When my boys were just babies, I had little time to focus on my photography so I took up the hobby of digital scrapbooking. It was so new that there were not even any stores selling elements and papers which are now a common place item in hundreds of digiscrap shops. During that early time in my digiscrapping days, I was teaching myself Photoshop 5. Yes, this is before the Creative Suite came along, and even before PS Elements came along. Can I just tell you that I was so frustrated that I nearly gave up the new hobby before I really even started?! Well here I am 7 years and seven Photoshop versions later...
Now that the kids are older and in school all day, I have found more time to pick back up with my photography business and even started designing products specifically for photographers a few years ago. But back when I was learning Photoshop, I found a Photoshop tool called "actions" to be super helpful in creating quick work of repetitive tasks like re-sizing my snapshots of the kids so that I could quickly print out a bunch of 4x6's to share with the grandparents. As my Photoshop skills increased, my actions also became more involved and widely varied - including black & white conversion actions, color pop actions, comic book art action, chocolate conversion action, and so many more.
So in 2007, I started selling these Photoshop and PS Elements actions to other digital scrapbookers. But since I've been really focusing most of my efforts on my photography business much of these last 2 years, it seemed only natural to offer the Photohop actions to photographers too! So I thought that perhaps you'd like to see some before and afters of some images...take a look:
This is a stock image which was fine just the way it was. Perhaps a bit underexposed, but not horrible by any means. With a combination of a few different actions, this has taken on a completely new look. This final image was achieved using Sharpening Action from the Pro Photo Set 4 plus the Eye Defined Action from Pro Photo Single 18 plus YesterYear Action from Pro Photo Single 53 and also the Teeth Whiten Action from Pro Photo Set 5. All of these actions have layer masks so that you can apply the desired effect right where you need it.
This next stock image also uses a combination of several different actions. Notice how much more bold the colors are and how much crisper it looks. This was achieved by using Color Correction Action from Pro Photo Set 2 plus the Downtown Action from Pro Photo Single 55 plus the Flower Child Action from Pro Photo Single 66 and also the Lab Sharpening Action from Pro Photo Set 3. Just like the prior example, all of these utilize layer masks so that each action can be adjusted to your liking.
These actions work well on everyday snapshots too. You don't have to be a professional photographer to enjoy using them and for your images to be taken to a new creative level. Take a look at some of the images that Angie (from the ACOT design team) provided. Her first one is this fun wedding party photo. As you can see, the men are in the shade while the ladies were more in the sun. The skin tones are not equal because of this (see how much cooler the men's skin tone is?). So I used a combination of actions to bring this photo to life. First, I started out by fixing the exposure using theUnderexposure Fix Action from PSE Action Set 1 and only applied the effect to the men's side of the image as they were too dark. Then I added theColor Burst Action from PSE Action Set 2 and utilized the layer masks to warm up the skin tones and give a boost to the color of the wood. But it still needed a little more zing so I used the Flower Child Action from Pro Photo Single 66 and the Dodge & Burn Action from Pro Photo Set 15. And to finish off, it needed to be sharpened up a bit so I used the Sharpen Image Action from Pro Photo Set 1. The result is remarkable. :)
Angie had another really cute shot that she sent over for me to play with. In this shot, I thought the girl's eyes needed to be enhanced - brown eyes can be quite challenging to photograph and often need a little help in Photoshop to bring out their real beauty. I also wanted to enhance the color with this. So I started out by giving it a pop of color with the ColorSat Action from PSE Set 18 and used the layer mask to apply it only to the hat and greenery behind her. To and a little more punch, I used the PSE Luminous Boost Action from PSE Single 21 - again, using the layer mask to only apply the color to the hat. To bring out those beautiful brown eyes, first I used the Brighten Eyes Action from PSE Action Set 8 and then gave them an extra bit of sparkle with the Eye Sparkle Action from PSE Single 26. This combination took this image from dull to dazzling in just a few minutes.
