Media Photography Polaroid Nostalgia

Nostalgic for the Polaroid look? Wishing for the ability to make snapshots look like Polaroids? There's a fast, easy-to use solution. All it involves is an upload, a brief wait, and a download.

Check out which takes you to a site by Rollip. Click the website to start; this takes you to a page of original images and Polaroid "look" variations that take you back to the days of slight color mismatch, over and under development; atmospheric effects and the day-to-day variations of the Polaroid process. Do you remember the excitement of the image developing before your very eyes?

Choose one of the illustrated effects and double click on it. The next window you will see gives you a "click here to upload photo" button. Go ahead, click it! This opens a window to your computer that allows you to browse until you find an image that you want to process. Click and select an image and wait a brief time for your image to upload. The size of the image and your upload speed determines the upload time. But generally, it's brief. Out of curiosity I sent a four megabye .jpg and the upload time was about three minutes in which the upload bar worked its way from red, to orange, to yellow to green. Another thirty to sixty seconds had the image processed and the processed version came up in the display window ready for me to download or send it somewhere.

That's it! Talk about instant nostalgia!

Links are available to send your newly created image directly from Rollip to e-mail, Facebook, Myspace, and other choices you may select.

If you enjoy the use of the site, the folks at Rollip have a Donate link where you can send them what you think the process is worth to you and it's obvious that they have put in some pretty intense work because as a long time user of Polaroid cameras I have to say that they got the "look" down pat, so if you use them and enjoy the effect, then consider a donation.

Along with the twelve basic effects available one of the interesting ones is to choose SMALL POLAROID and several border effects become available with the ability to add a slight amount of text below the image. The text styles range from typewriter to printed handwriting; and all these frames have the slight dark vingette associated with a lens hood on the camera lens or an image square selected slightly larger than the circular image that the camera lens produces.

For the disclaimer, the folks at Rollip don't have any connection to the original Polaroid cameras or film people company which owns the trademark to the Polaroid name. Rollip has simply given you the opportinuty to make a modern photograph look like a process that has sadly, slipped from the current technology scene. Have fun!




What do you say? It's all in the look

Featured Software

Snow Leopard: One More Installation

Since the uppermost thing on most Macintosh users minds lately is the upgrade to Snow Leopard, and since this is a Mac-centric website, the least I can do is report on some of my own Snow Leopard Experiences.  Is it a radical change?  No, as others have reported, it is a tightening up and customizing of OSX’s Leopard.

The best anology I can make regarding my feelings after I installed Snow Leopard on my MacBook Pro is that it is a bit like taking a new, off-the-shelf mens’ suit to an expert tailor for alterations.  You know—shorten the sleeves; cuff the pants to the right length; remove the belt loops and sew on suspender buttons—making it just right for the wearer. What was previously certainly wearable simply becomes custom-fitted to the owner. That’s my feeling after my Snow Leopard installation.

Numerous others have commented upon Snow Leopard and their experiences, and not all of the aforementioned installations went without some problems so in preparation to the installation I first backed up my MacBook Pro with Time Machine just in case.

I’m using a MacBook Pro 17 inch 2.5 Ghz C2D with a matte screen, 4 GB of Ram and a 320 GB hard drive. I forgot to turn off Little Snitch and that produced some events (more on that later).  Let’s look at the installation.

Time in minutes (rounded):

  • 00.00    Begin installation by inserting the Snow Leopard disk (family pack, 10.6) purchased from
  • 08.00    After the disk copied some of its data to the computer hard drive, it restarted.
  • 11.00     Finished restart; the install screen begins with the installation ribbon active.
  • 41.00    The install ribbon finishes (this includes about 12 minutes with the message “less than one minute remaining”).
  • 46.00    The restart begins and computer asks if I want to install Rosetta. I answer “yes” and Little Snitch asks if Rosetta can connect on line. It asks this a total of seven times with my answering “yes” each time. Little Snitch is the culprit I discover later.
  • 53.00    Restart finishes. Total installation took about 53 minutes.
  • Going to the Software Update and clicking on it produces seven questions one following another as to whether I want to install Rosetta.  Obviously, this is somehow related to not having switched Little Snitch off before I began.


I did not experience the screen dimming or black screen that has been reported by some individuals, but this may be due to the fact that in my System Preferences I had chosen prior to my beginning the installation not to allow dimming or sleep for the unit.

All in all the computer felt snappier and I checked the amount of space on my hard drive.  Prior to the installation there had been 134.75 GB of space available; after installation there was 166.25 GB of space available for a gain of 31.5 GB.  However remember that there is a change from counting megabytes as 1,024 terrabytes to a base of 1,000 terrabytes.  This can add up to a significant “apparent” change in free space.  There is no question that Snow Leopard frees up significant space on the computer, but not as much as it appears.

As the computer restarted it told me that my version of Snapz Pro X required a serial number and that I was running in demo mode; my system had lost the registration.  A trip back to Ambrosia software via my email address gave me back my serial number and Snapz Pro X was satisfied to run. I began to test my installed software base and found only one program that would not load.  This was NeoOffice.

Since I teach workshops in Adobe Photoshop I was extremely happy to see that Photoshop CS2, CS3, and CS4 all worked properly.  This included all of the Photoshop plug-ins that I have reviewed on over the past year.  Wacom tablets, Graphire 3 and Intuos 3 both work properly though going to their control panels in System Preferences requres System Preferences to switch from 64 bit to 32 bit.  At least that is my assumption as the message you first receive when you click on the Wacom tablet controls tells you that the screen must do a restart.
My X-Rite Eye1 Display 2 unit recalibrated my MacBook Pro screen with no difficulty as the previous color profile was lost in the transition and required a new screen calibration.

For those who use Main Menu regularly to run maintenance scripts on their computer, you will be happy to know that it works nicely after the Snow Leopard upgrade.  Spotlight required a re-indexing of my hard drive, but since this occurred right after I used Main Menu I cannot tell you whether it was Main Menu or Snow Leopard that caused this necessity.

I have not yet attempted to add Snow Leopard to my MacPro as I have read several places that my wireless keyboard and mouse (Logitech) do not yet work on Snow Leopard and that an upgrade to their control center is in progress.  So I can not report on installation on my Mac Pro.


A couple of small things that appear differently now mean a lot to me as I explore Snow Leopard.  Since I prepare tutorials that require screen grabs I sometimes use Snapz Pro X, but I also use Apple’s own CMD-shift-4 to select parts of the screen. Previously, using CMD-shift-4 gave an image labeled “picture 1”, “picture 2” etc.

The problem with that the numbering tops out at “10”, after ten images the application begins numbering at “picture 1” again and overwrites the very first image in the series.  Since most tutorials need more than ten images, i have to stop, rename the first set of images, and then continue.

