Studio Musings

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Editing my Photos for Print and the Web

My favorite image editors are Photoshop and Acorn.  At $49, Acorn is one of the best software values I know.  Developed by Flying Meat Software, Acorn has all of the functionality I need to edit my photos for both print and web, but is unfortunately only available for the Mac.  My old version of Photoshop (CS2) is licensed for Windows.  We're a mixed computer family, with both Mac and Windows, so I still use both.  But I use Acorn more and more instead of Photoshop and all of the screenshots in this post will be from Acorn. 

Editing Tools
I use relatively few tools to prep my images in the theory that simpler is usually better.  Here's my general 'toolbox':

A) Mediocre photo B) rotate 1.5 degrees, crop C) auto levels, remove smudge

Image Size - At 14 megapixels, my pictures are typically much larger than I need, so my first step is usually to resize them to a more workable file size with enough extra to give me working room for cropping and such.
Rotate - My photos are often a degree or so out of plumb.  Free Rotate fixes that in a jiffy, though I then need to crop the photo a little to get rid of the edges.  And of course, no one likes a sideways image, hence rotate 90 degrees.
Crop -There are two ways to use crop.
  1. Use a selection tool to outline the area you want to keep, then select crop from the pull down menu.   
  2. Using Rectangle Selection Tool to define crop area
  3. Use the crop dialog box to specify both the pixel height and width.  I use this in the final crop when working with print media, when I want my image to be a particular size (2 inches high by 3 inches wide translates to 600 x 900dpi at 300dpi for print media).  Once I've typed in what I want, I can move the selection window around until I have just the right focus.  With Photoshop, you can also do this with Canvas Size.
  4. Using the crop dialog box to further refine the crop

    Final, cropped photo - no other editing

Levels If my original is just a little too dark, or the image appears a little washed out, levels can often help.

Try Auto Levels first - if it improves the look of the photo great, if it doesn't hit 'undo'.  Then try the Levels dialog box.  If the graph is flat at either end, adjust the sliders to eliminate that space, watch how it changes the image. 
Using the levels dialog box
Cropped and leveled photo - still dark, but better (difficult white background)
Sharpen - Use this tool very, very sparingly!  It can be tempting to go overboard here to correct blurry photos.  the final result will look flat, like an over-exposed cardboard looking image if you go too far.

A) original slightly blurry, B) sharpened once, C) too far

Adjust Colors - This is another tool that can be extremely useful for minor adjustments, but which should be used with caution.  Remember that everyone's computer monitor (including yours) sees color slightly differently, so be careful in making adjustments.  The safest way I've found to use this tool it to use the photo's background as your focus.  Make minor adjustments until the background is the color it should be, then look at your jewelry and see if it looks better too.  If not, discard your changes.

Saving My Edits

File Formats, JPGs and DPI  Most point-&-shoot cameras save their images as JPGs.  These days, JPGs work well for both print media and the web so there's seldom a need to convert your photos into alternate formats.  However, you do need to take some care in saving your jpgs if you want to maintain your photos' quality.

JPG is a Lossy File Format.  What this means is that each time you save a jpg, its compression routine throws out 'extraneous' data in order to achieve the smallest possible file size.  If you save the image several times, even without making any changes, the image can degrade visibly, especially if you save it at a higher compression rate (low quality). Get around this by:
  1. Always working from your original image file.
  2. Use "Save As" or "Export for Web" and save a copy of your edited photo instead of simply hitting "Save".  
  3. If I need to make additional edits after you've saved your copy, return to the original file.  
  4. If you think you're going to need to make a lot of changes, with saves in between, save a copy using the native file format of the image editor you are using.  This format (.psd for photoshop, .acorn for Acorn) will not compress the file and no data will be lost, but you will need to remember to do a save as later and change the file format back to .jpg before you can use it on the web or in most print media.

DPI stands for "dots per inch".  Your computer monitor projects 72 dpi, so if you're saving your image for the web, you don't need any more.  In comparison, quality printing is 300dpi or higher, depending upon the printer.  So if you want to use the same image in both media, you'll need to save two copies, each at the appropriate dpi.

