Monday, November 3, 2014

Free, Easy Resizing and Watermarking Images

If you are new to digital photography, you may not know that your camera produces photos that are very large, both in dimensions measured by pixels and in file size measured in megabytes (MB). These pictures are suitable for making large prints, but they are too big to share via email or on social media sites like Facebook, Flicker and Google+.

Resized and watermark added with PicMarkr.com

Beginner-level photo editing software like Picasa, iPhoto and Adobe Photoshop Elements usually include an easy way to scale down your original multi-megapixel image to a smaller version for sharing. But often there is no simple way to add a copyright label (or watermark) on your picture to deter people from using the photo without your permission.

If you are comfortable surfing the web, then you can quickly and easily resize and label your photos with your name for free without having to know how to use any picture editing program.

Most web resizing and watermarking sites perform one task or the other, so this requires a two-stage process. First, resize your image and save it to your computer. Then add the watermark before sharing online.

Resize Only
I recommend two sites for resizing your images: ShrinkPictures.com and ResizeMyPicture.com. Both sites follow a few simple steps for you to scale down a copy of your original photo to one suitable for electronic sharing.
  1. Browse your computer to find the picture you want to reduce.
  2. Select an appropriate size. Both sites offer choices including a custom size. I recommend 800 pixels or less on the longest edge.
  3. Choose a quality setting. Because your photo will have so few pixels compared to the original, you can use best quality or something between 90%-100% quality.
  4. Save the resized picture back to your computer. I suggest downloading these to a folder on your desktop where you can easily find them for the watermarking step.
Both ShrinkPictures and ResizeMyPicture provide options for reducing multiple pictures, not just one. This is helpful if you want to upload an album of photos to Facebook, for example. The sites support JPEG files only, not raw files.

Watermark Only
umarkonline.com provides a free watermarking service for one picture at a time. Since it does not have a resizing option, you should first shrink your photo to appropriate dimensions using one of the sites mentioned in the previous section. UMarkOnline makes it easy to position your text watermark on the photo and adjust the font, size, transparency, color, and style using its live preview. (Note the color designation is in hexadecimal code...not very friendly!) When you are satisfied with the result, your watermarked photo is saved in PNG format. This is readable both in email and on photo sharing sites. If you need to watermark or resize multiple images at a time, you can download a more complete version of the software.

Watermarked added using UMarkOnline.com

TIP: To create the copyright symbol (the "c" inside a circle), do this:
  • Mac: Hold down the Option key and press the letter G.
  • Windows: Hold down the Alt key and on the numeric keypad type 0169. When you release the Alt key, the symbol appears. (This will not work with the regular number keys at the top of the keyboard.)
Resize & Watermark
PicMarkr.com is a one-stop shop for image resizing and watermarking. It includes the ability to resize one to five photos at a time and provides a variety of text styles for creating your watermark. You can even use an image or graphic design instead of simple text. And PicMarkr lets you save the resized and labeled photo directly to Flickr, Facebook, Picasa or your computer.

Resized with default watermark style from PicMarkr.com

With access to these free picture resizing and watermarking sites, you can easily prepare your favorite photos for email or social media.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Daily Exercises for Better Photos

I recently came across an article with several, seven to be exact, suggestions to apply daily to your photography with the promise that your pictures will improve. Jeff Meyer posted his ideas in "7 Daily Exercises That Will Make You a Better Photographer".
  1. Use spot metering for more exposure control
  2. Check the histogram to verify exposure
  3. Shoot with a prime (fixed length) lens
  4. Choose a specific white balance
  5. Create a custom white balance setting
  6. Use manual exposure mode
  7. Post one image every day
 I like these suggestions, but I'd make a couple of additions.

Tip #5 says to be careful when creating a custom white balance setting. I agree that is true. But I wouldn't create a custom white balance correction for every situation. Not only is this inconvenient, it can actually cause the camera to eliminate the golden glow of sunset or the rosy pink of sunrise.

Custom White Balance Icon on Canon Cameras



I do, however, recommend using custom white balance for indoor settings, especially those with mixed or unknown light sources. I made effective use of a custom white balance setting (even while shooting raw files) in the indoor arenas at the county fair this summer. I captured great color for all my shots and spent less time fixing the color in the computer.

Left unadjusted white balance; Right Custom White Balance

Tip #6 says that manual exposure mode is better than aperture priority or shutter priority exposure mode because these don't let you adjust the brightness or darkness of your photo. Actually, you can change the exposure the camera suggests in priority exposure modes. Just use the Exposure Compensation button.
Exposure Compensation icon

This button is labeled with a +/- symbol in a box. To use it, hold down the button to see a "ruler" style display or sometimes just numbers starting with "0.0". Rotate the appropriate camera dial (see the manual) to change the exposure.

Make the picture brighter by moving to the plus side or a positive number (+1).

Left unadjusted exposure; Right Exposure Compensation +1

Make the picture darker by moving to the minus side or a negative number (-1).

Left unadjusted exposure; Right Exposure Compensation -1

Using aperture or shutter priority is often faster than setting controls manually and you can still fine-tune your exposure using exposure compensation.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Output Workspace in Bridge CC

Bridge CC comes with several different work spaces which provide a variety of ways to display your photos. However, Bridge CC does not include a workspace I used frequently in Photoshop CS5 and CS6: the Output workspace.

Bridge CC Output Workspace showing a custom 3x3 contact sheet

Adobe has recognized this oversight and published instructions on how to add the Output workspace to your copy of Bridge CC. It works for both Windows and Mac systems. Follow the link below for instructions on how to add this useful workspace to your copy of Bridge CC.

Adding the Output Workspace to Bridge CC
 
The Output workspace lets you create a PDF document or web gallery of a group of images using a series of panels. I have used this feature to create a custom 3x3 contact sheet for sharing images with clients. I've also used it to create a PDF slide show (no music) that's easy to share with others via email and web. And I've used it to build simple web galleries to either upload to the Internet or save to a CD for sharing with friends.

An HTML web gallery created using the Bridge CC Output workspace

For directions on how to use the Output module for these and other layouts, visit the following web page. It has both written and video instructions for PDF and Web Gallery creations. Don't be concerned that the page references Photoshop CS5 and CS6. The instructions apply to Bridge CC as well.

Create Web Galleries and PDFs
http://helpx.adobe.com/bridge/using/create-web-galleries-pdfs-adobe.html