Rocky Mountain School of Photography » Photography Thu, 30 Oct 2014 21:41:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Photography in the Red Zone – Guest Article by Mel Mann Wed, 22 Oct 2014 14:51:29 +0000 READ MORE >]]> 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 READ MORE >]]> 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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Refining Masks in Photoshop Thu, 11 Sep 2014 15:04:30 +0000 READ MORE >]]> 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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2015 COURSE CATALOG IS OUT!! Thu, 28 Aug 2014 17:33:18 +0000 READ MORE >]]> 2015-CatalogCover-webThat’s right! The 2015 RMSP Course Catalog will begin shipping today! If you are on our list (and request mail from us), your copy should be showing up in the very near future. If you simply can’t wait to hold this beauty in your hands, you can get a jump on planning your 2015 by heading over to our homepage at and downloading a PDF version.

While smaller in its physical size (it’s 6 x 9), the 2015 catalog is livin’ large on other fronts. The cover of our new book features an image taken by our very recent 2014 Summer Intensive graduate Ivy Bencheck (congrats on your first cover Ivy!). The first three spreads feature images of three of our 2014 Summer Intensive students engaging in what we believe are the pillars of our educational philosophy: We believe in an Experiential, Intensive and In-Person learning experience. From these images of Virginia, Barry and Nicole, you will be encouraged to go to our website to watch full video interviews with each of them as they recap their RMSP experience. These three individuals came to Summer Intensive from VERY different backgrounds, but over the course of their individual 11-week journeys, became connected to photography in an incredible way. See what they had to say by clicking the images below.


We hope you like our new catalog and it helps you find a course in 2015 that speaks to you!


















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Metamorphosis of a Dragonfly Caught on Camera – Guest Article by Steve Russell Wed, 23 Jul 2014 14:08:29 +0000 READ MORE >]]> IMG_3562It was an amazing sight – the transformation of a beetle-like larva into a fully functioning flying dragonfly right before my very eyes – and camera.

I’d been shooting dragonflies this summer at my favorite marshy spot on the edge of nearby Waughop Lake. I happened to look down and spot an ugly little larva crawling along the grass toward my bike, which was laying on the ground. Cool, I thought, and I snapped a couple of shots before it disappeared under my rear tire for the shade, I figured.

I went back to the dragonflies until I needed something else from my pack when I noticed the larva had crawled up onto my tire. Snap-snap, and I went about my business. The third time I passed by, though, there were FOUR eyes looking back at me and it suddenly occurred to me that a dragonfly was pushing its way out of the back of the larva. Wow!

R22A0351I ran over to switch my telephoto lens for a macro and twin flash and returned to shoot the metamorphosis over the next 90 minutes. It was mid-day, high sun, harsh light and the larva had attached itself on the underside of the tire partially in the shade. Not the conditions I would choose, but in documentary or photo journalistic photography (which I would consider this to be in a nature sort of way) you work with what you got when you got it.

This grassy spot is right off the asphalt path that circles the lake and I am sprawled out on the grass, which is covered in goose poop, shooting what must have looked to the frequent passers-by to be my bike tire. Hmmm. But, oblivious to them and to the time, I shot away for an hour and a half trying to capture every conceivable angle knowing that in all likelihood this would be my first and only time with an opportunity like this.

The dragonfly and its huge compound eyes and compacted wings slowly eased out, moved next to the lifeless larva exoskeleton, gradually spread and dried its perfect wings, and with its stored genetic knowledge intact, launched its first flight flawlessly – off my bike tire. After surviving for two to three years as a larva in the muck of the lake bottom, it would live to fly, eat and procreate for perhaps another three to four WEEKS – the normal post-larval lifespan of a dragonfly.

It was purely by chance that I got to see (and shoot, no less) such a miraculous event. These may not be Pulitzer Prize winning photos, but they’ll forever distinguish my summer of 2014.