So the next time you are sitting at your computer trying to decide what to do with your images, I hope you will consider using some of these helpful actions to enhance what you've captured. You've already provided the foundation and these actions are just that extra little boost to bring your images to life.
~ Kim Hill is a professional photographer and designer here at A Cherry on Top. To view the Pro Photo Actions CLICK HERE and to view the PS Elements Actions CLICK HERE. Please note that if you are using a pro version of Photoshop, you can use all of the PSE actions too!
Understanding natural light photography techniques is vital if you wish to take better digital photos.
Natural light can transform an ordinary subject into a fascinating image, without the use of artificial light or modern technology. Without doubt, whether natural or man created, light is the most important element in photography.
After all, when you are taking a photograph you are actually capturing the light that is reflected or radiated from your subject and whatever else is in front of you. The camera just records the light that it receives, whether adjusted by man or technology. It can make no allowance for colour distortion.
The Dynamic Range is the range of brightness levels in a scene, from the darkest shadows to the brightest highlights. Natural light photography techniques favour having the light where you need it so that unimportant areas left in shadow or burnt out by intense light. No matter how strong the light is, you can always expose to show detail in one part of the image, but you may well lose detail in another part of your photo because your camera has not got a wide enough dynamic range to capture everything.
Some of the latest Digital Cameras have the technology to adjust the compensation level in pixels to brighten dark areas while leaving bright areas unchanged to automatically create better images.
In any case the end results is up to you, the photographer. You need to watch out for patches of white, or light areas in your images. A viewer's eye will always go to the brightest part of a scene, so make sure you cut out any bright spots that will drag attention away from your main subject. Of course, where the whole background is light, as with snow, a contrasting dark object will attract attention first.
"Hard" light casts deep shadows with distinct outlines, while "Soft" light, if it casts shadows at all, makes them soft, with indistinct outlines. An example of hard light would be the sun overhead at noon in a clear sky, while an example of soft or "filtered" light would be the illumination cast by the sun shining through clouds. Soft light on a bright but cloudy day is often best when photographing people.
The effective use of cloudy days should not be overlooked in natural photography. However, a very even, shadowless light can make for a rather flat image. Although hard light can give you problems with harsh contrast, it usually gives better texture to your subject, except when it is directly on the subject, i.e. coming from behind you and shining directly over your shoulder. In these circumstances your subject might be drained of contrasting shadows and texture, but every feature and detail will be clear.
Back lighting often makes it easy to separate your subject from the background. Your fill-in flash can be used for best effect in back lit situations where you might be closer to your subject.
Natural light varies according to the time of day, weather, and time of year. And also what altitude you are shooting at (high altitudes have bluer light as the UV content is greater).
"Cold" light has a blue tinge; "warm" light has a red tinge. Dawn light tends to be cooler than sunset, for example, but both are warm when compared to midday sunlight.
Your brain compensates to some degree for these different lights, so that a white handkerchief roughly looks white and a yellow banana looks yellow no matter whether you see them in sunlight or under fluorescent tubes. But a camera cannot do this and will simply capture the light reflected off your subject. As the light from these two sources is quite different (most fluorescent light is in fact greenish), the colours will look wrong unless you make an adjustment to take the colour of the light into account.
The adjustment of white balance on your camera can be used not only to correct colour casts but also to warm up a cold overcast day.
In natural light photography it is the light that makes the photo. If the light is not good, the photo will not succeed.
Finding ways for using natural light photography techniques for taking better digital photos is not difficult. It just takes a little concentration, a clear vision, a good guide and a good camera.
For more information you might like to visit http://www.squidoo.com/new_canon_camera_range.
Formerly a keen Underwater Explorer with his own treasure-trove of memories of diving on Australia's Great Barrier Reef, Geoff Aslett, the author, is still researching ways to take better digital photos.
There is more information about Natural Light Photography Techniques available to help you to "Take Better Digital Photos" at http://www.simplybrilliantproducts.com/new_canon_camera.php
Copyright: You may freely republish this article provided the text, the author name, the active links and this notice remain intact. Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Geoff_Aslett
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