Tracking photos for Freeform Peyote Beading

Tracking your Photos.   When saving your photos, come up with an easy to remember filing system to quickly find and differentiate both your original images and your edits.  It's a sinking feeling when you realize you've just saved your only copy of your original photo as a 100 x 100dpi thumbnail.

For my book, I put together a spreadsheet to track my photos.  Originally intended to pair raw with edited photos in case I needed to make further edits, the spreadsheet also became useful in page layout - helping me keep track of my required dimensions when searching for just the right photo.  While it's not necessary for smaller projects, it was a huge time saver during the later stages of the book production as I worked to massage the page layouts into shape.

What Image Editors Do You Use?
I'll admit to being curious as to what image editors other people use, especially editors with a more reasonable price point, like Acorn.  Feel free to leave a comment and share. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

WOW Week

In line for Splash Mountain
{Bead Soup Reveal}

Just got back from a WOW (women's only week) trip to Disney World in Florida.  My co-conspirators on this trip included my Mom, Lynnie (my mother-in-law) and my Aunt Pat.   It was an absolute blast! 

We live scattered around the country - Seattle, southern Oregon, central and eastern Missouri - so we don't manage to get together nearly as often as I'd like.  But for a week we had a chance to laugh, play, swim, talk and simply enjoy each others' company. 

Hanging out at Animal Kingdom
Even better, neither Lynnie, nor Aunt Pat had visited the parks before.  They proudly wore their 1st Timer buttons through the week and I've discovered it's just as much fun to take adult first-timers as it is kids.  Everything was new.  Despite the heat (I am sooo a Seattle heat wimp!) we explored all four parks and even did a Segway Tour of Epcot. 

I took very few photos while there and am hoping Aunt Pat will share hers, but here are a few oddities I snapped with my phone.

Scale replicas of the Terracotta Army in Epcot's China

The only downside?  I'd brought my Ipad intending to continue blog hopping through the Bead Soup Challenge, but the rooms at our resort didn't have wireless, only Ethernet.  And my Epad doesn't have an Ethernet port.  So I was stuck web surfing on my phone.  I've still managed to visit over fifty blogs so far, but I promise I'm still surfing!  And my pace should pick up dramatically now. 

Also have plans to finish up my Bead Soup piece and a post about editing photos using Photoshop Elements and Acorn (a fabulous image editing software package for the Mac) this week.  We'll see how that goes....

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Photographing my Bead Work

Macro photo from Freeform Peyote Beading
While I won't claim to be a photography expert, I have learned a fair bit about successfully photographing my beaded jewelry over the course of my book project and thought I'd share some of what I've learned.

First, all of my photos are taken with digital point-and-shoot cameras.  I like the simplicity of the point-and-shoot, and get great results because I know my cameras' eccentricities and strengths.

A good macro setting is absolutely essential to focus clearly on the detail that makes each piece unique.  The standard focal length doesn't allow for these closeup shots.  A warning: not all camera's macros are created equal.

Macro focuses at center of photo - yuck!

After destroying my first camera in a photo shoot (knocking it off a table will do that), I worked with a borrowed camera for several months.  While truly grateful for the loan, the camera and I went numerous rounds because its macros focus was fixed at the center of the field of view.  This pretty much limited me to straight on shots, though I learned to work around it.  Frustrating!  This is not what you want!

When I finally bought a new camera, I made sure its macro focused on the closest object to the lens.  This gives so much more flexibility in photo layout!  After researching Olympus' Stylus Tough online, I visited a local store to give it a test drive, even bring a couple of pieces of jewelry along for the test.  Its dual image stabilization also helps keep my macros in focus, since I often work without a tripod.

Macro's focus is at the front of the field, on the beaded bead.  Much better!

I like the focus here, but the background is too detailed, and distracts from the piece.  Which brings me neatly to my next topic:

Backgrounds and Lighting

Solid white, multi-colored & soft stone backgrounds
I tried to separate these two, but they're heavily intertwined.  Like most photographers, I prefer bright natural, indirect lighting for my work.  The key here is to illuminate the work (bright), minimize shadows (indirect lighting) and maintain the true color palette (natural lighting).

In my studio, this generally translates to a well-lit table near, but not directly next to the windows.  Early morning light, right around sunrise, is my favorite if I'm working outdoors.  The air is bright, but the light is still difused and shadows are almost nonexistent.  I take any pictures where I want a stone background then, and will even set my alarm if necessary so that I don't miss my chance.