When viewing these photos keep in mind that I purposely re-oriented some right-side-up to make it easier to view them. Also, the last image is, as best I can tell, an adult version of the same type of dragonfly in great light, but it is NOT the same one.

Steve Russell

IMG_3562 R22A0240 R22A0248 R22A0261 R22A0265 R22A0314 R22A0322 R22A0351 R22A0391 R22A0467 R22A0437 R22A0406 R22A0497 Dragonfly


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Using Photoshop CC to Create a Poster for Photo Lab Printing Mon, 16 Jun 2014 17:27:34 +0000 READ MORE >]]> In this fourth post on preparing images for printing at a photo lab, I describe using Photoshop CC to lay out a poster that includes one of your photographs plus some text that acts as a title. Note that most of the steps can also be accomplished with older versions of Photoshop as well as many versions of Photoshop Elements. So no matter which edition of the photo editing program you have, you should find some information to help you correctly prepare your favorite image as a poster for printing.

00 Fair Poster 16x20

Create a New Document

To begin, decide on the paper size you want for your poster. Check with the photo lab you plan to use to ensure they have that size available, especially if you want to create a panoramic style. For this example, I’m creating a horizontal (landscape) poster 16 x 20 inches.

Open Photoshop CC and from the File menu choose New. In the window that appears, provide a name for the document. Then fill in your choices for the width, height, resolution and background, which will be the background color of your poster. I set the units to inches and type in 20 for the width and 16 for the height at a resolution of 300ppi. I plan to use a color photo, so I set Color Mode to RGB Color and 8 bit. My poster will eventually be saved as a JPEG file, which is 8 bit, so this saves me a step later on. I want the Background Contents to be White. Clicking on the Advanced arrow reveals the Color Profile box where I select sRGB since this is the color space most photo labs work with. When you are satisfied with your choices here, click OK and a blank document appears.


01 New File

Set up Margin Guides

To help position your photo with even margins, it is useful to have Photoshop display guides. These light blue lines do not print; they are just for reference. From the View menu choose New Guide. Create two Vertical guides, one at 1 inch and one at 19 inches for the left and right margins, respectively. Also create two Horizontal guides, one at 1 inch for the top margin and one at 13 inches to leave a three-inch bottom margin where the title will go. Also in the View menu, turn on Snap and then Snap to > Guides. This ensures that your picture exactly lines up with these margin guides.


02 new document w-guides

Select the Picture from Bridge

Now you are ready to add the picture. Open Bridge and find a final edited image you want to add to your poster. Select the picture and from the File menu, choose Place > In Photoshop. Using the Place command allows you to reposition and resize the photo without compromising the quality. It also means you can double-click on the layer thumbnail for this picture and do further edits to fine-tune its appearance later.


03 Select in Bridge

Position and Size the Photo

Your picture appears centered on the page with an X through the middle. Move your cursor inside the photo and drag it into position. If you need to resize the image, hold down the Shift key and drag a corner. The Shift key preserves the original proportions of your photo. When you are satisfied with the position and size, click the check in the Options Bar.

04 Place Photoshop

05 Move placed photo

06 size placed photo

Now it is time to add the embellishments to make this poster stand out. There are many effects you can add with Photoshop, but I am going to add just a complementary border and a title.

Add a Stroke Border

To add the border, from the Layer menu choose Layer Style > Stroke. In the window that appears, adjust the width of the stroke border using the Size slider. Choose the position of the stroke. Inside and Centered will cover part of your image. Leave Blend Mode and Opacity at their defaults of Normal and 100%. Fill Type is Color and starts with black. If you want a different color border, click the swatch to reveal the Color Picker. Move your cursor over the photo to click on a different color in the image. Click OK to save your color and OK again to apply the stroke effect. If you change your mind later, you can double-click on the Stroke Effect in the Layers panel and make changes.

