Categories
Reviews Software

Review: Disc Cover by BeLight Software

Even though CD’s are becoming less used, DVDs for data storage are still going strong, and personal projects such as iMovie and iPhoto still have a strong usage of labeling  for stored material.

Disc Cover 3 is a delightful software that allows you to print DVD labels and covers and case booklets for music, archives, and anything you are saving to disc.  Jewel case inserts can be made easily and cleanly from a tremendous number of pre-designed templates with layouts and art importable from iTunes, iPhoto, Aperture, and iDVD. It’s easy. The hardest thing for you to do is decide which design and layout you intend to use because the options are immense. This is a Mac only software.  Sorry Windows users—you’re missing out on a good thing.

Categories
Photoshop Tutorials

Download: Dr. Roach’s Photoshop CS4 for Beginners

Update: Now that CS5 version has been released as an app, we are no longer offering this pdf for free

However,

Adobe Photoshop CS4: An Introduction by Dr. Michael N. Roach is now for sale as a PDF

Price: $4.99

Sample Pages:

There are still a lot of people using Photoshop CS4 even though Photoshop CS5, and now Photoshop CS5.5, has been out for some time. We were contacted by a few students who are still in need of this information so, in the spirit of sharing, this series of downloadable lecture notes for CS4 has been made available.Originally, these notes were part of the material given out with the demonstrations and lectures during Dr. Roach’s Photoshop workshops. Much of the basics remain unchanged between CS3 and CS5, though the tools may have moved around.

Some of The Topics Covered Include:

Ready to buy?

Buy Now

Categories
Photoshop Tutorials

Dr. Roach’s Guide to Photoshop CS4 For Beginners: Preferences

There are still a lot of people using Photoshop CS4 even though Photoshop CS5 has been out for some time. In the spirit of sharing, this series of downloadable lecture notes for CS4 is placed online for those who may need some help with the basics of the program. Much of the basics remain unchanged in CS5 and I believe that the original tutorial will prove useful for many of the steps of the revised Photoshop CS5, but there are minor differences sometimes.

Originally, these notes were part of the material given out with the demonstrations and lectures with my Photoshop workshops.

I am currently revising this tutorial for my workshops to reflect the changes between Photoshop CS4 and CS5, but on the urging of some of my former students I am making this material available.

Adobe Photoshop CS4: An Introduction by Dr. Michael N. Roach is now for sale as a PDF

Price: $4.99

Sample Pages:

There are still a lot of people using Photoshop CS4 even though Photoshop CS5, and now Photoshop CS5.5, has been out for some time. We were contacted by a few students who are still in need of this information so, in the spirit of sharing, this series of downloadable lecture notes for CS4 has been made available.Originally, these notes were part of the material given out with the demonstrations and lectures during Dr. Roach’s Photoshop workshops. Much of the basics remain unchanged between CS3 and CS5, though the tools may have moved around.

Some of The Topics Covered Include:

Ready to buy?

Buy Now

Categories
Books Photography Reviews

Review: THE ART OF PHOTOGRAPHY: An Approach to Personal Expression

I always enjoy receiving a review copy of any book from Rocky Nook Press because I know two things about it in advance: (1) the book itself will be printed on Acid-Free paper, and will still show its illustrations with brilliance and clarity for years to come, and (2) the book will be bound in such a manner that it will behave itself and lie open beside my computer without the necessity of putting weights on each side of the open volume in order to make it lie down quietly and allow me to enjoy the content rather than having to fight the pages as though they were reluctant to allow me to read. Actually there’s a third thing I can count on as well; the book design will never be written so far into the gutter that I have to break the book’s spine to read all of the page contents.

Categories
Books Reviews Workflow

Review- Photoshop CS5 and Lightroom 3: A Photographer’s Handbook

I recently received a review copy of Rocky Nook’s Photoshop CS5 and Lightroom 3: A Photographer’s Handbook by Stephen Laskevitch. I always enjoy receiving a book from Rocky Nook to review because they print their books on acid-free paper and the reproduction quality is as outstanding as the content.

As a workshop teacher I am always interested in another teacher’s approach and quite admire the methodical, logical, and easily-understood approach that Stephen Laskevitch uses in Photoshop CS5 and Lightroom 3: A Photographer’s Handbook.

