Rocky Mountain School of Photography » Tips & Techniques Thu, 26 Feb 2015 18:55:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Shoot For The Moon! Wed, 25 Feb 2015 16:00:52 +0000 The invention of the telescope certainly brought some of the mysteries of the moon closer to us, but it was Apollo 11 that brought it within arms length and with the words “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” Neil Armstrong allowed us to imagine the cosmos at our feet.

Since most of mankind will never have the opportunity to actually walk on the moon, we’re left with viewing, contemplating, and if we’re photographers, creating that imagination with our cameras from our own beloved celestial home.

Moon1 DJ

Moon3 DJ

Moon4 DJ


One of the challenges of capturing great moon photographs is exposure. It’s not a problem when the sun is up, but if you decide to shoot before sunrise or after sunset things get a little more complicated. The auto features on the camera like Night Mode or any of the exposure modes (Program, Aperture or Shutter priority) normally overexpose darker scenes and result in loss of detail and color in the moon.


Moon overexposed


With a simple rule or using the accuracy of the spot metering system in the camera, proper exposure for the moon is pretty simple, but we have to take control using manual exposure mode.

One solution is to modify a guideline for sunlight called the Sunny 16 Exposure Rule. This rule states that on any given day when the sun is up and unimpeded by clouds, the exposure can be set with the shutter speed at 1/ISO and an aperture of f16 for any subject illuminated by the sun. The moon is nearly as bright, but because it’s so far away we need to open up a little bit … meaning we can set an exposure for the moon using a shutter speed at 1/ISO and an aperture between f8 and f 11. Some professionals call this the Moony 8 or 11 Exposure Rule. To simplify the discrepancy let’s split the difference by a half stop and call this the Moony 9.5 Exposure Rule, using an aperture of f9.5 at 1/ISO for the exposure.

The most accurate way, however to get the right exposure for the moon is to use the camera’s spot meter. It’s easy, just fill the spot meter with the illuminated side of the moon and open up 1 ½ to 2 stops… Bingo, perfect exposure!




Moon2 DJCreating great moon shots also require shooting at the right time to retain the beautiful tone and color of the sky. If you shoot too early (before the sunrise) or too late (after sunset) and you get a good exposure on the moon, your sky will be without color … meaning black. Try shooting within about 20 minutes on either side of sunrise or sunset during Civil Twilight. The sky will be amazing and your moon will too!







Now that we have a good idea about getting a good exposure for both moon and sky, knowing what phase the moon is in and where & when it will be in the sky will also help us become more successful. With a couple of web and smart phone applications, all of these moon questions can be answered.

TPE screen shot

My favorite web application for the computer is The Photographers Ephemeris (TPE). The TPE shows us the moon’s phase and describes where and when the moon will be on any day we choose at any given location. Beyond all that great information, it also analyzes terrain features around that location using Google mapping technology. This help’s you determine when the moon will be above certain geographic features from mountains to mesas … brilliant! There a PDF tutorial on how to use the application accessed in the tab I highlighted (red) in the above screen shot. The app is truly amazing and better yet, it’s free! If you find yourself using this application please donate once in awhile. They definitely deserve it!


MoonSeeker1My go to iPhone application when I’m scouting a location in the field is the Moon Seeker ($3.99)

This great little application calculates the moon’s position for any time, on any day at your present location. Moon Seeker has a phase, calendar, compass and real time 3D view.





















The full moon is by far the most desired phase to photograph, so just for fun I researched when would be the best time to capture the next one from my house in Missoula, Montana. Using the TPE, here’s what I discovered:

The moon is technically “full” on March 5, and it officially rises 15 minutes after the sunset. Initially that seems good. It’s certainly in the ideal time frame I discussed previously (within 20 minute after the sunset), but Missoula is surrounded by mountains, so by the time it rises over those mountains at ~7:30pm, a good exposure for the moon will render the sky pure black… not so good.

On March 4, the moon is at 99.5% full (looks full to us). It officially rises at 5:50pm (35 min before the sunset) and rises over the mountains at ~6:15 (10 minutes before the sunset) … absolutely perfect! We can now capture the moon with the last warm light on the landscape and or we can shoot it with the beautiful tones and color of the sky until about 6:45pm.

Here’s a little homework for you: What’s the best time to shoot the full moon at your location this month? When you have it figured out … have fun, be safe and imagine yourself as Neil Armstrong on July 21, 1969!


To find out what courses Doug Johnson

will be teaching in 2015, click here!




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Photographing (almost) 40 Super Bowls Thu, 29 Jan 2015 01:00:10 +0000 MillerPeterRead_PRMHeadshotFor many years, our Summer Intensive students have been fortunate enough to have sports photographer and Canon Explorer of Light Peter Read Miller pay them a visit to talk about his career and show off some of his (many) standout images. Having been a Sports Illustrated photographer for most of his career, Peter is no stranger to photographing the biggest events in sports, including the Super Bowl.

I was fortunate enough to catch up with Peter via email this week to ask him a few questions about this weekend’s Super Bowl and to get a few “behind the scenes” tidbits about his routine.


How many Super Bowls have you photographed in your career?
This will be number 39.

Who will you be shooting the game for on Sunday?
I am currently shooting for Associated Press (AP) Images. I retired from Sports Illustrated two years ago. AP Images holds the commercial license for the NFL, so my images go to the sponsors including Microsoft, Direct TV, Pepsi and Nike to name a few.

Describe how you mentally and physically prepare for a big game like this?
I try to see it as just another game … but not always successfully.

Briefly describe your “before.” How many days early do you arrive? Do you scope out the field in advance? How much on-the-ground prep is there?
I’ll arrive in Phoenix on Thursday. This is pretty standard unless I’m working on a special project. I have shot in the University of Phoenix stadium many times, so there is really no pre-game prep necessary.

Briefly describe your “after.” How long of a day is it? How much recovery time do you need? What and when is the next scheduled event you have to shoot?
I will be writing a guest blog entry for Scott Kelby’s “Photshop Insider” blog that is due on Tuesday morning, so I will start writing directly after the game. My schedule is fairly open for the few weeks after that, but I will be teaching a Canon Digital Learning Center Destination Workshop in Phoenix Feb 27 – March 1 and my own Sports Photography Workshop in Denver in April (check for more info).

After this many years, is the thrill of shooting football’s biggest game the same as it was before the first time?
The thrill comes from the game. Some Super Bowls have been great games, some … not so much.

What are the biggest differences between shooting your first Super Bowl vs. the game today?
My first was outside in the rain in Tulane stadium. There were far fewer photographerss and much less hoopla.

© Peter Read Miller © Peter Read Miller © Peter Read Miller © Peter Read Miller ©Rachel Murray ©Rachel Murray ©Rachel Murray

Describe the gear you will have on you during the game. Do you have a “go to” system?
I will have 3-EOS 1D X camera bodies, I-EOS 7D Mk II camera body, Canon EF 200-400 f4 w/built in Extender, Canon EF 70-200 f2.8 IS Series II, Canon EF 24-70 f2.8 Series II and Canon EF 16-35 f2.8 Series II

Will you be shooting with any remote cameras on Sunday?

What size cards do you shoot with? What format do you shoot in – RAW, JPG? Why?
16 and 32 GB cards. Always RAW only (no JPEGS). The RAW format allow you get the most out of a file in terms of sharpness and exposure. After my edit I convert the RAWs to JPEGs for upload.

Any idea how many images you will create during the game? Is there a “normal” or “average” amount?
4000-5000 images

Do you have an assistant with you throughout the day? What is his/her role? Is this person someone you have worked with in the past? Briefly describe your relationship with this individual.
No assistant this year. In the past assistants have carried my extra gear and held spots for me on the sidelines or in the end zone.

What are the expectations as far as file delivery throughout the day? Do you upload files each quarter? Each half? Walk us through the behind-the-scenes workflow a bit.
This year I will edit my take after the game. In the past at SI we had runners pick up cards after every major play and download them on site, then uploaded them to the office in New York for editing.

For you personally, what is the best possible outcome from the day? Cover shot?
Good action on the significant plays and the impact players.

