Agnes Caruso Photography

Photography


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12 Essential Photo Equipment Items for Travel

Packing up for a trip can be difficult even when you are not taking your photography equipment. However, if you are planning holidays and want to take some of your equipment it can become even more difficult. So let’s look at what you may need on your trip. I will try to divide items into must have, good to have and nice to have. Many items are very basic and you will wonder why I even mention them, but trust me they can be forgotten. The more obvious something is, the more likely we are to forget it. In order to ensure you pack all that is needed you can make a list and follow it when packing the gear.

The lists below are intended for general purpose trip, family holiday or sightseeing trip not a photographic expedition.

Must have items:

  • camera body of your choice, ones with swivel back screen have an advantage as you do not have to crawl on the ground in mud, water or some other enticing place to take low angled shots
  • zoom lens allowing you to take decent distance and close up pictures, e.g. 24-105mm lens
  • charger for the battery and if you have spare, charged batteries; for overseas trips pack also an adapter for the power points
  • rain protector for the camera and lens, they come in different sizes depending what lens you are using
  • memory cards with a hard shell case for storage, if you use mini cards, they can be shared between your camera and phone
  • tripod, a mini one such as GorillaPod works in a number of situations fairly well
  • backpack or a bag and a lens case, good to invest in ones with rain protection
  • lens cleaning solution and a cleaning cloth
  • camera manual – Yes, you may need it

 

Good to have items:

  • a set of filters – UV filter, circular polarizer and at least one ND filter, while some people swear against filters, I found them useful to keep sand and dust away from the lens while shooting in poor conditions
  • second camera body, so you can attach your second lens to it as changing them while shooting pictures becomes tiresome and can lead to problems, especially in windy and dusty conditions
  • second lens with a lens case, depending on your interests and destination – macro lens, wide angle or a powerful zoom lens
  • actual tripod – good size, sturdy and lightweight. Yes, such things exist but you may need to spend some serious money if you want a top line tripod. Yet, it is one of the most important items you need in your bag

Nice to have items:

  • remote release
  • speedlight, can come handy in full sunshine when taking portraits or in dark interiors
  • third lens for any special objects
  • closeup filters, while not a substitution for a macro lens, can help you take close-up pictures without a need to change lenses, make sure they fit your largest diameter lens

When choosing lens for travel, you need to consider the weight of the lens as well as its optical quality. I have a Tamron lens 18-270mm, covers a perfect zoom range, takes good quality pictures in bright light, it is light, has a lock to prevent is extending when it is carried around. If I am forced to take a small photo bag and only one lens, due to luggage restrictions, it is a good choice, but a heavier lens with a low aperture f/2.8 or so can give you fabulous images at low light or inside buildings. The choice is really depending on where you going and what you like photographing.

When traveling on holidays, you may need to carry your gear with you, so weight is a big consideration, as is ability to quickly pull it out or put it away. Leaving your gear in cars or hotel rooms can end up with it being stolen, so having only what you can comfortably carry around a city or on a hiking trail is very important.

I have also created a travel checklist which you can download from the Resource page on my website.


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Focusing on sunsets – Part 1

Sunsets are probably one of the most photographed subjects. What makes sunsets so attractive? Obviously colors and light, but frequently there are also clouds and their texture or shape that makes the images unforgettable. Many tourist attractions or scenic views attract crowds every day to admire the setting sun. It is often hard to find a perfect spot to pick for taking pictures.

What makes a spot perfect? A place allowing you an unobstructed view of the sky, a city skyline or another particular feature. Remember that moving along your location may reveal a very different view. Also turning a camera slightly from the same point can deliver a very different image. Therefore, even if you have been to a particular spot before, every day and every sunset is different. You can see below how different are the four sunsets. All are taken in Arlington, from the same spot in a little different direction to best capture drama in the sky.

 

Framing your view is important, what do you want to show in the image besides the changing color and light. Are there any shapes, buildings, trees, anything interesting that can play a central role in your photograph? Remember that each sunset only happens once and what you are trying to convey is a particular moment, one that cannot ever be reproduced. It is important that if someone looks at your picture they can relate to the moment you captured. There has to be something that makes it unique.

As the sun sets there is less and less light. So two things become important, having a fast lens and a tripod. Wide angle lens can help in capturing sunset or sunrise, many of those are also fast lenses. The above images were all shot without a tripod and through glass, so not under the best conditions. Using a Canon EF85mm f/1.8USM lens gives enough angle and allows to take pictures at relatively slow speeds.

City skylines and glass skyscrapers offer a great subjects to photograph at sunset. There are two ways of doing it.

One way of shooting a sunset, is to capture a moment when it happens and is spectacular. You can see examples of those types of shots below, San Antonio on the left and New York on the right. In NYC, a late afternoon stroll to Times Square was rewarded with this image of sky looking like a fireball. In this case I did not use any image enhancement for the NYC picture, it was extremely dramatic without a need for any additional changes. On the other hand, in San Antonio, I was strolling back towards the hotel, when the reflection in the windows captured my eye. You can see how different floors of the building reflect different colors of the sunset. When I turned around, the sunset was spectacular with amazing colors and textures. Finding the right angle and putting a camera on a tripod was a race, which I think I won with the below image of the sunset in San Antonio.

