Sunday, November 30, 2008

canon powershot 870 is review

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Tips for better backgrounds

9 Tips for Getting Backgrounds Right

Posted: 30 Nov 2008 06:01 AM PST
Tree-Out-Of-HeadPhoto by igglybwiggs

Backgrounds present both opportunities and challenges to photographers. On the one hand they can put a subjects in context and make it stand out in a way that highlights it wonderfully - but on the other hand backgrounds can overwhelm subjects and distract from them.

Some of the common problems that photographers have with backgrounds include:

* Distracting Focal Points - we’ve all seen this happen - we line up a shot of a friend to take as a portrait and just as we press the shutter someone else pops their head up over their shoulder with a silly face. The result is that the real focal point of the shot becomes the face pulling person. This is an extreme example of distracting focal points in the background but it’s something that happens quite a lot.
* Protruding Elements from Subjects Heads - I nearly didn’t include this one but it’s so common that I just had to mention it. When shooting a portrait one of the common mistakes is for some background element to look like it’s sticking up out of a person’s head - like a horn. It’s often trees (as in the photo to the left) but could be anything. These shots can be quite comical but can also really throw the composition of a shot off.
* Competing Lines - if your subject has lines in it and your background also has strong lines they can compete in such a way that the image becomes busy or so that the lines clash with one another.

9 Strategies for Dealing with Distracting Backgrounds
1. Check your Background Before Hitting the Shutter Release

Ok - this strategy isn’t rocket science, in fact you’d think it almost goes without saying - but unfortunately it doesn’t and many of the mistakes that I see in photographs could have been avoided simply by checking the background before taking the shot and taking some sort of evasive action.

Always scan the background of your shots before taking a shot. Look for colors that don’t fit with the rest of the image, bright patches that might distract the eye, lines that clash, people that don’t belong etc.

2. Move Your Subject

This is once again a fairly simple technique but is probably the first thing you should consider. Quite often asking a portrait subject to take a step to the left or right will fix things either by putting the distraction behind them or by putting it out of frame.
Background-Blur-1Photo by alterednate
3. Change your Shooting Angle

If you have distracting elements in the background of a shot but can’t move your subject another strategy is to move yourself and shoot from a new angle. This might mean rotating around your subject but could also include getting down low to make the sky the background or even getting up high and shooting down onto your subject to make the background the ground.
4. Using Aperture to Blur Backgrounds

One of the most useful things to learn as a way to combat distractions in backgrounds (and foregrounds) is to use the power of your lens to throw the background out of focus using depth of field. What you’re trying to achieve with this technique is a nice blurred background where you can’t really make out what’s going on there.

The easiest way to do this is to use a wide aperture (the smaller the number the wider the aperture). The wider your aperture the more blurry your background should become.

The quickest way to see the impact of this strategy is to switch your camera into aperture priority mode and to take a number of shots at different apertures. Start with an aperture of f/20 and work your way down - one stop at a time. Once you get down to under f/4 you’ll start seeing the background in your shots getting blurrier and blurrier.
5. Using Focal Length to Blur Backgrounds

Another way to help get your backgrounds nice and blurry is to use a lens with a long focal length. Longer tele-photo do help a little to get narrower depth of field (although the amount is less than many think). In actual fact the impact is smaller than it seems and the main reason for the change is that with a longer focal length the subject actually takes up more space in the frame. Lots of arguements have been had over whether focal length impacts this - you can read more about it here and here - I’ll leave it to the experts to discuss the finer points but will say that using longer focal lengths does seem to have some impact and is worth experimenting with.
6. Place Subjects In front of Open Spaces

Placing your subject a long way in front of other objects will also help to make those objects more blurry. For example if you have the choice between shooting your subject standing right in front of a brick wall or standing in front of an open field - the open field shot will have a much more blurred background simply because the brick wall is just centimeters from your subject and inside the focal range whereas an open field stretches off into the distance where everything will be out of focus.
7. Fill your frame with your subject

One of the most effective ways of removing distractions from backgrounds is to remove the background altogether by totally filling the frame with your subject. Get up close and/or use your zoom lens to tightly frame the shot and you’ll not only remove distractions but could end up with a high impact shot as well.
BackgroundPhoto by Keith Morris
8. Make your Own Background

Sometimes there just isn’t any suitable background and so you might want to consider making your own. This could range from buying a purpose built studio background or simply buying some cloth to do the job for you.

I know of one keep photographer who goes out shooting photographic portraits and carries large colored sheets of card with him to put up on walls to act as a background.

The other thing to keep in mind is that in many instances you can move things around in the background of your shots (especially if you’re shooting indoors). For example I was recently photographed in my home for a newspaper and the photographer had me move a number of pieces of furniture during the shoot because they were distracting in the shots. It took a little effort but the impact in the shots was quite incredible.
9. Post Processing

I’m no expert in using photo editing software but there are numerous ways of editing a shot after you’ve taken it to get rid of distracting elements. These can include blurring techniques, actual removing of elements and replacing them and techniques such as selective coloring (ie making your subject stand out by making your background black and white (or at least sucking some of the color out of it).

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Adobe Photoshop Elements 7 Review

Adobe Photoshop Elements 7 Review

Review Date: November 4th 2008
Author: Jon Canfield

Leave a comment about this Review

Adobe Photoshop Elements 7

The latest release of Photoshop Elements, Adobe's lower cost and friendlier alternative to Photoshop CS4, is now out for Windows users. With every release, Adobe adds some new features, and makes some existing ones more powerful and easier to use. Version 7 is no exception to this, and blurs the line between Elements and CS4 even further. Let's take a look at what's new and different in Adobe Photoshop Elements 7.

