Sunday Sampler – Aug. 11

Happy Sunday! As you are reading this we are heading to Tennessee! Site work began on our new homestead this past week. Our house arrives at the dealer from the factory on Monday. Things are progressing! By the end of Aug./beginning of Sept. everything should be set and ready for move in.

This is what it looked like on Friday. We’re really not close to the house next door, it’s just the angle of this image. Our property runs down the hill off to the left of the photo. There is an empty lot between us and the house to the right – the couple who owns that house isn’t selling the lot, so that will stay open. Our contractor has seen deer everyday – guess we’ll have lots of company! Our kitty cats will not be thrilled!!

This week’s Sunday Sampler consists of some lovely purple and green bokeh shots courtesy of my friend Antoinette Gombeda! She took these with our Sunday Sampler readers in mind. These are great for replacing busy backgrounds behind your flower shots. Thank you my friend!

The folks at Topaz have been VERY busy since the initial release of Studio 2. They are (as of Friday night) on revision 2.0.9! They have added in some of the features not in the initial release (histogram, cropping/straightening, ability to import textures in bulk, and many more), and fixed a few hiccups. Be sure to download the latest update! When you log in to Studio 2 it will tell you there is a new update. You can also check by going to Help > Check for Software Updates.

Another of the features they added was the ability to bring over Studio 1 Presets to Studio 2. When they created Studio 2, they did not add all of the previous presets (now called Looks) so as to not bog down the system with presets that were similar.

To bring over any that you like from Studio 1, first “favorite” them in Studio 1 (click on the heart). Then in Studio 2 go to Help > Migrate Custom TS1 Presets > and check the box for Migrate Favorite Presets. In mere seconds they will be added to TS2. You can tell the ones that were brought over as the preset/look name will have TS1 at the end of it.

There are also no limits to the number of times you can run this function. For favorites and for custom presets as well (initially you could only do this once).

While the webinar discount code for Topaz has ended, you can still save 15% on any Topaz product by using my link: https://topazlabs.com/ref/55/ and the code MeredithImages at checkout.

I have also extended my website discount until Monday Midnight EDT. Save 25% off any of my eBooks or texture packs with the code topaz25 in the Peacock Studio.

An inspiring article from PictureCorrect.com“15 Weekend Photography Project Ideas”. Some fun projects that will help you improve your skills.

And to help you maintain your creativity (also from PictureCorrect), “Tips for Maintaining Creativity as a Photographer”.

And if you want to get creative and produce some of your own backgrounds and textures, check out this article on Pixel2Pixel, “Useful Photoshop Tutorials for Designing Abstract Backgrounds”. There are 48 projects to keep you busy for quite a while!

And another Photoshop project from iDevie, “How to Create a ‘Stranger Things’ Inspired Text Effect”.

If you are into mobile photography (iPhone, Android, etc.), you need to check out the AppWhisperer. They do artist reviews, feature images, and reviews of various phone apps.

And if you want to edit using the native apps on your phone, check out “How To Edit Photos on an iPhone Using the Built In Photos App” from the iPhone Photography School.

And, lastly, find some other great inspiration from LightStalking/Toad Hollow Photography with the article, “Catch Up on the Coolest Links in Photography”.

Have a great week!

Sunday Sampler – Aug. 4

What an exciting, busy week it’s been! Last weekend I taught 5 sessions at the Southwestern Michigan Council of Camera Clubs Conference. Got home Monday afternoon (a friend and I made a road trip of the Conference), then finished preparing for the Topaz Webinar on Tuesday afternoon!

We set new records for webinar registrations (4002), and maxed out the session with 3000 attendees! Wow! If you missed the webinar or didn’t get signed up, here is a link to the recording on the Topaz YouTube Channel: https://youtu.be/FadYpAftlE4

Read more Topaz News in the Topaz Corner below.

This week’s Sunday Sampler is a “double-header” since there wasn’t a blog last Sunday. Six more textures from my travels – floors, rugs, concrete, and marble! These are all neutral tones, but remember, you can always change the color scheme with a hue adjustment or make them all black & white.

When we’re doing a webinar, it’s very difficult to get to all of the questions that are asked (especially with this large a group!). Celeste had me answer a few of the most-asked questions, but I’ll address a few more in this column.

