Pomp And Circumstance

Thena Smith

The time of year is here again when many of us are either buying or receiving graduation announcements or gifts. Sometimes it is difficult to know what to send a distant relative and we want to include more than a check. While money will be greatly appreciated, I love to include something more personal or sentimental. A calendar of family and friends made to coincide with the year they will go away to school is a pretty cool idea.

Have you gotten those frantic calls from your son or daughter at school saying “Mom! They want a baby photo of me for the yearbook! Help! I need you to create a page about me for the school newspaper.” There are other versions of this SOS but these seem the most common in my area. It is a good idea to start gathering up favorite photos if you haven’t done it already!

I have started several folders on my computer’s hard drive labeled “For Photo Books” and divided them into sub folders of layouts, scenic, friends, family, vintage, pets, daughter, hubby and me. I have always loved to create personal gifts for friends and family and now with My Pic Tales, it is easier than ever. They take all the guesswork out of designing. I can do as much or as little of the planning that I want to do.

Graduation is a wonderful time, so exciting but also full of pressure on both student and family. If your child is getting ready to go away to school, both of you are realizing the difference this will mean in your home life. You will have to deal with that empty room and that empty spot in front of the family computer. (smile)

If you have a student graduating, you probably have a variety of photos of classmates and friends along with snapshots of various sports and extra-curricular activities. If you have a student who graduates next year, now is the time to start planning for their book, calendars or other items. Send a camera with them to various events and let them share their favorite snapshots with you. They may like your idea so much that they will want to create books for their best pals.

The calendar pages are turning ever so quickly and …is that Pomp and Circumstance I hearing playing?

MyPicTales for Scrappers

By Wendy Zine

One of the first dilemma’s facing digital scrapbookers is how to print your layouts. Perhaps you’ve been faithfully printing them out and slipping them in your scrapbook. Or, maybe you’re like me and never seem to get around to it. Maybe you’ve seen a schnazzy coffee table book at a friend or relative’s house and it got you thinking, “Hey, I bet I could do that.” Well, you CAN create your own custom photobook, and MyPicTales is here to make it even easier with it’s user-friendly software package.

Simply download the software, upload your digital scrapbook layouts, and use the software to put them in order. That’s the easy part!

Before you get started though, you will want to adjust your pages for margin

and bleed so that nothing critical gets cut off. There are two basic concepts to understand when it comes to printing your layouts in photo books. The first is bleed. Most printers cannot print to the edge of the paper. So, in order to get full-bleed pages, your layout will be printed on a larger sheet of paper and trimmed down to size. But, when trimming a large stack of paper down to size, it is possible for those pages to shift. To ensure that you don’t see any of the plain, unprinted paper on the edges of the page when it is trimmed, an extra buffer is added around your page that is cut off before it is bound. That extra buffer is called bleed. It’s usually about 1/8″ extra on all four sides of your layout.

Your Layout

If you haven’t designed your layouts yet, you can adjust for bleed before you begin designing your page by making your canvas 1/4″ bigger (that’s 1/8″ for each side). In that extra bleed area, you will extend your background paper and any other items that you want falling off the edge of the page. You should not see any blank canvas or white in the bleed are when you are done.

If you have already created your page, you can still increase the canvas size and enlarge ONLY the items that you want falling off the page into that bleed area. This type of adjustment will ensure that important parts of your layout are not cut off when the book is trimmed.

The second concept to consider when designing your pages is margin. You want to keep your important photos and journaling approximately 1/3″ away from the edge of the canvas. When your book is glued together during the binding, it will most likely hide a small amount of your layout along the inner edge of the book. To make sure that nothing important gets lost or hidden in that area of the book, pay attention to your margins. If you need to, select all your photos and journaling and shrink them slightly to fit within those margins.

If you use Photoshop Creative Suite or Photoshop Elements, there is even better news! PS and PSE have the ability to automate the tasks it takes to make these adjustments. And, MyPicTales wants to make it easy for you to get your scrapbook pages printed in photo books. So we have collaborated to bring you actions and templates that will help you make these adjustments quickly by automating the repetitive tasks. It also allows you to feel confident that your layouts will print as you expect them to. Run an interactive action on your layout to resize, and add bleed. Or, if you haven’t started your layouts yet, open up a template, with clearly defined margins and guide rules, and scrap right on the template. As long as your program can open a Photoshop (.psd) file, you can use templates as a guide to ensure your layouts are designed with photobook printing in mind. These actions are available through Studio Wendy at Scrapbookgraphics.