With point and shoot cameras, I've learned to avoid solid white backgrounds like the plague.  The cameras simply can't adjust to the brightness and contrast.  Most often the background takes on a yellow tint and the work is too dark to make out details.  Using the exact same lighting conditions, I get far better results with darker, more light absorbent backgrounds.  My favorites include my grey beading cloth, black felt, the rough wood of my studio floor and the patio stones just outside my front door. 

Same piece, two different backgrounds
With the darker backgrounds, both colors and details tend to show up more clearly.  But by darker,  I don't necessarily mean black - simply not white.

This also works well with color theory - lighter, brighter objects will appear to advance (into the foreground) in relations to darker, duller objects which recede into the background. 

Take Lots of Photos
Take lots of photos, from lots of angles, on multiple backgrounds.  If one picture is good, three or four are likely better - its digital, so you don't have to worry about film.  Take multiple shots from each angle; this increases your chance of getting the perfectly focused shot.  Then think of how else you might photograph the same piece.  Take lots of detail shots, too.

Painted papers, fabric and stone backgrounds - which works best? (No editing)

Oh, and be careful with props.  Remember their purpose is to enhance and showcase your piece, not take center stage themselves.  This goes for models too - their hair style, makeup, clothing shouldn't distract from your jewelry.  If it does, fix it.   Be aware of your audience.  Blog photos can be a lot more fun, with more interesting backgrounds, than you would want to use in a photograph to be considered for a juried show. 

And remember - if you can get -close- to where you want with your camera, then photo editing software can often take you the rest of the way.  I use Acorn for the Mac and Photoshop for the PC and will review both with my most used features in another post.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Little Underdone

With a little clever photography, I could claim that my Bead Soup piece is complete, combining right angle weave 'links' with the lovely sea glass bezels and fused glass focal created by my fabulous swap partner  Kimberly Roberts.  I definitely finished enough to get a feel for the final piece.

But the truth of the matter is, it's not yet done.   Late arrivals of my soup mix due to hurricane Irene, unexpected time requirements in my other work and design challenges all left me really running behind on this one.  If it hadn't been for the need to follow through to show Kimberly's pieces, I might have thrown in the towel.

My orginal thought was a solid freeform peyote collar
The large, square, transparent glass focal was a real challenge for me.  The shape didn't lend itself to my more organic stitching, and I wrestled with the issue of transparency - do I bead behind it or do I let it stand alone?  I considered creating a solid freeform peyote collar, with beading behind to provide a backdrop for the focal, but it just didn't feel right.  Too heavy and solid for the focal bead.  

Stitching the right angle weave closed around the wire
I finally decided to echo the open feel and shape of the focal with my right angle weave links.  Each link is stitched around a 20 gauge wire core to give it strength and stability.  I taped the ends with acid-free artists' tape and then painted the tape with a little acrylic to help it blend (the white tape would have shown through the bead work).

For each link I worked three rows of right angle weave the length of the circumference, like a long narrow ribbon.  And then I'd lace it closed around the wire, pinching it into shape as I went.

I'd originally thought I'd use the sea glass bezels in a separate piece, but when I laid them out amongst the links they looked right, so they were added in as well.  When the piece is complete, the links will graduate smaller around the neck.

So now check out the other Bead Soup participants' work:

The Hostess, Lori Anderson and her partner, Manuela Wutschke

There's more, but it doesn't look as complete!
1. Aimee Wheaton and Barbara York
2. Alice Craddick and Sandra Richardson
3. Alison Sachs and Amy Severino
4. Allison Scott and Cynthia Abner
5. Amanda Cargill Austin and Charlene Sevier
6. Amanda Davie and Patsy Evins
7. Amber Dawn and Kim Ballor
8. Ambra Gostoli and Christine Hansen
9. Amy Freeland and Christine Altmiller
10. Ana Krepel-Novak and Eleanor Snare

11. Andrea Morici and Hope Smitherman
12. Andrea Trank and Jayne Capps
13. Andrea Turini and Charlene Jacka
14. Angela May and Emanda Johnson
15. Anitra Gordy and Elizabeth Owens Dwy
16. Ann Rishell and Debbie Price
17. Ann Sherwood and Lynne Bowland
18. Anna Lear and Barbe Saint John
19. Anna Sabina­­­­ and Erin Siegel
19. Nan Emmett and Erin Siegel
20. Astrid Boyce and Birgitta Lejonklou