07 layer style stroke color picker

Add the Title

To create the title, choose the Type tool. In the Options Bar, select the font, style, size, alignment and color. The fonts and styles are what are installed in your computer. Size is in points (72 points equals 1 inch). You can type a larger number in the size box if needed. For a different color, click on the swatch to get the Color Picker again. You can make the type color match the border color by clicking in the border itself. Click OK to save your color choice. Then click below the picture and start typing. You can select the text and make further changes to all the choices in the Options Bar until you are happy with the title’s appearance. When you are finished typing, click the check in the Options Bar. If your type is not in the correct position below your photo, choose the Move tool. You can center the Type layer on the Background layer by Ctrl-clicking (Cmd-clicking Mac) on these two layers in the Layers panel and then choosing Align Horizontal Centers from the Options Bar. Select just the Type layer to adjust the title’s vertical position using the arrow keys. It is helpful to turn on the Grid (View > Show > Grid) to fine-tune the title position.

08 type centered with grid


Apply a Drop Shadow to the Title

The font and color I chose do not stand out well from the background. So I add a drop shadow effect to the words. Make sure you have the Type layer selected. Then from the Layer menu choose Layer Style > Drop Shadow. Adjust the Distance, Spread and Size as desired; you can leave the other choices at their defaults. Photoshop updates the effect as you make changes. When you are pleased with the result, click OK.

09 type drop shadow


To see a preview of your poster, turn off the Grid and Guides using the View > Show menu.


10 Finished poster

Save the Poster as a Master PSD File

Save your poster as a master PSD file and include the poster size in the name. This preserves all the layers and effects you applied so you can change them in the future.

11 Save As PSD

[Note: The Save As screens are from a Windows computer. If you use a Mac, your Save As screens look different but all the same choices are available.]

Save the Poster as a JPEG File

Now create a JPEG copy to send to the photo lab. From the File menu, choose Save As. Select a Prints folder on your desktop (to make it easy to locate your file for uploading). Include the print size in the name and change the file type to JPEG. Click Save.


12 Save As JPEG


Photoshop displays another window of JPEG Options where you specify the amount of compression applied to your picture. I recommend using Quality 10; this provides a small amount of compression that does not have a detrimental effect on your image and usually cuts the file size in half. Also be sure to set the Format Options to “Baseline (“Standard”)” and then click OK.


13 JPEG Options


Find your favorite photo lab online and upload, order and pay for your poster print. Consider ordering extras to share with friends and family.


To read the first three posts in my series on printing, check out these links:

Using Lightroom 5 to Create a Poster for Photo Lab Printing
Using Photoshop CC to Prepare a Picture for Photo Lab Printing
Using Lightroom 5 to Prepare an Image for Photo Lab Printing

Want to learn more from Kathy Eyster?

Visit her profile page and check out her RMSP offerings in 2014!




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Flossing with Keywords Tue, 22 Apr 2014 16:00:07 +0000 READ MORE >]]> Dentists know a thing or two about healthy teeth and you may have heard Dr. Molars say, “You only have to floss the teeth you want to keep.”

As photographers using image editing programs like Aperture, iPhoto, Lightroom, Photoshop, etc., this anecdote could apply in some ways to our image file organization…meaning, “You only have to add keywords to the files you want to find.” It’s an easy task to do each time you edit or add image files and if we integrate the task into our everyday workflow, finding any file you want becomes a piece of cake. Yes, you’ll be able to find that “needle in a haystack” from images taken yesterday or years ago without much effort.

Some folks might be asking, “What’s a keyword?”

The describes a keyword as:
A word used as a reference point for finding other words or information…as photographers that information is keyword metadata attached to image files.

People use keywords when they type into the Google search box to find web pages, for example. It’s no different here, except we’ll be adding the keywords in our image organization software so we can search for our photographs.

It’s certainly easy to find your photographs if you just started taking pictures, and taking the time to add keywords might seem unimportant at this point. That will change over time, however, and become much more challenging as your library of images becomes gi-normous…it will I promise. So, why not make adding keywords a “good habit” right from the start?

