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5 minutes digital makeover (continued 2)

October 26th, 2010 No Comments

Part 3 – Adding the final touches

Already you should be noticing a lot of difference between your original image and your new one, and you may feel it is ready for printing but there are still a couple of final touches we can add to really bring the life out in them. First of all we can adjust the colour balance of the picture, and we can also adjust the brightness and the contrast. First, we will cover the colour balance tool

Colour Balance

These days, your camera is pretty smart, or at least it thinks it is. It tries to pick the best range of colours for you, as does your computer. However, sometimes what the camera and computer think is the best set of colours isn’t quite what you had in mind. Once more, you can let Photoshop do what it thinks is best for your photo, by going to the Image -> Adjustments menu and selecting Auto Color. You can also try fading the effect (Edit -> Fade) to see if it looks better. However, if you want more choice, or want to create a certain effect, then you need to do things manually.

To do this, go once more to the Image -> Adjustments menu, but this time select Color Balance. This menu has three sliders: Cyan/Red, Magenta/Green, and Yellow/Blue. Once more, working in small increments is a good idea. By default, the preview checkbox is ticked, which means your adjustments will show up on your image in real time (or close to it). If you want a quick check of what you’ve done, then deselect this box to turn of the preview and have a look at your original image. Try toning down the green on photos of trees and plants, or moving towards red to adjust flesh tones. You might also need to fix bad lighting from fluorescent or incandescent lighting. Another thing to try is combinations of adjustments, often you may need to fiddle with more than one of the sliders. Once more, remember that undo is your friend.

Brightness and Contrast

Lastly we will adjust the Brightness and Contrast, these should really be the last adjustments needed for your basic digital makeover. The brightness basically refers to the lightness of your photo, and the contrast is the difference between light and dark. When you are adjusting both of these values, you should be careful. In this case, less is definitely more. When you are fiddling with the brightness and contrast, try moving the slider or entering values 1 or 2 points at a time. You shouldn’t need to go to more than -10 or +10 on either value. To adjust the brightness or contrast, go to the Image -> Adjustments menu, and selectBrightness/Contrast.

Adjusting the brightness is a useful technique for fixing washed-out photos. Most of the time this is a problem when you’ve been using the flash, although it can also happen when you’re taking photos out in the bright sun. Try moving the brightness slider to the left, only 1 or 2 units at a time. You should be able to get your photo looking good without going past -10 for the brightness. You can also try adjusting the contrast up or down, but pay attention to what happens to your shadows when you do.

If you don’t want to do this by hand, then you can try Photoshop’s Auto Contrast, from the Image -> Adjustments menu. Remember, if you like the results of the auto adjustment but want a bit less, try Edit -> Fade, and fiddle with the opacity value.

After just a small bit of adjustment you should be able to see the amount of difference it has made to your images. The focal points of the picture should be more clear, and the colours should now be looking their best which is the most important thing when sending them to get printed on canvas. You are now ready to save them in a “lossy” format, such as JPEG, or GIF and send them on their way to us

5 minute digital makeover (continued)

October 25th, 2010 No Comments

Part 2 – correcting some basic problems with your images

In our last article we showed you how to set up your images to get them ready for editing. We are now going to cover some techniques to get the best out of your pictures.

Sometimes when we take a photo, we have the camera at a bit of an angle, or we might have it on its side to get a more vertical shot. If we had to keep twisting our head to look at it straight then we’d end up in hospital, so the next step is to straighten up our photo. The way to do this is to go to the Image menu and select Rotate Canvas. From here you have a number of choices. If you’re simply trying to put a vertical photo the right way up, choose one of the 90° options. If you’ve only got a bit of a tilt, then you will have to choose the Arbitrary option. In this menu you can choose any number of degrees, the best idea is to start of small and undo after each attempt until you get it right.

Once you’ve fixed the orientation of your photo, you can try the other tools in any order. The tools you use will depend on the quality of the photo you are working on. Most people will also quickly find a preferred way of working through the steps.

Cropping:

You’ve just taken a great photo of your kid riding down the street. Absolutely beautiful shot. When you get it off your camera and look at it on your computer, you see your neighbour in the side of the shot, wearing nothing but a pair of dirty old shorts. This may seem like a disaster, but there is a simple solution. Cropping is the act of selecting which parts of an image you want to keep, and getting rid of the rest. To crop an image, simply select the part that you want to keep, then go to Image -> Crop. If you don’t like the look of the new image, then just undo it. You might want to crop an image for a number of reasons. Firstly, you may have accidentally got something in shot that you didn’t want, such as your neighbour, or just too much background. You might also want to crop an image to add interest, or to focus on a particular bit of the scene. There are a few rules for composition of images that work well, and if you haven’t quite got it right in the original photo, then you can fix it by careful cropping.