Answers to Popular Questions and some updates that have been completed since the webinar:

  • Histogram has been added (the button to open is in the lower left corner of the workspace).
  • Layer masking has been added.
    And you can copy a mask from one layer to another. To copy: Right click in the mask you created; select COPY MASK. Add a mask to the new layer, right click in the mask and select PASTE MASK.
    (See screen shots below).
  • The ability to bring over your custom presets from TS1 to TS2.
    To do that: On top toolbar select Help > Migrate Custom TS1 Presets.
  • Can Studio 2 be accessed from Lightroom?
    Yes. Here are the instructions: https://topazlabs.com/setting-up-topaz-studio-2-as-an-adobe-photoshop-or-lightroom-plugin/
  • Can Studio 2 be accessed from Photoshop?
    Yes. It should automatically install in your Filters menu along with your other Topaz products.
  • What does Studio 2 have that Studio 1 does not?
    Studio 2 now has real layers! In order to save those layers, you must FILE > SAVE PROJECT AS > it will default to a TS2 format. 2 IMPORTANT NOTES! In order to be able to save as a TS2 file, you cannot bring the image into Studio 2 from Photoshop or Lightroom. You must open it directly into Studio 2. TS2 files cannot be opened in any other program (just like PSD files can only be opened in Photoshop). Propriety file formats.
  • If you wish to save as a TIF or JPG format: FILE > EXPORT. You can rename and tell it what folder to save the work in, as well as choose TIF or JPG.
  • How do we access Studio 2 if we’re “off the grid” (no internet)? You do need internet to download the program, but you do not need to be online to use the program. Once it is installed in your computer it works just like any other program.
  • Can we search for Looks by name.
    Yes! There is a search icon just under the “Add Look” button (screen shot below).
COPY MASK
PASTE MASK
SEARCH ICON

Items on the horizon!

  • The ability to add/import additional textures (like we did in Studio 1).
  • Texture Names (similar to AI ReMix
  • Cropping/Straightening
  • Healing
  • Plug-In Access/Support (for all of the other Topaz Plug-Ins that were not updated in Studio 1).
  • The ability to add additional images as layers for compositing or adding a watermark.
  • Community Sharing of Custom Looks – not sure how this will work yet – it won’t be the same as TS1. It was great that people wanted to share looks, however there were so many that it slowed down the loading of presets.
  • Not all of the Effects in TS! were brought over to TS2 (O’Keefe, etc.). Topaz felt there was a lot of duplication and similar effects. I am discussing with Topaz how we can recreate some of these in TS2 for those who want them.

Some general info on Studio 2, pricing, discounts, etc.

  • How do I get Studio 2?
    Studio 2 is available on the TopazLabs.com website under downloads.
  • How much is it?
    Studio 2 retails for $99.99. It is on sale for $79.99 until Aug. 9th. BUT if you use my coupon code from the webinar – Hazelweb719 – you can save an additional 20% making it $63.99! The webinar coupon expires on Monday, Aug. 5th. But…
  • If you previously purchased $100 or more of Studio Pro Adjustments (not plug-ins), then you received an email last week for a FREE upgrade! If you purchased some Pro Adjustments, but less than $100 worth, you received a discounted price. Those emails were sent on Wed. 7/24 and Thurs. 7/25.

Whew! That’s a lot of info! You can always shoot me a message or email with questions, plus there is a Facebook group for Topaz Studio where people help each other (and Topaz staff chime in too). I will answer more questions here in the blog as the software progresses and updates are released.

I also added a discount code at the end of the webinar for 25% off eBooks and textures in the Peacock Studio. You can use the code Topaz25 until Aug. 10th (midnight EDT).

You can also get a copy of my webinar notes (plus images used and bonus textures) for just $5 in the Peacock Studio.

CLICK HERE to SHOP AND SAVE!

Do you ever feel like you are in a “rut” with your photography? We tend to shoot the same types of subjects the majority of the time. Here’s a great exercise to expand your horizons: “10 Photography Assignments to Stimulate Your Creativity” over on PictureCorrect.

All I can say is WOW! The folks at Pixelo have outdone themselves with this latest bundle! The Urbane Fonts & Designs Bundle contains 99 fonts and over 1000 design elements! I’ve seen lots of font bundles, but this one is really amazing with the inclusion of some great art as well. Just $29 (value $2750). Save 99%. Click HERE to grab this deal!!

Think Tank Photo is proud to announce their products have been recognized with a series of prestigious awards. Carryology has named the BackLight 26L the Best Camera Bag of 2019, Professional Photographer has featured the Retrospective 7 V2.0 shoulder bag and Stand Manager 52 in their 2019 Hot Ones product recommendations, and Australian Photography has given their Gold Award to the BackLight Elite 45L .

These awards emphasize Think Tank’s focus on quality, ingenuity, and innovation, and underscore their dedication to designing the best photography bags and products in the industry.

“The pack’s well-considered combination of features makes it a versatile all-rounder for urban and outdoor photography alike. A bag that can accompany you on city excursions, outdoor hikes and more. All while ensuring your gear stays secure and protected, yet accessible when you need it. Bravo, MindShift Gear!”

CHECK OUT ALL THE AWARD-WINNING PRODUCTS HERE!

