one of the secrets to great photography

The clock ticked past 9:00 tonight and I still had no idea what I was going to post about.  It was one of those days when I work on things that are very uninteresting.  I primed the baseboard heaters in my family room and the under side of my kitchen cabinets.  Bo-ring.  I was about ready to get my camera out and snap a "before" picture of my heaters, but that seemed a little silly...even in the blog world.  I have finished three pieces of furniture, but I have to lug them into the house for their "beauty shots" and that just wasn't going to happen today.  So, here I am...late into the evening and dry on material. 

I started looking through my old photographs for some inspiration.  As I scrolled through some I took over a year ago, it hit me.  I knew what I wanted to post about. 

When I take pictures now, like the one above, I use a tripod.  What I learned is that even the slightest bit of a shake can make a picture blurry.  The picture below was taken over a year ago.  Even though I had a tripod, I was too lazy to use it.  I would just lean against the door frame or hold my breath or some other nonsense.   

Now, look at a picture below that I took recently using a tripod.  Not only is the exposure better, but the picture is sharper.  I reached a point when I realized that I just needed to get off my duff, get the tripod out of the closet and have a proper photo shoot. 

What a tripod allows for is a slower shutter speed.  A slower shutter speed means the "window" of the camera is open longer and lets in more light.  That means you can take a picture on a dark, cloudy day and it'll look sunny and bright.  It means a lot for interior photography. 

If you don't have a tripod, get one.  You can get one starting at around $15 and it's worth every penny you will spend on it.  I now haul mine with me everywhere.  It's a little silly, but I've learned what a valuable tool it is and I don't want to be caught without it. 

In other news, my friend Donna is writing a series on turning your blog into a business and asked for my thoughts on writing for magazines and websites.  If you're interested in what we had to say on the subject, you should read her post on Submitting work for websites and magazines

A bright and airy home filled with reclaimed beauties

This home is gorgeous on it's own - but discovering that it's filled with reclaimed furnishings and architectural elements makes it even prettier.

Love the table with the mid-century chairs. 

Such a pretty workspace!

I'd love to have a sliding door like this one day

can't go wrong with a crisp, clean white bathroom

via Pure Green Living

Beautiful Villa Elevation - 1734 Sq. Ft.

163 Square Meter (1734 sq ft) Villa Elevation - October 2011
House Details
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watermarks & actions

Last week I posted about my camera and lenses and this is the follow-up post about watermarks and actions that I promised.  Let me preface this by saying I am not a PSE (Photoshop Elements) expert and there are a lot of other great programs out there, this is just what I use.  If you use a free program or prefer another software, that's totally OK.  Just use what works for you. 

There are a couple of ways to watermark a photo.  Before my designer made a graphic for me, I just used a text box and added text over the picture.  This is a great homemade solution if you don't know how to make a graphic (which I didn't) or don't have the money to hire someone to make one for you. 


Laura made four graphics for me to use for watermarking.  The one above in white is what I use most often.  She created each graphic on a transparent background, so only the graphic shows, not a white box with a graphic inside. 

I start by opening the photo I want to edit and the graphic I'm going to use as the watermark. 

I then use the "move tool" to grab the graphic and drop it onto the picture.  This creates a second layer to the photo.  When the watermark layer is selected, you can adjust the size and position of the mark.  Select the background photo layer when editing the photo.  I like to straighten and/or crop the photo before I add the watermark, but I like to add actions or change the color/lighting after. 


Once the picture is straightened, cropped and marked, I move on to the editing.  I made a mistake when I painted this pillow and got some paint outside of the stencil.  The "clone stamp" allows you to cover blemishes in photos, whether it's a scratch on the floor or a scar on someones face.  With the clone stamp, you can "borrow" a blemish-free spot from next to the blemish and then paint over the blemish.  You have to be careful when using this technique, because it can look very fake very fast. 

After I've done all of the tweaking I want on the photo, I'll go to my action player.  For PSE 8.0, you would select EDIT Guided on the side bar menu and then select the action player.  I purchased the Florabella Luxe action set ($59), so I choose that option in the player. 

From there, I just select which action I want to apply to the photo.  I always "Sharpen/Defog" a photo for my blog first and then apply an action that amplifies the picture.  "Allure" and "London" are my favorite actions in that series. 

Because the actions were really made with portraits in mind, I usually go back to EDIT Full and tweak the levels on each layer to get the look I want.  I almost always take the transparency on the vignette (which makes the picture darker around the edges) to 0%.  It just looks funny on home decor photos.  I'll also adjust the lightness, contrast and a few other things until I like the look.  You just have to play with it. 

Here is a photo straight out of my camera.... 


...and watermarked with "Sharpen/Defog" and "Allure." 

Here's another one straight out of the camera...


This photo has now been straightened, cropped, and I played the "Sharpen/Defog" and "Allure" actions.  Notice I also removed my painting mistake and a stain on the pillow just to the left of the monogram.  I didn't adjust anything after applying the actions, though.  See how the picture is darker around the edges?  And it's not quite as light as I want it. 

Here is the same photo with the vignette layer at 0% and the lighten level and contrast bumped up a little. 


This works beautifully for portraits as well.  Here's a shot I took of my niece last Thanksgiving...

...and here's the photos with an action applied (I forget which one)...

...and another version of the picture cropped with the "B/W Mink" action applied. 

As you can see, good photo editing and the use of actions can greatly enhance your photography.  It takes a good shot and makes it great.  It's easy to get carried away with this, though, so practice a lot! 

Actions aren't going to do much for a lousy picture, though, so I'm going to do one last follow-up post on staging and some practical tips on taking good pictures for your blog and/or business. 

Before I let you go, the winner of the Allora Handmade Giveaway is...

Congrats, Catie!


Single Floor House Plan and Elevation - 1170 Sq. ft

small budget house plan - 109 Square meter (1170 Sqft) - October 2011

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Modern contemporary home - 1450 Sq. Ft

modern contemporary home 135 square meter (1450 sqft) - October 2011

Plot Area-3.25 cents
Built up area 1450 sq ft
3 bedroom with attached toilet
Living/dining area
family living at first floor

Architect:Subin S
Subin Surendran Architects & Associates
G-128,3rd Cross ,
Panampilly Nagar
Email: ssacochin@gmail.com
Ph:0484 3537074
Mob: 09895697074

Asianet Dream Home - October 2, 2011

Video Part 1

Video Part 2