Agnes Caruso Photography

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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!