Category Archives: How I Did It

Placing a stamp frame around your pictures

How I Did It

I have had a few requests both here and at Facebook to know how I put a stamp frame around my pictures. I told the Facebook people that I would do a tutorial on that today. Since my wise old grandmother taught me to keep my word, well, here it is!

I have asked Zoey the Cool Cat to help us, and while she wasn’t enthusiastic, she agreed. She prefers to be out looking for Easter eggs, or at least the birds that laid them. I keep telling her they are rabbit eggs, but she’s not buying it; she’s smarter than that.

First, most photo editing programs have a stamp frame as part of their offerings. I haven’t liked any of them because they are too perfect, and stamps are anything but perfect. Following are two stamp frames, the perfect one and my imperfect one, so you can see the difference.

Zoey the Cool Cat

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Zoey the Cool Cat

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Notice that the imperfect one has ragged, torn, frayed edges where it appears to have been separated from other stamps.

First we need to find a stamp shape that you like. For this tutorial, let’s use an oversized stamp size, like Scott #2542, a U.S. postage stamp released on August 31, 1991. I get my stamp pictures from Arago (http://arago.si.edu/) but you can download it from my blog here by right-clicking on the image and saving it to your computer.

Scott #2542

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

You could learn a lot by paying attention hereThe method I’m going to teach you here works for any shape, so pay attention! There will be a test on Monday, and I want everyone to get a perfect score!

I will be using Photoshop CC, but this method probably also works in Elements and any other program that works with layers and masks, such as Paintshop Pro, Gimp, etc.

Once you’ve downloaded and saved your stamp, open it in Photoshop. We want to delete the stamp picture while keeping the stamp frame. To do that, click on the Rectangular Marquee Tool.

Rectangular Marquee Tool in Photoshop

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Now simply draw a rectangle around the picture. You don’t have to be exact but make sure you get all of the picture within the box. When you let go of your mouse button, the box will turn into a moving dashed box, what we call “marching ants.”

Marching ants

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Hit the Delete key and a Fill window should pop up:

Pop-up Fill window

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If you haven’t used the Fill window recently, the default in the Use dropdown box will probably be Content-Aware. We want to change that to White.

Fill pop-up window

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Click on OK and your picture should magically disappear, being filled with white.

Stamp frame

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Now we’re ready to insert our picture. Open your picture in Photoshop; it will show up in a new tab. Zoey the Cool Cat graciously has given me permission to use a picture of her.

Copy the picture you want to insert into the stamp frame. There are many ways to do that, but first you have to tell Photoshop what you want to copy. It doesn’t know that you want to copy the whole image unless you tell it. Using the Rectangular Marquee Tool again, simply draw a box around the whole picture. You don’t have to be exact at all as long as you are outside the picture on all four sides because Photoshop will snap the marquee to the picture borders.

Picture to be inserted in stamp frame

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Now tell Photoshop to copy everything within the marching ants border, either Edit ►Copy or the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + C.

Switch to the tab that has our stamp frame so we can insert our picture into it. Make sure you still have the marching ants border from when we deleted the eagle picture from the stamp. If you don’t, no problem. Simply use the Rectangular Marquee Tool to draw another box where you want your picture to be.

Now paste your picture into the marquee box. To do that:
Edit ► Paste Special ► Paste Into.
The keyboard shortcut is Ctrl + Shift + Alt + V:

Edit, Paste Special, Paste Into

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

That should give you something that might look a little weird, depending on the size of the picture you are inserting. If your picture is bigger than the box you’re inserting it into, you’ll see just a portion of the picture and a bounding box showing you how big the picture is. If you don’t see all of your picture but you don’t see a bounding box either, simply click on the Move Tool (red arrow below) and then click on Show Transform Controls (yellow arrow).

Move Tool and Show Transform Controls

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Now you should see that stamp frame, a portion of your picture, and the boundary box telling you how big your picture is:

Stamp frame, picture, and boundary box

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

If your picture is too big, the part that is not in the frame will be at the right and bottom. If you want to maintain the ratio of the height to the width (the aspect ratio), hold the Shift key down and click and hold that bottom right little square. Now move that square up to the bottom right corner of your picture border within the stamp frame. If your picture doesn’t have the same aspect ratio as the stamp, simply reposition the picture until you’re happy. Let go of the mouse and reposition the picture simply by clicking on it and moving it around.

Zoey the Cool Cat stamp

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

If your pictures always have the same aspect ratio, you can create a stamp frame that will always be correct so that you won’t have to do any fine-tuning position adjustments. If that’s the case, as it is with all the pictures from my Canon 550D camera, you can also create an Action that does everything automatically, which is what I did. My Action means that it takes about two seconds to put a stamp frame around any picture.

Remember earlier when I said that this method works for any shape? That’s how I created my Zoey the Cool Cat soccer ball:

Zoey the Cool Cat soccer ball

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

If you find a nicely framed picture on the Internet, you can delete the picture and use just the frame by following this tutorial.

Let me know in a comment if you have any problems while following this tutorial and I’ll help you.

