PhotoShop Challenge: 4 Fun Filters

Happy Photography Friday! Man, it felt so good to get back into Photoshop and play around. It’s been over a month since I have been able to edit photos because of my laptop breaking down. (Didn’t hear the story? Read about it last week: Photography Challenge: Shapes.  I also covered the criteria I wanted for my new laptop for top Photoshop performance).

As such, I wanted to make this post easy and fun. Here are four fun filters to mess around with in Photoshop:
–Convert to Black and White
–Create Bokeh after the fact
–Add an Oil Paint Effect
–Convert green trees to a fall scene

I learned these four affects by reading Scott Kelby’s How Do I Do That In Photoshop?  Kelby covers MUCH MORE than I ever will cover on my blog, so I highly recommend renting the book from your library or purchasing it using my affiliate link, which adds no additional cost to you but provides me a small commission.  With that, let’s have some fun!

Convert to Black and White

I guess I shouldn't be surprised, but I imaged converting to black and white to be difficult or something that needed to be perfected after multiple tries. In fact, it's really simple and Photoshop does most of the work for you. Follow these simple steps.  (1) Click on the Create New Adjustment Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel and (2) choose Black & White from the pop-up menu. Suddenly, your image will convert to black and white, yet you can still use (3) the sliders to tweak the conversion.  You'll see how adjusting these colors affects it. In the picture below, I slide the red slider to the left to darken the lips and highlights in the hair. Not sure what you're looking for? You can use (4) the presets for different affects.

Create Bokeh

The best way to get that dreamy blurry background look is by doing in camera instead of in Photoshop. Don't know how to do that, check out my Photography Challenge: Achieving Bokeh. But if for some reason, you didn't get the shot at the time, you can attempt in Photoshop. I decided to use a picture of my daughter, that I originally wanted to have a bokeh.  At the time, I didn't have the right lens nor did I realize how I would need to place my subject for the picture.  I reflect upon this failure in my post 5 Things I Learned From 3 Weeks Without a Photography Challenge.  Below, I attempt to achieve Bokeh again, within Photoshop.

(1) Go to the Filter menu, Blur Gallery, and choose from Iris Blur. When you do this, it creates a large oval in the center of your image with a slight blurring outside the oval. When you look at the background of this original image (2) you can see how in focus it was. Now, look at how the background was changed below.

One of the reasons why I couldn't ahcieve bokeh in camera was that my subject (girl) was too close to the background (flower tree) that I wanted blurred. In order to get the picture, I needed to position my subject in front of the tree a few feet. Ironically, this is the reason why when I create a bokeh affect in Photoshop, the image still seems off. The subject is touching the tree so to have her in focus and the tree out of focus doesn't create a believeable affect as her arm seems to disappear into the blurry world behind her. I fixed this by picking a different picture where my subject is in front of the blurry background by some distance.

It's a much more believable bokeh, but you can still tell the difference when looking at her feet.  The sand within the oval is different than the sand outside.  When (3) the oval appears, you can resize it by clicking and dragging on the edge of it. Moving it is easy as you click and drag the pin in the center. You can rotate the oval as well by clicking on one of the control points on the oval and it changes to a double headed arror and you click and drag as it spins. To increase the amount of blur, use the (4) blur panel. You can slide it one way or the other and it will change immediately. You can also change (5) the light, color, and range of light.

Add an Oil Paint Affect

This is a fun affect, which I recommend for nature, plants, landscapes, even buildings. However, I attempted a picture of my daughters and while I tried my hardest, I couldn't get them to look not terrifying. If you can pull it off, more power to you. Once you choose your picture, go to the Filter menu, go down to Stylize, and choose Oil Paint.

Your Oil Paint panel will pop up and you can create different affects depending on how you slide the scales. I recommend clicking "Preview" so that you can see how it will affect your image before you save it. Also, I had a hard time seeing any change unless I was zoomed up really close in my photo. I realized to get the affect that I wanted I needed to resize my image. (You do this under the Image menu, Size Image). My photos were something like 6000x4000 pixels and I changed it to 1400 or even 700 pixels for the width. This made a HUGE difference when I applied the Oil Paint filter.

Insert Fall Instantly

Everyone loves capturing fall photos: smiling in front of those gorgeous trees with leaves changing colors. But the leaves change colors for a week and then fall, so if you miss that golden week, you are left with a dead looking background. But you can fake it, as long as you still have green leaves, such as the picture above, inside the zoo's aviary where the leaves never change color.