What sports moment are you most looking forward to, or hoping happens, on Sunday? (IE: Lynch spikes ball in front of you? Brady looks into your lens as he’s diving across the goal line?)
The winning touchdown catch right in front of me!

How “in touch” are you with the game? Do you feel like you experience every little moment since you are so close to it, or is the opposite true? Do you feel you miss most of the game since you are so close to it?
I definitely follow the “feel” of the game though not always the exact score.

We all know the Seahawks are going to win, but are you rooting for either team?
They better start better than they did against Green Bay. The Patriots aren’t going to let them back in the game like that!

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Winter Photography Tips Tue, 27 Jan 2015 15:20:37 +0000 Undisturbed, peaceful and beautifully white, winter is a season like no other. From the smallest ice crystal to the great expanse of a snow-covered field, winter’s cold is the visual architect for an endlessly evolving storyline. For photographers it is a pure white canvas for contemplation and creativity. Winter is a wonderland!


logoIt can also be pretty darn chilly and one the biggest reasons many photographers choose to stay inside. Comfort is the key to success and working camera equipment is too. Here are a few suggestions to help you prepare for even the coldest days of winter, so you can concentrate on creating great winter photos. Staying warm and dry is critical and layering with the “right” clothing is the solution. REI (Recreational Equipment Inc.) is one of the best non-profit outdoor retailers in the country with the most technologically advanced clothing options, a “no questions asked” return policy and an expert staff to find out what’s best. If you’re a member you also get 10% back from your purchases at years end… Sweet!

One of the best little clothing options for keeping your hands warm and toasty are gloves made by companies like AquaTech and Freehands. These handy winter gloves were designed for photographers, allowing your thumb and index finger access to adjust dials, press buttons, etc.

Another handy little accessory for cold weather photography is the disposable hand and foot warming packets. You’ll get hours of warmth from these safe little products. Besides your boots and gloves, they fit just about anywhere, like under your hat or in a pocket. … and don’t forget, hydrating yourself and eating well will keep you warmer too.

Camera equipment and tripods are certainly much more resistant to the cold than we are, but when temperatures get well below freezing certain precautions should be taken to keep those happily working too. One of the biggest concerns when it gets really cold is condensation after you come inside from a shoot. Condensation on equipment surfaces is no logobig deal it can be wiped off. The problem is condensation will occur on the inside of things too. This can be a real nuisance with lenses, taking up to a day or more to dry out. Condensation and electronics is even a worse combination, so lenses, cameras, memory cards and even batteries should be warmed up before they’re exposed to room temperatures. I keep all this stuff in my camera bag (zipped up) until everything is at room temperature, which could take a couple hours.

*If you’re anxious to download and look at your images (and who isn’t), here’s a little tip. Before you come in from the cold put the memory cards you’ve used in a zip-lock sandwich bag, remove as much of the air as possible and seal it. Store it outside the camera bag. This will help the cards to reach room temperature quicker. Batteries should be included too if they need a charge and you’re going back out soon.

Speaking of batteries … cold temperatures drain power. Carry a couple extra batteries and keep the spares in a warm pocket close to your body. If your camera shows low battery power, install one of the spares and put the drained one back in your pocket. It will acquire a little more power after it warms up.

Be gentle with anything plastic when it’s really cold. It might break if you drop it or hit something with it. Carbon fiber and metal can also become brittle in really cold temperatures, so be aware of your gear. Seriously, I saw a metal tripod break in -20 degree weather.

If you use a tripod, treat yourself to some leg covers. They not only protect the legs, but handling the tripod will be warmer for your hands.

Photographing in cold snowy weather is certainly a labor of love, but with a little preparation, you’ll fall in love with the winter wonderland and your photographs will be glorious as well.


To find out what courses Doug will
be teaching in 2015, click here!

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Digital Imaging Workflow Wed, 21 Jan 2015 02:01:28 +0000 © 2015 Forest Chaput de SaintongeOne of the most important skills for the modern photographer to have is a solid workflow that takes them through all the steps from capture to output. Because many people are intimidated by the computer, they will easily become lost and lose sight of the goal they had when they began editing a set of images. A workflow prevents this by helping the photographer stay on track and keeping them from wandering into uncharted territory when editing images.

To me, the whole reason to develop a solid workflow is speed. Because editing can take up the majority of your working time as a professional photographer, any way to reduce the required time to edit a set of images is worth consideration.


A good workflow begins at the time of capture. There are many things we can do in-camera to reduce the amount of time we will spend on the computer when we get home. All too often photographers neglect to properly expose their images, set their white-balance or check for a good composition before taking a photograph. All these things take a fraction of the time to fix in the camera as they do on the computer. Don’t just say that you’ll crop the photo in Photoshop. Shoot it as if you don’t have Photoshop. It is always smart to take the best possible image in camera and to leave a minimum amount of work to be done on the computer.    


In principle, the import phase of any workflow should be rather straightforward: get the images from the memory card onto the computer in the least amount of time. There is one caveat though. If the images you put onto your computer aren’t organized, how will you find them later? This is probably the most widespread problem I see when teaching. Many students just don’t know where their images actually live on their hard drives.

Luckily we live in the 21st century. There are many software programs out there that make the whole process of image organization much easier. The industry standard, and the one we teach here at Rocky Mountain School of Photography, is Adobe® Lightroom®. Lightroom makes it very easy to import your images in an organized way and find the images you are interested in easily and quickly. I won’t be talking about how to import your images using Lightroom in this article,* but I will say that if used properly, Lightroom will help just about any photographer keep their images organized.

The way I like to organize my photographs is by putting them into folders named with the date I took the images and a few descriptive words about what I actually shot on that day. For example, if I took a bunch of images on July 4th, 2014 of a fireworks show, I would put all of those images into a folder called “2014-07-04 Fireworks Show.” It’s important to put the date in the “YYYY-MM-DD” format so that your folders will stay sequential over many years. By adding a couple of descriptive words to the end of the folder name, you will easily be able to tell what you shot on each day and more quickly find the images you are looking for.

Many photographers like to sort their images by where they were taken or what’s in the photo instead of using dated folders. These alternative organization systems can be equally as effective and should be considered as well. However, I do think the dated folder system is the easiest to learn and to get used to for a beginning photographer. And, if you are interested in one of these more content-based organization systems, you will want to also do yourself the favor of including dated folders beneath each location/subject folder in order for you to be able to sort between multiple visits to that location/subject. For example: Yosemite>2008>2008-04-13 Half Dome>PHOTOS.

Beyond helping you create a folder structure, Lightroom offers many additional ways to organize your images in the Library module. Collections, keywords and labels help photographers sort their images more specifically, instead of just leaving them in folders to find. I think all Lightroom users should experiment with each of these tools to find which is(are) the best method(s) for their own organization.

*One quick note on importing. Many photographers waste precious time downloading their images by connecting their camera to their computer using a cord instead of using a memory card reader. A card reader can speed up the import process dramatically, and I strongly encourage every photographer to buy one. Also, card readers have come a long way in the past few years. If you are still using a card reader from 10 years ago, it might be time to upgrade. A new, high-quality card reader will result in huge time savings over the years.


Editing is by far the hardest part of the workflow. Because of this, it’s also the place where people inevitably waste the most amount of time. I like to tell my students that no image should take longer than five minutes to edit in Lightroom. There just aren’t that many things you can do to any given image. Now, I want to be clear here. There are many photographers that will take hours in Photoshop making an image perfect and altering the finest details. That’s Photoshop. In Photoshop it’s easy to spend hours; in Lightroom, edits should be quick and effective. If anyone is taking longer than five minutes on an image it’s usually because they don’t have a workflow and are moving between tools in a scattered manner.

So, what’s the right order? That’s up to the photographer to decide. Every photographer moves through the tools in a different way. You should establish a systematic approach to the tools in order to maximize your editing time. With that said, here’s what works for me (assuming that I have a pretty good image coming from the camera).

1. Cropping – There is no use editing parts of an image that you are going to end up chopping off in the end. Make the crop first.