 

 

The second way, is to pre-plan your sunset trip to a scenic location around the city, set up and wait till the sunset starts happening. This is a well tried approach and beautiful shots can be made, especially when there are clouds in the sky. Skyline of Seattle and New York show different lighting conditions and directions of the shots. In Seattle, Kerry Park is one of the best places to see a sunset, as it offers an unobstructed view of the city. A panorama image taken from Long Island towards Manhattan shows just one of the great places to photograph a sunset in NYC.

As this story draws to a close, I wanted to share an image from Durham, NC, taken from the parking lot of the Southpoint Mall. I am sure you are thinking why this location? An explanation is simple. As I was driving along the road I have noticed the most gorgeous sunset one can see, colors, clouds everything so perfect. There was just one problem, I was on a highway, no way I can stop and take pictures. By pulling into the mall parking lot I was able to capture at least some of the beauty of this evening. It is not the perfect image one might want but it captures a unique moment in time.

The bottom line is do not get discouraged when it looks like you may miss a beautiful moment, try to capture it. If you are lucky enough to not be a driver, you can attempt taking pictures from the car. This requires a bit more than just a good eye, it needs a steady hand, good road and a bit of luck. Taking pictures from a moving car that is a separate topic, that I hope to get to later this year.

And to leave you with something actually not accidental for a sunset, here is a sunset in Toronto, Canada, over the lake. Enjoy and I will be back with more images of sunsets.

 


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Story telling with photos – using BookSmart editor from Blurb part 2

Today we will concentrate on the second part of creating the book, finishing it and uploading for publishing.

Let’s start with the cover of the book. There are three different types: soft cover, hardcover with image wrapped on it or a linen hardcover with dust jacket. The only important thing to remember is that not all sizes of the book are available in a soft cover version. Softcover books less than 80 pages will also not have any text printed on the spine.  If you have picked a large size book with only hardcover options and now want to change to a soft cover, you will need to resize your book. Just click on the change size icon and follow the prompts. Changing size may require adjustments of the layouts.

As you can see in this example the dust jacket was created with the title and author on a front page and on the spine of the book. However, title does not appear clearly in the image and font is a bit awkward. This is pretty normal in the first version and it is easy to change to your liking. Changing colors and font may take a few tries before it looks just right. It is easy to reposition the text boxes in Edit Layout just as we did before. If the decisions on text, color and font are too hard to make, you can print a few examples, show the options to family or friends, get a second opinion.

Adding extra text to the flaps or back of the book gives you more space to tell the reader about yourself and the book itself. While text on single color background is not a problem, adding it to a photo with varying colors can be a bit tricky, just like the back page above. Just because the layout allows you to add text, it does not have to appear there at all. As you would have noticed the book pages and the cover are white, there is an option to change the theme of the book to a dark or a patterned one. You can check options under Themes icon. If you do not like it just undo it to return to the previous version.

The next important step it to determine how your title page is going to look like. It can have an image on it or not, there are a few layouts provided. This page can be really creative to stand out or can mirror the book cover, the choice is yours. The following page is a copyright page. As I mentioned it before, when making a photo book it is important that you hold the rights to the images you are going to include in your book. If you are using someone else’s images or graphics or any protected content, you need have their permission and add their names to the copyright page. This is particularly critical when you will be wanting to sell your book.

Laying out the images of the main book content is the real fun. Any beautiful panoramic photos can be used to create a two-page spread. In one of my previous books I used the image of Windows in Arches National park as a spread. It makes a great impact when you open a book. In this book, I used Cliffs of Moher as a center spread.

Another feature, you might have noticed are headers on all the pages of your book. Headers can be easily edited to display content of choice: title, author, page number or custom content. In contrast to trade books, you can modify on which pages your header appears. Any changes to the font of the header have to be applied to either selected or all pages in a book. Page numbers will by default appear in a footer and again that can be edited in the same manner as a header. Inspect your pages and if the header or footer look awkward on a page, like in an example below, you can adjust that by removing the text.

Headers and footers cannot be edited in layout view, meaning their position cannot be altered, they cannot be added or removed. However, not all layouts have a header or a footer. Generally, any full-page images will not display a header and footer. If for whatever reason you want to alter that, select a layout with these features and create a full-page image box on it.

Now it seems that the book is ready for a preview and proofreading. On the right you will see a button to preview book. Once you click on it, a non-editable preview will appear. Now you will be able to see how your printed book will look. It is easy to go back and edit details as you review the book or make notes and then go back and edit all the parts needing attention. There is no right or wrong way of doing it, whatever works for you as long as you manage to catch all the problems.

Things to watch out for:

  1. Position of the images on a page, check which parts will be trimmed. Enable Trim Guidelines if the are off.
  2. Do your images need zoom adjustment to better show the photo?
  3. If there are any photos with a warning sign, this means that the resolution of an image is too low
  4. Check the right hand side of the software window labeled Issues. This triangle turns yellow with an exclamation sign and number of issues if there is a problem. Clicking on it will open up a dialog box allowing you to fix or ignore the problem. All the existing problems will be listed with page number and description.
  5. Remember selecting a font on the cover? You adjusted font size, type and color. Now you need to decide if the font inside the book is what you like or not. Keeping it slightly smaller, if you have lots of writing makes a lot of sense. However, you can also make text a feature by using a special font type, size or color. That said do not go crazy with it.
  6. Just because a text box shows up on a page, does not mean you have to use it. If you leave it blank nobody will ever know.
  7. Photo book is meant to showcase the images, tell the story with the pictures not words. Keeping your text spare and minimal will help you do that.
  8. Once the book seems complete, select preview and make sure you like the appearance of the book, story is what you want to convey. If you feel something should be changed experiment with it, ask for advice.