Steven Laskevitch is an Adobe Certified Instructor who uses his comprehensive knowledge of Photoshop and Lightroom to introduce the two as a working pair rather than use the more usual approach of dealing with each application seperately. This approach caused me to rearrange my computer room while reviewing this book (more on that in a moment).

Categories
Reviews Software Tutorials Workflow

Review: ART TEXT v2.2.2 by Belight Software

Editor’s Note:  Wouldn’t you know? Just as we released this article, a newer 2.3 version with a vector editor has been released. Dr. Roach will review it at a later date.

Back in April, 2009 I last reviewed BeLight’s ART TEXT and found it a useful headline and logo designing tool, but time passes and the new 2.2.2 version appeared as a review copy (from BeLightsoft. Com)on my desk with a new, revamped look and a greater ease of usage.

Categories
Graphics Photoshop Reviews Software Workflow

Review: Pixelmator 1.6

About a year and a half ago (January 7, 2009 to be exact) I wrote a review of Pixelmator as a potential light-weight image-editing software. At that time I found it a very useful and inexpensive image-editing software that was well worth its $59.00 cost. (Download from Pixelmator.com)

A new version of Pixelmator (1.6) is available as a free upgrade to current Pixelmator owners, but a word of caution goes along with it. Pixelmator has been rewritten for Snow Leopard 10.6 and the new version will not run on 10.5 Leopard. Much of its underpinnings have been rewritten for 64 bit support and tuned to take advantage of the multi-core CPUs that Mac has been utilizing for some time.

The results are increases in speed, with Pixelmator claiming starting up twice as fast as previously, and opening images two times faster than Adobe’sPhotoshop©. It’s new painting engine claims to run four times faster than the previous version, and claims that filters are applied faster than those in Photoshop©.

Categories
Multimedia Tutorials

Photographs by Britt Stokes

These Files sizes are large. Please be patient.

Taken in 2010 with The Infrared Conversion Digital Camera


[slidepress gallery=’mexican-infrared’]

Categories
Books Featured Photography Reviews

Build A Better Photograph: A Disciplined Approach To Creativity by Michael E. Stern

Build A Better Photograph: A Disciplined Approach To Creativity - Rocky NookRocky Nook Press recently sent me a review copy of Michael E. Stern’s new book Build A Better Photograph: A Disciplined Approach To Creativity, and since I am always interested in the creative process (especially when it involves disciplined thought), I was happy to sit down with it for some quality time.

I gravitate towards that word “disciplined” because I am an analytical and systematic individual. My trusty Mac computer dictionary provided the following:

With that in mind, I have to add I also like insights into the actual step-by-step thoughts in the designing process for a photographer, and I look for good illustrations and well-written tutorials done by an enthusiastic photographer. All of these are well covered in Build A Better Photograph: A Disciplined Approach to Creativity. Add a DVD with additional images, 360 degree panoramas of studio shots in progress, some short videos of photographic sessions, references, and tutorials and you have a concise and worthwhile package.

Mr. Stern writes in an easy-going style that makes the reader feel that they are in the presence of an out-going teacher who enjoys sharing his techniques and learning experiences‚ both the good and the bad‚ and he is not ashamed to admit to mistakes made in that they provide part of the lessons learned that he would share with the student. It is no wonder that he has had a wide and varied teaching career in addition to his studio work. Among the places that he has taught are Los Angeles Trade Technical College, Art Center College of Design, Glendale Community College, Burbank Unified School District, Julia Dean Photographic Workshops, Studio Arts, Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, and Brooks Institute.

Mr. Stern’s professional career involves some seventeen years working for the Disney Studios, extensive architectural, product, and portrait photography. He cites a deeply committed relationship to Adobe Photoshop and its importance to the digital studio of today.

Build A Better Photograph: A Disciplined Approach To Creativity (ISBN: 978-1-933952-18-5, US $34.95 CAN $41.95) covers four major areas.

The first is environmental portraiture, and in it he delves deeply into the process of designing the portrait and how to load the image’s environment with telling clues that give insight to the depth of the personality of the subject. Along with that he gives serious tips about controlling and predicting color output. Workflows on the computer with an emphasis on organization (remember that word “Disciplined” in the book title?) are considered in depth as well.

