Tag Archives: photography

Digital photo effects: Tilt-shift photography

a.k.a. the Diorama effect, Diorama illusion, or miniature faking

A friend – Kelly Stewart (Nashville Hiking Meetup group) – showed me some photos of downtown Nashville last year that he had Photoshopped so as to make the buildings, cars, people, etc. appear in miniature – just as though you were standing tall over a complex, well-lit, miniature scale model train set city.

Here’s a before and after example:

before tilt-shift photo effects

after tilt-shift photo effects

Creatively thinking, I realized this is how downtown Nashville might appear to Godzilla or King Kong on a magic mushroom trip.

At the time, I thought this was one of the coolest photo effects I’d ever seen — and this “diorama faking” digital photo effect remains my favorite of all digital photo enhancements and effects. There are plenty of tutorials for creating this effect using Photoshop, GIMP, etc. Some of the most popular resources currently available are listed below.

before tilt-shift photo effects

after tilt-shift photo effects

I was told by my photographer buddy Steve Dieringer that the tilt-shift digital photography effect can also be achieved by using Lensbaby. From their home page:

Lensbaby is a system of creative effects lenses, optics, and accessories. Start exploring with any one of our lenses to begin your Lensbaby journey today. When you’re ready for more options, check out our line of interchangeable optics and accessories.

(NOTE: Nashville photographer Steve Dieringer operates Action Sports Photo and is also an expert in nature photography; Steve works in the Nashville, TN area.)

Resources: Tilt-shift photography, Photoshop instructions

Resources: Creating the Tilt-Shift Photo Effect in GIMP

This was originally written on Monday, April 18, 2011.

Best PDF freeware

hiking at Fiery Gizzard near Monteagle, TN - fall 2008Steve D. – friend, client, and Nashville photographer specializing in sports photography (see Action Sports Photo) and nature photography (see Steven Dieringer Photography) – plans to create a colorful brochure to advertise his photography services, to be distributed to potential clients in person along with his business card.

A few years ago, Microsoft Publisher or similar programs might have been among the best choices for brochure creation – and perhaps it still is, depending on the specific features needed. If vector art was to grace the brochure, Adobe Illustrator would be a fine choice. But for a nice, clean, professional brochure requiring no fancy frills or artwork – just text and digital photography – the PDF format would be the obvious choice today.

Fortunately, there is plenty of PDF creation and/or conversion freeware from which to choose today.

Users of OpenOffice [ OpenOffice.org ] may not need PDF conversion utilities; all OpenOffice.org applications allow PDF export; supports also PDF/A-1a; since many import formats are supported (e.g., doc, docx, rtf, xls, ppt) conversion is also possible.

PrimoPDF by Nitro PDF Software

I am a big fan of PrimoPDF. I have been using PrimoPDF in my billing process for a few months now to automatically convert the invoices I create in Microsoft Excel to PDF format. It is so quick and easy, it blows my old method out of the water (I used to use an online tool to convert my MS Office files to PDFs). To convert an Excel (and many other) formatted file to a PDF, one merely drags the target file directly onto the PrimoPDF icon; seconds later, a nice PDF file is created in virtual printer fashion, with little to no wait.

As nicely as PrimoPDF performs its conversion-to-PDF function, that’s really about all PrimoPDF does. For those who need more functionality – features more like those of Adobe AcrobatNitroPDF offers its Acrobat alternative, Nitro Pro 7 (formerly Nitro PDF Professional?) – which can combine multiple files into a single PDF, convert PDFs back into Word and other formats for repurposing, create PDFs more quickly, as well as edit, view, form-fill, annotate, scan, and more.


WinPDF offers an easy way of creating high-quality PDF documents out of almost any windows application. The software installs a PDF writer named “Easy PDF Creator” as if it were a real printer, making the creation of PDF files as easy as printing. Common documents can be converted to PDF files at an incredibly fast speed while retaining the look and feel of the original documents as well as many options that give users flexibility in PDF creation.

WinPDF looks impressive and is 100% free; however, I have not been able to determine whether it is certified spyware-free, and if that isn’t an explicit feature, I suspect that means the software quite possibly includes a bit of spyware or other malware. I might be willing to test it if need be, but I would run something like Spybot Search and Destroy [ download Spybot Search and Destroy from CNET ] immediately afterwards just to be safe.

PDFCreator: Negative reviews concerning spyware

This evening I was about to download PDFCreator, the open source project at SourceForge.net, but I decided to read a few reviews first. Well, I am glad I did; there were quite a few recent complaints from former users that were fans of older versions of PDFCreator. Apparently there have been some negative changes, but this doesn’t mean anything since I have never used the application. However, another review got my attention, and it was supported by comments from others: apparently the installation process is NOT spyware-free.

