A Traveler and his Cat exploring America.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Learning Something New, Again

I was stuck home yesterday as some workers were here at the house. What to do? Well perhaps I could continue trying to learn how to make the background of a photo dark without changing the main subject in any away. (I've been at this for over a week now) This would work well when photographing flowers. Blurring out the background is easy using depth of field when taking the picture, but making it darker is a whole other kettle of fish. Googling the problem doesn't help me too much as most responses deal with Adobe Photoshop. I use Corel Paintshop and I run into a translation problem. One photo program cannot use the same terms or names for features as another. By the end of the day I made some progress and am pleased with that.

So here is before, a photo of a deer skull sitting on my desk chair while I was in the depths of boredom listening to workers hammer away.

Here is after, successfully making the entire background black after countless attempts not knowing what I was doing all along. My wife gets a wee bit of thanks for helping me with some of this as she uses Photoshop on her Mac.

This is before,

and after, having darkened the background without affecting the flower...well too much.
I still have some homework to do but I am further along with this than when I started and slightly less bored.
I wasn't trying for perfection on either of these. The important thing was getting the basics down. I can fine tune things as I go on and continue to learn but that will have to wait for later.
Today I go for a mountain bike ride.


  1. I like what you did with the flower...I downloaded Paintshop but it drove me crazy trying to figure it out, so I uninstalled it! I am still just using the free Photoscape and so far, it is working fine. I wish there was a course for Paintshop so I could have learned how to use it...have fun on your bike ride today! We took advantage of the warm day yesterday to tramp around a wildlife preserve and take photos!

  2. Enjoy your ride!

  3. I use Corel Paintshop Pro... I was beginning to think everybody gave up on PSP & switched to Photoshop! I'm so glad to find someone else that uses it, too!

    I've been trying to translate or find a youtube video tutorial to do that, also. I've found several youtube video tutorials, but I'm also looking for ones for skin smoothing & eye brighten - for the wedding I'm shooting in July... I may have to break down & buy Photoshop after all if I'm going to be shooting weddings! =0

    I'll work at this again when I get home this evening & try to pick up where I left off a while back & let ya know... us paintshoppers have to stick together & help one another! =)

    have fun mountain biking =)

  4. i can tell you were feeling 'pent up' and are now free to roam about the country. :) i don't use photoshop or corel or anything so you're light years ahead of me with editing.

  5. If we lived in the same city:
    - You'd have company for your night photographic walkings;
    - You could teach me how to do all these things you have been learning! :D
    You are always trying something different (photo, video, techniques, etc...), I really admire that! :)
    Have a wonderful day John!

  6. I have a book - "Paint Shop Pro X2 for photographers" by Ken McMahon, published by Focal Press. (ISBN: 978-0-240-52089-6) which helped a lot. Hope it's still in print and available in the US.

  7. IMO you're better off creating the black background at the time you make the photo. I used to carry around an 11x14 mat board, black on one side and white on the other (handy for fill light). Simply meter your subject, set your exposure manually, then hold the black board behind your subject, tilting it as necessary to make it as black as possible (if the sun's shining, you'll want the shadow to fall across the board).

  8. Hi John,
    So proud of you that you want to learn this stuff. It does take time, and yes, it can be extremely frustrating at times--just keep with it.

    I've always preferred books over online tutorials as books are usually written more carefully--"tested recipes" I guess you could call them. I started about 10 years ago with CorelDraw and CorelPaint. Corel PaintShopPro is a good program too -- they all do basically the same things, but like you mentioned, the names of the tools and techniques are not always universal or interchangeable.

    I graduated to Photoshop 6 or 7 years ago. Yes, Photoshop is expensive but don't forget that PhotoshopElements is much less expensive will do a lot of what the full-blown Photoshop can..

    The best way to learn this stuff is to either take a class or have someone show you, so you're in good shape if your better-half is familiar with Photoshop. You mentioned she uses a Mac--we Mac users love our Macs--it's the only way to go. Oh lord, all the years I suffered with Microsoft operating systems.

    So yeah, I'm sure you are on the right track. I suppose you have something roughly equivalent to a "magic wand" for a selection tool. That'll give you those famous "marching ants" showing what is selected. The selection usually needs to be "feathered" a bit to make it less hard-edged. And you want to become familiar with "inverting your selection" so you can work on the unselected areas, if that is what you need to do. Piece of cake. Just keep at it and don't give up when you get stuck on something.

    What to learn next? The Histogram, which is a graphical representation of all the tones in your image. Visually you can see, without even looking at your image how the tonal scale of your image fits the available range from pure black to pure white. It'll show you if you need to make your blacks blacker, or if you need to expand your range of tones so they reach the top of the scale, which is pure white. It'll show you, again without even looking at your image if your whites are blown-out due to over-exposure. Correcting blown-out whites is rather difficult and ineffective. Much better to underexpose and then correct the underexposure, rather than try in vain to fix blown-out high values.

    Once you know how to manipulate your Histogram (hint: push the little triangles on the baseline around to expand or contract your tonal range) you won't need or want to use the simple "Brightness/Contrast" sliders (or whatever they're called in your particular program). The only way I learned how to manipulate a Histogram was to have a buddy of mine sit down with me and show me.

    Not to assign you homework, but I've actually written quite a bit about the Histogram on my blog. Just type in "Histogram" in the Blogger search box on my blog (upper left corner).

    Hope that Sinbad is doing well. I have three neighborhood cats that come visit me on a regular basis so that has softened, just a little bit, the loss of my beloved Kitty. It's been a little over 8 months now--definitely a different place around here without her.

  9. I see you have been doing your homework. Takes a lot of time to master what you did. Good for you. It is fun to tinker with photos. I will be checking back to see what else you learn.

  10. I'm finding that to be a photographer in this age of quickly changing technology forces one to continue learning and growing. It's not just about aperture and shutter speed and composition anymore. Good job!!

  11. It's a challenge I haven't mastered yet. But it's so good to keep trying!! :)


I appreciate my commenters. Thank you. Sometimes you may ask a question which I am all too happy to answer. But if your comment comes in as Betsy-noreply-comment - I cannot reply back. Change you comment settings to include an e-mail address and then bloggers can reply.