Once you open you image, go to the image menu, go to mode, and pick (1) Lab Color. (It will be on RGB Color by default). Then go to the image menu, go down to (2) Apply Image, and the Apply Image panel will pop up. Under Channel, select "b". Then under Blending, select "Overlay". Click Ok, and then remember to change back to (4) RGB Color. In the two picture below, the trees were green.

There you go! Four fun photoshop challenges that are quick and easy. I am still really new to Photoshop so these were fun for me to play with. As we go along, I am looking into more complicated photoshop challenges. Until then, I hope you enjoy having fun with me.

Photography Challenge: Shapes

I am so excited to be back online and posting about photography! A quick message about why I have been in remote silence for the month of June:

Back in late May, my computer stopped working in PhotoShop. I suddenly couldn’t edit any photos. Any time I tried to do any little change to a photo, I would get an error saying “insignificant RAM.” I had a laptop with 4 GB RAM, which is all Photoshop claims it need. However, I went onto Photography Blogs and everyone says that Photoshop usually uses 5 GB just to run and 6-7 GB if you’re editing multiple photos at a time. So strange that I was able to edit photos before and then suddenly couldn’t. I decided to look into another option for editing my photos. I looked at what I would need a new laptop to do for top performance of Photoshop. I looked at tablets that would be cheaper and still accomplish what I needed. I even looked a little into desktops; unfortunately, I do all of my blogging and editing during nap time–in a dark room while my girls sleep–so a desktop wasn’t an option.

Then, my keyboard stopped working on my laptop, especially “g” and “h”. Try typing a blog post without “g” and “h” and you’ll realize how those are two very helpful letters. So, I needed a new laptop for blogging and photo editing. I read all the blogs and articles I could find about the best computers for photo editing. For those interested, the best website that states the criteria you should consider when looking for a laptop with the specific purpose of photo editing is here and includes:
⦁ A newer processor for high performance, such as a Intel i5 or i7 processor
⦁ At least 8 GB of RAM, and ask if there are extra RAM slots, if you need to upgrade later
⦁ 256 GB “SSD” Storage (this would require you to also have an external hard drive to store your photos on) or 1 TB of Storage (to store your photos on your laptop)
⦁ 2 GB of Dedicated Graphics, which helps with editing high resolution photos
⦁ Full HD Display with Good Color Accuracy
Armed with this criteria, I then searched and messaged over 100 people on Craigslist, OfferUp, and LetItGo for used laptops for sale that matched the criteria I needed and offered a price within my budget (which wasn’t very high). I am happy to say that I found a computer and I am back to blogging and photo editing. With that, my next PhotoShop Challenge will be next week as I have been spending all day downloading Creative Cloud onto my new computer.

My newest Photography Book recommendation is “Picture Perfect Practice” by Roberto Valenzuela. I recommend this book so highly that I bought it, rather than renting it from the library. Valenzuela is a world renown portrait photographer who has won lots of prestigious awards that I have never heard about and teaching expensive seminars to train people in his craft. His book is written like he’s personally teaching you. It is filled with his insights and knowledge about creating masterful photography and has photography challenges at the end of each lesson. If you enjoy my mini photography challenges, this book is for you.

Today, I tried to implement his first lesson: using shapes to create visual interest. Shapes are one of the first things that we learn to distinguish. My toddler will learn a new name for a shape and then find it everywhere around us: in our home, in the park, at the lake, grocery store… literally I cannot escape the many circles she finds. But as we grow up, our minds stop processing these shapes in our daily life. By using shapes in our images, it draws the eye to these geometric shapes and creates interest. There are three main ways that you can use geometric shapes: framing, balance, background.

Framing is the most common way to use shapes in portrait photography. It’s seen in Pinterest images of a couple kissing through a window or holding up a picture frame in front of their faces or someone placed within a door frame. You use a shape to frame your subject. It’s common because it’s very effective in creating eye catching images. Here are a few of my attempts below:

My attempt at framing my daughter within a swing set rope ladder

Balance is less common and therefore has the potential of surprising your subject with interesting images. It requires you to use an shape to add depth or dimension to your portrait. Below is my attempt to use a sign to balance the picture of the children on the swing. Without the sign, the image would be flat but instead it adds character and a story line.

Background is also pretty common way to use geometric shapes. You could capture someone in front of a brick wall or a wall of windows. Or you can combine both background and framing by framing someone inside an arch of a multiple arch bridge. While it is pretty common, I have not yet captured an image that I have liked to display below. When I do, I will update this post.

Photography Challenge: Shapes
Go out and capture five pictures of each shape: circle, square, rectangle, triangle, and oval. Capture it using one of the three methods: framing, balance or background. While this challenge seems easy enough, you will find it is actually harder than it appears! I was surprised when I attempted it!

