No matter where you travel this summer, you're probably going to have some trouble taking photos--not necessarily because of any technical issues with your camera, but because there will be so many people in the way of what you're trying to shoot. I've explained before how to erase tourists from your photos using Corel Paint Shop Pro, but this time around I've got two different techniques to share with you: One you can use in almost any photo editor from Adobe Photoshop Elements to GIMP, and an even easier method that works in Adobe Photoshop only.
The Traditional Method: Cloning
One of the oldest and most beloved photo editing tricks, cloning is a handy way to discreetly remove small objects from a photo. To clone away an unwanted element, you just "paint over" it with some texture from a nearby part of the photo. When done well, it can be almost impossible to tell anything was changed, and it's a great way to eliminate tourists from vacation photos. Take this airshow photo, for example, with a distracting pole in the shot. Rather than cropping it out, I'll clone it away.
Have a question about digital photography? Send it to me. I reply to as many as I can--though given the quantity of e-mails that I get, I can't promise a personal reply to each one. I round up the most interesting questions about once a month here in Digital Focus. For more frequently asked questions, read my newsletters from March, April, and May.
Making a Positive Print From a Negative
I have a black-and-white negative and need to make a positive print. How can I do that? --A.K. Brenman, Orange, California
I recently crossed the country to help my parents set up their new computers. The trip was well worth the time: They got to switch from slow, old Windows XP machines to fast, fresh Windows 7 PCs. And in exchange, I got to eat lots of genuine New York pizza. When the weekend upgrade was complete, what single Windows 7 feature do you think they most loved? Not the Libraries, or HomeGroup, or the snazzy new taskbar. Nope, they loved the desktop slideshow.
You might already know that Windows 7 allows you to turn your desktop into a slideshow of your favorite photos. What you might not realize is that you can easily save and share that slideshow so your friends and family with Windows 7 can see those same photos on their desktop--without posting photos online, where you have to worry about privacy issues.
Sometimes, all it takes to complete a photo is a simple and subtle tweak. If your background is distracting, for example, you may want to blur it or make it fade away. One of the best ways to do this is with a vignette effect. Traditionally, a vignette is an oval-shaped cutout that frames the subject and obscures the background. But photo editing programs can also apply a graduated vignette to your background that lets it fade gently into obscurity. Most people won't even notice it's there--but it can dramatically enhance your photo.
Choose a Suitable Photo
You'll generally get the best results with portraits or snapshot of people in which your subject is the primary element in the photo. Load a suitable image into your favorite photo editor, in my case Adobe Photoshop Elements. I'll use this portrait of a wolf.
One day you'll be able to change almost any aspect of a photo after it's taken. A technique called computational photography, for example, promises to let you change the focus and the depth of field on your PC, so you can make someone in the background of a picture snap into focus. That's still in the lab, but you can use software to fiddle with the depth of field even now. A few years ago I explained how you could take a series of photos with slightly different focal points and combine them into a single image with very deep depth of field, with everything in focus. I'd like to return to that subject this week, because I've now found a free program you can use to make photos with an "infinite" depth of field.
Stack Photos to Extend the Depth of Field
Whenever enough people start experimenting with a new photo technique, it invariably gets its own name. In this case, the technique has become known as focus stacking. The name makes sense. Imagine you want to take a close-up photo. You know that depth of field is very narrow in macro photos, so ordinarily you'd have to choose which part of the photo will be in focus, as you see in the picture on the left.
Have a question about digital photography? Send it to me. I reply to as many as I can--though given the quantity of e-mails that I get, I can't promise a personal reply to each one. I round up the most interesting questions about once a month here in Digital Focus. For more frequently asked questions, read my newsletters from February, March, and April.
Better Exposures for Dark Complexions
I frequently volunteer in Haiti, where the Caribbean sun is usually very bright and the people are very dark skinned. I use a compact camera and, in nearly every shot, the camera compensates for the bright surroundings, so facial features are lost in shadow. What adjustments can I make to try to solve this problem? --Brandon Johnson, San Francisco
Today's a special day for me--if I was a kid, I probably would be wishing for a pony. That's right, it's my birthday. And in honor of my birthday, I got all of you a gift: A roundup of four (mostly) free photo editing toys. These are all one-trick ponies (see, birthday ponies!) designed to do only one thing--but they do those one things pretty well. These programs will go nicely with the free photo editors I told you about a few weeks ago, as well as last week's free photo toys.
Protect Your Photos With a Watermark
I frequently get questions about how to protect your photos online, and specifically how to watermark images so they're harder to steal. The somewhat generically named Watermark Image Software is a free program designed to address this very problem.