21. B.R. Kuhlman and Deanna Chase
22. Barbara Bechtel and Bryna Lumb
23. Barbara Blaszczyk and DaviniaDesign
24. Barbara Judy and Holly Westfall
25. Barbara Lewis and Cathie Carroll
26. Barrie Edwards and Lyn Foley
27. Becky Fairclough and Jana Tarhala
28. Bella Borgouise and Gillian Lehman
29. Beth and Evie McCord and Erin Prais-Hintz
30. Beth Bricker and Heather Pyle

31. Beth Emery and Cassie Donlen
32. Bobbie Rafferty and Cindy Cima Edwards
33. Candice McGinnis and Sally Anderson
34. Carol Bradley and Cece Cormier
 35.  Cathy Khoury and Molly Alexander
 36. Carol Tannahill and Hilary Frye
37. Carrie Tahquechi and Cris Peacock
38. Cat Pruitt and Cindy Gimbrone
39. Charlene Gary and Doris Stumpf
40. Charlotte Pevny and Kate Gardenghi

Wire links awaiting tape, paint & beading
41. Cherrie Fickand Cathie Carroll
41. Claire Maunsell and Cherrie Fick
42. Cheryl Roe and Jenny Vidberg
43. Chris White and Norma Turvey
44. Christa Murphy and Kathy Alderfer
45. Christie Murrow and Dana James
46. Christina Miles and Collette Collins
47. Christine Brandel and Elizabeth Woodford
48. Christine Damm and Cynthia Deis
49. Christine Hendrickson and Debbie Goering
50. Christine Stonefield and Dee Wingrove-Smith

51. Cilla Watkins and Johanna Rhodes
52. Cindy Wimmer and Riki Schumacher
53. CJ Baushka and Cory Celaya
54. Courtney Breul and Joanna Matuszczyk
55. Cristi Clothier and Kathleen Robinson Young
56. Cryss Thain and Serena Trent
57. Cynthia Tucker and Kitty Durmaj
58. Dana Johnson Jones and Eva Sherman
59. Davinia Algeri and Janet McDonald
60. Deci Worland and Lara Lutrick

61. Diana Ptaszynski and Kristy Abner
62. Diane Cook and Kerry Bogert
63. Diane Hawkey and Jen Judd Velasquez
64. Dorcas Midkiff and Jill Harris
65. Doris Radlicki and Heather Goldsmith
66. Dot Lewallen and Gaea Cannaday
67. Elisabeth Auld and Jennifer Justman
68. Erin Fickert-Rowland and Geanina Grigore
69. Erin Grant and Julie Jones
70. Eszter Czibulyas and Helena Fritz

71. Fiona Christie and Michelle Heim
72. Gail Zwang and Genea Crivello-Knable
73. Geneva Collins and Jana Haag
74. Gretchen Nation and Heidi Post
75. Heather DeSimone and Karin Slaton
76. Heather Marley and Terry Carter
77. Ingrid McCue and Jennifer Pride
78. Jackie Ryan and Nicole Keller
79. Janna Harttgen and Joanne Tinley
80. Jean Yates and Lori Anderson

Measuring the circumference
81. Jelveh Jaferian and Jenny Davies-Reazor
82. Jenni Connolly and Jennifer Heynen
83. Jennifer Cameron and Kristi Bowman
84. Jennifer Geldard and Lisa Liddy
85. Jennifer VanBenschoten and Kim Hora
86. Jess Italia Lincoln and Lori Greenberg
87. Jill MacKay and Lori Bergmann
88. JJ Jacobs and Karen Tremblay
89. Joyce Becker and Kathy Welsh
90. Judy Glende and Karen Sinkowski

91. Judy Riley and Kelly Morgan
92. JuLee Wolfe and Julie Bean
93. Julianna Cannon and Julianna Kis
94. Julie Nordine and Lesley Watt
95. K. Hutchinson and Shea Zukowski
96. Karen Firnberg and Karyn Bonfiglio
97. Karen Williams and Kimberly Roberts
98. Karen Zanco and Polly Barker
99. Kari Carrigan and Laura Twiford
100. Karin von Hoeren and Laura Blanck

