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3 posts from March 2009

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Window Cleaning


Honestly folks, I must have way too much time on my hands to have been cleaning windows today.  I know what you're thinking "What's the big deal?" Right?  Well, it's a little more complicated than that.  I started out taking pictures of Matthew in our Sunroom playing with his yo yo, unfortunately, when I pulled the pictures up in Photoshop, the exposure was all wrong.  I'm still learning how to use my Nikon D300 - it's a complicated machine I'll tell ya that.  Like Photoshop, I don't think I will ever completely learn what it will do. 

No, I'm not running off on a tangent here.  Back to cleaning windows.  I was playing in Photoshop.  And here is what I accomplished ...

I told you I had too much time on my hands. I don't know about you, but just watching this video clip makes me tense.  You know what I mean?  Like when someone is scratching your back but they never seem to scratch the itch - "a little to the left, no, a little to the right - uh - this way - no up - now down - aaaah, better, no - a little more to the right." 

I think I better go clean the real windows. This is giving me a headache.  Then I'll take a nap. Then I'll probably do some other useless task in Photoshop.



Monday, March 23, 2009

How Did You Do That? Creating An Animation Gif in Photoshop CS3


Yesterday's post resulted in quite a few emails from readers saying "How did you do that?" with that cute animated gif I created in Photoshop CS3.  It isn't difficult, although it took me a good 3 hours to figure out how to do after reading numerous tutorials and viewing numerous videos from others who tried to explain it.  Why did it take so much time?  Probably because whoever was writing the tutorials would either skip a step entirely or start talking about something else altogether.  Plus, I'm full of determination.  When I want to learn something, daggonit I buckle down the hatches until I've figured it out.  I was so proud of myself.  As I've said before, if I learn something new that I think you all might be interested in learning, I'll share it with you here.  It's fun!

Now, I have Photoshop CS3, so if you have another version, I can't be sure if this tutorial will work for you, but you can try.  I will say this, though, that in the numerous (about 10+) tutorials I read yesterday, I did learn that Photoshop CS3 and beyond is actually just a combination of the older version of Photoshop and ImageReady.  They just combined the two programs so that now everything you used to create in ImageReady can now be created in Photoshop CS3 and above.  Sound good so far?  Duh, I haven't explained anything yet.

Note: By the way, if you need to see the original larger image of my screenshots, a few of the images below can be clicked on and you can see its original size.

Alright, let's get started ...


Click on the image above for a Larger view

First step is easy, you will want to open up all of the images in Photoshop that you want to use in your animated gif.  So, for instance, if you have taken multiple photos of the same scene, as I did here with Hannah, then you will want to open them all up in Photoshop.  Make sure that each image is corrected for White Balance (the lighting) and that they all look consistent in hue, saturation, and corrections that you have made.

As you can see, I have 4 images that I am going to use to create a new animation of Hannah looking adorable. 


Click on the image above for a Larger view

Next step is to choose the photo that is going to be the first photo in the animation (or the "Background").  It doesn't matter what you call it, it will just be the image that will be on the bottom of all the layers we are going to create in Photoshop for this animation.  So, choose your first picture.  I am going to choose this one - DSC_3984. 

If you look to your right, you will see a panel that has 3 tabs: Layers - Channels - Paths.  Make sure your "Layers" tab is the one that is selected and you will see your first image in the panel that reads "Background."  Good so far?

I chose this first image of Hannah because it was "numerically" the first image I took of her.  The number of the images I will be using are: DSC_3984, DSC_3985, DSC_3986, and DSC_3987, so it just seems logical that I would start with the first picture in the sequence as my Background and the first image in the animation.


Click on the image above for a Larger view

The next step is to create "layers" of all the images you want to put in the animation.  You want your layers to be in order as well.  In other words, the first image (Background image) is DSC_3984, so the next image and layer I will place on top of this will be DSC_3985 and so on.  Just create the layers in the order you want your animation to move.

So, I am going to take these images that I have open in Photoshop and use the  "Move Tool" to move them on top of the first image DSC_3984.  This will create the "layers" I need to create my animation. Go ahead and do this on your own images if you are following along in Photoshop.  It's like putting cards on top of each other.  The card on the bottom here is DSC_3984. 

If you look at the screenshot above, this is what you see:

1. This is image DSC_3986.  I already put DSC_3985 on top of DSC_3984 and created Layer 1.  Now I am moving this next image in the sequence (DSC_3986) on top of the other 2 images and I will be creating a Layer 2.  I'll show you that screenshot in a moment. What you see here is that the image you have in your "Layers" panel is the one you are moving.  In this case it is image DSC_3986 that I am moving.

Animation82.  Click on the "Move Tool" in the top left corner of your tool panel.

3. Hold down your right mouse button and move your image on top of the other images in your animation sequence.


Click on the image above for a Larger view

If you look in the panel on the right, you will now see that my layers are showing up in the "Layers" panel.  Take a look.  All of the images that I placed on top of the first image (DSC_3984) are in the "Layers" panel.  The last image I placed on top is the large image you now see in Photoshop.  If I were to click on any of the other layers here, that particular image is what you would see. 