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

Need a unique gift?
Consider Photographic Art!photograhic art taking pictures making art

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I knew I could do it!

How I Did It

In January 2012, I was using several different software programs to edit my digital pictures, mostly Corel Draw X6, Corel Paintshop Pro X6, and Corel Photo-Paint X6.

I also had used Photoshop since version 1.0 was released in February 1990 for the Macintosh. Apple lost me as a customer in 1983, so when the time came to replace my Apple computers, I went the PC route, which didn’t really upset me since PCs were 1/5 the cost of an Apple computer, so I bought five PCs for what would have been the cost of one Apple computer, which meant I could hire four more people for my business! Make more money! Oh, the joy….

Adobe ported Photoshop to the PC/Windows platform with version 2.5, and when that happened, I said goodbye to the last of my Apple products. As Adobe continued to increase the upgrade price for Photoshop, I quit upgrading. I last upgraded to Photoshop version 5.0 in May 1998.

Fast forward to June 2007. Photoshop was in version 10, known as CS3. I had heard good things about it, not to mention that it was the de facto standard for digital photo editing. I decided to learn anything and everything about Photoshop using their free 30-day trial of a fully functional version. At $699, I didn’t want to buy it until I was sure that I could use it, which meant learning it because it did have a pretty good learning curve. So every 30 days or so, I would remove the expired trial version and start over again.

Eventually I decided that I could do everything in Photoshop that previously I had been doing in Draw, Paintshop Pro, Photo-Paint, and a few free, open source programs. Thus I was willing to buy Photoshop. That was in January 2011. Fortunately, upon making my decision and heading to adobe.com to spend my money, Adobe announced that they had a subscription program.

Subscription? Heck yes! Monthly costs, even in perpetuity, are much easier on the budget than a lump sum. So for $35.99 a month with a one-year commitment, I could have Photoshop!  Count me in.

When Photoshop CS6 came out in May 2012, Adobe offered me the upgrade, still on a subscription basis, but the cost fell to $25.99 a month.

Then along came Photoshop CC in June 2013. I knew I would upgrade, especially when Adobe told me that the subscription would be $19.99 a month. Photoshop CC was the first version that would not be sold in the traditional way with manuals and DVDs in a box in a store. It would have to be downloaded from Adobe via the Internet, and there was no purchase price anymore, only a subscription. Didn’t bother me at all, but there was an uproar throughout the world. Adobe responded by lowering the subscription price to $9.95 a month. How I love Adobe.

That brings me to this evening when I wanted to create what is known in philately (stamp collecting) as a First Day Cover. It’s an envelope sent through the mail on the first day of issue of a postage stamp, usually bearing a special cachet and a special First Day of Issue postmark. I can do it quickly and easily in Corel Draw, but I wanted to do it in Photoshop this time. Where Corel Draw took me ten minutes, my first version in Photoshop took me–ready for this?–eight hours! The second version took two hours, and the final version took thirty minutes. I now have a template, though, so the next time I choose to create one, it will probably be five minutes max.

I asked Zoey the Cool Cat to help me create the third First Day Cover, and she was only too happy to oblige:

Zoey the Cool Cat First Day of Issue

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I knew I could do it!

Got margarita?Eventually I’ll be able to do everything in Photoshop and will not have to upgrade Corel Draw (X7 just came out last week; $199 to upgrade), Paintshop Pro, and Photo-Paint. That right there will save me about $300 a year, enough to pay the subscription for Photoshop with many dollars left over for many margaritas!

I am going to fine tune my template over the next few days, as well as get some different types of digital envelopes, and as soon as I have a pretty good work flow down, I’ll be offering First Day Covers to followers here, similar to what I did with my Photographic Art. Don’t miss out!

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

Need a unique gift?
Consider Photographic Art!photograhic art taking pictures making art

Visit Russel Ray Photos.

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I can highly recommend James Frimmer, Realtor, CDPE
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If you’re looking for a home inspector,
I recommend Russel Ray — that’s me!

Real Estate Solutions by Russel Ray

Since they are dead, they won’t mind

How I Did It

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Back in the 1960s when my wise old grandmother was helping me find my place in the world, she would often say, “Don’t re-invent the wheel.”

The first time she said that, she also had to explain it to me. After that first time, though, I was always looking for the wheel that someone else had invented. I never felt guilty about using someone else’s wheel when appropriate, legal, and ethical because, as my wise old grandmother told me, “There have been a few billion people on Earth before you. It’s highly likely that they invented something that you can use, and since they are dead, they won’t mind.”

Recently I found several wheels for Photoshop that someone else had invented and is selling for what I consider reasonable costs. Those wheels are called Actions, and the ones that I have fallen in love with are by PanosFX.com.

You might remember me mentioning them fairly recently when I tested their photo corner Action (see Ready? Set? Action!). I did wind up buying all of the Photoshop Actions that PanosFX.com offers.

Here are some of my favorites, demonstrated quite ably by Zoey the Cool Cat, of course.