101. Kate Richbourg and Lorelei Eurto
102. Kathleen Lange Klik and Maria Clark
103. Kathy Engstrom and Keri Lee Sereika
104. Kay Thomerson and Loretta Carstensen
105. Kelley Fogle and Laurel Bielec
106. Kelly Ramstack and Sally Anderson
107. Kim Stevens and Tiffany Long
108. Kristi Harrison and Mandy Williamson
109. Kristi Kyle and Lana Kinney
110. Kristina Johansson and Sue Hodgkinson

111. Kym Hunter and Laura Sanger
112. Laura Zeiner and Susan Kennedy
113. Laurel Steven and Mary McGraw
114. Laurie Hanna and Lisa Boucher
115. Lesley Weir and Liz DeLuca
116. Linda Djokic and Tracey Weiser
117. Linda Inhelder and Pam Brisse
118. Linda Landig and Lori Dorrington
119. Linda Murphy and Lisa Hamilton
119.  Line Labrecque and Marianne Baxter
120. Lisa Lodge and Monica Johnson

Another view of stitching the links
121. Lois Moon and Melissa Muir
122. Lola Surwillo and Therese Frank
123. Lori Bowring Michaud and Marci Brooks
124. Lupe Meter and Norma Agron
125. Maggie Towne and Marge Beebe
126. Malin de Koning and Susie Hibdon
127. Mallory Hoffman and Shirley Moore
128. Marcie Abney and Patty Miller
129. Marcy Lamberson and Melissa Clarke
130. Margot Potter and Suzann Sladcik Wilson

131. Maria Grimes and Wendy Blum
132. Maria Horvath and Melinda Orr
133. Maria Rosa Sharrow and Marie-Noel Voyer-Cramp
134. Marian Hertzog and Melissa Mesara
135. Marianna Boylan and Sandi Lee James
136. Marina Dobrynina and Michaela Pabeschitz
137. Marsha Neal and Miri Agassi
138. Mary Ellen Parker and Melissa Meman
139. Mary Elliott and Tamara Soper
140. Mary Hicks and Laurel Steven

141. Melissa Pynn and Michelle Buettner
142. Michelle Hardy and Niki Meiners
143. Michelle Mach and Moira McEvoy
144. Missy Rappaport and Norma Agron
145. Molly Alexander and Poranna
146. Mylene Hillam and Nicole Rennell
147. Nadezhda Parfyonova and Stacey Curry
148. Nan Emmett and Nancy Peterson
149. Nancy Boylan and Natalie McKenna
150. Natalie Monkivitch and Niky Sayers

151. Natasha Lutes and Pam Ferrari
152. Noemi Baena and Penny Ilagan
153. Pamela Petry and Rebecca Sirevaag
154. Pat Haight and Mary McGraw
155. Patty Gasparino and Vonna Maslanka
156. Penny Neville and Sandi Volpe
157. Pepita Bos and Wendy Chamberlain
158. Raida Disbrow and Rebecca Watkins
159. Rebecca Anderson and Sabrina Staub
160. Regina Santerre and Rose Binoya

Kimberly's fused glass focal
161. Rhea Freitag and Tari Kahrs
162. Rochelle Brisson and Sheryl Stephen
163. Sally Russick and Tracy Bell
164. Sandra McGriff and Shay Williams
165. Sandra Wolberg and Sara Hardin
166. Sarah Elder and Salla Small
167. Saskia Kaffenberger and Sharon Gardner
 168. Sharon Palac and Shannon Chomanczuk
169. Shay Stone and Suzette Bentley
170. Shiraz Biggie and Tammy Powley

171. Staci Smith and Tracy Stillman
172. Stacie Stamper and Tracy Martin
173. Stefanie Teufel and Vicky Taylor
174. Stephanie Dixon and Stephanie LaRosa
175. Stephanie Haussler and Valerie Norton
176. Suzanne Tate and Terri Wlaschin
177. Sweet Freedom Designs and Tammy Jones
178. Tania Spivey and Tari Sasser
179. Tara Plote and Terry Matuszyk
180. Terri Gauthier and Deana Hager