June 9 – Sunday Sampler

Our Tennessee journey continues! Purchasing 2nd piece of property attached to the first for a total of 2.1 acres! Put a deposit on a modular yesterday – great deal on one that someone ordered with lots of upgrades then didn’t like the outside color! Good for us! Will be heading back down in a couple weeks on the way to Chattanooga where I will be presenting on Thursday, June 20th at the Photographic Society of Chattanooga. On Saturday the 22nd I will then do a half-day hands-on workshop for them on Topaz. Just a few spots left if you are in the area!

Sunday Sampler header

Some soft floral bokeh images are this week’s Sunday Sampler. I didn’t blur these TOO much – you can use a Gaussian Blur to soften them even more. Great for replacing the background behind a nice flower shot!

Here’s how I used one of these in a quick edit. I had this rose shot with a fairly plain green background (which isn’t a bad thing, but I want to show you how to use the bokeh backgrounds!).

I selected the rose and feathered the edges 3 pixels. Delete the old background. Save the rose with the transparent background as a PNG file.

Open Floral Bokeh 3 and drag the rose into the background (just as you would drag in a texture). I used Neutral Density gradients to darken the background, and a Hue/Saturation Adjustment to make the flowers a little more pink. I also used a Layer Style to add a slight drop shadow to the rose (very subtle). Here’s the final screen shot:

And the final image:

Needs a stem of some type so that it doesn’t look like it’s floating on the background, but you get the idea!

Survey – New Logo Design!

I am beginning an update of the Meredith Images website and decided it was time for a new logo to tie in with the “Peacock” theme. I’ve come up with a few versions – I need you to vote for your favorite!

Here are the versions numbered. The link to vote is at the end of this article! Thanks for your feedback!

NUMBER 1

NUMBER 2

NUMBER 3

NUMBER 4

NUMBER 5

NUMBER 6

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/QZ79DH9

THANKS FOR YOUR HELP!

If you like to create the look of pencil sketches and other art from your images, you’ll love this bundle from Pixelo – “The Ultimate Photoshop Add-Ons Bundle”!

It contains 72 Artistic Scripts to create a world of effects with just a click! Check it out HERE! Just $29!

And if you didn’t grab the Design Cuts “Totally Vibrant Textures & Patterns Collection” yet, it expires Monday midnight UK time! Don’t miss this huge collection for just $29! Click HERE to check it out!

And from WeGraphics, a cool little tutorial on how to make a “soundwave” in Photoshop! I followed the tutorial and did this less than 5 minutes!

And finally, from Light Stalking, an article of “The Coolest Photography Links of the Week” including tutorials and some great photographs!

Have a great week!

May 5 – Sunday Sampler

Happy Cinco de Mayo! If the rain would ever stop it might actually feel like Spring! Pretty flowers are in bloom, however. Hope you have time to get out and do some photography!

Last weekend I was teaching at the CanAm Photo Expo in Buffalo. While we were driving to Buffalo the Wed. before, an inspection was being done on a house we were hoping to purchase in TN. Unfortunately, there were some structural issues and we decided not to proceed.

So…we decided to make a bonsai run to TN when we left Buffalo on Sunday! We got to Charleston, WV Sunday night. Then drove to Greeneville, TN on Monday morning arriving just before noon to meet up with our realtor. Spent about 3 hours looking at 3 properties, then hit the road to start home! Stayed in VA and got home early afternoon Tuesday! LOTS of driving for sure! We thought we had a property and then found out they don’t have access to high-speed internet — which, of course, is critical for me!

Sigh…the search continues!

Since there wasn’t a blog post or Sunday Sampler last week, this week we have six textures included – various types of surfaces I’ve been photographing over the past few weeks. Enjoy!

Thank You!

To all those who completed my survey! The results were clear on topics that you want covered – Topaz was a resounding first, with Textures & Overlays a close second. Photoshop techniques – compositing, layers & masks and using brushes were all pretty much tied for third.

The types of photography that you want to learn more about – Flowers/Gardens and Landscape/Nature were almost tied for first; Still Lifes and Abandoned Places 2nd and 3rd respectively.

The majority chose extended videos (10-30 minutes) as the preferred format, with live webinars a close 2nd.

So…stay tuned for some upcoming tutorials! I’ve decided to add a new column to the blog – “How I Did That” (or similar name) – starting in a week or two. I’ll take an image I’ve posted on social media and give you the details of how I did it!

I am also planning some upcoming videos, so you’ve all helped with the direction that those will take.

Just 2 Weeks Away!

May 18-19 is our 3rd Creative Photography Conference! Don’t miss out! Check out all the details on our website at:
https://www.meredithimages.com/creative-photography-conference/

LOTS of great info for you this week. There are some Freebies and tutorials as well as some great bundle deals and new products.

1. From WebDesignDev.com – two articles. While there are tons of apps available for iPhones, it’s harder to find good editing apps for Androids. “20 Best Photography Android Apps to Create Awesome Photo Effects” gives you some good ideas. And “Create Awesome Photo Effects with these 20 Amazing Photoshop Tutorials” will get your creative juices flowing! Don’t forget to check out their “Freebies” tab as well!