Note: When you move your images one on top of the other to create layers, make sure that they are placed perfectly on top of each other like a perfectly stacked pile of cards, otherwise the animation won't look as good as you like.  Just be neat when you stack your layers.


Click on the image above for a Larger view

Now that we have created our layers for our animation, we want to create the animation!  How fun is this!!
So, in Photoshop, click on "Window" in the top toolbar, then you will get a drop-down panel and you want to click on "Animation."  I'll bet you didn't even know that was there did you?  Don't you just love these little discoveries in Photoshop?


Click on the image above for a Larger view

1. When I click on "Animation," a new panel will open at the bottom of my screen in Photoshop.

2. If you look in your "Layers" panel on the right you will see all the layers of images that will be your animation.  Highlight the first image (the one on the bottom that says "Background") and that is the large image you will see in Photoshop and the image that you will see in the first Frame of the Animation panel.

Animation7To start, in the "Layers" panel, you will notice that the 4 images all have an eye next to them.  "De-select" all but the first image, the "Background" image.  This will be the first image in our animation.


Next, click the button next to the trash can, the one that will duplicate the frames.  Because I will have 4 frames to my animation, I have created 4 frames in my Animation Panel. Click, Click, Click - done.

All of the images in the frames will be the same original "Background" image, but don't worry, we're going to change that.


Now, click on and highlight the image in Frame 2 ...


And de-select the "Background" image.  So, the 2nd image in your animation (Layer 1) will have the eye next to it and the "Background" image will not.  All of the frames will have eyes next to them too.  You can ignore them and leave them as they are. 

All you are doing here is highlighting each Frame in the Animation Panel and then telling it what image to put in that frame.  Select the image from the Layers Panel and de-select all the other images in your animation, and so on - Frame by Frame, do this until you are done.


Next step is to tell your animation how many seconds there will be between each image.  I selected 0.2 seconds.

If you look at the bottom of your Animation Panel, you will see the "Play" arrow in the middle.  Click that on and you've got yourself a spiffy animation.  Cool eh?  But wait, we want to save it.  So here's what you do.  


To save your animation, you click on "File" and in the drop-down menu you want to click on "Save for Web & Devices."  If you click on "Save" or "Save As" you will just have an image, even if you do save it as a Gif.  By saving it with the "Save for Web & Devices" it will save as a Gif Animation.


Click on the image above for a Larger view

A window will pop up with your Animation in the center - click "Save" in the top right corner.


Click on the image above for a Larger view

Give your Animation a name making sure it is saving as a Gif and there you go, you now have an Animation of your own created entirely in Photoshop.  And, just to show you what we did here ...


There you go, isn't she cute?  Now this obviously isn't the best animation, but you get the picture, right?  Just think of all the things you can do with this tool in Photoshop?  Remember when you were a kid and you would take a stack of white cards and draw a different sketch on each one to make it look like it was moving?  Well, this is the same thing.  Hope you enjoyed this tutorial! 



Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Take Better Pictures Of Your Children with a Little Help from Connie Groah and Nikon

Photo HH

WE HAVE A WINNER!  I love my sponsors, and I especially love these giveaways.  I know that one reader is going to be one lucky duck enjoying "her" new Nikon D80.

So, you all shared with me what your biggest frustrations are in photographing children.  Fortunately, we have Connie to help us get it right.

And the winner of the new Nikon D80 is ...


Alicia wrote the following:



Thank you to everyone who entered.  I'll have more great contests soon! 

Alicia - contact me at [email protected] to claim your great prize.


Welcome Connie Groah to Raisin Toast Photography!  We are excited to learn from your experience as a professional photographer!  Take it away Connie ...

My name is Connie Groah and I am a contemporary child photographer and the owner of Barefoot Photography® (http://www.barefoot-photo.com) in Annapolis, Maryland.  I use a mixture of documentary-style photography and relaxed poses to capture my young subjects and specialize in birth through teens.  Susan asked if I would be willing to share some photographing thoughts and tips with her readers from time to time and this is my first share here at Raisin Toast.

There’s more to getting great photos of your kids than the right equipment, a great pose, or simply “saying cheese.”  You don’t need a fancy camera to capture great snaps of your kids - even a simple point-and-shoot will do.  But there are some tips and guidelines you can follow to maximize your chances for getting a shot you will love.

Photo A


When photographing children, it’s easy for them to get lost in the picture.  But there are some simple steps you can take to help keep the focus on the child.   Simple clothing tends to work best toward keeping the attention on the child.  Little Emily may love Minnie Mouse, but some patterns, logos or emblems can tend to compete for attention in a photo.  Often solids are easiest to keep the focus where it belongs- on your child!