If you’re someone like me who had previously added thousands of images into my photo library, adding the appropriate keywords to all those files might seem like a daunting task and it certainly would be if you tried to complete the whole task in one sitting. If you approach the task in smaller bites you’ll be done before you know it. For example; try adding a few when you’re looking at existing files to do a certain project or how about when you’re downloading a cool movie or music from iTunes…you get the idea.

Getting started is simple, but there’s a few things to consider now so the keywords you’ll acquire over time are easy to manage as well.

  • The camera/lens and exposure metadata is already written to the image file when you take the photo and is searchable, so it would be redundant to add any of this information as keywords. The industry also calls this specific type of metadata “EXIF data” or Exchangeable Image File Format data…now you can really impress your photography friends!
  • When you are adding keywords always separate the words with a comma and then a space between them (or they will be considered one keyword). Good keywords: big, Martha, dog – Not so good: big Martha dog…Martha might get a little upset if she found out and not because her dog is big. You get the point!
  • Keep it simple whenever possible and use one word descriptions that have meaning to you. These could be adjectives, verbs and/or nouns that will help in your search when you need to find a photo.

Adjectives: cute, blue, round
Verbs: running, blowing, blurred
Nouns: waterfall, boy, Kevin, cloud

Here’s a good list of keywords for the image on the left:













Keywords can be added to image files in nearly all image editing programs these days including Aperture, iPhoto, Lightroom and Photoshop, although the convention in which they’re added might be a little different. For example, in iPhoto the placeholder for keywords is labeled “add a description”:





In Photoshop’s Bridge organizer the place holder is labeled “keywords”:







In Lightroom, it’s in the Library Module and since most folks are using this program as their “go to” editing software, let’s look a little more closely at adding keywords in this program.

When you open the Keywording panel in the Library Module there are a few places to add the words. These are labeled Keyword; Tags, Suggestions and Set.

LR_Library Module


Keyword tags1. Tags is the place to type in and add your keywords to one or more image files that have been selected in the grid mode.





Keyword suggestions2. Suggestions is a list of recently used keywords that are continually updated with the most recent words that you have added. You can click on these to add keywords to one or more image files that have been selected in the grid mode.



Keyword set3. Sets are a group of keywords. You can create the group (as a preset) or use what LR has when it was installed. These are words you frequently use to describe images like winter landscape, wedding, food or even the names of relatives in your family.



Keyword_ListThe Keywords List panel in Lightroom is a reference for all the keywords you’ve added over time. This is “the place” to edit your growing list of keywords…meaning organizing and deleting words. It’s also another place to add a keyword to other photographs although it’s not the most convenient or logical place to do it.










Once the image files have one or more keywords (metadata) attached, they are now searchable using the text filter.  In Lightroom, this is located above the image display window in the Filter Bar. Just type in a keyword and “Bing Botta Bang” and there’s the images you were looking for…Wahoo!



Want to learn more from Doug Johnson?

Visit his profile page and check out his RMSP offerings in 2014!


Want to learn more about using Lightroom?

Join RMSP instructors on one of these upcoming workshops:

Lightroom for Photographers in Ronkonkoma, NY
Lightroom for Photographers in Minneapolis, MN
Lightroom for Photographers in Missoula, MT







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What’s That NOISE? Part 2 Fri, 11 Apr 2014 22:25:22 +0000 READ MORE >]]> In the last post I covered the most widely recognized cause of digital noise in your photographs and solutions for removing and minimizing this problem. Now I want to cover two other causes and how to combat the different noise that results

Cause #2: Exposure

Didn’t see that one coming did you?

We love digital photography because we can fix our mistakes on the computer after the fact.  e all underexpose our images from time to time and lighten them later but this isn’t really any different than what’s going on when you’re shooting at high ISO’s. By underexposing your images you are dropping the signal closer to the level of the noise and by lightening it in Lightroom or Photoshop you are boosting both the signal and noise similar to the way your camera would have done by shooting at a high ISO.