Once you are happy with the book, you are ready to order it. If you would want to change a size of the book, this is the last time you can do that for a photo book. Any changes of opinion later may mean resizing your content and going through the checks anyway all over again.

 

After clicking Order Book, a final checklist appears and you can use a spell check at this stage if you have not yet done it before. I strongly suggest to do it as there is nothing worse than printing a book only to find a spelling mistake in it. For those of you who do not have an account on Blurb there will be an option to register. For those of you using an older version of BookSmart, make sure that you upgrade to the latest version. If your version is old, book will fail to upload. Do not panic, close the software, download and install new version, then re-open the book and continue.

Once the book is uploaded you can create an e-book for different devices or a .pdf file which is accessible on nearly all devices. This is also the time to set up book for selling if you wish to do so. This is always possible to enable selling later. I suggest ordering a copy for yourself first to see how it looks all printed out, before setting it up for sales. You can market your book through Blurb, Amazon or Apple iBooks Store. You are not locked to a single distributor and books can be printed on demand, so there is no upfront cost or storage issue with boxes of books. Use Blurb guidelines for setting this up.

I hope you enjoyed making a book! Leave a comment or connect on social media to show off your creations. My book will soon be available as well.

 


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Story telling with photos – using BookSmart editor from Blurb part 1

The first book that I will show how to create is a Photo Book. I will be creating a book about trip around Ireland. Let’s get started. There will be two parts to this post. In the first one, I will show how to create a book. In the second, we will review book, add finishing touches and upload for printing.

I am using Windows 10 and this is where the images are coming from in my posts. You can use an Apple computer as well for the process, there are also some editors specially for iPad and iPhone. Other software you will need, is an image processing software. It can be anything you like as long as you can create .jpeg or .png files. I use Adobe Lightroom for most of the processing, occasionally also Corel PaintshopPro 2018. You also have an option of importing images from SmugMug.

In Lightroom it is good to create a collection of images you want to use, so picking the ones for the book is easier. This is the most time-consuming part of the creation process. Generally, we have way more images than should be in a book. So how to cut down on this number?

  1. What story you want to tell in your book? Is it about landscapes, architecture, history, friends, family or an event? This should allow you to narrow the number of images.
  2. Which images best represent the story you are telling? Do you want to show images of a historical object with plenty of people or just by itself? Do they show the character of the place you wish to convey?
  3. Pick images that you love for whatever reason. They are obviously important to you. Can you now make a story out of them that will tell someone else something special, show the beauty of the place?
  4. Be adventurous with your images, pick and choose, change them if you want. This is your story, there is no correct or incorrect answer. Play with images, we will be arranging them on pages and you may find that some are better than other in a layout you are creating.

If you created previous books, BookSmart will open the last book created or ask you what you want to do. Select New Book Project, under File in main menu of from the front screen. The first screen will ask for the book title, author and book size. Pick a title, it can be changed later but having a few untitled books on the computer will make things really complicated later. In order to figure out the size of a book and number of pages you want in a book, click on pricing button to see how much a book will cost. Make sure that you are looking at Photo Book pricing as this is what we are creating.

The cover choices available for a selected book format are listed as well. It is possible to select the cover later in the process and you can change your mind up until uploading the book, so do not worry about them right now.

As to the actual book structure and content. In your book of 20 pages, the first page is a title page, second page will be a copyright page and the last page is left empty for the logo. So effectively you will have only 17 pages for your photos and any text you want to add. Depending on price you want to pay for your book you may want to add some more pages or not. If you want to sell the book, a price is also important.

Next step lets you pick an already existing layout or start your book from scratch. I clicked on Start Book Now. This opens-up the editing software on the front page of the cover with information you added at the beginning and this is where you can change it.

On the bottom of the screen is a book navigator. There are two ways of navigating, one on the arrows and the second on clicking the pages you want to edit. Pages can be moved around the book by dragging and dropping them in a new position. New pages can be added from the Add Pages drop down menu. The center of the window is occupied by the book pages. On the left there are alternative layouts and below space for images.

Importing images is not complicated, as long as you know where they are on your computer. Select Get Photos and identify your folder. There you can pick individual photos or import all of them. You can delete any unused images from the import list to clean it up.

As you have noticed the pages of the book show image sections and text sections. The easiest way to make a change to the layout is by choosing a different page layout from the variety of ones already available in the program. If none of them suits you, click on Edit layout and save it as your own with a new name.

Editing the layout is very simple. You can add Image Box, Text Box, resize, duplicate existing containers, bring them to front or send them to the back. The features can be aligned with respect to each other. An important note is that a Display trim guidelines feature should be enabled so no text or image will be layout in a pink area that will be later trimmed.

Now you should be able to make your own layouts and save them so they can be re-used later in your next project.

