Photoshop Free Transform

After too many years of bad software help files I’ve stopped believing that there is anything helpful behind the help button. Instead I buy the book and think that is better.

Photoshop is changing that. There are so many Photoshop books out there its easy to forget that the program comes with help. And its good stuff. Even more important it is a base level of information that the books skip. Sure they show you how to change images from this to that. They tell you what buttons to push, but they don’t put them in context. So I can use a command for that one thing, but I’m missing out on all the variations of the tool.

Until I push the help button. For free…

I pulled the following from the Photoshop help on Free Transform and added examples.

 Free Transform

The Free Transform command lets you apply transformations (rotate, scale, skew, distort, and perspective) in one continuous operation. You can also apply a warp transformation. Instead of choosing different commands, you simply hold down a key on your keyboard to switch between transformation types.
Note: If you are transforming a shape or entire path, the Transform command becomes the Transform Path command. If you are transforming multiple path segments (but not the entire path), the Transform command becomes the Transform Points command.

Select what you want to transform.

Choose Edit > Free Transform.

To Scale by dragging, drag a handle. Press Shift as you drag a corner handle to scale proportionately.


To Rotate by dragging, move the pointer outside the bounding border (it becomes a curved, two-sided arrow), and then drag. Press Shift to constrain the rotation to 15° increments.


To Distort Relative to the center point of the bounding border, press Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS), and drag a handle.


To Distort Freely, press Ctrl (Windows) or Command (Mac OS), and drag a handle.


To Skew, press Ctrl+Shift (Windows) or Command+Shift (Mac OS), and drag a side handle. When positioned over a side handle, the pointer becomes a white arrowhead with a small double arrow.


To Apply Perspective, press Ctrl+Alt+Shift (Windows) or Command+Option+Shift (Mac OS), and drag a corner handle. When positioned over a corner handle, the pointer becomes a gray arrowhead.


Power Image–Part 2

After a lot of years developing software I’ve learned that the best result seldom happen the first time. There are those times when I’m just about done with a change and something happens and I lose it all. The computer bombs, I press the wrong button, something. I holler, swear and call myself names. Then I start over and rebuild it. And almost without exception I return a better product. The first time becomes the dry run, the practice period. I make my mistakes, figure out the details. Then when I do it the second time it falls together more smoothly.

What’s hard is when the mistake isn’t made and I have to push myself to throw away a perfectly good product and do it the second time. In the work place its not going to happen. The first attempt works and my boss isn’t going to take my argument that it will be just a bit better if I do it all over again. But I can with my art. It’s still hard to do it again, to convince myself that if I do it again it will be worth it. But it is.

The other thing that helps a lot is to live with it for a while and see what starts to bug me. Then do it again and fix those things.

And it’s always worth it. I get a better product and my skill set is stronger when I’m done.

That’s what I did with the helo shot I posted a few days ago. It looked good, but I knew it could be better. So I went back, cleaned up the original cut-out and put the wheels back in – after researching and establishing this machine flies with the wheels down.

This time around I’ll include the pieces I used to build it.

Here’s what I started with. This was shot in the hanger at the airport:



I cut the bird out and cleaned up some things:



I dropped in a great sunset cloud shot I took with my phone last summer:



Then I finished it:

  • I copied the base image and dropped in a radial blur to add a sense of movement to the rotors. I adjusted the strength until I liked how it looked
  • I painted out the body on the layer mask.

The effect was good, but I wanted a bit more volume so I didn’t completely lose the rotors.

  • I copied the base image again and added a Gaussian blur. I adjusted it until I had the volume that felt right
  • I pulled over the same layer mask I used in the Radial blue layer.
  • Then I adjusted the opacity until it looked right
  • Next, I added the Dodge/Burn layer. I add a blank layer, set the blend mode to Overlay and paint with black to darken or white to lighten with the brush opacity set to around 20%. After each stroke I adjust the stroke using the Fade Brush Tool (Edit/Fade Brush Tool). I don’t use the Dodge/Burn tool, I feel like I have more control this way. On more complex images I’ll set up different layers for Darken and Lighten, but I combined them on this one.

The sky was too blue. I wanted it to be a bit more dramatic, less pretty.

  • I added a Black and White Adjustment layer to the sky layer and adjusted the Blue and Cyan sliders to adjust the contrast till I liked it.
  • Then I painted out the B&W affect on the layer mask using a grey brush to bring some color back in.
  • Then I added a Curves Adjustment layer to darken and increase the overall contrast.

Here’s the final layers panel:


And here’s the final image. Not dramatically different, but the little things make all the difference.


