SkyDrive now supports RAW photos.

logo_msSkyDrive_web

Microsoft recently updated their online storage offering with a number of file handling and speed improvements. You can read about all of the features on the Windows Live Blog. The big news for photographers is that it has now added support to upload your RAW files.

You can upload your RAW photos just as if they were a jpg file and have the thumbnails and large previews show up in the browser.

Under expose your photos to speed up shutter speeds

exposure_graphic

If you like to shoot using aperture priority you know that you don’t always get the shutter speed up as fast as you like and end up with blurry photos. There is one other option that many camera’s feature that can help with speeding up the shutter.

Many cameras allow you to adjust exposure compensation. With this setting you tell the camera that you either want to over or under expose each shot. If you are shooting in aperture priority adjusting the exposure compensation will either speed up the shutter or slow it down.

If you are shooting basketball photos using aperture priority and are in a very low lit gym you might be better off telling your camera to under expose your photos by one or two stops to bring your shutter speed up to where you need to capture the fast action. Obviously when you do this your images are going to look a little darker than they should. The good thing is you can usually brighten the photos up in post production and make them look just as good as if they were shot without under exposing them. You also get the advantage of keeping the fast action shots sharp.

If your camera does a poor job with high ISO noise you can implement this technique as well. Rather than moving the ISO setting to a higher setting, tell your camera to under expose the photo. Now in post you simply brighten the photo back up and don’t have to worry about trying to get rid of really bad noise.

When using this feature you will want to be careful not to push things too far. If you under expose too much you may start to lose detail that you can’t recover. You also need to be extremely careful if you are ever over exposing. Photos are much more forgiving when they are under exposed as apposed to over exposure. You have the chance to loose much more information in an over exposed photo than and under exposed one.

Free Unlimited Photo Storage

Have you ever wanted to have a free online backup solution for all of your photos? According to LiveSide Microsoft is preparing to offer such an option.

Microsoft currently offers 25GB of free online storage via SkyDrive in which you can store your photos, documents and other files online. Now it appears you will be able to store unlimited photos and documents using SkyDrive. No word on when they will make the switch but it’s good news for all sports photographers looking for a free way to backup their entire photo collection.

You can see our overview of storing your photos on SkyDrive as well as how to share your photos on SkyDrive in our previous posts. You can also take a look at a short video demonstrating how Microsoft is building features of SkyDrive into Windows 8 below.

How to create a vintage sports photograph in Photoshop Lightroom

Creating a vintage look to your sports photographs can be pretty quick and easy. Below is the final result with the original photo below that.

To start out get your photo up and make sure you have the basic panel open with your white balance ect. Depending on the photo you are using the settings will most likely differ from what we use here but the goal is to give it a little warmer tone. You also will want some good contrast and over expose just a tad.

Basic Settings

The next step is where the real magic happens. Open up the Split Toning panel. If you have never used the tool before it is basically controlling the color of the highlights and shadows of your photo. You select the color by using the hue slider and you choose how vibrant that color appears by moving the saturation slider. The balance slider is just as it says, it controls how much one color over powers the other. If you set the balance in the middle at 0 the colors are exactly equal. If you want more of the highlight color to show on your photos you would move the slider to the right to give it a positive value. The opposite would apply if you wanted more of the shadow color to show through.

For our vintage look we want to give the highlights an olive green color and the shadows a dark blue. We are going to keep the balance at 0 and bring the saturation of both up quite a bit. You can see the exact settings below.

Split Tone Settings

Now your photo should be almost to where we want it. The last thing is optionally but can add just a bit more to the overall look. Open up the effects panel and add a small vignette. You don’t want to make it too obvious but just a hint of one can help guide the viewer to your subject. Once again you can see the exact settings we used below.

Effects Settings

Microsoft releases RAW codec pack for Windows

If you shoot in a RAW format rather than JPEG you know that sometimes it can be difficult to view your photos as easily as the JPEG counterpart. Today Microsoft has made available the Microsoft Camera Codec Pack that enables native support for a wide variety of RAW formats in Windows.

You could use a third party plugin to do the job before but some cost money and others were in beta or not officially supported. You can check out a short video demonstrating the new codec pack below.

 

Photos shot as RAW rather than JPEG have a number of advantages and I have always been a big supporter of shooting RAW photos. This is one more step in making it easier to enjoy your sporting photographs in Windows and Windows Live Photo Gallery.

The Inside Windows Live blog post has more information on the codec pack release.

Add a vignette to your digital photos

Natural vignettes is usually caused by a limitation of a camera lens. The outer edges of the photo are darker and less saturated than the center of the photo. Digitally adding a vignette to your photos can focus the viewer on a specific area of the photo and help remove distractions you don’t want to interfere.