I no longer download freeware from sources that don’t certify the software as being spyware free – which is why I remain a big fan of CNET software downloads.

Creating ebooks

I have an immediate need to create quality ebooks, some of which will be offered free to subscribers, with others for sale at reasonable prices. Perhaps I’ll first experiment with creating the entire ebook in Word, then using PrimoPDF for the final conversion. If this doesn’t work, I suppose I‘ll soon research and document the simplest, quickest, and least expensive methods of ebook creation.

Resources: Freeware for creating PDFs

Related resources

  • CNET downloads
  • Microsoft Publisher 2010 – Microsoft Publisher 2010 helps you create, personalize, and share a wide range of professional-quality publications and marketing materials with ease. With Publisher 2010, you can easily communicate your message in a variety of publication types, saving you time and money. Whether you are creating brochures, newsletters, postcards, greeting cards, or e-mail newsletters, you can deliver high-quality results without having graphic design experience.
  • Adobe Illustrator – Adobe Illustrator is a vector graphics editor developed and marketed by Adobe Systems. Illustrator is similar in scope, intended market, and functionality to its competitors, CorelDraw and Macromedia FreeHand
  • Download Adobe Reader X
  • Adobe Acrobat X – Adobe® Acrobat® X software lets you communicate easier, faster, and better with PDF. Increase your productivity by editing and reusing content, streamlining reviews, and quickly creating fillable PDF forms.
  • OpenOffice.org – an open-source application suite whose main components are for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, and databases; available for a number of different computer operating systems, is distributed as free software and is written using its own GUI toolkit; supports the ISO/IEC standard OpenDocument Format (ODF) for data interchange as its default file format, as well as Microsoft Office formats, among others

Originally written on Sunday, October 30, 2011
Major update, publishing on Sunday, November 20, 2011

How to quickly create photo galleries in WordPress

Photoblogging basics & techniques

LindsleyThis morning, I attended a church service – a somewhat rare event for me, actually – at Lindsley Avenue Church of Christ where Steve Garrett preaches every Sunday. I’ve known Steve since college; we both attended Lipscomb University, graduating around 1989. Lindsley Avenue is a tiny little congregation in downtown Nashville, Tennessee – at least as far as Nashville churches go; but the catch is, the old church building is a classic, beautiful, turn-of-the-century brick sanctuary which has managed to retain most of its original stained glass windows of the sort one just doesn’t see much anymore. The Lindsley Avenue church building is listed on the Nashville Historic Register.

May 15, 1984 saw several churches added to the National Register by way of a thematic resources listing, Nineteenth Century Churches of South Nashville, including St. Patrick’s Catholic Church and Rectory, Primitive Baptist Church, Elm Street Methodist Church, and the Lindsley Avenue Church of Christ. (Source: Metropolitan Nashville Historical Commission Newsletter, May 2011)

We had been discussing the design of a new website, blog, events app, and so forth, so I brought along my trusty Olympus Stylus and took a couple hundred photos.

When I returned home, I began to dread the hours of my time that would be demanded by my usual process of image editing, digital photo organization, file uploading, and finally, website implementation of these hundreds of images, despite saving lots of time by taking advantage of FastStone Photo Resizer’s impressive and efficient batch photo processing capabilities. (If my blog had any regular readers, they’d know I like to use a PHP image rotation script which displays images at random each time a given blog post is loaded into a visitor’s web browser. It’s a rather simple but very effective technique which keeps the pages and posts on my sites and blogs looking as though they’re updated quite frequently, or even daily – even though this is rarely the case.)

I wanted to find a much speedier method of posting large numbers of photos into my various WordPress blogs. I began to wonder what techniques real photographers might use when they need to post a new photo gallery to their WordPress blogs efficiently and professionally in time to meet a looming deadline. During the course of this research, I started to become personally interested in photoblogging.

The timing is just perfect; a client and partner of mine is currently growing at least two Nashville photography websites, and I have been planning to start my own photography website and perhaps also sell stock photos in order to create at least a trickle of new revenue…

What’s a photoblog?

A photoblog is different than a typical content-centric blog, which emphasizes the textual content and perhaps features only the occasional image; photoblogs focus almost entirely on images. Often, just about the only textual content within a photoblog post would be the photo captions.

Many more photoblogging basics on the way… still researching, testing… in the meantime, here are a few notable photoblogging resources

Resources: Photoblogging in general

Resources: Photoblogging with WordPress

Photo gallery scripts that work with WordPress

There are many PHP and Javascripts available that will allow you to create and manage online galleries on your WordPress site. Here are just a few that have been successfully integrated with WordPress. As of Version 2.5, WordPress has included a gallery function using the shortcode.

