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Archive for January, 2008

Soft proofing your images – colour calibration and printer profiles

January 23rd, 2008 No Comments

Almost all photographers (amateurs and professionals alike) have experienced the problem of incorrect colour calibration. It is often frustrating to receive carefully crafted images back from the printing laboratory and find that the final colour tones are dramatically different from what you had planned. Many people often experience dramatically different results if they work with multiple laboratories (i.e. a photographic laboratory and a canvas printing laboratory)

In a previous article we discussed some of the software and hardware tools that can be used to ensure proper monitor calibration. However, this is only one part of the colour chain that includes both your monitor, the monitor of the printing lab, and the colour output from their printers.

For instance – each of the steps below require proper calibration.

Input Device Calibration (scanner) – Monitor Calibration – Printer Calibration

In this article we are going to look at how to match our personal monitor calibration to the colour profile of a printing device to ensure truly accurate colour!

Printer Profiles

High-end photographic laboratories will often be able to give you access to printer profiles that match their specific printing equipment. When these profiles are installed on a properly calibrated monitor you should be able to get a true sense of the way colours are printed on specific photographic media. ‘Soft-proofing’ your images can give you a little more confidence in the final results.

The following is a step-by-step guide to installing (and using) a colour profile in Adobe Photoshop. Additional information will be provided for other versions of Photoshop and references will be provided for other image editing programs. All instructions are for PC.

Step 1 –  Install the profile

The colour profile file will generally have an extension ending in .icc.

To install it you can either:

1) Right click on the file in Windows Explorer and click install profile. This is particularly useful if you want the profile to be available to a range of programs on your desktop. The profile will be automatically copied to a common Windows directory.

2) For users of Adobe Photoshop –  copy the file into the following sub-directory: C:Program FilesCommon FilesAdobeColorProfiles

Step 2 – View the colour profile within Photoshop

To soft-proof your image (to view it within the particular colour space of the printer profile) you need to go to:

View – Proof Setup – Custom

You will be taken to a sub-menu screen where you can choose the particular profile  you want to soft-proof. Simply choose the name of the profile and click ok – and you will now be viewing your image in the appropriate colour space.

Adobe CS3:

Adobe CS3 adopted slightly different terminology for its menu system. The procedure is identical as can be seen below:


Calibration in Corel is beyond the scope of this article – however a great start is this article from their website.


If you use the open-source editing program GIMP – you can download a copy of a plugin that will allow you to use colour profiles within the system.

Getting a copy of our printing profile:

If you would like a copy of our printing profile for our canvas prints please contact us.

A final warning

Please note that there is little value in obtaining a copy of a printer profile unless your monitor is appropriately calibrated. Check out our monitor calibration article for more information.

Quick Tips – Part 1 – Remove cluttered backgrounds

January 22nd, 2008 No Comments

In the heat of the photographic moment, it can be very easy to focus only on the subject of the shot and ignore what’s happening in the background. It’s only when we download the images onto our computer, or get them developed, that we realise that we also managed to capture a whole array of distracting clutter.

In the first of our quick tips – we’ll be showing you how to achieve some retrospective simplicity with the aid of some not-so-difficult Adobe Photoshop tips. The basic principles would apply to all photo editing programs.

Step 1: Crop the background

Cropping out as much of the background as possible is a simple easy, short-cut. Just make sure that you don’t detract from some of the basic rules of composition and symmetry.

For our test picture we are going to use an image from a press conference announcing the "Crowded House" Reunion. We are going to attempt to edit the photo to focus it far more tightly on the gentlemen in the Hawaiin shirt.

 As usual, we used our marquee to make the initial selection – and then selected Edit – Crop.

Step 2: Select your subject

To blur our background – we want to use the lasoo tool from our toolbox to very roughly select around our subject. Make sure that you leave a little bit of space around his body (as per the image below)

We want to eliminate some of the extraneous space by feathering our edge. In Photoshop goto Select – Feather. The value will differ depending on the final size of our image. You want to choose a number of pixels that brings the marquee selection closer into your subject without crossing over any of their edges.

Invert your selection by going – Select – Invert.

Step 2: Blur the background

To blur our background we are going to use the Gaussian blur tool. Goto – Filter – Blur – Gaussian Blur. Choose a value that blurs the background without totally eliminating our perception of the subjects. If you have the preview button ticked you can keep trying until you get something that works perfectly. For our test image we only needed to use a very small value.

If you were a little bit messy, you may need to touch up the blurred background manually.

