Photo insights January '15

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An eMagazine devoted to inspiring photography and Photoshop techniques written and published by Jim Zuckerman.

Text of Photo insights January '15

  • 1 Topaz Glow A different approach to composition Photographing puppies Kaleidoscopic images Online photo course Student showcase Photo tours

    P H O T O I N S I G H T SJim Zuckermans

    January 2015

  • 2 4. Topaz Glow 9. A different approach to composition18. Photographing puppies26. Whats wrong with this picture?28. Short and sweet30. Kaleidoscopic images32. Ask Jim35. Student showcase39. Back issues


  • New Years are full of resolutions, so I thought Id suggest one to you. Resolve to make yourself happy and fullfilled artistically by taking more pictures in 2015. If you subscribe to this publication, I have to assume that photography gives you a great deal of pleasure in life. Whether you are shooting insects in your backyard, still life studio shots in your kitchen, or the Taj Mahal, pictures give you an outlet for your self-expression and they are a source of happiness.

    In addition, photography leads you down many paths, whether they be nature, wildlife, travel, fashion, photojournalism, special effects, or something else. Its a learning experience, a creative experience, and a fun experience. And who couldnt use more of each of these things?

    I like giving myself presents. I feel I work hard and deserve them. You should take the same position. You deserve more picture taking, more travel, more life experi-ences, and more fun. If you are as busy as I am, then you need to block some time for yourself. Consider this medicine for the soul. Make a list of subjects youd like to photograph close to home, and make a list of places youd like to visit. Its a great exercise to do. Check off the items on the list as you do them, and by the end of the year you will have kept a promise to yourself to enrich your life immeasurably. Dont make excuses. Just do it and you will feel great for giving these gifts to your-self.


    Happy New Year!

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    For several years, a Photoshop plug-in named Fractalius has been available to PC users only. Photographers who use Apple comput-ers didnt have access to it, and personally that left me frustrated because the effects are so amazing and I really wanted to ex-periment with this software.

    Topaz just released a new plugin in their line of creative software, and its called To-paz Glow. It simulates Fractalius exactly,

    but in addition it expands the artistic pos-sibilities in some very unique directions. Glow works with both Mac and PC plat-forms (CS4+, but doesnt work in Win-dows 32 bit), and its so easy to use that as soon as you install it and open the plugin you will be making masterpieces within seconds.

    The procedure is to open a photo in Pho-toshop (or Photoshop Elements) and then use the pulldown menu command

    Topaz Glow

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    Filter > Topaz Labs > Topaz Glow. This opens the dialog box you see above. Along the right side are the presets, and there are many more

    than shown here. Once you choose a preset that appeals to you, click on the center of it (green ar-row) to reveal many sliders. These allow you to

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    further embellish the image in various ways. Some of the sliders will be familiar to you and are obvious as to what they do such as bright-ness, contrast, and saturation. Others require experimentation like edge color, glow spread, electrify, and line rotation. It does no good to verbally explain what each of these sliders do because you have to see the effect to know if you like it or not. As with many plugins such as those from Nik, Alien Skin, and OnOne, its a matter of trying all of the sliders and buttons to see what they do.

    If you want to see the before and after versions as you work, simply click on the second icon from the left in the upper left portion of the dialog box (magenta arrow in the screen cap-ture seen on page 5).

    When you are like what you see, hit the OK button and use File > save as to give the image a distinct name or number.

    A technique I use often is to open an image in Topaz Glow that Ive already manipulated using this plugin. The artistically altered im-age becomes the original, and the Glow filters are then compounded. The results are always a surprise, and its fun to experiment this way.

    As you can see from these examples, all kinds of subjects can be used with this plugin. Faces are especially dramatic (animal or human), but so are flowers, macro subjects, landscapes, and architecture. I find that the images with the strongest graphic lines usually work the best. There are always exceptions, though, when it comes to art.

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  • w


    Baby WildlifeWorkshopHinckley, MinnesotaJune 26 - 28, 2015

    Baby wolves, skunks, coyotes, bobcats, lynx, foxes, bears, plus adult animals in natural looking environments.

    Frog & Reptile Workshop Close-up encounters with poison dart frogs and exotic reptiles in St. Louis, MO.

    April 11 - 12, 2015

    Home Photoshop workshop

    Learn amazing techniques to help you be more creative in photography.

    May 16-17, 2015


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    C O M P O S I T I O N A Different Approach

    Composition is a difficult subject to teach. Conversely, it is a difficult sub-ject to master if it doesnt come natu-rally to you. The reason is that the world is what I call a compositional mess. Everywhere you look there are trees, buildings, rocks, peo-ple, power lines, roads, and a million other elements, and its hard to make artistic sense out of the visual chaos. Photography instruc-tors like myself can talk all day long about the Rule of Thirds, leading lines, and S-curves, but when you have camera in hand and youre looking at a scene, it seems like these composi-tional guidelines often dont apply to the mess

    you see before you.

    When it comes to simple subjects and simple backgrounds, like the great egret in flight, be-low, anyone can make a good composition out of it. Simply put the subject in the middle -- or off to one side -- and shoot. Its a no brainer.

    Most scenarios are not so simple, of course. I would like to offer some guidelines that you can use to help make compositional sense out of many disparate objects. This is a different way of thinking photographically, but if good com-position is a challenge for you, this may help

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    you focus on certain principles that, I feel, lead directly to successful photographs.

    1. Look for beautiful shapes.

    In my opinion, this is one of the most impor-tant ingredients to taking good pictures. Beau-tiful shapes make beautiful pictures. Subjects with bold, elegant, or curvaceous graphic lines are simply artistic. The tree on the previous page is an example as is the egret on page 9.

    This same principle applies to almost every-thing: castles, tall ships, nudes, shapes of noses in a profile shot, sand dunes, roses, and danc-ers. The reason I took a photo tour group to the Oriente train station in Lisbon, Portugal below a couple of years ago was because of the graphic design. Ultra wide angle lenses, like the 14mm I used for this shot, exaggerate the lines and make them even more pronounced,

    and more dramatic, than they really are. Nev-ertheless, for this kind of impact you have to start with a subject that has a visually dynamic shape.

    2. Complimentary backgrounds

    Backgrounds are often underrated. They make or break a picture. If a background is too messy or too busy, or if it has distracting elements such as overexposed highlights or bright colors, our eyes are diverted from the subject.

    Bold and graphic lines behind a subject are also distracting if they are not part of the sub-ject itself. This is true if they are in focus or out of focus, and it doesnt matter if they are vertical, horizontal, diagonal, or curved. Ex-amples are twigs, a window frame behind someones head, and the horizon line that

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    runs behind a subject. When photographers take outdoor portraits, for example, I often see the pronounced line of the horizon cutting the subjects head in half from behind. Not good.

    There are an endless number of background elements that can distract the eye from the subject. One important characteristic of a successful photograph is that the attention is directed to the subject without our eyes be-ing drawn elsewhere in the frame. Its fine to appreciate the entire composition, but we shouldnt focus on a background element.

    Ideally, of course, backgrounds should be con-sidered at the time of shooting so we dont have to rely on post-processing techniques to make a picture perfect. We are often faced with great subjects with messy or distracting backgrounds, and thats where a knowledge of Photoshop can save a picture. Being aware of how important backgrounds are, and be-ing able to identify problem areas in a picture, goes a long way to becoming a better photog-rapher.

    The three pictures at right exemplify less-than-ideal backgrounds. They arent horri-ble, but they are not good, either. The photo of my niece when she was a little girl offering ice cream to her cocker spaniel has light high-lights through the foliage that are very dis-tracting. In the sky behind the heron the little bit of foliage sticking up introduces unneces-sary and distracting elements (out of focus fo-liage behind a subject is fine, but little bits of it sticking into the frame dont look good).

    In the picture of the costumed model in Indo-nesia, there are several problems: the blown out sky, the red and yellow elements in the lower left, the edge of the concrete also in the lower