For our example we are going to use Adobe Photoshop Lightroom to quickly add a vignette to a football action photo.

Original Photo

As you can see our photo has a few things on the outer edge that are a little distracting from the center athlete. By adding a vignette we will try and cut back on the distracting areas and focus on the player with the ball.

To get started load up Lightroom and go to the Develop interface. Now on the right hand side scroll down to the Effects menu and open it up. The vignette options are right at the top of the panel.

Final Settings

I won’t go into much detail of each of the options simply because you can try them out and see the effects for yourself. The main setting you are looking for will be the Amount slider. This adjusts the amount of the vignette you want to show up on your photos. A positive value will brighten up the edges while a negative value with darken the outer edges.

Once you play around with the settings and find the right settings for your photo you will have a more dynamic and interesting photo.

Final Photo

Sharing Your Photos With SkyDrive

In a previous article we talked about storing your photos on Windows Live SkyDrive. In this short follow-up we are going to talk about sharing those photos with your friends, family or even the whole world.

To get started log in to your SkyDrive account and go into the photo folder you would like to share. Over on the right hand side there are a few options for sharing depending on what sharing restrictions you have set.

  • Edit Permissions
  • Get a link
  • Send a link
  • Embed (only shown if you grant access to everyone)

Let’s go over the different options you have now.

Edit Permissions
This is a quick way to change the level of sharing you grant to other people.

permissions

From the screenshot above you can see there is a slider you can adjust to give a broad change or you can enter one or more email address in the box provided to specify individuals you would like to grant access to your photos.

Once you have shared photos with individuals this is also where you want to go if you later want to remove them. There will be a list of all the people you have shared photos with and the option to remove them if you like.

Get a Link
This option allows you to copy and paste a link that sends you or whomever you give the link to to your photos. Note that anyone that uses the link must have permission to view the photos. If they don’t they will get an error page explaining they might not have permission to view the photos.

Send a Link
With this option you can easily send a link via email that will give the recipients access to your photos.

When you send the email the person you sent the link to will receive an email explaining that they have been invited to view your photos.

share email

Embed
Using the embed link will show you a snippet of code that you can copy and paste into your webpage. When a visitor comes to your site they will see a small thumbnail with a link to the album. We have placed a small sample gallery using the embed code below so you can see it in action.

 

So what happens when someone either clicks the link you sent in an email or a link you have on your website? They are greeted with a large image view of your gallery. They are able to easily navigate either clicking the small thumbnails across the bottom, clicking to the left or right of the main image or using the keyboard left and right arrow keys.

view large image album

If they click the folder name in the upper right corner of the screen they are shown a grid view of the gallery with the options to download the entire gallery or even order prints from Snapfish.

gallery view

As you can see there are a number of ways to share your sports photos using SkyDrive. You can make it as open or closed as you like.

How to Create a Gritty Poster in Photoshop

In the following tutorial we are going to walk you through the steps in creating a real gritty looking poster that looks great for hard hitting sports like football and wrestling.

Here is what the final result will look like.

Final Photo

To start out with get your photo and crop it to the size you want to make your poster. In our example we have cropped our wrestling photo to a 16×20.

Original Photo

If the original photo doesn’t already have some grain already in it you will want to apply a decent amount. Normally you would want to get rid of most of the noise out of your photos but we want to make our poster look real gritty. You can add grain by selecting Filter/Texture/Grain. This will give you the dialogue box where you can play with the settings to get the amount you like. Our original photo already has plenty in it so we don’t need to add anymore.

The next step is to add some contrast to our photo. Add a levels adjustment layer on top of your photo layer.

Levels Window

All we are doing here is adjusting the light and dark areas to accentuate them. Depending on the photo you are using you may need to bring the levels in further or not as far.

Now add a Hue & Saturation adjustment layer. The only thing we are going to do on this adjustment is bring the saturation down a bit to tone down any vibrant colors your photo may have.

HS 1

Now we are going to create another Hue & Saturation adjustment layer. This time make sure the Colorize button is checked and bring the hue value down so it has an orage tint to it. Bring the saturation down as well to make the orange look more brown. Now click OK.

HS 2

We need to bring the opacity of this last Hue & Saturation layer down from 100% to something around 50%

HS Layer Opacity

Go ahead and add a new text layer with some text that you would like to use on your poster.

Adding Text

Add a new layer style to your text layer and give it a bit of bevel.