So, what are you waiting for? Grab a cup of coffee (or tea), pull up a mouse and take action! Your photo book is only a few clicks away!

Wendyzine Scraps is a graphic designer with over 15 years experience in the printing industry, and has been creating for digital scrapbookers since 2007. Her photo book actions have helped countless digital scrapbookers transform their layouts into exquisite photo books. She is always willing to help with your photo book questions.



How to Achieve Sharp Photos: Part 2

By Nichole Van

Ok, so in my last post, I identified 2 potential problems with focus: poor metering and equipment malfunction. Once you’ve got a handle on those two problems, there are still other things you can do to get sharper focus to your images.

Helpful Hint #1: Use Correctly-Placed, Selective AF Points
Bottom line, if you want to get perfect focus every time, learn how to see and accurately focus your lenses manually. That’s the only sure fire fix for consistently perfectly focused images. Of course, it’s a serious skill that takes study and a lot of practice. But for those of us who need a faster focus than manual will give (or just don’t want to hassle with it), there are a few things you can do.
When you’re shooting in automatic focusing mode (AF), many people leave it up to the camera to choose what it wants to focus on. And for most people in general shooting situations, this works just fine. However, when you’re on a professional shoot, close enough just doesn’t cut it. You need to get your focus right nearly every time. Most DSLR’s will allow you to force the camera to focus on a specific focal point within the camera. This is something I do every time, on every shot. I tell the camera exactly where I want the focal point to be, covering the area with the red focal point I’ve selected. It takes some time to train yourself to change focal points without having to think about it too much. But once you do, you’ll find your fingers automatically changing the focal points as you shoot to get the focal points exactly where you want them to be.
As you do this, realize that focus almost always falls back from the focal point selected. So focus on the object that is closest to you that you want to be in focus. The focal depth will fall back from that point. Don’t plan on anything in front of the focal point being in sharp focus, though usually the focus will gradually become blurry as it fades forward. For a large group portrait, I place the focal point on the person’s face who is closest to the camera, not grandpa who is sitting in the middle of the group. If you place your focal point on grandpa, only the people who are behind him in the focal plane will be in focus. All the people in front will be varying degrees of blurry.
Additionally, I know a lot of professionals who use back button focusing. I personally don’t use back button focusing as I’ve never felt the need for it, but I know many love it and feel that it really helps them achieve sharp images. You can google more info about it, if you’d like.

Helpful Hint #2: If the Eyes Are Sharp, Everything Looks Sharp
This is the most basic tip for achieving a seemingly sharp image. People look at the eyes of the subject in a photo first; it’s a natural human instinct. Therefore, if the eyes of the photo are sharp, the rest of the photo will be deemed technically sharp. If the eyes aren’t in focus, the photo will usually be considered technically out-of-focus. When shooting, getting properly focused eyes are my #1 priority.
But how to do this?
Well, for a portrait, I place the focal point (see hint #1 above) between the person‘s eyes. That way, the eyes, lips and usually nose will be in focus. I also do some selective sharpening in Photoshop to enhance an already adequately sharp image.

Helpful Hint #3: Use Selective Sharpening in Photoshop

After working to get focus right in camera, there are a few things you can do in Photoshop to enhance an already adequately sharp image. From the start, however, please note that really nothing can make a blurry photo look well-focused. Photoshop can “fix” a lot of problems, but poor focus is not one of them.
If you shoot RAW, your image will not have any in-camera sharpening applied to it. Additionally, I suggest keeping in-camera jpeg sharpening parameters low. I prefer to apply digital sharpening myself in Photoshop and not artificially in camera. Generally, when bringing a RAW photo into PS, I will apply a little sharpening to it in Adobe Camera RAW or Lightroom (like sharpening of 25). Such sharpening at this stage acts as a “defog” or a gentle cleansing of the lines, removing some of the fogginess that is inherent in digital images. From there, I will edit the photo in Photoshop, applying a boost to contrast among other things. The contrast boost further helps to separate visual elements and also enhances sharpness.