Photography Challenge: Bokeh

This photography challenge encourages you to get those dreamy blurry background photos that you see all over, this is referred to as bokeh.  Besides getting a dreamy look, bokeh can help make the background undistinguishable, which is great if you’re shooting in a less than ideal background setting.  Figuring out the tricks of bokeh took me longer than I want to admit, but now that I got it down, it’s really quite easy.    Here are the 3 tips to getting the affect.

Shoot in Manual

For these photos, I used my 50 mm prime lens with an f/1.8 setting.  You won’t get a bokeh affect, if you don’t have a lens that can shoot at a high aperture.  You need to shoot with a high aperture setting to get the background to blur.  You also want to shoot in manual mode so that you can control how much light the lens lets in.  Since the lens will be wide open at the high aperture, it is going to let in a lot of light, so I increased my shutter speed so that it wasn’t open too long.  I took these photos at 8AM, when the sky was cloudy, so that the daylight wasn’t too bright either.  I had an ISO setting of 400, my aperture setting at 1.8, and my shutter speed was 1/250.  I had to play around with a couple of shoots to figure out what the appropriate settings are.  If you are unsure, start with your ISO at 100.  Then put your aperture to the lowest number you can.  Take a picture and see what it looks like.  If it is too dark, slowly increase your ISO.  If it is too bright, increase your shutter speed.

Proper distance of the subject from background

Originally, I was putting my subject too close to the object that I wanted to have the blurry focus.  If you think about it, this makes no sense because the camera will apply the same affect to everything at the same depth.  So if I want my subject in focus, who is standing right next to a tree, the tree will also be in focus.  I found shooting at a focal length of 50 mm, if my subject was 10-15 feet in front of the background, it provided the best ecstatic for the blurry background that I was wanting.  If you want the background more in focus, put your subject closer.  If you want the background less in focus, put your subject even farther.

Proper distance of you from your subject

Similar to above, you need to be aware of your proper distance from the subject.  In the picture below, the subject was 10-15 feet away from the trees; however, I was 25 feet away from her.  When I focused my camera on my subject, and took the picture, the camera focused everything that was at the same depth of my subject, including the trees that I wished it to blur.  While the trees past the opening are blurred, much more of the picture is in focus than I intended.

Too much of the image is in focus due to my distance from the subject

Focus your camera on the subject

This is also a duh moment, but sometimes when I was rushing to get the shot, I snapped the picture before properly focusing the camera.  Here you see the background is in focus, but my subjects are not.  This is great to know so that when I want to accomplish this affect, I can do so.  It would make a great engagement photo when shooting through the trees to spy on a couple that’s having a picnic in the park and sharing a kiss.  However, for this picture, the focus was wrong.

Background and not subject is in focus due to lack of properly focusing the camera

So, that’s it, as I said, really simple.  Find the right settings on your camera, figure out the best distance away from the background, distance away from your subject, focus on your subject, and then BOOM, beautiful bokeh images to brag about on Instagram and Facebook.  Also, print some out to hang on your wall, you’ll love looking up at them.

Here are my best ones from today:

Check out that model shoot; not bad for a two-year old

Sisters are different flowers from the same garden

There's no better sound than a baby's laugh

Photography Challenge: Low Light Shooting

This photography challenge tries to capture scenes in low-light situations, specifically within churches.  The number one place this scenario would occur is when you are shooting on scene at a wedding.  While I have little interest in becoming a wedding photographer, I have always enjoyed baptisms.  Maybe you have always felt a desire to photograph spelunkers.  I highly recommend learning to shoot in low-light scenarios first because it has really helped me understand how the three manual settings (ISO, aperture, and shutter speed) work together.  Whatever low-light situation you find yourself in, here are some tips to capturing the shot.

For this photography challenge, I read and implemented the tips found in Scott Kelby’s Photography Book, Part 1 and 2, the chapters on Wedding Photography.  While I borrowed both these books from my library, if your library doesn’t carry these books or there’s a two year wait period them, you can buy either one on Amazon using the link below, which is my affiliate link that adds no additional cost to you.  Learn more about this on my disclosure page.


For this photography challenge, capture:

  • Scene in low-light
  • Side lighted portraits

As I mentioned in last week’s photography update, I practiced getting low-light pictures and they kept coming out blurry.  My problem was that I was still shooting in aperture priority mode because I was too self conscious to shoot in manual mode.  In low light situations, you need to be able to shoot in manual mode.  Following the tips for low light below and it will go smoothly, even if its your first time.