ANIga gallery
AWSOM Pixgallery Art/Webcomic plugin
Build Your Own CSS-based Gallery
Duh Gallery
fMoblog – Upload and display images from your cell phone.
Gallery 2 embedded in WordPress using the WPG2 Plugin
GRAND Flash Album Gallery – multi category flash skin based photo gallery with powerful admin. CodEasily.com
Lazyest Gallery Automatically includes galleries uploaded by ftp
NextGEN Gallery
PhotoJAR – Adds numerous features to the built-in WordPress gallery
PhotoSmash Galleries – User contributable galleries that add images to the WordPress Media Gallery. More info atplugin homepage
Page Flip Image Gallery – 90 day trialware–other versions require payment. GPL Version
Piwigo with PiwigoMedia to insert photos in your posts and PiwigoPress to display thumbnails in your sidebar
eSPG: enhanced Simple PHP Gallery
WordPress Include Page Plugin
w3images gallery – add an useful and costumizable Images Gallery to your WordPress
Zenphoto – +WP plugin

Resources: Lindsley Avenue Church

Free sources for great photos to use in your blog posts

Selling stock photography

Started on Sunday, November 20, 2011

Stack Exchange: A network of helpful Q&A sites

Stack Exchange network of helpful Q&A sites During research for an article last month, I found a unique site worth noting for future reference: English Language & Usage is a site based completely on questions, most with valid answers, posed by writers and others who care about accurate, proper writing…

The English Language and Usage Stack Exchange is for linguists, etymologists, and (serious) English language enthusiasts.

Stack Exchange network of helpful Q&A sites Reading further, I saw that this English Language and Usage website was but one site in a network of more than 60 sites collectively known as the Stack Exchange Network, all of which are Q&A (question-and-answer) sites, covering a wide range of subjects.

The most useful Stack Exchange sites for our projects

Technology, IT Stack Exchange sites

Stack Exchange network of Q&A sites

Creative arts – Stack Exchange sites

Critical thinking, belief systems – Stack Exchange sites

Science – Stack Exchange sites

Other Stack Exchange sites

An idea hatched…

Jeff Atwood and Joel Spolsky created a site called Stack Overflow in 2008 and eventually brought together millions of computer programmers from around the globe to help each other out by documenting the answers to a wide range of detailed technical computer questions.

The amazing success of Stack Overflow led to a $6 million venture capital investment from Union Square Ventures, enabling them to create and launch the Stack Exchange Network and started launching a collection of Q&A sites in August of 2010.

As of January 2011 there were 63 separate sites in the Stack Exchange Network with over 19 million unique visitors and counting. (Source: About Stack Exchange)

Resources: Stack Exchange, the ultimate network of Q&A sites

Originally written
Monday, September 19, 2011

The best GIMP plugins for photography

Trick your photo editing, retouching with these GIMP extensions

GIMP graphic design open-source software logo on a brown grocery sack Why pay hundreds of dollars for PhotoShop when you can get something just as powerful at no cost? Well, there probably are a few arguably legitimate reasons… Adobe PhotoShop is certainly the golden standard in graphic design. However, the longer I use the GIMP to handle my graphic arts needs, digital photo editing, logo experimentation, and so forth, the more impressed I am with this very capable open source software. As impressive and powerful as the GIMP’s default installation is, GIMP users can find and install dozens or even hundreds of plugins – each of which adds a bit of new capability to the graphic design software. There are even plugins which allow GIMP to behave more like Photoshop.

Here are some of the more popular GIMP plugins that are well-suited for the process of editing photos and retouching your digital photography. That’s right: one can photoshop with the GIMP as well as one can photoshop a person into a picture with Photoshop.

GIMP - great for photo editing, open source software
Antique Photo Border – Simulates a yellowed, slightly jagged border recalling those of old photography; after copying it into GIMP’s scripts folder, you will find the plugin via Filters -> Decor -> Antique Photo Border.

Blue Sky Gradient – Great for adding a blue sky gradient to burned-out or white skies; use threshold mask; see also the Guide to Using Blue Sky

Blue Sky & Clouds – Similar to Blue Sky Gradient (above); see also the Guide to using Blue Sky & Clouds

G’MIC: GREYC’s Magic Image Converter – proposes a set of various filters to apply on your images, including artistic effects, image denoising and enhancement algorithms, 3D renderers, etc; this large plug-in integrates many different effects.

Midnight Sepia Script – Implements midnight sepia effect; see also more info, examples, discussion

GIMP - great for photo editing, open source software
Wavelet Denoise – The wavelet denoise plugin is a tool to reduce noise in each channel of an image separately. The default colour space to do denoising is YCbCr which has the advantage that chroma noise can be reduced without affecting image details. Denoising in CIELAB (L*a*b*) or RGB is available as an option. The user interface allows colour mode and preview channel selection. The denoising threshold can be set for each colour channel independently.