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2. From PhotoshopSupply.com – a free “Photo to Line Art” conversion action.

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3. An awesome new bundle from Design Cuts – tailored to photographers! “The Totally Eclectic Photography Bundle” contains TONS of presets, overlays, textures, styles and more! A $900 value for just $29!

CLICK HERE to check out this great deal.
Expires in 8 days!

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4. And from my friends at ThinkTank/MindShift, a couple of new products.

The BackLight Elite 45L joins the BackLight line up as a larger backpack for those longer hikes into the back country.

Get deeper into the backcountry with the BackLight® Elite 45L backpack. 45 liters of available space provides ample room for both camera gear and adventure equipment, such as a length of rope, ice axe, snowboard/skis, laptop, tablet, and of course, a tripod.

Weather-resistant zippers and materials protect your gear when trekking in the elements. And like the other BackLight backpacks, rear-panel access adds security when traveling since your camera gear is protected behind your back.

KEY FEATURES:

  • Storm proof construction with YKK® AquaGuard® zippers and waterproof/tearproof Sailcloth
  • Superior Fit: Robust lumbar padding, hip-hugging waist belt, quick-dry back panel, and foam ridges for increased ventilation
  • Back and top panel access to all of your camera gear, allowing you to work out of your bag without getting your harness dirty or wet

CLICK HERE to check out this bag and the full line of BackLight products.

And for a smaller bag, the Stash Master 13L. A travel cube that enables you to expand the photo gear capacity of any large backpack/roller/duffel, or increase personal gear space in the MindShift® Backlight Elite 45L for multi-day excursions.

KEY FEATURES:

  • Padded insert allows you to use your own bag or increase personal gear space in the MindShift Backlight Elite 45L
  • Water resistant fabric and DWR coating keeps your gear protected
  • Sized to fit pro gear including a gripped body attached to a 70–200mm f/2.8

CLICK HERE to check out the Stash Master!

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5. And one more bundle offer! From Pixelo, “Mega Illustrator Brushes Bundle”.

NOTE: This bundle is ONLY for ILLUSTRATOR, NOT PHOTOSHOP!

But if you’re an Illustrator user, you can grab over 3200 brushes to help with your design work. Value $600 – for just $29!

CLICK HERE for this awesome bundle!

March 10 – Sunday Sampler

Happy Sunday! SPRING AHEAD! Hopefully you remembered to set your clocks ahead last night (except for our friends in Arizona)!

This week’s Sunday Sampler consists of rocks! I took a very “grungy” rock (actually almost looks like tree bark) and gave you several versions and colors. Enjoy!

THE EBOOK IS DONE!! It’s heading to the printer tomorrow to have DVD’s made (it’s too big for a CD!).

I will begin emailing links later this week to those who purchased the Electronic Version. The DVD’s should arrive right around the end of March and will be mailed as soon as I get them.

I’ve extended the $5 off Coupon for pre-order of the 2nd eBook till 3/17 (CODE: preorder5), and I’ve added a $5 off Coupon for Book 1 (if you don’t have it yet – CODE: firstbook) which also expires 3/17. You CAN use both of these coupons at checkout if you’d like to order both books.

I’m very excited about this new book – it has twelve projects that take you through various ways of working with textures, overlays, gradients, type and layer styles, brushes and much more. It’s 117 pages chock full of creative inspiration! All images and textures used in the projects are included so you can work along with me. And there are bonus sets of textures and brushes as well as a list of my favorite resources!

Head over to the Peacock Studio store on the website and grab your copies! https://www.meredithimages.com/products/

And while you’re in the store, be sure to check out my texture selections – I am working on some new sets and plan to have them added in the next week or so.

Peacock Studio at Meredith Images

And while you’re over on the website, be sure to check out the upcoming Creative Photography Conference, May 18-19, 2019 in Southbridge, MA.

I’ve posted bios for each of our speakers as well as the seminars they will be doing and some examples of their fabulous work. Also posted is the Conference Schedule.

This will be the last New England Conference – don’t miss out!

Workshops Update

I have several half-day hands-on workshops coming up – here is where we’re at with space availability (they are limited to 6 people per session):

March 24 – Photoshop Beginner – FULL! If you are interested in this workshop please email me your name to be put on a list for the next session.
March 31 – Creativity with Topaz – 3 spaces left
April 7 – Elements Intermediate – 5 spaces left
April 14 – Photoshop Intermediate – 3 spaces left
May 5 – Textures & Composites – 4 spaces left

Workshops are hands-on with a laptop (or you may follow along if preferred). I will supply images to work on together as well as notes.

Each session is just $69 and will be held at CT Band Instruments at 1 Church Street, Stratford, CT, 1:00-4:30 pm.

