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Thread: Beginner Seeking Advice on How to Improve Photos Using Photoshop Elements

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    Brownbear's Avatar
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    Beginner Seeking Advice on How to Improve Photos Using Photoshop Elements

    I was pretty excited to capture this whale breaching, (ie; more than a tail or a fin) but I'd like to know how to make these photos more special so they have more impact. Perhaps by making the background of the photos prettier, ie; perhaps make the ocean or sky bluer, or eliminating the rocky shoreline..

    I'm new to photoshop elements and I'm comfortable with correcting white balance, filling light, improving clarity, and using colour curves...

    I take a lot of nature shots and they typically have water or sky in the background.

    Any general tips to share on how I can improve my photos?

    Beginner Seeking Advice on How to Improve Photos Using Photoshop Elements

    Beginner Seeking Advice on How to Improve Photos Using Photoshop Elements

    Beginner Seeking Advice on How to Improve Photos Using Photoshop Elements

    Thank you.

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    Re: Beginner Seeking Advice on How to Improve Photos Using Photoshop Elements

    Are you kidding me, Christina????

    Before I could even make any suggestions, I'd have to pick myself up out of the floor so I could mention how cool it is that you snagged these magnificent creatures.

    I don't know if I could have done it. I think would have been too overwhelmed by seeing them breech.

    Awesome! We'll see what we can come up with!

  3. #3
    Brownbear's Avatar
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    Re: Beginner Seeking Advice on How to Improve Photos Using Photoshop Elements

    No, I'm not kidding! Thank you... I am absolutely thrilled that I caught these whales breaching - a first for me... But I have also noticed that so many of the photos on this forum look like paintings, perfect in every detail, and I'd like to learn to do that.

    Also, I'm trying to sell stock photos, and number 1 which I think is very pretty was rejected as a stock photo, so I need to learn to make my photos more special.
    Last edited by Brownbear; 28th March 2012 at 08:45 PM.

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    Re: Beginner Seeking Advice on How to Improve Photos Using Photoshop Elements

    Hi Christina! For many of us, getting something that would look better than these fantastic shots of yours takes learning how to get the most out of post processing.

    I see that you are using PSE-9 so you are off to a great start! I found the following book most helpful. Although it is written with Photoshop in mind, the basics are Layers which are available as an add-in for PSE-9.

    The Complete Guide to Photoshop's Most Powerful Feature, LAYERS by Matt Kloskowski.

    Using layers, you can change or even replace specific parts of an image, like the sky.

  5. #5
    Brownbear's Avatar
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    Re: Beginner Seeking Advice on How to Improve Photos Using Photoshop Elements

    Hi Frank,
    Thank you.. Good to know.. I will find the book.

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    Re: Beginner Seeking Advice on How to Improve Photos Using Photoshop Elements

    At the moment, Christina, these photos look absolutely natural so I would be very wary of spoiling them through excessive processing.

    Personally, I would crop differently to concentrate more on the main subject. Maybe crop to 5 x 4 or 4 x 5 ratio.

    Then maybe a little bit of selective sharpening to just sharpen the main subject. And/or try a little bit of Local Contrast Enhancement. I often do this on a duplicate layer with mask then edit the mask to vary the amount of enhancement between different elements of a scene.

    But the main consideration is don't overdo any processing.

    I'm not sure what equipment you used but most of those 'perfect photos' are shot with staggeringly expensive kit.

    ps. I see that these were shot around 1/500 which is possibly a fraction on the slow side for sharp capture of water cascading from the whales; but your Iso is already at 400 so ideally I wouldn't want to increase that. The only other option would have been to use a slightly wider aperture.
    Last edited by Geoff F; 28th March 2012 at 09:16 PM.

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    Re: Beginner Seeking Advice on How to Improve Photos Using Photoshop Elements

    Hi Geoff,
    Thank you. I will try cropping differently (I always thought 4 to 3 was best) and learn about selective sharpening... I am living in a small town in Mexico, so my resources are limited, so I sure appreciate the forum.

    I have a Sony Alpha 200 DSLR, and it limits me on the perfect balance of lighting and shutter speed. But I just purchased a used Nikon D100 (it came with a long lens) and my Mom is bringing me down a used Nikon D80, so I think this will help my photos.

    Thank you everyone, very helpful advice.. Now if I could only get a decent shot of the flock of green parrotlets that fly over my house! One day!

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    Re: Beginner Seeking Advice on How to Improve Photos Using Photoshop Elements

    Here is a poor shot (but my best shot) of a few members of the flock of green parrotlets that fly about the town I live in... You only know they are coming when you hear them sing, and by then it is usually too, late... They fly way high up in the sky from tree to tree. They are about the size of small tomato. I set my camera for either Shutter Speed Priority ~ 500, iso 400 or Aperature Priority 5.6 (the lowest I can go); Exposure plus 1.3 and or on manual for the same settings, but I still cannot get a decent shot... Anyway they are special and I'll keep trying.