One thing that can really get in the way of a great photograph is a distracting background.  You may realize that the tree behind Johnny is a good six feet back, but somehow, after the frame has been snapped, the tree suddenly appears to be sprouting from Johnny’s head!  Likewise, clutter or junk in the background can steal the attention away from an adorable expression, so when you can, remove these obstacles.

Photo close up


You may end up finding yourself down on the floor to do this - that’s OK!  Kids are short or at least I haven’t seen too many 5-foot tall one year olds.  You may have to get down and dirty on their level to really capture them at their best.

Even then, it’s often as important to think about what you want to leave OUT of the frame as what you want to include.   Don’t be afraid to get in close and really focus on your child without all the distractions of their environment.  There’s nothing I love more than a super close up shot of an adorable little face.

Photo D


You know that little square smack dab in the middle of your viewfinder of your camera?  Well, ignore it!  Most people like to line faces up with that little square but dead-centered pictures tend to be much less visually interesting than shots that are composed a bit more creatively.

Photo E 

As Dr. Sheila Cason discussed in her article on composition, the rule of thirds is a composition tool for photographers to line their subjects up along the vertical lines or intersections that are created if you were to visually divide an image into nine equal parts with two equally-spaced horizontal lines and two equally-spaced vertical lines.  For those of us shooting children, this means that as a general rule, we try not to center the eyes in the middle of a picture (think of those elementary yearbook pictures!) but instead try to line up the child’s body with a vertical line and their eyes with a horizontal line.  See the difference?

Photo F 

Along these lines, using negative space can also be quite complimentary when used creatively.  While there are times when filling the whole frame is a great idea, other times you may want to create a sense of space and give your little subject some breathing room.

Photo G


Some of my favorite shots ever were taken in the “golden hour," just before sunset.  The light has a completely different quality to it in the early morning hours or at the end of the day before sunset.  When possible, aim to shoot during these picture-perfect times.  The light is softer and more flattering than during the middle of the day when it is beating down from straight overhead.

If you find yourself shooting mid-day, don’t despair!   There are still ways to soften the light a bit.  Try guiding your little one under the soft shade of a tree or perhaps under a porch overhang. 

Finally, if possible, turn off your flash.  Natural light is always more flattering that the harsh light put off by a flash.

Photo H


Lastly, in my opinion, and most importantly, stop with the cheese already!  I have yet to see a child smile naturally when told to “say cheese."  Yet parents insist on asking their children to do so when taking pictures.  Then they wonder why sweet Alyssa looks like she’s growling with her face contorted into a shape they’ve never seen before.  Saying cheese simply does not elicit natural smiles.

Talk to your child, act silly, sing songs, tell jokes - whatever you need to do to engage them and get their mind off the fact they are being photographed.  Besides, if you can make it fun, there’s a lot better chance your child will be excited to see you coming the next time you pull out your camera!


Connie Connie Groah has quickly become a sought-after children’s photographer in the greater Annapolis area for her unique eye and her ability to preserve little pieces of this precious time as she captures your children exploring their expanding world. The pensive stares, pouts, smiles and giggles are all part of their unique personalities. A child’s innocence, curiosity and natural state of wonder make for perfect opportunities to capture life as art. Connie believes that every stage, every milestone, deserves to be remembered and that you will never regret having too many pictures of your children. They grow up so fast, and the stages they go through pass quickly. The way he sticks his tongue out when he crawls, the way she giggles excitedly with her first steps, his proud smile after he loses that first tooth, her nervous fidgeting before her first prom date… these are the moments that we wish to imprint in our memories.  Connie will document these genuine expressions, moments and little details that may otherwise be forgotten.

Connie Groah is having 35 of her beautiful baby images published in The Big Book of Babies, released in March, 2008. She is an Approved Registered Member of the International Registry of Children’s Photographers (www.irocp.com), an exclusive collection of the finest children’s photographers from across the world promoting the highest standards in children’s portrait photography. She is also a member of the Professional Photographers of America, Wedding and Portrait Photographers International, and Professional Photographers of Greater Annapolis. She resides in Annapolis, Maryland with her husband and their two active sons. She is available for commission for portraits as well as commercial work with children in the Annapolis, Baltimore, and Washington DC areas. Inquire about availability for travel.


Now for the kicker - I've got a great surprise for my readers.  How would you like to start taking excellent pictures of your children with a brand new digital camera?  And, how would you like that camera to be a brand new Nikon D80? 

Hmmm.  I thought so.  Are your eyes popping yet?  You are going to love this camera.  Hey, it's a NIkon so you know it's going to provide you with the best pictures ever! 

Just answer the following question in the comments:


What gives you the most frustration about taking digital pictures of your children?

This contest will end at 4pm EST on Thursday, March 19th.  Winner will be announced at about 6pm EST on Thursday evening and chosen by the Sponsor who is providing this wonderful camera to my readers! 

Sorry guys, but family and close friends are not eligible.  I know, life stinks sometimes, but if I want to keep my sponsors I have to be honest - and uh, I'm an honest doobie.

Now, start thinking about that question and leave a comment ...



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