To Add images to the book, click on the page in book navigator. Once it is highlighted, you can drag the image to the image container. In order to substitute an image, delete it by using backspace and drag a new photo into its place. It is also possible to focus on a part of the image by using Zoom slider. By dragging the image in the container you can select to show just a part of the photo. When adding text, it is better to use a slightly smaller font than you would use in your regular documents. I have usually used 11 point font for main text. Another word of warning, not all fonts are licensed for e-books. At the top of the font palette there are e-book friendly fonts, however, for just printed version you can use any font. There will be time later to proof read a .pdf file to make sure that font is not too large.

It is time to stop now to let you create a book. In the next part we will finish the book and upload it to Blurb. Feel free to ask questions in the comments if you have any.


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Self-publishing with Blurb

Did you ever wonder if the photos on a phone, computer or prints stuck somewhere in an album are all there is to your holiday shots or important family event? The answer is no. You can create beautiful photo book which will tell the story and showcase your images. Such a book can become a focal point of discussing your just finished holiday or can become a great present for family or friends. The uniqueness will make it stand out and be very special.

Now you say that it may be just too hard to make a book, you need special software, it gets too difficult to layout the book…and the excuses keep coming. In the next few blog posts I will show you that it is not that difficult. It takes some time, creativity and ability to pick just some out of hundreds of pictures you took.

Blurb is one of the self-publishing services and it offers a variety of book formats, paper choices and also e-books. They offer their own layout software, in case you do not have access to publishing software like Adobe InDesign or image editing software like Adobe Lightroom.

Thus far I have used their software BookSmart and BookWright. While on the outside there is very little difference between them you cannot publish all the different formats using BookSmart. This software is only good for creating photobooks and associated e-books. BookWright on the other hand can create photobooks, tradebooks, magazines and e-books in multiple formats. The differences between the different publication types are primarily in prices and appearance. In order to make the best choice, it is a good idea to order a swatch set from Blurb. This will show you first hand the quality of paper and color as well as black and white prints.

  

When making the choice, you should consider first of all why are you creating the book? It is to be just for you? A gift for someone? Or will you be interested in selling it? All those considerations are very important. Especially, when book is intended for sale, you will have to consider the price of the final product.

Let’s look at the general workflow of creating a book.

  1. What tool to use to create your book depends on your experience level, software you have access to on your computer and why are you creating this book. There are many options and if you wish you can hire a specialist to do it for you as well.
  2. I suggest that you download the software you wish to use, either BookSmart or BookWright. Having it on your computer gives you a complete freedom in making changes when and where you wish.
  3. Give your book a title. Do not worry, you can change it later.
  4. Select a number of pages you want to have in your book. A default is usually 20 pages. Again you can add or subtract pages as you wish later.
  5. One important decision best made at the beginning is the size of your book. While it can be converted later, you will create a lot of work for yourself to adjust sizes of images, text and margins. So this you should get correct at the beginning.
  6. There are many layouts available from Blurb, but those are totally flexible and customizable.
  7. Make sure that you have a set of the images you want to use in a handy place. A larger set is just fine, no need to stress over them yet.
  8. If you want to add text, you can create .rtf files or type directly in a book. Again, place any additional files in a dedicated folder so you do not have to search an entire computer.
  9. Remember to use only images to which you have copyright or you have licensed them for this purpose. If using even your friends’ or family’s images always give credit. There is a copyright section where you can do that.
  10. You may be tempted to use an auto-create book feature in Adobe Lightroom. By all means click on it, however, I found it a bit awkward to use.
  11. As Blurb is the publisher, their logo will appear in the book, if you are serious author, you can replace it with your own for a fee. This can be your last decision before submitting the book for print.

 

Are you now ready to start creating?

If so I invite you to the next installments of my blog. I will take you through some of the details how to create a simple book and tell a story from your holidays. Remember that until you submit the book any mistakes can be fixed, layouts can be changed, titles, page numbers, even the format can be altered.

 

 


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Changing background in a collage

Today I got an interesting question from Julie in WA state. How to change a background color in a collage in Corel PaintShop Pro 2018? My immediate response was, I have to check this out. I remember trying to do it and not succeeding very well. However, when you have to find an answer you tend to do so. So below are two options of changing background in a collage you created. First one, adding an image as your background and second modifying color and/or texture of the background.

Before you can start editing backgrounds, make sure that once you have created your collage it has been saved in .PSPIMAGE file format. This let’s you go back and re-edit your creation.

Step 1. Create your background, by selecting File > New. As I said on the previous post I like my background larger rather than smaller as you can always crop your image at the end. My standard size is 20.833 by 14 inches. There is no good reasoning behind it, in case you ask. Make it what you like it to be but keep it larger rather than smaller.

Step 2. Create your collage

Step 3. Each image you add will be a new layer. In this case right now you have 6 layers.

Step 4. Now if you want to use another image as your background, because white is boring or you have a picture which you desperately want to use as your background, click on Manage tab. Find the image you want to use, click on it to highlight it and then select Edit Tab.

Step 5. Image will open up, you can make changes to it at this stage if you want or need. Once you are happy with the way it looks, select all, copy and then paste to your collage.

Step 6. Now you have 7 layers and it all looks ugly and you lost one or more of your images underneath. In order to be able to see all the images, make sure that the new layer is moved to just above the background layer we created in step 1.

