Saturday, May 26, 2012

How to Fix Photos for Your Art Website

I saw a question on LinkedIn where an artist didn't know how to use Photoshop to fix his pictures nor how to build a website.  I said it was easy to fix photos and it IS, so he wrote me and I wrote the following to help him out.  I figured it was worth sharing, so here ya go.

I have Photoshop Elements 6, which came with one of my computers years ago.  Hopefully my instructions will make sense to you when you use your own version.

Open a photo file.  If you need to crop it, go to the symbol on the left side (the toolbar) that looks like these two symbols crossed: <> so they make kind of a box inside them.  That's the crop tool.  Put your cursor at the top left corner of where you want to crop and drag it diagonally down the the bottom right corner of where you want to crop.  You can move the location of the crop box by moving a corner (there will be a small box in the corner you can grab and move).  If a green check mark shows up, click that when you're happy with how you're cropping it.  If the green check mark doesn't show up (different versions do different things, y'know), go up to the "Image" word on the top tool bar and click that.  A drop down list will show up.  Click "crop" and then your picture will be cropped.  If you don't like how it turned out, go to the top bar and click "Edit" then choose "undo" from the drop down list.

Once you have your photo cropped, go to the Enhance tab on the top.  From the drop down list choose ""auto smart fix" which will brighten the image. If you think the colors were better before, go to "Edit" and hit "undo."  Go back to the "Enhance" tab and click "Auto sharpen" which will make your photo look more crisp.  Again, if you don't like it, go to "Edit" and hit "undo.

Now you're going to resize your photo to use on your website and other places.  Most photos are either 180 dpi or 300 dpi (dots per inch) when they come from a digital camera.  If you do use a digital camera, take your pictures as Large Format - that way you have plenty of "information" for the computer to use as you resize it. 

Once you've cropped it, save your original file with a name that lets you know it's the original:  "Pegasus bronze original cropped" perhaps with the date, too, so you can resize it differently in the future if you need to.

If you might be sending it to be used as a magazine cover or a postcard for a show, save it at 8x10 inches and 600 dpi.  If you will be using it in a magazine ad inside the magazine or perhaps in a book, save it at 8x10" and 300 dpi (these are industry standard dpi for advertising and magazine or book ads or copy).  Mark each file as you save it with all the information you need:  "Pegasus bronze 8x10 600dpi"  that kind of thing. 

For your website, resize the photos to be no more than 6" on the longest side and save them at 72dpi.  If this looks too grainy to you, save it at 100 to 120 and see how you like those.  Those are all low enough dpi that they can't be easily stolen by someone wanting to make cross stitch patterns with your painting, for instance.  Save the photo as "Pegasus bronze 6 in 72dpi" so you can find it easily when building your website.

If you want to - a lot of my painter and photographer friends do this - you can put a copyright watermark on the photo.  To do this, click the T (type tool) on the left tool bar, then set your cursor where you want the text box to start and drag diagonally until you're happy with it.  You can move it around after you finish typing, so it doesn't have to be perfectly placed at first. Once the box is in place, choose your font, something bold that will be easy to see like "Impact."  The font box is at the top of the window in the second row of tabs (it appears after you hit the "type tool").  Choose a large size (like 48) and a color that will be complimentary but still apparent on your picture.  There are a variety of grays that do a good job of this.  Also choose if you want it centered, left or right justified.

Now put your cursor inside the text box and if you want the copyright symbol, hold down the Alt key on your keyboard (it's near the space bar on a PC keyboard, dunno where it is on a Mac) and while holding it type "0169" - when you release the Alt key, the copyright symbol (c inside a circle) will appear.  Then type the rest of your copyright words (website, your name, whatever you want).

Once you have your copyright words typed, look at the toolbar on the second row above the window and you'll see a white box with a red line diagonally through it next to the word "style" - click that, and you'll see a choice of bevels to put on your words.  If you click the right fly-out arrow at the top of that box, you'll see the word "visibility" among others.  Choose this and then you can choose "hide" which allows only the embossing to show or "ghosted" which makes the color transparent.

Now you can move your watermark if you want to.  Put your cursor ABOVE the text box and slide it around the screen until you're happy with its placement.

Don't click SAVE or your photo will have that copyright on it forever and you won't have a "clean" version if you need it.  Instead, click "Save As" and give it a name like this:  "Pegasus bronze 6in 72dpi watermark" - something that clearly identifies it for you.

And that's all there is to it!  Don't worry about "layers" or any of the other things offered in Photoshop if all you're doing is fixing your photos to use on a website or in advertising. 

If you get stuck, go to your Internet search engine and type in "How do I add a watermark" (or whatever you need) "in Photoshop Elements 6" (or whatever you have).  There are YouTube videos that show step-by-step how to do pretty much anything you want.  Photoshop Elements 6 is such an old program, the videos are all for 7-9 or whatever number they're up to, but they have kept the basics the same to the point that you should be able to figure out what you need from the available videos.  I did the watermark part of this post by using a video that was made for Elements 7-9.

Get into Photoshop and just play with it.  You'll soon figure it out.  Just remember to save each changed photo with a unique name and don't overwrite your original!  Have fun with it.  Good luck!

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

New Works in Progress

I always work on something when I'm in a booth at a show.  At Equine Affaire, with four 10 hour days to be in my booth, I get a decent amount of work done while talking to folks.  Sculpting during a show is a great way to teach people about the process of creating sculpture.  This time, I also had a digital picture frame doing a slide show of the Nanning sculpture being digitally enlarged.  That gave me even more educational material to show the process of going from idea to finished  bronze.

All that said, I started a small sculpture of an Andalusian stallion doing a levade (a 45 degree rear that's held for a few  moments - part of "haute ecole" or "high school" dressage.  It takes incredible strength to hold that position).  Several years ago, I was allowed to photograph the spectacular Andalusian stallion Alborozo at his home in Malibu.  His owner, Avi Cohen, put him through all his paces and let me take all the photos I wanted which was incredibly kind and generous of him.

When I started this sculpture at Equine Affaire, it was nothing but pipe, a board and some spools of wire.  I made an armature (metal support for sculpture) and started adding clay, building him up and working on his muscle masses.  I haven't started work on his legs yet, as you can see in the pics below.  The tail is short like that because the horse's tail is tied up this way so he won't step on it while performing.

This is where he is now:

My second new work in progress is a relief of a lovely mare that's an Arab/Welsh cross.  She's a palomino with a wide blaze.  I saw her pic on Facebook (she belongs to an online friend of mine) and asked if I could sculpt it.  She agreed and I started on it, but life got in the way and I had to leave it unfinished for quite a while.  Now I'm back at work on it and it's an intriguing puzzle to solve.  It's a difficult angle to do as a relief, which is one of the reasons I wanted to try it (silly me!).  This is one of those things we self-taught artists do - find a new challenge and fight our way through it as a way of increasing our skills.  So this piece will go through some serious cases of "the uglies" before it becomes the beautiful piece I see in my head.  Anyway, here she is along with the photo that inspired me.  It'll get better, trust me!