FanZoey the Cool Cat fan

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

WristwatchZoey the Cool Cat wristwatch

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WeaveZoey the Cool Cat weave

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BookZoey the Cool Cat book

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Light bulbZoey the Cool Cat light bulb

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Film stripZoey the Cool Cat film strip

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Wanted posterZoey the Cool Cat wanted poster

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Spiral-bound bookZoey the Cool Cat spiral bound book

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Magnifying glassZoey the Cool Cat under the magnifying glass

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

And lastly for this post, a Zoey the Cool Cat cube which you can print, cut, and glue to get a real cube to set on your coffee table or bookshelf!

Zoey the Cool Cat cube

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

Need a unique gift?
Consider Photographic Art!photograhic art taking pictures making art

Visit Russel Ray Photos.

Visit Photographic Art by Russel Ray Photos at Fine Art America.

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Looking for real estate services in San Diego County?
I can highly recommend James Frimmer, Realtor, CDPE
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Real Estate Solutions by Russel Ray

Ready? Set? ACTION!

How I Did It

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Back in the days of film photography, my wise old grandmother would bring a bunch of photographs home from the drug store, sit down at the dining room table, and go to town identifying the photographs and placing them carefully in her many scrapbooks and photo albums using photo corners. I do believe she had the greatest collection of photo corners in the world. I know she had corners in clear, white, gold, and black.

If something new came along, she was the first to buy it and try it. I remember when she discovered rubber cement. All her packages of photo corners were sold at her next garage sale. (Smile if you used to have fun rummaging around at neighborhood garage sales instead of today’s monster flea markets and swap meets.)

Even with digital photography, though, some people (me for example) still like photo corners. Here’s Zoey the Cool Cat demonstrating the photo corners that I have been using over the past couple of years:

Cat & mouse

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

You can get those photo corners via an Action in Photoshop. Takes all of one keyboard shortcut and about two seconds of time.

Recently I learned of some new photo corner Actions by PanosFX.com. The email they sent me, which was captured in my spam folder, showed some pretty cool photo corner Actions, so I went to their site to see if they had a free trial download, which they do. Unfortunately, the free trial software has only one photo corner Action whereas the full version has over 50 photo corner Actions. Here is Zoey the Cool Cat, again, demonstrating the one photo corner Action in the free version:

Zoey the Cool Cat

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I believe my wise old grandmother would have loved the world of digital photography and photoshopping.

The full version of these “photo slit” Actions by PanosFX.com costs 10.90 Euros. According to Google, 1 Euro equals 1.37 U.S. dollars, so 10.90 Euros equates to $14.97. I believe I can afford that.

PanosFX.com has a lot of other software, too, that allows you to make puzzles, cubes, and postage stamps complete with postmarks and envelopes. Hmmm. Postage stamps complete with postmarks and envelopes. Hmmm. Well, heck. I think I can afford that, too, since it’s only 7.90 Euros.

Long-time readers know that I love postage stamps. Here’s Zoey the Cool Cat (yet one more time) demonstrating my postage stamp frame:

Zoey the Cool Cat

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I was so proud of my postage stamp frame, but now that I know that someone has gone a step further and created postmarks and envelopes in addition to postage stamps, I’m sad and depressed.

Maybe I should just buy their whole bundle collection of 12 software collections for just 65.90 Euros. That’s $90.52. Hmmmm. I might have to wait until after today’s 12:00 noon home inspection before I can afford the complete bundle……………..lol

Anyway, go check out PanosFX.com to see all the wonderful stuff they have. You might find something you like for a price you can afford.

Ready?………………

Set?…………………..

ACTION!

PanosFX

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

Need a unique gift?
Consider Photographic Art!photographic art logoVisit Russel Ray Photos.

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I can highly recommend James Frimmer, Realtor, CDPE
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If you’re looking for a home inspector,
I recommend Russel Ray — that’s me!Real Estate Solutions

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I was an easy sell

How I Did It

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Friends and acquaintances of mine know that my Canon 550D is an extension of me. It’s never more than three feet away from me. I take it from room to room in the house, even to the bathroom. It’s in the passenger seat on my way to class to teach chess in the afternoons, and when I have to go to the classroom and the car is more than three feet away from that classroom, I simply put my trusty camera in the bottom of the cart that I carry my chess sets in.

Last week in one of my classes, I had some new students show up to class, giving me a total of 16 students. I have only seven company-supplied chess sets, but I have my 1994 Kasparov computer chess game at the bottom of my cart. I held the two best students back and told one of them to get the computer chess game from my cart. He did, but when he came back, his eyes were all aglow about the camera he saw in my cart, and his mind and mouth were running circles around me asking questions about cameras and photography.

The question that seemed most on his mind was about depth of field. “What is depth of field?” he asked several times while he was playing chess. I guess he didn’t like my answer each time: “It’s how much in focus everything is in your picture.”

I have that class again this afternoon, but this time I’m taking two pictures with me. These two:

Shallow depth of field

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Deep depth of field

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

See the difference? That’s depth of field, or how much of the picture is in focus.

