The Digital Photo Guy

Tag: Photo Editing

Clean Up the White Background of Portrait

by on Jun.18, 2015, under Articles, Lightroom, Monday Morning Tips, Photo Editing, Photoshop Elements

When a Re-Shoot Isn’t Feasible…

Which is most of the time, here’s a tip for cleaning up a dark, gray, unappetizing background that’s supposed to be pure white.


The photo on the left is before I cleaned it up. The photo on the right is after I cleaned up the b/g (background) to make it whiter. That was my original plan but, when you’re in a rush, stuff happens.

After I made all the usual corrections such as Crop, White Balance, Levels and Sharpen, I realized the b/g was still a dingy, off-white. For this photo, I wanted Alyssa to “pop” out of that b/g.

I originally did this in Lightroom 6 but thought it might be useful to show how to do it in Photoshop Elements 9. Besides, I haven’t used PSE9 is so long, I wanted to see if I could still get around inside it.

After opening the photo in PSE9, I selected the Dodge Tool (bottom of the Tool Bar assuming that’s where you keep your Tool Bar) and selected a Soft Round Brush. Next, I set Range to Highlights and Exposure to about 10-15%. For this image, I set my brush size to 150 pixels and just started brushing out the gray. As I got closer to Alyssa, especially her very fair skin, I had to be careful not to let the brush go too far into her skin. For more precision, I enlarge the photo to 300x-400x and reduced the size of my brush. This was particularly important for the area between her right arm and dress.

This isn’t something I’d want to do for lots of images and it’s not a fix for images that will be printed to anything over 4×6 but it’s fine for small web images. Of course, the best solution is to get it right in camera.


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Pin-Up Models, Hot Rods & Webinars

by on Aug.14, 2011, under Lightroom, Monday Morning Tips, Photo Editing, Photos, Photoshop Elements

A Grand Time at Cruisin’ Grand



What more can a guy ask for? I spent Friday evening at Cruisin’ Grand Friday evening cruise with three cuties (Tina, Michelle and my wife.) Tina is my favorite pin-up model and Michelle is one of her “Cuties” from Cuties for a Cause. We had a great time photographing two pin-up cuties with classic cars from the ’40s and ’50s.

If you’re interested in photographing pin-up style models, Cuties for a Cause will be featured at the ArtHatch reception on Sept 9 after Cruisin’ Grand. The reception offers live music, book signings (available for purchase), pin up girls, Stone beer, hors d’oeuvres, plus over 30 local artists works and 75 national and international artists works on display for $25 at the door or $20 in advance.

Learn Something Useful in 30 Minutes

Last month, I started offering a 30-Minute Webinar Series. To date, we’ve covered an overview of photo editing programs, a tutorial on cleaning dSLR sensors, how to apply USM and an overview of layers in photo editing. The next 30-Minute Webinar, on Wed, August 24, covers High Dynamic Range (HDR) Photography.

The advantage of short, focused webinars is minimal time and money investment. Anyone can set aside 30 minutes to learn something they really enjoy. To date, the webinars have been priced at just $3. Later this year, the price will increase to $5 per webinar.

Anyone who registers for a webinar before the price increase will be eligible to register for 12 webinars for $36. After the price increase, the series will cost $50 for 12 webinars or $5 each.

Here’s a short sample video of the Layers webinar.
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Black & White in Lightroom

by on Aug.07, 2011, under gear, Lightroom, Monday Morning Tips, Photo Editing, Photos, Photoshop CS2/4, Photoshop Elements

Lightroom Makes BW So-o-o Easy


OK, I admit it, I’m a little slow at times. My friend, Rob Sheppard, suggested a BW webinar a while ago but I couldn’t get enthused due to previous (bad) attempts at BW. I just didn’t want to spend any time learning. Well, I should know better because Rob is Editor-at-Large for Outdoor Photographer, one of the oldest photography magazines. He had suggested using Lightroom and I was still in the process of learning LR and didn’t want to take on anymore at the time.

Recently, feeling somewhat competent with LR, I turned my attention to BW in LR. Wow! It’s much better than the clumsy BW tools I’d been using. Granted, it’s been 45 years since I tried my hand at BW so my eye isn’t as well tuned to the nuances of BW as I’d like. Still, I really like some of my first attempts. LR makes it so easy to unscrew an adjustment if I screw it up.

Adding icing to my new found interest in BW, the Epson 3880 I bought a few months ago prints beautiful BW. It has three shades of black so the tones are as smooth as a newborn baby’s butt.

If there’s enough interest, I may fire up the BW Webinar idea again with Rob Sheppard. Let me know via the comments section.

Canon T3i and Wireless Flash

 Last week, I conducted a Flash in a Flash Workshop at Deer Park Winery. The student was using a brand new Canon T3i that I had recommended when she upgraded from an Olympus E500. I was impressed just reading the specs on the T3i but I was even more impressed when I actually got to use it. The T3i compares very favorably with my Canon 7D except in a few areas that probably won’t matter to most hobbyists.

