Sunday, March 29, 2009

Let The Games Begin!

It's Soccer Season!!
That may sound like a harmless enough phrase, but at our house it packs quite a punch!
With 3 boys in soccer it's a whirlwind of action from now til June.  And one of my favorite things about soccer games
is the great action shots I get to shoot.  I think action shots are about my favorite since there's always so much passion in them.  
Here's a simple photoshop elements tutorial of some effects I recently just started pairing together that do a really great job of making your focus in an action photo (or any photo) really stand out.
Step 1.
Open the photo that you want to enhance. Here's mine of #93 struttin' his stuff.  The straight-out-of-camera (SOOC) shot looks pretty good.  But if you're addicted to photoshop, pretty good ain't near good enough!
Step 2.
Do any lighting or color adjustments. I'm not even gonna get into all that in this post.....I'll save that for another day!
Step 3.
At the top of your toolbar go to Enhance - Convert to black and white.
This step is optional but I wanted to show you how I did mine so you could follow along.
This is what your screen should look like with the b&w options available. There's several effects to choose
from, just click on them to see which one you like. I chose newspaper which is usually a little dramatic. You can't have 4 creatures and not appreciate a little drama every now and then. I usually increase the contract just a bit by moving the slider.
center> Photobucket
Step 4.
Now we're going to separate the focus the subject from the background. This part takes some practice. It's not hard....just takes getting used to.
Select your Quick Selection Tool. (it looks like a pencil with an oval at the end)
Make sure you've got the + selected at the top of the toolbar to the left.
Now you're going to drag the little circle with the + in it around the subject you want to stand out from the background. You'll see little 'dancing ants' covering everything you select.
For larger areas you can increase the circle, for smaller areas decrease the circle. Do this by pressing the
left [ or the right ] keys on your keyboard. These should be above the return or enter key.
If your dancing ants include something you don't want, click on the - selection (right beside the + selection at top left) and drag over the things you don't want to not include them.
This is where the practice comes can take a while to get it just right!
This is what my photo looks like with my subject selected and I'll show you how to smooth the edges.
To smooth out the edges click the Refine Edge option at the top. This helps you to smooth and feather the edges to your liking. There's no right or wrong, just increase your numbers til it looks how you want.
Step 5.
Now we're going to put the focus on a layer all by itself in the Layers Palette (bottom right hand of your screen).
Press Command J on a mac or Control J on a pc.
This is what your Layers Palette should look like. Notice that #93 has his own layer now? That's a good thing!
Step 6.
Click on the layer titled Background Layer.
Step 7.
Click the half black/half white circle at the top of the Layers Palette. This creates an adjustment layer so you're able to manipulate the layer beneath it.
Choose Levels.
Step 8.
Drag the Output Levels to the Right to reduce the color from the background. Do this to whatever degree you think looks best. Then click OK.
Here's what the Levels adjustment looks like.
Notice how the background is now a lot lighter than my subject? That's another good thing!
Step 9.
Here's where the real fun comes in with action photos! We're going to really make #93 POP!
At the top of your screen select Filter - Blur - Radial Blur.
You have a choice of Spin or Zoom. I chose Zoom.
You can then choose your amount or 'degree' of zoom. I chose 20.
Click OK.
Here's what you've got now.
#93 is really gettin' with it!
Step 10.
Now just a few finishing touches....
Select your subject layer in the Layers Palette. Mine is Layer 1.
Above your Layers Palette should be the Effects Palette.
Choose Layer Styles.
Choose Drop Shadow and select one you like. Double click the drop shadow icon to add it to your subject.
Step 11.
When you're pleased with all how your photo looks choose Layer - Flatten Image at the top of your screen. I always do this before saving my files.
Now you've got a really fabulous action shot with just a little more oomph to it!
I actually added a grungy frame to mine using the cookie cutter tool and enlarged it to a 16x20 to make a cool poster out of it. Here's the evolution of my photo: (I dropped the zoom down slightly for my poster version) Photoshop Elements 6 Evolution
I hope I've helped you here. Now go grab a photo and create something fabulous!
Be sure to let me know if you decide to give my tutorial a try. I'm sure many of you know lots of shortcuts or other ways of doing these things so pass along your wisdom too!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Coming Soon!