Shooting in low light

First, you should pick your lens carefully.  You want to shoot with a fast wide lens so that you can let more light in.  This means a lens that has a low f-stop number, like f/1.4 or 4/1.8.  Capturing a picture at a low f-stop number is desirable over cranking up the ISO, which causes noise in the picture.  However, depending on how dark the low-light situation is, you may have to crank up the ISO regardless.

In order to get enough light for your pictures, you may have to increase your ISO.  You do not want to increase it too high or else it will create noise for your image.  How to tell what your ISO should be, aim the camera at the low-light scene and press your shutter button down halfway.  In your viewfinder, you will see what your shutter speed will be.  You want your shutter speed to be at 1/60 of a second or higher; therefore, if its lower crank up your ISO until you see your shutter speed hit 1/60 at least.  You may increase it to 800 or as high as 1600, depending on the quality of your camera.

These are the raw images I took with no editing on Photoshop yet.

Miss Monster was a little worried about singing in front of the congregation during her first performance on Mother's Day

Miss Monster sitting in front of the Baptismal Font at our church

Find the Perfect Window

When photographing a wedding, you need to capture the formal portraits: pictures of the bride and groom.  For this, there may be the perfect spot with the perfect lighting; this perfect lighting is most likely going to be a large window, preferably a north facing window so that the light is not direct.  For those photographing a baptism or First Communion, capturing pictures of the parents, child, and any Godparents would be great for this lighting.  Position your subject to the side of the window 6-8 feet away, so that they are side lighted.  If you have an assistant, they (or a tripod) could hold a reflector on the dark side of your subject to light both sides of the face.

Side lighting from a nearby high window

Here I was trying to position the camera in a way to side light my daughter from the large window.  It wasn't the ideal location that I describe in this challenge, but I ran out of time before mass started to find a different location.  I plan to go back and take more pictures and could update the pictures here when that happens.

Chase the rainbow

In this image, the sunlight started to beam through the stain glass windows and it created this cool rainbow effect with my camera.  A fun image to capture, though, no promises I could recreate it.

Shooting Outside Afterwards

The main thing that helped solidify shooting in manual mode was to immediately upon taking shoots in these churches was to then take photos outside in the sunlight.  Without changing the settings, the picture becomes completely white (over exposed).  I first lowered the ISO as low as I could, then increased the shutter speed since my daughter's move quickly and I need a quick shutter speed to make sure their movement doesn't blur.  Then I could adjust the aperture depending on the depth that I wanted to capture.  Having done these two days, shooting first in low light then immediately in sunlight, really helped me understand and feel more confident about shooting in manual mode.

Capturing a Goose Family at my Mother's Day Brunch

Little Shark playing in the yard before dinner time

Practice, Practice, Practice
While I feel more confident in the my ability to take crisp pictures in low-light situations, I do need to improve on being able to get the perfect composition and positioning of the subjects.  In order to accomplish this, I am looking for families who'd like professional photos taken at an upcoming Baptism or First Communion.  If you live in the Greater-Detroit or Greater-Grand Rapids metropolises and would like me to attend a baptism, feel free to contact me directly.   I would be happy to attend, take photos, and provide the digital copies to you, free of charge.

Photoshop Challenge – Editing Videos

Happy Photography Friday!!!  This week, I am focusing back on Adobe Photoshop, but an area that you may not be even aware that Photo Shop does: editing videos.  This week, for my blog post: 8 Tips for Working Out with Young Children, I filmed, edited, and posted a video of myself working out around my daughters.  I will be walking you through the steps I took to editing the video.

Most of the tips I implemented, I learned from Scott Kelby’s How Do I Do That In Photoshop?  There are many additional tips to video editing that I did not need, but may be of interest to you.  If so, definitely check the book out at your local library.  However, if there’s a 10 year wait list, you can also order the book through Amazon using my affiliate link below.  In addition, there’s a link to Adobe Photoshop as well.  I received a small commission through both these links but they will not add any additional cost to your order.

To begin, (1) open your video the same way you would open an image: go to File, click Open, then find your video file.  As soon as your video opens, Photoshop will automatically open the movie editing tool bar.  This is where you will do the majority of your editing from.

To add (2) additional videos, click the film strip, click Add Media, then find the next video file.  There are two ways to (3) arrange your clips.  You can (3a) click and drag along the video timeline; the video clips read from left to right, so whatever clips on the left will play first.  Or you can (3b) click and drag using the layers panel; the video clips read from bottom to top, so whatever is on the bottom will play first.  To (4) control the speed of your video, each video clip will have a triangle in a box at the right of the file.  Click that and a box will pop up where you can either slow down your video or speed it up.