  • Off-centre is interesting: It is better for the focus of the photo to be a bit off-centre that right in the middle of the shot. Generally, you want the focus to be a bit off to one corner.
  • Moving targets need somewhere to go: If you’ve taken an action shot, whether it be a dog running along the beach or your kid riding her bike, there should be more room in front of the moving object than behind. Just remember to leave them somewhere to go.
  • Horizons: The horizon shouldn’t be in the middle of the frame, try to get it about one third of the way from the top or bottom.

Your image should be looking much neater and more focused after just these simple steps. In our final article we will show you how to add the final touches to your images to really make them look their best.

5 minute digital makeover – don’t let your photos out without it!

October 24th, 2010 No Comments

Part 1 – Getting started

Digital cameras are a marvelous invention, and something that is increasingly common. However, using them to take great photographs is a much more challenging proposition (see this article). If you are going to spend money on getting them printed on canvas you want to make sure that your pictures are perfect – including things like great colour and a strong central focus. In this three-part series of articles we are going to show you how to use Adobe Photoshop to give your photos a “digital make-over” that should take no more than 5 minutes. These tools are quick and simple, but they can have a great impact on your photos. By the end of this series, you should have a number of tools in your belt that will allow you to confidently get your photos printed on canvas.

The hints in these articles are intended for a beginner Photoshop user – but also apply to most of the other major photo-editing programs

Important tip:

Photoshop has multiple levels of undo. Undo is your friend, having multiple levels means that if you do a number of things to your photo and don’t like them, you can go back to the point at which you are happy with your work. To do this in Photoshop you need to select Edit -> Step Backward. If you try something and it just looks like it’s gone a bit far, then you can also choose toFade the last action. This just reduced the intensity of the last change you made, so you can fine tune your image. Again, you can select Edit -> Fade.

Many of the tools discussed in this article have automatic options, which will often do as good a job or better than you can manually, at least until you get more experience. However, sometimes it can go horribly wrong, and there are times when you may want to have more control. In these cases, you can adjust things manually.

Getting started:

The first step when you’re working on any file is to save a separate copy. Most cameras save their photos in the JPEG format, which is what’s known as a ‘lossy’ format. It reduces the file size of the images, but at the cost of quality (see this article). When you’re making changes to your photos, it’s best to save them in a ‘lossless’ format, that way you can keep the quality good throughout the process. To do this in Photoshop, open the photo, then go to File -> Save As. The best format to use while you’re editing is the default Photoshop format (psd), as this allows you to save various layers as well. Once you have saved a copy of your photo, close Photoshop and reopen the PSD file (or whichever format you chose). This is to make sure that you’re working on the copy and not the original.

We are now ready to begin editing your image, in the next part of the series we will learn how to use some of the great tools Photoshop has to get your pictures the best they can be and ready for print.

Making money as an artist: giclee canvas print reproductions

October 13th, 2010 No Comments

If you are an artist you will be familiar with the complex blend of passion and frustration that is central to your craft. All artists seek to express a deeper artistic truth to those who view their work. However, achieving financial return can be far more difficult.

In this article, we will discuss one of the ways that BrilliantPrints can help you achieve a commercial return on your art. We will step you through the way we produce canvas fine-art reproductions. We will outline in detail some great reason for choosing to have your painting, drawing or illustrations reproduced in this fashion.

Won’t it lessen the value of my work?

In talking to our customers, many of them are initially against the idea of creating a giclee canvas print from one of their masterpiece. Somewhat understandably, they feel that the sustained effort they spent painting or drawing would somehow be lessened, or that by producing copies they would diminish the financial value of their work.

The way we usually answer these kinds of questions is by pointing out that producing a quality canvas reproduction is not an easy task. Even experienced printers with access to good quality inks and great quality canvas can sometimes lack the appropriate expertise or the right equipment to undertake this kind of task. At BrilliantPrints it has taken us a number of years to develop the artistic skill and technology to master the reproduction process. However, we are confident that we have reached a point where we can create a canvas print that is almost indistinguishable from the original piece of art. To find out more about what makes us different – check out our quality canvas tour.

Why would I be interested?

If you want a financial return from your art, giclee reproduction is an easy way to sell your work.

As part of our canvas reproduction service, BrilliantPrints can offer you a ‘print-on-demand’ service. After we capture your original image, we can produce prints only when you need them to meet a definite order. This allows you to make the most efficient use of your time, producing and selling your art in a way that directly matches customer demand.

Some of the most amazing art can be incredibly time-consuming for the artist to replicate. One of the best things about this process is that it allows almost perfect copies to be made. This ensures that all your clients are receiving exactly the same high standard of work.

