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May 2011 Archives

May 4, 2011

58 Custom Keys to Streamline Your Workflow: X-keys Professional


By Betsy Finn, Cr.Photog., CPP

X-keys Professional, from P.I. Engineering, is a 58-key customizable keyboard; straight out of the box, it might look unassuming. But that's the beauty of it—you can customize X-keys to your heart's content. Imagine how 58 custom keys could help streamline your workflow. I have to admit, once my X-keys unit was set up and operational, it really helped increase my editing efficiency in Photoshop, but I'm getting ahead of myself. First to explain how it works.


The X-keys unit ships with a set of key labels, the software disc, and three double-sized keys that you can install if you choose. I opted to keep all 58 keys, since I knew I would use them! You can download (or order) legend sheets to create customized key labels. I found it most useful to make my own key labels, along with a layout chart of which shortcuts I wanted to associate with certain keys (download templates).

My process began with making a list of all the shortcuts I use most frequently—whether in Photoshop, Bridge, or just general computer actions. Here's a picture of my worksheet—I wrote down the desired label, whether the shortcut would be a global command (or program-specific), and what keystrokes to program.


Then, I created a rough draft of my layout (using my worksheet). As I wrote down where to program each action/keystroke, I also made note of any existing keyboard shortcuts on the worksheet. For example, I created Undo and Redo buttons—which are global keystrokes, but also Photoshop-specific. When Photoshop is open, the Undo/Redo buttons perform the Step Forward/Backward function. For some of my desired buttons, I did not have any keyboard shortcuts assigned in Photoshop. So, rather than programming keystroke by keystroke within the X-keys software, I simply created an action in Photoshop, and then assigned a keyboard shortcut (e.g. Shift+F7) to the action.

Continue reading "58 Custom Keys to Streamline Your Workflow: X-keys Professional" »

A New Angle on Video in an Economy HD DSLR: Canon EOS Rebel T3i

By Ron Dawson    

There once was a time when launching a video production business took thousands of dollars in startup capital for the professional equipment alone. Then came the Canon EOS Rebel T2i camera, priced at $800, offering video quality on par with the EOS 7D, quality surpassing that of professional camcorders of just a few years ago that sold for five times more. Now, less than a year after the release of the T2i, Canon has released an upgraded model, the Rebel T3i, selling for about $850. Here, we look at the new model as a video production tool, and at some key differences between it and other popular Canon HD DSLRs.


Unlike almost all earlier Canon HD DSLRs except the 60D, the T3i has a flip-out view screen with 270 degrees of rotation. That’s an important feature to event film makers, who frequently need to shoot high or low. Having a flip-out view screen and being able to angle it to get those shots is a fantastic benefit—so often it’s the little things that make the biggest difference. 


The second major physical difference between the T3i and other models is the absence of a topside digital display. It does sport the traditional Rebel dial to set the camera modes, the power switch, the ISO button, and the adjustment dial. Turning the dial alone adjusts the shutter speed, and turning the dial while holding down the aperture/exposure compensation (Av) button on the backside adjusts the aperture. You can easily adjust other settings on the fly from the Quick Control button on the back.

The camera has a dedicated movie mode, and A/V-out and HDMI-out ports on the side for linking the camera with external monitors. There’s also a port for a mic connection with a 1/8inch mini-jack. The T3i is smaller and lighter than the 7D, and it uses SD cards, including SDXC extended capacity cards. As you’d expect of a camera in this price range, it feels much less rugged than the 7D and larger cameras, and lacks the weather proofing as well.

But let’s get to the meat and potatoes of its use for video production. It does not have the feature set you’d want for professional still photography, but it packs a powerful punch for video production. The key aspects:

FOCAL LENGTH: The T3i has an APSC sensor, which makes the 35mm-equivalent focal length about 1.6X. A good focal length range for shooting traveling shots on devices like a glide-cam is 16 to 24mm. Divide by 1.6 to determine which focal length lens to use. I prefer the 12 to 16mm range with a 1.6 lens factor. For weddings and other events where you can’t get that close, slap a 70-200mm lens on this baby and your reach extends to 320mm. That comes in handy.