In fig 5 I overlaid two pictures of the same subject. On the left is a photo taken at the proper exposure and on the right is a photo that was underexposed by 2 stops and then lightened. You’ll clearly see a crosshatch pattern much like the effect of shooting through a screen door.  This is really unpleasant and easily avoidable.

Fig 6

Solution #2

Um…don’t underexpose your images!  Okay, that one is obvious and I know that it’s consistent with your goals anyway.  The crazy thing is that many photographers, when first starting out, have been told to intentionally underexpose their images.

Try to get the best exposure possible and beware of what will happen when you shoot at high ISO’s and underexpose…screen door city!

Cause #3: Long Exposure

The process of creating long exposures produces a whole different type of noise and requires another approach to eliminating it.

Every time you take a picture, your camera charges your sensor while the exposure is being made.  The longer your exposure the longer the sensor receives the charge.  As you may have guessed, the sensor heats up when it’s being charged so longer exposures result in the sensor getting hotter.  By using really long exposures (let’s say anything longer than 8 seconds for older cameras and 15 seconds for newer ones) your camera’s sensor starts exhibiting noise due to this heat.  This is often called thermal noise and, as you might expect, more heat = more noise.

As your sensor heats up, different pixels on your sensor start to “fail.”  This looks like specks of false color that are most apparent in the mid tone and dark areas within your photo (see Fig 6).

Fig 7

Newer cameras do better at long exposures than old ones but every camera has its limit.  The fortunate thing about this type of noise is that it’s predictable and repeatable and that makes it easy to remove.


Solution #3  Let your camera do the work!

There’s a setting in your camera, called Long Exposure Noise Reduction (Long exposure NR) that you want to turn ON.

Here’s what it does. Say you take a 10 second exposure. Your camera will operate normally during that 10 seconds but then it will take a second exposure for 10 seconds with the shutter closed creating a Dark Slide. For both exposures the sensor was charged for 10 seconds and in both cases it produced the same thermal noise at exactly the same pixels; in the photo you took and the Dark Slide that your camera took. Then your camera goes through a process called dark slide subtraction in which it identifies the pixels that failed in the dark slide and fixes those exact pixels in your photo.  Some cameras differ in the way they do this but the process works like magic and there is no equivalent in computer post processing that comes close so be sure to use this awesome camera feature.

Turn it on and leave it on, it only goes through the process on long exposures.

BE WARNED! You’ve got to remember that this feature is on so that you don’t think your camera is broken the first few times you use it.  Remember that your camera is taking a second “picture” after it took yours.  If your exposure was 30 seconds long then the dark slide is also 30 seconds long. That means your camera will prevent you from doing anything (like hitting “play” to see your photo) for those 30 seconds and then a few more while it performs dark slide subtraction. You’ll be standing there in the dark thinking your camera is broken but it’s just doing its job. In fact it will tell you so on the top of the camera.  It will say something like JOB or NR on the LCD. Let the camera do its thing and don’t turn it off during this process.  When it’s finished, prepare to be amazed with your gorgeous image, free from thermal noise.

BE WARNED #2.  Long exposures eat up batteries and you’re taking two of ‘em for every photo.  Be prepared to go through batteries quickly!

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What’s that NOISE? Part 1 Wed, 09 Apr 2014 21:00:35 +0000 READ MORE >]]> It’s pretty likely that you’ve at least heard about noise in digital photos. I’d also be willing to bet that you’ve got a few images in your archive that are great examples of this artifact, but do you really know what causes it? I would imagine that most of you answered “yes” but how about if I tell you that there are three different types of noise and three different causes…now what’s your answer?

In these two posts I’ll go over the three causes of noise and the three solutions.

Cause #1: High ISO

This is the one that you’ve definitely experienced. We all use high ISO’s when we are forced to shoot in low light situations but still need fast shutter speeds. Even if you don’t use manual exposure, your camera will automatically boost the ISO when shooting on Auto Exposure or using the scene modes.