2. White Balance – It’s hard to see what you’re working with if the image is too warm or too cool. Adjust this early on. But feel free to make the image a little warmer or cooler to convey a certain “mood” through the image.

3. Global adjustments – Changes such as exposure, white and black point, contrast and saturation. All changes at this stage should be “global,” as in, affecting the whole image.

4. Local adjustments – Make adjustments to specific parts of the image (“local” adjustments).

5. Retouching – If the image is going to be printed or published in any way, take time to clean up any dust that may have been on the sensor, remove blemishes on faces, poles coming out of people’s heads, etc. And don’t forget to discuss beforehand how much retouching you and your client are comfortable with.

6. Final touches – If the image needs sharpening, noise reduction or suffers from chromatic aberrations, this is when I would tackle that. Remember, you can only sharpen an in-focus image; if you took a blurry image, sharpening will do nothing for you. Also, noise reduction isn’t magical, it won’t remove the noise entirely, it’ll just make it less apparent. And too much noise-reduction will actually make your photo blurry.


Lastly, we have the output phase of things. Luckily, Lightroom makes this step very easy. If you are sending the photo out to the web to put on a website or print through a photo lab, you will use the export dialog box to prepare that image for that specific use. If you are going to print your image directly from your computer, you will use the print module within the program. Many people may want to crop or edit the same image many different ways for different uses. To do this, I would suggest using “Virtual Copies” in Lightroom. This allows the user to create many different versions of the same image without actually duplicating the size of the file. This way you can make different versions without filling up your hard drive.

I hope this gives you a perspective on the steps involved when taking an image from capture to output. I can’t emphasize enough that a workflow is entirely dependent on the photographer, but I suggest that all of you use this as a “starter workflow” and adapt it into something that works for you.

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Freshen Up Your Photography Wed, 24 Dec 2014 20:44:48 +0000 If you photograph long enough eventually the technical aspects of the art form become comfortable and easy. For many folks who reach this plateau they can become complacent and maybe even uninterested in taking the camera out for a stroll. The truth of the matter is when you reach this point of technical proficiency is where real photography begins.

I recently presented a lecture on “Keeping your Photography Fresh” at one of RMSP’s free events in Missoula and I asked the participants why they were there. The overwhelming response was either, “I’m bored” or “I don’t know what to shoot.” Most of the folks who attended were accomplished photographers who had reached that point of proficiency I just discussed. During the lecture a whole range of ideas was explored on ways to spice things up and the consensus could be wrapped by saying “just think outside the box.” It really is just that easy.

So, if your camera is gathering dust on a shelf or hasn’t seen the light of day for a while, think about trying some of the ideas in this post. It’s perfect timing too, considering that New Year is right around the corner and resolutions are a great way to jump start anything in your life… how fun the adventure will be!

  1. Word concepts are one of the easiest ways to get things rolling. Come up with a word or phrase like blue, mysterious or how about “childish expression” to photograph. How the word or phrase is interpreted, visually is up to you… think outside the box, literally! You can download this list I came up with to get you started.


Photographic Exercises (click to download)


  1. Projects can keep your photography fresh for long time, maybe a lifetime. I’m still fascinated by great street art. The project began twenty years ago while I was shooting the concept word “evidence” in Denver, CO.




  1. Try a new perspective. Get a hold of a new piece of equipment. A macro lens or maybe a tilt-shift lens will open up a whole new world.




  1. Go beyond one. Explore a series of images that communicate a single concept. It gets you thinking and shooting more and helps to create a richer story for the viewer as well.




  1. If you Ying, then Yang. Trying a different approach to exposure or processing allows creativity from just your literal interpretation of the subject. Remember when you were a kid. There were no boundaries… experimenting is the inspiration for all creativity!


High key exposure


Low key exposure and gray scale processing


exposure and gray scale processing


  1. Shake it up. I love my tripod and crisp images, but it’s also really exciting to leave that all behind. Moving the camera with longer exposures blurs subjects and creates a unique expression you probably never have imagined.



Tracks from a moving train


Inside a flower


  1. Share work with the world. Sharing photographs allows us to see others work and think about new ways to express ourselves too. Its nearly limitless the number of ways to do it: Instagram, Google+, galleries, email… the list goes on and on and on. For the holiday’s this year I created little square ornaments for gifts. My xmas tree is more expressive as well!




  1. Enroll in a RMSP course. Classes open creative doors to personal expression by connecting with other students, instructors and ideas … and to top that off, they are super duper fun!


To find out what courses Doug will
be teaching in 2015, click here!


Happy holidays my fellow photographers and cheers to a fresh new year!

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How to Create Presets in Lightroom Mon, 22 Dec 2014 16:00:18 +0000

A Lightroom Develop preset is a single setting or combination of settings that can be applied to a few or many images all at once. Think of it as one click to apply several settings. For example, when I download images from a portrait session, each image gets a -5 reduction in Clarity, has its chromatic aberration removed, receives a proper amount of sharpening, and has a Neutral Profile applied to it, all before I even open my first image in Lightroom!

Lightroom has many Presets that ship with the program. These presets can seen and applied by opening your Presets Panel in the Develop Module (as seen to the left). This can be done by clicking on the right facing arrow to the left of the word Presets.

The presets that are shipped with Lightroom are grouped according to function. For example you can see several different types of B&W “looks” you can apply in the Lightroom B&W Presets category.

Creating your own presets in Lightroom is easy and saves lots of time. You can create your own presets for B&W, Color Effects, Sharpening or just about anything you can think of!

Some of my favorite presets to create are those that I can apply on import. These presets save loads of time later on in the Develop Module.

Here is the list of settings that I typically apply to most images during import:

- Adjust the slider to taste.


Sharpening – Here I use the presets that ship with Lightroom. Circled in Red to the right you can see the Sharpen Faces and Sharpen Scenic. If I am creating an Import Preset for Portraits, I click on the Sharpen Faces, to apply the correct amount of sharpening for people. For landscapes, I click on the Sharpen Scenic.

Remove Chromatic Aberration – Under the Lens Corrections Panel, click on Basic at the top and then check the box for Remove Chromatic Aberration.


2-Chromatic Aberrations

Camera Calibration Profiles can be found by scrolling to the bottom most panel in the Develop module.

By default, Adobe applies the Adobe Standard Profile to all incoming RAW images. This is a great general profile, but for certain types of images you may want something a bit more targeted.

Click on the double arrow to the right of the Adobe Standard Profile to get the drop down list. Click on the profile of your choice to apply it.


The Camera Calibration Profile is only available for RAW (and DNG) photographs. A Jpeg will display the word Embedded here. When shooting Jpegs it is best to pick your “Picture Style” in camera, as you do not have the choice back in Lightroom.


    1. To begin creating your own presets, simply select any image in the Library Module and move to the Develop Module.


    1. Apply the settings that you want to be part of the Preset. Starting at the top adjust the Clarity. Higher for images with important detail and lower for portraits.


    1. Click the desired Sharpening Preset.


    1. Choose your Camera Calibration Profile.


    1. Now that your settings have been applied, it’s time to make the preset.  Click on the Plus button in the Presets Panel (circled in red to the right).  This will bring up the New Develop Preset Box


    1. Type a meaningful name into the Preset Name box highlighted in Yellow.


    1. Check only the items that you have applied to the image.  Here you can see that I have only checked Clarity, Sharpening, Chromatic


    1. Aberration, Process Version, and Calibration. Process Version is checked by default and can be left that way.


    1. Check the Remove Chromatic Aberrations checkbox.


    1. The Check All and Check None buttons at the bottom are a quick way to check and uncheck all of the boxes.


    1. Click Create to create your new preset!














6-Preset Dialog box

Now that your preset has been created, you can find it under User Presets at the bottom of the Presets Panel. Here you can see that I have several import presets beginning with the number one. This keeps the presets near the top of the list using Alpha Numeric organization.


Presets can be applied in many ways:

  1. If an image is selected in the Develop Module, you can simply click on the preset to apply it.


  1. In the Library Module select one or many images. Right click (control+click for Apple) on the thumbnail of any of the selected images. Choose Develop Settings> User Presets>then choose your desired Preset.


