. (OK, not that simple). There are many ways to make a complex selection as will be needed for this shadow. You can choose the lasso tool, painted layer masking, and many others. I decided to use “Color Range”. There are a few steps to doing this, so bear with me. First, create two copies of the background layer so you do not destroy any pixels. On the copy, choose “Select” > “Color Range”. Using the eyedropper and “fuzziness” slider, adjust the selection image so that your shadow is white and there is a good contrast between the shadow and the rest of the image.

color range

When you are satisfied, click OK and you see the familiar “marching ants” of the selection. Click on the Layer Mask Tool (looks like a front loading washer at the bottom of the Layers palette) to create a layer mask from your selection. Now Alt-Click (Option-click on a MAC) to view the mask. Paint the non-shadow area of the image with black. Click on the thumbnail image for the layer copy (on the Layers palette) and select (Image>Adjustments>Levels). No need for an adjustment layer here since you are working on a duplicate layer which will be merged down soon. Adjust the levels sliders to get the shadow tone to match the approximate tone of the sunny areas. The color will likely be off and the edges may be a bit rough and ugly, but we will correct that soon enough. Now, when you are happy with the levels adjustment, click Layer>Merge Down> to merge the adjusted layer with the other layer copy (you did remember to make two layer copies, right?). To correct any strange colors caused by the levels adjustment, use the eyedropper to select a color from the sunny area as your foreground color. Then click on the paintbrush, select the “Color” mode and “paint” on the former shadow area (still on the layer copy). This will even out the color in the shadow area. Hide any rough edges with your favorite combination of clone tool and healing brush. Here it is, beginning to end…

BEFORE … np015054a.jpg

AFTER … Patch Tool Example

If you followed this example, great. Keep coming back for more. If you need additional help understanding what we are doing, check back, detailed tutorials are in the works.