It's 12:05 am on Sunday morning.  
I've just spent 2 hours taking screen shots and writing up my first-ever Photoshop Elements step-by-step tutorial.
I was so proud.
Now I'm just tired and grouchy and sooo frustrated because I entered some html thing incorrectly and my post was posted WRONG!!!
Which means now I have to start over because I wasn't savvy enough to save it somehow.
As soon as I renew my gumption to do this tutorial CORRECTLY I'll show you how to add a cool effect to some action shots, like the one of #93 over there.
But right now I'm going to bed and hoping to forget I ever heard of a thing called blog.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


My baby turned 4 last week.
You know how some people refer to their children as the baby but they're not really the baby?
Well, Princess is truly and officially my baby.  She's the youngest of 4 which is a big deal for a mommy.
And while I'm not what you'd call a sentimental gal, this particular birthday has had me in quite a tailspin.
I can't exactly pinpoint why I'm so befrazzled about this 4th birthday.  I've been thru three previous 4th birthdays
and I've handled them quite calmly.  
But this's just....different.  
I think it may be because this 4th birthday has entered me into a stage in my life that I've never seen.
For the past 13 years straight I've been able to classify my life into one (or 2 or 3!) of the following categories:
               I'm pregnant.
               I've got a newborn.
               I've got a toddler.
Each of those categories needs no explanation....they're self-containing....and they're a life unto themselves!
But 4....4 is different.  
4 is 'big kid' material.  And I don't like it. 
This rebellion of mine towards the number 4 could also be due to the fact that this is, indeed, the last time I will ever experience any of my children having a 4th birthday....or a 3rd...or a 2nd.....or a 1st.....or the birth day in all it's excitement and anticipation.   Hubby and I decided that having  4 creatures was more than blessed and hopefully Dr. Dorsey tied all the right things to make sure there's not 5 creatures anytime ever.  And I'm ok with regrets.  
I believe I'm just realizing that this is the closing of a what's been a long, exhausting, exhilirating and ever-surprising chapter in this here life of mine.  I never thought those days would end.  
I'll miss them terribly.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Calling All Blogaholics

As promised forever ago, I'd love to share with you a handy little feature I just stumbled upon.  It's called Google Reader and it helps me to somewhat maintain control of my blog-stalking addiction.
Google Reader allows you to have all your blogs that you follow (or news sites, etc.)  contained in one home page.  This way you can check in on all your blogs and see if there's any new posts without going to each and every site. 
Here's what my Google Reader Home Page looks like when I click it open.  I have it bookmarked in my bookmark bar so I don't even have to log in, it opens straight to the update status.
GR home page
On the left hand side is the Subscriptions Bar.
GR Subcriptions detail
This is where you can categorize all your blogs. Mine are all about photography but I was dying to make another folder so I just duplicated some of mine to make 2 folders! When you sign up for Google Reader it gives you a link to add any blogs or website to your Google Reader feed. All the sites you subscribe to are listed here in this bar. Any blog that has new posts that you haven't read are listed in BOLD. And the number of new, unread posts is shown in ( ).
After seeing if there are new posts, you have the option to click on the individual blog name or the folder to get more details on the unread items.
Here is what it looks like when you click the Folder. It details the blog title and the beginning of the post on all the blogs in that folder.
GR folder details
If you click on the Individual Blog Name it shows the same information; post title and the beginning of the post. From there you can click on the Individual Post and this is what it looks like.
GR individual blog post
Everything included in the post is shown here, including photos. You can read the post right from this site or click the title to go straight to the original blog page. You can check the "Mark as Read" tab at the top of Google Reader to make any posts go from BOLD to normal font.
That's just a quick, simple overview. CLICK HERE to go to the Google Reader Tour and find out more!
I'm hooked on this dandy little page since I love to check in on my favorite blogs about every 20 seconds. This way I can just quickly scan thru one page and see if I've missed any life-changing posts:)
Now all you technologically advanced people out there probably have way better options for keeping your online blog addictions organized. If so, pass along your wisdom and send over your tips! Or if you try Google Reader, let me know what you think. I know you all like to give your opinions!
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