When (5) navigating around your video, there are a couple tools to make it easier.  At the bottom of your video editing tool box, there is a (5a) zoom in/out timeline tool.  If you move the needle to the left, the time intervals get larger, such as in the (5b) picture, it counts by 2 minutes.  If you move the needle to the right, the time intervals get smaller, for instance, you could count by 5 seconds.  When you have many long video clips, moving the needle to the left helps you see the bigger picture of your video.  When you need to focus on timing of text appearing or trimming the clips, moving the needle to the right helps you get to the right moment.  The (5c) blue scroll bar will help you move around within your video.  To (6) trim your clips, hover your curser over the beginning or end of the clip and it will transform into a capital E with an arrow going through it.  Click and drag it in the direction that you want to trim your clip.  To (7) add transitions between your clips, click the black and white rectangle, and a box will box up with your transition options, and the duration the transition will last.

To (8) add background music, click on the music note, click New Audio File and find your file.  When you click the audio icon to the left of the music note, it will allow you to control the volume of your music and fading in or out. To (9) add words to your video, click on the Text icon from your tools bar, similar to when you are editing images.  Click where you’d like to place the text on your screen and type away.  Then, if it didn’t automatically, drag your (9b) text layer into a separate video group.  If you don’t do this step, the text will appear below your image and you won’t see it.  You can (9c) lengthen or shorten the amount of time your text appears the same way you do for your video clips.  You can also move the text around your video by clicking and dragging where you want it to go.  Note: when I was trying to get a screen shot for this, I couldn’t figure out why my text wasn’t showing up on screen.  It wasn’t until I was adding these numbers that I realized the visual was turned off (the eye to the left of the layer in the layers panel).  Oops.

Finally, to (10) save your video go to File, Export, Render video.  It will pull up a Render Video tool box, where you can name your video and then pick where to save it on your computer.  Presents (the tool bar next to Format) give you common options of where you would render your video to, such as YouTube or Vimeo.  Then click Render.  My video took 20 minutes to render.  The longer the video or the additional special features, the longer the time.

Those are the steps I took to editing my video.  But there is so much more that you can do for editing videos in Photoshop.  For more information, check out the book listed above.  Some examples that Kelby goes over are:

  • Add photos to videos
  • Add filter effects to movie
  • Make movie black and white
  • Fade in or out
  • Split clip into two parts
  • Apply filter to whole movie
  • Add movement to still pictures

That’s it!  Hope you enjoyed this short tutorial.  Get out there and get creating!

5 Things I Learned From 3 Weeks Without a Photography Challenge

I promised you a Photo Friday, where every Friday, I post a Photography Challenge or a Photo Shop Challenge to help you learn photograph along with me.  I had a great first two weeks, and then there was silence… 3 weeks (counting today) of no Photography Challenges.  Here’s why and what I have learned.

  • Creating the challenges takes time

I thought that I could read a chapter from one of my library books, take some notes, head outside with my daughters, implement the notes I took, come back to do some quick edits, and have a photography challenge with wow worthy photos ready for you in an afternoon’s time.  I guess when I write it all out like that it seems ridiculous.  Just reading the chapter and trying to understand the vocabulary and the techniques the author is writing about takes time.  Then trying to create a unique challenge, implementing their advice, without plagiarizing, takes time too.  While I hope to get to the skill level where I can create a photo challenge or photo shop challenge every week for you, right now, I am not there yet.  And that’s okay, because I am learning every week, and I hope you are too.

  • I need more than one afternoon to shoot

In that single afternoon of work ideal that I described above, it includes a single field trip to implement the new tips I learned and then BOOM, great photos.  While, to get the images that I am trying to accomplish, will not always happen the first time I try.  I need to bring my camera everywhere so that I can be taking photos constantly and implementing the tips multiple times and eventually the image I am trying to achieve will come.  I need to take impromptu photos, as well as, plan 2-3 photoshoots each week to work on my skills.  Just because I know the theory doesn’t mean I will be able to implement it into reality instantly.

  • Equipment matters

I am reading advice from many different portrait photographers.  Different photographers have different tactics and use different equipment to get a desired look.  As a beginner photographer, I do not have access to a bunch of different lenses or strobes or backgrounds.  So, as I learn what one photographer did to create an image, I need to translate that to how I might create a similar image using the equipment that I do have.  This also takes time, but it also means that I might not recreate the image perfectly because of the different equipment.

  • Toddlers aren’t always the best models

Sadly, my toddlers might not be the best models.  When I was trying my hardest at taking low-light photos and capturing the light in the church, my images kept coming up blurry.  I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong until I realized, it might just be because my little one isn’t staying still.  Since I want to photograph toddlers, they are the best at realizing what challenges I will come across with on the job.  I will continue to take pictures of them, but I should also explore other avenues (read: find other subjects to take pictures of) in order to try out the skill set that I am looking to implement.

  • Becoming a great photographer takes time

I knew I wouldn’t become a professional grade photographer overnight, but I think I secretly hoped I would.  Wouldn’t that be cool?  If I just had the touch and I could get these amazing images, right off the bat, without even trying too hard?  But that’s not how it works for anyone, so I will press on and accept that I have a long road ahead of me to learn all that I can.  But along that journey comes fun and laughter and memories captured on film and on this blog.

Good news?  I have two photography challenges typed up, so hopefully I can post one next Friday with some good images along with it.  So stay tuned!  In the meantime, check out some of my failed attempts below:

My attempt at low light portrait -- it kept coming out blurry from my daughter's movements

The only image that didn't come out blurry in my low-light scenario... but I can't say I captured my daughter's best side

Words cannot express how much Little Shark's expression makes me laugh in this photo--a natural model

This one seems like a good photo, until you take into account that I was trying for bokeh--that blurry, dreamy background effect

So many lessons learned, at least her joy is still conveyed!

Hope you got a laugh out of some of those!  Have a great week and keep shooting!

Photoshop Challenge: Intro to Layers

Welcome to Photography Challenge, Week Two!  I am super excited for these even weeks because we will be focusing on Photoshop and Lightroom Editing.  I have set up my photography challenges like this for two reasons (1) in order to create artistic and breathtaking portraits, one must be skilled in editing software and (2) you can use the photos you took from the week previous for these challenges.  I DO encourage everyone to TRY and take new pictures each week because the only way to get better is by continuously taking picture, but life happens, and if you can’t get out to shoot this week, you can still participate in the challenge.

This week our photography challenge is a basic intro to Photoshop Layers.  If you have never ever worked with Photoshop before (I haven’t), I will NOT be going through all the ins and outs because I couldn’t think of interested enough challenges that focused around setting up your panels, zooming in and out, cropping pictures, and all those simple tasks that are extremely frustrating if you can’t figure out how to do it in Photoshop.  I DO recommend Scott Kelby’s How Do I Do That In Photoshop?  It’s straight forward and walks you through EVERYTHING.  The best part is it’s meant to be read on a as needed basis; when you have a question, flip to that page, find the answer, and keep on editing.  This is not only the best way to learn but also means you don’t have to read 200 pages before opening up the software on your computer (in fact, don’t do that).  I rented the book from my public library, but if library doesn’t own it, or there’s a six year waitlist on the book, you can purchase it below through my affiliate link.

You can also purchase Photoshop (and Lightroom, which we will be doing challenges for later on) through my affiliate link below.

Now let’s get started.

Photography Challenge: Basic Intro to Photoshop Layers

  • Add text to an image
  • Put image inside of text
  • Blend photos together
  • Create a collage

Here are my tips for accomplishing this challenge:

Adding Text to An Image

Now that you know how to do this, lets get our MEME-ing on!

  1. You’ll need to create an additional layer.  Go to the layers tab, select New, select New Layer.  Easy enough.  Layers stack up, so what’s on top, will cover up everything beneath it, so order matters when working with layers.  Hint 5 shows all my current layers
  2. You’ll need to use the Text tool for your layer. Hit the “T” and then click and drag where you want your text.  If you just click and then start typing, your text will appear in a straight line and run off the image.  Anything not on the image will not show up.  By clicking and dragging, you create a text box that wraps.
  3. Once you create your text box, you can change the size and cover area as needed. Just select it, and then you can adjust the boundaries and move it around your image.
  4. Up here are all the ways you can customize your text, via font, size, color, etc. Hint: when I made my first text box, I kept thinking it wasn’t working because I didn’t see it showing up.  Then I realized my text was REALLY, REALLY small but there.
  5. For this image, I have three layers: the image, black font wording, and pink font wording. To hide a layer, hit the eye button and it will hide the layer.  This is helpful when you want to see what a single layer has on it.

Why would you need this:  It’s great for creating inspirational quotes to plaster around the internet, such as mine.  You can also add Save The Date information to an engagement photo, baby milestones to a infant picture, or wall art with text.