Step 7. In Layer Menu, select New Adjustment Layer. You need to pick what adjustments you want to make to your background image. I selected Brightness/Contrast. If you right click on adjustment layer you can adjust brightness and contrast to your liking. If you select General Tab you can also adjust the background image in other ways by selecting more actions from the drop down menu as well as change opacity. This is all up to your creativity.

Step 8. It is important to make sure that your layers are ordered properly at this stage. So counting from the bottom you should have your layer 1 (large background), image layer that you wish to use as background and adjustment layer. All other images have to be above or you will end up modifying them as well.

Step 9. You can also change the image that is your background by deleting the layer and adding a new image as new layer.

 

Now if you want to use a solid background, you can add a new New Art Media Layer. This will allow you to ad solid color fill of your choice or paint texture of your choice in any color available. Here is how you do just that.

Step 1.  You have your collage as below.

Step 2. Now in the Menu select Layer and pick a New Art Media Layer. This will allow you to pick a texture or a fill color.

Step 3. Texture has to be painted on either using a dry medium such as chalk or wet such as oil brush. Corel help is actually pretty handy here to guide you through the process. However, main thing is to experiment with different effects till you find what you want. Again, make sure that all the images of interest are above Artistic Medium Layer or you will make changes to them.

Try either of the two options or both of them and pick what you like. This is just a start, the effects can be pretty stunning if you focus on the artistic side of things. I would love to see what creations come out of this work, so post your comments with links to images. Have fun!


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Creating social media posts – Pinterest

When it comes to social media, branding, creating special posts there are many tools out there that you can use. I was actually interested in how the tools compare with respect to ease of use or capabilities. Let’s have a look at Pinterest posts. In order to make it comparable, I picked the same photos and the same message. I decided to compare two free to use tools – Canva and Adobe Spark as well as Corel PaintShop Pro 2018. Both of the free tools also offer upgrade options that we will get to a little later.

The aim is to create a post about preparation of a perfect cup of cappuccino.

Canva – first of the three images from the left

  1. Select a post type, Pinterest in this case
  2. You can select one of the available layouts and substitute pictures and text with your own. However, you can also create an entire post from scratch
  3. I filled the canvas with beans image, subsequently added the two other images by dragging them from my uploads onto a canvas and resized them easily
  4. Now I was ready to add text to the post. Text can be added as heading, subheading or body text. You can also use one of the available preset brand fonts
  5. Once completed you can download your creation. Direct sharing is only available for Twitter and Facebook

Adobe Spark – middle of the three images

  1. Identify a template you would like to use or create a post from scratch
  2. You can select one of available layouts, which is what I did
  3. Upload images into the selected template
  4. Resizing of the images is limited and I have found no way to add an image on top of a background image
  5. Adding text is very easy, as is altering of font face, size and color. Once you are done with text, it can be re-positioned on a page
  6. One strange thing about editing text is that instead of a box on the image, you get a big screen with a line on which you type the text you wish to have. This text gets resized easily, it is just a bit awkward when you are creating your post
  7. Once you are done your post is ready to share. Image can be downloaded, a link can be shared on Twitter, Facebook or by email

Corel PaintShop Pro – the third of the images

  1. Select File>New and select a Pinterest template under Social, select a background color
  2. Select and open the images you want to use in your post
  3. Copy each of the images as new layer to the background layer
  4. I selected on the images as a background image
  5. Resize the images to your liking, if needed you can adjust the appearance of images or crop them as you wish
  6. Images can be rotated, framed and positioned anywhere you want on the page
  7. Subsequently I added text and then saved the file as .PSP file for any future changes  and as .JPG for upload to Pinterest

   

What is the verdict now that the posts are created?

  1. Ease of use – Canva and Corel PainShop Pro – 5/5, AdobeSpark – 4/5
  2. Ability to resize/re-position images – Canva and Corel PainShop Pro – unlimited, AdobeSpark – limited
  3. Text choices – Corel PainShop Pro – unlimited, Canva and AdobeSpark – limited
  4. Templates – Canva and AdobeSpark offer a number of templates, only one free canvas in Corel PainShop Pro
  5. Availability of stock images – only available in Canvas, some are free and the rest is priced at $1.00
  6. Importing images – all tools allow import of images from a computer, AdobeSpark also allows import of images from Lightroom, Creative Cloud, Google or Dropbox
  7. Sharing posts – all of the creations have to be downloaded before they can be shared on Pinterest.

What functionality do you get for free?

Canva allows you to share your creations with up to 10 people, you can organize your designs into 2 folders, upload up to 1Gb of images and access over 8000 templates.

AdobeSpark allows you to create graphics, sync creations across the devices, it also allows you to resize the image for other social media posts or standard sizes

In order to add your personal branding: logos, text and colors in AdobeSpark you need to upgrade to Premium for $9.99 a month. AdobeSpark is also available as part of Creative Cloud.

Canva on the other hand will require you to upgrade before you can resize your posts, save your brand colors, logos and fonts. You also get unlimited folders, access to 300 000 free stock images/illustrations and templates. Pricing is $12.99 per month per user and you can have a team of up to 30 people.

Corel PaintShop Pro 2018 is not free, although you can get a 30 day free trial for testing. Pricing is $54.99 for a downloaded version. It offers you full ability to edit your images, be creative with them and easily resize the posts you created. You can add your own logos, select your own colors and fonts.

What should you use?

