Preserving Memories, One Frame at a Time

March 16th, 2007


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Last weekend, Byron and I went to a Civil War re-enactment. Many of the participants will be at another one elsewhere next weekend. Byron decided to show them what he could do. He did some selective focus to imitate camera lenses of the period, sometimes added a frame around a portrait, but the most used technique was to turn the shot into a sepia duotone effect.

This is one way to try. Open your photo in RGB mode. The easiest thing is to sample a sepia photo you like. Otherwise, use Color Picker to find the color you want. Make your foreground color patch this color. On the layers palette, press the Create a New Layer icon. Press Alt-Backspace (Option-Delete on a Mac) to fill the new layer with the color you have chosen. Change the blend mode to Color. You can also try a blue color to mimic cyanotypes. This is the time to have fun experimenting. Try a variety of colors. Here are a few I tried.


March 9th, 2007

Fixing Underexposed Photos

A couple of years ago, we took a “once in a lifetime” trip to the northeastern states. We toured New York, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine and Maryland photographing carousels (my love) and lighthouses (Byron’s passion.) Since I hadn’t changed over to digital, it wasn’t until I got my film back weeks later that I realized my flash wasn’t working as I expected. In fact, at times it hadn’t worked at all! I was totally disappointed in my photos. Using brightness, contrast, even curves didn’t help. Then I discovered this nifty little trick.

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Press Control-J to duplicate the background layer. On the layers palette, change the blend mode from Normal to Screen. If it is still too dark, duplicate the Screen layer. Do this until the exposure looks right. Oops! Too much correction? Lower the opacity. That was easy! Overexposed? Try the same, except instead of Screen, use Multiply. You’ll love the results.


For the finished photo, I added a little more exposure and used the color correction with curves I wrote about in an earlier post. Now I can enjoy this antique carousel chariot instead of throwing the photo in the trash!

March 2nd, 2007

Autocrop and Straighten

I recently got interested in scrapbooking. (OK, I’m a little slow keeping up with craft fads.) One reason I hesitated was because the thought of cutting my pictures horrified me. But my photos in albums are fading or changing color as you saw in an earlier post. How can I save and preserve them? I could always scan them into Photoshop, restore them, then reprint. I could feel better cutting a re-print anyway. But the thought of all those scans is so intimidating.

Good news! There’s even a (lazy) way to let Photoshop help with this too! I can load my scanner with as many photos as I can fit at once. They don’t even need to be lined up. Hit scan and let Photoshop do the rest.


When you scan, they all appear in Photoshop as one document. Go to File, Automate, Crop and Straighten photos. Photoshop will locate edges, crop the photos and put each into its own file. You just need to re-name and save. You will still have tons of photos to retouch, but they are all saved on your computer until you are ready to make that beautiful scrapbook.

*Note: For greater safety, copy the files onto a CD. We’ve all had computer problems and you want your precious photos to be around for a long, long 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

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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.

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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.

January 27th, 2007

Playing with Filters

What do you do with a photo that’s nice but uninspiring? Play!


This flower photograph was in focus and well exposed but generic. However, it turned out to be a perfect candidate for some filter fun. First, I tried Photo Filter under New Adjustment Layer. This works like putting a filter over you camera lens. The flowers were in shade, giving them a blue cast. I used a warming filter to counteract the blue. With the overall color corrected, it was time to get creative. 

Who says Photoshop can’t be fun? I could spend hours playing with all the filters available. I love some of the strange results possible. Here are only three of the variations I came up with.



This first one used a “Twirl” filter (found under Distort). I played with the diagram in the corner until I found a twirl I liked. Then hit OK. It’s that easy!



The next one was “Ink Outlines” that I found under Brushstrokes.



The last one was an Artistic filter called “Plastic Wrap.” Each variation has a completely different feel. So, while learning Photoshop, don’t forget to spend some time just playing with the possibilities.

January 19th, 2007

The Amazing Patch Tool



What do you do when the Healing brush isn’t enough? When there’s just too much to change?


Even looking at a small thumbnail view, the dark shape against the sky on the left is very distracting. It is too large for the healing brush to be effective, so I switched to the patch tool.


The patch tool looks like a sewing patch. If you’ve been trying out the healing brush, click and hold or alt click the band-aid icon to find the patch.


The patch tool begins with a selection. It works like a lasso tool. Select the area, then drag it to the texture you want to match. In this case, I dragged it over more sky. Upon closer inspection, I found the shape was actually the roof of a building. The more modern building didn’t fit with ancient ruins, so it had to go as well. I lassoed it with the patch tool and dragged it over the trees. The tool matches the texture chosen and blends it into the area.

It really is amazing how fast and easy it is to use. No more fighting to get clone stamp to look natural. Just circle, drag and you’re done!


Now I need to decide whether the road stays or goes, and what to do about the shadow. Maybe I’ll do some more touch-up work on the sky. With Photoshop, the possibilities are only limited by my level of experience. But that’s another entry.

January 14th, 2007

Using Hue and Saturation



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While we’re talking about color, I’ve been using Hue/Saturation on quite a few photos. The main thing to remember is that a little goes a long way. It’s very easy to overdo on this one. Keep it natural looking.


Again, we open a New Adjustment Layer. Click OK on the first dialog box to bring up the Hue/Saturation adjustment. The Edit box has different options. Use “Master” if you feel the whole photo is a little dull. More often, it’s only one color that needs a little more punch. I use it as a way to deepen the blue of a sky, or to add just a touch more yellow to this bush. In that case, choose the color you wish to enhance.


The Hue slider changes the actual color. The color strip at the bottom shows you how the color will change. For example, if you edit yellow by moving the Hue bar to the right, it will become green just as green is right of yellow on the color strip. Try moving the bar all the way right, then all the way left to see the color shift.


The Saturation slider affects how much of the color you have. All the way left, takes it away, turning to gray. Slide it all the way to the right to see the color distortion that occurs with excessive saturation. Pull it back to eliminate the problem areas.


Lightness is pretty much what it says. Try playing with it to see what appeals to you.


The difference in these before and after photos is subtle. Not all changes need to be dramatic. Sometimes just a small touch makes the photo match the vision you had when you took it in the first place.


January 6th, 2007

Color Correction with Curves


Over the holidays seems to be the time we take out the old family photos. Were you shocked at how the colors have changed over the years? I knew the baby blanket was white and his outfit was once blue. What happened? Color photographs over time will shift to yellow, magenta or green. Is there an easy way to correct this shift? The answer is YES! Believe it or not, it’s part of using curves.

The first time I played with curves, I had no idea what I was doing. I just moved the line around, saw it do some pretty weird things and decided to skip it. However, with a little instruction, I found it to be a powerful and extremely useful tool. So let’s start with something easy.

Open your photo, then choose Layers, Adjustment Layers, Curves. For today, ignore the diagram and look for the three small eyedroppers in the bottom right corner. Click the first dropper. This sets your blacks. Click the dropper on the blackest part of the photo. The far right dropper is next. Use it to set the brightest white of your photo. Photoshop will calculate the amount of color cast and automatically adjust your colors. But wait, you still have one dropper left! This one can be a little tricky on some photos. It sets a mid-tone grey. If your photo is of your child outside, you may have a roadway or concrete driveway to make it easy. In this photo, it took a few clicks to get the right area. It was a lighter shadow in the background. The change was instant. So easy!

Maybe you’re still stuck on “Open your photo.” There are a number of scanners or scanners with printers available. (Our daughter requested one for Christmas.) Contact us for information. Byron can help steer you to the one that will fit your needs.