Category: Workflow

Sometimes Photoshop is just too complicated for a simple job

Have you ever wanted to make a nice graphic for a presentation or social media but using Photoshop seemed like too much work? I’ve found an easier option. Canva is a free graphic design platform that allows anyone to create beautiful and engaging designs.

I appreciate that they offer dozens of pre-sized templates for social media sites such as Facebook and Pinterest. I’ve used it to make party invitations, flyers, and even Christmas cards. When I’m struggling to come up with a design idea I like to browse their sample layouts for inspiration. Canva also offers free tutorials to help spark your creativity.

At DCP I’ve been using Canva to create easily sharable graphics to announce upcoming events and classes. Here’s an example of one I created for the Photo Swap Meet. I used one of our photos for the background image and then added text on top. Resizing text is simple- you just click the text you want and make your change. To ensure the text was readable, I layered a transparent square between the text and the background. It would have taken me half a day to find that object in Photoshop. In Canva you just click the icon for shapes and then you have a huge selection to drag and drop into your design.

Click here to check out Canva for yourself. And definitely take advantage of the Design School, it really helps break down the basics of good graphic design.

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Does anyone still use a 56K modem? Adobe thinks so.

Search Everything, an amazing Windows utility

I use Windows. There, I said it. I’ve built my own machines for years and currently manage six Windows 7 systems at work and home. So I’m always interested in utilities that make work easier and faster. One the very best I’ve found is Search Everything. It is free, fast, uses very few resources and will find a file on your computer in a fraction of a second. I use it several times a day and it’s much more efficient than the built in Windows search. In fact, I think Microsoft should build this in to their OS from now on.

It is malware-free and doesn’t bother you with popups. It doesn’t cost anything but donations are encouraged (by the author and by me!). Download from Voidtools here.

Search-Everything-Dallas-Center-for-Photography

A Social Media Design tool

As the Spot begins its journey into the overwhelming world of social media, I have been thumbing (is that term applicable to online browsing?) through an infinite number of articles about the subject.  It can be exhausting sifting through such a huge amount of information but when you find something worthwhile, it’s like striking gold.

Case in point: this amazing infographic that maps out social media design information, including precise images sizes for every major platform. Special thanks to the team at alltwitter for spending the time to do this.  You have saved me an enormous amount of time and research.

Click the image below to view blue prints for Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Linkedin, Instagram and Youtube.

social-media-design-blueprint-Dallas-Center-for-Photography

Facebook Debugger to clear photo cache

Have you ever linked something to Facebook, like a blog post or website, only to find that an old photo keeps getting pulled in by FB? This has happened to me and it sent me hunting for a solution. Facebook often stumps me but this one is pretty easy. Evidently, FB actually caches or stores the image on their own servers and when you post that URL the photo they have stored is pulled up. Go to the Facebook Debugger and enter the URL you want to update. It will re-scan the website or blog post and pull up the current photo.

https://developers.facebook.com/tools/debug/

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Online test reveals how well you see color

I came across this test on the X-Rite site a few months ago when I was researching one of their monitor calibration systems. It’s an informative and fun test that will show exactly where you might have problems with color perception. I’ve had enough arguments disagreements with friends and family over the years about certain blue/green colors to guess that I had a very common male-linked weakness in that area. Sure enough the test showed me right where it was. Just rearrange the colors till they look like they are in order. Give it a try at the X-rite Online Color Challenge.

x-rite-color-test-Dallas-Center-for-Photography

iPhoto face recognition gets a workout

Just a little retouching

I had a chance to do another large banner project for the YMCA. This time it’s for a 13x17ft rear-lit sign to hang on the corner of their newly remodeled building in downtown Dallas. The last banner job was going to be viewed from close enough that I decided to shoot with the 24.5 megapixel Nikon D3X. This new banner would be viewed from the street so I shot it with my 12 megapixel D300.

We shot several setups, knowing that one of the shots would be used on the building and the others would be part of a billboard and bus campaign. This photo of a group of Y members was the one chosen for the big sign. There were several changes and repairs to be made.

Quite often on discussion groups you’ll hear people get snarky and say something like “I would have just shot it right in the first place instead of spending so much time in Photoshop”. The people who take that attitude may not have shot in a live, slightly chaotic location with a dozen people waiting to have their picture taken. With paid models you can sometimes take a little longer getting things “right”, but you don’t often have that luxury. Also, what’s “right” may not have even been decided yet!

We shot this group of people near a railing, in front of a glass wall with the basketball courts in the background.