Recently I’ve told you about several great bundles from the folks at Pixelo. They’ve release six new FREEBIES for me to share with you! The newest ones are (these are all live links):
GRAFFISMO FONT
RAINWOOD FREE TYPEFACE
WEST SIDE FONT
NEON PS TEXT EFFECT
STORYTELLA FONT
7 DUOTONE PS ACTIONS

And there are a couple of active promotions for bundles of goodies! If you can’t get enough fonts, check out the GRADIOSE SCRIPT FONTS BUNDLE consisting of 84 script font families with a total of 130 unique fonts – just $29!

And…still an active promotion is the AGELESS VINTAGE BUNDLE
This one contains 55 font families; 176 retro designs and much more! Also just $29.

All of their bundles come with a full personal/commercial license.

So now that you have lots of cool new fonts to play with, here are “20 Amazing Free Photoshop Text Effects” tutorials from WebDesignDev.com.

Feb. 17 – Sunday Sampler

Happy Sunday & Daytona 500 Day if you like auto racing as we do! Looks like some Winter weather finally moving into our area this week. In Southern CT we’ve been pretty lucky so far. Most storms were rain or a mixture. Not much snow (which is fine by me!). Stay safe out there.

This week’s Sunday Sampler is some nice bokeh images of morning dew on grasses. I took these a couple of years ago when I was in Florida teaching at the Spacecoast Birding Festival. These were taken near this Great Blue Heron who was fishing for his breakfast! There were some razor sharp teeth on the alligator gar fish he caught! Taken hand-held with my Canon 70D and Sigma 150-500 at just over 400mm. 800 ISO helped as did Topaz AI Clear!

Organizing Design Assets

A comment and question was posted on last week’s blog about using all of the fabulous resources that are available in the bundles that I mention here. Mainly, how to utilize them, and even more importantly, how to organize and find all of the items! It’s definitely something I’ve been trying to work on.

I’ve started some new files by category for all of the Illustrations-Vector Art. These are mostly items I have downloaded from various web sources. This is what I’ve come up with:

I still have many “Zip” files to open up and save in appropriate folders. I add folders as needed.

My textures folder needs some work! Right now I have a main Textures & Backgrounds folder, then some are by the company purchased from (like Design Cuts, 2 Lil Owls, French Kiss, etc.). Other miscellaneous textures are filed by style (Bokeh, Chalboard, Concrete, Metal, Grain, etc.) like this:

My biggest issue right now is I’m not sure if I want to keep, say, Design Cuts all in that folder, or separate the items into easier-to-find folders! I may keep the original folders and copy items into other folders by subject. It is a hugely time consuming project since I have so many assets and have not kept up with sorting as I purchase more. So if you are in the same boat, you’re not alone! It will be an ongoing project for sure.

Upcoming Event

I’ve been invited to speak at several conferences around the U.S. this year. First up is the CanAm Photo Expo in Buffalo, NY, April 26-28. The event will be held at the Buffalo Grand Hotel, which is completing renovations and will be a beautiful new facility.

They are keeping me very busy that weekend. I will be doing two sessions on “HDR-The Natural Look”, two sessions of “Creativity with Topaz & Textures” plus a Topaz lecture in the Macro Lab on Friday afternoon as well as some hands-on photo ops in the Macro Lab on Sunday morning. Whew!

They have various options for registration – you can check the details on their website at: https://www.canamexpo.com/

I mentioned above about filing your design assets. Here’s another big bundle that you’ll need to file!

From PIXELO, the Mighty Design Bundle, 4900+ Design Resources! Value $2521 if purchased individually, just $39 for the bundle!

What’s included in this bundle?
* 51 font families with 87 unique fonts
* 67 mind-blowing Photoshop actions;
* 19 Photoshop mockups; 9 Photoshop tutorials;
* 500 premium backgrounds;
* 2987 unique vectors; 70 beautiful text styles;
* 512 textures; 681 Photoshop brushes;
* Commercial License;
* Lifetime download access;
* Unlimited and quick response.

Check out the details of all the cool products included HERE on the website.

And from Light Stalking, “Our 113 Most Useful Links for Photographers”

They have a really good list of all kinds of topics. Tutorials, Magazines, eBooks, Software, Buying Gear Online, Social Media sites to follow, and much, much more.

Have a great week!

Jan. 27 – Sunday Sampler

Happy Sunday! The first month of 2019 is almost over! Less than two months to Spring – Yippee!

This week’s Sunday Sampler will show you how something so “ordinary” can become a texture! Last year we did a photo shoot at an abandoned brewery. Near the end of the day I found this pile of broken plastic pieces, and of course, I photographed it! I took the image into Topaz Studio and created several versions of the image which brought out amazing color! Shots 3a and 3b are the same except that for 3b I applied a layer of white over the image and lowered the opacity to give it a more pastel look. Remember, you can always create new textures from any image by applying various filters and effects – have fun!