Bevel and Emboss

Now let’s add a little more dimension to the text by adding a gradient over the top. To do this set your foreground color to white and background color to black. Now select the gradient tool and set it to use the foreground to background colors and change the type to the radial gradient. Create a new blank layer above your text layer and drag your cursor from near the center of your text to about a quarter of the way to the center of your image and let go. Don’t be alarmed if you just see the gradient. You need to clip the layer you created the gradient on to your text layer so that the only part of the gradient that shows is where the text layer is. To do this hold down the alt key and place your cursor in between the gradient layer and text layer. The cursor should change it’s icon to a small arrow and two circles on overlapping the other. When you see this icon left click and it will clip your gradient layer to the text layer.

Clipping Layer

Let’s create a modified lens vignette. Grab your brush tool and select black as the color. Make sure your brush is a really big soft brush. For my image I’m using a brush with a 1800 pixel diameter and 0% hardness. All you want to do is paint out the edges of the image to darken them up so that the focus is on your main athlete. Sometimes I will create multiple layers so I can adjust the opacity of one over the other layers. There is no secret just do what you like.

Darkened Border

Now comes the finishing touches. You need to go and get some grunge brushes for Photoshop. There is a great website where you can download a bunch of free grunge brushes at photoshopbrushes.com.

Once you have downloaded and imported them into Photoshop set your foreground color to white and try a few of them out. Depending on the size of your image you may need to increase the size of the brush to achieve the look you want. For our poster I would make the size around 900 pixels. You don’t need to do too much with the grunge brushes, usually it only takes four or five clicks using various brushes to get enough. Just like when you were creating the dark border around the edge you may want to place one grunge brush stroke on one layer and another on a different layer. You can then rotate individual brush strokes to give it some variety. If you really wanted to get fancy you could even create layer masks and mask out portions of each layer.

Once you have finished painting with the grunge brushes you are done and left with a great looking poster!

Final Photo2

Storing your photos on SkyDrive

Windows Live SkyDrive is a free 25GB cloud storage offering from Microsoft in which you can store literally any files you want. It integrates with Office Web Apps which include free online versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. SkyDrive has been around for a few years but unfortunately if you were a photographer it never had a real good reason to use it. With the new HTML 5 update that is about to change.

SkyDrive now feels much more like a photo viewing desktop application than your standard old website. Uploading photos is extremely easy. You first create a folder and then click the add files button. You are then presented with a large box asking you to drag your files there. Once you drop your photos to the box it automatically starts uploading them for you. You can choose from a number of uploading sizes from small all the way up to the original size.

skydrive import

Once you have uploaded a number of photos and folders you can get a quick view of all your uploads by clicking on the Photos link on the left hand side of the page. This view uses what Microsoft calls live tiles. Essentially what it does is present you with a small slideshow of the photos you have in each folder. The effect is very nice and isn’t overly distracting.

skydrive folder view

Once you click through to one of your photo folders you are presented with a grid of your photos nicely spaced and with their original aspect ratio. You also get details and options for that specific folder to the right side of the interface that “sticks” in view even as you scroll through your photos. When scrolling through your photos you don’t have to click through page and page but rather SkyDrive automatically loads thumbnails of your images as you scroll. This behavior is more like a traditional desktop application than a website. This makes finding your photos much more quickly than having to try and guess which page you think the photo you are looking for is on.

skydrive album view

Clicking on an individual photo brings up a larger view of that photo in addition to small thumbnails of the other photos before and after the currently selected photograph. Once again SkyDrive provides you with options and details of the currently selected photo on the right side. You can easily scroll through your photos using the left and right arrow keys on your keyboard or clicking to the left or right of the large photo. You can also skip to another photo by clicking it’s thumbnail at the bottom of the screen.

skydrive photo view

One last feature I’ll mention is the arrange photo feature. When you move to this mode it gives you an intuitive way of arranging all your photos in a particular folder. You can simply drag your photos around moving them into the order you wish for them to show up.

skydrive arrange album 

Many of the features I’ve described here don’t give you a full appreciation of how things look and work so I’ve embedded a short video Microsoft has provided which walks you through some of the new features.

Never take another out of focus photo again!

Remember all those action photos you have taken that ended up being focused on the wrong player. What if you could change the focus to the player you originally were aiming for after you took that photo? The possibility might not be to far from reality. A startup company called Lytro is working on a consumer priced camera that allows you to actually change what is or is not in focus after the photograph has been taken.

Ren Ng, CEO of Lyton states the following.

This is achieved by inserting a microlens array between the sensor and main lens, creating a plenoptic camera. Each microlens measures not just the total amount of light deposited at that location, but how much light arrives along each ray. By re-sorting the measured rays of light to where they would have terminated in slightly different, synthetic cameras, we can compute sharp photographs focused at different depths.

Check out the following video for a demonstration on what the camera can actually do. You can also read more about the technical details of how light field photography works by checking out Ren’s tech report here.