Today I have something a little different to share with you. This is info that not everybody needs or wants, perhaps, but some may find it useful. My own photos aren’t always the best, and it's frustrating when I do essentially the same thing every time. I’m no kind of photography or technical expert, but there is one tool that has helped me more than any other. Whatever method I use needs to be easy and quick and most of all easy. Did I mention that it has to be easy? So, here we go, for better or for worse.
First things first… Pictured below is my (ahem) ultra-sophisticated photo set up. A light box would probably be wonderful, but I don't have one and don't want to spare the space to keep one. This is the desk where I do my stamping. When I’m ready to take a photograph or two I pick up my mess and set up for picture taking. I bring the poster board out of the closet, reposition one of the Ott lights, and I'm ready to go. I do most of my photographing at night, so artificial light is a must for me. In the past I have used fluorescent daylight bulbs with good results (much less expensive than Ott lights), but the fluorescent bulbs do need to warm up to full strength before photographing.
- I use a lightweight white poster board, curved up the back and held in place by the smaller light and my tool caddy. The curve gives the look of infinity, but I've also arranged a white cloth napkin with some folds around the card which would hide the line if you were to have a squared off backdrop.
- I use a tripod with my camera, but any means of steadying the camera will work.
- I use the macro setting on my camera.
- When I step back and zoom in I’m more apt to get a soft focus background.
Because folks do ask sometimes, I will share with you the different cameras whose pictures are scattered here and there throughout my blog:
- Canon PowerShot A510 3.2 megapixels
- Canon Rebel XT SLR 8.0 megapixels
- Nikon Coolpix S6000 14.2 megapixels
- Canon PowerShot Elph 310 HS 12.1 megapixels
When all is said and done, the difference in how the photos look on the web is negligible, and that’s in large part because of the photo editing software. This is where we get down to what I really wanted to share with you.
I’ve used a variety of photo editing software, but my favorite to date is Windows Live Photo Gallery. You can download it free at that link if you don’t already have it. I was probably the last person to learn about it.
The following is the unedited card photo taken in the setting shown above. Not so great.
Next is a screen shot of Windows Live Photo Gallery as I prepare to edit. To get here, I clicked the edit tab (upper left), selected my photo, then right clicked on photo and clicked View File. To get a closer look at this screen shot, please click on the photo.
The first thing I do is crop. I try not to crowd the card. I leave more space on the bottom and to one side. It sort of leads the eye up to and along the card. More detail about cropping with the next photo.
I had to actually photograph my computer screen to get this info to show. A techie I’m not. To crop, click on that little drop down arrow under “crop”, select Proportion, then Custom. Custom will allow you to adjust all sides of the crop independently.
Once the photo has been cropped, I proceed with straightening, if necessary. Select Straighten photo. A grid will appear over the photo. Adjust the slider one direction or the other to align the top of the card with the horizontal grid. A side fold card would be aligned with the vertical grid. Click the check mark when finished straightening.
The exposure adjustment is one of my favorite features about this software. I mean, all that light on the subject and it’s still not enough? Go figure. For this card I brightened a little bit and enhanced the contrast just a smidgen. Most importantly I moved the shadows slider all the way to the right to brighten the background and lighten some of the shadows on the card. By doing this I can brighten the whole picture without over brightening the main subject – the card. I can control the light and dark areas without getting any glare. I can also darken the highlights, if need be. Yes, this can all be done in Photoshop, but it seems so much easier here with everything in one window.
Color adjustment is easy, too, and much the same as most programs. Once I had brightened the photo I could see the color was pretty true because of the Ott lights. However, it did have a bit of a grayish cast, and this is so not a grayish kind of card. I moved the color temperature slider to the right to warm up the color. I also gave it a little more color saturation – just enough to make it look more like the real thing.
Now I’m ready to sharpen. I keep in mind how large the finished photo will appear on the screen. The larger the photo, the less it will need to be sharpened. There’s a slider at the very bottom of this screen (not shown here) which will allow me to enlarge my view of the photo. I enlarge it to approximately the size I think it will be viewed on my blog, then I proceed with sharpening. I try not to over sharpen. If a white halo appears around the objects in the painting, I have gone too far. Note that sharpening can give the photo a rough or grainy appearance. We’ll fix that in the next step.
This part is easy. Simply click the Analyze button and it will soften the photo without compromising the clarity. Remember, if you’d like to see a magnified view of any of these photos, just click on the photo.
Finally, you may notice the soft edges of the finished photo, below. This is the one thing I do in Photoshop Elements, and I learned it from Amy Sheffer right here. It’s in a Splitcoaststampers forum. Scroll down to Post #13 for this bit of information. If you start at the beginning of the thread, you’ll find that Amy has shared a wealth of information about how she photographs and edits her cards. She photographs in daylight and edits in Photoshop Elements. You may find her methods more to your liking. I’d like to thank Amy for sharing her knowledge.
One final look at the before and after. A world of difference.
Thanks so much for your time today. If this info helps one person, it will have been worth it.