Here’s something you may not know:  when you shoot at a high ISO you’re actually UNDEREXPOSING your image.  Seems strange, huh?  Your images don’t look underexposed because your camera amplifies the signal after you take the photo to make it look brighter.  This isn’t too different from listening to a recording in which someone is speaking very softly; you turn it up to hear it better.

Here’s where the problem starts…your camera’s sensor has a specific amount of noise that is always present but usually the amount of signal (your exposure) is so much greater than this noise that you don’t see it. When you don’t have a lot of signal and your camera amplifies it (turns it up) you are also amplifying the noise as well.

Imagine in that same example of the person speaking softly there is a fan on in the background. The noise of the fan is much more quiet than the person but when you turn the recording up to hear the person better the fan gets louder too. You can easily imagine that if the fan stays on and the person speaks more and more softly the difference between their voice and the fan gets smaller. As their voice gets more quiet it gets closer to the volume of the fan which means it will be harder to distinguish their voice from the noise.

So how does this relate to ISO again? The higher you set your ISO the more you are underexposing your image (less signal) and the more your camera has to turn up the signal. As you underexpose the image more and more you are dropping the level of the signal closer and closer to the level of the noise so when your camera amplifies things the noise becomes as apparent as the signal. That’s why you see more noise in your images as your ISO gets higher.


There are several things you can do to prevent or minimize the appearance of high ISO noise.

#1  Shoot at the lowest ISO you can get away with in every situation. Seems like a no brainer but I see people shooting at ISO’s that are much higher than necessary all the time. Remember to check that setting often.

#2  Turn OFF high ISO noise reduction if you use post processing software. The tiny little computer in your camera attempts to get rid of noise by smearing over it to smooth it out. Unfortunately it also softens details and creates strange artifacts in the process. The processor in your computer combined with post processing software are much better suited to the task of removing high ISO noise, especially if you shoot RAW. Lightroom and Photoshop do a remarkable job of removing ISO related noise. In Lightroom, use the Luminance slider in the Detail Panel to remove High ISO noise. Be careful, if you go too far things will look like they’re made of plastic!  Check out Fig 1 and Fig 2 to see what an incredible job you can do with RAW images.

Fig 1 Fig 2

#3  Use your tripod and longer shutter speeds. In situations where you don’t need to freeze subject motion your tripod is your best friend.  It will control camera movement during the exposure while your longer shutter speed will give you the right exposure in low light.

#4  Get a new camera!  I knew you were looking for a reason to buy a new body so I thought I’d give you permission. Really, I’m kidding, but you should know that all cameras are not created equal and you should know the limits of your camera. Newer cameras, especially those with larger sensors and low megapixel counts perform much better at high ISOs. My Nikon D3s is a great example of a camera that is exceptional at these ISO’s. Look at how well it performs at 6400 ISO (fig 3) and prepare to pick your jaw up off the floor once the noise is removed (fig 4).

Fig 4 Fig 5

In my next post I’ll cover two other types of noise and how to overcome the resulting nastiness.

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Random Acts of Photography – Guest Article by Steve Russell Wed, 15 Jan 2014 17:27:05 +0000 READ MORE >]]> _MG_9975-1In the lowlands of the Pacific Northwest’s late fall and winter it is usually light-starved, wet and 50 shades of gray. Occasionally, though, the sun peeks out and it stops raining long enough for some shooting opportunities of the outdoor nature kind.

For example, I found salmon leaping out of the water trying to get upstream at a local fish hatchery during this year’s spawning season around Thanksgiving. I returned a week later to find the salmon had spawned out and died but a Great Blue Heron feeding on the carcasses let me inch up closer than ever.

_MG_0588-2I also sprang into action for two unexpected sunset opportunities at nearby Chambers Bay Park, which overlooks the Puget Sound. They yielded saturated silhouette shots (using a circular polarizer) that captured people crossing a bridge telling their stories in true environmental portraiture fashion.