Depth of field is controlled by the f/stop, usually with a control marked Av on digital cameras. The f/stop is the size of the opening, the aperture, that lets in light. I won’t get into the technical aspects of light, but the smaller the aperture, the sharper, more in focus, the picture will be. A larger aperture makes the picture out of focus.

Where it often gets confusing for people is that a smaller aperture is indicated by a larger f/stop Av setting, and a larger aperture is indicated by a smaller f/stop Av setting.

The first picture was taken at an f/stop Av setting of 2.8. The smaller number means a larger aperture, and more out of focus throughout the picture.

The second picture was taken at an f/stop Av setting of 18. A larger number means a smaller aperture, and more in focus throughout the picture.

The explanation using cans with text on them is a technique that I learned back in 1966 in sixth grade. Surprisingly to me, I have never seen the technique repeated in books or internet tutorials discussing depth of field. So my post here will bring that technique into the modern age.

I should also thank Miss Gustafson, the principal of my grade school. She is the one who got me interested in photography when she asked for a volunteer photographer. When she explained that the volunteer photographer would get in free to all sporting events, well, I was an easy sell.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

Need a unique gift?
Consider Photographic Art!photographic art logoVisit Russel Ray Photos.

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I can highly recommend James Frimmer, Realtor, CDPE
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If you’re looking for a home inspector,
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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Just make more of them!

photographic art logo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

My first visit to the great State of California was in December 1968 for Christmas.

I was the passenger in a car driven from Kingsville, Texas (down south near Corpus Christi) to Chatsworth, California, (San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles) by my wise old grandmother (MWOG) and one of her friends. Chatsworth was where MWOG’s oldest living son (my dad was the oldest son, but he had died in 1961) and his family lived. We’ll call MWOG’s oldest living son “Charles” since that’s his name.

We stopped at roadside parks to sleep at night. Smile if you remember being able to stop at roadside parks without concern.

My wise old grandmother was a master gardener before there was such a thing, and Charles was no different. When we got out of the car at his home in Chatsworth, the first thing I said was something along the lines of, “This is the most beautiful yard I’ve ever seen!” He had flowers blooming in December! Of course, now that I’ve lived in San Diego for twenty years, I know that it has something to do with the weather.

The flower that really caught my breath was the bird of paradise (Strelitzia sp.), and ever since my visit to Charles in 1968, I was on a mission to capture the most beautiful bird of paradise with my camera. The flower is long-lasting, and it takes many days for it to fully bloom. That often means that by the time the flower is in full bloom, the oldest parts of the flower look a little ragged…. nothing that Photoshop can’t fix, of course……….

Up until recently, this was my best bird of paradise picture:

Bird of Paradise

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

See all of those pointy tips? Those are what usually look pretty ragged by the time the flower reaches full bloom like in that picture. The pointy tips on the two bluest/purple doohickeys are starting to turn brown.

In a worst case scenario, the flower looks like this:

Bird of Paradise

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

You don’t know how long I’ve been trying to find a way to use that picture of the dead flowers! I’ll tell you, so you’ll know. According to the picture’s EXIF data, I took that picture on March 3, 2012!

Okay. Back to being serious (me?)….

Recently I found not one beautiful flower, but two beautiful flowers, both right next to each other…. like twins:

Bird of Paradise

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Of course, having a picture like that means that I’m going to make some Photographic Art out of it.

Since I recently bought the whole collection of Topaz software (it was on sale), I decided that this would be a great picture to use to explore that Topaz software collection.

Following are some (some?) of my favorites. I haven’t decided on an absolute favorite yet—they all speak to me—but I really like flower paintings, so #6 might turn out to be the winner. Which is your favorite?

1Bird of Paradise

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

2Bird of Paradise

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I remember when I saw my first color negative film. I thought they were so cool. #3 is a color negative created by Topaz:

3Bird of Paradise

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

4Bird of Paradise

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It’s difficult to take such a beautiful and colorful flower and turn it into black and white, but sometimes the lack of color allows you to focus on the texture, as in #5.

5Bird of Paradise

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6Bird of Paradise

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7Bird of Paradise

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#8 takes texture to an extreme.

8Bird of Paradise

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#9 is in my top two or three, I’m sure. The simplicity and soft focus of the flower without the distraction of the texture, especially the background texture of the stucco building, seems amazingly beautiful.

9Bird of Paradise

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10Bird of Paradise

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11Bird of Paradise

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#12 is neon light art. Ah, neon. How I love neon. I remember my first neon Coors beer sign. I paid something like $30 for it in 1976 at one of those mall stores that sold black lights and black light posters.

12Bird of Paradise

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

#13 took an in-focus picture and blurred around the edges to simulate shallow depth of field.

13Bird of Paradise

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14Bird of Paradise

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Lastly, if you find something that’s pretty near perfect, just make more of them with the click of a mouse!

15Bird of Paradise

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

Need a unique gift?
Consider Photographic Art!photographic art logoVisit Russel Ray Photos.