    Beginner Seeking Advice on How to Improve Photos Using Photoshop Elements

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    Re: Beginner Seeking Advice on How to Improve Photos Using Photoshop Elements

    Hi Christina,

    Those whales are pretty good as they stand.

    I was going to reply with something helpful, but after refreshing the thread since I opened the tab hours ago, I see Geoff has said everything I was going to, saving me a job

    On the parrotlets, we have the same thing with Ring-necked Parakeets here in south east England - very noisy, they fly and roost quite high.

    The sort of shot you show is similar to some I have tried in my garden (back yard), we have what is known as a 'pigeon racer' locally and (I assume) when the flock of 20 (or so) birds return home, they always seem to fly many, many circuits passing over me at varying heights, they are fairly silent, but predictable in their path, so made an obvious target to shoot, but I was never satisfied enough with the results to consider posting. To me, it is almost down to sheer luck in capturing a photogenic formation - and that is having the benfit of repeated attempts within minutes for about an hour.

    So I think you may be quite a while on improving on this shot, unles you get lucky one day - the thing is, can you do anything to improve your luck? For me with the Ring-necked Parakeets, this meant going to a large local woodland park where they nest and are hence available in larger numbers and hang out together - I don't know if this option is available to you though.

    Another thing I have done is provide peanuts in a feeder in the garden, which occasionally attracts one or two right down low.

    Good luck,

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    Re: Beginner Seeking Advice on How to Improve Photos Using Photoshop Elements

    Christina; I can imagine it is difficult to get a clear shot of the birds, so please take my criticism for what it is worth. It seems the birds are out of focus, which could be because your camera is focusing at infinity, instead of where the birds are.

    Why not try manual mode, and prefocus at about the height where these birds usually fly, and use a very fast shutter speed. If you bump up the ISO, you can use a moderate f-stop opening, which will (generally) increase sharpness and depth of field.

    Try to get the birds flying into the picture, if you can, which will also help with slowing their motion relative to your camera position.

  11. #11

    Re: Beginner Seeking Advice on How to Improve Photos Using Photoshop Elements

    Really great shots - I agree with Geoff that you should treat the whales carefully with a little bit of sharpening. Did the stock agency give any reason why they rejected the first image?

    As for the birds in flight you are going to find them even harder to capture well than the whales. You need a big lens to get a decent shot or you need to find some way to get close. That means birdfood or setting up a hide near where they hang out.

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    Re: Beginner Seeking Advice on How to Improve Photos Using Photoshop Elements

    Thank you everyone. Some would say the small town I live in is a park. The flocks of parrotlets hang about high in the tree tops, but not for long... For example if I see them land in a tree top about a kilometer from my house, they are their for just a few minutes before flying to another tree, so I'd be chasing them all over the park. I don't think they would come down for food as they are very shy.

    Reasons for rejection. The image is out of focus or the focus is not where we feel it should be. Not quite what we are looking for.

    I've tried manual with a shutter speed of ~ 500, and A ~ 4.5 to 7, spot metering, Exposure up to +1.3, iso 400, 300 mm zoom, but the pictures are pitch black... I don't think pre-focusing will work because their is nothing to focus on in the sky?
    Should I keep trying on manual mode, A ~ 8 with a faster shutter speed say 1000 and iso as high as it will go?

    Thank you.
    Last edited by Brownbear; 29th March 2012 at 02:15 PM.

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    Re: Beginner Seeking Advice on How to Improve Photos Using Photoshop Elements

    Christina; I was thinking that if you turned off the auto focus, and pick something like tree branches to manually focus on, at about the distance that you expect the birds to be, then the focus would be at the correct distance, assuming the birds do their part and fly through your frame at the correct height.

    Hah! easy for me to say.

    If you prefocus to the short end of the expected range, your subject may still be in focus if the apeture is on the smaller side.

    So yes, by all means keep trying. Easy for me to say.

    The settings that you mention in your last post would be worth a try.

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    Re: Beginner Seeking Advice on How to Improve Photos Using Photoshop Elements

    Check out some birds here:

    http://www.newjerseyphotos.net/-/newjerseyphotos/


    Your whales reminded me of a wonderful slide of a whale landing back into the sea after a breech with the splash all around.
    When complemented on the shot, the photographer said he has used 8 rolls of film before he captured that one image.

    When photographing ocean scenes on grey days there is often very little contrast between sea and sky. You might be able to make a tight selection of the whale, then use invert, and darken either the sky or sea. (If you do not invert, then the selected whale will darken.) That is a use of masks.