Snow geese and trumpeter swans begin migrating to the Skagit Valley an hour north of Seattle this time of year, but finding sun and birds at the same time is hit and miss. And while the bugs are nearly all gone or in hiding, macro opportunities come up when it’s dewy or freezing overnight, which creates magical spiraling patterns on leftover spider webs in the park.

Random acts of photography in otherwise gray, dreary and wet weather. Lowland nature shooting is catch as catch can around here this time of the year, so it pays to be ready for just about anything when the right conditions do present themselves – or not – as unpredictable as that may be.

Steve Russell _MG_0588-2 _MG_0372-2 _MG_0366-1 _MG_0876-4 IMG_9841-8 IMG_9748-7 _MG_9975-1 _MG_0971-6 _MG_0905-5 _MG_0795-3



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Arachnophobobes, Avert Thy Eyes: The Annual Spider Issue – Guest Article by Steve Russell Wed, 13 Nov 2013 17:47:36 +0000 READ MORE >]]> _MG_9948-13They’re creepy and they’re crawly; they cause more screams and heart palpitations per millimeter of length than just about any other creature; and they make great models for photo shoots as long as they don’t jump onto the photographer (i.e., ME) or crawl into the camera bag.

Spiders. Arachnids. Orb weavers. Stalkers. Jumpers. Trappers. Lightning fast. Lumbering slow. Menacing eyes (all eight of them). Cute and innocent looking. Camouflaged or black as night. Colorfully marked. There are all kinds, but in nearly all cases when they are enlarged on the computer screen they become humongous monsters that feed our primal fears.


This time of year – as Halloween approaches, not coincidentally – orb weavers are everywhere, their webs bridging every branch, secured to every mailbox, and spanning every porch. There are plenty of photo ops for those who can override their urge to take ‘em out. It’s a fascinating world to behold up close even if the images do make their way into your dreams and nightmares.

These images were all shot within the past year in their natural environment except the tarantula, which I was fortunate enough to shoot with permission at the Bug Museum in Bremerton, WA. Against the wishes of my inner exterminator, I actually held the gentle giant in my own hand and survived. Oh, one of these is not actually a spider, but a Garden Harvester, an eight-legged insect – can you guess which one it is?

Most of the images were shot with my Tamron 90mm VC Macro lens, but two close-ups of very small spiders were shot with my Canon 65E Macro lens. All of these had a splash of flash from a Canon MT-24EX Twin Lite Flash, and of course, I shot them all with my trusty Canon 5D Mark II camera.

Steve Russell
_MG_0101-Edit-2-2 _MG_9948-13 _MG_9926-12 _MG_9865-11 _MG_9575-1 _MG_4026-10 _MG_3784-9 _MG_3680-8 _MG_2996-7 _MG_2747-6 _MG_2562-5 _MG_1975-4 _MG_0193-3 _MG_0110-14
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Should I Print From Lightroom or Photoshop? Mon, 14 Oct 2013 22:55:09 +0000 READ MORE >]]> With Adobe’s announcement of a “Photographer’s Bundle” for the Creative Cloud subscription, many shutterbugs now have access to both Lightroom 5 and Photoshop CC for printing their images. So a fair question is, which one to use? Let’s see how they compare.

How They’re Alike

Lightroom and Photoshop share many printing features and capabilities. The most important is the ability to print using a profile for a specific printer and paper combination. Within both the Print module in Lightroom and the Print window in Photoshop, you can adjust the size of the image on the page, though in Photoshop this does not give you direct control over the image resolution. You can position a single image anywhere on the paper. You can add text to the page (though Photoshop provides many ways to customize the type style and placement outside the Print window). And you can add a simple, custom-width black border (Lightroom lets you choose other colors) that’s only applied in the print. (Photoshop has many options for more elaborate border effects outside the Print window.) You can even save the layout and printer choices so printing happens with a single click in both applications.


How They’re Different

Size, Resolution and Sharpening

Lightroom and Photoshop differ in the way you determine print size, set resolution, and apply sharpening.


