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.

Over the top HDR (WAY over the top)

I’m still working through my Arches images. I’m almost done. I’ve been holding back because I didn’t want to finish and not have anything new to show off. But I decided to prime the pump a little tiny bit.

I bracketed almost everything I shot and I’ve HDR’d most of them. But I did that just to give me a full exposure range – not to ‘HDR’ the final image.  I HDR’d the raw images to broaden the range, loaded them back in Lightroom then processed them normally from there.

This image just wasn’t making it for me. It was close, but I wasn’t excited. Then I had an urge – let’s HDR it hard. I’ve never tried it before, so this is my first.

Kind of like it.

I used CS5’s HDR tool.

Sky Panos

While we were in Moab we took hundreds of pictures of beautiful, powerful rock formations against plain, boring skies. A lot of blaa blue and slate grey – with the occasional cloud.  Sunday night we had a pretty good storm blow through, leaving a cold day on Monday and a new weather pattern – this one with clouds.

Just outside of Moab I stopped and shot a pano cloud shot. I stopped two more times between Burley and Boise and shot more clouds. Outside of town where the horizon was flat and there wasn’t a lot of clutter and there were wonderful cloud formations.

I didn’t do very well on the Moab set and it was still a bit grey. But the Idaho sets were clean and I kept the sequence simple.  I shot 3 1 stop brackets all the way around.

I wasn’t sure how well Photoshop would do stitching them together. Was there enough information in the images for it to hook them up? I included the ground as I shot, but not much. So I wasn’t sure how it would do. I was pleasantly surprised.

The first one I tried I processed via HDR. I did the HDR processing on each shot, before I merged them. I used CS5 and did a soft merge – enough to build a full exposure range. I saved the settings and processed all of the images with the same settings.  Then I ran it through the pano merge – using the auto method:

This is a 7 image merge, almost the entire way around. It merged beautifully. I didn’t do anything to help this – it was all Photoshop. It did a great job.

Then I processed the base images to see how it looked as a non-HDR:

I actually like this one better. The overall exposure range is less and it is less contrasty, but I like the look better.

The second one is a non-HDR from 13 images. On this one I followed a cloud formation up in the middle. I had 12 images even with the horizon and one shot up a level right in the middle. Again, I wasn’t sure if Photoshop would pull it in clean:

Again, it joined it without a problem.

I’m not into skies for the sake of skies. But they will be good resources for other shots that need something in the sky, like some of my Arches pictures. I dropped the last sky pano into the following Arches shot and it helped a lot. It was nice having such a big image – it let me drag the sky around until I found a good match.

The first one as I shot it:

The same image, with the clouds added:

Because the lines along the rock were well defined the selection was pretty simple using the quick select tool. But I had a halo around the inside of the arch, on the left side. I tried to feather that, a bunch of times at different settings, but that didn’t help. I was about to do the unspeakable and actually ask our Photoshop person at work for help when I found the solution in one of my Photoshop books. Just read it, didn’t even realize it was the solution until I tried it a few days later.

It was pretty simple – brush in white in overlay mode on the mask. Cleaned it right up.

Overall, I like the result.

I’m still going through my Moab images. I pulled out about 40 shots that might work. I’m through the first 12 or 13. When I get though them all I’ll put them together as a slide show and post it. Some pictures I’ve already posted and some new ones.

I’ll try to make it worth the wait.

CS5 HDR – My first shot

I’ve been a bit absent – sorry about that.

I decided I needed to have more flexibility than I could get from So I upgraded my current hosting plan, setup a couple of WordPress blogs there, one a replica of this site and played. I bought a WordPress book, found a bunch of custom templates to work with and discovered Windows Live Writer. I set up another blog from scratch on the new host server and have been spending most of my blog time there.  Now I need to move this one over.

I’ve also been messing around with CS5. I’ve been watching Kelby training vids and just messing with it – finding things and pushing buttons. I played around with the Content Aware fill and the Puppet Wrap – the cool new sexy things that at some point I may find a use for. I think the Content Aware fill will be nice, I just need to find where it works.  I need to play with Puppet Wrap more.