Use the blur tool from your tool-box, choose a small brush size and touch up any edges around the body of the subject that were not blurred by your initial pass. If you treat it like a standard paint-brush, the task should not be too difficult.

 Step 4: Saturate/Desaturate

In the final stage we want to desaturate the background slightly to further increase the emphasis on the main subject. Select your sponge tool and set it to desaturate 15%, then brush over the majority of the background.

 After desaturating the background, change the sponge tool to saturate and set it at a smaller value (7-8%) Paint over the subject to slightly bring out the colour.

The final effect should be subtle – but should help the subject of your image – just pop a little out of the background.

You can see our attempt below and compare it to the original image. There are other methods that may produce more effective results – but the advantage of this method is that it’s fast, effective and easy!


Picnik Photo Editing – Part 4 – Using the edit tools

January 18th, 2008 2 Comments

The edit screen of the Picnik photo editing system gives you access to some of the standard features available in most editing programs (like black and white) However, options such as the ‘effects’ brush allow you to apply them in subtle and sometimes surprising ways.

The Edit Screen

An expanded version of the edit screen can be seen below:

Not all the features available in the edit screen are accessible to free members (many of them are premium customers only). However the following features can be accessed by everyone:

  1. Snow: Applies white snow-like particles across the image. The size and intensity of the particles can be adjusted with the fade button
  2. Black and White: Convert an image (or image part) into black and white
  3. Sepia: Applies sepia tones across the image
  4. Boost: Increases the saturation of colours in the image
  5. Soften: Softens the edges of the image
  6. Vignette: Feathers the borders (making them fade from solid to misty) and applies a back background
  7. Matte:  Feathers the borders without changing the border

Using the edit tools

If you click on an option on the left hand side of the edit screen you’ll see a screen similar to the picture below:

If we look at the labels:

1. Fades the effect. A value of 100% means that no change will apply to your image. A value of 0 % means that the effect will be applied at maximum

2. Clicking on the brush tool opens a second menu screen (as per below)

The brush tool allows you to remove the effect from a certain portion of the image. For instance – you can make a single colour item while the rest stays black and white.

Looking at the labelled section of the picture above:

1. Changes the effect of our brush. If we select original – the effect will be applied to the image when we use our brush (i.e. the painted section will become black and white.) If we select effect, our paint brush will remove the effect.

2. Alters the size of the brush. For painting large areas of an image use a larger brush, for fine work drop this right down.

3. Reverses the effect of the brush. For instance – with the black and white tool – it turns the black and white area back into colour.

Putting it into effect

Our test image can be seen below. We wanted to turn everything but the flower into black and white:

1. We clicked on the b/w palette – clicked on the brush icon and selected a large brush. We checked that we had selected ‘original’  in the brush palette. We roughly went over the flower (returning colour to the petals and leaves)

2. We then selected a much smaller brush and changed our selection from ‘original’ to ‘effect’. By painting around the edges of the fingers – we were now turning the coloured portions back into black and white.

As you can see, two minutes work with the black and white tool helped us create a stunning mixed colour shot!

Tomorrow: Our final Picnik masterclass

Make sure you check out the other parts of our Picnik tutorial series:


  • An introduction to Picnik
  • Absolute Beginners Guide to Picnik
  • Preparing your picture with Picnik
  • Picnik Advanced: Using the Exposure tools for tonal control




  • Picnik Photo Editing – Part 3 – Levels, Histograms and much more!

    January 17th, 2008 3 Comments

    While the Picnik photo editing software contains an array of easy-to-use tools for the casual photo editor, it also gives you access to a small selection of more powerful options. In Part 3 of this tutorial we will examine the levels tool in greater depth, providing some pictorial ‘before and after shots’ as illustration.

    Exposure Tools

    High-powered software like Adobe Photoshop have long given photographers the ability to finely tune the exposure of problematic photos. Picnik gives users the ability to replicate this function (albeit not completely) through the Exposure tool.

    From the main editing screen you simply click on:

    1) Edit

    2) Exposure

    3) Advanced

    and you will see the following screen:

    The Histogram in the picture shows the tonal range of your image. The left hand side graph represents the proportion of pixels in your image that are absolute black, while the right-hand side shows the proportion of pixels that are absolute white. Unless you are aiming for a particular artistic effect, the graph should be concentrated in the middle. 

     In looking at the above graph we can see that it shows that our source image will be very dark (as can be seen below in the picture)

    The advanced exposure menu gives us three ways of correcting this image.

