Repeat Attempt

I signed up on the Kelby Training on-line training site. So far its been a good investment in time and money. It is also why I haven’t posted for a while – I’ve been spending a lot of time absorbing.

But to make absorbing effective, it needs to be followed by some doing. I’ve started trying out some of the techniques and ideas I’ve learned.  I’m liking the results.

One of the first things I tried was a second wack at the tramp composite. The same day I shot the pictures of my daughter, I shot some of my son and his friend. While my 7 year old art critic rejected my effort, my son was more impressed. He asked if I would do one for him and being the good father that I am I obliged. It also gave me a chance to improve on my previous efforts.

Here’s the end result:

2009_0620_Adam_Tramp Composite

For the most part it was a repeat of the first try. My selections went a bit faster and cleaner. My shading went better. Overall it was a smoother effort. The primary difference was in the base image. On the first one I pulled up an image of the girls on the tramp and added other images around them. About halfway in I wanted to move them and couldn’t, because I hadn’t generated an image of just the tramp.

So on try #2 the first thing I did was generate an image of the tramp without participants.  I found two images where the jumpers were not overlapping. I stripped the jumpers from the base image. Then I did a Photomerge of the two images to align them. Then I dropped a layer mask on the second image and simply erased the hole away. It worked very nicely. I had a clean picture of the tramp and I was able to position the jumpers more easily.

Summer Fun – a composite

A few weeks ago I was sitting in the back reading ‘Within the Frame’. Naturally, I had my camera in my lap while I read. Just to enhance the reading experience. My daughter and her cousin were jumping on the tramp. It hit me that there was a good opportunity to do a fun little composite. So I shot a bunch of pictures and put them all together. Nothing brilliant by any means, but it was some practice in selections and blending. Learned a few things.


I showed it to my 7 year old daughter fully expecting her to be thrilled with it. Instead she scrunched her eye brows together and said that she didn’t like it – she prefers her pictures to be ‘realistic’.

Oh well.

First Step…

There are, in my mind, two approaches to learning – memorization and integration through repetition. Memorization takes more a focused effort and provides immediate results but fades over time. Integration takes longer, provides results more slowly, but when you get it, you keep it. That’s particularly true when you’re developing skills. Sure, you can memorize the Photoshop features, know what they all do, but until you start using them, it’s just not going to jell.

I’ve been using Photoshop since v3. I can do the basic stuff real well, crop, resize, spot, some easy clean up. I’ve never moved far beyond that. I’ve done the tutorial thing over and over. I walk through the instructions, kind of see what they are doing and walk away more frustrated than enriched. My current book, ‘Lightroom & Photoshop Workflow Bible’ by Mark Fitzgerald was a new approach and has made all the difference. Instead of going through steps he walks through the process and how the tools play into the process. For the first time its coming together.

When a new understanding is building, its always nice to come across some independant reinforcement. I found it on Scott Kelby’s Photoshop Insider. His Weds guest blogger was Tomasz Opasinski. He has a unique take on learning Photoshop that dove tailed with my new approach. 

 To free myself from tutorials, to free myself from someone’s way of thinking, from someone’s way of doing things… to THINK PHOTOSHOP. What I mean is that by reading and following someone else’s tutorials I was able to REPEAT his/her actions… but from one tutorial to another I lost MY OWN way of CREATING new things. I stopped THINKING… I began relying on SOMEONE ELSE’S ways of doing things in design or Photoshop. I just got LAZY…

Read the entire article here.

I learned years ago when I was teaching programming that the people who tried to find the solution in a book never caught on. Those who tried to figure out how the pieces worked first where the ones who succeeded.

I read my book all the way through once. Got the concept down, but not much in the way of real skill development.  Then I turned the book back to page one, got a pen and paper (actually my netbook and MS OneNote) and I read slowly, built a Help Sheet to burn the info into my head and to give me a memory boost later. Then I stopped and played with it for awhile. It’s taken a long time, I’m still working at it, but I’m feeling pretty good with Lightroom. Just starting to play with Photoshop. For the first time I feel like I know what I’m doing instead of just pushing buttons and hoping it works.

To finish, I’ll share today’s project.

First picture is SOOTC (Straight Out Of The Camera):


The second image is after I finished my basic Lightroom corrections, White Balance, Exposure, Blacks, a couple of gradations, some color mod, some vibrance and a sharpness adjustment:


Then I wanted to see if I could do a decent B&W. My real love. I dropped out the color in Lightroom, fine tuned the Exposure, Blacks and Contrast. A little more gradient darkening around the edges. Played with the color channels which really popped the eyes. Then I dropped it in Photoshop, some more fine tuning, some creative burning and printed one. To grey. I added some sepia (actually a little yellow, a little red, a little green, some more yellow, took out the green…):


All in all, a definite improvement. And what was really cool, I started with an end in mind and actually got the the desired result.

Lightroom – the new Darkroom

Right now I feel a tad overwhelmed. Overwhelmed, and psyched.

I finally found ‘the book’. I’ve owned Photoshop since version 3. I can open files, crop, mess around with brightness and contrast and change the image size with the best of them. I’ve bought books on techniques and tried to follow the step by steps. Sometimes it worked – but it never stuck. Photoshop, the monolith -so much that I just didn’t know where to start, where to go. So I’d wander around, move a slider here , click a button there and quit.

I bought Lightroom 1 about a year and a half ago. I loved the Library function. I organized my digital library and added keywords to all of my images.  I bought another book, wandered over to the Develop module, played around a bit, grew frustrated and left.  A month or so ago I upgraded to Lightroom 2 and liked it – it didn’t crash as often.  I bought a new book, ‘Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and Photoshop Workflow Bible’by Mark Fitzgerld last Saturday. And started reading, and reading and reading more.  And the pieces came together. Technique is secondary – it focuses on the purpose and the process. It defines the of the tools, the purpose of Lightroom and Photoshop and Bridge and ACR and how they fit together. The flow, from import to end image and I finally feel like I know where I’m going.

What great tools! I am a solid B&W darkroom tech. And I knew how to shoot to get the color shots I wanted with minimal manipulation. And I found a great color lab to figure out any manipulation I needed. Then the digital world interfered with my pleasant little world. Not because it was hard, but because it was so much bigger. There is so much more you can do with it – it is just WOW.

Now I’m playing and liking it. I’ve only gone through the Lightroom part so far. The part that more or less mimics what I used to do in the darkroom. I’m starting to get what I want. Now I need to burn it in until it is works as easy as taking a breath – kind of like printing in the darkroom. I don’t have to think about it. I just do and it happens the way I want.

I went back to the first pictures I took with my digital. Pictures that were kind of blah. I looked at them, followed the Lightroom process and did what I used to do in the darkroom, when I could make a picture look the way I wanted.

This is what it looked like right out of the camera:


This is what it looked like after 10 minutes in Lightroom:


It’s not going to win any prizes, but I like the change. A little Histogram adjustment. A little sharpening. A little vignetting and a tiny amount of burning. Never touched Photoshop (until I had to resize it – didn’t work the way I thought it would in Lightroom).

I’ll share more of the how when I’m a little more solid on the technique and have something a little more impressive to show off.