Continue reading "A New Angle on Video in an Economy HD DSLR: Canon EOS Rebel T3i" »

May 6, 2011

No Need for Plug-ins; Create a Vintage Preset in Adobe Camera Raw

By Marianne Drenthe

Vintage processing seems to be the hot thing right now. Vintage washes (where the image looks like a faded print) have long been a favorite of mine. These processed images may be popular because we long for simpler times when Polaroids ruled the instant gratification world. It could also be that creating a signature vintage look that’s all your own is a quick way to customize your own work to be unique to you. Either way the trend is hot.


Yes there are tons of ways to create this look for yourself, but my preferred method is right in my workflow. There is nothing easier than having your go-to preset created in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) and just click on the drop-down menu and batch several images right there, saving your precious pixels in the process.

I use ACR for so many conversions—it’s truly an integral part of my workflow, so quick and easy (as well as non-destructive). Here is my quick and easy method to create beautifully washed vintage photos via ACR.

This image is from an on-location session, and I used bounced flash to capture some storytelling images in this little girls’ room. Your settings vary depending on your lighting situation and exposure.

1. Open your image up in ACR. Tweak your exposure as you see fit, adjusting for your usual color workflow. You can tweak for contrast, I usually bump mine down a bit and bump my brightness up just a notch when creating vintage-look images.


Continue reading "No Need for Plug-ins; Create a Vintage Preset in Adobe Camera Raw" »

Tutorial: Softening Skin and Adding Texture Back In

In "Professional Portrait Retouching Techniques for Photographers Using Photoshop," Scott Kelby offers 13 fantastic skin-retouching techniques in Chapter 2, plus practice images available for download from his Kelby Training site. These are not "plastic skin," super soft, glowy retouches. They are subtle and natural looking. And not only are there techniques for making skin look better, but reducing wrinkles, balancing skin tone, and reducing the stubble of men's beards.

The following is an excerpt from Chapter 2 of "Professional Portrait Retouching Techniques for Photographers Using Photoshop," by Scott Kelby.

This one takes a few steps, but it’s not hard at all. In fact, it’s simple, so don’t let the number of steps throw you. Also, at one point it does have a teeny, tiny bit of blur in it, but not enough to hurt anybody. It uses the Surface Blur filter at one stage, but don’t worry, the whole idea of this technique is to have loads of texture, so don’t freak out when you see the Surface Blur filter.

Step One: As always, before you do any skin softening, remove all the major blemishes using the Healing Brush (see page 86). Here, I removed them already, so we can just focus on softening the skin. Start by pressing Command-J (PC: Ctrl-J) to duplicate the Background layer, as shown here.


Step Two: Go under the Filter menu, under Blur, and choose Surface Blur. There are big advantages to using this filter over Gaussian Blur, and one is that it does a better job of preserving edges (rather than Gaussian Blur, which just blurs everything equally). I set the Radius (which controls the amount of blur) to around 39, and I make sure the Threshold slider (which controls the tonal values that get blurred) doesn’t get higher than the Radius amount (here, I have set it to 31, and I usually have it between 5 and 10 lower than the Radius setting). This gives a blocky, almost posterized look to your subject’s skin at this point. Go ahead and click OK to apply this filter to your image (it’s doing a lot of math to make some parts blurry while the edges maintain detail, so don’t be surprised if a progress bar appears onscreen, as this one usually takes a few extra seconds to apply).


Continue reading "Tutorial: Softening Skin and Adding Texture Back In" »

May 27, 2011

SpyderGallery: Color Calibration Now a Reality for Your iPad, and Free

By David Saffir

Almost any photographer who owns an iPad enjoys its form factor, usability, and overall coolness. But color on the iPad is something of a mystery that raises a few questions—does it use the sRGB color space? (no) Something else? (yes) Can it be calibrated? (finally: yes, it can!).

A new product from Datacolor, SpyderGallery, makes it dead easy to calibrate your iPad—versions 1 or 2—and the results are noticeably better: image quality, color accuracy, saturation, shadow detail, and detail in highly saturated areas are improved, within the constraints of the iPad color range of course. It uses an existing screen calibration instrument from Datacolor, the Spyder3, and some new, and unique, software applications.


Continue reading "SpyderGallery: Color Calibration Now a Reality for Your iPad, and Free" »

More Home Sweet Studios--Home-Based Studios That Work

 By Stephanie Boozer

(Here we feature two additional home-based studios as a supplement to "Home Sweet Studio" in the June issue of Professional Photographer magazine.)

Think that working out of your home will cramp yourstyle? Time for some fresh food for thought. With planning, resourcefulness and creativity, you can run a successful home-based studio without compromising your professionalism. The owners of these six successful home-based studios have found a balance between work place and home space. If they can do it—even with kids and pets—maybe you can, too.


Kelly Munce positioned her studio (kellymunce.com.au) at the very front of her two-story house, so clients could walk right in without feeling they were entering a private living area. Because the room is slightly set back from the hallway, it engenders a feeling of seclusion and privacy. Munce specializes in baby and maternity photography, so the studio is designed to accommodate the special needs of babies, as well as to be a comfortable site to host pre-session consultations. Other kinds of sessions are done on location.

Images ©Kelly Munce


Munce uses a chest of drawers to hold and display an array of props and blankets, and has an elaborate hanging system that keeps props visible and handy without looking cluttered. “As they’re out in the open and easily seen, they get clients excited,” says Munce. “They realize they’ve chosen me for a fun experience.”



One wall is dedicated to a backdrop setup, and the mottled brown wall behind it can be used as a backdrop as well.

Munce handles all of her editing, pack aging and the day-to-day business from a large study that she shares with her children, but is out of sight to clients. It’s perfect for the Munce family, because everyone can be at home during shoots without disturbing clients. Because Munce typically shoots no more than two newborn ses - sions a day, she doesn’t need a permit from the city, as long as she’s mindful of parking.


Continue reading "More Home Sweet Studios--Home-Based Studios That Work" »

A How-to Photoshop Retouching Guide for Face and Body

By Betsy Finn, Cr.Photog., CPP


Photographers looking to refine their retouching skills should consider adding Bodyshop: The Photoshop Retouching Guide for the Face and Body, by Birgit Nitzsche and Karsten Rose, to their library. Bodyshop focuses on practical ways to refine and improve on the human body in Photoshop, after the image has been captured by the camera. The book contains many walk-through demonstrations with straightforward before and after comparison images, as well as a bullet-point summary of what changes will be made and explained. For each topic, the authors go through a detailed step-by-step explanation of how to accomplish the retouching technique.

The layout of the book makes the examples easy to follow, or even to skip ahead in the retouch process if you already understand how to do several steps. I found myself skimming through some portions of the explanation that already made sense to me so that I could get to the techniques I needed to learn. If you are someone who learns by doing rather than simply reading about a new technique, you can download work files either from the book’s website or from the included resource DVD. The DVD contains:

• Before and after versions of the images
• Setting files
• Trial version of Nik Software

There are two ways to study the techniques in Bodyshop—you can either read through, cover to cover, or jump to the section you need the most help with by consulting the table of contents. Each of the demonstration sections is listed in the TOC, so you can effectively use this book as a reference guide when retouching. Here’s a sampling of what’s in each chapter:

• Chapter 1: Body Contours (slim legs, reduce belly, replace missing body parts)
• Chapter 2: Facial Contours (reduce laugh lines, refine nose, change facial proportions)
• Chapter 3: Eyes (adapt eye size, remove glasses reflections, opening blinking eyes)
• Chapter 4: Mouth (correct teeth, emphasize lips, add lip gloss)
• Chapter 5: Skin (improve skin texture/tone, reduce skin glare)
• Chapter 6: Hair (isolate hair from background, bring out texture, remove stubble)
• Chapter 7: Hands and Feet (emphasize age, get fingernails into shape)

At the end of each chapter, you’ll find a basic overview section to help increase your understanding of: workflow, layers, paths, blend modes, special layer techniques, sharpening and paths. Like all the demonstrations, you can quickly access these segments of the book.

Whether you choose to use “Bodyshop” as a reference guide or more of a hands-on tutorial, the techniques demonstrated are done so in a clear and concise manner, followed by an in-depth walk-through on the subject. I appreciated the detailed instructions when learning about unfamiliar techniques, and the ability to quickly review the before and after versions was helpful as a reminder of the purpose of each exercise. This book will be a great addition to any retoucher’s library.  “Bodyshop: The Photoshop Retouching Guide for the Face and Body,” by Birgit Nitzsche and Karsten Rose, is available for $49.99 from wiley.com/go/bodyshop or from Amazon for $31.49

Betsy Finn, Cr.Photog., CPP, has a portrait studio in Dexter, Michigan (BPhotoArt.com); she shares tips and ideas for photographers at LearnWithBetsy.com.

About May 2011

This page contains all entries posted to Professional Photographer Magazine Web Exclusives in May 2011. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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