    The Brightness button allows us to lower or decrease the overall brightness of the image. You can see how this effects our test image:

    When we darken the image by pushing the brightness button to the left hand side you can see that the tonal range of our image is concentrated around a narrow spectrum of absolute black – creating a very murky effect.

    In contrast, when we push the image towards the absolute white end – we end up with a picture lacking contrast and tonal depth.

    The brightness tool can be effective with an image that is only slightly – out of balance – however we would recommend taking a look at the highlight and shadows tool for more nuanced editing.

    The Highlights slider menu allows you to individually manipulate the white point of the image. You can see from the below image that it has increased the intensity of the existing white points (the faces) without really touching the surrounding shadows.



    The Shadows slider does the opposite – increasing the intensity of the black points while minimising the impact on the white points.

    You should also be able to see how changing each of the sliders impacts on the histogram for each image.

    Pulling it all together

    The easiest way to learn how to use the exposure tools is to practice! Try playing around with each slider, also looking at the affect in combination. It’s very hard to make a mistake (as you can always reset your values and start again)

    Our final copy of the our test image can be seen below:

    Tomorrow: Retouching faces and teeth using Picnik.

    Take a look at the other parts of the Picnik series:

    Picnick Photo Editing Tutorial – Part 2 – Preparing your picture

    January 16th, 2008 4 Comments

    The tools available under the ‘Edit’ button in online photo editing program Picnik are deceptively simple. However, in today’s tutorial we are going to show you the options available to help you make a fantastic image to use for more advanced editing. We will taking a detour through some basic photographic theory as well.

    The Menu Bar

    We will take a look at each option separately


    Auto-fix is the sledge-hammer approach to photo-editing. It means that the picnik software will attempt to determine the ideal lighting/contrast levels. Depending on  your image it can work surprisingly well. Other times it can be a little hit and miss.


    For anyone prone uneven horizons in your photos – this toolis the perfect antidote.

    If we take a look at each of the numbered options – we can see that we can:

    1. Rotate the image left or right

    2. Straighten the image. Simply click on the central straighten ruler – and a grid will appear to assist you lining up the lines of your image. Try it out to begin with and you will soon get the hang of the process.

    3. The third button allows you to flip your image horizontally or vertically.

    At any point you can press reset to reverse any changes you’ve made. Pressing ok will save the changes and take you back to the main editing menu.


    Cropping your image is an important part of creating an effective photographic composition. We looked at some of the theory in the article from our learning centre on composition and symmetry.

    To summarise:

    (1) The use of space can determine the mood of the photograph. If you choose not to crop a photo and the main subject is only a small part of the overall frame it will communicate to a particular kind of mood. Cropping out the background to focus on the subject conveys an entirely different message.

    (2) When cropping your picture – you should always leave enough space to allow the eye to naturally follow the movement within the frame. Check out the article from our learning centre for more information.

    The options available in Picnik are as outlined in the following picture:

    To crop your image simply move the 4 sides of the crop window until you end up with a selection that is aesthetically pleasing. When you are ready press ok and it will save your changes. 

    The option labelled ‘1’ in the picture allows you to preselect a particular size or ratio. It’s particularly useful if you are trying to get your file into a particular format.  


    In the resize window you can alter the size your picture using both pixel dimensions or a percentage proportional increase.


    The exposure window gives you three options:

    1) Auto-fix: it will attempt to determine the best ratio between exposure and constrast

    2) Exposure: Increasing this value will increase the overall brightness in your image

    3) Contrast: The contrast determines the degree of difference betweeen absolute black and absolute white in the print.

    We will take a look at the advanced options in our next tutorial.


    The colour window gives you three options:

    Saturation: The saturation tool determines the intensity of colours in the photo. Use it wisely as too large a value can make images seem unrealistic

    Warmth: The warmth allows you slide from an overall cool (blue) tone to an overall warm (reddish) tone in your images.

    The neutral picker attempts to determine the colour balance automatically. Once you’ve clicked on the button try to find a point of gray or white on the image. It’s worth noting that the results of this can be very uneven – therefore you might prefer to do it manually.


    The sharpen button allows you to increase the edge constrast in your image – this can help blurry image seem more effective but should not be pushed too far.

    The premium version of picnik allows you to exercise finer control over your images.

    Red Eye Fix

    The red eye feature in Picnik is simple, intuitive and surprisingly effectively. Simply click on the centre of each eye in the photo and all your problems shuold be solved!

    You can see the results of a simple trial below:



    Picnik has a fantastic undo feature that allows you to reverse almost any action you take. Simply look for the undo button on the right hand side of the screen.