So far I’m liking the CS5 HDR. I’m a little irritated that I bought Photomatrix and haven’t hardly used it since – now I have this. Oh well – it’s just money, right?

I’ve only run a couple of things through and haven’t done anything hard yet, but I like it.

Here are the originals. 3 shots at .7 stop increments (not on purpose – I was going for full stop increments but I’m an idiot and I didn’t check it). All pictures were shot hand held so they needed to  be aligned (click to enlarge):

Here’s the original base exposure shot – standard Lightroom adjustments to Exposure and Blacks:

This is the base HDR image before any PS adjustments. All adjustments were made in the HDR panel:

The shadows opened up very nicely.  Detail depth is much better.

And this is the final, adjusted HDR:

I like the result. It aligned nicely, which was a problem I had with Photomatrix – not a big problem, but enough that I noticed it. The panel is simpler than Photomatrix which for the moment is nice, but usually that indicates less possibilities. Need to dig deeper to flush that out.

More to come on CS5 HDR.

One more thing to add – I need to move this to the new site. Editing this in the base maint tool basically stinks. Windows Live Writer is a joy compared to this. I’m motivated now.

First Steps – Photoshop

I spent the last couple of months watching hours of Photoshop training vids at Kelby Training. Dumping as much in my head as fast as I could. Jumped around to different subjects, lighting, B&W, HDR, portrait retouching, and on and on. I learned a lot, but when I pulled up one of my own pictures I was still at a loss as to what to do with it – how to get it where I wanted it. Too much running around in my head, nothing sticking.

Last week I pulled up a course on ‘Beauty and Portait Retouching’ by David Cuerdon. Great course. I watched slowly, took notes, backed up as I needed and watched it again. When I was all the way through I sat down last Saturday and worked through the whole course – twice.  I applied each principal he taught on his sample image. My original plan was to do it 3 times, but it took me so long the first time I ran out of day. Still, it was a great exercise. Things finally started sticking. All the stuff I’ve been cramming in my head started coming together and making sense.

In the past few days I’ve sat down and played a bit with my own pictures.

This was the first one. My kids have been watching me messing around with Photoshop and Lightroom and they wanted to do it too. K, my 8 year old, wanted to make a colorful sunset. So we started with an HDR TC I took last summer.

K wanted more ‘creative’ coloring. So, I popped up a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer and under her direction we changed a few things:

I’m a literalist. I have to push myself to see outside of the box. In theory I don’t have an issue with manipulating a photograph. Photographers have been manipulating images since day one. But when it comes right down to it, 99% of the adjustments I make don’t change the base nature of the image. I even struggle with cropping. It was drilled into my head that most of the work should be done in the camera. Plus, since I shot mostly in color chromes and it was expensive and a hassel to have much post processing modifications made (and I was poor and impatient), I stayed pretty close to what I shot. Now so much more is possible it isn’t an issue of the tools – its an issue with my vision.

K’s little exercise started me thinking about pushing beyond normal bounds. So I pulled up an image I shot my first time out with my D90.


I’ve always liked this image – felt there was potential here. But I wasn’t sure what to do with it. So I dropped a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer and played with the color. Some Layer Mask blending and a heavy crop and this was the result:

Still not sure I’ve found the essense of the image, but it is definiately more interesting, more compelling. I see more what grabs me about this image – two of my favorites elements: Texture and Direction.

One more. I was sending images of our cabin to a family member. I have one image I like showing the outside view from the great room. An image of a beautiful snowy day. The exposure is for outside, and the inside is dark. I decided to try and even that out.

I dropped in a Curves Adjustment Layer and adjusted the image for the shadow area. Then I filled the Adjustment Layer Layer Mask with black to hide the affect and painted in the areas I wanted to apply the adjustment with white on the Layer Mask.

It was like turning a light on in the room.

It’s starting to get fun.