Elements 7 is arranged in four main components. Organizer helps you find, tag, and sort your images. Fix gives you quick access to the most common adjustments you'll make with your images. Create is where you'll find slide shows, calendars, and print projects like books, templates for scrapbooking, and more. Share is where web albums, email, CD/DVD copying, and other similar output types are found.
Ease of Use

Organizer has added several new features, and one of the most helpful is the text search. You can start typing and Adobe Photoshop Elements 7 will filter out the displayed images as you type. So, to find all the images tagged with California in my catalog, I only needed to get as far as "cali". You can still browse by selecting the keyword tag, but when you have a long list of keywords, the text search really simplifies finding images and is a welcome addition. This isn't limited to a simple search either. Typing multiple words you can filter the results even more. So, by adding "flower" to the previous "cali", I see only images with the keywords California and flower. You can also use the text search to find images based on date or EXIF data. If you're a Organizer user, this feature alone is worth the upgrade to version 7.

Adobe Photoshop Elements 7
Figure 1

There are now three editing modes in Adobe Photoshop Elements 7. Quick Fix has the most common editing features, including lighting corrections, color balance, and sharpening, along with new one-step touch up tools like whiten teeth, blue sky enhancement, and selective black & white conversions.

Adobe Photoshop Elements 7
Figure 2

Adobe Photoshop Elements 7
Figure 3

Adobe Photoshop Elements 7
Figure 4

Guided Edit gives you a list of editing tasks, such as cropping. Creating merged photos, applying effects, and playing actions. Depending on the task you select, Adobe Photoshop Elements 7 will either automatically apply the effect, or walk you through simple adjustments, typically with a single button click to perform the edit.

Adobe Photoshop Elements 7
Figure 5

The Action Player has several available effects, each with their own options. It's as simple as selecting the action you want, such as Special Effects, and then the type of effect, like Faded Ink with Vignette, making it easier to apply adjustments that would have required more interaction with the program in the past.

Adobe Photoshop Elements 7
Figure 6

Photographic Effects lets you easily turn an image into a line drawing, old photo, or Velvia look. The Old Photo setting in particular has a number of options, including what type of black & white conversion, tonal adjustments, texture options to add grain, and Hue/Saturation to tone the image for sepia and other processing looks.

Adobe Photoshop Elements 7
Figure 7

Adobe Photoshop Elements 7
Figure 8

Also new in Adobe Photoshop Elements 7 is the Scene Cleaner. If you have multiple images of the same subject, you can remove unwanted areas that differ with a simple mouse drag. In the example shown here, each shot has someone walking through the scene. By painting a line on the person in red, we can remove that, automatically replacing it with the same area in the other image. Very easy, and much cleaner than the typical cloning adjustment (I wish I had this one when editing my ex-daughter-in-law from some family photos!)

Adobe Photoshop Elements 7
Figure 9

Adobe Photoshop Elements 7
Figure 10

Full Edit is where you have access to everything Adobe Photoshop Elements 7 has to offer. New here is the 2-in-1 Smart Brush. This brush performs the selection and edit in one step. After you select one of the smart brushes, you paint on the image where you want the effect to be shown. Elements 7 creates a layer mask as you paint and applies the selected effect. If you want to experiment with other effects, you can just select them from the list and your image will automatically be updated to use the new effect.

Adobe Photoshop Elements 7
Figure 11

Adobe Photoshop Elements 7
Figure 12

Adjustment layers can now be edited separately with the Smart Brush Each layer ads a adjustment pin that gives you access to the controls for that adjustment, making it easy to modify your changes as you go along.

Surface Blur is a quick and easy way to smooth selected areas of an image, such as skin, for a better effect.

Adobe Photoshop Elements 7 adds a number of new templates and themes for output projects, including photo books. You can rearrange layouts and pages, and let Elements auto-fill your pages.

Adobe Photoshop Elements 7
Figure 13

Camera Raw has been updated and you can use raw images in your projects without going through the Camera Raw plug-in – Elements 7 will automatically apply default adjustments to your raw images.

Slideshows can include both still and video and output to various formats including InstantMovie (with Premier Elements 7) that automatically adds video effects, transitions, motion effects, and other goodies.

Adobe Photoshop Elements 7
Figure 14

Even without Premiere Elements 7, the slideshow features in Adobe Photoshop Elements 7 are some of the best available.

Online Albums use Flash to create interactive photo shows. There are a variety of templates included with Elements, and once the album is created you can easily upload to or export to CD/DVD or FTP.

Adobe Photoshop Elements 7
Figure 15

Printing is relatively unchanged from the previous version of Elements. You still have options for individual prints, contact sheets, or Picture Packages, and as fitting for Elements, the UI is easier to grasp for the typical person that doesn't want to invest time learning the ins and outs of printing.

Adobe Photoshop Elements 7
Figure 16

Finally, there is This online service, available in a free Basic or a subscription Plus package, lets you post your images online and gives you editing features for those images. Plus members can receive new content, such as templates and backgrounds that will be downloaded automatically for online or offline use. Additionally, automatic backup is available for both levels. The Basic package gives you 2GB of storage space, while the Plus package increases this to 20GB.

Adobe Photoshop Elements 7
Figure 17

Sharing features let you select an album and choose whether to share publically, or e-mail to friends to keep the images private from anyone you don't wish to allow access to.

Adobe Photoshop Elements 7
Figure 18
Ratings (out of 5)
Value for Money

Adobe Photoshop Elements 7 is a solid upgrade to this longtime standard for ease of use. The new tools, such as Smart Brushes, Scene Clean, and Play Actions make the program even more useful than before while reducing complexity for the casual user. is a nice addition and makes accessing and sharing your images from anywhere much easier than before. It's long been my feeling that Elements does everything that 80% of the users need. With this latest release, I think even more people will find that Adobe Photoshop Elements 7 is the only image editing program they need to consider.