  1. The Presets can also be applied during import. When importing images click the left facing arrow next to Apply During Import. This reveals the Develop Settings.


  1. Click the Develop Settings to reveal User Presets and finally click on your desired preset to apply it to every image during import!




8-Apply Import Preset

9-Apply Import Preset-2

I have two types of presets: one for Portraits and several for general/landscape images.

The settings for my Portrait Preset are:
Clarity -5
Remove Chromatic Aberration
Sharpen Faces (via the Presets Panel)

Camera Neutral Camera Calibration Profile.

The settings for my General Presets are:
Clarity +10
Remove Chromatic Aberration
Sharpen Scenic (via the Presets Panel)

Using the above settings I created an Adobe Standard , Camera Landscape, Camera Neutral, and Camera Standard Presets.

Want more from Tim Cooper?

Click here to check out 
the courses he will be teaching in 2015!

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Double Vision Part 1: Making Your Macro Shots Stand Out Mon, 15 Dec 2014 16:00:49 +0000 Stop for a second and picture a good macro shot in your mind. What does it look like? More importantly, what does it feel like? Seriously, do it, I can wait……

Okay, so you need some inspiration? Here are a couple of images that might help you along.




Now, the answers will be different for different people but the following list of words covers the most common answers I’ve heard from my students over the last 12 years.

Color     Blur     Detail     Softness     Ethereal     Seeing what your eye can’t

Not all of the words may have been on your list because we all place value on different things, but there’s no getting around a simple truth: Many macro shots FEEL a certain way. I attribute these feelings to that fact that in macro, flower petals glow, color stands out and softness and blur create a dreamy feel within a shallow depth of field. Some photographers strive to get maximum depth of field in their shots and even stack multiple images together to achieve something closer to what the eye would see but, for me, a photograph becomes more interesting when it records your subject in a way that you can’t see with your eyes so I shy away from that technique.

The very act of getting extremely close to your subject creates ultra shallow depth of field. Things that don’t fall within your thin plane of focus will become very blurry and lose detail. Color remains but detail is lost. Often, in macro, as objects become out of focus they get larger and more diffuse which makes them seem to glow and feel ethereal. This happens more with subjects that have a good degree of depth since more of the subject will fall out of your depth of field.

Often, I like to exaggerate these qualities slightly through a process that harkens back to the film days; double exposure. Many of today’s digital cameras give you the ability to take multiple exposures in camera. Through this process, you can instruct the camera to lay two (or more with some cameras) consecutive photos over each other to combine them into one image. So if you took one photo of your friend crossing the crosswalk and double exposed it with one of cars rushing down the street, you’d end up with a pretty odd feeling photo, wouldn’t you?

That’s not really the point of my technique. What I try to do is combine two images in which the qualities of one enhance the other. Below are examples of the two shots I would take; one with detail and one with a bloom of color.



If you looked at them before being combined they might appear odd but once together they look like this:



Pretty cool, right? Wanna see more? Well you already have. The first three images included in this article are all double exposures as well.

Now at this point you may have gone through your camera menu and discovered that you can’t do multiple exposure with your specific camera. No biggie, I’ll teach you how to do it with software in my next blog post, but keep reading so you get a sense for the effect we’re after.

Step 1. Put your camera in multiple exposure mode. Some cameras allow you to choose the number of exposures, but for this technique you want to choose two. Different models and brands of cameras give you options for how they blend the exposures together. Ideally you want an outcome that doesn’t look too dark and you want the camera to do the math behind making the final image look properly exposed. Often this is called “Average” or “Auto Gain” in the camera’s menu although manufacturers seem to come up with new words for it with every model introduced.

Step 2. Put your camera on a tripod, set up your composition and focus on your subject.

Step 3. Take your first photo at f16 or f11 to get a reasonable amount of depth of field.

Step 4. For your next shot you want little to no sharpness. If possible, set your camera to a large aperture like f4 and make sure to adjust your exposure if you’re in manual mode. Some cameras don’t allow you to change your aperture and shutter speed between shots in a double exposure. If that’s the case then skip this step.

Step 5. Make it “bloom.” To do this you want your subject to be both out of focus and slightly larger in your viewfinder. To achieve this, put your camera in manual focus mode and, while looking through the viewfinder, rotate your focus so your lens is focusing closer. This will make the subject become out of focus and larger. If your lens was already focused as close as it would get you have two other options.

Option 1. Move your camera closer without changing the composition. There are many reasons I like my Kirk Focusing Rail and this is one of them. It gives you the ability to move the camera closer or farther from your subject in large or tiny amounts without changing your composition. (Kirk’s rail is a game changer and I don’t shoot macro without it!)

Moving your camera closer to the subject will make the subject grow in size, and if you don’t focus after you’ve done this, your subject will become blurry.

Option 2. If you’re using a macro filter or extension tubes on a zoom lens you can defocus your lens and then zoom in slightly to make the subject bigger.

Step 6. Now take the second photo. Your camera will take a moment to overlay the two images but then you’ll see the result on the back of the camera.



Some subjects work better than others and the degree to which you make your second photo out of focus will depend on your preferences, but pretty soon you’ll be taking images that look and feel just a little bit more special.

In my next post I’ll teach you how to get similar effects through post processing…stay tuned!


Want to learn more Macro Photography techniques?
Join Tony Rizzuto at any of the 2015 Photo Weekends he will be teaching, or join him for our Macro Photography workshop.


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A Tale of a Stolen Photo Wed, 10 Dec 2014 16:06:13 +0000 written by Beau Johnston.

I made a conscious decision, when I started writing and photography, that if I wanted to make a name for myself I would need to have an online presence. Websites, blogs, and social media are great tools for getting your work out and in front of the masses. By leveraging these tools, I have acknowledged the risk of having my photography used, without my permission, in everything from personal blogs to advertising.

I have tried (nearly) everything I can think of to prevent individuals from stealing my work. I have used right-click protection, small jpegs, and watermarks to try and limit the use of my images with marginal results. I have found that if an individual really wants to use your image, they will find a way. My final line of defense is to search for my work with Google™. I run Google Chrome on my computer and installed the ‘Search by Image’ {hyperlink:} extension for the browser. This allows me to right click on any image and search for other instances where the image is used on the internet, all by selecting the ‘Search Google with this image’ in the pop-out window.

My original image

Beau Johnston

The cropped image from the website

Coppied Image

During the week of March 31st I spent a couple of my lunch hours browsing the internet for my photos (I know that sounds a bit vain). In doing so, I came across nine instances where my images were being used without my permission. In all but one instance, the images had been cropped to remove my watermark, with the most notable use being that of real estate company. Not only had the company used my image without licensing agreements in place, but they had cropped the image to remove all recognition of the photographer that took it – Me!

How I Handle These Situations

In an effort to document the copyright infringement, and before I ever contact the violator, I exported the webpage as a pdf file. If things were to ever escalate, and lawyers were to become involved, I want to have evidence of their violation. This is not the first time I have confronted someone about using my images without my permission, but it was the first retail business was promoting their products with one. I felt it was best to document everything, just in case.

My Email to the Company

After exporting their webpage as a pdf, I drafted an email to the company explaining that I discovered their use of my photo without my permission. I find that when I come across as ‘confused’ about whether they have a license to use the image, and not immediately confrontational, I seem to get a better response.

From: Beau Johnston

Sent: Friday, April 4, 2014 11:10 AM


Subject: Image Use


Good morning ____,

After a recent image search, I discovered one of my photographs may be being used on your website without a license agreement in place. The page is question is for the Copper Basin Subdivision, found here: http://www.________/ copper_basin_subdivision/

The photograph in question can be found here: http://www. ________/Documents%20and%20Settings/Copper-Basin-Idaho-Homes.jpg

Can you verify if a license agreement is in place? I do not have record of paying to license the image.


Thank you for your time.