A sense of perception

A couple of weeks ago we went up to see the Apache Helicopters. I’ve always wanted to see one up close and personal. From the pictures I’ve seen of them I’ve always had a sense of complete unbridled power! It always represented the most naked physical form of pure power to me. That didn’t change when I saw them in person. Even more so.

We saw them in the hangers. I took some snapshots of my son checking them out. And I took a few profile shots. I pulled one of those profiles up to work on my selection/cut out skills. After I cut it out I started to play.

This is what I came up with:


This pretty effectively captures my perception of this machine.

A thought popped into my head as I was looking at this image.

 I tend to wonder why people are so anti-USA. Intellectually I understand why, but I still wonder why they can’t see the good we try to do, the effort we put into building and helping. Then as I was looking at this I thought – this captures the representational vision many people have of the USA. The visual representation that pops into their head when they think of the USA.  Instead of the dove or the flag or the soldiers giving candy to the kinds they see this – a representation of the raw force that we wield to obtain our ends.  While I believe our ends to be positive, I suddenly perceived a sense of the fear we must engender to those who are not on our side of the gun. In this case – a very BIG gun.  Actually a LOT of very big guns. And I am very grateful that the nation that possesses such vast power tries to use it for altruistic ends. We don’t always succeed – in fact we fail quite often. But how much different it would be if the nation which possesses such vast, unbalanced power did so primarily for selfish ends.

Such is the power of a single image.

Photomerge Notes

I’m exploring the different options of Photomerge in CS5. I’ll add my notes on that exploration here as I go.

Most of this is from the Adobe help and my own messing around.

How to get to Photomerge in CS5:

File – Automate – Photomerge

How to get to Photomerge from Bridge:

Tools – Photoshop – Photomerge.

Uses all images currently displayed in Bridge. If you only want specific images, select them before starting the command.

How to get to Photomerge from Lightroom 3:

Right Click – …

The CS5 Photomerge dialog screen:

The following is a direct pull from Adobe help on the Photomerge options:



Photoshop analyzes the source images and applies either a Perspective, Cylindrical, and Spherical layout, depending on which produces a better photomerge.

In the case of the examples below, Auto generated a Cylindrical merge.


Creates a consistent composition by designating one of the source images (by default, the middle image) as the reference image. The other images are then transformed (repositioned, stretched or skewed as necessary) so that overlapping content across layers is matched.


Reduces the “bow?tie” distortion that can occur with the Perspective layout by displaying individual images as on an unfolded cylinder. Overlapping content across files is still matched. The reference image is placed at the center. Best suited for creating wide panoramas.


Aligns and transforms the images as if they were for mapping the inside of a sphere. If you have taken a set of images that cover 360 degrees, use this for 360 degree panoramas. You might also use Spherical to produce nice panoramic results with other file sets.


Aligns the layers and matches overlapping content and transforms (rotate or scale) any of the source layers, without any distortion/adjustments.


Aligns the layers and matches overlapping content, but does not transform (stretch or skew) any of the source layers. Best choice for well captured images – everything is square on, perfectly aligned.



Blend Images Together

Finds the optimal borders between the images and create seams based on those borders, and to color match the images. With Blend Images Together turned off, a simple rectangular blend is performed. This may be preferable if you intend to retouch the blending masks by hand.

Spherical with Blend Off:

Collage with Blend Off:

Vignette Removal

Removes and performs exposure compensation in images that have darkened edges caused by lens flaws or improper lens shading.

Geometric Distortion Correction

Compensates for barrel, pincushion, or fisheye distortion.

CS4 Photomerge Tutorial

A new Gallery and a new PS technique

I haven’t posted in a while, but I have been busy.

I set up a Photo Gallery using the tool. It was easy to setup, looks and works well. It includes a shopping cart. I like it – except for the cost part. My demo runs out and I have to send them money in about a week. I’m doing the whole feature set which runs around $160 a year. But I found a 20% off coupon – I did a google search for SmugMug and found coupons all over the place. It also hooks into Lightroom so I can manage the gallerys right from there. In fact you can get the 20% off if you hook up via the Lightroom interface. That’s nice. I pointed the ExquisiteLines domain at it, so it is the front end now, with a link to the blog. I guess that means I’m committed.

And I’ve been playing Photoshop. I found a fun technique on Kelby Training on Painting with Words, based on the ASICS commercial.

Here’s the commercial:


Here’s the almost final image Corey Barker built in the Kelby lesson:

9-16-2010 11-17-03 PM 

It looked fun so I’ve been playing with it. I can’t say I’ve built anything amazing, but I’ve learned more about paint brushes and more blending practice.

Tonight I gave up the whole word thing and just played with a couple of textured brushes and a textured background. Here’s what I came up with.


