Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Stackin’ ’em Up!

I’m seriously in need of a week where I’m actually not scrambling for a tutorial post! I was wide awake at 1 am wracking my brain for a topic. But what do you know… one magically appeared. I remembered there were still some really useful Guided Edits I haven’t shown you yet, so that’s what we’re doing. Let’s look at the Photo Stack, just for fun.

When I tell you that this technique is literally only about a 10 minute job, I know you’re thinking, “She always says that.” But it really is SO much faster even than using a template with photo stack, because with this edit, the software does ALL the copying and stroking. All of it! The hardest part is deciding which of the three options to choose, and I think that comes down to what you want the focus to be.

All I did to get this image was to click just once on the 4 frame spot I’ve shown below.

The very first image has the narrowest border already in place. A single click on one of the border options is the next step.

The medium border is still pretty skinny.

Even the widest one isn’t especially in-your-face. But that’s completely under your control! Before I show you that part, let’s look at the other two stack options.

The eight frame option looks like this with the baseline border.

Beefing up the borders to medium still lets a lot of the original image through.

Then the wider one, still not much of a distraction.

And then there’s the twelve frame option.

Medium

Wide

With this photo I think 4 frames is the right choice. So now I’m going to move to the Expert Editor.

Whoa! Look at all those layers! And each one is another opportunity to fine-tune the final image. (Notice the multiple copies of the photo layer? It’s a GREAT thing!)

Here I’ve selected one of the border layers. The border is actually simply a stroke on its own layer. The default settings are 10 pixels and 100% Opacity.

Pulling the slider to the right makes the border wider. I could also change the colour of the border in this menu if I wanted to.

I’m going to come back to that in a minute. But first, I’m going to unlock the background (original photo) layer so I can edit it. And so I can put a transparent layer underneath it. I right-clicked on the layer in the Layers panel then chose Layer from Background. That makes it like all the other layers, completely editable.

I then added my transparent layer underneath it by CTRL/CMD>clicking on the new layer icon (the blank sheet of paper) at the top left of the Layers panel.

I turned the visibility of the very first black rectangle off and now the original image is visible to the edges and can be erased away, leaving a transparent area instead.

Don’t panic about having to be precise with the erasing. It’s not a problem! All those extra copies of the original photo that are clipped to the stacked layers aren’t going anywhere. You can just use a big eraser and go for it!

After I did that, I decided I wanted to shift the stacked photos so they were entirely inside the canvas. So I CTRL/CMD>Z as many times as I needed to to get back to the black rectangle. Then I resized them a tiny bit, shifted them a tiny bit and rotated them a tiny bit until I arrived at what you see below.

Then I decided to make the borders just a smidge wider. I double-clicked on the fx icon on the first border layer to get into the Styles menu.

I didn’t go overboard, just doubled the width of the border on each one. And then I went back and erased the areas of the original photo layer to make my stack usable.

An advanced version of this Edit would substitute other photos for some of the frames, but it would be almost as much work as using a template would be… the photos would need to be resized and rotated individually then clipped to the spots.

If I was ready to put my layout together, I could just leave it as is for now and come back to it later. But I’m going to save it for later.

In order to be able to use it for a layout, the transparent background is essential. So I’m saving it as a PNG file.

To keep the images sharp I’m using the Slowest setting and Non-Interlaced. I gave it a name and saved it to the folder I’ve created for my (future) layout.

Before I forget, LilyAnn Fisherman left a comment on last week’s tutorial asking me if I couldn’t have made my clock face by texting-on-a-path. So I went back and did it again, using Text on a Shape. It was maybe a tiny bit less work, but I still had to fiddle with the spacing to line the hours up with where they should be on the clock.

And while I was at it, I did a mock-up of what I hope the clock will look like when it’s finished.

Check back in a few weeks to see if I succeed!

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

I almost didn’t think there would be a tutorial this week. I spent a huge chunk of time going through the paper clutter in my dining room sorting what needs to be kept and what could go to the shredder and at the end of it I was mentally exhausted. So I figured I’d do something fun; we’re redecorating and I want one of those huge farmhouse style clocks to go in the dining room. Bargain shopper that I am and not thrilled with the retail prices on these clocks, I took my $50 Lowe’s gift card and bought an 18″ chunk of stain-ready pine then started looking at examples on Pinterest. I knew I wanted Roman numerals on my clock so those are the ones I concentrated on. But how to get those numerals onto my slice of pine… PSE to the rescue. I thought.

I wasn’t anticipating the number of times I’d have to undo it all and start over. So I thought, “Maybe someone else could learn from my mistakes!” I had already decided I would use the Warp text tool and had to figure out how to bend it to my will.

I tried a couple of options from the menu before settling on the Arc warp. It gives a beautiful curve but doesn’t distort the text too much.

To give myself something to gauge the curve against, I used the Custom Shape Tool to pull out a nice perfect circle. The sliders do some crazy things to text! I went all the way over to the right with the Bend slider, but felt it didn’t leave quite enough space between the 8 and 9 or the 2 and 3. So I adjusted back to 94%

Then I typed out the rest of the numerals and warped them. But something doesn’t look right. I went back to my example on Pinterest and yep… it’s not right. The numerals on the bottom half are backwards.

So I deleted that text layer but while I was trying to figure out how to turn the numerals on the bottom half around, I pulled in some Guide lines to make positioning the 12, 3, 6 and 9 easier.

And I tried it again.

And failed. Again. So I thought, what if I flip the numerals horizontally?

Think it worked? As you can see, the bottom arc is a LOT bigger than the top one, which I did nothing to other than warp it.

Even after I resized and rotated the two halves to a more correct position, it still was wrong. Even after several more tries to get it right, I still didn’t have it.

So I took a break. I went to work, spent the day recertifying my special competencies and writing two exams. I put it out of my mind altogether. Then after I got home and had a nice glass of pino grigio to forget the stress of my math exam, I had a EUREKA moment! Maybe I needed to put the characters in reverse order then spin them around 180°.

Did it work?

YES!! With some caveats.

I adjusted the space between some of the numerals and rotated everything a smidge.

WooHOO! Now I can print it out in the size I want – even if I have to put it on four sheets – and trace them with carbon paper onto my clock. I’m so excited to see it all finished!

So there’s another way to add some originality to your text!

Photoshop Layer Style Pattern Adjustments

Did you know that, when using the full version of Photoshop, you can easily adjust the position of a pattern within a Photoshop Layer Style? Photoshop Elements does not have the option available, but there is a work-around.  It’s very easy! Here’s how:

Photoshop:

1. In the Layers Panel select the layer that has the style you want to adjust.

Moving a Pattern in a Layer Style Tutorial Snickerdoodle Designs

 

2. Click on “Effects” (or anywhere in the “Effects” area, but not on the name of the Layer itself). This will open the Layer Style Panel.

3. Click on “Pattern Overlay” in the Layer Style options box on the left to make it active.

4. You can see the entire Pattern on the right, in the Pattern Overlay options box. This is handy for re-positioning reference.

5. Move to your document. Place your cursor on the object to which you have applied the style. In the image above, I have placed the cursor on the rounded rectangle.

6. Left click and hold down with your mouse, then move your cursor around within the bounds of the object to reposition the pattern.

7. When you are happy with the result, release the mouse.

So how is this useful?

For the purposes of this tutorial, I used my seamless Watercolor Styles 02. Because the styles are seamless, I moved around the pattern in just one of the style effects and was able to quickly come up with 9 different looks. The ability to reposition patterns exponentially multiplies the options you have when using seamless styles with color variations.

 

There are 15 style effects in this one pack. So if you, by chance, were able to get 9 different looks from just ONE style, it is conceivable that you could get 135 different patterns from this pack (15 styles X 9 looks per style)!  I won’t guarantee you could get 9 different looks from each effect, but just wanted to emphasize how moving a pattern in a style can add to the versatility of many styles.

What about Styles that are not seamless?

If you are working with a style that is not seamless, and the shape to which you want to apply a style is larger than the pattern size, you will see the pattern seams. Here’s what that would look like:

By repositioning the pattern, depending upon the size of the style and of the object, you have a good chance of being able to hide the seams. By dragging the pattern a bit to the left, this is the result I was able to achieve with this style:

What about Photoshop Elements users?

To date, Adobe hasn’t included the ability to move patterns around in Photoshop Elements.  They can, however, Scale a pattern, which can be helpful.

In the top menu bar: Layer > Layer Style > Scale Effects

Another window will open which has a slider, allowing you to make the pattern larger or smaller. When making a pattern much larger than it is intended, you may degrade the quality of the pattern, so that’s just something to be aware of.

 

Thanks for stopping by the blog today. I hope you have found this tutorial helpful. If you would like to download a PDF for reference, you may do so here.

Snickerdoodle Designs

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

True Colours – Not Just a Song

Has anybody seen my mojo? It seems to have gone walkabout without me! I haven’t scrapped a single thing this month. Not one. That can’t be allowed to continue!!

Today I thought I’d show you a really quick (literally only 5 minutes of your precious time) photo edit that will help you save those special photos that just aren’t. I think we’ve all taken a bunch of photos of a special event or trip, only to find out when we’re ready to use them that they’re not quite the masterpieces we thought they would be. Sometimes that’s because the lighting did weird things to the colours… like in my example photo below. For those who’ve never seen it, this is the Three Graces fountain at Caesar’s Place in Las Vegas. But it’s not supposed to be yellow.

The path to solving this problem and unlocking the true colours in your photo goes like this: Enhance>Adjust Color>Remove Color Cast.

Fixing an ugly colour cast is pretty simple, but it often is a bit of a trial-and-error exercise. Everything in the photo is affected by the same odd colouration so you’ll be making some guesses. The tool works by using an algorithm to adjust the colours based on you telling it which areas of the photo are either white, gray or black. The trick is to figure out which is what!

Because my photo is 10 years old, I really can’t remember the kind of details that would make this easy. So I just picked a spot – the lampshade – that I expected to be white. But I was wrong.

Fortunately, with a single click, I can Reset the image and try again.

This time I chose the bright light in the chandelier as my “white” source. The result is better, but is it right?

So I went to the reflected light in this molding. It looks white… but apparently it isn’t.

I was obviously failing with the white areas, so then I tried a spot that looked like it should be black… the sleeve on the jacket this woman is wearing. Better. Best?

To be sure I’d gotten it right, I tried a couple more spots. I assumed the sculpture was marble, or intended to looklike marble, so I clicked on an area of cheekbone. There’s still a hint of sepia in the image though.

So I tried black again, clicking on the dark area of the mirror, shown below. Fooled again! It’s NOT black.

This is the one that my eye tells me is truest. With a little haze removal, it should be vastly improved from the original. Another photo saved!

Finished version… 5 minutes. Tops!

 

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

What the Heck is a Vignette?

It’s been awhile since we did anything really creative using a Guided Edit. Today we’re changing that!

The dictionary has a number of definitions for the word “vignette”.

noun

  • decorative design or small illustration used on the title page of a book or at the beginning or end of a chapter.
  • an engraving, drawing, photograph, or the like that is shaded off gradually at the edges so as to leave no definite line at the border.
  • decorative design representing branches, leaves, grapes, or the like, as in a manuscript.
  • any small, pleasing picture or view.
  • small, graceful literary sketch.

verb (used with object), vi·gnet·ted, vi·gnet·ting.

  • Photography to finish (a picture, photograph, etc.) in the manner of a vignette.

This photo – “a small, pleasing picture or view” – of my cocker spaniel Bailey (who left us 4 years ago) is my most favourite one of her. When I was sorting through a box of stuff I found a frame I had bought for this photo shortly before she died; I decided it was time to print and frame the photo, but wanted to increase the impact of it a bit first.

My first thought was to add a vignette effect to my vignette. Photoshop Elements has one in the Guided Edits menu, so here goes!

This particular effect has quite a few uses, especially when it comes to landscape photos where there’s an element or view that screams for sharper focus (attention-wise). But it would also be stunning with newborn photos, wedding photos and any number of others.

When you open the tool, this is what the interface looks like. Remember, down at the bottom right corner there are two buttons, a Next and a Cancel. The Next button gives you the option of saving, sharing or moving on to the Expert workspace. The Cancel button resets the image. So if you’ve made several adjustments and are pleased with your efforts, take great care not to Cancel it!

Obviously there are two vignette options here, Black and White. I’m showing you the white first, with the software’s default setting. It’s not the look I’m after, but I have some adjustment capability so let’s see what happens when I use them.

By decreasing the Intensity of the vignette effect, I get an effect I like better.

The button bar I’ve circled is the second adjustment tool, which lets the user shift the shape of the vignette and softness of the edges. I’ve shown you the defaults. The marching ants show you where the software has made its selection.

I moved the Feather slider over a bit to the right (to 7.7 pixels) and made the edge softer, then slid the the Roundness handle all the way to the left (-100%). The Roundness tool contracts or expands the selection edge. Can you see what that did to my photo?

This is what I get when I move the Roundness slider all the way to the right without adjusting the Feather. But even with lots of tweaking, it’s not the look I’m after. So I hit the Cancel button.

Then I tried the Black vignette. Here’s the image with the defaults. TOO too…

So I pulled the Intensity of the vignette down to about 55% and like it a lot better.

This time I pushed the Feather slider all the way to the right, 50.0 pixels.

Then I played with the Roundness, moving the slider left to -10%.

There it is! Bailey is the focus, the edges are darker and softer and I’m really happy with the way it looks. I can print it now and get it in the frame. If I wanted to work with this photo more, inside a layout for example, I would go to the Next button and make my choice of subsequent actions. I Saved it to my folder for printing.

Can you think of a photo in your collection that would be even better using this technique? (There’s another way to do this technique that’s a bit more work, and I’ll show you how in another lesson.)

Tutorial Tuesday (Fonts)

Fontastic Spring!

Once again I’m apologizing for not having a great tutorial prepared for you. I’ve been caught up in family obligations the last several days and haven’t had time for much else. I didn’t even get my family bible layout done. But I’ve noticed that almost all the comments on last week’s post mentioned the fonts I showed you. And I also noticed that I haven’t done a post about spring-y fonts. So there we’re going!

As I’ve mentioned before, I love dafont.com as a great source of free fonts; their selection is outstanding! I made a quick cruise through there and have found you a baker’s dozen of fonts (and a dingbat set) that would make great titles or subtitles for spring layouts. See if you agree. Each font is hyperlinked to the site; just click on the font name in the description.

Alpha Shapes Raindrops might be what you’re looking for when you scrap rainy-day layouts. If you simplify each letter on its own layer, you can use the Smudge tool to animate your drops.

Floralies is similar to Blomster, but a little “lighter”.

Florality isn’t technically a font, but the viny, leafy look of it is so pretty!

I’m thinking there are so many ways to make Alpha Flowers just POP off the page.

Flower Explosion is a little lighter too, but still really pretty.

Think how beautiful CF Flowers of Destiny would look with a Blend Mode like Multiply! Ooh, and a gradient… smashing!

Nebulo is really gorgeous, just be aware that it’s a mishmash of capital and lowercase letters.

I just love this one! Kingthings Willow has two choices for even more freedom and control.

Black Flowers Blossom is just pretty.

Vanessa is another really pretty font; imagine it clipped to a paper, maybe with a little border around it.

CF Springtime has a nice bit of heft to it, and those sprigs are a cute touch.

This whimsical little beauty would be an amazing addition of layouts with Day Dreams ‘n Designs‘ Daily Download kit Bee Mine. I think we also need to heed the message… Save the Honeybee.

This one doesn’t say spring so much as the name of it does. I like it though. Butterfly

That leaves only the dingbat set. KR Spring Me has LOTS of spring-y images and so many possibilities.

Do you have any favourite fonts that make you think of spring? It looks like spring might actually be on its way to my corner of the world. Our temperature finally got above freezing on Sunday for the first time since January 31. That’s a long time to be cold!

Tutorial Tuesday (Potpourri)

Heritage and History: Recorded

Late last week, I connected with one of my distant cousins on my mom’s mother’s side through Ancestry DNA. I never expect anything to come from my contacting them, and am always so thrilled when they respond. This particular long-distance connection led to an explosion of “new” family members for me and the beginnings of several friendships. But perhaps the best thing that has come from this is that I now have several photos of the old family Bible, that dates back to 1884.

I know there are more than a few of you loyal readers who are also interested in your family history and in recording what you learn for future generations. My family Bible photos are going to make an amazing layout. And GingerScraps has pretty much everything I’m going to need to make it special. And I’m going to let you in on my design process.

First, did you know you can search the store using keywords? On the far left of the store’s home page, there’s a search box right underneath the log-in panel. I typed in “heritage” and the search returned THIRTY-TWO pages (more than 500!) of possibilities. I know the right kit for me to use for my special layout will be in there somewhere. Here are some of the options I’m considering.

Many of these kits are part of a larger bundle, which of course is your very best value.

My heritage layouts go in one of two directions; I either focus on a single photo or I go with a collection of them. Because the photos by themselves are just “nice” but don’t tell the story, lots of room for journalling is a must. Our GS designers have so many options for templates that it’s like an embarrassment of riches. Here are some options for multi-photo layouts.

For titles and journalling, there are nearly as many options for (free) fonts as there are days in a year. I like to use decorative fonts for titles, typerwriter fonts for journalling – it needs to be completely legible for the story to be preserved. Here are some that I like.

Now, my challenge to you is to see if you can guess which kit, template set and fonts I will use for my layout. Check in the gallery at the end of the week to see if you’re right!

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Magic Eraser!! (Not Mr Clean but close)

I know I can’t be the only one who collects brochures from the attractions I visit when I travel. And I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who likes to make my own journal cards to go with my photos when I scrap those travel photos. I really wanted to use the Wells House logo somewhere on my layout below and decided this would be a good time to try something new (to me). The template I chose, from the GingerBread Ladies mega-collab Oh Snap! had a journal card spot, and it inspired me. And ADB Designs‘ January Daily Download kit Cozy New Year was the perfect kit to go with my photos.

The logo is pretty well delineated in the image below, and I just want the logo itself. I could put it on a new document and extract it using one of the methods I’ve shown you in the past, but I wanted to try something new. So let’s get to it!

I’d never tried the other options in the Eraser Tool menu and this seemed like a good time to give it a look. That one with the yellow starburst is called the Magic Eraser Tool and it is indeed magical!

There are some settings that are vital to use with this technique. The Opacity has to be 100%, and all three boxes along the right side of the menu should be checked: Sample All Layers, Contiguous and Anti-Aliasing.

The screenshot says it all… I really did just click on the background and it vanished. (See the new transparent background?)

So then I wanted to play! I have a bunch of Bitmoji images saved to my computer and this one, which is pretty much how I’ve looked the whole month of February, was my next victim.

CLICK!

It was so easy, I wondered what would happen if I tried it on a photo. This one looks like a good choice to experiment with.

Oh. Didn’t expect that!

The tool magically erased some of his t-shirt along with the sky. That’s a limitation – the shadow isn’t enough of a contrast to the sky and Elements couldn’t tell

So I combed through my stock photos for one with more obvious contrast.

Now I’m starting to understand how the tool works. I’m going to need to click on every. single. different. colour. variation. Too much work!

So how about this one? Will it work better?

Not so much.

Maybe this one will work.

Or maybe not. Now I had to see what else I could do that would be smart, not hard, to preserve the stuff I wanted and remove the stuff I didn’t.

I went to the Magic Wand tool to see if it would be quick and easy enough to extract the woman and only the woman.

The marching ants surrounded her hair well enough. So I clicked on Select>Inverse (I lie. You know I went with CTRL/CMD>Shift>I.) to invert the selection… to “select” the background and not her hair.

Now you can see the marching ants around the outside of the photo. Back to the Magic Eraser I went.

Much better! The wisps might be a problem.

I clicked on other areas of the background that were still there.

Not bad! The only fiddly part of this is the wispy hair now.

I wanted to try it one more time, with this crest from one of the radar stations I lived on when I was a kid. It’s a fair representation of the place, I’ll say that! And it has a more detailed edge with that wreath of maple leaves.

One click got rid of most of the background, but left the white in the spaces between the leaves. You can see them along the right side of the screenshot. I’d already clicked a few more times in the spaces to the left side. It only took about a minute to go all the way raound and get rid of the rest of the white background.

Sweet!! I’m not sure what I’ll use this for, and I’m going to see what I can do about wispy hair for a future lesson, but I can feel you chomping at the bit to try this one yourself.

Have fun!!

Tutorial Tuesday (PSE-Word Mashup)

A Whole New Meaning to Copy-and-Paste!

Welcome to the tutorial that almost wasn’t! The last week has been a little difficult around our house and the weekend was particularly so. I didn’t have time to put together something to share with you before I had to go back to work yesterday. 12 hour shifts don’t leave a lot of energy, mentally or physically, and I always do two in a row so I was expecting to have to disappoint you all by posting a “sorry…” and a promise to do better. But the over-staffing fairy visited me this morning and I magically got the day off. Not having a topic in mind, I had to do some pondering. And then I learned something myself that I knew would be perfect for this week. So we’ll settle for late, rather than not at all. Here goes!

Have you ever put your heart and soul into a layout, then spent forever coming up with the perfect journaling – only to hate the way the journaling looks, or worse… see a glaring typo? Have you ever wished PSE came with a spell-check? Or that you could copy-and-paste something from a website? Well, have I got the trick for you! Word and PSE work together! And even better… all your fonts are there in Word too!

Your Word version may be different from mine; the interface might look different but this is pretty basic, and all the things I’m going to show you will work with any version. I opened a new blank document in Word, chose a font and set my formatting so that my text would fit inside a border on a beautiful journaling blank I pulled from Ooh La La ScrapsShabby Chic collection.

I love using quotations for a variety of reasons. Like not having to think too hard! I typed out this one in a matter of a few seconds. I changed the size of the font for Mr Bergen’s name.

I just spotted a typo on my screenshot below. RATS! Word’s spell-check wouldn’t have caught it either, but it DOES catch those transposed letters, “e”s that should be “a”s and that kind of thing. It also capitalizes the first word of each sentence for you if you forget.

Then I opened up Elements on my desktop, dropped my journal blank onto a new document and set up the Text tool with the same font settings that I chose in Word. If I skipped this step now, Elements would default to the last settings I used.

Back to Word… I selected the text then right-clicked to open up a dialogue box. It looks like this. I want to Copy the text. (WSNH tip: the same keyboard shortcuts I’ve shown you in previous tuts also work exactly the same in Word, so CTRL/CMD>C will work to copy the text.)

I flipped back to Elements and Pasted my text into the journaling space. That can be done by right-clicking then choosing Paste from the dialogue box, or CTRL/CMD>V. Did you notice that Elements ignored the different text sizes?

Now I have the ability to change it up to suit my layout. I changed the text colour first by pulling the gray from the border.

Then I changed the font size on Mr Bergen’s name again. Now that I know the font size changes made in Word don’t move over to Elements, I can skip that step in the future.

Even better, it’s totally possible to Copy whole sections of text from a web site or other document on your computer and Paste it into Word. As you can see in the screenshot below, I’ve selected a new quote from my favourite quotations site.

Then I Pasted it into Word with a couple of clicks! Yeah. I wasted time resizing Ellen’s name. (Did you catch the typo in this screenshot too?)

Here you can see that I’ve got Elements open and it’s just waiting for me to Copy-Paste Ellen’s words of wisdom over.

Oh, right… I didn’t go to Elements and set up the font. So this is the font, size and colour I used for the last layout I created.

So I just Undid that step and started over. But this time I decided to use a Text Box. This handy tool helps to constrain the text so it doesn’t bleed out into areas where I don’t want it. To create a Text Box, with the Type tool click-and-drag from one corner diagonally to the opposite corner of the area you want to cover with text. This journal blank made it easy by having reference points in the border.

And then I pasted Ellen’s quote into my text box. Notice that it’s now centre-justified, rather than left-justified as it was in Word. I had “Center” selected in the Text tool settings and Elements over-rode Word.

This time I didn’t have too many changes I needed to make, other than shrinking Ellen.

But to show you how easy it is to change it to suit your purposes, I switched the angle from upright to right-italic and changed the text colour. I want to try this trick with texting on a path, but wanted to get you the basics now. Stay tuned!

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

It’s All About the EXPOSURE!

Today’s tutorial comes to you courtesy of my weekend wandering through that black hole known as Pinterest. I wasn’t even looking for inspiration but BAM! there it was!!

I don’t know about you but I have a whole folder of photos that are unscrappable for one reason or another. Many of them are seriously under-exposed… and they’re usually of something I really, really, REALLY wanted to use for a layout. Like this one, for example. I took it on my first trip to Ireland in 2014; there’s a lovely 2-storey manor house in the centre, surrounded by idyllic countryside. But you’d never know it. All my efforts in the past to improve these shots were failures, mainly because they looked really over-processed and artificial. Then I found this method of fixing these oh-so-dark shots. To wow you thoroughly, I’m going to start with this one, as my worst example of underexposure.

The first thing to do is make a copy of the image, either by right-clicking on the layer and selecting Duplicate Layer, or simply using the shortcut CTRL/CMD>J. If you choose the first method, there’s an extra step, because PSE is going to ask you to name the new layer. The shortcut just makes a copy, and calls it that. (You already know what method I use.)

Now for the magic! Just change the Blend Mode from Normal to Screen. Click on the button at the immediate upper left of the Layers panel and select Screen from the drop-down menu. For those of you who don’t know much about Blend Modes, they’re really great tools; I put together a tutorial on what they that you can find here.

Can you see the change that simple step has made? Hedges!!Shrubs!

Just by copying the Screen layer, I can bring out more details.

Still not great, but so much better…

So I added another copy of the Screen Layer.

And another…

I kept adding copies of the Screen layer and the image just kept getting better and better.

It’s getting there, but still has some room for improvement.

Almost there!

And then… YES! I can see the leaves on the shrubs in the foreground, the trees on the hill and have a much better photo.

Then I Merged all the layers together. Select all the layers then right-click somewhere within the Layers panel, choosing Merge Layers from the drop-down menu. Or do what I do,  select the layers then CTRL/CMD>E.

I’m happy with the exposure now, but I feel like the image is a bit hazy. So my next favourite new tool is the Enhance>Haze Removal (or CTRL/CMD>ALT>Z).

It doesn’t change the image in a huge way, but the leaves are sharper, the house looks sharper and the colours are a smidge more saturated.

Let’s try it again, this time with an indoor photo taken without a flash. No harsh shadows, but also no background detail…

The first Screen layer does this.

Adding a second Screen layer brings out more of the carved panelling.

Now I’ve got three Screen layers and I’m almost happy.

Four Screen layers and I’m happy.

Merge those layers and carry on! This one isn’t too hazy so I didn’t use the Haze Removal tool.

Let’s try it one more time, with an image that isn’t terrible, but could use a little help.

First Screen layer…

I added another one, then one more and now could see the beams under the roof a lot better.

Then I Merged the layers.

I wondered if Haze Removal would make it even better. And to my eyes it did.

So that’s a handy trick for the under-exposed shots. What about the ones that are just a little blown out – over-exposed? Is there a quick trick for them? YES! This photo is from my daughter’s wedding trip to Jamaica.

Now, this wasn’t in the little piece I found online, but I thought about if for a minute and decided to try something… it worked! I copied that first layer but instead of using the Screen Blend Mode, I chose Multiply.

Look at that! It’s a bit dark, but much better with just ONE blended layer on top of it.

The easiest way to adjust it was to lower the Opacity of that Multiply layer to 92%.

Merge those babies!

I gave it the Haze Removal treatment too.

And there it is!

This next one, a gallery I shot in New Orleans, doesn’t need a lot of adjusting either, but I wanted to know if I could love it more.

After the first Multiply layer I feel it’s a bit too shadowy now. But I know how to fix that.

Ooh, that’s better! 82% is about the right amount of Opacity here.

I love that this trick is so much less labour-intensive! I Merged the two layers…

and hit it with the Haze Removal tool too.

I saved the worst for last. This wall paper is in the circular entry hall of the manor at Coollattin, the estate where my Irish ancestors lived and worked until 1847. It’s hand-painted watercolour on heavy paper, and it’s absolutely beautiful. But you wouldn’t know it from this photo!

One Multiply layer later… I think it’s too dark now, but when I was batch-editing I thought it was fine.

I kept going with the process and reduced the Opacity to 80%.

It’s better than the original so I Merged the two layers.

And got rid of the Haze.

There’s a lot of detail visible now, and the colours are much more saturated.

Then, just to see, I added a Screen layer and it’s PERFECT!

Are you already looking through your photo folders for shots to experiment with? I bet you are!