Agnes Caruso Photography

Photography


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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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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!