Using CMD-shift-4 now produces an image named “Screen shot, year, month, day at time” such as “screen shot, 2009-09-04 at 12:57:44”. This means that there can be an unlimited number of screen shots without overwriting the first one.  For me, that is a big Whoopie!

Another small change that is meaningful to me is that now in the date and time function in the menu bar. It can read day, month, date, time so that it can say something like “Fri Sep 4 1:05 PM” having added the month and day to the line. Thus there is no need to go to the time and click on it to find the date.  This is a new choice in the preferences for Date and Time.   As someone who works from a home office and often goes from bed, to breakfast, to computer with no breaks in between, then having a direct reminder of what day and date it is as well as time, starts the day off a bit more organized. At least for me it does.

Oh, one thing, don’t forget to upgrade your Flash and Java applications; this is something you need to do as well.

So, it’s like getting that suit fitted by the tailor; things just fit a bit better, run smooter, and make me happier.
Oh, and the computer shuts down somewhat faster, seemingly in about half the length of time it took before.  I can work faster and stop quicker!  For me, it’s a smooth and happy installation, and I’m glad to welcome Snow Leopard into my workspace.

Photography Photoshop Software

Photoshop Plugin: Akvis Sketch v9.0

Ever wanted to turn a photograph into a drawing without spending an hour in Adobe Photoshop using layers and high pass filtering to finally separate out a line drawing of that photograph? It’s possible with a plug-in from Akvis Software. The last time I looked they had some thirteen sofware applications for Macintosh and PC computers. Running either as stand-alone software applications or as plug-ins for image editing programs such as Adobe Photoshop or Photoshop Elements. Each of their software are available in 10 day free trial versions. The versions range from home editions without commercial usage to professional versions for commercial designers. Check out to see what is available.

But for the moment, I had some need for Akvis SKETCH and here’s a bit of a look at the software and the techniques for using it.

Running Akvis Sketch 9.0 as a plug-in inside of Photoshop will place it as the first item (alphabetical listing, remember) in the FILTER menu items. What you will really get is an item named AKVIS and SKETCH will be an option within it because Akvis has a large number of applications as I’ve already mentioned that can be purchased to run as either stand-alone applications or as plug-ins within Photoshop and Elements in both Macintosh and PC versions.

The first window that appears when your are in the plug-in version from inside of Adobe Photoshop will contain whatever image you already have open within Photoshop itself. You will have a toolbar at the top and an image window with a preview square within it on the left lower side of the frame, and a series of menus and sliders will be available on the right side of the frame. We’ll take a look at each component separately for a quick orientation of the icons and menus.

Below is a shortened version of the toolbar as it appears in Photoshop. Not present in the plug-in version is a way to print directly from the image as can be found in the stand-alone version. Instead, the plug-in version will require you to return to Photoshop to save or to print. Not every tool is explained here; only the ones to get you started with the least amount of work are covered. See the "?" to access the complete application tutorial.

Here’s the pertinent icons and what they allow us to do.

  1. Exports presets. You can save any number of presets. They will end in .sketch in a folder by the same name.
  2. Imports a list of presets from the .sketch file.
  3. Tells SKETCH to process the rest of the image into the same look as was shown in the preview window (the square which can be adjusted to cover different sizes or parts of the image you are working on).
  4. Tells SKETCH to process the image, close the plug-in, and return you to the image in Photoshop. There will be a brief delay depending on the speed of your processor before the image appears in Photoshop. In fact, several times I had to click off the image and back on it for it to refresh on my MacBook Pro, 17", C2D, 2.5 Ghz. I don’t know whether that was an idiosyncrasy of my MacBook or not.
  5. Allows you to exit the SKETCH plug-in without completing any of the menu choices. Without it you are trapped in the plug-in. This access is in the AKVIS SKETCH PLUG-IN item at your main screen left. This button will also bring up the screen where you may UPGRADE, ACTIVATE, or CONTINUE with the plug-in. It will have a BUY option if you have not yet purchased the software and are running it in the 10 day trial mode.
  6. Will access the HELP file which was part of the software installation from the downloaded application file. I suggest you actually begin here because all of the tools, menus, and windows are explained in depth here.
  7. Will access the preferences file where you can change the image preview window size as well as other options.
  8. +brush allows you to draw in blue while working on the BACKGROUND tab. This will select an area where you DO NOT want an effect to occur.
  9. –brush allows you to draw in green the area where you DO WANT an effect to occur.
  10. Is an eraser that allows you to modify or change lines done with either of the two brushes while working on the BACKGROUND layer.

Accessing the SKETCH window allows adjustments in WATERCOLOR, CHARCOAL, and COLORATION. Moving any slider bar to the right increases the effect. The WATERCOLOR effects become noticable at around 17. CHARCOAL becomes too heavy after a setting of 3 unless you are attempting a very overdone, sketchy look. COLORATION is readily visible by a setting of 13 and will almost match the original image by 95.

We’ll look at BACKGROUND next and return to the rest of the adjustments under SKETCH and STROKES in a moment.

With BACKGROUND chosen you have three options, SKETCH, SKETCH & PHOTO, and SKETCH & BLUR. When using SKETCH & PHOTO the effect is similar to using layers in Photoshop where the sketch effect is placed on top of the photo image and the two are blended at roughly 50%. If this is the control you are seeking, the effect is better done in Photoshop itself by combing a sketch image with a duplicate of the original and adjusting the opacity blend with more subtle control.

However, chosing SKETCH & BLUR you are able to define the background that you desire to blur and choose between motion, gaussian, and radial blur.

Still another option is the addition of TEXT. Chosing the TEXT window gives access to all of the fonts available through Photoshop. The font size can be chosen, the line of type (typed into the area that says AKVIS Sketch) can be stretched and postioned via the eight green arrows shown in LOCATION below. The TEXT can be given a color, an outline and a glow.

CANVAS is also an option chosen by USE CANVAS. The texture properties, repetion pattern, reflection, alignment and scale are variable choices. The brightness, embossment, texture, distortion and the direction from which the light is directed onto the canvas can be set in this window.

Returning to the front window, that is, the SKETCH window, the size and angle of the strokes in the sketch are available. The default 45 degree sketch angle approximates the stroke of a right handed artist. The width of the stroke is determined by the size choice and the minimum and maximum lengths of the stroke are chosen to approximate the contour-following strokes of the artist. Choices made with this menu is somewhat unique to each subject chosen and should be the result of experimentation.

If COLOR PENCIL is chosen you must be using some degree of COLORATION in order to really see the effect of the colored pencil. Increasing MIDTONE DENSITY will show more detail and result in a filling of the midtones in your image. Increasing the MIDTONES HATCHING will visibly darken shadow areas and has a tendency to look contrived when the number is too high. Experiment with this setting as well.