    Birds in flight are a major challenge, and you have chosen both small and fast flying ones! But, if you have a clear sky as a background auto focus should work. When the background is trees or other solids, the camera might try to focus on that and not the bird. Put the focus point in the middle, try to stay on the head of the bird and keep the camera swinging even after you have have pushed the shutter. If you do not keep the camera moving, you will stop as you push the shutter and the bird will be out of the focus eye. This is a method used by duck hunters. Another trick is to put the focus point to the far left point if the bird is going left to right. Swing the camera center point (the target symbol) over the tail, then head and just then keep swinging past the head so that the focus point is now on the head as if you are leading the bird with the big target point!

    My camera (Olympus E-620) has a continuous focus mode that keeps a focus on a moving target, and this is combined with a continuos or rapid fire shutter speed setting. Keep the shutter speed as least as fast as your focal length number, eg. 400mm. Check your image stabilized settings. Sometimes there are settings for horizontal and vertical motion. Birds coming at you are easier. One of my clearest birds-in-flight was of a common tern, usually associated with fast turning and diving. Well, I caught this bird flying into a strong head wind which held the creature almost motionless above the pier I was standing on.

    Check out The Bird Photography Field Guide by David Tipling, see pp. 88-89, Birds in flight

    He says he sometimes focuses manually at a set point and shoots a "burst of images" as the bird enters the area. I tried that with the tern and focused on an area where the bird had been diving for fish. I caught a big splash! It was fun though.

    PS Do not crop the whales too tightly. I have been taught to give moving animals space in which to move.
    Last edited by rambler4466; 29th March 2012 at 06:33 PM.

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    Brownbear's Avatar
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    Re: Beginner Seeking Advice on How to Improve Photos Using Photoshop Elements

    Sounds like a great game plan, that just might work. Thank you. I will keep trying and with a little (maybe lots) of luck I will post a photo of the parrotlets in flight one day.

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    Re: Beginner Seeking Advice on How to Improve Photos Using Photoshop Elements

    Thank you so much (and to everyone else) for the great advice... I'm printing all your advice for a handy reference to catch the parrotlets in flight whether they are in the sky or departing from a treetop.

    Beautiful inspiring photos, and fun, helpful stories. Thank you everyone for sharing your advice and tips..

  17. #17
    Brownbear's Avatar
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    Re: Beginner Seeking Advice on How to Improve Photos Using Photoshop Elements

    Beginner Seeking Advice on How to Improve Photos Using Photoshop Elements

    Here's my so/so attempt at Photoshop... I sharpened, increased contrast, and warmed the photo up. I tried to crop with a different ratio (but I couldn't figure out how to find 5:4). I created a duplicate layer, and tried to select around the whale so I could make either the water or the sky bluer, but I ended up drawing all over the whale, and the photo looked worse for wear.

    In short, I have a lot to learn, and a lot of practice... Thank you everyone. Truly Appreciated.

    At this moment, not so fond of the quick selector or magnetic lasso tool.


    Christina

  18. #18

    Re: Beginner Seeking Advice on How to Improve Photos Using Photoshop Elements

    Quote Originally Posted by Christina Stobbs View Post
    The flocks of parrotlets hang about high in the tree tops, but not for long... For example if I see them land in a tree top about a kilometer from my house, they are their for just a few minutes before flying to another tree, so I'd be chasing them all over the park. I don't think they would come down for food as they are very shy.
    I'm afraid that one of the major attributes required to get great shots is patience. I went on a short photography course and the instructor started by showing us two photos and said he spent three days at a market to get just those two. He found a good place to wait, put on his iPod and waited... and waited. The same is especially the case with birds, doubly so with small, shy birds. You need food as bait and a hide that you can sit in where they can't see you and.... time. Without that you are basically just hoping for a fluke.

  19. #19

    Re: Beginner Seeking Advice on How to Improve Photos Using Photoshop Elements

    I took this into Topaz adjust to get some pop on the whale and water. Layered in a sky I had, then worked an adjustment layer. In all it took about 5 minutes and gives this photo a little more pop
    Beginner Seeking Advice on How to Improve Photos Using Photoshop Elements

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    Re: Beginner Seeking Advice on How to Improve Photos Using Photoshop Elements

    Hi Christina,

    Have you considered seeing how your whales might translate to black & white?

    For your cropping, you will have to probably figure your ratio and apply it (enter it into your crop width and crop height boxes) in, say, inches wide and inches high (or centimeters, or pixels, or whatever unit of measurement you choose that will work in your software).

    5:4 is 5 inches x 4 inches, or 5 centimeters x 4 centimeters. An equivalent ratio would be 10x8 inches, or 10x8 centimeters, or 10x8 cubits, or, well you get the idea. Another equivalent would be 20x16 inches, miles, fathoms, etc.

    As another example, a 1:1 ratio is a square, as is 1,236,354x1,236,354 (enter unit of measurement here). A 4x6 print is a 4:6 ratio, as would be a 2:3 ratio, and as would be an 8x12 print.

    The units of measurement have to be the same for both sides of the ratio, but that's all it is.

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