Best of all, the T3i has wireless flash, just like the 7D. If you’re wndering, “What’s the big deal with wireless flash,” you’re in for a treat. How would you like to position your flash off camera without nasty, messy cables? How would you like true, honest-to-goodness E-TTL in a two, three, four or more flash setup?

If you have or are thinking of buying a Canon T3i, contact me for my Flash in a Flash Workshop. It will make your flash photos jump right off the page.

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So, You Want to Learn Photoshop

by on Aug.04, 2011, under Lightroom, Monday Morning Tips, Photo Editing, Photoshop CS2/4, Photoshop Elements, Workshops

Learning Photoshop, Photoshop Elements or Lightroom

Learning to DriveThink back to when you learned to drive a car. If, like me, you’re older than dirt, you may recall watching work the clutch and shift the tranny. It seemed so simple. Give it gas, release the clutch, wait until the car is up to speed, depress clutch, shift, release clutch, repeat. However, doing it, nothing worked quite as you imagined. Lightly depressing the gas pedal made the engine roar like an Indy racer. Releasing the clutch either stalled the engine or made the car jump like a toad with a hotfoot. Shifting was an exercise in futility, second was nowhere to be found! It was only with lots of practice that you finally started, shifted and stopped smoothly.

Learning Photoshop, Photoshop Elements or Lightroom is much the same. Watching others isn’t going to get you much more than frustration and badly edited photos. To really learn something, one has to practice repeatedly. It also helps to have an advisor who can help when you’re at wit’s end.

Last week, I decided to print some black & whites. Lately, I’ve seen some great BW and thought I’d rework a few old photos. The first print was a disaster. The blacks were completely blocked and there were  no details anywhere.

After three days of hair-pulling frustration, I conceded defeat and asked the printing guru at my local Calumet store. He showed me some techniques on the 3880 in the store and that’s all I needed. Within hours, I was printing great BW.

My success can be attributed to hours upon hours of practice with Photoshop, Photoshop Elements and Lightroom coupled with several dozen classes plus knowing the right person to seek out for advice. Finally, it really helps to know how to frame the questions.

That’s why all my classes come with after-class support. I know most students will never remember everything from a class. It would be surprising if students remembered 25% of the class. But, anyone who diligently applies themselves can always get help from me.

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No Such Thing as “Correct” Exposure

by on Jul.31, 2011, under Articles, Lightroom, Monday Morning Tips, Photo Editing

Desired versus Correct Exposure

Something I hammer in my field workshops is the difference between a “correct” exposure and “desired” exposure. Most new dSLR users assume the exposure is correct when the ELI (exposure level indicator) shows the tick mark at zero (see below.)

To the left is the ELI on the Quick Screen of a Canon 60D. Every dSLR has a similar ELI on the top LCD, bottom of the viewfinder or, often, the back LCD. Sometimes, it’s in all four locations. As you might imagine, this is a key tool in setting desired exposure. A tick mark below the scale (unseen in this image) is used to indicate more or less light.

dSLR users often mistake the zero point as the “correct” exposure level when it’s really just the point where the exposure algorithm reports the light and dark areas are balanced. That would be like saying the center of the speedometer is the “correct” speed. Try telling that to the cop who pulls you over for doing 60mph in a 25mph zone.

 Think of the Auto Exposure Meter as a starting point. Here are three images from Julian, CA, an old gold mining town now reknowned for its apple pies. I was in Aperture Mode because that’s my usual exposure mode. I knew I wanted the dark center of the sunflower exposed for details but I also wanted to preserve some cloud details in the background.


For my first test shot, I added +1 EC (exposure compensation.) The result was a bit too bright and I didn’t have much detail in the clouds. I dialed back EC to +1/3 to keep details in the dark center of the sunflower and recover some details in the clouds. Because I was shooting Raw, I knew could recover cloud details in Lightroom if necessary. In the end, I decided the clouds weren’t as important as the bee. If I had blindly accepted the metered exposure, the bee might have been lost in the dark center.

Point Loma Lighthouse Open House

Rick Phillips sent me a link to an article he wrote for In a nutshell, on Thursday, August 25, 2011, Cabrillo National Monument on Point Loma, San Diego, will open the Point Loma Lighthouse for its annual Founder’s Day celebration. This is indeed a rare opportunity to make photos from the top of the lighthouse. Read Rick’s articles for details.

I’ll post a Meetup on the Photography Webinars and Photoshoots site for those who would like to join me there.

Canon 40D for Sale

My Canon 40D body is up for sale. This is just the body, no lens. I have the box, manual, CDs and all accessories that originally came with it. I’ll post photos later this week in the Tips & News section under Excess Equipment for Sale.

The asking price is $675 and includes a Canon BG-E2 Battery Grip for extended battery life. This combination is perfect for fast sports photography where you are quickly changing between landscape and portrait modes. Because of the weight, shipping is $25. My preferred method of payment is PayPal.

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