The rhythmic flowing of the contour lines in an image are a function of EDGE TRACING. SENSITIVITY increases the number of lines in the image as you move the slider to the right. Generally, a number below 35 combined with a WATERCOLOR number of 25 produces a pleasing watercolor/pencil look. But again, experiment to find what settings produce the look you are searching for.

Here’s a sample image from musicians in an Irish pub. This is a screen grab and the artifacts are normally visible in some preview windows in SKETCH. The triangle surrounded by the red box tells SKETCH to render all of the preview window. The check mark surrounded by the yellow box tells SKETCH to complete the rendering and transfer you back to Photoshop and close the plug-in window.

bar with settings 2@600.jpg

The original picture is the upper of the following two images; below it is black and white with settings on Watercolor 30, Charcoal 3, and Coloration on 0. Stroke angle is 45 degrees and size is 8, Minimum length is 2 and Maximum length is 9, Midtones Intensity is 5 with Midtones Hatching at 95. Colorization is not on in this black and white example.


The original picture is shown in the upper positon in the two following images, and the second image has the same settings as the upper except Colorization is set at 95.

Below is a detail of the above image with the already defined settings; here it is shown larger for you to examine.

Subjects with low contrast will fail to make separation as shown in the example below where the white of the drawing paper and woman’s blouse fail to separate from the wall behind them.

An example of a subject that works well is the trees in the left image. Both a color version and this black and white verson were tried with little discernable difference. Here the contrast makes for good separation of the branches and sky and produces a good sketch look of the trees.

Here is a self-portrait done with the computer camera on my MacBook Pro laptop.

Here is the same image done with the same settings as used on the bar scene except that COLORATION was about 13. The laptop screen is reflected in my glasses.

The following image is of stones and dead leaves from the countryside in Ireland.

The following image is the Stones and dead leaves using the already mentioned settings with the addition of Coloration at a setting of 13.

A photographer in the Irish countryside as the original image.

The photographer with the already mentioned settings and Coloration set at 0.

What you are getting with SKETCH is an outline drawing such as may be produced by using several layers of the HIGH PASS filter, or variations of THRESHOLD in Adobe Photoshop. You are not producing a contour drawing as an artist might attempt with a pressure sensitive drawing tool (Wacom tablet, pen and ink, graphite, brush, or similar drawing instrument); however, for the artistically-challenged, SKETCH produces an acceptable alternative for many instances of illustrative work.

It’s a useful tool in my filter menu of Adobe Photoshop and can be found at Look it over along with its companion programs; you will find numerous useful applications there.

Featured Photography Photoshop Software

Photoshop Plugin: Topaz Simplify

During the last month I took a trip back to Topaz Lab’s webpage and downloaded another of their interesting programs. ( If you remember, they make imaging enhancement software for both still and video photography. This time I thought I’d try their Simplify 2; it’s a $39.95 program that can be downloaded in minutes—there’s a fully functional 30 day trial version also. All you have to do is request the 30 day key and you can play with any of their software for 30 days. Replacing the trial key with the purchased key clears your trial for permanent usage.

What does Simplify 2 do? It is an application that allows you to turn a photography into a painting or a drawing on any one of a number of variations; Topaz’ advertising says it this way "Simple and elegant photo interpretations." Download the program and douple-click your unstuffed file—you’ll get a dmg file for Mac and an Exe file for PC, and the application will install itself into your Photoshop Filter folder under a "Topaz Labs" heading. See the ilustration below for a quick visual example.

Image 1 Topaz flow chart-600.jpg

When Simplify 2.0 opens you will see the following window. Along the left side are twelve presets. Clicking on any one of them will directly move you to a still adjustable image because each preset will open with SIMPLIFY, ADJUST, and EDGES as slider-bar adjustments.

Image 1a Simplify-600.jpg

Here are the twelve general presets that you have to choose from. They are (1) BuzSim, (2) Cartoon, (3) Image CrispEdge, (4) Painting colorful, (5) Painting Harshcolor, (6) Painting oil, (7) Painting watercolor, (8) Sketch Color, (9) Sketch hardpencil, (10) Sketch softpencil, (11) Underpainting, and (12) Wood Carving. Remember, each of these presets has slider bars under the categories of SIMPLIFY, ADJUST, and EDGES.

Image 2 Topaz Simplify-600.jpg

Image 3 Topaz Simplify-600.jpg

Looking under SIMPLIFY we can choose our Colorspace from RGB and YCbCr; now experiment by moving the sliders back and fourth to examine the subtle variations of the presets. Work your way through each of the menus under SIMPLIFY, ADJUST, and EDGES. At any time you feel like you would like to undo an adjustment, a RESET TAB, will allow the resetting of one adjustment, or RESET ALL will reset all of the adjustments in that particular third of the image adjustments.

Image 4 Topaz Simplify-600.jpg

Image 5 Topaz Simplify-600.jpg

Image 6 Topaz Simplify-600.jpg

Here’s an image of one of the windows in a New Mexico church.

Image 7 Topaz Simplify-600.jpg

Applying Sketch color to the image produces this result. All that is necessary to select the preset is to click on the appropriate selection to the left of the preview window. Click and observe as you move down the options available.

Image 8Topaz Simplify-600.jpg

Here’s a larger view of the results of choosing Sketch color.

Image 9 Topaz Simplify-600.jpg

Here’s the results of choosing Wood carving.

A little more complex is making two identical original layers one above the other, and applying Sketch color to one layer and Wood carving to the second. Then these two layers are blended together by using the opacity slider in the upper layer and causing the Wood carving to blend into the Sketch color layer.

Here we have the original image on the left, and BuzSim on the right.

Here we have the original image on the top and the Watercolor effect on the bottom. I find BuzSim, Watercolor, Sketch color, and Wood Carving to be the most interesting effects to me personally. Your mileage will probably vary; play with all of the effects with a varied selection of of images. It will become obvious that certain effects/presets work best on certain general types of images. In general, I have had the best luck with scenics.

A simple sand dune in the original is simplified with the Wood Carving preset again.

A ray of sunlight outlines a set of leaves in an otherwise darkened arbor area followed by the same scene run through the Painting colorful preset

One last example is a photograph of the gondolas in Venice, Italy, followed by the Painting oil preset followed by adding (via a merged layer) the Wood Carving preset.

This is the third of the Topazlabs Applications that I have added to my toolkit and I’m actually looking at a couple more. I have found the approach that Topazlabs uses to be very innovative and a very good value for the money. Having put in a lot of time developing certain looks and effects in Photoshop I find that many of my multi-step processes can be duplicated by choosing a Topazlab application and making a few personalized adjustments. In the long run that saves time—a lot of time—and in this business time equals money. I’m very pleased with the value received for the reasonable cost of each application. Bundles of some of the most used applications can produce significant savings. Check out and take a look at the selection; I think you will be pleased.