The tool you decide on depends on your needs. If you want to do things yourself the best is to try the free tools first to create some test posts. However, you may want to consult a graphic designer or a photographer who does graphic design as well, if you have a particular job in mind.

 

 

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Creating collages with Corel PaintShop Pro 2018

This post came about when I was exploring two things. Firstly, how to create a video on Adobe Spark, and secondly, how to better present some of the images in this video. While a lot of us use whatever app we like on our phone. This is great if you want to quickly share something but it is not the best way to present a high quality collage or create one for printing out.

So let’s see how to create a collage which can be created for online presentation, slideshow, large or small print, postcard for family… It is really up to your imagination how to use your creation.

  • You need to select the canvas size on which you will be working. When you are in Edit tab select File>New and then you can decide if you want to use one of the existing size presets or choose your own. Make sure that your layer is Raster and check if you have a color of the background selected or the layer is transparent. White or black usually works well for a variety of images, however, there are many other colors to choose from as well. While you can also select gradients and patterns, the best backgrounds are simple solid colors. The size of canvas can be in inches, millimeters, centimeters or pixels. You can also change the orientation of the canvas from portrait to landscape.

  • Once you have your canvas open, then you need to decide which images you want to add to it. To select images, go to Manage Tab and navigate to the images you want. Select the image/s you want and click on the Edit tab. The images will open up. you can adjust and crop images if you wish to at this stage, unless they are ready to go. In order to select multiple images use CRTL key.
  • Now your images are ready to put together on your canvas. Select all or whichever part of your image you want to use and copy selection. Now navigate to your canvas and paste selection as new layer. If your canvas is sized in inches or millimeters you may need to resize your pasted image. In order to resize an image make sure that you click on the Pick Tool (a little arrow). However, creating canvas in pixels can allow you to get around this problem.
  • Repeat pasting with other images you want to add to your collage. You end up with an image like this one and list of layers to the right showing each of the images and your background.
  • As you can see images overlap each other. The image which was added last will be on top of the one that was added before it. In this case, image of the dog in a hat is on top of three earlier images but under the last one opened, in top right hand corner.
  • There are two ways to adjust the overlaps. One by selecting Layers in Menu and navigating to Arrange. The second method, by rearranging the layers in the layer window on the right. Both ways will produce the same outcomes.
  • Now you can start being creative with your collage. Each image can be resized, moved around, rotated in any way you wish. I would suggest not rotating the images until you add your frames if you wish to add them.
  • You can add frames to each of the images to make them look special or stand out from the set. You can also add a frame to the entire canvas.
  • In order to add a frame to an image you selected. Under Menu> Image> select Picture Frame. From the drop down menu select the style you wish, make sure you are framing the current layer and have it inside the image, although outside is fine too, just test it and see what you prefer. Effects will vary with different frames and images.

  • You will notice in your Layer list there is a new layer called Raster X Picture Frame, with X corresponding to the layer which you framed.
  • At this stage you need to be careful as moving either frame or content layer will change how they appear. In order to prevent this from happening, select both layers and click on Merge selected under Layer menu or by right clicking. Once that is done you can rotate a framed image however you wish and frame stays with the image.
  • As a last step you may want to add some text to the entire creation. Select a text icon to the left of the image. At the top of the ribbon select the font, size, alignment, style and color. You can also select a text preset to the left of the same ribbon. An additional modification you can make is under Object menu, select Convert Text to Curves or Convert to Path. This will allow you to be a little more creative with the appearance of text on the collage.

 

Once you have created a collage you are pleased with, it is ready to be shared. As I mentioned mine was created to be added to Adobe Spark, but you can also share it as is, or add to some other presentation type. You can obviously print it out as well. Laying out prints can be done using Print Layout under File in Menu or by selecting Print and then choosing to apply template. You may also choose to just print it as is to fill an entire page or part of it.

Corel PaintShop Pro 2018 is very flexible in ways you can create stunning collages, save or print them.

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Corel PaintShop Pro 2018 – testing the new version of the old tool

Editing images is a big part of our job as photographers. Even if those are only minute alterations we need an easy to use, yet powerful software. Over the years I used various versions of Adobe Photoshop, which is definitely a great tool. I tried the new online editing version as well, however, not having the actual physical copy makes you fully dependent on your internet and connection. While not a problem in itself, it could be challenging in some areas of the country. Since I switched to Windows 10 for my processing a new choice in photo editing was available to me – Corel PaintShop Pro.

I have now used Corel PaintShop Pro for over 3 years and it definitely fulfills all my needs for photo editing.  It is a real alternative to an Adobe Photoshop, especially considering Adobe’s pricing model based on subscription to software. The changes over the previous versions were not dramatic, the biggest difference was with the transfer to Windows 10 and working out how certain functions work compare to previous Windows versions. So yes, it was a bit frustrating but not too hard to figure out.

Now the new version just came out – Corel PaintShop Pro 2018 and Corel PaintShop Pro 2018 Ultimate.

Is it really better than the previous versions? I am still exploring that, so for now want to show you some of the new features and what can be done in this software.

A front screen showing some of the options, such as learn or get more is now anchored to the home tab. This screen also now allows you to choose workspace layout from essentials to complete. The essentials workspace has only two tabs: home and edit. Manage tab is not there. This is good if you do not use the software frequently, but I find manage tab indispensable for easy choosing of the photos I want to edit.