Beau Johnston

The ‘Optional’ Next Step

If I do not get a response from the violator, within a few days, I will follow up by reporting the copyright infringement to Google. Google’s online Report alleged copyright infringement form {hyperlink:} asks you for your contact information, to describe where the copyrighted work can be found, and where the alleged copyright infringement is located. In this case I would explain how the company had used my image without permission and provided an example of where the photo was located on my travel blog.

The Company’s Reply

I heard back from the company, a few days later, with a reply that they were looking into the situation and would get back to me. The owner eventually replied saying he did not believe they had paid to license the image but he has “others help develop his site and they might have licensed the image, not that that matters.” I know, and he probably knows, this image was never licensed for use on his website and that is why I was not surprised when he asked for information on how much I charge. After exchanging a few emails, and some phone call conversations, we came to an agreement to license the image for use on his real estate website.

Lessons I Learned

I learned a lot in talking with the real estate company about their copyright infringement; most notably was to reaffirm the old adage “You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.” While many of my friends told me to immediately send them an invoice and demand the image be taken down, when they heard of the copyright infringement, I decided to take a different approach. I ultimately believe I came out ahead by taking the approach I did. I believe the ‘stern’ approach would have resulted in my image being removed, but I do not believe it would have resulted in me being paid. By being willing to work with the company, and being pleasant during discussions, I was able to establish a licensing agreement for the website use. We, ultimately, want to get paid and have our images on display so why not start off on a good foot with the people/companies stealing our work. Escalate to being stern, if you do not get anywhere by nice, and let them know you are filing a complaint with Google.

Thank you to Beau Johnston for this very informative and insightful blog post. Here’s his bio and website for you to check out.

My wife (Krista) and I are the managing editors for Toyota Cruisers and Truck Magazine’s “Outdoor Lifestyle” and “Overland” sections.  We are sponsored by AJIK Overland Exchange, TreadWright Tires, and members of DeLorme’s Ambassador Team.  You can read more of our travels, and pick up a few gourmet camp cooking recipes, at our blog  My recent honors include taking first place in the Recreation category at the 2013 Wild West Photo Fest, second place in the wildlife category at the 2013 Picture Wild Montana photo contest, and second place at the 2014 Platte River Photography Show. 

 My personal photography project can be found at

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In the Spirit of Ansel Adams: Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons in Black and White – Guest Article by Steve Russell Fri, 05 Dec 2014 17:30:40 +0000 IMG_5687At the tail end of Fall I had a chance to join a small group of experienced photographers on a photo expedition to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. Our goals were to “hunt” and “shoot” wild animals, photograph the Milky Way, and capture the grandeur of the Teton mountain range. Of course, this is Ansel Adams country, so in the spirit of his eminence, I processed my images in black and white using Lightroom 5 (exactly as I learned it in the RMSP Lightroom Workshop). What better way to reduce them to their essence.

Our group had the benefit of having a photographer with over 40 Yellowstone/Grand Teton photo shoots under his belt, which made all the difference in terms of finding opportunities. Two of in our group had been to the parks five times without ever having seen a grizzly bear; on this trip, however, we found them twice in five days. Along with the grizzlies we shot bull elk (in the rutting season), pronghorn antelope, black bear, bighorn sheep and bison, but unfortunately, we didn’t see any moose or wolves. Maybe next time. My best, sharpest images were when handholding my Canon 7D with 70-200mm IS lens and 1.4 teleconverter.

R22A1955Our day trip to the Grand Tetons was unsurprisingly spectacular, although we settled for big billowy clouds over the mountains instead of the more iconic snow-covered peaks (which was to occur only two days later). I used my 24-105mm f/4 and 15mm 2.8 lenses on a Canon 5D Mark III for my best results.

Back in Yellowstone the clouds luckily parted on two consecutive, new-moon nights allowing us to shoot the Milky Way (me, for the first time ever) over briefly light-painted geysers we’d scoped out during the day. It took some trial and error (mostly error) but I settled on ISO 3200, wide open at f/2.8, for 25-30 seconds on a tripod using the 15mm fisheye lens on my 5D Mark III. I couldn’t be happier with the results.

R22A1870We barely scratched the surface of wildlife, landscape and night-sky photographic opportunities in Yellowstone and Grand Tetons on our five-day visit. I’m no Ansel Adams but I suspect that I felt just as much of a thrill as he did when witnessing such extraordinary sights.

Steve Russell
IMG_5439 IMG_5542 IMG_5594-Edit IMG_5647-Edit IMG_5687 IMG_5740 IMG_6032 IMG_6038 IMG_6102 IMG_6195-Edit R22A1774 R22A1870 R22A1955 R22A1982
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False Color Infrared – Digital – Guest Article by Mel Mann Thu, 06 Nov 2014 18:41:30 +0000 In my previous article, Photography In the Red Zone, I discussed the interesting world of Infrared photography and my experimentation with it. The traditional look of Infrared photography is black and white, and while this can be very dramatic, it’s not the only way you can portray IR photography. There is a version known as false color IR where different colors are matched to specific wavelengths in order to identify objects reflecting them. We’ve seen lots of these images because NASA uses false color IR for many of the earth images made by low orbit satellites. With this you can determine the health of plants, extent of flood waters, differentiate among snow, ice and clouds.

In the hands of a more down-to-Earth photographer false color, IR opens up wholly different color palettes to spice up seemingly mundane images. Selecting specific wavelengths for subjects may not be possible, but since the image generally shows an other-worldly appearance, the choice of colors is entirely in the photographers hands.

Although there is no longer color IR film available, digital IR offers the opportunity to work with this type of photography. All you need is an IR filter for your camera and editing software that gives you the ability to swap RGB channels and modify their levels.

First you need image information, both for IR and color. The following two images were made by putting my camera on a tripod and carefully making the same image twice, once with a Hoya R72 filter on my camera and the other with no IR filter.











Next I opened both images in Photoshop. Starting with the color version, I opened the Channels palette. I’ll show different versions of Channel swapping below but the technique is the same. First select the Channel you want to swap in the color image by clicking on the channel itself to make it the only one active.

All ChannelsGreen Channel Only










Go to the color image and Select All, then Copy.

Click on the IR image to make it active, open the Channels palette, select the same color Channel you copied in the color image and Paste. The Channel from the color image will be put in the image. You can move one or more Channels in this way depending on how you want your image to look.

Once you’ve swapped the Channels you want, open the Levels palette in the IR image. Select each channel separately and slide the black and white arrows to the edges of the histogram. You can put the arrows anywhere, but I usually start with this as a way to see how the basic image will turn out.

Levels Screenshot










When you’ve adjusted all the channels click on the RGB Channel to make them all active. Then you’ll see the final image in false color. From here you can make adjustments to each color using other Photoshop adjustment tools to get the final image just the way you want.

From the two images above here are the results of different combinations of Channel swapping.


Blue-Green Channel Swap


Red-Blue Channel Swap


Red-Green Channel Swap












With Selections, Masking and other editing tools you can create a worldview that is uniquely your own. My work is landscape so I have a range of colors to play around with; I have no idea what a portrait photographer would do with this technique, but would really like to see some examples!

Not a bad way to explore what’s all around us in a different ‘light.’

Mel Mann
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Photography in the Red Zone – Guest Article by Mel Mann Wed, 22 Oct 2014 14:51:29 +0000 It was my good fortune to get a roll of Kodak infrared film recently, giving me a chance to play around with this very different photography medium. In my mind I kept planning to have one of my digital bodies converted to IR but just never got around to it. Film gave me a way to experiment with little cost in time and money; a great opportunity which turned out to be a good motivator.

Although the film was fairly old it had been handled carefully and I followed all the handling instructions my local lab manager gave me, resulting in about 50% of the images turning out pretty good. And by pretty good I mean they look like IR images I’ve seen in books so I knew my efforts were on track.








Closely following some corollary of Murphy’s Law I immediately discovered Kodak had discontinued their IR film several years ago and that remaining types of IR film didn’t give the full experience. Here I was again, questioning whether to convert a digital body or not. Fortunately (I hate waiting to try something I find cool) I discovered the R72 filter.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPutting one of these on the lens of your regular digital camera results in the sensor seeing light almost exclusively in the near IR frequency (above 720nm for the technically oriented). Combined with the IR filter in front of most digital sensors you get very little green and blue light. What you do get is fairly long exposure times since the amount of light getting to the sensor is seriously reduced.