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I can highly recommend James Frimmer, Realtor, CDPE
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If you’re looking for a home inspector,
I recommend Russel Ray — that’s me!Real Estate Solutions

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Replacing skies with Photoshop

How I Did It

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I think one of the most common tasks that people use photo editing software for is to replace skies. I think that because there seem to be more tutorials for that task than any other. Unfortunately, too many people doing tutorials have no clue about how to do a tutorial, in my considered humble opinion. I think they learned something new and decided to do a tutorial, even though they have never done a tutorial before in their lives.

I have been exploring replacing skies for almost twenty months now, and I have finally developed a workflow that is easy and precise. However, I’m going to keep it to myself because I don’t want anyone else to know….

Just kidding.

One of the reasons why sky replacements either (1) look bad, (2) look fake, (3) don’t look good, (4) look sloppy, or (5) look really atrocious is because people don’t understand perspective relationships. The picture of the sky needs to match the perspective of the photograph.

One guy’s tutorial told us to go out and take a few hundred pictures of skies so that we would always have one to match any perspective. That’s not necessary if you understand how to use the transform controls in Photoshop, which I will show you. So here we’re going to not only replace the sky but make the sky match the perspective of the photograph.

I’m using Photoshop CC, but the basic theory here will work in any program that uses layers and masks.

Here are the two pictures were are going to use:

Inspected house

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Clouds

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Right click on each picture, select Save picture as, and save it to your computer. Make sure you know where you’re saving it because we’re going to need to find it and open it in Photoshop.

Now open Photoshop and open both pictures.

Once you have both pictures open, look at your rulers (if your rulers aren’t showing, click on View ► Rulers) and you’ll notice that our house picture is 600 pixels wide while our clouds picture is 1200 pixels wide, a 2:1 ratio. That’s the ratio I usually use because it allows me to choose the part of the sky that looks best in the picture; you’ll understand as we go along.

First we need to select the sky. Trees and little protuberances on buildings can make it difficult to select all the sky with some methods, but I’m going to show you a great method that makes it very easy to make sure those trees and protuberances make it into the picture since they make the picture itself look more realistic.

With your house picture in the window, click on the Quick Selection Tool:

Quick Selection Tool

Quick Selection Tool

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

With the Quick Selection Tool selected, look at your option bar and click on the Brush Picker, inside the red square in the graphic below. A pop-up window will then show you the options for the Brush Picker, and we want a size of about 30 px (red arrow) for this exercise, and a hardness (yellow arrow) of 100%. The other defaults can stay as they are.

Brush Picker

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Now select your sky. You don’t have to be real exact at this point because we’ll take care of that in a future step. Right now, though, make sure you select all of the sky. If there is some sky showing through the tree, go ahead and selected the tree, too. As you select, you’ll see the infamous marching ants highlighting the borders of your selection.

Here is my house picture after selecting the sky.

House with sky selected

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Now make sure that your Foreground and Background colors are set at their defaults. Just type d and the colors will change to their defaults:

Foreground and background defaults

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Making sure that your Quick Selection Tool is still selected, look at your options bar again and click on Refine Edge:

Refine Edge

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

That will bring up a new window with lots of options, and the part of your picture that IS NOT selected will turn black.

Refine Edge options

Refine Edge options

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Black in Photoshop means that it is hidden from whatever we doing. If it’s showing, that means that whatever we do will affect that section of the picture. So if we were to replace the sky now, we would also replace the pine trees since they are showing, i.e., they are not covered by black. We want those trees to be in black so that they do not get replaced when we replace the sky.

There are many functions in the Refine Edge window to help you with your task, so it really doesn’t matter how complicated the picture might be. You just have to find the right combination that works, and that is where the History panel can come in extremely handy. I’ll do a tutorial in the future on the power of the History panel.

First make sure that your settings are like mine, and below the graphic I’ll explain what these settings are doing.

Refine Edge options

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Starting at the top with View, I almost always use On Black so that I don’t get distracted from my task. I like to black out whatever I’m not working on.

Next, under Edge Detection, make sure the box is checked next to Smart Radius and, for these pine trees with their skinny pine needles, set the Radius to 0.5 px.

Adjust Edge is where you can really help Photoshop work with really complicated pictures, like a blonde-haired girl with her head on her blonde dog. Photoshop can easily separate blonde from blonde by using those controls.

We’re lucky with our picture because there’s good contrast between the green pine trees and the gray clouds, so change your settings to match mine. Smooth and Feather help Photoshop create a smooth contrast between the trees and the clouds, and we’ll want that same smooth contrast in our new picture.

Finding the right settings for Smooth and Feather could take you a couple of weeks—another area where the History panel can come in so handy—so I’m going to show you an ever better way to accomplish this task quickly and easily if you don’t need absolute exactness and preciseness, which we don’t when we’re posting a picture 600 pixels wide to the Internet.

Just to the left of Edge Detection, you see a brush. Click and hold on that brush until a flyout window appears, and then choose Refine Radius Tool so that there is a little black box to the left, indicating that it is selected.