    Tomorrow: We take a look at some of the advanced features of picnik and try editing our first image.

    Take a look at the other parts of the series:

    Picnik Photo-editing Tutorial – Part 1 – Beginner’s Guide

    January 15th, 2008 5 Comments

    For those confident with web-based software you can skip ahead by signing up here.

    Otherwise – the following information will help even an absolute beginner sign up to and start using Picnik.




    You will need to have Adobe Flash 9 installed on your system for the service to work. If you don’t have it – it will prompt you to download.




    1. Go to this page.
    2. Click register
    3. You only need to provide a user-name, email address and password (see picture below). Untick the box at the bottom of the screen if you don’t want to receive email updates.


    1. That’s it. You don’t even need to activate your account. You will be taken straight to your personal homepage and can start editing images straight away.

    Uploading your first image


    To get started on editing your first image:


    1. Click on the upload now button (see picture below)

    Picnik Welcome Screen


    1. A window will open showing files on your hard-drive. Choose the required file and click upload. Once the file is uploaded your are ready to go!
    The Picnik menu system


    The attached picture shows the range of different options available for your photograph:





    The options available are as follows:


    Home: Takes you back to the initial start screen

    Photos: Allows you to upload new photos or grab them from other web services

    Edit: Offers a range of basic tools such as cropping, exposure, colours and red-eye reduction

    Create: Offers a range of very cool filters allowing you to modify your image (b/w, sepia etc)

    Save and Share: Allows you to save your image back on your hard drive, and share it through a range of other web applications.


    Tomorrow: Editing  your first image


    Take a look at the other parts of the Picnik series:


  • Absolute Beginners Guide to Picnik
  • Preparing your picture with Picnik
  • Picnik Advanced: Using the Exposure tools for tonal control
  • Using the Picnik brush tools for editing
  • Create your own valentines image with Picnik


    Free software to give your digital photographs the *wow* factor

    January 15th, 2008 6 Comments

    2007 was the year of the web application – with popular desktop software such as calendars, word-processing and project management software moving online. It also saw the debut of a range of free feature-rich, intuitive photo editing programs that can be accessed entirely online.

     In the next few weeks we’ll showcase four programs, covering software suitable for both amateur photographers and professionals alike.


    This week we will focus on a new program called Picnik.



    What do other people say?

    • PCWorld says it’s: “Outstanding online photo editing for casual photographers who live online”
    • Tech Journalist Walt Mossberg (Wall Street Journal) is a strong advocate. He says “If you want to see how good a Web application can be, take Picnik for a spin”
    The Good Points

    • Recently, Yahoo updated popular photo storage service flickr to include one click access to picnik editing tools. Integrating the two has helped make a great set of programs even better. Picnik is working on integrations with other web programs such as Picasa and Facebook.
    • Picnik is accessible from anywhere you have internet access. It helps eliminate the frustrations of being on the wrong computer and wanting to edit your photos.
    The Bad Points

    • The picnik editing tools are fantastic, but they don’t give you the same control as dedicated desktop programs. If you want to move beyond basic colour correction and adjustment – this program will not be for you.
    • Picnik offers a smooth experience if you use it from a broadband connection. However, if you try to access it from a dial-up internet connection you’ll discover just how frustrating it can be!
    Coming Soon


    We have a brand new 64″ Epson 11800 canvas printer

    January 9th, 2008 No Comments

    Brilliant Prints recently welcomed the Epson 11800 as the newest addition to our rapidly growing family of canvas printers.

    Epson 11800 canvas printer

    The online magazine ‘Lets go Digital’ calls it “the most advanced digital large format printer on the market”.

    Our new printer will allow us to offer an ever expanding range of options to our retail and professional clients.

    What does it mean for our retail clients? 

    • We can now offer you an even larger selection of sizes when choosing your canvas print.
    • Our new printer will help make sure we continue offering canvas prints with great colour, clarity and durability.

    What does it mean for professional photographers?

    • We can now produce canvas prints with dimensions of up to 1.6 metres x 12 metres
    • The new high density pigment inks allow an extremely wide color gamut.
    • The new screening technology and sophisticated print heads allow for even more accurate dot placement and superior colour clarity.
    • The Epson 11800 produces sepia toned prints with smooth tones and great colour reproduction.
    • The new inksets improve the colour accuracy of neutral and dark colours, offer smooth tonal ranges from dark to light (eliminating metamerism) and provide excellent short-term colour stability.

    If you would like to discuss options for extra-large format canvas printing please contact us.

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