The second major area that Mr. Stern discusses is involved in compositing techniques using the computer and Adobe Photoshop. How to light and shoot a myriad of different images and to bring them together in a final composite is painsakingly described with a variety of tutorial screen shots showing the multiple layers and layer masks necessary to produce the final image result.

The third area that is discussed gives lessons on using the scanner in place of the camera and takes a trip into personal style and creativity. It attempts to open up the student to looking at shape and form in the small world in order to sharpen the student’s design skills and to realize that not all images have to come via the camera lens.

The final section of the book looks at product photography and how to light a product in such a way that it is easy to vary background and key colors and to composite separate product images into final images.

Throughout the entire book several ideas continue to travel side by side with the craft and techniques of both photography and Adobe Photoshop as skills. One of those ideas is that the photographer must sell himself or herself continually to the client. This is necessary because there are many photographers who are skillful as photographers but who do not maintain a pleasant working relationship with the client. The job of the photographer is to satisfy the client with both the product and a pleasant personal working relationship. A photographer walks a thin line as he or she trys to promote their own ideas and creativity, and at the same time to deal with the preconceived ideas that the client may bring to the conference table. Satisfying the client in part means that the client must feel that they have contributed to the design concept greatly even if the photographer has promoted his or her own creative design successfully. Each photographer must know when to listen and when to speak (and how to do it tactfully) as the photographer and client come to terms with the final design.

Dealt with indirectly, but explained well, is the difficulty in dealing with the chain of command in large organizations. The filtering process between the ultimate client in the chain and the photographer is a delicate one because each individual in the chain of command feels the necessity of placing their own mark on the final product‚ else they cannot justify their own position in the hierachy. Putting it bluntly, this is hell on the creative process and can lead to difficulties.

I found Build A Better Photograph: A Disciplined Approach To Creativity a good read; it will provide a great deal of insight to the creative process and the day-to-day managerial skills and personality  necessary. Definitely a must read for the aspiring photographer who feels that mastering photographic and computer skills are all there is to the photography business.

His book has been published by Rocky Nook Press. Their books are printed on acid-free paper and the color in their books will survive long after the technical skills described in each volume will be replaced by the advances in our technology. Sometimes we get so caught up in the latest information that we forget how we receive that information. The “how” in this case is also important and should be acknowledged.

Build A Better Photograph: A Disciplined Approach To Creativity
by Michael E. Stern
ISBN: 978-1-933952-18-5
US $34.95 CAN $41.95

Michael Stern around the web:
His website CyberStern.com
His blog is  DigitalBeast.Wordpress.com
Find some excellent tutorials are at  SlideShare.net/Mr_Pixel
Michael Stern at The Brooks Insititute

Categories
Books Photography Reviews

Mastering Photographic Composition, Creativity, and Personal Style by Alain Briot

For those of you who follow The Luminous Landscape web site, Alain Briot's name will be a familiar one from his informative and insightful writings for the photographer. If you are new to his writings you will be in for a treat in his second book published by Rocky Nook (his first was Mastering Landscape Photography).

Rocky Nook produces beautiful volumes printed on acid-free paper that reproduce the dynamic tonalities of the fine-art prints that they showcase, and the long-term viability of their volumes mean that they will be as visually dynamic a number of years from now as they are today. This is particularly valuable when examining Mastering Photographic Composition, Creativity, and Personal Style because the beauty of this book almost makes it a coffee-table volume as well as a thought-provoking intellectual examination of the mind of the creative photographer. This is a blending of art and technique in that the artistic concepts more often used in the discussion of paintings are combined with the technology and craft of the camera, lens, and printing processes.

Briot says it best:

"…you can control the colors in your photographs as if you were a painter in contol of your color palette rather than a photographer at the mercy of the camera."

It is the point where the photographer has added his style, viewpoint, and emotion to a photograph that the photograph moves from merely factual to artistic. An artistic photograph is actually more about the photographer and their viewpoint than it is about the actual subject of the photograph.

An examination of the way Briot has arranged the book will give you insight into his thought process and his philosophy of art.

He begins with the differences between what we see and what the camera sees. In order to understand how he produces art with his camera you first have to learn that the camera has limitations as a tool and it is the control of those limitations that separates forensic or scientific photography from Art photography. What the camera sees is a version of reality, not necessarily the exact reality. That reality is certainly not the emotional state that comes from the photographer who shapes reality into Art though the use of the camera as only one of their tools. The other tools are composition in both color and in shape; in other words the selective and designing eye that first "sees" and selects and then manipulates color and value to load the composition with emotion, and not simply to accept what the camera saw as a machine subject to the limitations of the sensor and lens.