How will they be reproduced?

People often tell us that they’ve always thought that canvas printing was only suitable for digital artwork. However, paintings, collages, drawings or any other type of flat artwork can be successfully copied with this process.

At BrilliantPrints we use different methods to capture the initial image:

We use a dedicated large-format scanning machine for smaller, less delicate pieces of art.

Any work that is delicate, is significantly textured or is of a certain size will be photographed by our in-house photographer. By carefully manipulating the lighting conditions we can make sure that this produces a seamless copy.

What do you do next?

Once we have captured your image, we can print it on one of large-scale printing machines onto textured art canvas. The canvas is then wrapped around our premium, hand-profiled hardwood frames.

For your convenience, we can keep a copy of your image on file – or give you a copy to keep on a CD or through email. This will allow us to produce perfect, high-quality giclee reproductions of your original artwork at any point in the future.

A final word

At BrilliantPrints we’ve had a first-hand opportunity to empathise with the frustrating heartbreak of many of our clients who are artists. Our fine art reproduction services are not a guaranteed path to commercial success, but are one way of flexibly providing high-quality, consistent, on-demand pieces of art to interested clients.

If you are interested in finding out more about this service please contact us.

How to choose the right file format for your photos?

October 13th, 2010 No Comments

When saving your picture it can be hard to know which format to choose. There are so many formats to save in, but which one is best for you? Do you want quality or a small file size? We are going to cover some of the most common file types and the reasons behind choosing them.

It seems a simple decision – but making sure you choose the right combination of file formats will help produce the best quality image for the best quality canvas print.

What are Lossy and Lossless formats?

There are two categories all image file formats fall into – Lossy and Lossless. There are reasons to save in both these formats. To understand the best one for your task you should first understand what each format means.

A Lossy Format is one which loses quality and data by being resized and saved repeatedly. The main Lossy file type is JPEG. Every time you press save with an image in this format – you are reducing the quality of the final image.

Lossless is a format in which the quality is retained when saving at any size. Examples of Lossless file types are PNG, TIFF.

How do I know which one to choose?

Lossless files are much larger in file size than lossless, but this is at the pay off of retaining the original quality of the image, which makes it perfect for archiving and editing. If possible, you should keep it in this format for as long as possible – this will allow you to make many edits of your image without sacrificing quality.

The JPEG (or other lossy formats) can cause problems if you are working extensively with an image. As well as a loss of quality, repetitive saving can also cause small jpeg artefacts or distortions on your image.

However due to the high compression and the low file sizes of lossy formats like JPEG lossy are the best way to send your image to us once you have completed any changes you would like to make.

Common formats

RAW

Raw format is the format your camera processes its images in. Using most modern digital cameras you won’t really encounter this format, it is tends to be automatically converted into a more familiar format like JPEG after the picture is taken. The RAW format contains more data about the image such as white balance, however it cannot be processed by computer until it is converted into a readable format like JPEG.

TIF

TIF is another style of bitmap image and is a lossless format. TIFs are of a much higher quality than formats such as JPEGS. The downside to the higher quality is that the file will be lot larger than its JPEG counterpart. It is best to work from a TIF if you are editing your image.

JPEG

JPEG is the most common format used on the internet to display images. This is due to the fact it compresses the image to a very small file size while retaining a lot of the original quality, at least to the human eye. However, repeated working from a JPEG will degrade the image resulting in blurring or blocky parts in the image. It is best to save to a JPEG format when you are sure about your image so as to maintain the highest quality overall.

Final Thought.

Saving in a Lossy format is great for most purposes such as sending images on the internet, due to their small file size. But when saving files for print it is best to only save as a JPEG once you are sure the image is as you want it, so the quality is maintained and you can do the most justice to your beautiful pictures.

This also makes our job easier when we are getting ready to produce your canvas print.

Composing better photos: Why expensive cameras aren’t enough

October 11th, 2010 No Comments

Regular readers of camera catalogues could be forgiven for thinking that the secret to improving your photography is to buy a bigger or better camera. However, the well-known photographer Ansel Adams often said to students, “You don’t take a good photograph, you make a good photograph.” This remains true even in the era of automated photography and digital cameras.

Capturing that perfect image takes more than the press of a button, and even if it did, that isn’t what true photography is about. There is tremendous satisfaction in capturing an image through foresight and planning, ‘visualisation’, as Ansel Adams called it. When you take a concept for an image and bring it to fruition it is an incredibly rewarding feeling.

Looking at a photograph

Many of us can view a photograph and make an immediate assessment about its artistic qualities. We are able to do this subconsciously, our brain measuring it against a predetermined list of factors. In this article, we are going to try and identify two of those factors and provide some simple hints for using them in your photography.