YMCA-mark-up-Dallas-Center-for-Photography

Once the shot was selected it was time to clean it up a bit: (from L to R)
– Stretch the top part of the frame to match the aspect ratio of the sign.
– Repair the woman’s eye which was hidden under her bangs. I found another eye from a different shot.
– We didn’t have a good shot of the second man looking at the camera so decided to replace him with a woman from another setup.
– Replace the logo on the man’s shirt with a Y logo and change the shirt color.
– Remove logo from the red jacket.
– Remove logo from shorts.

The idea was to have some good background action happening on the basketball court. I had the actors step out of the frame and I shot a couple dozen frames of court action at 1/8 sec to get some blur. Keeping the camera locked off made it a little easier to composite the background elements:

YMCA-added-elements-Dallas-Center-for-Photography

– The woman with the blue shorts was used in place of the man from the original image. I had to first clear out a space for her by cloning over the edges of the man to give her some extra background. Then the adjacent actors were masked and she was placed behind them. Shadows were painted in to match the lighting from the left. The client also asked to add some color to her shirt.
– The basketball court was placed into the main shot, along with background action from three shots.
– The last inset shows a photographer friend of mine with the Lastolite Easy Balance card for white balance. (Wiley is his name and you can see his work here.)
– My client sent over the background graphic as a Illustrator file and I dropped it in as a Smart Object and needed to do some masking around the actor’s head
– Then there was skin retouching, some clothing repairs, local and overall color balance, hair trimming, sharpening. . . the usual ;-)
– The file was sized up to final print size at 50dpi, which is the native resolution of the XL Jet printer.

Here is the final composited shot after about 3 1/2 hours of work:

y-sign-final-Dallas-Center-for-Photography

 

Gefen DVI Detective

Well, here’s a product I didn’t know existed but was happy to find. About a year ago I built a new machine for the studio, mostly to run Lightroom. I like Lightroom and want to love it, but have had speed problems with it since day one. So I built a quad core machine with 8gb ram, fast ATI card (had conflicts with the Nvidia) and a serious RAID 6 controller from Areca for storage and cache. For my viewing pleasure I got two 27″ displays from Doublesight and glued it all together with Vista 64. The problems began when I had to install a couple of DVI video extension cables to the monitors. Every time the screen blanker kicked in, or when the machine was restarted or came out of sleep mode, the monitors wouldn’t come up at the right resolution or even left to right sequence. About half the time I had to go in and reset the layout and resolution. It was one of those really frustrating things that I let go for two long.

While I was trying to get some HDMI problems solved (another day, another rant!) I asked John Johns, the video wizard at In-Sync, Inc. in Dallas, what he would recommend. He referred me to Gefen, a company that makes a crazy array of video conversion boxes. On their website I found a little box called the DVI Detective and an explanation of what the problem was with my monitors (and my HDMI troubles). Both of those connections transmit an EDID code. According to Wikipedia: “Extended display identification data (EDID) is a data structure provided by a computer display to describe its capabilities to a graphics card. It is what enables a modern personal computer to know what kind of monitor is connected.” As with many things electronic, that doesn’t always work out in practice. What was happening was the EDID wasn’t being picked up and weird things were happening.

The DVI Detective goes inline between the computer and the monitor. You power it up with the included wallwart, push a tiny button on the little box, a light flashes telling you the code is being received and stored, you flip a switch to lock the setting – and you’re done. The power can now be unplugged. I was hesitant to spend 2 x $60 (from Buy.com) on these little gizmos but my problem is completely solved. I love these things.

They are tiny boxes and come with nice, stout turn around DVI patch cables. A solid product that does exactly what it claims to with very little setup. This is what the mess looks like behind my monitors until I dress this up a little:

gefen-dvi-detective2-Dallas-Center-for-PhotographyUPDE: 7-4-09
I’ve been using the Gefen DVI Detective boxes for a few weeks now and I can happily report that they have completely solved the problems I was having! Money well spent.

Laptop tripod tray

I wanted to be able to use my laptop tethered while shooting. I looked into a couple of commercial laptop trays, but they were kind of overkill. I used an extra Bogen Magic Arm and some plywood to make a usable platform. I cut a piece of 1/2″ plywood slightly smaller than the footprint of the Vaio laptop and inserted a 1/4″-20 threaded insert into the center, dressed it with some black gaffer’s tape, and made a strap out of velcro. It gave me a stable, adjustable platform for the laptop.

Warning, don’t try clamping something like this to a carbon fiber tripod. This is a stout, aluminum Gitzo which can take the compression from the SuperClamp at the end of the Magic Arm.