Refine Radius Tool

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Set the brush size of your Refine Radius Tool brush to about 15 px:

Refine Radius Tool brush size

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Now simply click and drag your mouse cursor over your trees; it’s called painting. Try to stay as much on the trees as possible so that Photoshop doesn’t think you’re wanting to paint out the clouds. Release the mouse button after each tree and you’ll see that Photoshop magically converts the green trees to black:

Painting out the trees

Painting out the trees

replacing skies 13

Painting out the trees

Painting out the trees

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Once you’re done painting the trees, simply click OK in the Refine Edge window:

Click on OK in the Refine Edge window

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

You should be back at your original picture with marching ants that look something like this:

Sky selected but not the trees

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Now let’s go get the new sky and insert it into our picture.

Click on the tab that holds your cloud picture and select the whole picture: Click on SelectAll or use the keyboard shortcut, Ctrl A. That should put a marching ants border around the cloud picture:

Selected clouds

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Copy the picture with either the keyboard shortcut Ctrl C or the menus, EditCopy.

Go to the tab that holds your house picture. Now we are going to insert the copied clouds (they are in memory) to your picture, specifically the area that is bordered by the marching ants. This is a special type of insert, though. Click on EditPaste SpecialPaste Into. This tells Photoshop to paste whatever is in memory (our clouds) into the area bordered by the marching ants. Notice that the keyboard shortcut is Ctrl Shift Alt V. (I love how keyboard shortcuts can be long now, and they still are faster than clicking on menus.)

Here is what I got when I inserted the clouds:

Sky replaced

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Are you as unhappy with that as I am? Not to worry. We’re not finished, but we don’t have far to go. This is where understanding perspective comes in handy.

First of all, that cloud is way too big for the picture. It’s obvious that the sky has been replaced.

Second, if you look at daylight landscape pictures, you’ll notice that the horizon is always lighter than what is directly above you. That is caused by perspective. Things that are closer to you tend to be brighter with more contrast.

We need to resolve both of those problems here, and it’s very easy to do. It’s even easier if you make sure that your cloud picture is bigger than the picture with the sky to be replaced, and having clouds in the picture makes it even easier to create something that looks realistic.

So, after inserting the clouds, we want to move them around. Click on your Move Tool (red arrow) and then click on Show Transform Controls (yellow arrow).

Move Tool and Show Transform Controls

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

You probably won’t be able to see the transform controls because the cloud picture is twice as large as the house picture. Hold the Control key down and hit the 0 (zero) key on the keypad. Don’t try to use the numeric keys at the top of your keyboard. If your keyboard doesn’t have a keypad at the right, the keypad is probably in the center of your keyboard and shows as blue figures, meaning you have to access them with a function or option key.  Or you can use the menus: click on ViewFit on screen.

That should give you something looking like this:

Screen shot showing transform controls

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Just for fun, click on Show Transform Controls again and you’ll see that square disappear. We need it, though, so make sure it’s showing.

Now simply click, hold, and drag those square boundary markers to resize your cloud picture. You can position the clouds anywhere you think looks nice. Here’s my final picture:

Final picture

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

If you look closely at that middle pine tree, the tallest one, you can see some glowing in the branches. There are two ways to get rid of the glow. The first is by learning how to use all of those controls in that Refine Edge window, specifically the Smart Radius, Smooth, and Feather controls. You can spend hours working on just one picture.

An easier way I’ve found is to always use a picture that has a good supply of clouds throughout the picture so that you can move those clouds around and put them behind any problem areas. It’s faster by at least a few dozen hours!

There is one other way to resolve that problem but I haven’t found a good work flow for it, yet. When I do, I’ll let y’all know.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Inspected house made more beautiful

Blah to beautiful with Photoshop!

How I Did It

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I always like it when my home inspection Clients are satisfied with the home inspections I do for them.

Occasionally, though, a Client will call with a different matter.

I include pictures in my reports, usually of problems and problem areas. However, on the front page of the report is a picture of the front of the property that I inspected. Here is the picture from an inspection earlier this week:

Inspected house

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Yep. It’s a picture of a house, specifically a manufactured home. A pretty blasé picture.

Now that my Photographic Art venture is viable, I decided that I should start including a Photographic Art picture of the home. I decided to replace the cloudy sky with a more beautiful sky, and bring some contrast and depth to the home and the plants. When I finished, I had this:

Inspected house made more beautiful

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

My Client called to ask me where I got the picture. I told him that I took a picture at the inspection, and since the picture was pretty blah, I used Photoshop to make it more beautiful. He was amazed. I pointed him to my Photographic Art Catalog, so who knows where this might lead somewhere down the road. Maybe he’ll buy billions and billions and billions of my work!

Tomorrow, just for my wonderful readers, I’ll be posting a tutorial on how to not only replace skies, but how to easily select detail like you find in those pine trees, a technique that works with anything that has a rough outline, like hair on a person’s head, cat and dog hair, etc. So be sure to tune in tomorrow, same bat time, same bat channel (smile if you grew up watching Batman!).

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

Need a unique gift?
Consider Photographic Art!photographic art logoVisit Russel Ray Photos.