Which is why it’s great photography for people who like shooting around mid-day. No need to worry about that much-desired golden light landscape photographers chase so much. With this type of photography you really want the glare of an overhead sun just to keep shutter speeds reasonable! Although the film was high speed enough to shoot handheld at ISO 50, the digital sensor isn’t that sensitive. Using ISO 100 I was exposing at shutter speeds well above 10 seconds for moderate apertures (f/5.3-f/8). Tripod use is essential unless your style is glowing, blurred images. I like my images to show good detail, though.









Speaking of blur, I learned images will be out of focus unless you adjust the focus for IR light. Film lenses had marks on their depth of field gauges showing where to off-set the focus for IR – digital lenses don’t. You can refer to charts on the off-set for your specific lens or you can take the trial-and-error approach of focusing, putting the filter on, checking the image, taking the filter off and doing it over again until you find the right offset. Fortunately for me I found LiveView on my Olympus enables me to see the composition well enough to manual focus the lens. Since only red light is reaching the sensor, focusing with LiveView is like offsetting the focus for IR. Not sure if all LiveView systems will work so you’ll have to test your system.

You’ll find the resulting image to be red, very red. No problem. Using Lightroom’s Develop tools or Photoshop you can adjust the brightness and contrast, convert to B&W, then use the ‘color’ sliders to adjust the monochrome image to your desired look. Add a little Gaussian blur to the image and you’ve got the typical glowing IR photograph.











You can get even more creative with false-color IR. Turns out there is some green and blue light reaching the sensor. You can adjust your exposure to maximize these channels (without blowing out the red channel highlights) and then use the Channels and Levels tools in Photoshop to manipulate the look of the final image.











There are other color techniques involving swapping channels between IR and non-IR images that enable you to get almost any appearance you want. I haven’t played around with these yet; however, you can find instructions on a number of websites.

I did find more IR film to play around with so my goal is to learn the look of IR from film and then translate that look to digital using the R72 filter. Might be enough motivation to actually send out that camera body for conversion.

Mel Mann
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In Living Color: My Summer of Dragonflies – Guest Article by Steve Russell Mon, 06 Oct 2014 16:08:05 +0000 R22A2854-2My summer began with a chance photographic encounter with the “birth” of a dragonfly (the topic of my last blog) and is winding down with a concerted effort to capture dragonflies in flight. In between I’ve taken thousands of shots of dragonflies doing what they do: hunting bugs, eating, mating, perching, laying eggs and when I’m lucky hovering long enough to focus my camera.

I now have three dependable, accessible wetland areas between Tacoma and Seattle to shoot. The summer has been warm here and the light plentiful, which brought the dragonflies out and created the conditions necessary to shoot them at fast speeds, enliven the colors, and illuminate the intricate detail of their lacy wings and compound eyes.

R22A3623-2I’ve used about every combination of equipment to shoot them, including real close-ups with a 90mm macro lens, fill-the-frame shots from a little further away with a 70-200 lens(both f/2.8 and the lighter f/4), the use of a 36mm extension tube and/or a 1.4 or 2.0 teleconverter on a 70-200 lens, and both a Canon 7D (speed for flight shots) and a 5D Mark III (for superior processing). Most shooting was handheld, but I used a tripod with a gimble head when I was in a corridor of bushes on one side and tall grasses on the other that semi-contained a few dragonflies and made their flight plans more predictable.

R22A8574-2There were plenty of surprises again this summer. I witnessed (and shot) one dragonfly (the lime green one below) snatch its cousin the damselfly while the damselfly was mating and eat it for lunch (nature is cruel!). Anytime a male clamped onto the neck of a female and flew by repeatedly dipping down to the pond or grasses for her to drop some eggs, it was a surprise. Getting a flying dragonfly in focus was always a pleasant post-processing surprise given that they flap their wings at about 40 times per second. (That usually took perfect conditions and a 1/8,000th shutter speed.) And finding the blurred image of my tripod and the white cloud-like reflections from my camera lens framing a tack-sharp dragonfly in the foreground was a great post-processing surprise.

Dragonflies are the crown jewels of live macro photography (for me) but they can be some of the hardest subjects to shoot. A combination like that makes for a worthy challenge and a jolt of satisfaction when things come together for a great shot.

Steve Russell
IMG_4148-2 IMG_4239-2 R22A0752-2 R22A0983-2 R22A1349-2 R22A1363-2 R22A2854-2 R22A3376-2 R22A3623-2 R22A4784-2 R22A4914-2 R22A5808-2 R22A5989-2 R22A6613-2 R22A7127-2 R22A7799-2 R22A8072-2 R22A8146-2 R22A8457-2 R22A8574-2 R22A9105-2


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Using the Contact Sheet II Plug-in With Photoshop CC Thu, 25 Sep 2014 21:27:30 +0000 Photoshop CC includes only a single automated way of adding multiple images to a page: the Contact Sheet II plug-in. So to combine several photos on a page, most of the time you will use the same process described in my article about creating a poster with Photoshop. (See link here.)


Eyster_01 Fall Contact Sheet rotate

Contact Sheet II arranges a folder or collection of photos on the page in a grid of rows and columns. You can control the order that the photos appear on the page by rearranging them in Bridge. The images all stay the same size and do not overlap one another.








Eyster_02 Bridge Folder

To use the Contact Sheet feature, start Bridge and navigate to a folder or collection of pictures. From the menu, choose Tools > Photoshop > Contact Sheet II.* (You can also access the Contact Sheet in Photoshop from the File > Automate menu.) Photoshop starts and displays the Contact Sheet II dialog box.

*If you do not see the Contact Sheet choice, you can download and add the Contact Sheet plug-in to Photoshop CC by following the instructions on this web page: Even though Adobe says the Contact Sheet plug-in is not supported in Photoshop CC, it still works.





Eyster_03 Contact Sheet Dialog 1The first section lists the Source Images, which is Bridge by default, and displays the number of files selected. If you start the Contact Sheet from inside Photoshop, you have the option of selecting either Files or a Folder from the drop-down list and then browsing to the pictures you want to add to the contact sheet.








Eyster_04 Contact Sheet Dialog 2In the second section, you set up the Document size (paper) you want the contact sheet printed on. The default is 8×10-inch paper in a vertical orientation. You can also specify a print resolution, color mode, bit depth and color space. A check box tells Photoshop to flatten all the layers when you are finished. I turn this on for regular contact sheets. (It creates a much smaller file size.) But if you are trying something creative, you should leave this turned off so you can reposition the layers after they are made.







Eyster_05 Contact Sheet Dialog 3

The Thumbnails section lets you determine the number of rows and columns of photos printed on the page. First, decide whether you want the photos to begin across a row or down a column. Enter the number of rows and columns you want the Contact Sheet to use. In the example, I’ve chosen three rows and three columns to create larger thumbnails. Use Auto-Spacing sets the amount of white space between rows and columns. If you want to adjust the space manually, turn off this box. Then type in the Vertical and Horizontal spacing you prefer. Changing this will affect the size of the thumbnails. The last choice in this section is Rotate for Best Fit. Checking this box, turns vertical photos sideways so all the thumbnails are the same size. I find this makes looking at the photos awkward, especially for clients. So I leave this box unchecked.





Eyster_06 Contact Sheet Dialog 4The last section tells Photoshop to Use Filename as Caption as a way to identify a specific image. You can select the font, style and size for the name. I like to use a serif font like Times New Roman to make it easier to tell a number 1 from a lower-case L. A larger size makes the thumbnails slightly smaller.








Eyster_07 Contact Sheet Dialog 5

If you expect to use these settings regularly, you can save them as a preset. Click the Save button and give the layout a descriptive name. I used “3×3 Contact Sheet”. Then in the future you can click the Load button to retrieve these settings. The Reset button returns all the boxes in the window to their default settings, in case you want to start over.