How to Achieve Sharp Photos: Part 1

So I thought that I would add more to my collection of informative posts about photography techniques. One of the questions I get more often then just about any other is how I achieve such sharpness in my photos. So here is my rundown about how to achieve sharp photos on a regular, consistent basis.

First of there are many factors that affect the clarity and focus of an image. If you find that you’re having consistent problems with focus and/or blurriness, you need to troubleshoot and try to narrow down what the problem might be.

Problem #1: Inadequate Metering for the Situation

For those who are just starting out, many times poor focus is the result of an inappropriate aperture/shutter speed for your situation. Generally, in order to get consistently sharp shots, you need to have a shutter speed of at least 1/100. And that’s for someone who has a steady hand shooting. If you’re a shaky shooter, then 1/200 should be your lowest shutter speed. Low shutter speeds result in camera shake and/or subject movement affecting your focus. The best camera and lens in the world can’t compensate for poor metering. Also, be sure you completely understand aperture and depth of field. You can have a nice high shutter speed, but if you’re shooting a group of 8 people at f2.8, chances are your focus won’t be what you want it to be. Even shooting with your camera on automatic won’t get these parameters right for each situation. Most cameras aren’t too smart when it comes to figuring out metering on their own. You need to be able to understand the situation you’re photographing and meter it appropriately.

Problem #2: Problematic Lens and/or Camera

So, you’ve mastered problem #1. You’re shooting a somewhat adult person (who holds still) at f5.6 and 1/500 shutter and you still can’t seem to get a sharp shot. Well, before deciding that you stink as a photographer, you need to evaluate your equipment. There is a HUGE variance in the making of cameras and lenses. Not all are as sharp as they should be. Whenever I get a new lens or camera, I put it through the paces to make sure that it’s sharp. And I’ve had to send a good number of my new purchases back, trying to get a sharp copy. If you think the problem might be your camera, put it on a tripod and try a good number of lenses on it. If you can’t get a sharp shot out of any of them, chances are it’s the camera. If you think the problem might be a lens, then try borrowing someone else’s camera to do some comparison testing, or even better, see if you can rent the same lens and compare the rental against your own.

As you’re doing this, realize that the quality of the camera and lens will affect sharpness too. Even a cheap lens should be acceptably sharp in its mid-range, but most cheaper lenses aren’t sharp at the extremes of their range. So don’t expect a $70 50mm 1.8 lens to be consistently sharp at f1.8, though it should be consistently good at f4 or higher. However, the $1500 50 f1.2L lens should be sharp throughout its entire range, from f1.2 to f20 (or whatever it tops out at!). Additionally, lower quality lenses are more prone to color noise, which also affects perceived sharpness. Also, they’ll have a lot of “play” in the focusing mechanism. This means that it’s a lot easier for the automatic focusing mechanism to get off by just a little, causing spotty focus in your images.

Your camera body can also be a factor. Usually, more expensive professional DSLR cameras have better communication with the lens and better sensors, resulting in sharper images.

With all of this info, realize that the clean, shiny lines and focus that you see in most professionals’ images come from good technique, obviously, but also excellent equipment. I remember struggling to get that clean, fresh look to my images and then purchased the Canon 5D and some L lenses and WOW! My images suddenly had that look too. You can get it out of less expensive equipment, but you need nearly perfect light. I’m absolutely NOT saying that it’s all about the camera and lens. I know far too many people who own the same equipment I use and don’t get the same results, but when you have already good technique, nice equipment can make a huge difference.

Stay tuned for Part 2. . . . I’ll cover shooting techniques for achieving perfect focus, as well as some Photoshop tips for enhancing an already reasonably sharp image.

The (Wonderful)Truth About Scrappers

By Thena Smith

I have been involved in number of crafts and hobbies throughout the years and have found scrapbookers to be among the most generous and willing to share of any group. The scrapbooking crop has been compared to the quilting bee of my mother’s generation.

(I have been to those, as a child, and there are some striking similarities).

For the traditional cut and paste scrapper, there have always been welcoming sites such as www.creatingkeepsakes.com, www.simplescrapbooking.com and www.twopeasinabucket.com to provide helps, sell supplies and furnish a gallery to share finished layouts. With each year, these sites have gotten more into the teaching of technique and sharing videos or tutorials that show step by step how something is done. Now CK and SS have their own blogs where the very people we respect and admire in the magazines share their time and talent with us.

