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A Word (or two) on Processing Photos

Do you mind if we talk about photography a bit? More specifically, do you mind if we talk about photography processing a bit? I hope you don’t because it’s a topic that’s on my mind a lot these days and I want to share a bit with you.

Back in January I said that one of my goals for this year was to learn to use Photoshop Elements. Vicki left a comment on that post and recommended that I take an online class to get started. We emailed back and forth a bit, shared a few links and websites, and I ultimately signed up for Kim Klassen’s free Skinny Mini  eCourse in Elements. The class ran last month and I learned quite a bit about simple processing techniques like using textures, adding text, and understanding layers. It was great and I highly recommend it if you’re interested in learning the basics of Photoshop – she’s actually enrolling people right now and the next class starts on 3/19. You know what, though? For me at least, taking this class made me want to learn more.

So I signed up for another Kim Klassen class, The Essentials eCourse. This one isn’t free but is very reasonably priced and worth every penny. I learned more about layers and masks, Adobe Camera RAW, magic lasso tools, brushes, adjustment levels, actions and so much more. And let me just say a thing here about actions – and this is something Vicki said to me and I completely agree – they are cool but they are best if you understand the process behind them. Knowing how they work means you can personalize the actions you use but even better it means you can create your own actions. So cool.

All of this is really just words until I show you some examples. Let’s take a look at some of my recent photos.

This is the original of Dale on Leap Day.

And here’s the final processed photo. Closer, brighter, and much better.

A photo of some snow on a shrub outside my back door.

And post processing. It’s sharper, it’s warmer, and it’s got some text.

A photo of Mason sitting by the wood stove.

And post processed. It’s cropped, it’s sharper, it’s got a vignette and it’s incredibly improved.

Elements worked wonders on those photos, I think. They weren’t terrible to start (well, the one of Dale was pretty dark) but taking them through the paces in Elements really made them pop. I think you still have to start with good composition and a good eye but having nice software to work with can make a huge difference in your finished photos.

If you’re intrigued by any of this I strongly urge you to sign up for Kim’s Skinny Mini class. It’s free, it’s fantastic, and what have you got to lose?



This Post Has 26 Comments

  1. Thanks for the info. I have been wanting to learn to use Photoshop Elements as well.

  2. I’m signing up! I’ve wanted to learn to use PhotoShop Elements for, well. . . years. It’s time I do. (And, sometime I need to chat with you about your new camera. I’m beginning the search for a new one for myself, and I’d be interested in your advice.)

  3. Wow! They look great! I agree, the class was wonderful. I signed up for her Beyond Layers class AND Xanthe Berkeley’s Time Capsule class. Beyond Layers has been wonderful even though I am behind. It runs for 52 weeks. Xanthe’s class is AMAZING to say the least. I have learned so much! It runs 4 weeks and you learn about stop animation, video, cropping, music etc. You can view my first piece (rough copy) here: password is: camera (it is case sensitive).

  4. I love my Elements and my actions, I couldn’t imagine not using them! So glad you’ve been learning all the tricks!

  5. Carole, wonderful job. I’m really going to jump on the bandwagon this spring. That program is sitting in my kitchen uninstalled!

  6. I’m glad you’re having fun with photoshop. I’ve always loved your photos and agree that increasing the contrast in the Dale picture definitely improved it as did the color correction and contrast on your beautiful cat. But the tree branch lost focus and definition and the halo around the cat isn’t natural and I’m not keen on printing signatures on photos. Hope you don’t mind.

  7. I appreciate your examples. I recently got a new point-and-shoot camera and I’m embarrassed to say I’ve not sat down and tried to figure it out yet. It’s on my list of things to do for ME during spring break. Once I learn how to take a darn shot, I can see by your examples, I will need be learning more.

  8. Such an informative exercise here…and I love Mason. 🙂
    (but you knew that)
    I don’t have Photoshop, and it’s not on the wishlist right now (too much else there) so I’ll reserve this info for a later date. I could stand to improve my photos, no question!

  9. It is amazing the difference and improvement in the photos you have shown as examples. Nice work! I don’t have Photoshop, but I will keep all this in mind if I decide to invest at some point in the future.

  10. I like what you have done with the photos Carole. It is so cool to learn the components and use them to enhance your photos; I think you have been so judicious about how you edit your photos which makes them look better. And it is great when you already have great photos to start with.

  11. Love the before & afters, and thanks for the nudge! My PSE skills are definitely not what I would like them to be.

  12. The first picture of Mason was only a little scary, but the second, retouched version is way scarier! DO NOT CROSS ME, HUMAN. NOW GET ME TUNA.

  13. Very cool! I enrolled in the essentials class but fell so far behind. I think I will pay for permanent access to the videos so I can catch up and be able to refer back to them. I especially love your use of text on the photo!

  14. You have convinced me. I process my photos with iPhoto and feel like I have pretty much mastered color correction and cropping to improve my photos. All those features in PhotoShop went way over my head, and the PhotoShop Elements program I used 8-10 years ago never impressed me, plus I have sinced moved to a Mac. NowI have Gimp, a freeware/shareware program that has a lot of the functionality of PhotoShop, but I almost never use it because it’s toooo haaaarrrrddd (whine). A class or three like you are talking about would be perfect.

    After tax season…

  15. I feel like I’ve forgotten everything I knew about photography. I’d gotten pretty good (though I’d not yet really gotten into processing) before I had Ian, and now I must sadly admit that I am all about just using “auto” on the camera. And it’s been *years* since I’ve really Done Photography, as opposed to merely shooting snapshots. I miss it, I think my photos are dreadful, and I really need to start fixing that!

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