Eyster_08 Fall Contact Sheet no rotate 9upClick the OK button when you are ready to have Photoshop build your contact sheet. If you have more images than will fit on one page, Photoshop automatically creates another document until it has used all the pictures you selected. Photoshop displays the finished page (or pages), ready to be printed.

Usually I do not save my contact sheets after printing since it’s easy to have Photoshop recreate them. But if I want to share the contact sheet with a client, I save it as a JPEG copy to make it easy to email to them.







Want more from Kathy Eyster?

Click here to see the courses
she will be teaching in 2015.


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Refining Masks in Photoshop Thu, 11 Sep 2014 15:04:30 +0000 Refining Selections

The marching ants that represent selections have been around forever. But it doesn’t mean that they are the best tool for the job; it’s just all we have had until recently. Some years back Adobe gave us the Refine Edge tool. In addition to viewing the selection in a different way, it gives you a chance to modify selections as well. Very rarely do you create a perfect selection on the first go around. This new tool gives you ample opportunities to fine-tune the selection before you turn it into a mask.

When you have any selection tool active, such as the Magic Wand or Quick Selection tool, and a selection active (the marching ants are visible on your screen), you will have access to the Refine Edge command in the Option Bar. This command (pictured below) will allow you to modify or refine the edges of your selection.

The advantage of working with your selections using this dialog box is that you are able to see their true edge. With just the marching ants, it is often difficult to tell how well you have selected an area.

The Refine Edge dialog box gives you many ways to preview a selection. By clicking on the View Box (circled in red) you get access to the different ways that you can view the area of the image that is selected.

By placing your cursor over the icon, you receive a description of the view. The first icon is the least useful. It is the Standard view showing marching ants.

One of the most useful is the On White view, which works well in general and for darker objects. You also may find the On Black view useful for lighter objects.



Standard View

On White View

On White View

On Black View

Radius Slider
By increasing this slider, you are increasing the area around the original edge that will be affected by the settings. The increased radius allows the edge to get bigger and become softer. This will be the effect if this is the only slider that you use. If you use further refinements in the bottom of the box, this radius amount is defining the region in which the other options will operate.

Contrast Slider
This slider’s main goal is to remove any fuzzy artifacts that may have become apparent when the radius was enlarged. Radius and contrast work together to tighten the selection or make it more detailed; but don’t turn up radius too much because that’s the job of the Feather slider. Another way to think of the radius is that it is used to create a soft enough edge for the contrast to have something to work with.

Smooth Slider
The Smooth slider does just what you think it may do. It smooths out the rough edges of a selection removing any hard edges.

Feather Slider
The Feather slider is similar to the Radius slider in that it “blurs” the edge of the selection. It differs in that it exerts no control over the region that is being worked on by the other sliders; it is chiefly used for blurring the edge. Use the Feather slider to blend your adjustment from inside the selection to outside the selection. Remember that what is white is selected and what is black is not selected. If it is a shade of gray, it is partially selected. This means that only some of the adjustment will come through.

Shift Edge
The Shift Edge slider will make your current selection edge grow outward (expand) or inward (contract). If your edge is hard, it will stay hard but just grow inward or outward. If it is soft, it retains its soft nature and contracts or expands. To get any noticeable amount of expansion, the Radius slider may need to be increased. Just increasing the Contract/Expand amount without increasing radius may produce very little movement of the edges.  Increasing the Radius slider increases the region or the area around the edge that will be affected by the Contract/Expand slider (or any of the other sliders as well). This slider comes in handy for removing halos. Click OK inside the Refine Edge dialog box to commit to the changes that you made. You will be returned to your image with the new selection still active. Remember that you may not see any visible change to the marching ants. Don’t worry, though—when you create an Adjustment Layer, the resulting mask will look just like the preview!



Refining Masks

Modifying the edges of the selection with the new Refine Edge tool is a pretty neat trick. It does have one drawback, however: visibility. The problem with working on the selection occurs when you are masking out an Adjustment Layer. The Adjustment Layer, of course, will produce a change in the image. This change may or may not be obvious at the edges of the selection. With just modifying the selection before the adjustment is made, you have no idea how each side of the selection edge will look.

If you create a good selection first, then create the Adjustment Layer and turn it into a mask, and then modify your mask, you will have a real-time visual of the effects of your edges. You will be altering your mask as it masks out (or reveals) the underlying layer or new Adjustment Layer. The ability to see the changes as you adjust is very important.

The Masks Mode in the Properties Panel allows the Refine Edge Tool Controls to work on a mask.  Once a Mask is made, click directly on the mask to change the Properties Panel from showing the adjustment to showing the Masks Controls.  It is always a good idea to click on it once (the mask itself, not the Adjustment Layer) to ensure that you are actually on the right layer and on the mask itself. This will get you into a good habit that will be beneficial to you when you begin to work with multiple Adjustment Layers and multiple images in one document.

If you accidentally double-click on the mask rather than single click, it will bring up the Layer Mask Display options box. Just click OK for now. No harm done.

6-Masks View

7-Masks View

8-Masks View

9A-Masks View

Once you click on your mask, you are able to modify it in any way that you would a grayscale image. This means you can lighten, darken, increase contrast, use the Clone Stamp tool, blur, sharpen, or apply any other number of filters to it. At the moment, however, you can’t really see the mask. This doesn’t mean you can’t affect it; you just can’t see what you are doing. There will be many times when you want to affect the mask without looking at it. One example would be when you have created an Adjustment Layer with a mask, and the new adjustment is adversely affecting the surrounding areas. By working on the mask but looking at your image, you can watch how your edits are affecting the mask. Of course, there are those times that you will want to look at the mask directly.

There are two ways you can view a mask:
1.  Press the Option key (Alt for PC), and click on the mask itself. This will overlay the mask in black and white on your image. The images to the left show the Normal view and the image after Option (Alt) clicking on the Mask view. To return to Normal view, just press the Option (Alt) key and click on the mask again.

2.  Press the backslash key on your keyboard. The backslash key is just to the left of the bracket [ ] keys. This will show the mask as a semitransparent red overlay on your image.  The color and the opacity of this overlay can be changed to suit your needs. Double-click on the mask to bring up the Layer Mask Display Options dialog box. Click OK in this box when you have made the desired changes. The mask overlay will display these new settings until you return to this box to change them. Pressing the backslash key again will return your image to Normal view.

It is beneficial to know both of these options, as neither will work 100% of the time. Sometimes, you may need to see through to your image, while other times it will be easier to work in the black-and-white mode. These are the manual techniques for viewing your mask. When you begin working in the Masks Panel, these overlay modes are also available.

Click on the Masks tab to reveal the Masks Panel. When adjusting the sliders in the Masks Panel, you should be looking directly at your image (usually at 100% magnification) rather than at the small icon of the mask in the Adjustment Layer. This allows you to see in real time the changes you are making to the mask.  In the image to the left I have made a mask of the sky and darkened it using Curves.  Notice the artifacts (circled in red) around the edge of the Washington Monument.  This can be easily fixed using the Masks Panel.

The first slider you will see is the Density slider. It is set to 100% by default. This means the mask is at full density. Blacks are black, whites are white. If you reduce this slider, you will be lightening the blacks and grays on the mask. Remember, the blacks of the mask are blocking the change occurring from that Adjustment Layer. The grays are somewhat blocking the change. The whites allow it through fully. If you lower the density of the mask, the blacks and grays are getting lighter, thus allowing more of that change through to your image.

The next slider down is the Feather slider. It works just like the Feather slider in the Refine Edge tool for selections. The Feather slider “blurs” the edge of the mask. This creates a transition zone (from black to gray to white), from the adjustment being fully on to fully off.  The Feather slider will affect smaller resolution images more drastically than larger resolution images. The image to the left shows that by simply adjusting the feather I am creating a Halo around the monument.  I will need to click on Mask Edge to get to the full range of adjustments.

The next section of the Masks Panel is the Refine area. Here you will see the buttons for Mask Edge, Color Range, and Invert. The Mask Edge button brings up the very same control panel that you get with the Refine Edge tool for selections (pictured at left).