LR 5 Print ModuleLightroom’s Print module is a one-stop shop. You select an image without needing to create a copy. Using the Cell Size sliders is how you determine the size of the image on the paper. This can be just the long side or exact dimensions using the Zoom to Fill option. In the Print Job panel you choose a specific print resolution or use the file’s native resolution. You specify if and how much output sharpening to apply and customize it for glossy or matte surfaces. All these choices are available in the same module with a click of a mouse.


PS CC Print DialogFor the most control over size, resolution and sharpening in Photoshop, you need to use several different commands which are outside of the Print window. You open the image you want to print and save a copy, leaving the original as a source for other prints. To size the picture, you can use the Image Size command to set the resolution and length of the longest edge. Or you can use the Crop tool and specify exact dimensions and resolution all at once. Then you apply output sharpening using either the Unsharp Mask filter or the Smart Sharpen filter. For the ultimate control with these filters, you can apply them to a duplicate layer and use a layer blending mode and/or a layer mask. This ensures that the sharpening affects only detailed portions of the image, leaving smooth areas such as sky and skin alone. Because you are still working on the image (and not in the Print window), you can preview the sharpening effect to be sure you are satisfied. Lightroom does not provide options for selective output sharpening or previewing the sharpening before printing.


Multiple Images

The other important difference between Lightroom and Photoshop comes when you want to create prints of multiple pictures. Whether these are single images per page or a selection of photos on one piece of paper, Lightroom and Photoshop take different approaches to the task.


Lightroom’s Print module makes printing multiple images quick and easy. If you want all the pictures to be the same size on the same kind of paper, just select the photos from the Library module, Filmstrip or Collections panel. Set up the size, resolution and sharpening for one and they are applied to all the selected photos. You can print any combination of horizontal and vertical pictures by turning on the Rotate to Fit option. Then load your printer with paper and click the Printer button. If you want multiple images on one page, you can make them all the same size with the Contact Sheet style or different sizes that overlap in any arrangement using the Custom Package style. This all happens in the Print module. So when you’re finished with the design (which you can save), the Print Job panel is ready.


Photoshop also lets you put multiple pictures on a page, but you must create a new document and use the Place command to add, size, and position the images one at a time. You can save a template document that uses layer masks to help you use different pictures in the same layout in the future. More complex designs, borders and type effects are available in Photoshop than in Lightroom, but you are building the effect one page at a time. If you want to print several different images the same size on individual pages, you must prepare each picture and open the Print window separately for each one.


So you can create excellent prints from either Lightroom or Photoshop. The differences between them reflect the “philosophy” behind each program. Lightroom is designed to help photographers manage large numbers of pictures quickly and efficiently. Photoshop is designed to allow photographers to perfect a single print with the utmost control over the preparation. It all depends on how you prefer to work with your pictures.



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Mark S. Johnson on Scott Kelby’s Blog Fri, 11 Oct 2013 20:49:44 +0000 READ MORE >]]> The photography industry giant and NAPP founder, Scott Kelby, knows a thing or two about inspiration. In fact, he’s made a cottage industry of inspiring photographers and artists worldwide to reach new heights, use new technology and become the artist one was born to be. So you have to believe that he knows a kindred soul when he sees one.

Every Wednesday, Scott invites fellow guest creative professionals to write for his very own Photoshop Insider blog which reaches a considerable online audience. This past week, he invited one of RMSP’s long-time instructors, Photoshop guru and incredible artist, Mark S. Johnson, to contribute his voice to this influential resource.

The word “inspirational” is one of the main iconic descriptors that could be used to describe Mark as both an instructor and creative in equal measure. His style is one of unbridled imagination and emotion in each image he creates. In his guest post, this imaginative and inspirational spirit shines through to encourage all of us to pursue art with abandon and with heart soul. We are more than delighted to share this here with you. Enjoy!

“It’s Guest Blog Wednesday with Mark S. Johnson!”


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