2008_1122_5846_CutOut_Thru Wall 

The process is:

  • Image of the actor with a plain dark background. The words/texture show on the background outside of the actor.
  • Final background – in this case the asphalt texture
  • Select the actor and drop in a layer mask hiding the actor’s background
  • Select the portion of the actor that will be painted over with the words/texture
    • Blur the edges of the selection
    • Fill with black on the layer mask to add it to the blocked out portion of the actor layer
  • Make a paint brush with the words/texture that you will use to paint in
  • Paint on the layer mask in white along the edges of the actor to add the effect
  • Add some creative blur – have fun

Brilliant, no, but kind of fun.

Keep in mind – the blog is my work book – a record of my explorations – the good stuff and the not so good stuff.  What ever I learn from.  The gallery is where the high end stuff will live.

The Beauty of the Power Game


You need to check this out. I found this in a post on Chase Jarvis’ blog.


9-1-2010 10-18-01 PM

It is a set of moving images shot with a Phantom camera, which shoots at 1250 fps in 1080HD.   The subjects are professional women tennis players – and it is amazing. I’ve watched it a half dozen times – so far.

Here’s the cast of characters:

  • Kim Clijsters
  • Serena Williams
  • Elana Dementieva
  • Jelena Jankovic
  • Samantha Stosur
  • Victoria Azarenka
  • Vera Zvonareva

Here’s the link.

John Loengard – what is a photograph?

Today, at, John Loengard posted for Guest Blog Wednesday.

(who is John Loengard – check out this post by Joe McNally who works for/with him)

Some amazingly beautiful images. I loved the portraits of Georgia O’Keeffe. Check them out.  She was so stunningly graphic as a person – simply in the way she dressed and carried herself. Of course it doesn’t hurt that she was photographed by some of the best photographers of the age.

The following are quotes from his article that honestly and clearly define what it means to make a photograph.

It is not important if photographs are “good.” It’s important that they are interesting. What makes a photograph interesting? I’ll count the ways: It can be our first look at something. It can be entertaining. It can evoke deep emotions. It can be amusing or thrilling or intriguing. It can be proof of something. It can jog memories or raise questions. It can be beautiful. It can convey authority. Most often, it informs. And, it can surprise.

Before I became a picture editor, I assumed that “good photographers” took “good pictures” because they had a special eye. What I found was that good photographers take good pictures because they take great pains to have good subjects in front of their cameras. (Reflect a moment on what cameras do, and this makes sense.) Good photographers anticipate their pictures.

This quote reminds of something Jerry Garns, the first photoographer I worked for told me: ‘If you want to take good looking pictures of people, take pictures of good looking people’.  I’ve always remembered that.

No photographer can go out today and take a photograph that sums up the Obama Administration. Photographs don’t generalize. But a detail, when photographed, often conveys a sense of a whole. A finger, the man. A leaf, the tree. A curbstone, the city.

Read the full article here.

Portland LDS Temple

We spent the day at OMSI watching the kids run around and have fun. I sugar crashed about 1:30 local time and crawled into the cafeteria (not literally, but sure felt like it) and ate the first thing I could find. That was not so fun.

On the way in we saw the spires of the Portland LDS temple sticking out of the trees. I mentioned this to our friends who are hauling us around and they said we would stop by on the way back. Which, of course, we did.

Here’s a couple of pictures I took. Both low key HDR. Not a great lighting moment, but I’m determined to prove you can take reasonable pictures during times when the light isn’t perfect. Since that is most of the time and, secretly, because I don’t have to get up at 5:00 in the morning to catch bad light.

All in all, I liked the results. They won’t make anyone gasp in amazement, but they are worth looking at.

Quick hey – La Costa Resort in Carlsbad

I haven’t spent much time at home the last couple of weeks. We did two family reunions and I did a week long Sales Meeting for work in San Diego. 2 days at home and tomorrow we’re leaving for Oregon for our last vacation trip of the summer. Out of money and out of PTO so its time to call it quits.

I did a lot of shooting. I took about 240 portraits and 12 group shots at the sales meeting. I’ve been spending a lot of time cleaning those up – just finished tonight. This was my first time shooting outside with a light and umbrella. It went great until the cloud cover broke. I was shooting so fast that I didn’t notice until way late and I shot a bunch way over exposed. I managed to save them all, although some are a little interesting. Kind of a high key look. And the colors are very vibrant.  We learn best from our mistakes. I did much better the second day – chimped after every shot and adjusted when I started to lose my whites.

The sales meeting was at the La Costa Resort in Carlsbad. While I was wondering around I shot a few shots of the resort.

We’re doing the Oregon coast this week end. I hope to get some good shots.