The Digital Photo Guy

Learning Photoshop Elements

by on Feb.12, 2009, under Photo Editing

I finished the webcast Photoshop Elements class last night and haven’t yet received complaints or demands for refunds so I guess everyone was satisfied with the results. As I told the students, PSE is a powerful, flexible program but those capabilities come with increased complexity. The good news is that you don’t have to learn all of PSE at once to accomplish useful tasks.

Here are my recommendations for learning PSE in some semblence of structure. First, take a short class. Obviously, mine is the best 😉 but any class is better than no class. The purpose of the class is to learn some basics quickly but, more importantly, learn the jargon and terminology to find your way around PSE. I remember one of the first Photoshop classes I attended where every student had a PC or Mac in front of them. The instructor would say something like, “Click the XYZ option in the ABC menu and group the layers while holding the DEF key.” By the time I figured out where all those menus, options and controls were located, I was 10 steps behind everyone else.

When you feel comfortable stumbling around PSE, buy a book like The Photoshop Elements 7 Book for Digital Photographers by Scott Kelby. You can also buy the PSE6 book at the same site for less. Both books are nearly identical so I wouldn’t worry about missing anything. Besides, the books are nearly 500 pages so by the time you discover the difference, you’ll be ready to upgrade to PSE 8 or 9. By the way, speaking of upgrading, my recommendation is to upgrade every other version. It’s usually not worth it to upgrade every version. If I could, I’d upgrade every 3rd version.

Kelby’s book is like a cookbook. It’s strictly, “Monkey see, monkey do” until you learn enough to be able to modify the techniques and apply them to your needs. In the beginning, you’ll be baffled just trying to figure out what you should or want to do to a photo. That’s why in my class, I concentrate on workflow so you have an idea of what’s important and what’s not.

When you’re ready to remove the Kelby training wheels, buy a book like Barbara Brundage’s Photoshop Elements 7: The Missing Manual. This puppy is about 600 pages and is written like a technical reference manual. Like a dictionary, if you don’t know what you’re trying to do, this book won’t tell you. Use this book in combination with Kelby’s book to get a better understanding of what a particular tool does. Think of Kelby’s book as a box of recipes while Brundage’s book is a culinary school.

Of course, none of this will do diddly for you unless you take the time and make the effort to read the books and practice. Remember, Ctrl+Z is your friend. You can always Undo a boo-boo and, if all else fails, close the file without saving and reopen the original.

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Back to Digital Photography

by on Feb.08, 2009, under Articles, Photo Editing

I’ve been immersed in WordPress and WP plug-ins for the past week and my core compentecy, digital photography, has suffered. It’s time to get back to writing about what I know and enjoy best.

I’ve been teaching a webcast Photoshop Elements class for the past 5 weeks. This coming Wednesday is the last session but there’s so much in PSE that I’ve written a short MMT (Monday Morning Tip) which can be found on the Tips & News page. MMTs are password protected because they are a benefit for registered visitors. In the future, you’ll have to register to access the MMTs page. For the moment, contact me if you want the password. There are about 80 MMTs covering Photography Gear, Composition, Software and Misc but only about 5 are uploaded at this time. I’ll upload the remainder as time permits.

This week’s MMT (2/9/09) covers a use for Selections that wasn’t covered in the PSE class. As you recall, Selections are used to isolate an area so you can constrain your edit to just a specific area. In the webcast, I demonstrated using several tools to select a flower then move that flower to another photo where it was placed in a young lady’s hair. I also showed how the flower color can be changed by constraining color changes to the selected area.

Today’s MMT shows another application that is patently obvious once you see it but may be otherwise obtuse. I hope you enjoy it and, if it interests you, sign up for the next Photoshop Elements Webcast class starting March 25 at 7:30PM Pacific Time.

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Houston, We Have Ignition!

by on Feb.07, 2009, under Articles, WordPress

On Saturday, February 7, 2009 at 4:15AM PST, my new WordPress blog-based website was launched. The Name Servers at my registrar (the guys who took my money and told ICANN to save for me) were updated to reflect the new host (the guys who took my money in exchange for disk space and computing power on their servers). Now, I have to wait 1-2 hours for my DNS change to propagate (spread) throughout the Internet so anyone typing my URL into their web browser will be directed to the new site. Think of this as changing phone numbers and waiting for the new phone directories to be printed and delivered.