On Thursday Topaz released an update to A.I. Gigapixel, improving an already amazing piece of software.

“With the latest update to A.I.Gigapixel™, the first and only intelligent image resizer for your computer just became even better. The latest update includes a brand new interface, a redesigned user experience, and many under-the-hood improvements!

“Your lives are fast-paced and busier than ever, so there’s never been a better time to get image enlargements handled for good. Let A.I. Gigapixel help you save time while giving you more detail in your images for a sharper and more impressive result.”

If you haven’t yet purchased, you can go to the store HERE and grab it for $99.99. Use my code MeredithImages at checkout and SAVE 15%, making it just $85! If you already own AI Gigapixel, download the update by logging in to your account and going directly to the downloads page.

Other Topaz News!

Shhh….I can’t reveal it yet, but stay tuned for a special blog post Monday afternoon revealing a NEW PRODUCT!

Do You Need a Logo?

Some of you may know that my previous background was as a graphic designer and typesetter (in the pre-desktop days). Since I am now working Meredith Images as my full-time job, I’ve started doing some designing again. I recently completed a logo for a gal I met at the travel writer’s workshop I attended in September. She needed a logo for her upcoming website and blog – The Seasonsed Sojourner. Check it out:

I am taking on new jobs, so if you need a logo designed for your photography biz – or any other business venture – I’d be happy to work with you! I have some simple templates for watermark signatures or can create a new look from scratch as I did with the above. Email me and we can figure out the best look for your business!

And my travel blog…

I’ve started my travel writing blog as well – The Traveling Peacock! Follow Pete the Peacock and me as we travel and review places to visit, eat and rest your tired bones! Yesterday we visited a new-to-us restaurant that I reviewed. Check it out HERE – and sign up for our blog updates! And yes, I also designed this logo to tie in with my Peacock Studio theme and logo.

Freebies! Pixelo is one of my affiliate companies that offers some great deals – but they also have some Freebies available! Click HERE to check them out – fonts, templates, text effects and more!

And I found some cool “60-Second Photoshop Tutorials” as well as “99 Best Advanced Photoshop Tutorials” over on TutsPlus.

Have a great afternoon – don’t forget to watch for a special blog post tomorrow on the new Topaz product!

Jan. 20 – Sunday Sampler

Happy Winter Sunday from New England! Looks like we’ve lucked out with very little snow – now pouring rain – but the really messy part will be as the temperatures drop today and everything turns to ice! Ugh! Just keep reminding myself only 60 days till Spring!

This week’s Sunday Sampler consists of rock textures from the caverns of Ruby Falls in Lookout Mountain, Chattanooga, TN. Remember, you can always modify the textures by using filters (Gaussian blur or others); Topaz products (Impression, Simplify, etc.), or if you have Smart Photo Editor you can create endless versions. Enjoy!

Today I’ll answer a few more questions from my webinar on Jan. 8th.

This first Q/A actually answers two different questions.

Q1: What is the difference between impression on the left and that of the right?

Q2: Why does my Impression panel (on the left) not show all the groups of presets?

A: Impression on the “right panel” – found under the ADJUSTMENT button – gives you the ability to use Impression the same way, but without all of the presets. You can select the stroke, settings, colors, etc. See screen shot below:

The full Impression plug-in is found on the left panel. Click the Icon at the top left (A) to see all of the plug-ins you have installed. It will look like this:

If you just click on the word Impression (B), you will see ALL of the Impression presets appear. However, if you first click the arrow (C in photo below), you will get the categories of presets like this (answer to Q2):

This question was asked on Facebook. Q: How did you assemble the 4 leaves in Photoshop to be in one image?

The composite I showed during the webinar.

A: This composite was done in Photoshop after the 4 versions of the leaves were created.

STEP 1: First we need to create a new blank file in Photoshop, so we need to know the size of one of the leaf images (6″ wide x 5.387″ high) – we need our new file to be a little more than twice the width and twice the height. So I made the new layer 28″ x 30″ with a white background.

File > New > Set size to 30″ wide, 28″ high, 300 dpi, background white.

Now we will bring in our 4 leaf images. Open all 4 files into Photoshop. We will add them to the blank file just as if we were dragging in a texture. Using the Move Tool, pull down on the tab of the leaf image so that you can see it as well as the blank image (see below). Click anywhere on the leaf image, hold down the mouse button, and “drag” the leaf over the white blank layer.

Once the leaf is over the white background, you can close the actual leaf file as we won’t need it anymore. Now still on the Move Tool, you can move the leaf into the position desired over the white layer, like this:

You will see that the leaf is a separate layer above the background.