Put Image Inside of Text

This is my favorite place to visit in the winter--warm and filled with flowers

  1. Start with a new project (File > New) and then you can pick your background color at this stage. I kept starting with a picture (which made the picture the background layer) and it really complicated things for my basic skill level.  So for newbies, just start with a new project.
  2. You’ll be using the Text tool again. This time, I was much more particular on how I wanted my text to look so I used the additional tool box.  See hint #2 and #3
  3. In the Options Bar for the Text tool, you can click on “Toggle the Character and Paragraph Panels” which will bring up hint #3
  4. In the Character Panel, I spent most of my time for all additional text for this image and future ones. I like being able alter my font size and the front line spacing.  Using the height and width percentages proved very valuable when trying to get my font to fit a specific area.
  5. To get the image inside your text, highlight your image layer and then click Ctrl-Alt-G (for PC users) or Command-Option-G (for apple). You’ll need the image layer above the text layer, remember that order matters!
  6. Some other helpful tips:
    1. You can still move the picture around using the Move tool or change the font size. I found it easier to do one or the other by hiding the other layers (using the eye tool next to the layer).
    2. I used the handy tips found in “Creating a Collage” for this challenge too. If you are struggling, see if tip #1 and #3 help you out.

Why you would need this:  it’s great for skylines & city names or creating cool graphic design logos.

Creating a Collage

Now you can create your own lay outs for albums--no Shutterfly needed!

  1. To get multiple images into the project you want, open the images you want. Then, using the move tool, drag and drop the image over to the new project.  You will see the background light up showing that you are wanting to place the image there.
  2. Lining images up is pretty easy. Using the move tool, guides will appear when lining images on different layers up.  Also, to make sure my images were the same size, I moved on over the other and sized it until it covered the other completely, then moved it away again.
  3. Some other helpful tips:
    1. The two images might not be the same size and therefore not appear how you want it to. To see the full size of the image, press Ctrl-0.  This will show you the whole image and you can resize it to fit the project.  Press Ctrl-0 again to have the project fill up the screen.
    2. To resize an image on a layer, make sure you have the layer selected and then press Ctrl-T. If you want to keep the proportion size, hold shift while dragging the borders in or out.  Once you are done resizing, hit enter.
    3. The bottom right picture shows my daughter and she's with a different flower than the one shown.  This is because I took pictures with no focus in mind.  I would recommend, since you know the four images you are being challenged to create, think about what you want your end product to be first before going out for the shoots.  You can always improvise and get different images too, but this will help create a better flow to your images.

Why would you need this:  If you ever wanted to create an original album, this is how you would create your lay outs.

Blending Images Together

Six easy steps to blended photos

  1. Set up your layers using the images you want. Make sure the images overlap somewhere, or else you won’t be able to blend them!
  2. Click on your top layer and click “Add Layer Mask” tool on the bottom of your layers panel. This won’t change anything yet, but you will see an additional box pop up next to your layer.
  3. Click on the Gradient tool.
  4. In the Options, click on Foreground to Transparent.
  5. Next to that, click on Linear Gradient.
  6. Now click and drag how you want your image to blend. In this image, I started on the right and moved to the left to blend the images together.  If you don’t like what you blended, just Ctrl-Z to undo and try again.

My blended image

Bringing it all together:

Doesn't this look almost good enough for some travel brochure?

This is what putting all the elements together would look like.  Honestly, this image looks a bit too busy for my taste but I wanted to see how all four of the elements would look together.  This is it and now you know how to do it!  Let me know what you thought about this Photoshop Challenge.  Email me the image you create and I’d love to post them in a future blog post!

Photography Challenge: Still-life Flowers

Welcome to my first photography challenge: Still-life Flowers.  A still-life challenge may seem a bit out of place for an aspiring family portrait photographer, but I meant it when I said I have never used a DSLR camera before.  We have to crawl before we can run and still-life is a great place to start because… well, it is still, unlike toddlers.  You have the time to figure out the different settings on your camera without fear of missing the shot.

For this photography challenge, I read and implemented the tips found in Scott Kelby’s The Digital Photography Book, Part 1, Chapter 2: Shooting Flowers Like A Pro.  While it was outside my scope of interest, if you are excited by this type of macro-photography, I would also suggest reading his Chapter 7: Shooting Macro Like a Pro, in Digital Photography Book, Part 2.  While I borrowed both these books from my library, if your library doesn’t carry these books or there’s a two year wait period them, you can buy either one on Amazon using my affiliate link below.

For the photography challenge, capture flowers using these four effects:

  • Picture of rain drops upon a flower or leaf
  • Photo of flowers with a black backdrop
  • Photo of flowers with a white backdrop
  • Close up on a flower, showing only one part

This past week, I engaged in this same challenge and captured these photographs.  Some tips on how I created these images.