National Geographic – This script simulates a high quality (portrait) photo like these from the National Geographic; after copying it into the GIMP scripts folder, you will find it under Filters -> Generic -> National Geographic.

Liquid Rescale – This plugin aims to resize pictures non-uniformly while preserving their features so as to avoid distortion of the important aspects; see also the official Liquid Rescale page, a Liquid Rescale video, and the Liquid Rescale Library

Image Subdivide – Subdivide the image in M Rows x N Columns and save any rectangular portion in the new files; see also the subdivide tutorial (in Italian, but Google will translate it for you)

Split tone – Uses one color for highlights and another for shadows; similar to (same as?) sepia tone

3D Screenshot – Turn a boring ol’ flat image into a stylish 3D-shadowed-glowing photo

Pseudo Tone Fixer (landscape tone fixer) – This script tries to fix the tone of a photo taken with wrong exposure; in some nature or landscape photos, this will nicely enhancing the colors; the general idea is to produce different copies of the image at different gamma levels, then applying simple tone mapping techniques to produce a vibrant photo.

Interpolation Plugin – Works by doing plane/curve fitting and calculating weighted averages; takes samples from a grid of pixels from ‘known’ image areas, attempts to fit a plane or a curve to each, then uses those samples to estimate the ‘unknown’ image areas. NOTE: Gets rid of spots and other things that perhaps shouldn’t be there.

Other GIMP resources

I found these GIMP links during a prolonged Google Images search for variations of the GIMP logo, fox, book covers, etc.

  • Archive for the ‘GIMP’ Category – Jimmac’s personal site, with one (1) blog post in the Movies category and 334 posts in the Uncategorized section (just messin’ with ya, Jimmac 🙂 – hey, I really dig your art, those comic sketches of the robot! Here are some of my old sketches; I miss drawing…)
  • GIMP 2.6 Cookbook – Review – Over 50 recipes to produce amazing graphics with the GIMP
  • Beginning GIMP: From Novice to Professional – GoodReads – This book explains how to use the open source image manipulation program, GIMP version 2.4. You’ll learn how to install GIMP on Windows, Linux, and MacOS X platforms. Once you’ve installed the application, you’ll learn about the interface and configuration options, and then jump into a quick–and–simple project to familiarize yourself…
  • GIMP: The Unofficial Beginners Manual to the Free, Open Source, Photo Editor – Why pay hundreds of dollars for PhotoShop when you can get something just as powerful that is free?! It’s called GIMP…GIMP, which stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program, is a free graphic and image editing software program. GIMP is available for Mac, PC and Linux platforms. Since GIMP is open source, the software — including any upgrades — is available for free.
  • GIMP: The Official Handbook – Ebookee – Gimp: The Official Handbook is written by two Gimp experts and is the most comprehensive source of information available on this freely distributed image-manipulation program for the Open Source community. The only book to teach the entire program, including all built-in filters and third-party plug-ins. Beats the competition by teaching the program from cover to cover. Other books gloss over key features and focus on learning the program quickly, or are theoretical and provide no practical information on the product. Features a 32-page Color Studio with inspiring images readers can create by learning all of the program’s techniques in the book.
  • Book of GIMPNo Starch Press: The finest in geek entertainment – GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is the open source movement’s answer to Adobe Photoshop: a free, fully featured, professional-grade graphics editor. Half guidebook, half reference manual, The Book of GIMP is really two books in one. In the first half, readers follow full-color illustrated, step-by-step instructions to complete a series of projects, including retouching photos, animating logos, designing website visuals, and much more. In the process, they learn to harness GIMP’s power. Once readers have mastered GIMP, the second half of the book offers a comprehensive reference for its many features, including drawing tools, masks, filters, transformations, and plug-ins. With clear instructions for beginners and encyclopedic coverage for experts, The Book of GIMP is the definitive GIMP resource for all users, regardless of experience level.
  • GIMP 2 for Photographers – Desktop Linux
  • GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) – GIMP GNU Image Manipulation Program is one of my favorite open source programs. It is released under the GNU license like many of our previously featured programs and is Free-as-in-Beer and Free-as-in-Speech. It is simply an image editing software with features comparable to Photoshop. I like to describe it as a layer-based non-vectoring photo editor. It has many beautiful editing filters and it is pretty simple to figure out…

For later

  • 60+ (more) Advanced Photoshop & GIMP TutorialsDennis Plucinik’s Web Design Blog
  • Handy Tweaks To Make GIMP Replace Photoshop (2009) – Smashing Magazine
  • GIMP posts at Smashing Magazine