►►►►◄◄◄◄

Looking for real estate services in San Diego County?
I can highly recommend James Frimmer, Realtor, CDPE
CA BRE #0145857201 HomeSmartDiamondSmall copy 2

02 HomeSmartRWnameOnly2 copy

►►►►◄◄◄◄

If you’re looking for a home inspector,
I recommend Russel Ray — that’s me!Real Estate Solutions

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Google search results for Lt. Col. Charles J. Scharf

Google loves me (and how to get Google to love you!)

Did you know?

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Yesterday’s post about Lt. Col. Charles J. Scharf started out as a simple post about The Freedom Tree on the campus of San Diego State University. It turned into a much more extensive post about Lt. Col. Scharf.

As I began my research on Lt. Col. Scharf, I turned to Google, of course. Simply entering Lt. Col. Charles J. S immediately brought up Scharf’s name, and a click took me to the POW Network.

I finished the post, published it, and then went to read it on my proofreading computer.

SIDE NOTE ON HOW TO PROOFREAD
Zoey the Cool Cat using a Photoshop CS6 filterChange your environment!
If you work mainly on one computer, when you go to proofread, go to a different room or a different computer, or put a cat on your desk. Anything to change your environment.  The newness in your environment will help you proofread better. You could also ask someone else to proofread.  At the very least, take a 10-minute break; don’t proofread something you just finished working on!

When I proofed it, I realized that I had left out the link to the POW Network, something that I definitely wanted to include.

When I went back to Google to find the POW Network again, I probably could have typed POW Network into the search bar. I didn’t, though. Instead I typed Lt. Col. Charles J. Scharf. Look what Google presented to me (click on the image for a larger, more readable version):

Google search results for Lt. Col. Charles J. Scharf

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Notice the very first entry in the search results? Yep. It’s my WordPress post! More importantly, though, notice that my post was published “2 mins ago.” “Mins” is short for minutes. Just two minutes after I published my post, Google had already indexed it!

So, how do I accomplish getting Google to index my site so quickly? Keep reading if you’re interested. Go play with the cat or dog if you’re not.

  1. Blog persistently and consistently! There is a reason why this is #1 on my list. Google, Bing, and Yahoo (hereafter, GBY) won’t come by every minute to index you unless you prove to them that you are worth the effort. Blogging persistently and consistently (hereafter, P&C) proves that you are worth the effort. You don’t have to do anything else. Just blog persistently and consistently. GBY love fresh content. Your P&C blogging gives them that fresh content that they love so much.
  2. Use tagging and keywords. GBY love help, and if you can help them, they’ll love you for it. However, GBY understands when you are trying to trick them, like formatting inappropriate content to be invisible text, or using tagging and keywords that have nothing to do with the subject matter of your post.
  3. Provide quality content. Ranting and raving about last night’s date isn’t defined as quality content.
  4. A yawning Zoey the Cool Cat in her basket under the piano.Provide tags, keywords, and alternate text for your pictures and other graphics. GBY cannot look at pictures because they don’t have eyes. If I want pictures of Zoey the Cool Cat to be indexed, I tag them with “Zoey the Cool Cat,” keyword them with “cat pictures,” and provide alternate text, like “A yawning Zoey the Cool Cat in her basket under the piano.” GBY will love cat, basket, and piano, and possibly yawning. And she’ll get indexed as Zoey the Cool Cat. Want proof? Look at the Google search results for “Zoey the Cool Cat” (click on the image for a larger, more readable version):Google search results for Zoey the Cool Cat
    The first ten search results are from my blogging, and I have ten of eleven on the first page of Google!
  5. Be consistent in using your tags and keywords. If I want Zoey the Cool Cat to show up consistently in search results, I always tag her with “Zoey the Cool Cat,” never just “Zoey” or “indoor cat” or “cat on desk”….
  6. Make your blog posts between 300 and 700 words. Apparently GBY think that less than 300 words is not worth reading, and more than 700 words loses the reader’s interest. Once GBY know that you are worth their effort, you can publish some posts that don’t abide by this rule and still get indexed.

Getting results like this is called “organic search results.” It will take some time, so the sooner you start, the sooner you’ll get results, especially if your actual intent is to use your blog to sell products or services, like I will be doing with my Photographic Art venture.

Photographic Art by Russel Ray Photos

I started blogging on the WordPress platform on January 6, 2012. Previously I had blogged from July 2007 to January 2012 on a real estate blogging platform where I was trying to sell my home inspection services. That real estate blogging platform’s only purpose was to help its members sell their real estate services, so I learned a lot of things over there.

One of the most important is to pick a good blogging platform. GBY loved the real estate blogging platform I was at because 90% of the posts were about real estate, and there were 250,000 of us. That’s significant. WordPress is significant because there are several million users. Thus, if you’re blogging to sell products and services, and you have no experience, use the free wordpress.com platform. GBY know and understand wordpress.com, and you’ll get indexed faster. Once you start getting indexed regularly, you can upgrade or change to a self-hosted site and still get indexed regularly. Just be sure you link your wordpress.com blog to your upgraded name (my upgraded name is russelrayphotos2.com, but if I look at the title bar right now, it shows that I am at russelrayphotos.wordpress.com) or self-hosted site so GBY can find you and know that both sites are yours. Whatever you do, though, don’t delete your wordpress.com blog until you’re absolutely sure that you have GBY’s attention at your new site. Since wordpress.com is free, though, I would never delete it anyway, at least not until you no longer sell the same products and services.