Briot discusses the differences between composing with light, composing with color, and composing in black and white. He considers the elements of a strong composition and the creative process, and he gives us insight into finding inspiration. By examining a series of images he leads us through exercises in creativity and developing a unique vision for each individual photographer. That vision becomes a personal style.

A well-developed personal style is a saleable commodity if the photographer analyzes their audience and matches their style and the audience. How to deal with the practical aspects of print numbering, presenting images, and the art show circuit are considered.

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Finally, Briot gives us a technical and creative checklist that will help develop a skill level that defines the difference between a good photographer and an Artist. This comes about when technical competence has reached a level that allows the photographer to devote most of their energy to design and creativy and the technical is merely a palette that the Artist draws upon to produce an emotional translation of what they saw when they first approached the subject of their photograph. The technical takes place in the field and should result in shooting to the photographer's hearts' content. Then, in the studio at the computer, comes the analytical time where images are selected, comtemplated and modified. Early on, Briot suggested that the photographer keep a written notebook with both technical, compositional, and emotional descriptions of the scenes being photographed. In the studio the photographer can then attempt to modify the image that the camera made within the limitations of lens and sensor to bring to life what the photographer "saw" at the moment the photograph was made.

I, personally, sometimes wonder when looking at files what it was that I saw when I shot an image? Written notes would alleviate that sense of negative wonderment that comes in the studio days or weeks after a particular exposure was made. Briot has explained some pithy things about color, camera sensors, the printing device, the human eye, and the creative process that have given me some serious thoughts on the creative process as it applies to myself. While the goal of every photographer is to get out and shoot images, simply shooting without thinking seriously about the technology limitations and the goal of the images is a waste of time. I consider the time spent reading Alain Briot's Mastering Photographic Composition, Creativy, and Personal Style as being time very well spent to improve a photographer's understanding of both themselves and their technology. It is this understanding that allows the development of the full potential of any image, and that full potential is the difference between mere representation and Art.

 

Alain Briot
Mastering Photographic Composition, Creativity, and Personal Style
Rocky Nook
ISBN: 978-1-933952-22-2
352 pages, paperback
US $44.95, CAN $ 53.95.
This volume was provided for review by Rocky Nook, Inc.
Read (PDF) Excerpts:
TOC
Sample Chapter
Preface

 

Categories
Featured Gadgets Hardware Photography Tutorials

Lighting On A Budget – Pt. 2

My 6-light CFL fixture worked well in the studio, but I wanted more light and the option to add a light modifier.  I decided to move up to 3” PVC and install eight lamp sockets around the outside of the pipe.

We’re going to call this fixture a SPIDER, you’ll see why in just a moment.

Here is my original collection of parts.

A 3” clean-out plug serves as a hub for the sockets.  My original idea was to attach the clean out plug to a 3” bushing that would be attached to the front of the 2” tee fitting.  The power cord would run out the back of the tee and the light stand would attach to the base of the tee.

I measured and marked the clean-out plug and drilled it with a 5/16” bit.  I made a simple jig from scrap wood to hold the fitting in place.

Using a 2” lamp nipple and a pair of channel locks, I carefully cut the threads for the shorter nipples.  This is where the working characteristics of PVC came into play.  You can cut threads into PVC with a bolt and a little patience, instead of using a tap and die.  I chased the threads all the way through the side of the fitting.

Here is the clean-out plug with all of the lamp nipples fitted.  I chose a clean-out plug as opposed to a regular cap so that I could access the wires more easily.

Each socket was wired and the wires passed through the hole of the mounting bracket.  The design of the bracket and the lamp nipples allowed me to keep all of the wires hidden.

Above is the front of the SPIDER WITH the wiring in place.

Above is the back of the SPIDER with the wiring in place. The sockets were wired in pairs, then the pairs were wired together.  I used wire connectors instead of soldering so that a socket could easily be replaced if it failed.

LOOK; it works! 

At this point I realized that my original design was way too front-heavy.  I needed to move the center of gravity farther back.  So, I’m off to Home Depot yet again.

I found a 3”-3”-2” tee fitting that solved my problem of balance nicely.  I added a 3” to 2” reducer to the back of the tee fitting and a 2” to1.25” threaded reducer to that.  A 4” circle of plywood and a 1.25” male fitting is attached to the reducer and this holds the speedring to my Paul C Buff OCTOBOX™ firmly in place.  A 2” to .75” threaded reducer is mounted at the bottom of the tee for the light stand fitting.

Here’s the light inside the OCTOBOX™.  It throws a very even lighting pattern, even without the diffusion panel.  It’s well balanced and easy to handle in the studio.  I’m working on an improved version for my still photography.  Stay tuned…

Kirk Draut
Director of Design
Aarthun Performance Group, Ltd.
281.580.5705

 

Categories
Featured Photography Photoshop Reviews Tutorials

Topaz Labs DeNoise: Another Winning Photoshop Plugin

UPDATE: Dr. Roach reviews the latest release of DeNoise here

A few weeks back I wrote about TopazLabs application TopazAdjust3, and I liked it so well that it obviously influenced me to take a look at its sister (brother?) application DeNoise.  Topaz Labs makes applications for both still and video imaging, and it is the digital still imaging area that have my interest because Photoshop from Adobe is the center of my workflow and I like things that plug-in to Photoshop.  I thought if noise control in its own plug-in could be any better than the noise suppression panel in TopazAdjust3, then it might be extremely useful.  So I decided to give it a try.  DeNoise is a bit more expensive than TopazAdjust3.  Where the latter is priced at US $49.95, DeNoise comes in at US $79.95.  All of TopazLabs software has a 30-day trial key which allows you to try it out thoroughly to see whether you like it or not.

So here is one I tried DeNoise with; it was shot with a 3.1 megapixel point-and-shoot camera in Morocco in the summer of 2000. Look at the color artifacts in the shadow under the palm leaves and in the shadow on the floor on the right.

Going to Filter > Topaz > DeNoise we get the panel below.

The default in the Main>Noise Suppression is 1.0 when it opens.  You can use the Reset button on the bottom right to force Noise Suppression to open at 0 if you choose.  We’ll take a look at all the adjustments possible before we make corrections.

The Advanced panel allows us to make adjustments in (1) Color Noise, (2) JPEG Fixer, (3) Smoothness, and (4) Add Grain.  It opened with a default of 0.05 in Color Noise.

The third panel, Presets, gives us the options of settings for (1) SRAW Normal, (2) JEPG High Quality, (3) Large Grain Noise, and (4) Supersmooth. Choosing and Applying one of these presets will make adjustments in the Main and Advanced panels.

Finally, the About panel will allow us to reach (1) Tech Support, (2) On-Line Resources, (3) Check for an update, and (4) enter our registration Key if we have not already done so.

Now, we’ll go back to the original image and the noise in the shadow and brick areas.

In the following image the Noise Suppression was set at 2.88.  Remember, the default was 1.0.

A slight amount of curves was applied to lighten the shadow area.

Now, here’s the detail close-up so you can see the original grain in all its gruesome glory.

Here’s the example with the Noise Suppression at 2.88.

Now here is a completely different means of removing the Color Noise.

Pretend you ignored all the steps under the Main  panel and went directly to the Advanced Panel and chose to make your corrections through the Color Noise and Smoothness adjustments. You will get results similar to the ones below, which are not identical to the answer you received working with the Main panel and Smoothness.  But this simply shows that there are more than one way to reach an acceptable answer to the noise problem.

On the left side we can see an area corrected only by Color Noise and Smoothness sliders.  The original, grainy, image is the right side of the image.

Here we have the image totally corrected by using the Advanced panel and the Color Noise and Smoothness sliders.

I think we have another winner here. I’m going to use Topaz BeNoise to save many of the photographs I took with the 3.1 Megapixel  point-and-shoot camera while we were traveling in Morocco.

Check out DeNoise at http://topazlabs.com where it is priced at US $79.95 as a download.  A CD with the program can be ordered at extra charge, but saving the download with a copy of the key which is emailed to you after purchase can be done in only a few minutes.  After all, the DMG file is only 5.2 megabytes and is a quick download even on dial-up.  DeNoise is another good additon to your toolkit and workflow.