Composition

Composing a image involves a direct attempt to arrange the different parts of the photograph into a balanced and aesthetically pleasing arrangement. At its most basic level it also includes checking to see that all the important parts of your subject (like arms and legs!) are completely within the photographic frame.

There are many general formulas for composition that have been established (for a good discussion see:http://photoinf.com/General/Geoff_Lawrence/Composition.html) However, for our purposes we are going to focus on the way we can use space (and in particular the lack of space) to achieve better composition.

In looking at photographs of objects in motion we often subconsciously expect them to continue in the same direction. If our picture has captured the object just before it leaves the picture’s ‘frame’, the viewers eye is sharply blocked. By leaving an amount of space in front of the moving subject, we can create something that seems more natural and compositionally correct. This same rule applies where our photographic subject is looking at a point off camera. Our composition should allow enough space to allow our eye to follow the direction of their gaze.

Empty space can be used in dramatic and powerful ways. Many photographic manuals will tell you to arrange your photograph to focus on a single subject. However, a composition that includes empty space can often convey strong feelings of loneliness or freedom. The sheer simplicity of a longely figure standing on an isolated headland could not be communicated if there were more detail or visual clutter in our frame.

Symmetry

People who are beginning to explore artistic photography, will often capture the image of something reflected in still water. These photographs are often beautifully composed. In the same way, we will usually make sure that family portraits are symmetrical, because this kind of composition seems formal and dignified. However, breaking the rules of symmetry can create some of the most powerful photographs.

One of the most fundamental photographic techniques is the ‘rule of thirds’ which suggests that the subject of an image should be placed 1/3 of the way from the edge of frame. This kind of off-centre composition seems more natural and aesthetically pleasing. To see this rule illustrated see: http://www.photozone.de/4Technique/compose/third.htm

While a random placement of images in the photographic frame is not encouraged, strategically using asymmetry is something to explore. If the main elements of our picture are unbalanced, we force the viewer to reconsider what they think is happening in the frame.

A final word

While there are many more techniques to be explored as part of photography, understanding these simple rules can be an important part of developing your skills. An intuitive knowledge of these principles allows you to rapidly put them into practice when you are presented with the perfect photographic moment.

How to hang your canvas print

October 9th, 2010 No Comments

Hanging a canvas print in an effective way seems like a daunting task. How do you know the pictures will work together? How do you know where to place them? In this article, we are going to cover the basics of hanging a print and making it an effective part of a room.

What you will need?

Spirit Level, Drill, Painting hook, A good eye.

Stick-on painting hooks or screw-in?

Your classic painting hook is usually the best choice for hanging your canvas print. It fits easily into the wall, and provides a stable foundation to allow your print to sit evenly against the wall. 

Stick-on painting hooks can be obtained from most newsagent, art retailers or hardware’s. By using them you can avoid the need to mark or damage your wall through drilling. It is important to carefully follow the instructions given on the packet for preparing your surface – otherwise the hook could detach. 

Preparing the wall.

Mark the wall where you want to hang the canvas print. The mark should be at the point where the centre of the picture will be, and 25% of the length of the picture down from the top.

Hanging the Canvas Print

Drill a hole in the wall at the point you marked that is about three quarters the length of the screw part of the hook and a little thinner than the screw. Screw the hook in fully, and hang the picture.

Essential Advice and Basic rules

  1. Prints should be hung at eye level. A commonly accepted standard in galleries and industry is 160cm.
  2. When hanging a series of pieces that are the same size, mark the wall first with a light pencil using a spirit level as your guide. Keep to that line.
  3. Don’t put a small canvas print on a big wall and visa versa,
  4. Use White Space Effectively – Don’t be afraid of trying more space between pictures than you first think. Using white space well is a great way to focus your audience’s attention on your piece.

Hanging pictures effectively.

When grouping prints they should have a common theme. It could be subject matter, the artist, or just the colours. Having a common theme helps the pieces complement each other. Consider the space that the pictures are going in and try and bear in mind the colours of the room to make sure the pictures will fit. When arranging the pieces on a wall, using a grid will make it seem formal, which would suit an art-specific room. 

Using a square or rectangle as a base in which to put your pictures will give it a casual feel, which is more suited to homes.

A final word.

Now you know the rules remember you can break them. If your canvas print doesn’t look good at eye level, shift it by a few inches, we are a lot better at judging things than we think, if something isn’t right you will notice. When you’ve found the right place to hang it, you will know.

A picture is a great way to brighten a room and change its feel. Remember pictures are there to be enjoyed so you should display them in the best light you can. A little preplanning and thought can make all the difference and make your pictures look great.

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