When I first started blogging at wordpress.com. GBY would come by about once a month. You can see this on your stats page. For example, I would have 25-50 visits on any given day. Then, suddenly, I’d get 500 visit on one day, returning to 25-50 visits on following days. On that 500-visit day, those were search engines coming by to index my blog. You can see that on your stats page, too:

WordPress referrers

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Each month, GBY will come by your blog and index all the posts you have published since last time they were at your blog.

Notice in the screen shot above that my best ever number of views was 1,583 (upper right corner). That was on February 14, 2013, 13 months after I started using the wordpress.com platform. Look at the number of views by search engines from that day:

Search engine views

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

That was the day when GBY decided to put me in their algorithms and watch me every minute of every day. They decided that I had good content, fresh content, and could be counted on to publish a post each and every day. I could publish a post at any time, and within five minutes be on the first page of GBY search term results for keywords and tags that were in the post.

If you can’t publish a post each and every day, try every two days, every three days, once a week, even once a month. But be P&C, and if you can’t be P&C every day, then pick a day and time, and be P&C for that day and time. I would submit, however, that if you are trying to sell your products and services, blogging P&C each and every day should be the #1 thing on your daily list of things to do.

P.S. This post got indexed by Google three minutes after I published it. Google Google loves me( and how to get Google to love you!).

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

Looking for real estate services in San Diego County?
I can highly recommend James Frimmer, Realtor, CDPE
CA BRE #0145857201 HomeSmartDiamondSmall copy 2

02 HomeSmartRWnameOnly2 copy

If you’re looking for a home inspector,
I recommend Russel Ray — that’s me!Real Estate Solutions

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Wires 08

Wires, wires everywhere! (And how to remove them easily in Photoshop.)

How I Did It

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I didn’t have to search very far to find a picture with lots of wires in it to illustrate how easy it is to remove them. Here’s the picture:

Wires for everyone!

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Right click on that picture, download it to your computer, open it in Photoshop, and follow along.

With the file open in Photoshop, first let’s rotate it 90° clockwise. My purpose in doing this is because, when you are using a mouse, it’s easier to move your mouse horizontally back and forth than it is vertically up and down.

Click on Image ► Image Rotation ► 90° CW.

Wires 01

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I use the rotate clockwise (90° CW) and rotate counterclockwise (90° CCW) command regularly, so I have assigned keyboard shortcuts to them. That’s the CTRL + , and CTRL + . you see next to the commands on the menu.

You should have a rotated image that looks like this:

Wires 02

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

All of the wires are relevant except for the top two, so we’re going to remove those.

First we need to magnify the area that we are going to work on. Click on your magnifying glass….

Wires 04

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Now click three times at the top edge of the picture where the topmost wire is. That should give you this:

Wires 05

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

We want to use the Spot Healing Brush Tool:

Wires 03

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

If you’re thinking, “But wires are not spots!”, well, don’t think that! Wires are just long spots, very long spots.

You want your Spot Healing Brush Tool to be slightly larger than the wire you’re going to remove. When you work at these higher magnifications, you’ll see a lot of fuzziness and jagged edges. That fuzziness and jaggity (jaggity?) is actually part of the wire, so make sure that the size of your brush covers all of the wire. I found that a brush that is 10 pixels worked well on these wires. Go to the options bar and set your brush size to 10 px:

Wires 06

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The other values should be default values, but make sure your Hardness is set to 100.

Now simply click once at the top end of the topmost wire, move your cursor to any other spot on that wire, hold the SHIFT key down, and click again. The wire magically disappears:

Wires 07

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

You’ll get the best result if you center the wire within your 10 px brush.

Keep doing that all along the wire, and soon you will have no wires!

This works most quickly on straight wires, but if you have a drooping wire, simply use shorter distances between your first click and your SHIFT click.

Here’s my finished picture:

Wires 08

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Much better. You can go further and remove all the wires that are going to the pole that is out of the picture. If you do that, you’ll discover the limitations to Photoshop’s Content-Aware feature. Once you have the other wires removed, you’ll have some cleanup work to do. Not so much that the chore becomes tedious, though. If you know how to use the Clone tool, you’ll have the cleanup work done in no time.

More complicated backgrounds sometimes work in your favor and sometimes work against you. I have found it best that when you have more complicated backgrounds, simply use shorter distances between your Click and your SHIFT Click.

There you go! I figure if the power company won’t get rid of these wires (by putting them underground), we’ll get rid of them ourselves!

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

Looking for real estate services in San Diego County?
I can highly recommend James Frimmer, Realtor, CDPE
CA BRE #0145857201 HomeSmartDiamondSmall copy 2

02 HomeSmartRWnameOnly2 copy

If you’re looking for a home inspector,
I recommend Russel Ray — that’s me!Real Estate Solutions

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos