The Digital Photo Guy

Monday Morning Tip – 08/03/09

by on Aug.02, 2009, under Monday Morning Tips, Photo Editing, Photoshop CS2/4, Photoshop Elements, Webcast, Workshops

Today, we have a video MMT to showcase Focus Magic, a Photoshop and Photoshop Elements (PSE) plugin that makes sharpening a slam-dunk simple process. If you’ve been intimidated by Unsharp Mask (USM) and never quite know what it’s doing or how to make it better, Focus Magic will make life much easier. As always, MMTs require a password that is e-mailed to registered users.

If you’d like to buy a copy of Focus Magic, at a discount, let me know. If enough people sign up, it’s normally $45 but I can get it for $39. If you’re interested, send me an e-mail or leave a comment here. If you’re the impatient sort, you can buy it directly at

FocusMagic is a small part of what you’ll learn in the full 6 week Photoshop Elements webinar. Learn PSE in 6 easy lessons of 1 hour each week for just $99 ($79 Economic Stimulus Special for Sept 9 session). Click here to go to my Workshop page for details.

Quick Tip

In Bridge CS4, you can open any photo directly into Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) by selecting a photo and pressing Ctrl + R (Win) or Cmd + R (Mac). So, what’s the big deal, you ask? If you want to open a JPEG or TIFF in ACR, it’s a big deal. Opening a raw file in ACR is just a double-click (as long as your camera raw is supported) but opening a JPEG has always been more convoluted. You can accomplish the same thing by selecting a file and clicking the Open in Camera Raw icon (below).

Open in Camera Raw Icon
Open in Camera Raw Icon

I picked up this tidbit from Julieanne Kost’s site. Julieanne, as most of you know, is Adobe’s Digital Imaging Evangelist (aka, Goddess of Geek). The specific pdf with the CS4 info is here.

Unfortunately, I haven’t found an equivalent command in Photoshop Elements (PSE) Organizer so PSE users are “up the creek” (a technical term) and must do it the old way. Keep in mind that you must be in PSE Editor to open a JPEG in ACR. Use File->Open As and select Camera RAW (not Photoshop RAW).

To learn why it’s beneficial to process JPEGs in ACR, take my Photoshop Elements class via Webinar. There, you have direct access to me over 6 weeks of class time and 90 additional days of e-mail support. Click here for more details.

San Diego Zoo Photoshoot

On Sunday, August 16, I’m going back to the San Diego Zoo to photograph things that I noticed this past week. I hadn’t been to the zoo in several years and saw many new exhibits that I’d like to photograph now that I have an idea of the conditions. This WILL NOT be a walk through the zoo. I plan to spend 2-3 hours making specific images that I have in mind.
If you’d like to join me, send me an e-mail or leave a comment here. This is not a class but simply an opportunity to practice photography at the zoo.

Registering for My Site

Over the past few months, some readers did not receive confirmation e-mails when registering for my site. The problem was caused by spam prevention techniques used either by the readers’ ISP (Internet Service Provider) or my Mail Server.
I believe the problem has now been corrected. If you received a manual e-mail from me with the password for the registered reader areas, please try again. Registration gets you the password but also gives you advance notice of special offers or events such as the SD Zoo photoshoot. Thanks.
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Monday Morning Tip – 7/27/09

by on Jul.26, 2009, under Monday Morning Tips, Workshops

This week’s MMT wraps up Exposure Basics. By now, you should know the three main components of exposure and how to adjust each. Today, the “when” and “why” of changing exposure instead of just accepting the camera’s metered exposure.

As always, the MMT is in the password protected Tips & News page. Register to the right where it says, “Yes! I want immediate access to FREE weekly Monday Morning Tips.” Registration is a 2-step process. After you fill out and send the form, you’ll receive an e-mail verifying that you’ve registered and it wasn’t a vindictive co-worker who’s soing around, signing you up for al sorts of thing you don’t want. After you confirm that you really want to register, you’ll receive a second e-mail with the password.

As to why I ask for registration, it keeps people from “scraping” all the MMTs off my site and reposting on some malicious site to make it seem legit. With registration, if that happens, I have some hope of catching the low-life. (I’m probably just kidding myself!)

Quick Tip

Today’s QT is about using this site. If you look on the right side, you’ll see an area titled, “Tags (Kinda like keywords to search)”. Each of the words and phrases are hot links to articles containing those tags. If you want to find all the articles and MMTs that address Photoshop Elements, you’ll see that it’s in a large font near the middle of the “cloud” of tags. The bigger the font, the more articles there are with that tag.

If you look further down on the right side, you’ll also see Catergories. I hope these are self-explanatory but it’s another way to sort the posts on my site.

Down at the very bottom of the page, you’ll find a Monthly Archive of all my posts.

San Diego Zoo Photoshoot

On Monday, July 26, I’ll be at the San Diego Zoo from about 5PM until about 9PM. If you’d like to join me, send an e-mail and I’ll send you my cell phone number. I’ll be in the main parking lot in my white 24′ Winnebago View RV but I imagine there will be lots of RVs there.

Palomar College – Fall Schedule

Like all businesses, Palomar College is feeling the effects of the economy. This fall, they will only offer my Digital SLR for New dSLR Owners webinar class. Fortunately, for those who want the “Hands-On” Photoshoot workshop orwebinar Photoshop Elements class, I’ll be offerring those through my own site.

Keep an eye out for Wild Animal Park Photoshoot workshops starting around October and Photoshop Elements webinars around September.

You can find a full schedule of my workshops on, are you ready for this, the Workshops page of this site. Former students are eligible for a discount on all future workshops.

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Checklist for Better Photography

by on Jul.21, 2009, under Articles

One of my favorite pithy sayings is, “Flitting like a fly from one cow patty the next without a plan or direction.” My point is that one needs a plan and a direction to produce good photos. Knowing your camera is an important first step but developing a smooth workflow is crucial. Just as you do certain tasks in order in Photoshop or Photoshop Elements, taking photos is the same.

For example, how many of you have started taking photos before checking ISO and discovered that it was still set to 1600 from Grandma’s birthday party the night before? For those who shoot JPEGs, how many times have you taken your camera to an indoor party and discovered afterwards that WB was still set to Daylight from the last time you used it?

Another dSLR phenomenon is Raw format. On some forums, there’s an almost reverence for Raw as if it will magically transform all photographers into the next Ansel Adams or Galen Rowell. My students hate it when I remind them that it’s just as easy to make a crappy Raw image as it is to make a crappy JPEG image. If you don’t capture a good image to start, expecting to “fix it in Photoshop”, you’re just a PS hack, not a photographer.

With all the above in mind, I set out to create a “cheat sheet” for new dSLR shooters to help you develop good habits when practicing. Developing Good dSLR Habits can be downloaded here and printed or, if you want a fancy one printed on plastic coated paper, send me a self-addressed, stamped envelope and I’ll mail it to you. Keep it with your camera and review it before and during each shoot.

This is version 1.0 so feel free to leave comments on ideas to improve it. For the fancy plastic coated paper version, my mailing address is PO Box 463043, Escondido, CA 92046-3043. You may post the PDF on a club website or newsletter but my copyright must remain with it. You may not sell it or use it for any financial gain.

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Monday Morning Tip – 7/20/09

by on Jul.19, 2009, under Monday Morning Tips

 Today we continue our Back to Basics series of MMTs so newbies can get “up-to-speed” quickly without slogging through all the previous MMTs (I recommend you do so as time permits). Two week ago, we covered the fundamentals of ISO, aperture and shutter speed. Now, we’re going to cover, in detail, how to adjust aperture, shutter speed and ISO on most modern dSLRs and you’re going to be surprised at the simplicity of this whole process. If you have enough coordination to read a speed limit sign, check the speedometer and adjust your accelerator to keep your car at a specific speed, you can manually set and adjust your dSLR exposure.

As always, today’s MMT, Exposure Basics 2, is in the Tips & News area and requires a password that is available to registered users. To register, fill out the Subscription form to the right.

While you’re at it, read my post about RSS and set up your own RSS feed so you can automatically be notified whenever any of your favorite sites are updated. To find all the RSS information, click “RSS” in the Tags area to the right. Tags are like searchable key words.

For you “old hands” who may be bored silly by all this, I recommend you read some of the older MMTs to see if anything jumps out that you either didn’t know or want to know more about. I’m always looking for new ideas for future MMTs.

Quick Tip

Under the heading of, “There is nothing new under the sun”, anyone who has half a clue about the basics of Photoshop (or PSE) knows the Gaussian Blur and Selective Sharpening trick to smooth/soften skin in portraits. It’s been around since before dirt was invented.

However, I discovered a new twist that readers may find useful, especially if you shoot RAW (not in the raw). Since Adobe Camera Raw 4.1, there’s been a negative Clarity slider among the adjustments. It took me a while to get my head around Clarity and even longer to figure out an application for negative clarity (yeah, I know I’m dense).

When processing portraits in ACR, set the negative Clarity slider to between -40 to -70 depending on the skin condition. A young child with smooth, soft skin may not need negative Clarity while an adult with early stage sun damage might need -40. A senior with deep wrinkles might go as much as -70.  Next, open the photo in PSCS or PSE and go through the usual selective sharpening to bring back eyes, nostrils, mouth and hair (if desired). Once I figured this out, I Googled (I hate using Google as a verb) for “acr negative clarity for portraits” and discovered that, as usual, I was the last one on the train. A number of people have figured out this trick so you might want to read what they have to say.

By the way, repeat my mantra, “It ain’t a PBJ, don’t slather on the effect.” In other words, be careful how much Clarity you apply (positive or negative). A little bit goes a long way. Too much and the portrait will begin to glow as if radioactive.

Palomar College “Hands-On” Photoshoot at Kit Carson Park

On Saturday, July 25, I’m leading a “Hands-On” Photoshoot class for Palomar College at Kit Carson Park in Escondido. There’s still time to register at the Palomar College Venture site.

If you’ve attended this class previously, you’re welcome to join me for a free refresher. Please understand that current, paid students have priority. If you refer a friend or family member to register for this class, I’ll send you a copy of Scrapbook MAX!, the best, easiest and powerful digital scrapbook program.

Photoshoot at the Zoo

On Monday, July 27, I’ll be photographing at the San Diego Zoo from 5PM until about 9PM. If you’d like to join me, send me an e-mail and we’ll make plans to meet there.

Meetup Idea

If you’re familiar with, you know that it’s a way for people with common interests in a given locale to meet. I’ve been thinking of starting a Meet Up Group for Photoshop and Photoshop Elements but meeting via webcast. That way, anyone with a high-speed connection can participate. Each month, we can have a web meeting where someone presents a short lesson/tutorial and others can ask questions.

If you’re interested, let me know and I’ll see what it would take to organize it.

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Monday Morning Tip – 7/13/09

by on Jul.12, 2009, under Monday Morning Tips

Today, we have a video MMT. With all the interest in HDR, I thought I would introduce you to a fast, easy, inexpensive HDR program that produces outstanding results.

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Quick Tip

If you need spare batteries for your dSLR (who doesn’t?), you have 3 choices. First, OEM batteries from the manufacturer (Canon, Nikon, Olympus, etc) are pretty well guaranteed to work but will cost 2 arms, a leg and your first-born child. A second choice is cheap eBay batteries which may be fine but may also explode, disintegrate, catch fire or otherwise just toss it’s cookies at a crucial moment. Half the sellers on eBay sell great batteries. The problem is trying to figure out which half you’re dealing with.

My recommendations for choice #3 are SterlingTek and Thomas Distributing for no other reason than that I’ve never had a problem with their batteries or service. I’ve bought dozens of batteries from both and, with few exceptions, had never had any problems. When one of their batteries arrived DOA for some unknown reason, a quick phone call or e-mail immediately got an exchange in the mail. Best of all, their prices are 1/2 to 1/4 what Canon wants for it’s branded batteries.

San Diego Zoo Night Shoot

The Zoo is open until 9PM through Sept 7. I’m planning to go during a weekday in late July and shoot from around 6PM until closing. If anyone is interested in joining me, send me an e-mail. This is the ZOO, NOT Wild Animal Park.

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