Featured Photography Profiles

Profile: James Philip Pegg – Artist

::: Artist Name::: James Philip Pegg

::: Media::: Illustrator, painting, art photography.

::: Website:::

::: 1 ::: When did you first realize you were an artist? Did you draw as a kid? Color outside the lines?

Being the son of an artist, I had my drawing table next to my dad’s. I think that I was four years old then. Later, on at my tenth birthday, I was given my first camera and that started me in photography.

::: 2 ::: Could you tell us some more about your art and how your life has influenced your art? Where did you get your art training?

Someone once said, "A life’s journey begins and ends with a single breathe bound by the limitations of each man’s intellect, while expanded by the scope of their imagination and compassion. During this journey, accomplishments are judged as either fleeting moments or lasting imprints. Nonetheless, no one escapes the angst of his or her future – no one has been promised his or her tomorrow."

Fortunately, I learned early in life that happiness is found in the complexity of life’s journey; that champions conquer through perseverance and passion they pose the unanswerable questions, and understand others through empathy.

With a little flexibility in our thought processes, we have the power to make the journey one of little regret and much reward. Thus, there is no reason why one’s life should not leave an imprint.

::: 3 :::Does your work have a narrative? Do you use yourself as the subject for your work? Why is that? What are you trying to express with your art?

My inspiration comes from nature itself. I am enamoured with nature, and that admiration has only increased as I age. If I create from the heart, nearly everything works; if from the head, almost nothing comes together.

::: 4 ::: What famous artists have influenced you, and how?

My favourite people in the arts are: Victor Hugo, C.S Lewis, (writers). John Waterhouse, Erik James Pegg, Carl Larsson, John Hitsman (painters), Isadora Duncan (dancer), Two of my faviourite ballets are The Red Shoes, and The Tales Of Hoffmann. Rod Mckuen (poet), Fritz Henle , Andriete Le Secq & Julia Margaret Cameron (photographers). Music, I Love it!, Aysegul Yesilnil, Lila Downs, Gloria Estefan, Carmine D’amico, Bebel Gilberto, Fernando Ortega, Eliane Elias, Norah Jones, Stan Getz , and the list goes on.

::: 5 ::: What other interests do you have (besides painting and computer art)?

I love the sea and anything to do with the sea. Sailing, traveling, and nature.

::: 6 ::: How have you handled the business side of being an artist

Like most artists, the business side of being an artist is my least favorite thing to do.

I let my galleries,and publishers handle the business side.

::: 7 ::: What hardware (computer, scanner, printer, etc) do you use?

MacBook, plus a 20"monitor, a Wacom pen and tablet, Canon scanner & printer.

What software?

Photoshop CS, Comic Life Deluxe, Corel Painter X, and a old fashion Drawing board.

::: 8 ::: Has the Internet helped your career as an artist? Do you participate in many Internet groups or galleries?If so, which ones drawn the most responses?

James Philip Pegg on Deviant Art:

James Philip Pegg on Photo Net:

::: 9 ::: What’s the best and worst parts of being a full time, working artist?

The best part of being a full time artist, is choosing my own projects, making my own schedule and being totally in control of my life, and enjoying doing what I like. The worst part is keeping my mind and spirit fresh, 90 % of my art is created in my head and 10 % is in the finish work.

::: 10 ::: What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?

My advice for any young person would be that they should practice, practice, practice; just as with any skill practice makes perfect and the harder you work to brush up on your skill the more it will pay off in your work. Art is a pleasurable act and that sensation will fuel you with creativity and dedication late into the night. It is hard work to be an artist and it helps a great deal if you surround yourself with stimulating, like-minded people who are supportive and sharing.Have business cards, and a website as soon as you can to promote your art.


Featured Photoshop

Photoshop CS4: Introduction to Adjustments Menu

I’ve been teaching workshops on the new Adobe Photoshop CS4 for the last several months. The part of CS4 that has drawn the most comment and the highest response has been the addition of the new Adjustments panel. Individuals who are upgrading from the older CS, CS2, and CS3 find this the most positive part of the upgrade. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of other wonderfully positive changes, but Adjustments has seemed to be the one that draws the most positive responses. Newcomers to Photoshop CS4 simply accept that this is the way to do things- with adjustment layers created automatically- while the old hands love the new streamline workflow.

In my class "Intro to CS4", I distribute an overall explanation to Adjustments on a reference CD I put together for the students. I thought I’d make a simplified version available for new Photoshop CS4 users on DigitalAppleJuice.

Here’s the initial window you get when you select Adjustments from the Window menu and add Adjustments to any other menus you have already open. Remember, everything you choose to do from these menus will be applied to an Adjustment Layer rather than to the image itself.

It’s non-destructive adjustments.

Right on the front of the panel on the lower half are Presets that allow the instant selection of a possible answer with a repeatability that is locked in. As you saw above, the first Presets are all Levels Presets, and there are more available than just those that I am showing here.
Following the Levels Presets we have a series of Curves Presets that allow predictable repeatability.

Below the Curves Presets are
Exposure Presets in whole numbers.

Hue/Saturation Presets follow the Exposure Presets. I find that the Sepia Preset is particularly useful.
The Black and White Presets allow a number of choices. Of these, the Infrared Preset gives a good infrared look with adjustments easily performed with the sliders that become available once Infrared is chosen.
Channel Mixer Presets gives a different approach to Black and White Infrared with adjustable sliders to fine tune the results. The effects of blue and green filters can be produced. Remember, a filter lightens its own color and darkens its compliment.
Now, before we get to far along, let’s look at how we get back to the main panel. Look at the bottom of the particular adjustment you are using. A series of symbols allow you to (1) Return to the main Adjustment area, (2) Minimize the overall Adjustment panel, (3) switch back to the unmodified image permanently, (4) View the image before the adjustment, (5) Remove the adjustment, and (5) have available the trash can to delete layer masks or the adjustment layer itself..

Activating the Brightness/Contrast icon allows us to access the slider bars for each adjustment.

Having looked at the Presets, now let’s look at the adjustable choices that are defined by a series of symbols at the top of the frame.

As you mouse over each of the symbols, the appropriate title for the symbol appears at the upper left just under where I have indicated.

The second Adjustment Icon brings us to the Levels Adjustment.

Selecting the Levels Icon brings us to a conventional Levels toolset; just remember it is on an Adjustment Layer and it is a non-destructive Adjustment.

Curves Adjustments are one of the most used tools in the photographers’ toolbox, and while Preset curves are useful for repeatability, almost every image requires a unique set of adjustments.

By clicking on the finger icon on the upper left side, and then moving to the actual image and stroking upward in an area where you would like to lighten the tone, or stroking downward where you would like to darken a tone, it is possible to apply the curves adjustment directly on the image instead of guessing where the tone to be adjusted is to be found on the tone curve.

