Dec 28 2016

The Power Of Word Of Mouth & Ohio

Pixelkris

We’re in the middle of registration for our next series of Photoshop Elements classes, and we’ve noticed a curious thing. The last time we taught online, we had several Canadians enroll. This time around, 26% of the Elements 1 students are from Ohio. Ohio!! Over 1/4 of our students . . . so far . . . from the same state. We don’t know if folks in Ohio have been talking about us, but we do find it extraordinary to get so many students from one US state. This is the fun part about teaching online. We get to meet people from all over. Besides the US and Canada, we’ve had students from as far away as Sweden, Australia, and Greece. And in 2017 we’ll have our first student from the Dutch Caribbean. (By the way, the Dutch Caribbean has quite an interesting geopolitical history. Read about it here.) Needless to say, we don’t have the marketing budget to reach out to all these countries, so we have relied heavily on word of mouth. When students talk about their good learning experiences in our classes, it makes all the difference. Take fiber artist Kathy Loomis, for example. Her blog entries have steered several students our way. Read one of her entries about our classes here. Thanks, Kathy!

Back to Ohio. Ohio is special to us not only for the online students we have had. Some of our first exhibition opportunities happened in Ohio. Since it’s the end of the year, we thought it would be fun to talk a quick look back.

In 2007, when Sacred Threads was still located in Reynoldsburg, “Owuo Atwedee” enjoyed its premiere. Some nice person even sent us a review of the exhibition in the local paper because they had published a photo of our quilt with the review! We have another quilt traveling with Sacred Threads 2016 because our first experience was so wonderful.

Owuo Atweedee

Owuo Atweedee

In 2010, we had the honor of having “The Picture is Only Half the Story” exhibited in “The Journey of Hope in America: Quilts Inspired by President Barack Obama” at the National Afro-American Museum & Cultural Center in Wilberforce. We felt so welcomed. This artwork has recently sold, marking the end of a special time for us.

The Picture is Only Half the Story

The Picture is Only Half the Story

In 2013, “American Still Life: The Weight of the Nation” premiered at the Dairy Barn’s Quilt National ’13 in Athens. We loved the artist reception and the opportunity to meet and network with such talented artists.

American Still Life: The Weight of the Nation

American Still Life: The Weight of the Nation

We’re looking forward to teaching again in 2017. Photoshop Elements 1 begins January 16. Whether you are from Ohio, Europe, or Timbuktu, we’d love to have you join us. Click here for more class information. And if you are a student who has posted about our classes, thank you for spreading the word! Your good word is our best recommendation. Here’s to a creative, productive, and remarkable 2017!

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Dec 13 2016

Tech Tuesday: What’s The Difference Between Layers And Brightness/Contrast In Photoshop, And Why Do I Care?

Pixelkris

Our students often get confused when they first learn about levels. After all, they just want to brighten their photos, so wouldn’t it be easier to remember the brightness/contrast button? Seriously, what do levels mean anyway? If levels essentially do the same thing, brighten images, then why bother? Well, it’s all about the visuals.

Let’s start with Deb’s favorite view of Hong Kong. It is a great view, but the image is rather dull. Hong Kong tends to get hazier as the day goes on.  And since Deb rarely gets to the world’s highest bar at the Ritz Carlton before lunch, her photos can usually use a little adjusting. Here’s the original:

Original Image

Original Image

The photo is a bit washed out.  There are no very dark (black blacks) or very light (white whites) colors in the image.  Here’s a graph of the number of pixels at each of 256 values.

Graph of pixels at values

Black pixels are above the black triangle and white pixels are above the white triangle.  The higher the line, the more pixels at that value.  As you can see, there are no black pixels and no, or very few, white pixels (note the very short black line at the white triangle).  Usually the best photos will have some black and some white pixels.  We like to see this graph before we start fiddling with the photo.

How can you view this graph?  Click on Adjustment Layers (the two-toned circle) in the Layers Panel. (Press F11 in Photoshop Elements or F7 in Photoshop, if you don’t see the Layers Panel.) Kris fondly calls this icon the “Amerikaner” after her favorite German cookie. (Why this German cookie is called the American will take an entire blog entry itself.) Then click on Levels.

Adjustment Layers

Adjustment Layers

When the Levels adjustment layer dialog box opens, you see the graph along with a bunch of sliders.  Disregard the Output Levels slider.  First try to move the black triangle to the left edge of the pixels and the white triangle to the right edge of the pixels.

Then you can adjust the contrast by sliding the gray triangle to a pleasing look.  If you want, you can try moving the black and white triangles again to see if the photo looks better.

Gray triangle

Gray triangle

Once Deb played around with the Levels adjustment layer, she came up with this gorgeous view of Hong Kong. Compare this to the original. Much better!

Manipulated Image

Manipulated Image

Click on one of these two photos to compare the two:

To get back our original question, you can adjust the photo with the Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer, but there’s no useful graph, so you just have to slide the slider buttons back and forth. If you change one of the sliders, you probably have to change the other.  Back and forth, back and forth.

Brightness/Contrast Slider Bar

Brightness/Contrast Slider Bar

In the “olden days” (pre Photoshop CS3, and sometime before Photoshop Elements 9) the brightness/contrast adjustment would actually adjust all parts of the image equally, which was absolutely the wrong thing to do. Now you have a choice, but we still prefer the Levels adjustment.  After all, we’re visual people, and the Levels adjustment graph provides visual clues to the adjustments your photo needs. By the way, if you only want to adjust the sky, that’s a different lesson!

Learn how to brighten your images and more by enrolling in one of our online Photoshop Elements classes. Photoshop Essentials 1 starts January 16! Click here to learn about our classes.

 

 

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