Have you have ever been frustrated by the size of icons in an application? Now you can adjust the sizes of the icons, scroll bar and nodes to your preferences, you can make your workspace lighter or darker. This personalization is limited but useful as finding small items can be a problem. To further make your life easier, you are now able to add or remove the icons appearing in a toolbar to suit your editing needs. All this makes it possible to de-clutter and personalize the workspace.

What good changes appear in the new version?

One thing you will notice is that Adjust tab has disappeared from the workspace. If you wonder where it went, it is  now within the edit menu bar. This is kind of logical as adjust is part of photo editing. One thing that tripped me though is that “Instant Effects” got moved to “Palettes Menu”.

A great improvement over the previous versions is the crop tool with overlay selection matching that of Adobe Lightroom. You can now choose golden spiral, diagonal, triangle or golden ratio not just rule of thirds. This by itself is a great addition. But there are more options with cropping. For example you can rotate your image to produce an effect you desire for any other application you may want. This allows you to reposition the image in a way you wish. In this case, a car was shot on an angle but I wanted to get it positioned straight for a print. It is a very handy tool to have, again makes it much more similar to options available in Adobe Lightroom.

 

 

Does that mean that PaintShop Pro 2018 will replace Adobe Lightroom in my workflow? I do not think so but it has features which suddenly made use of it nicer and easier. Adjusting image appearance can be done in any software that feels right for you, Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop, Corel AfterShot, or Corel PaintShop Pro. Ultimate version of Corel Paintshop Pro 2018 includes the basic version of AfterShot 3. I have not really played with it so far, but did have a look at it. A better integration of AfterShot with PaintShop Pro would be great, for example having direct access to the AfterShot tools within PaintShop Pro, so there is no need to export the images.

Coming back to the actual PaintShop Pro 2018. There are some tools, which I have not yet tested adequately to comment and those are text and clone tools. In meantime I tried the new “Sample and Fill” tool. It is a version of a dropper tool that allows you to copy entire information from one part of an image and apply it in another, used in the coffee image below.

Now, is this new version worth the extra cost compared to PaintShop Pro 9?

  1. If you do lots of photo editing and think of upgrading, I would say yes, it is worth it. The little fixes made are making work easier, the price tag on the upgrade is still substantial though.
  2. If you are brand new to Corel PaintShop Pro and want to get started, it is as good version as any other to get you going.
  3. If you have been using the software occasionally and are not a professional photographer, I would suggest to get a trial version and see if it has features that you love and will make your editing easier. However, you can probably stick with previous versions of the software.
  4. If you do not have any image processing software besides what came with your camera, you should explore PaintShop Pro 2018 Ultimate. It can help you process RAW images from your camera with AfterShot 3 and will allow you to also get started with more advanced image editing with PaintShop Pro 2018.

For all those new and not so new to RAW photo editing you should look at the review of Corel AfterShot 3Pro, Adobe Lightroom and Capture One by Jaron Schneider in Resource Magazine. It is also a great read and points out pros and cons of the different softwares.

One big claim that Corel has made is the speed of opening files, however, working on a fast computer I have not noticed any difference from version 9. There are also features that I do not pay much attention to when deciding to upgrade or not, which are new brushes, gradients, patterns and textures. Those things are nice to have but they would never convince me to upgrade.

Now one big thing we are coming to is customer support. This is being patchy at best. I am still waiting for an answer 5 days after submitting a ticket! You can get started with some of the online tutorials by Corel Discovery Center and some professional photographers out there that published instructions of how to do various things in Corel PaintShop Pro. You will find that there is limited support for the new version. However, here is the good news, most basic features work fairly similar between the versions. A word of warning here though, if you are using Windows 10 you will occasionally find that instructions given are not working. I found a number of cases where I had to do things differently or use a different tool. There seems to be less bugs in PaintShop Pro 2018 but there are still a few. I will be identifying them as I go and post them soon so you can avoid having to look for a solution yourself.

Just to leave you with some pretty images edited with Corel PaintShop Pro 2018, using some of the new tools.

 

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Adopting Windows 10 for a photography workflow

IMG_9094-Edit_pp-1Changes of computer platforms or even system upgrades can be daunting and I do not think that we are really feeling adventurous when our workflow is working. However, what to do when your process is not quite perfect or you have to make a change? Have many of you thought about upgrading to or changing to Windows 10? Probably not many. So I just want to show you a few tricks that seem to have worked for me and how I went about the change.

My existing workflow was working but getting a little tired and with two upgrades of the MacOS in short succession I was starting to get a little edgy with my once powerful MacBookPro. The time has come to do something to improve things. What were the factors that I took into account before making a decision how to go forward?

The most important point was what we all call a “pain point” so how much effort I am willing to put into the change. Do I really want to switch from a Mac, what are my needs going forward? Another obvious factor was value for money not just price. What would make the new computer or system valuable?

To start off, the new computer has to be able to do what I am already doing and have room to grow with my needs, and the system has to support all of the applications and tools I have and need or may need. Processing photos is not a simple task that any computer can do, at least not when you are dealing with large number of photos in RAW format. I knew I needed some serious power, so dual core and fast processor was critical. The next thing was RAM, which needs to be at least 8GB, so you can fly through the processing steps. When you browsing for actual computer make sure to look at the RAM and if it can be expanded if it comes with a lower number such as 4GB. A large hard drive is always good to have, but do not go crazy, remember – “value for money”, 1TB drives are pretty common, although 500GB are even more common. It is pretty common sense that you want to have a few USB ports, potentially some extension ports. One thing that seems to be getting out of style, but can still be needed is a DVD/CD drive. Yes, just in case you have some old fashioned disc copies of your software or images, it could be a critical part of your new gear. And finally, a graphics card. Yup, it needs to be good or your images are going to look like they need a lot of help and computer is still going to struggle if you are processing videos in particular. There are many choices, the type and version of the card makes a difference. The top card in 2015 is Nvidia GeForce GTX 980, followed by Nvidia GeForce  GTX 970 and AMD Radeon R9 290X. So here is your top three, but unless you are a video editor, play lots of games or a bit of a geek, it is not really going to help you much. My suggestion is read a bit more, and make a list of what your processing needs are, if you will be editing videos, it has to be a bit better than what you need for just images. Now if you thought I was finished on this topic, not yet. There is one critical issue, a backup drive! Yes, you need one and there is even more choice, My Book, My Cloud and variations on the theme from WD, SATA, Toshiba… and some more companies. I used both WD and SATA before, they both work fine, you can also back up to a cloud storage if you buy one of the Cloud Drives and use it to merge all your files from different sources. Choice of one over another is a personal and subjective decision, choose what you know if you are not sure. You may want to get some more in depth technical aspects of choosing an actual computer, then checkout ShutterBug, it is definitely a helpful resource.

IMG_8510-Edit_pp-6So now that we reviewed the needs, what can we buy? A Mac or Windows, so far we are equal, computers with both systems are technically pretty even. Yes, I remember Vista and Windows 8 and a few other things. However, Mac was not that good to me, system upgrade disabled some of my applications permanently and I had to change the photo processing workflow, so I think that we are still equal. The obvious thought was to toss a coin and decide, but obviously that is not the best way to solve the problem. Microsoft just raced through Windows 7, 8, 8.1 and then Windows 10 was coming. Should I switch to Windows 8? The answer was no, by the time I get settled it will be outdated. The new version, Windows 10, was just about to be released so I decided to wait till it comes out.

As you can figure out, I decided that Windows 10 offers a better value for money for me, allows me to run all the applications I use currently and I can establish a workflow that will do what I want and how I want. I am sure I can hear a few “Oh boy! is that going to even work? She must be a geek!”

I am not a geek but know enough about computers to feel comfortable jumping in a little ahead of the curve. So what software do I actually use on Windows 10? Adobe Lightroom is pretty much my workhorse, I use Portrait Studio for some of the work, Hugin – the perfect panorama tool, now supports Windows (Hurray!), Canon camera software (not super useful but has occasional use) and I also decided to test and run Corel PaintShop Pro X8. I know Adobe Photoshop, I used it quite a lot and I still have not made a decision if I want to keep using it or not. In meantime I wanted something close to it that I can have on my desktop, so Corel fits perfectly. I also create books on Blurb and there are two applications for book editing, that I am going to compare, but both work just fine so far. Again InDesign from Adobe is great and would be my choice for professional editing, but I find it a little tiresome when I have to return back to it after a break.

An even more critical question you may have is: how did the file transfer work, all the settings especially in Lightroom supporting processing, export etc.? The transfer and re-establishment of the same version (can call it a clone) took me about an hour. Now my laptop can rest and get upgraded to the newest OS and I can do real and fast work on Windows 10.

How does Windows 10 feel? You get pretty much the features of Windows 7 with the start menu and some of the Windows 8 features such as tiles still available. Touchscreen is a huge advantage, even if you think you may not use it, it comes in handy and on a laptop is it critical, on a desktop it is nice to have it. As to the critical settings menus etc those got moved a bit around so it does take a little time to find what you need. I just had an interesting conversation at a Micro Center store about Windows 10 and how some people feel that it is not ready for prime time. It can definitely do what my old laptop was capable of doing, it feels better than Windows 7 and it is faster. All the standard Office applications can be put on or you can use a cloud solution, there are many choices. New Microsoft Office 2016 is pretty much the same as its previous versions, there are a few new features which I have not yet explored. When it comes to Apps, on a desktop just use online services, Apps are not so useful.

WP_20151031_005 (2)And finally the all important question, how long did the transition take? How long before all was re-established, your settings for online services – Flickr, SmugMug, WordPress etc.? I would say a day, if you want to be conservative, set aside 2 days and take it easy. If you subscribe to Xmarks you can bring in all your bookmarks right across from various platforms and browsers, so that saves you time too. The hardest task you will face is actual computer selection and that is again “VALUE FOR MONEY”, I suggest making a list of must haves and would like to have. Then head to some of the stores to see what is out there. Best place to look in my opinion is B&H store, but as not everyone can get to the NY superstore, you can chat with helpful fellows at B&H online or visit some local stores to get a look at Windows 10. Some of the Microsoft store staff is really good and can take you for a nice tour of the system and they also run classes in case you need them.

In conclusion, it works! If you are still hesitant, reach out to me and I can try and answer your questions or give you some suggestions. Take it easy grab a cup of coffee or tea and enjoy!