Here it works on the mask rather than a selection. As mentioned earlier, we find that it is often easier to refine the mask after the fact instead of trying to refine the selection before hand. The reason is that you are refining the mask with the current adjustment applied, allowing you see your image while you work.

Using the Refine Mask Box

10-Masks View

1. Here I have clicked on the Mask Edge Button and the Refine Mask box pops up.

2. Next I chose the On Layers View (circled in red)







11-Masks View

3. Increase the radius until most of the artifact disappears (here I have set 9.5). Remember this increasing the area around the original edge that will be affected by the sliders below.

4. The problem with this mask is that it is just a bit too big. The curves adjustment is darkening down the sky, and it is edging into the monument.  Shifting the edge of the mask will eliminate the dark halo.  Here I have shifted the edge +7.





12-Masks View

13-Masks View

5. The upper image to the left shows how by increasing the radius and Shifting the edge I have removed the halo from around the monument.

6. By checking the Show Original Box (circled in red) you see the original image before the mask refinement (lower image).

7. When you are satisfied with your refinements, click OK to apply your changes.


You would follow the same steps to apply any of the other commands such as Smooth, or Contrast within this dialog box.




































Sometimes you may find that the whole edge, however, does not benefit from the same amount of Shifting adjustment. This could be fixed manually afterwards, by going in and painting on the mask.

On occasion, you can create a mask that has shades of gray as well as white and black. This is not uncommon when using Select > Color Range. In cases like these, you may want to subtly alter the tones in the mask.

You can adjust a mask with any adjustment (Curves, Levels, and so on) that work on brightness or contrast. Color adjustments will be grayed out when you are on a mask.

To alter the contrast of a mask (remember to click once on your mask first), choose Image > Adjustments > Curves-Do not create another adjustment layer. Here you are working on the mask itself so go up to the menu and choose Image > Adjustments > Curves. You could also use Levels. The adjustment will be reflected on your mask as you adjust. Remember, white allows your adjustment to be visible, and black restricts it. So as you increase the contrast of a mask, you are simultaneously letting more and less of the adjustment through in different areas of the image.

You can also combine the selections with masks. Let’s say that you wanted to blur a section of the mask rather than the entire thing.

With your mask active, draw a rough selection with the Lasso tool.

You need to blur the selection to ensure a good blur on the mask, so click the Refine Edge button in the Options Bar and feather the edge. Click OK.

To blur the mask, you would think you could just use the Feather slider in the Masks Panel. Not so. For some reason, the panel ignores the selection. So we will use a trusted old technique. With the selection active (and your desired mask active), select Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur, and adjust the radius to suit your needs. Remember to go to Select > Deselect when you are finished!




Want more from Tim Cooper?

Click here to check out 
the courses he will be teaching in 2015!

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Printing Multiple Photos On A Page Using Lightroom 5 Thu, 04 Sep 2014 22:21:46 +0000 EysterKathy_01 Multi Image PrintIn my previous posts, I’ve described how to prepare individual images and posters for printing with a photo lab. In this article I illustrate the steps you can take to arrange multiple photos on a single piece of paper. This technique works whether you are using your own inkjet printer or sending a file to a photo lab to produce the final result.

Lightroom 5 provides three different ways to arrange multiple photos on a piece of paper: Single Image / Contact Sheet, Picture Package, and Custom Package. These are found in the Print Module under the Layout Styles panel. You can start experimenting with these different layouts by choosing one of the templates included with Lightroom.

Single Image / Contact Sheet Layout Style

The Single Image / Contact Sheet style arranges different photos on the page in a regular grid of rows and columns. You can control the order that the photos appear on the page by rearranging them in the Library or Filmstrip if they are in a collection. The images all stay the same size and cannot overlap one another in this style.

The 2×2 Cells template is a Contact Sheet style that allows you to arrange four different images on the page. If you have a mixture of horizontal and vertical pictures, under the Image Settings panel you can check the Rotate to Fit box so that all the images are as large as possible in the cells.

EysterKathy_02 2x2 cells rotate

If you want the photos to be exactly the same size, turn on the Zoom to Fill box under the Image Settings panel. This may crop some of your pictures. You can reposition the photos inside the cells by holding down the the Command key (Mac) or the Control key (Windows). Then click and drag the hand cursor on the image to adjust the cropping.

EysterKathy_03 2x2 cells rotate fill

The 4 Wide template is also a Contact Sheet style. This creates four narrow, panorama-style cells in which to place your photos. It also includes a place for a custom Identity Plate that can be edited for a title.

EysterKathy_04 4 wide fair
Picture Package Layout Style

The Picture Package style mimics the “packages” of photos that you would order from a portrait studio that took your school or church directory picture. This style provides for multiple sizes of the same photo on one page. If you select more than one image, Lightroom creates a second page with the same selection of sizes for the new picture.

Picture Package templates are named by the number of copies of each size image included in the layout. (1) 7×5, (4) 2.5×3.5 is a template that creates one 5×7 inch print and four 2.5×3.5 inch prints on one sheet of paper. This template does not leave any space between the prints to make cutting them apart easy. You can add this space by turning on the Photo Border box under Image Settings. Then adjust the slider to create more or less space.

EysterKathy_05 Picture Pkg borderYou can create a custom combination of print sizes by using the Cells panel. Start by clicking the Clear Layout button. Then click the buttons for the sizes of prints you want. For example, if you want one 5×7 print and two 4×6 prints, click the 5×7 button once and the 4×6 button twice.

If Lightroom does not have a print size you want, you can create a custom size for one of the buttons. For instance, you might like a square 5×5 inch size. You can click on the arrow next to any of the buttons and choose Edit from the list. Then type in the dimensions you want for the new print size. These dimensions now appear on that button and Lightroom adds a print that size to your paper.

If the combination of sizes you select does not fit on the page, Lightroom automatically adds a new page. You can click the Auto Layout button to have Lightroom rearrange the prints to make more efficient use of the paper.

EysterKathy_06 Picture Pkg with custom size selection

If you don’t want one of the prints you’ve added, click on the image cell to select it and then press the Delete key to remove it. If you end up with too many pages of prints, you can move your mouse over the page. A black circle with an X in it appears over the top left corner of the page. Click that circle to delete the page and all the prints on it.

Custom Package Layout Style

The Custom Package style gives you the most flexibility. It allows a variety of pictures in various sizes on the same page and provides for overlapping images. The Custom Package gives you the most freedom to experiment with different combinations of photos and arrangements on the page.

Templates with “Custom” in the name use the Custom Package layout style. The Custom 4 Square template allows four separate images on the page: one large square with three smaller squares below it.

EysterKathy_07 Custom 4 square

The Custom Overlap x3 Landscape style has four horizontal cells that each can contain a different image. The largest cell acts as a background with three overlapping images on top.

EysterKathy_08 Custom Overlap x3 Landscape

To add photos to a custom template, simply drag a picture from the Filmstrip into one of the cells outlined in the template. If you want a different photo in the cell, drag and drop a new one to replace the previous image.

You can click on an image cell and drag it to a different position on the page. If you want additional photos on the page, drag a new picture from the Filmstrip onto the page.

Right clicking on a cell gives you a menu from which you can rotate or delete a photo. You can also change the order of overlapping photos from this menu. After selecting the picture, choose to send it forward, backward or to the front or back of the stack.

If you want to create your own design, click the Clear Layout button in the Cells panel. Then you can add photos to the page just by dragging them from the Filmstrip. You can resize and reposition them as you go. You might want to use the Lock to Photo Aspect Ratio box in the Cells panel to ensure the photo retains its original crop.


EysterKathy_09 Custom overlap with ID Plate

Each of these different Layout Styles provides many more options to adjust the appearance of your photos on the page. I’ve just given you a brief introduction to the differences among the styles. Gather some images you want to use and experiment. If you come up with a design you like, save it as a User Template so you can retrieve it again for a different project.


Want more from Kathy? Join her for her upcoming
Basic Photography workshop in Missoula!

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