My greatest concern is, of course, that my e-mail links won’t work. In 2009, anyone who can’t communicate via e-mail is “out of the loop” and most businesses live or die by their communications. Therefore, anyone reading this is requested to go to the Contact Page and send me a test message. Thanks.

While I was writing this, my new web site has come up in another tab so it’s working as far as directing people to the correct server. My test e-mails to myself haven’t yet shown up so I’m a bit concerned but hope that mail server propogation is just a bit slower.

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Webcast 101 – A Gentle Introduction

by on Feb.06, 2009, under Articles, Webcast

If you’ve taken classes with me or read my Monday Morning Tips or sat in on a Webcast Tip, you know what I’m talking about but there are still many who think it is somehow related to boring CBTs (computer-based training) of yesteryear where you watched a canned presentation with no opportunity to ask questions or interact with the instructor or other students. If you think about it, the US education model is very much like CBT, the teacher lectures and the students listen. There’s very little interaction among the participants.

Webcast (web conference, webinar, etc) are completely interactive. Using the power of the Internet, a webcast combines slides, audio, video and, most importantly, direct communication with the instructor and other students so the power of the group helps accelerate the learning process. Think back on all your learning experiences. Didn’t you learn best when you interacted with others? While there’s something to be said for quiet time in the library, reading and contemplating complex material, it’s when you discuss and engage with others that information actually gels in your mind.

Here’s a link to a recording of a Webcast Tip from several months ago. Ignore the banding on the photo I’m retouching. This was caused by using a high resolution file. High rez files are compressed when transmitted over the Internet, causing this banding effect. I normally use low rez files so they transfer quicker and aren’t compressed as much. While watching the recording, you can use the Fit Screen/Actual Size control in the upper right corner to see the entire frame (first 2 screen shots, below). Fast Forward and Reverse is controlled by clicking and dragging the progress bar along the top (3rd screen shot). To read what comments by the audience, move the elevator bar up/down at the bottom right of the screen (last screen shot).

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Webcast Tips are free webcast lessons I conduct from time to time to demonstrate some aspect of digital photography. In the past, I announced these in my Monday Morning Tips. With this new blog-style website, I may just announce them here. If you want to be notified in a timely fashion, sign up for my Monday Morning Tips by sending a message from the Contact page with “OPT-IN” as the message. As soon as I figure out how to use the e-mail distribution manager at this new hosting service, I’ll add you to the list.

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You Can Take the Animal Out of the Swamp but…

by on Feb.06, 2009, under Articles, PayPal, WordPress

You can’t the swamp out of the animal. Just another way of saying a leopard never changes it’s spot or, in this case, once an engineer, always an engineer.

Earlier this week I was frustrated, annoyed, irritated, upset and generally mad about the complexity of modern software tools. Today, I am in harmony with my environment, my wa is at peace and the timbre about me is as still as Waldon Pond at midnight. For a brief, shining moment, I was transported back to those good old days of yesteryear when I was a 25 year old engineer on a mission! For just a few hours, I was that laser-focused, computer-for-a-brain engineer who could solve any problem created by another human! For half a day, I was once more an unstoppable force, powering my way through a problem on pure brain power!

I figured out how to put PayPal buttons directly on my workshop pages so a student only needs to click once to be taken directly to PayPal with all the infomation already in place and ready for his credit card. Over the past 20 years, I’d gotten rather lazy about solving technical problems. As a sales and marketing executive, my focus was strategy and tactics, not the minutia of bits and bytes. I was “The Big Picture Guy” and left the details to my staff to handle. But, deep down inside, I was still that geeky engineer who once told a customer, “This is what it will cost. If you want warm and fuzzy, it’ll cost you more!” as my manager sat in the back of the room and died a slow, agonizing death.

The point to all this is that, A) I feel great and B) Anyone can make this stuff work with a little patience and determination. Of course, all this effort has extracted a price. I feel like I just ran a marathon. I’m wiped out from the mental extertion and my brain will probably be mush for a few days. By next week, I’ll be back to my slug self and whining about dis ‘n dat.

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