Finding flowers at the beginning of spring:

It’s Detroit, and while there is the promise of spring, perennial leaves are just starting to jump out of the ground, but there are no flowers to be found yet.  If this describes your location, you can find flowers indoors at a botanical garden, zoo (butterfly or reptile exhibit), malls, or find a local church usually has fresh flowers on the altar.  If all else fails, the easiest way is to buy some flowers from a local florist and set them up in your own home.

Owl Butterfly at the Detroit Zoo

Use a tripod!

It will help your photos be sharper because you will not have the movement of your hand creating noise in the photo.  Since we are working with still-life, there’s really no reason not to use a tripod, unless the location doesn’t allow it.

Zoom Lens vs. Macro Lens:

Since I plan to specialize in family portraits, I have no desire to spend the money on a Macro Lens.  That said, you can still take decent flower photography using a zoom lens instead.  I captured these images using my Canon 55-110 mm f/3.5 lens.  To get the shot, I set my camera in aperture priority mode (the A/Av setting), then I used the smallest aperture number my camera allowed.  I isolated one flower or found a group of flowers and then focused on just one.  This created this effect:

Taken with a zoom lens

Experiment, experiment, experiment

Now that you got a couple of good pictures in aperture priority mode, take some time to experiment and get to know your camera.  Take the same shot and change only the aperture or the shutter speed or the ISO and see how it affects the photo.

The best of 15 photos taken in manual mode

Creating the effects:

If it rains this week, try heading out after the storm to capture some drops on the leaves.  The clouds might still be out providing good diffused lighting.  But if it’s clear skies all week, fake it.  Grab a spray bottle—I used an old Windex bottle, washed thoroughly—and sprayed the plant a couple of times before shooting.

For your black and white background shots, I did these using the flowers I purchased from the florist.  That way I could set up my fabric and direct light as needed.  Make sure your flowers are a few feet in front of the fabric and for your white background, you use a reflector directing light to the background or else it will appear grey.  If you want to capture this effect on location, Kelby recommends wearing a black coat that you that you can impromptu have held up behind the flower.

Creating unusual viewpoints will bring more interest to your flower photography.  Taking a nature hike with my daughter, I always see the flowers along the path by looking down at them at a 45* angle.  For an image that you don’t see every day, shoot from the same height as the flower, or from below, or zoomed in so close you can only see part of the flower.  This will bring interest to your photos.

Let me see your photography challenge images!

That’s it!  Go out, challenge yourself, and post your photography challenge below.  I would LOVE to see what you create!

Crazy Idea: Self Taught Photographer starts own Business

Ever have a crazy idea? One that is a small seed at first that you can’t get out of your head, then it grows and grows until you’re really considering going for this crazy idea? One of those crazy ideas? My crazy idea is to start a photography business. Why’s that so crazy? Well, I have never signed up for the Intro to Photography course. In fact, when I got this crazy idea, not only had I never owned a DSLR camera, I had never even held one before. I knew nothing about cameras, photography, or owning my own business. So where did this crazy idea come from? Simply put, my family photographer retired.

Our family photography wall in our dining room

I love photos. I love printed photos, always have. I have scrapbooks for each year starting in High School. I interviewed photographers for my senior pictures to the same degree that some brides interview their wedding photographers. When I got married, finding the perfect photographer was a necessity and I found her. She was perfect. She was genuinely caring, excellent in her craft, created artsy lifestyle photography, could create amazing albums, and was affordable. She was my unicorn. She did our engagement session, our wedding, our maternity and newborn session. I have a photo wall in my dining room. A year ago, 32 of the 35 pictures framed and displayed were hers creations. When time came for Miss Monster’s first year photos (and a second maternity session), I discovered she had retired. I started the search for a new unicorn. While I found many photographers who were skilled, I found no one who was affordable. Most were hundreds more than I had ever spent on my photography sessions. There must be other families, like myself, who would like to get professional photos done but do not want to spend hundreds to do so. The seed was planted.

Come learn photography with me!

Ever want to sign up for an Intro to Photography Course? What stopped you? At first, I didn’t have the time, then I didn’t have the money, now I don’t have the time or the money! Becoming a skilled photographer requires hundreds of hours of practice, more time than just a single Introduction to Photography Course can provide.  How many courses would you need to take to feel like you are moving the needle? I don’t know how many, but I do know, I still don’t have the time or money for any of them. But I am excellent at researching. I am excellent at finding blogs and books and podcasts and experiences that will teach me for free. Interested in also learning for free at our own self pace? Join me! Let me do the grunt work in finding the lessons, I will post photography tips and challenges, so that we can grow in the craft together. Make sure you subscribe so you don’t miss a thing!

Don’t have the money to buy the equipment to get started? Neither did I! Find out here how I got the money to buy my camera, equipment, software, and build my studio.