Scrapvillage (www.scrapvillage.com) was instrumental in building up my confidence as a digital scrapper years ago when I was encouraged to share and my work in my gallery was appreciated for what it was when most everyone else there did traditional work. They have so much to offer the scrapper in tutorials, fonts, sketches and input from dedicated hobbyists as well as professionals in the industry. Be sure to check back into their archives for more articles and tutorials. If you want a special font or a unique sketch to follow, be sure to check in with them!

Other excellent sites are www.scrapjazz.com along with www.scrapbook.com . Scrapjazz has additional helps that you can sign up for if you are a beginner anxious to find out how things are done. Each one of these sites have a forum full of friendly and helpful folks along with a variety of choices such as tips, tutorials, sketches, quotes, and instructions. Most have an archive so that you needn’t miss out on everything that was shared before you found them!

Another site that I have found helpful in every area of crafts is www.divacraftlounge.com. They have a show on blogtalkradio. They have had most of the industry celebs on and some simple folks like me! They also have an archive where you can go back and listen to your favorites—want to hear what Ali or Becky sounds like? Want to know more about trimmers or pens? They don’t do step by step instructions on the show but they send you to people who do.

As a digital scrapper who felt alone in the world for a few years, I was so grateful when digital sites started to appear. What I had called “computer scrapbooking” or “ PC generated layouts” suddenly had a name-Digital Scrapbooking and became acceptable as a legitimate form of scrapbooking! Hurrah!

Michelle Shefveland (www.cottagearts.net) and Linda Saggast (www.scrappersguide.com) are unsung digital heroes in my humble opinion. Cottagearts was one of the first to hit the market with affordable digital CDs for scrapbookers and to provide tutorials on her site to help us. Linda Saggast has a website with a forum, sends out instruction newsletters and has a premium membership (at an affordable price) for those who want more. (I signed up without hesitation!) You will see Linda at the Adobe booth at various trade shows and Michelle’s work is constantly in magazines. Both of these ladies love what they do and love to share that joy with others.

Another site with all manner of tutorials for digital is www.scrapbookbytes.com which has also been around since the beginning of the digi era! They have a newsletter and they have a great variety of tutorials on site. A lot of well known digital ladies have come from there or been on their DT at one time.

One of my favorite places www.digitalshoptalk.com provides a place for all of the digital community to come together and share information, site news, sales information and just have a great time chatting with those who love the same hobby or who share it as a business venture.

For those serious about learning Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Photoshop Elements we have Jessica Sprague who not only has some great books but a website where you can sign up for classes from beginner to advance. I just finished the advanced and it was money well spent. (www.jessicasprague.com) . Digital Scrapbook Artisans Guild (http://www.digitalscrapbookartisanguild.com ) offers some very good classes, easy to follow and their instructors are always ready to help. I took a wonderful class there on designing digital papers (which I have always loved to do). These classes are so good for folks like me who have been digital for years but being self taught, we sometimes do things the hard way. I learned easier ways to do the things I love to do!

For the person who is very serious about learning Photoshop, I suggest Al Ward’s (http://www.actionfx.com/ site. Al is extremely generous in his sharing of tutorials, designs and advice. He is not only a photoshop guru but has joined a couple of scrapbooking sites and listens to what need and what we want to learn. He also has a membership area which is worthwhile. (I bet you already know that I signed up!)

A great place to learn Photoshop from videos is Photoshop User TV. http://www.photoshopuser.com and if you join NAPP (National Association of Photoshop Professionals, you will receive a lot of benefits.

I know that I must end this list somewhere but I have to tell you that You Tube is also a great place to find great tutorials. Just search for the thing you want to learn from a basic page to creating a cutout and you will find a step by step tutorial.

For those of you who use Digital Image Pro, there are several of us who do tutorials for that software. You can find my simple tutorials at www.pccrafter.com or on my website www.thena.typepad.com . Shellyrae and Kim Lizzy have a great site at http://dipdivas.blogspot.com and also Mary at Mary’s Graphics http://www.marysgraphics.com/. Sites such as Digital Scrapbook Place http://www.digitalscrapbookplace.com and Scrapbookbytes also include DIP tutorials.

I know I must stop at some point or I will have to order dinner in! These should get you started and you can always find more by using your friendly search engines. Google is your friend when it comes to finding a wealth of information. Have fun and Happy Scrapping!