Do the same process for the other 3 leaves, so you have this:

Now we’ll create our background. I didn’t want white for the background, so I selected one of my watercolor textures, Tan 3 (from the textures available in the Peacock Studio store on my website). I brought it in the same way we did with the leaves – open the file and drag it into the leaf composite. We want the texture layer above the white background and below the leaves, so you can drag the layer into position in the layers panel (the alternate way is to click on the white background layer before dragging the texture in, then it will automatically be above the white layer).

Hit Control + T to get the “handles” on the texture and drag it to cover the white background.

Now we’ll add the drop shadows to give the image some depth. To add “layer styles” or effects, double-click in the blank area of the top leaf layer (somewhere around the red “X” below:

This will open the Layer Effects Dialog Box. You will want to select “Drop Shadow” by checking the box AND then click on that layer (see red x below) to get the controls for Drop Shadows:

I used settings of Normal for blending mode, black as the color, Opacity 25%, Angle of light 135 degrees, Distance 36, Spread 49, Size 65.

We need to apply these settings to each of the 4 leaf layers. Instead of needing to repeat this process, you can right-click on the layer, select Copy Layer Style, then click on the other 3 layers, right-click and Paste Layer Style!

Your image is now complete. If you wish to trim any excess background to even it out, you can crop.

Always save a file like this as either a TIFF or PSD to retain the layers, then you can save as a jpg if desired.

If you are in the Long Island, NY, area and want to see a fabulous program, plan on attending the presentation by Canon Explorer of Light, Ken Sklute, Feb. 11th 5-9 p.m. in Bellmore, NY. Click here for details. I’ve seen this show and Ken is an amazing photographer and a very entertaining presenter!

If you’d like to add to your brush library, click HERE to go to InspirationFeed.com for TONS of free brush sets!

And for some free textures and PS actions, head over to the CoffeeshopBlog (they also have items for sale).

I have some students on board, but have a few slots available! Contact me for more info if you’d like to learn specific post-processing programs!

Whew, that was a long blog this week! Hope you enjoyed the tutorials!

Jan. 6 – Sunday Sampler

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

I hope you had a wonderful holiday season and a joyous New Year! We had some quiet holiday time just the two of us at home. Nice to just relax a while. I made it to midnight on New Year’s Eve, but hubby did not! We got up early on the 31st and did a sunrise shoot with about 20 other photographers at the beach. It was a beautiful morning – great sunrise and not too cold either. Dave left to go off to work and I joined the group for breakfast. Good times!

For today’s Sunday Sampler I took the barn wood image from last week’s Sampler and ran it through some presets in Smart Photo Editor. This is a very cool little program (and inexpensive – just $29.95!). There are THOUSANDS of presets you can apply to your image, mostly contributed by users of the product. So everytime you log in there are new presets that get added to the library! I first saw this software at a seminar that macro photographer, Mike Moats did. He uses it all the time. Check it out at: https://www.smartphotoeditor.com

I’ve had several requests for private tutoring from those outside of my local area. However, I CAN tutor you ONLINE! We’ll use GoToMeeting and we can screen share so I can help you learn new techniques or assist with issues you may be having with software! Call or email me to discuss or if you’d like to review what you want to learn.

My next webinar is this Tuesday, January 8th at 5:00 Eastern time. Click HERE to sign up! I’ll be showing some various creative techniques using Studio, Texture Effects, Impression, and will do a short demo on AI Gigapixel and how I use it to enlarge my images. See you there!

Upcoming Seminars/Workshops

The new year starts a new schedule of seminars at camera clubs and conferences. If you’re in the area, join me at one of the following club seminars:

  • Feb. 13 – Milford Camera Club (CT) – “What’s New in Topaz”
  • March 5 – North Haven Camera Club (CT) – “Advanced Techniques in Lightroom and Photoshop.
  • April 1 – Greater Lynn Photographic Society (MA) – “Creativity with Textures”
  • April 12 – Westchester Photographic Society (NY) – “Topaz & Textures”
  • June 20 – Photographic Society of Chattanooga (TN) – “Topaz & Textures in Photoshop & Topaz Studio”

CONFERENCES:

  • April 26-28 – CanAm Photo Expo, Buffalo, NY – https://www.canamexpo.com/
  • And, of course, I will be a speaker at our Creative Photography Conference, Southbridge, MA, May 18-19. Join me and seven other talented speakers for a great weekend of creativity and learning! Details and sign-up on our website HERE.
  • July 26-28 – Southwestern Michigan Council of Camera Clubs Conference, Hope College, Holland, MI. https://www.swmccc.org/. They haven’t posted the 2019 info yet, but you can see what last year’s conference offered!
  • Oct. 19-20 – And speaking of Mike Moats, I’m pleased to say I will be one of the speakers for the 5th Macro Photo Conference, in Cleveland, OH. I was a speaker at the first conference in Seekonk, MA – it will be fun to visit a new location and meet some other speakers that I haven’t worked with before. There are seminars as well as lots of photo ops with all the speakers assisting. The conference is $199 and limited to 100 people. They always sell out early, so don’t delay signing up. Check it out HERE!

With the new year comes photo “challenges” – 365 days; 52 weeks, etc. While I don’t know that I will complete one myself, this article from the Photo Argus has a 52-week challenge with some great ideas and info even if you don’t do it weekly.

Photographing the moon can be tricky. Here’s a great article with helpful info from Light Stalking.

Have a great week!

Dec. 23 – Sunday Sampler

Merry Christmas to my readers who are celebrating this week! This week’s Sunday Sampler will take us to warmer days with some patterns in the sand! We have the original plus two variations I created in Topaz Studio. Remember you can always change the colors with a hue/saturation adjustment or a color overlay (changing the blending mode too). Enjoy!

I created this digital card last night in Photoshop. The original image from Cades Cove (in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park) was taken a few years ago when we there in March – thus no leaves on the trees yet. But…there wasn’t snow on the ground either!

First I added the deer from another image taken in Cades Cove on a different day/trip, then I turned it into a Winter scene with Studio Magic II. I also used Studio Magic II to add the softly falling snow.

I used one of my own crop shapes to create the edges, then added a texture of mine behind it. 2 TIPS: If you want to lighten a texture in the background so that it’s more subtle, there are two ways you can do this (which one you use depends on the look you want and the texture itself). Method one: add a blank layer beneath the texture and fill it with white. Then you can lower the opacity of the texture layer and it will get lighter.

The second way is to apply a white (or colored) layer OVER the texture and lower the opacity of the color layer. In my image above I first tried the white layer under my texture, but didn’t really like the result (looked too pale). So I tried adding the white layer OVER the texture layer and lowered the opacity to 32% – bingo! I liked that look!

Here is the screen shot of the layers for this project and the details of all my steps below:

  1. I edited the original image.
  2. Added the deer and resized it to look realistic.
  3. Used Studio Magic II to create a Winter Scene in “Season Shifter”.
  4. At this point I thought the deer was too washed out from the Winter effect, so I duplicated the deer layer and brought it above the Winter Season layer. Lowered the opacity to 87% to blend it better.
  5. I’ll need a layer that contains the original, the deer and the Winter scene in one layer. I could flatten my image at this point OR what I did here is created a merged layer above the other layers. To do this hit Control+Alt+Shift+E. Yep, it takes a lot of fingers to do this (it’s nicknamed the “claw” for good reason)!
  6. Apply the snow in Studio Magic II – Snow Maker.
  7. Now I brought in the crop shape (from my collection in the Peacock Studio). We want the crop shape layer beneath the merged layer.
  8. Click on the merged layer and click Control+Alt+G to clip that layer to the shape (you can turn off the visibility of the lower layers and you will see that you have a transparent border around the shape). The little down pointing arrow next to the layer image shows that it is clipped or grouped with the shape layer below.
  9. Now we’ll add the texture beneath the crop shape. Used a texture from one of my new collections, “Computer Collections – Inky Leaks 1”. As mentioned above, I didn’t want the colors to be so bold, so I added a blank layer above the texture, filled it with white and lowered the opacity to 32%.
  10. Added my Type layer at the top. Used a stroke outline and drop shadow.
  11. Complete!

And speaking of Studio Magic…They’ve given me an exclusive holiday discount for my readers! Save 60% of any product on their website with the code hazel60 now through Dec. 31st! CLICK HERE to go to their website and check out all the fabulous products! Example of the savings: Studio Magic I and II normally is on the site for $179 – save $107.40 and grab it for just $71.60 with this discount! OR…grab their Epic Location Sets for $139.60 (Reg. $349). OR…get both Studio Magic I & II plus the Epic Location Sets combo for just $159.60 (reg. $399.00)!!! There are also lots of other sets of backgrounds, actions and more…poke around the site!

Last Minute Holiday Gift Idea!

If you need a gift for that special photographer in your life – or yourself – sign up for the 3rd Creative Photography Conference – and here’s an easy way to do it!

Take advantage of our Holiday Easy Payment Plan! Pay 1/2 of the registration fee by Dec. 31st ($175), and pay the balance by Feb. 28th ($175). If you are giving as a gift, let me know and I will send you a gift certificate that you can print and put under the tree!

You can add on pre-conference workshops now or later – but the workshops are they’re filling up, so you may want to add them now! You can also add the optional dinner buffet for Fri. or Sat. with either payment.

Contact me with any questions at Hazel@MeredithImages.com and CLICK HERE to go to the Peacock Studio Store to sign up!

Other last minute holiday deals…

From PIXELO – a fabulous special deal – the entire current shop of bundles for just $99!

CLICK HERE for this Pixelo deal!

Another great resource for bundles is Pixel Surplus – and they also have lots of FREEBIES on their website HERE!