Thursday, May 17, 2012

Picture Editing from the Shadows

Perhaps it might be one of the most valuable pieces of advice I will receive this year.  I had made a necklace with some  lovely Artisan lamp work beads and had sent a picture to thank the Artist for efforts.  In a very kind response, Melissa at Flame Touched Glass, gently  suggested  "Adjust the Shadows". 

My mind whirled, and I could not comprehend what she meant.  I had finished a piece for the April competition on the Art Bead Scene Blog.  But what did Melissa mean?  The shadows?

It took me some time, and after completing research on my Windows Live Photo Gallery program, I can honestly say that she was right.  It took quite some time for me to re-edit my photos, but I am going to give you the quick version here of how to implement this small change that if you are anything like me, will startle you into bliss.

Here goes.   I use a Cannon Rebel 500 with a light ring flash that was cast off from my husband, who no longer had a need for it.   The light ring works to control the flash to a 10" round area, and also diffuses the light so as not to cause overt reflections.  I have read from other artists not to use a flash, and I agree.  A normal flash is just too intense and would be like trying to take pictures in direct sun, but I find the light ring works very well.

I also do not use the program that came with the camera, mostly because I am stubborn and there were just heaps of documents to read.  If you are using camera software of any variety, you may be able to find these settings in that software and good luck as you embark on the search.   In the meantime, here is a quick and easy way to make this happen in your Windows 7 software.  I am running the 7 Professional version, just for reference.

Once you have downloaded and saved your photos into the folder you prefer, open the folder by double clicking on it.  In the Windows software, you will see the photos on the left, and a preview window on the right.  At the top right of the window, you have a small square icon that has a drop down arrow.  You can click on this arrow and it will control the size of the images on the left hand side of your screen.  Find the size you most like and click on it.

Ophelia Necklace Original Photo April 2012

Find an image you would like to try these steps on.  Double click it and it will reopen again in a large window.  At the top left of your new window, you will see 'Open'  and another drop down menu.  Move your mouse down and left click on Windows Live Photo Gallery.  A whole new window will open in the program and the picture that you had chosen will be highlighted.  To edit the picture, double click it again to make it the only item visible within the program.  When I do this, the intuitive part of the program already knows I am going into the Edit function, but the first few times, you may still need to click on the Edit tab at the top left of the page.

This is the part where the magic happens!  If you look amongst all the varied functions, you will find a small button with 3 sliders on it right in the middle of the top bar.  Click on it once with your left mouse button.  There is a whole panel of options that opens to the right of the picture.  We are really only concerned with two aspects and they are both in the first section "Adjust Exposure".  Click on the line item and another window opens.  

The last two items are the most important when you are taking photographs of jewelry.  First, begin to move the Shadow slider to the right, and watch the shadows you may never have noticed, lift in the picture without removing the color of the objects as would happen if you just increased the Brightness.

Next, if your piece has silver or gold or shiny components, you will want to move the Highlight button to the Left in small increments.  This will dial down the reflective aspects and keep them from overcoming the artwork visually.  Even in cases where you are working with something that has a finish in patina, the beads and other objects may create bright spots.

Ophelia Necklace Revised 2012

You can see vividly the difference in my Ophelia Necklace.  The beautiful layering of colors in the Artisan handmade glass beads is now visible.  Using the Highlight slider to downplay the reflections from the faceted purple amethyst and yellow jade, not to mention all the gold wire and round beads, really make it all much more visually pleasing.  As the necklace was also on a mirror, you can now see the reverse portions of the beads much better as well.

Now, to make sure that your changes are Saved, you MUST click the top right of that little box and a Green Arrow appears.   You can now, either click the top right big red X to close the file and these functions, or go to the top left and click on the Arrow button to go to the next picture.

Thank you to Melissa who sent me on this quest, and it is my hope and wish for all to be able to get the perfect picture.  I did not make the deadline for the April competition, but if I miss one again, it won't be for a lack of great pictures!

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