The next adjustment available is the Exposure adjustment. This resembles the adjustment possible when using a RAW image and allows you to adjust the exposure after the image is made.

After triggering the Exposure Adjustment you will be presented with this window. This is where you will be allowed to adjust Exposure, Offset, and Gamma within the image.


The Vibrance, or as I like to call it, the "punch or crispness" of the image is accessed from the first icon on the second row.

Vibrance is coupled with Saturation and the two together make it possible to increase the crispness of an image considerably.

The Hue and Saturation menu allows access to Hue, Saturation, and Lightness & Darkness controls.

It is also possible to Colorize an image from this menu and this is an easy way to produce an image with the look of a Cyanotype or Sepia-toned image.

Color Balance provides adjustments to color balance in Shadows, Midtowns, or Highlights


Choosing to shift the image into a Black and White image is simply done by clicking on the Black and White diagonally-opposed triangles in the next menu icon.

This allows the tones within the original colors in the Black and White image to be adjusted. Green leaves for instance can be made lighter or darker, blue sky can be lightened or darkened and other intermediate colors can likewise be adjusted in the Black and White tonal scale.

Photo Filter: Applying color filters such as warming or cooling filters allow the original image to be treated like film where filters such as the 81, LBA, or 85 can be applied for warming, and the 80, LBB, and 82 can be applied for cooling. A number of other color filters (fourteen to be exact) can be used to produce special effect. A repeatable Sepia tone is one of the available choices.

In addition to choosing the density of a pre-determined filter (such as a Warming 85) it is possible to use that as a base color and increase the density of that color with the slider bar.

The Channel Mixer adjustment should be no stranger to anyone who used that technique to produce Black and White images in any of the previous versions of Photoshop.

In addition to choosing Monochrome to produce a Black and White image, the tones within the image can be adjusted by lightening or darkening any particular color as it appears in the original color image. This is one of the easier methods of crisping a monochrome image where the intensities of reds and greens approximate one another such as in the traditional problem of the red apple amid green leaves when the image is converted to Black and White.

Like its name indicates, Invert reverses the colors and produces a negative image of the subject.

Invert is a one trick pony, that is all it does. There are no adjustments or modifications available to this adjustment.


The ability to Posterize an image by sub-dividing it into steps allows adjustments from 2 to 255 steps.

However, after 10-12 steps the image becomes a continuous tone image for all practical purposes.

The next adjustment is Threshold which among its many uses is to create Line Drawing effects.

Slider adjustment on the histogram allows you to determine the break point you want to use to create your line effect.

The next to last adjustment that you have to choose from is the Gradient Map.

The Gradient Map gives access to fifteen choices.

For example, choosing the Black to White gradient converts a color image into a high-contrast black and white image with considerable "snap" to the images. Experimentation will produce a number of special effects.

The final choice of adjustment is the Selective Color adjustment icon.

With its slider bars on Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black and the ability to choose to adjust within the Red, Yellow, Green, Cyan, Blue, Magenta, White, Neutrals, and Blacks, considerable subtle adjustments are possible on the base image.


This has been a quick overview of the new Adjustment Menus in Photoshop CS4.

Remember that these are fundamentally the same adjustments that are available from the Image > Adjust menu in previous versions of Photoshop and are still available from the same menu choices in CS4— except when accessed from the adjustments panel, all these adjustments are automatically applied to an adjustment layer.

It is this distinction that allows the operator to skip the two steps of creating an Adjustment Layer and allows the automatic creating of non-destructive results. This, I think, is a major improvement in CS4, and seems to be the most admired everyday use set of tools in the new Photoshop CS4. While there are other "oh wow!" things that can be done with the new CS4, (and I will cover them in other tutorials), this appears to be the most appreciated of the new changes in Photoshop CS4.

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 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.

Featured Photography Photoshop

Photoshop Plugin: Topaz Adjust

I don’t know how many hours I have put in writing actions to allow me to produce some of the currently popular photoshop effects; really more than I want to admit.  By the time I’ve worked my way through reading tutorials, performing the action(s), refining the effect(s), redoing the action(s) and getting client feedback, I have quite a bit of time committed to some projects.  Not that I don’t think some of the techniques aren’t pretty cool and I admire the developers of the concepts; some are dynamic visual improvements that will be around for quite a while and a few will be temporary trends or fads and soon be ignored.
But as a photographer I have often wished that Photoshop had a particular plug- in that would simplify some of the things I want to do.  Photoshop has a number of built-in filters and plug-ins but it also has the ability to add third-party plug-ins either under the filter menu or sometimes under the automate menu. You can spend as much money for Photoshop plug-ins as for Photoshop itself.

Books Featured Photography Reviews


I've been neglecting a new book that's been on my desk for a month.  When I first glanced at Juergen Gulbins and Rainer Gulbins new book PHOTOGRAPHIC MULTISHOT TECHNIQUES  I realized that several of the techniques discussed involved the new Adobe Photoshop CS4, and at the time I hadn't upgraded yet.  I put PHOTOGRAPHIC MULTISHOT TECHNIQUES aside until I had upgraded to Photoshop CS4 and become comfortable with the new interface and some of the new tools. Now I've had time to become familiar with the new CS4 in general, I'm ready to tackle some new specifics and new ideas.

I've always felt that there were two kinds of information that I find relevant.  One of those is information that I know so well that I can quote pages verbatim and live with everyday.  The second type is reference that I know where to find and I can refer to when needed, and that I have on hand for the moment I need it.  This second type is the sort of thing that interests me on occasion and I have need of for special moments.  I want it available, concise, coherent—and comprehensive. All of those requirements are met in PHOTOGRAPHIC MULTISHOT TECHNIQUES, and for long-term use without a loss of picture quality I love to see the notice that the book is printed on acid-free paper.  That means that the beautifully reproduced sample images will still look fine even a number of years from now.

Multiimage techniques are not new.  A number of photographers as early as Henry Peach Robinson (1830-1901) and Oscar Rejlander (1813-1875) began to produce composite images in the 1850's made from several different images.  Rejlander's THE TWO WAYS OF LIFE" in 1857 combined over 30 negatives into one compositon with remarkable realism. The inability of daguerreotypes, wet plate processes, and early films to record the long dynamic range of both sky and subject produced the necessity of combing sky and subject images into one image until the 1930's. A multitude of photographers mastered this process.

However, it has been the advent of digital imaging and the computer's role in post processing the image(s) that has brought the possibilities of (relatively easily) using multishot techniques into everyday photograhy.  Though still requiring careful and meticulous work, it is not uncommon to daily see photographs that have been produced through multishot techniques.

The most common multishot techniques are:

  1. high dynamic range images that produce detail in both the highlights and the shadows far beyond the range of common films,
  2. super-resolution images consisting of thousands of megabytes—or even gigabytes–of data when contrasted to normal digital images that consist of perhaps 50 to 100 maximum megabytes of data,
  3. extended depth of field which defys to laws of optics when compared to the results of normal photography, and finally
  4. stitching images together to take pictures (often panoramas) that cannot be produced by conventional means.

Juergen Gulbins and Rainer Gulpins should be familiar to the readers of Rocky Nook books in that Juergen was the co-author with Uwe Steinmuller of FINE ART PRINTING FOR PHOTOGRAPHERS, and the author of DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY FROM THE GROUND UP. Rainer Gulpins is a well-known photographer whose work has ranged from the Sahara to the Canadian wilderness as he has illustrated his travels. He has translated photography books for German publishers and acts as a consultant for many photographic projects.

What we have with PHOTOGRAPHIC MULTISHOT TECHNIQUES is a careful explanation of the theories behind making miltishot images and the step-by-step processes by which we use the currently relevant software programs (both PC and Mac) that are available.  The step-by-step procedures contain settings that can only have been arrived at by copius amounts of hands-on experimentation.  There are lots of little asides and commentary that could only be produed by experience, and paying attention to them will help the photographer to avoid a world of inconvenience and frustration.

Some of the software described and given as step-by-step procedures are:

  • Photoshop "Merge to HDR" and "PhotoMerge" commands;
  • PhotoAcute;
  • FDR Tools;
  • Photomatix Pro;
  • Combine ZM;
  • Helicon Focus; and
  • DOP Detail Extractor.

Following the tutorials (most of the software is available for download as free limited-time or limited-functionality versions which allow you to try them out) will make the photographer familiar with the strengths and limits of each software.

Super resolution and how to prepare to take and finally make the images is the first multishot technique that is described.  Focus Stacking is the next technique described.  This allows the photographer to produce an image with deeper depth of field than that which can be captured with conventional camera and lenses.  Stitching, which increases image coverage, is followed by HDRI, high-dynamic-range-imaging, where the finished images shows detail in both the highlight and shadow areas far beyond what can be captured with either conventional film or digital imaging sensors. Finally, Enhancing Microcontrast is defined and examined.


Actually, there is one more aspect that follows Microcontrast; actually it is the post processing that follows all of the techniques previously given.

It's all together in one neat package: Juergen Gulbins and Rainer Gulpins, PHOTOGRAPHIC MULTISHOT TECHNIQUES, Rocky Nook, ISBN:978-1-933952-38-3, US $34.95 CAN $34.95.  Oh yes, it's paperback, 227 beautifully printed pages in a book that actually stays open when I'm following the techniques on my own computer in a step-by-step manner.  I highly recommend it to any photographers whether just beginning or experienced, who are interested in any of the forms of multishot photography.

Featured Panels & Gutters & Zip Ribbons Profiles Sequential Art

Profile: Mihailo Vukelic

::: Artist(s) Name:::
Mihailo Vukelic

::: Publisher::: (self-published?)

::: Website:::

::: 1 ::: Tell us about yourself. Where did you grow up? What’s your favorite color? When did you first realize you were an artist? Did you draw as a kid? Color outside the lines?

I grew up in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. At 11 I moved to the U.S. with my family. My favorite color is sepia. I realized I was an artist around 3 or 4, I have memories of those early attempts at transcribing my waking reality onto paper. I never liked coloring books and did not understand kids who colored pre-made pictures. And, philosophically, I suppose I always colored outside the lines and still do.

::: 2 ::: What comic book genres interest you the most? Who is your favorite comic book artist and/or writer? How have they influenced your work

It would be fair to say that Sci-fi is my favorite genre. In a matter of speaking, science fiction is mythology of and for our times. The same archetypes that exist in the great classics and mythologies of the world continue to resonate in the sci-fi format, the main difference being that we are currently conquering other frontiers and magic has been supplanted by science.

Never-the-less, the same universal issues remain as in the Odyssey, Gilgamesh and the Upanishads. Alan Moore is probably my favorite writer, more for the mastery of the English language and narrative virtuosity than concept and originality.

My single favorite comic is Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. My favorite artist was and always will be Moebius and his fantastical Harzack series still influences my work. In fact I am about to sart a sci-fi epic named Wrom in the Blossom and its inception owes much to Moebius’ work, at least visually if not lyrically.

::: 3 ::: How did you get involved in comics? What was your first comic?
The first time I got involved in comics was 1993 when I published a couple of comics on my own called Battle Axis. It was a highly conceptualized but immaturely executed two-issue run about a post-apocalyptic/superhero world where "bad guys" and "good guys" were not what they appeared and political agendas had more to do with their identities than values and principles. I self-published it under Intrepid Comics. In 1994 I illustrated a couple of sci-fi issues for a short run called Enchanted Worlds and it was for an indy publisher named Blackmore.

::: 4 ::: What is your favorite story you’ve ever drawn? Favorite character?
I’ve only published nine comics altogether, including the five-issue mini series that’s currently out. It’s called Back to Brooklyn and it is a Sopranos-like crime drama replete with seedy characters, mobsters, hookers and corrupt cops. So far it’s been my favorite story but I hope to do more in the near future.

Back to Brooklyn was co-written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Garth Ennis. Jimmy is co-creator of Painkiller Jane (comic, tv series) and Garth has written things like Preacher and worked on the most successful Punisher series in Marvel’s history. They are both world-class and I am honored to have worked with them.

::: 5 ::: How did you come up with the concept for Worm in the Blossom? Who is your favorite character?
Worm in the Blossom, if all goes well, will be my writing debut as a serious comic creator as well as a lengthy sci-fi epic. By lenghty I mean 10 volumes but that’s up in the air until actual publication time. I am currently co-writing it with another author and hope to have something published by next year.

Most of the illustrations you see here are from Worm in the Blossom. It has a story arc and concept that has NEVER been used in any sci-fi format before and yet it retains the major characteristics of an epic. It is heavily influenced by 19th century Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky. I will talk about it in much more detail, including the philosophical infrastructure of the story, upon publication.

::: 6 ::: What was the hardest part of creating your comic book? What hardware (computer, scanner, printer, etc) do you use? What software?
The hardest part of working on Back to Brooklyn was creating a gritty sense of realism that included real locations and credible "New York" characters. Also, with an ensemble of "real" characters, remaining consistent with the many faces and body types is challenging. If I worked a simpler style, e.g., manga, it would be only a matter of establishing a facial and morphological typology for each character.

I chose a more naturalistic style with it all the problems. It took me a couple of issues to nail down and polish my style. Many say that what I have done for Back to Brooklyn stands apart visually. I regard this entire project as "working out the bugs" in a sense. It’s a good primer for the next project.

As far as hardware goes I use a Dell workstation, an HP printer and a Mustek scanner (10×15 bed). I also have a sizable wacom tablet without which I wouldn’t even attempt to work in Photoshop. Most of everything I do has been touched by Photoshop CS in some way and I use Studio 3dmax a lot.

::: 7 ::: How have you handled the business side of being an artist? How do you promote your book/website/comic? What’s the best and worst parts of being a full time, working artist?
The business side of being an artist is tricky. In the gallery system it is the gallery owners who take care of most business issues and for a while I had an agent. Now I’m self-promoting on-line and I’ve started making appearances at conventions. The best part of being a full time working artist is the continuous maintenance of the "zone." I have to remain creative and on the edge regardless of my mood. The downside is an uncertain income.

::: 8 ::: Has the Internet helped your career as an artist? If so, how?
The Internet has helped insofar as I’ve received a requisite amount of attention from bloggers and critics for my Back to Brooklyn work. It has definitely put me on the "map" internationally, albeit, in a very small corner of the map… I am currently wroking on a new website so there is little in the way of self-promotion directly. I also maintain an account on deviantart so there is no shortage of input from fans and fellow artists.

::: 9 ::: What is one stereotype about comic book writers/artists that is absolutely wrong?
That we are all pathetically needy egomaniacs who ONLY recreate the world after our own fashion.

::: 10 ::: What one stereotype is dead on?
That we are all pathetically needy egomaniacs who AT TIMES recreate the world after our own fashion.

Featured Software

ART TEXT 2 by Belight Software

Almost a year ago I reviewed Art Text by BeLight Software [ ] and found it very useful. Now there is a new and completely revamped version in Art Text 2 which sports a reworked and much improved interface. While most of Art Text 2‘s effects can be achieved if you are a (very) proficient Photoshop user, Art Text 2 makes the same effects possible in a fraction of the time, and the application has enough controllable variations to keep even the pickiest designer happy.

Here’s a quick overview of the operations.

Using OPEN from the Art Text 2 menu you will receive a window like the following in whatever default colors were last selected. You will be in the EFFECTS layer with GEOMETRY and STYLES as tabs below and not yet chosen to bring to the front.

You will notice a series of vertical lines in the first of three rectangles at the upper right. This indicates that you are primarily in a text layer to work. The other two rectangles indicate textures and preset styles, but we’ll get to them in a moment.

Clicking on the small window indicated by the red box below you will activate a window (not shown) that will allow you to type your own choice of words. These will appear in the default colors.

Choosing STROKE from the lower right corner will allow you to choose a color and a width with which to stroke the chosen wording. It is also possible to set a shadow or glow and the direction of flow for the shadow or glow.

Moving to the upper right quadrant you may shift to GRADIENT and choose a second color to make that gradient. A third color can be added if desired. The intensity of the colors and the angle of the gradient may also be defined.

Now, by shifting from the EFFECTS tab to the GEOMETRY tab you will find a number of instant presets which will warp the lettering in any direction that you might choose. Barely visible in the illustration are handles which can be grabbed to warp individual catch points, or from the bottom right of the control panel a slider bar permits some symmetrical adjustments to be made.

Going to the bottom center you may choose SET SIZE and a panel appears that allows you to set the size of the image you are preparing to export for use in another program. You can also reach a similar menu under EXPORT from the Art Text 2 File Menu.

At this point you may choose to export the title or image that you have been preparing. Choosing EXPORT TO will give you the choice of exporting to a file or to the clipboard. When exporting the image you have a choice of exporting as a PDF, TIFF, JPEG, PNG, GIF, or EPS image. You may also choose the resolution (DPI), as well as name the image and choose where to save it. The finished image will have a transparent background and can be dropped onto any image or background that you choose that has the same resolution and file type.

But wait! As they say on TV, there’s more. By shifting to the middle rectangle at the upper right you access a series of textures which will be used on the letter forms and shapes that you have created up to this point. The vertical slider bar accesses a wide variety of colors and textures. There are 193 textures available if I counted right.

If you would like to start the whole idea over again choose from the presets that represent particular colors and lighting reflections. That third rectangle on the top will drop you right into a mass of choices.

Here’s another example.

You may reaccess the geometries if necessary.

Now here is an entirely different approach. Choose STYLES and a letter style and color. Lighting, shadow, warp, or reflection are thus prechosen.

Choosing in this case the EGG lighting and color arrangement, click on the text block space as you were previously shown and enter your own text. The lettering in the style of the sample will be automatically created. There are 55 styles to choose from. Again, geometry can be selected to warp or shape the lettering.

You may have previously noticed from the ART TEXT FILE menu that there is listed a TEMPLATE GALLERY. Choosing the TEMPLATE GALLERY brings up the first page of HEADINGS and an arrow to the right indicates that even more headings are available. At the bottom of the page you see that you have categories of HEADINGS, BUTTONS, ICONS, and LOGOS to choose from. All these templates can be edited- anywhere text appears can be manipulated and  light, color, and reflections on any object can be adjusted.



Here’s a bit of manipulation from a LOGO template; the template is on the left and the manipulated image is on the right. It took about three to five minutes.

Here are two variations of the "Coffee Club" LOGO produced in less than five minutes for the two of them.

Here’s another less than five minutes "Quick and Dirty" design dropped on top of a stock image of dogwood flowers.

So, what has BeLight Software produced for us? Well for US $39.95 (with Academic Pricing available) BeLight has given us a program that produces images in TIFF, JPEG, PDF, PNG, or EPS. These images can then be imported in most text editing, web designing or presentation softwareallows and edited as an image. Since we can copy to the clipboard or export as a file, producing graphic images and text can be done in moments. The retail edition contains 50 Bitsteam Fonts that lend themselves for dramatic headlines or lettering, and there are more than 200 ready-made button, heading, icon and logo templates to choose from and any of these can be tweaked to the designer’s needs.

The finished images are ready for Apple Pages, Apple Keynote, iWeb, Microsoft Office or BeLight documents. You are creating vector art, so there’s no rough edges.

Video tutorials are on site for a quick over-view; the system requirements are for Mac OS X 10.4 or later, and Art Text 2 is available in English, German, French, and Spanish editions. All this for US $39.95. The creation of lettering and headlines can be very time-consuming, sometimes even frustrating. This is a quick and easy solution to creating type-based graphics. I highly recommend it for any artist’s toolkit.

Art Commentary Digital Lifestyles Featured Photography

A Photographer’s Frame of Mind: Why Artists Should Read Scott McCloud

While laid up with the flu and not venturing outdoors in the cold, I decided to reread one of my favorite authors.  Scott McCloud is a literate cartoonist who has produced three of the most analytical and concise looks at comics as art in our society. His UNDERSTANDING COMICS—THE INVISIBLE ART in 1993, REINVENTING COMICS—HOW IMAGINATION AND TECHNOLOGY ARE REVOLUTIONIZING AN ART FORM, in 2000, and MAKING COMICS in 2006 give an incredibly articulate voice to the communication process as it is used by the story-telling industry.

McClouds 5 aspects of Clarity & COmmunication:Choice of Moment Choice of Frame Choice of Image Choice of Word Choice of Flow


Scott McCloud begins with Clarity and Communication as the primary goals of the artist and how we get there is defined under five areas he wants us to look at. While he aims his analytic eye at the comic book, I have found that the first three of his five aspects of story-telling apply to the photographer in every sense of the word.

When a photographer gets ready to take an image he or she should ask themselves, "What do I have in Mind?"  That’s where the process and the experience should begin.

mcCloud's Choice of moment, choice of frame, choice of image


I know when I do a photographic student portfolio review that the first thing that comes to mind are questions to the student, "Why did you choose this moment to shoot the picture?"  What is it about this moment that made you snap the shutter? What are you trying to say?  What message are you trying to convey or capture? There’s even more to this first question and we haven’t gotten to design aesthetics quite yet, but let’s go ahead and look at the second aspect Scott McCloud mentions, and ask the student even more.


What made you choose the edges of this picture in this way?  What drove the composition to look like this and what made you choose this lens focal length and particular depth of field to produce the window that encloses the composition and the depth of sharpness in the image? The artist chooses to draw the image within a window that establishes either a wide angle scene-setting view, a mid-range view, or a close-up of detail, and somehow all of these are story-telling views.  Granted, each of these images should be necessary to the story-telling process and they are part of a greater group or sequence of images, but each one should be necessary.


Finally, I ask the student a question related to the first one.  Why this Choice of Image? Digital is cheap, the photographer can shoot literally hundreds of images (usually, with a subject with fast-breaking news being an exception).  This is when I want them to talk to me about aesthetics and design.  This is when all of those words like line, shape, form, texture, space, balance, continuity, emphasis, and unity (plus a few others) are all supposed to come out.  Now usually, this is what I hear when I talk about Choice of Moment in the beginning.  But choice of moment goes back to the question of simply "What is the statement you are trying to make with this photograph?" Frame and Design Aesthetics are HOW you achieve the STATEMENT, not WHAT you are saying.

Put it another way, Scott McCloud is more subtle is his questing, but I simply want to ask the student "Where’s the hook?  What is it about this image that makes you want to capture and to save it?"  The Photojournalist can answer this one a lot quicker than the Fine Arts photographer or the Educational Photographer, but all of them should be able to give a reason as to why they made a particular image.

Let’s break it down.

I dug out my old (like more than forty years old) psychology notes from a couple of classes on learning theory and came up with these points to ask the photographer, or maybe the photographer should ask themselves before they click the shutter.


What are you trying to do? What do you want to say?

Is it:

  1. Attention Getting?
  2. Teaching a Skill?
  3. Influencing An Attitude?
  4. Capturing a Moment for History,
  5. or Producing an Aesthetic Experience?

I think there are really three kinds of photographers outside of the home photographer who simply wants to record a personal moment.  These three kinds fall into the category of the:

  • Educational Photographers, who seek to communicate strongly the essence of their subject in the most pleasing light.   Advertising photographer are included in this group because they are trying to show a product and convince the consumer that product is superior for its purpose. 
  • The Photojournalist is recording history and reporting the news of the immediate moment. 
  • The Fine Arts Photographer is trying to capture a visual aesthetic experience in such a way that a viewer would choose to look at the image for the emotional satisfaction alone.

Now the Fine Arts photographer usually chooses the first, fourth or last of these questions about what he is trying to do. The Educator chooses the second or third and just maybe the fourth), and the Photojournalist answers the third or fourth.  But then I try to get a bit more specific:

OK, what did you really have in mind?  Here’s all that psych talk from long ago. (There’s a bunch of reasons to make photographs.)

  1. Identification/naming object/observing details
  2. Characterization
  3. Evaluation
  4. Prescribing
  5. Relating/import/conveying facts/relating to experience
  6. Motivation
  7. Perceptual Skill
  8. Recall Experiences
  9. Add Detailed Study
  10. Correct Misconceptions
  11. Prevent Misconceptions
  12. Compare and Contrast
  13. Build New Experiences
  14. Give Meaning to Word Symbols
  15. Demonstrate a Process
  16. Form Value Judgments
  17. Create An Atmosphere
  18. Prepare for Experience
  19. Motivate Learning
  20. Publicize Events
  21. Develop Insight and Appreciation
  22. Dramatize A Point
  23. Raise Questions/Problems
  24. Stimulate Reading
  25. Foster Individual Interest
  26. Provide A Setting
  27. Complete Research
  28. Provide Reference
  29. Enrich And Enliven An Experience
  30. Invite Participation
  31. Help Learner Understand Self
  32. Build Background
  33. Create Center of Interest
  34. Develop Critical Judgment
  35. Stimulate Creative Effort
  36. Introduce A Topic Of Study
  37. Review And Summarize
  38. Test Learning

Now usually the Educational Photographer (and in that I include Travel Photographers to some extent by their goals to show us far-off places) could say that they are trying to do the majority of those choices at one time or another.  The Photojournalist may have a bit more limited goals, and the Fine Arts Photographer probably seeks to enrich and enliven an experience as their most often chosen goal.  The Fine Arts Photographer has the hardest job and has to do it with the most elegant of technique and aesthetic skill because to the Educator or Journalist a picture of less aesthetic quality may still be the superior image if it conveys the most pertinent information to the viewer.

So the Fine Arts photographer has a lot tougher job justifying their image when they are trying to make a statement with the display of their photographic skill and craft, and catch a moment to be shared in contemplation purely for the aesthetic experience.  

The Educational photographer is trying for an aesthetic answer even though they really have other goals in mind. Advertising photographers, whom I class as Educational Photographers are trying to produce an aesthetic moment, but there are times when the product itself is utterly prosaic—perhaps the photographer can produce a symbolic image of the process but the product is never seen.  A photograph of a handsome man and beautiful lady enraptured with one another may sell perfume even if we don’t see the perfume bottle.

The Photojournalist seeks equally to produce an aesthetic moment as they report the news, but both can succeed without answering to the aesthetic moment.

What about my student in the portfolio review?  What do they need to do before they set out to trip the shutter?  First, they have to define the statement they are trying to make, and then to make the image with the most craft and skill that they can bring to the subject.  The choice of lens, the focal length, the framing of the image all these should come as they explore the image they are trying to create.  Finally, they select the one image that best defines the epitome of their craft and their vision, and with time they will produce an image that both achieves the statement they wanted to make and presents it with a truly aesthetic vision.

It doesn’t come easy, but the more they think about it and analyze the failures the better the student becomes.

After fifty years I am still trying to come to terms with all that is involved in becoming a Fine Arts photographer.